The question: I think I want to try kettlebells. They look interesting. Are they useful? What do I do with them?
The answer: I have a love-hate relationship with kettlebells. The powerful movements they require don't come naturally to me. Even though I know I should use them, I gravitate towards weight exercises done with control, without the aid of momentum. Because of my participation in endurance sports, my body is programmed to move at a relatively consistent pace.
Kettlebell training is the opposite. The bell is designed to swing. You use momentum within the swing to generate power and explosiveness.
If you, like me, gravitate to more controlled movements or you have participated in endurance sports, you could probably benefit from kettlebell training.
That said, kettlebells are an advanced training tool. Make sure you are comfortable with traditional weight training before you incorporate the bell into your routine. Take the time to learn proper technique so you don't injure yourself.
A staple of kettlebell training is the “swing.” Start by standing, feet wider then shoulder-width apart, holding the handle of the kettlebell with both hands. Use your hips to generate force so that the kettlebell swings in front of you up to about eye height. Let the bell swing back down between your legs and repeat 10 to 12 times. Keep your arms straight and core engaged as you swing.
Trainer's Tip: If you are wary of the swinging motion (it is advanced and not for everyone), don't worry – you can still use the kettlebell. Just skip the momentum-based exercises. Instead, use it in other ways, like to improve your wrist strength, or to incorporate it into more traditional weight exercise.
Try “walking bell lunges”: Hold a kettlebell in your right hand, with your arm straight, positioned directly above your head. Keep the bell portion of it facing straight up as you do walking lunges forward across the floor. Do 10 reps before continuing with the bell in your left hand.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.
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