Fitness enthusiasts are getting a grip -- on kettlebells.
If you haven't seen a kettlebell, imagine a small cannonball with an arched handle on top. It's quite different from the sideways-I-shaped hand weights you may be familiar with. Exercising with the kettlebell delivers various muscle-toning and balance results because the kettlebell allows for safe and comfortable positioning of the weight directly above your center of mass, while dumbbells or barbells must be held in front of the body. As you move the kettlebell up and down, the motion activates different muscles than traditional hand weights.
When you hold a kettlebell aloft or direct it through ranges of motion in each exercise, your hands and wrists remain in neutral alignment. This means a sustained workout and greater comfort, especially for those who have wrist issues.
*The Benefits of Kettlebell Training
According to the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation, some of the benefits of kettlebell training include:
--Enhanced flexibility, coordination and balance.
--Lean and functional muscle mass.
--Strengthening of the entire posterior chain.
--Sport and combat enhancement.
Kettlebell training originated as a Russian workout and has been used by elite military units, sports teams and law enforcement. Over the past decade, kettlebell training has entered the fitness mainstream for the everyday workout enthusiast. Physical therapists have encouraged their patients to work with kettlebells to increase strength and range of motion.
According to Colin Cooley, an American Kettlebell Club Coach and CrossFit Level 1 kettlebell instructor, kettlebells combine many different planes of motion simultaneously to stabilize the core, since almost all movements are done in a standing sequence and emphasize range of motion in the joints.
"Kettlebell training develops strength in all planes of movement," Cooley says. "We live and play in a three-dimensional world, and we should train accordingly. Since the kettlebell lines up with the body's center of gravity, the athlete must work harder to balance and stabilize the weight." This not only leads to strength in different large and small muscle groups but also engages both the upper and lower body.
*Taking Kettlebell Classes
Because this particular fitness tool requires proper form and works muscles you may not be used to working, it's wisest to locate a kettlebell gym, find a kettlebell class at a fitness center or hire a personal trainer certified in kettlebell fitness. Under the watchful eye of a trainer, you'll learn how to safely lift and lower the correct weight of kettlebells for your fitness and endurance level. You'll be instructed and spotted in your positioning and range of motion, maximizing the benefits of your workout and helping to avoid injury.
Find kettlebell gyms at LiftKettlebells.com, which provides listings of accredited kettlebell gyms by state. And check with your local fitness center or YMCA to inquire about existing kettlebell classes.
"When I called to ask if my gym offered a kettlebell class, the manager said that he'd received so many calls for one that they were establishing one to start in a few weeks," says fitness buff Kellie Coolidge.
*Kettlebell Training at Home
After receiving kettlebell training courtesy of an expert, you may wish to continue with workouts at home. You'll find plenty of kettlebell DVDs, with workouts designed for beginners, arthritis sufferers, athletes, bodybuilders and more.
When shopping for your kettlebells, seek the advice of your trainer to help you choose the correct weight for your abilities. It can be smart to purchase a lower weight than you think you need, since a too-heavy weight can cause injury. A range of weights, perhaps in a set of three kettlebells, may be ideal for you. Visit Gaiam.com for expert-reviewed kettlebell DVDs and equipment, and check out product reviews on well-known fitness magazine websites. Keep in mind that YouTube and personal blogs might not provide the authority needed on the quality and safety of workout DVDs.
Wear comfortable sports shoes when you work out. Never use kettlebells while barefoot; dropping the kettlebell onto your toes or foot could cause serious injury. And beware the sweaty hands -- wear weightlifting gloves, which aid in securing your grip.
In time, you'll see greater muscle development in your arms, core, legs and buttocks, and according to Cooley, cardiovascular gains are a top benefit to kettlebell training, as well.