Kettlebells have erupted in popularity in the world of workouts – and for a good reason. These cannonballs-with-handles prove time and time again that using them can help build strength, power and functional fitness. But they’re nothing new – the origin of kettlebell exercises hails back to 18th-century Russia, when they were lugged about by circus strongmen. Very quickly, it was discovered that swinging and lifting these kettlebells had an array of benefits. From your back to you butt, core to your carves, here’s what this nifty bit of kit can do for your body.
Firmer core, hard-working hamstrings, powerful glutes – kettlebells work wonders on your strength and reduce your risk of injuries. From swinging a golf club to carrying your shopping, regular kettlebell exercises make day-to-day activities easier. The lunges, lifts and kettlebell presses you perform in class are the same ones you use when you pick up a toddler, grab a heavy tub of washing powder or throw a backpack over your shoulder. Swings are particularly beneficial for flexibility, requiring more effort from your tissues and joints.
Kettlebell exercises inspire creativity with your movements, recruiting a range of muscles as you workout. From powerhouse muscles such as your glutes to smaller stability muscles (hello, super-firm abdominals), you get more from your movements with kettlebells. It’s these three-dimensional movements the body was designed for, as opposed to specific movements to exercise isolated muscles. Traditional weight training with isolated exercises can also cause imbalances, with certain muscle groups further developed and others neglected. All biceps and no triceps, all quads and no hamstrings… you get the picture.
As well as boosting your stamina, these super-muscle-activating moves burn a whole load of calories. One study found that 20 minutes of constant kettlebell training torched as many calories as running a mile in six minutes. Swinging, lifting or lunging with kettlebells requires you to be off-balance, forcing a ‘plyometric response’. Quite simply, when your body overcomes this unbalanced resistance (by moving weights), you burn calories.
They might not be the first piece of equipment that come to mind when thinking about cardio, but a 2016 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning showed that high-intensity kettlebell sessions can actually torch more calories than a high-intensity cycling workout. Lift lighter kettlebells in rhythm for about three to five minutes for an explosive cardio workout. Alternatively, bring them into your existing cardio routine to burn even more calories.
It’s no wonder the kettlebell is a much-loved tool in the fitness community. Anyone can perform kettlebell exercises, at home or in the gym. However, it is high-impact, so consult your doctor if you have any physical limitations or heart disease. Our personal trainers can create bespoke training plans to slowly work your way up from lighter to heavier kettlebells – book your free session and see for yourself how effective these functional exercises are for the body and mind.