As a personal trainer, fitness instructor and wellness enthusiast, I have found kettlebells to be the most effective and powerful training tool for total fitness. My training regularly incorporates kettlebell swings, rows, squats, snatches, among others, as a means to improve functional strength and endurance.
The kettlebell swing, for example, is an extraordinary exercise in that it builds strength, endurance and core stability in one fluid movement. Form is crucial, however. Because of the kettlebell’s distinctive, offset shape, its handling requires consistent attention. The power needed to generate a swing (or a squat, lunge or press, for that matter) comes from the ground (placing your body weight on its heels), then transfers through the posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, calves) as well as the core, hips and quads, and then to the upper body. With practice and emphasis on form, one can not only improve their strength and endurance, but also gain greater functionality and body awareness.
While kettlebells are comparable to dumbbells for effective strength building, they are more favorable because of their cardio and conditioning components. In addition, when one varies the weight of the kettlebell as part of their training, significant toning can result since more small muscle groups are recruited to stabilize and complete each movement.
According to a study sponsored by the American Council of Exercise, kettlebell training participants burned an average of 20 calories per minute, completing a 20-minute workout of 15 second-As Many Reps as Possible (AMRAP) intervals followed by 15 seconds of rest. This result was comparable to running a six-minute mile, but had the added benefit of engaging more muscle groups in less time.
As with all strength and conditioning programs, attention to form is essential, as well as awareness of one’s physical and medical capabilities. But with practice and consideration, all ages and fitness levels can benefit from kettlebell training!
Doug McLaughlin is a NETA-certified personal trainer and AFAA-certified group exercise instructor. He teaches Kettlebell, TRX, Total Body Conditioning, and Boot Camp classes, and provides support as a LIVESTRONG certified trainer. His Kettlebell Training class is on Tuesdays, 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. at Somerset Hills YMCA.