It’s no secret that kettlebells provide a seriously effective total-body workout, but did you know that these cannonball-shaped iron orbs with handles do much more than just build strength? For starters, kettlebell training burns an average of 13.6 calories per minute aerobically, plus another 6.6 calories per minute anaerobically, which means a kettlebell workout can burn up to or 20 calories per minute. That is the equivalent to running at a 6-minute mile pace, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Talk about impressive! In addition to that crazy calorie- and fat-burning potential, a new ACE-sponsored study found that kettlebell training also improves core strength and dynamic balance, and increases aerobic capacity, eliciting the same type of cardio improvement you would expect from regularly attending your favorite indoor cycling class.
So, if you’re in the market to add new intensity to your existing kettlebell training routine, get ready to have a ball—of iron that is— and break a serious sweat with these five creative, kick-butt moves. This highly effective workout is courtesy of kettlebell expert and director and founder of the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation Steve Cotter, named by Men’s Health magazine as one of the 100 fittest men of all time.
Bottoms Up Clean and Press
Straddle the kettlebell with the feet shoulder-distance apart and squat down to prepare to perform a clean. Raise the kettlebell off the floor to chest level by extending the knee and hips, keeping the bottom of the kettlebell facing upward. To maintain control and prevent the kettlebell from slipping, squeeze with maximal effort, while keeping the core and glute muscles engaged to generate full-body tension. Following the clean, press the kettlebell overhead while maintaining the bottoms-up position; then, slowly lower the kettlebell back down to chest level before swinging it back between your legs to prep for the next repetition. Complete 10 to 15 reps.
Two-hand Flip and Catch
Grasp the handle with both hands and begin by swinging the kettlebell forward and back between your legs. As the kettlebell reaches chest level, flick your wrists towards you, letting go of the kettlebell as it completes one rotation. As the handle faces up, catch the kettlebell by the handle with both hands and swing it back between your legs. Repeat this movement throughout all 10 to 15 reps to develop and enhance hand-eye coordination while you condition the entire body.
Figure Eights (Between-the-Legs Pass)
Stand with feet shoulder-distance apart and hold the kettlebell in one hand. Begin passing the kettlebell between your legs from front to back, grabbing it with the opposite hand each time the kettlebell moves behind you. After five to 10 reps, reverse direction as you pass the kettlebell from back to front for another five to 10 reps.
This move doubles the fun by using two kettlebells. Start by bringing one kettlebell up to chest height and pressing it overhead with a fully extended right arm, turning your feet 45 degrees to the left. Keep your eyes on the kettlebell overhead and push your right hip out to the side so that it is underneath the raised kettlebell; flex your body to the left side until your left hand reaches the kettlebell on the floor. From there, grab the lower kettlebell and extend your body back up to the starting position. Repeat the lateral flexion and extension for five to 10 reps on the right side and then repeat the double windmills on the left.
Behind-the-Neck Jump Squats
Hold the kettlebell handle with one hand on each side, raising it behind your head and pinching your shoulder blades together so that the muscles of your upper back serve as a cushion keep the kettlebell from resting directly on your spine. With the ball of the kettlebell facing down and the handle facing up, perform a squat jump, landing softly as you descend to absorb the impact forces sequentially through your toes, feet, ankles, knees and hips. Repeat the sequence of squat jumps rapidly from one repetition to the next for a total 10 to 20 reps. Rest for one minute and repeat again for a total of three to five sets. This is a great option for finishing your kettlebell workout with a high-intensity anaerobic exercise.
Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYTContributor
Jessica Matthews, M.S., E-RYT is assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College. As a leading fitness expert, writer and educator Jessica is a regular contributor to numerous publications, including Shape and Oprah.com. She holds a B.S. in physical education teacher education from Coastal Carolina University and M.S. in physical education from Canisius College. She is a certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as well as an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) through Yoga Alliance and trained stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga instructor. Prior to teaching at Miramar, Jessica worked full-time ACE, serving in a number of key roles including exercise physiologist, certification director and senior health and fitness editor. Her past work also includes serving as aquatics director at Conway Medical Wellness and Fitness Center and designing health and physical education curriculum for grades K-12. Full Bio Jessica Matthews »
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