Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Fitness: Saved by the Bell: Kettlebell Training

You’ve seen them sitting on the gym floor. You’ve seen them thrown overhead. You’ve seen them tucked beneath a chin.

Kettlebells are one of the most functional, versatile pieces of training equipment thanks to their many uses in both strength and cardio development. Nevertheless, for many in the traditional gym setting, they’re underutilized. We’re here to say, give em a swing. You won’t be sorry!

Three of the Best Kettlebell Exercises to Try:

Kettlebell Swings:
Probably the most popular of the exercises, kettlebell swings can take many forms:  One-handed, two-handed, Russian and overhead. Kettlebell swings are an amazing all-around exercise as they engage a number of muscles including your core, shoulders, back, and glutes.

How To: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Grab the kettlebell with both hands on the top of the handle, palms in. Standing with arms straight, the kettlebell should hang in front of your body in the middle of your stance. To begin, bend your knees slightly, move your hips back, then powerfully drive them forward. That movement will push your arms out and the kettlebell up. For a Russian kettlebell swing, the kettlebell should reach about chin level. Allow the kettlebell to then fall back between your legs. Repeat this movement without resting or stopping the kettlebell. When using a heavier weight, stick to the Russian kettlebell swing. When performing the overhead kettlebell swing -- popularized by CrossFit -- a lighter weight should be used.

To properly perform any kettlebell swing, remember that the power to drive the kettlebell up comes from your legs and hips, not your arms. The more you drive your hips forward, the better. Secondly, the kettlebell swing movement is not a squat. While there will be some flex in your knees, your hips should move front to back, not up and down. When performing an overhead kettlebell swing, be careful not to arch your back or let the weight move behind your head. That just puts undue stress on your spine.

Kettlebell Goblet Squats:
Another variation of the beloved squat, the kettlebell goblet squat works your quads, glutes, hamstrings and even your shoulders. For those prone to wrist soreness or who have little wrist mobility, the goblet squat is also a nice alternative to the front squat.

How To: Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder width, toes pointing slightly out. To pick up the kettlebell, grab it on each side of the handle, palms facing your body. Raise the kettlebell tight to your chest just under your chin, elbows in. As you squat, keep your elbows tight to your body, so they remain inside your knees. Drop into the squat, working low enough to bring your hamstrings to your calves. Throughout the movement, remember to keep your head and chest up.

Overhead Kettlebell Press
It’s easy to work your shoulders with a great one-handed kettlebell press. Thanks to the kettlebell’s shape and handle, your body is required to engage more muscles in an effort to stabilize your arm than when this exercise is performed with a regular dumbbell. While small, that extra level of complexity helps build both large and stabilizer muscles in your shoulders and back.

How To: Start from the standing position, holding the kettlebell handle with one hand. You will squat, kettlebell remaining in front of the body, and begin to straighten your legs. As you’re standing, pull the kettlebell up along your body. When your hand reaches shoulder height, your elbow will be pointing out, and you’ll flip your hand so that the palm is now facing the sky and the kettlebell is essentially resting on the top of your wrist. Press the kettlebell up until you are standing straight and your arm is fully extended overhead. Keep your hand and the kettlebell aligned with your shoulder. Return to the starting position. Overhead kettlebell swings can be performed for reps or for time.

Ensure the ‘flip’ of your wrist is a controlled movement. You don’t want to fling the kettlebell onto the top of your wrist and cause bruising.

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