Flip through the television channels on an average day, especially first thing in the morning or late at night, and you’ll see the latest, “greatest” fitness routines, techniques and tools designed to sculpt your body. Do they work any better than the “old-school” methods people have been using successfully for generations? Here’s a time-tested fitness strategy that’s been around for centuries and remains popular today among exercise enthusiasts looking for simple, effective ways to get in shape: kettlebells.
A kettlebell or girya is a traditional Russian cast iron weight that looks like a cannonball with a handle. Picture a bowling ball with a handle on it. You can do standard weight training exercises with kettlebells: bench presses, military presses, rows and squats. However, the unique value of kettlebells is derived from ballistic (fast exercise) work: snatches, swings, cleans and jerks. Consistent kettlebell exercises can be used to improve physical appearance, enhance cardiovascular health, decrease pain, prevent injury, reduce body fat, and increase lean muscle mass, strength, endurance, flexibility and performance.
Here is a short list of workout equipment the kettlebell can replace: barbells, dumbbells, belts for weighted pull-ups and dips, thick bars, lever bars, medicine balls, grip devices, and cardio equipment. Two or three different-size kettlebells are all you need. When you first start using kettlebells as a primary fitness tool, focus on exercises that provide the most bang for your buck. Break down a full-body workout into five categories: one pressing exercise, one pulling exercise, one exercise for the quads, one exercise for the hamstrings and one core exercise. This ensures that the entire body is getting a workout and prevents you from focusing too much on one area.
Remember, always talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program, particularly if you have a pre-exisiting health condition.