If someone told you that you were only going to be allowed to incorporate one piece of exercise equipment for the rest of your life, what would you choose? In my opinion, there are a few very strong candidates. Resistance Bands, some sort of suspension training system such as a TRX, or the almighty KETTLE BELL!!! If faced with the decision, I would most likely go with the kettle bell. Why?
For starters, kettle bells (KBs) are probably one of, if not the most versatile fitness tools every created. When I say versatile, I am not simply referring to the wide array of exercises that a KB can be used to perform. I am also referring to their application in targeting so many different components of fitness and physical performance. KBs can be used to improve strength, increase power output, enhance local muscular endurance, build cardiovascular fitness, improve mobility and balance, the list goes on and on.
Now, I know that it is not very likely that the average exerciser would ever be forced to choose one and only one tool for their performance training. However, I would argue that many of us forget that sometimes less can be more. When you go to the gym and see the way most people approach their training it might lead you to believe that you have to implement as much variety as possible in regards to exercise selection and equipment utilization. I would argue that is incorrect. When it comes to making improvements in performance or body composition, training efficiently as well as maintaining the balance between frequency and intensity are extremely important. Once you allow yourself to believe that the only way to achieve results is by performing a monumental number of sets and reps across as many different exercises as possible, you are going to find yourself needing to work much more outside of the gym in order to facilitate adequate recovery.
Below is a very simple yet EFFECTIVE series of kettle bell exercises that you can use to work your entire body with an emphasis on your lower body as well as your core. Provided are just a few suggestions for how you can use these exercises in order to achieve an excellent workout. Of course, the listed suggestions are not the only manner in which you can utilize these movements. There are countless ways in which you can implement these exercises into your training routine. Just be sure that you take your time, start low and slow, and develop proper technique.
*Try a Tabata series. Work as hard as you can for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat. You can repeat this for as many sets as you like, 8 sets are typical for a Tabata series. You may choose to perform all sets using one exercise, you may superset between a couple of different exercises, or you can complete them in a circuit fashion.
*Time Trial. Select your exercise(s) of choice and perform as many repetitions with proper for as you can in a set time. For example, give yourself 30 seconds to complete as many swings as you possibly can. Once the 30 seconds has expired, rest for 30-60 seconds and repeat the process with the same exercise or with an alternative option.
*As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP). Set the clock for 20 minutes and complete as many sets of 5, 10, or 15 repetitions at each exercise in a circuit fashion. See how many times you can complete the circuit.
Kettle Bell Swings:
Remember that a kettle bell swing is initiated with the hips, not the back. Focus on keeping your feet firmly planted, maintain good scapular position with your shoulders pulled down and back. In addition, be sure that you allow your hips and legs to generate the force that swings the KB, your arms are simply there to keep the KB from flying across the room.
Kettle Bell Split Lunges:
The key to executing a split lunge is to maintain balance. Be sure to evenly distribute your weight between your front and back legs. Keep your chest up, shoulders back, and focus on maintaining a tight midsection. Always perform an equal number of reps and sets with your left and right leg leading (front leg).
Kettle Bell Lateral Lunge and Reach:
Lunge and reach is a great move because it gets you moving laterally (side to side). In order to execute this move properly, be sure to start with a relatively light load. As you step out into your lunge position, extend the arm holding the KB, generally the opposite arm, towards the instep of your foot. Keep your midsection tight and push forcefully back towards your starting position.
Kettle Bell Front Squat (Goblet Squat):
A KB Goblet squat is a wonderful move and offers a great alternative to a front-loaded barbell squat or even a standard back squat. You may use two separate loads, one KB in each hand, or you may use a single KB. When performing a Goblet squat, be sure to keep your load(s) close to your body. Just as with any squat variation, keep your feel firmly planted, focus on keeping your chest up and your back in a strong position. Just before you descend into the squat, take a deep breath in and as you reach the bottom of your range of motion forcefully exhale while driving your knees outward, while returning to the start position.
Kettle Bell Plank and Drag:
The KB plank and drag is a wonderful exercise. The key with this move is to develop a strong base with your footing. The winder your base, the more stable you will become. As you execute the plank and drag, focus on minimizing any twisting or rotation OR focus on generating as much rotation as possible. These are two opposite approaches and work the core musculature in different ways but they can each prove beneficial. You can implement both techniques, just be sure to commit to one approach or the other in any given set.
Everyone loves a sit-up. Just as is the case with any new exercise, KB sit-ups should be executed with a light load at first. The focus here, is to press the KB towards the sky at all times. Sit up as tall as you can, and as you return to the floor be sure to lower yourself as opposed to flopping down. Allow your lower back to contact the floor first and then roll down to your mid back and your upper back, finishing with head contact.
Kettle Bell Toe Touch:
The toe touch is a great alternative for anyone who struggle with discomfort when completing exercises like the KB sit-up. Focus on keeping your chin slightly tucked and your lower back pressed down into the floor. When performing the toe touch, you should focus on bringing only your shoulders and your upper back off of the floor before returning to the start position.
Kettle Bell Russian Twist:
Any form of trunk rotation is a great addition to your routine, as long as you are not over doing it. If you have never performed a rotational core exercise before, you may want to begin without any weight. Sit on your backside with your legs extended and your knees slightly bent. Lean your torso back slightly, the further you go the more challenging it will become. You may either allow your feet to maintain contact with the floor or for an additional challenge you may elevate them slightly. As you perform your rotations, be sure to follow your path of travel with your eyes. You should rotate from the top of your head all the way through your mid back (thoracic spine). ***If you feel discomfort in your lower back, you should decrease the load, place your feet on the floor, and lean back less. This is one exercise that you really want to take your time with.