Kettlebell exercises have become fashionable again over the last 20 years, however the origin of kettlebells dates further back. Beginning in the interior agricultural region of Russia, farmers began to flip and move farming equipment just for the heck of it. When it’s 17th century Russia and you’re not a Tsar what else is there to do? I guess not much because kettlebell lifting became a national sport in the Soviet Union in 1948.
Beyond it’s storied history though, kettlebell training has really made it’s mark on the modern world. With kettlebells popping up near weight racks everywhere and even dedicated kettlebell gyms opening up accross the country it’s easy to see that there is something more to this whole kettlebell phenom. The real secret to kettlebells is that it expands the benefits of just basic weight training. A kettlebell workout can simultaneously work on strength, cardio endurance, balance, and flexibility all in the same routine.
Ever wanted to give kettlebells a shot but didn’t know where to start? Below we’ve outlined the main benefits you can reap from kettlebell training along with a 30-Day Kettlebell Challenge that will deffinetly get those weights swinging.
Benefits of Kettlebell Training
You may have seen some people swing around weird looking weights and wonder what is the deal. Because of their unique shape – sort of like a bowling ball with a handle attached – kettlebells are able to incorporate a much larger range of motion than other methods of weight training. At the same time they are also working as cardio because of all the swinging. Studies show that kettlebells can provide a higher-intensity workout than more traditional weight-training routines in a shorter amount of time. A study from ACE revealed that swinging a kettlebell around can blast up to 20 calories per minute. To put that into perspective, that’s about how many calories you burn per minute when running a 6-minute mile.
Researchers believe this faster calorie burn is due to the total-body movements performed when kettlebells are used in an interval-training routine. Kettlebells also employ more “everyday” ranges of motion when compared to traditional dumbbell movements, helping to build strength in muscles that are used naturally in daily wear and tear. Plus, they’re able to not only work the larger muscle groups, but also the smaller “stabilizing” or gripping muscles (like those in the arms and hands).
For anyone from novice gym-goers to advanced lifters, kettlebells can be a good way to add variety to a strength-training regimen. Plus, research suggests the explosive movements of kettlebell training can also help reduce neck, back, and shoulder pain among adults who had complained of pain before training . Another study suggests kettlebell training can also be effective in rehabilitation programs with injured athletes because of the weights’ ability to help build functional strength and power .
30 Day Kettlebell Challenge Schedule
Ever wanted to have work out plan that helped you tone muscle, gain flexiblity and burn fat? Sticking to a dedicated kettlebell workout plan is a great way to check all three of those boxes. Above is a full plan designed with kettlebell based exercises that will seriously challenge every inch of your body.
The full plan is based on a weekly routine that can be repeated over the course of 5 weeks. There are two rest days per week meant to help you body recover and recoup so that you can be fresh for the begginning of the next week. For each daily workout you can start off by doing 2 sets of each exercise that consists of ten reps. As you progress through the challenge feel free to slowly add more reps or sets as you’ll get stronger and more comfortable.
Kettlebell Exercise #1 – Halo
This particular exercise is great to start off your workout if you are a bit stiff from your last one. The Kettlebell Halo is most useful as a warm-up for tight shoulders and upper back, and also for therapy in the case of old injuries. With a light enough kettlebell this roatational movement of your sholder shocket is great for rehabing old injuries and preping you for the workout ahead.
Top Tips For Kettlebell Halo Exercise:
- As the name suggests, keep the path of the kettlebell comparable to a “halo” around the top of your forehead.
- Relax the elbows and allow them to articulate freely
- Breath normally and naturally without going for a particular pattern
- Keep the path of the kettlebell close to the head but use caution to avoid accidental contact with the shoulders
Kettlebell Exercise #2 – Suitcase Row
When done correctly, the suitcase row raises your heart rate, builds strength in your core, and targets your quadriceps, calves, glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, shoulders, triceps, and forearms. It’s pretty much an all-around fantastic exercise.
Top Tips For Kettlebell Suitcase Row Exercise:
- Maintain a straight and long neck, make sure not to hunch your shoulders as you move the kettlebell.
- Actively think about engaging your core, this will help protect your low back from any unneeded stress.
Kettlebell Exercise #3 – Two Handed Swing
The kettlebell swing is an excellent power- and strength-generating exercise that targets your glutes, hamstrings, hips, core, and the stabilizing muscles of your shoulders and back. While you may experience a small benefit to your quads and delts, the swing is designed to target your posterior chain—the back half of your body.
Top Tips For Two Handed Kettlebell Swing Exercise:
- One of the most common kettlebell swing mistakes is the idea that your shoulders and arms are responsible for the forward swing of the kettlebell, when really, your shoulders and arms shouldn’t be involved in lifting the kettlebell at all.
- Your shoulders and upper back should simply be “locked in” to control the swing and to prevent you from being pulled forward as the kettlebell swings up.
- Try to prevent your upper back from rounding toward the floor as the kettlebell swings down.
Kettlebell Exercise #4 – Regular Row
Rows should be your go-to movement when you’re looking to work on your back muscles. The lats, traps and smaller stabiliser back muscles are the main focus of the move, and working on one arm at a time can help you really focus on hitting those muscles during the exercise.
Top Tips For Regular Kettlebell Row Exercise:
- Focus on using the muscles in your back and shoulders rather than yanking it up with your arm.
- Your chest should stay still throughout and your elbow should pass close to your rib cage as you lift the weight.
- At the top of the move squeeze your shoulder and back muscles, then lower the weight slowly. This isn’t a movement that should be done quickly, think controlled.
Kettlebell Exercise #5 – Full Turkish Get Up
Exercises like the Turkish getup not only hit every major muscle group, but they provide a way to “practice” transitions in a controlled way. This can help you identify and shore up any weaknesses or imbalances that you have while building strength that can transition to functional day-to-day movements and more athletic endeavors.
Top Tips For Full Turkish Get Up Exercise:
- The Turkish Get Up is not designed to be performed quickly. This is especially true as you’re learning. Take it slow. Give yourself several seconds per action.
- The arm supporting the kettlebell should remain fully extended and “locked” at the elbow and wrist to help prevent injury to the arm, especially the shoulder.
- Make sure to keep your abs, glutes, hips, back, chest, and shoulders activated as you move. Because so many muscles are involved in the getup, it’s easy to “forget” about one muscle group.
Kettlebell Exercise #6 – Clean, Squat & Press
Doing a single-arm clean and press with a kettlebell still works your entire body—your legs during the squat, your upper back during the clean, and your shoulders during the press. And using one bell challenges you to stay steady throughout the movement, strengthening your core and bolstering stability.
Top Tips For Clean, Squat & Press:
- Be aware of how you move. Hinge at your hips and aim to feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
- Make sure to pull your shoulder blades down and flare your lats out to stabilize your shoulder joint for a better press.
- Try hooking the bell with your fingers to keep your forearm vertical, which helps to alleviate the wrist pain from holding the weight too tightly.
Kettlebell Exercise #7 – Double Lunge
Lunging with weight held in front of the body rather than at the sides requires more work from your core to keep your torso upright. This is an important skill to train for protecting your lower back from injury. But since the move is still a lunge, and you’ll feel it mostly in your legs, you’re less apt to notice how hard your abs are working. Regardless, you won’t have to spend extra time training your abs afterward.
Top Tips For Double Lunge:
- As you transition from either side of you, make sure to place your foot so that your knee can easily glide over it. If you are feeling tention in your ankle or knee joint, stop and readjust your stance.
- Be sure to lower knee down in a controlled way. Slamming your knee to your mat is not going to do anyone any favors.
- Focus on your knee tracking forward and not collapsing inward. If you notice you are having a hard time with this, remove the switching, move your leg to the back and work on mastering just the one movement.
Kettlebell Exercise #8 – Single Leg Deadlift
Nothing works the butt and legs quite like a weighted single leg deadlift. Add the extra benefit to the back, core, lower legs and feet and you have a full body exercise. The single-leg deadlift not only develops hip strength and power, but it also allows the muscles of the hips and legs to act as stabilizers. If you think about it, every time you stand on one leg, you’re using the same muscles for balance and stability that are generally used for force production.
Top Tips For Single Leg Deadlift:
- Your main focus is for your back to remain neutral throughout the lift. If your back rounds or flexes, you risk tweaking it.
- The front knee will bend, but it does not move forward excessively. Remember, you are deadlifting and not squatting.
- The arms move as a pendulum from the shoulders as the torso moves forward. The shoulders remain engaged at the lat, do not let your shoulders disconnect from your body as your torso moves forward.