They've been around for decades, but only recently have kettlebells been gaining popularity. You may be thinking, "What's so great about kettlebells? They seem like dumbbells with handles, so why not just use dumbbells?" Your answer comes when you pick up a kettlebell; you'll notice that it's much harder to handle, which is what makes it more effective for strength training. The off-centered weight forces you to engage multiple muscle groups at once in order to help stabilize your body. Your body as a whole will become stronger, especially your core. When using a kettlebell, you can execute the same exercises you can do with dumbbells, plus many more that involve swinging, pushing, and balancing the bell.
These cast-iron weights come in a range of sizes from two pounds to 100 pounds (for the really strong ladies and gents). Proper use of kettlebells requires strength and coordination, so it's best to start off with a light weight at first. If you are a healthy and fit female, begin using one that's about 15 pounds (8 kg). If you haven't strength trained in a while (or ever), start with a lighter bell, such as five or eight pounds. To figure out if you've chosen the right size, try these three exercises after you read more.
- Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Holding the handle with both hands, squat down and dangle the bell in between your legs. Hold for a few seconds, and then straighten your legs. You should be able to do this without your lower back or shoulders hurting.
- Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart, and hold a kettlebell with both hands between your legs. Bend your knees slightly, and then swing the kettlebell forward. You should be able to explosively straighten your legs and lift the kettlebell up so it's above shoulder height.
- Place a kettlebell in one hand, and lift it above your head. You should be able to lift your arm all the way up without arching your back and should be able to hold the weight up there for a few seconds.
It's better to start off with a lighter weight and learn correct technique and posture. Then you can gradually increase to a heavier kettlebell as you become stronger. Since many of the exercises involve ballistic (fast) work, you want to be sure you get some personal instruction on how to use them, since you can end up tearing a muscle if you lift too much or move the wrong way. If this is your first time using this type of weight, I'll warn you that it can be very strenuous on the body and feel awkward at first. But as with anything, practicing will make you feel more comfortable.