Athletes and exercise buffs may be familiar with kettlebells, but most people have never seen these cast iron weights that look like a cannonball with a handle. They come in various sizes, from four pounds up to 108. Men often start out using a 35 pound kettlebell, and women, six to 15 pounds. Kettlebells have actually been around since the Russian Tsarist era when they were used as a strength training tool and then later for weight lifting competitions. They were little known outside of Russia until kettlebell guru, Pavel Tsatsouline, introduced these exercise routines to the U.S. military, police units and professional athletes. Within the last few years, kettlebell workouts have become more popular as they caught the attention of fitness trainers. You’ll now find ketttlebell classes in gyms and health clubs across the country.
Why the Interest in Kettlebells?
The kettlebell workout is a whole body workout using a variety of muscle groups, especially abdominal muscles, to lift and control the kettlebell as you power it through the various swing and squat exercises. The workout is high intensity, combining weight training and cardio. If you stick to it, you can get into good shape fairly quickly, said Artemis Scantalides, a master personal trainer and certified kettlebell instructor in the Boston area. Scantalides also taught kettlebell classes at health clubs in New York City and Washington D.C.
“The power movements give you quick results and that makes it different. And it’s more fun than doing a bench press or bicep work,” said Scantalides.
Shortly after 9 a.m. one morning at the Boston Sports Club in Newton, Massachusetts, a group of five fit women were powering through a kettlebell class, beads of sweat visibly running down faces, as they each swung a kettlebell over their shoulders, around squatted knees and snapped them forward to chest height with the strength of their legs and glutes. Anyone passing by looking into the window of the studio took a double take. After 15 repetitions of each exercise, and close to an hour of kettlebelling, the women had a truly exhaustive workout. For a few of the women, it was a great way to spice up their exercise routines.
“I like to mix up my workouts and kettlebells are really challenging,” said Maureen Sullivan.
For Madeline Searle, the class gives her a chance to try something different and focus on weight training. “I run a few days a week, go spinning one day and other days work out on the elliptical, so this gives me the chance to do something I don’t do.
Take A Class or Get a Personal Trainer
To learn the proper techniques and form, regardless of your level of fitness, it’s best to have some training. If you use the kettlebells incorrectly you could easily injure your back, neck or shoulder or bruise your forearms or shins. It’s important to start with lower weights, increasing slowly when an experienced trainer thinks you’ve perfected each movement. There are many videos available, but it’s best to get some one-to one training. Classes are often small because trainers know they need to watch each person carefully when they’re first learning the exercises. As kettlebells enter the mainstream, classes and certified trainers are now easier to find than ever before.
“The fitness industry evolves just like any other and is always looking for the next thing to help people feel good and see results,” Scantalides said.