7 Favorite Kettlebell Exercises

kettlebell-teal.jpgSpring is almost here -- ready to feel the burn? Today, Jules shares 7 of her favorite kettlebell exercises:

As a personal trainer, I'm constantly trying to bring my clients innovative and dynamic exercises. The kettlebell looks like a bowling ball with a looped handle. Using a kettlebell is efficient in improving core strength and all-over muscle building because of its off-center weight. Combining standard exercises you would do with dumbbells with multiple explosive movements will provide an ideal total body workout. Here are seven of my favorite kettlebell moves.

*Note: For beginners, I recommend starting with an 8 or 10 pound kettlebell. Each description below is for one repetition; try to work towards 12-15 reps of each exercise.

1. Goblet Squats. Hold the kettlebell by the horns (the part connecting the bell to the handle) as close to your chest as possible with both hands. This spreads the weight between both arms and works the forearms, biceps, and shoulders in addition to the legs, glutes, and core. Elbows should be hinged tightly to your sides. Stand holding the kettlebell with feet hip width apart, toes pointed slightly out. Bend at the hips and knees, sitting back (under control) into the lower part of your squat (whatever degree is comfortable for you), keeping all of your weight in your heels (you should be able to wiggle your toes) and leading with your bum. Your elbows should track inside of the knees. Now straighten and stand. Once you are standing again, squeeze the glutes one last time to finish the exercise.

2. One Armed Kettlebell Pushup. One way to vary traditional pushups is to elevate one hand on a raised surface. This alters the effort/force on each arm and works your muscle fibers a little differently, which is crucial for shocking the muscles. Try this motion only if you feel confident doing a military or modified military pushup (on your knees). Be cautious with this move; if you're not steady, it's easy for the kettlebell to tilt or flip, which can hurt your wrist. Try this move on your knees to get a feel for it and, if you're not stable, rest your hand on the bottom part of the weight (the bell portion) for more stability.

Get into a pushup position (knees or toes) placing one hand on the handle of the kettlebell (harder) or on the bell part of the weight (easier). Keep the abs contracted, belly button pulled towards the spine and lower into a pushup. You will not be able to go as low to the floor as you typically may be able to and that is okay. Push back to start and repeat until exhaustion before switching sides.

3. Bicep Curl with Squat. This kettlebell exercise is useful because it targets more than one muscle group; the biceps and the lower body. Hold the kettlebell in your right hand by your side. With a wide stance, lower into a squat, swinging the weight between the knees. Stand up with a squat, swinging the weight up into a bicep curl. At the end of the movement, the bottom of the kettlebell should be pointing straight up with the wrist strong and straight (this will engage the forearm and the wrist as well as the bicep).


4. Kettlebell Swing. Kettlebell swings get the heart pumping and strengthen the shoulders, core, and legs. Lift the kettlebell with both hands at its horns, let it swing between your legs and pop your hips forward (but don't arch your back) as you swing the kettlebell in front of your body. Continue to swing the bell between your legs and forward in a pendulum motion, alternating arms. When you swing it forward, forcefully contract your abs, glutes, and quads.

5. Military Press. The military press works the shoulders and core. Lift the kettlebell and rotate your grip so that the bell rests on the back of your forearm and tuck your arm into the front of your body. The starting point for the kettlebell is at upper chest height. After bending your knees slightly (for momentum -- this is not a squat), stand straight up as you push the kettlebell straight above your head. Contract your core, quads, and bum with the raise of the bell. Lower the kettlebell to your chest and repeat, keeping knees slightly bent at the start of every weight push. Switch sides.

6. Kettlebell Crunch. Lie on your back and raise your legs so your feet are parallel to the ceiling. Hold the kettlebell straight above your chest with your hands near the bottom of the horns. Lift your shoulders off the floor and push the kettlebell straight up into the air toward your toes (ideally touching your toes). Squeeze your core and hold the tension in them while slowly lowering yourself down.

7. The Squat-Upright Row. Grab the kettlebell handle with both hands and squat by bending your knees and leading with the bum, pushing your weight up through your heels. Once you are upright in a standing position, pull the kettlebell towards your chin and keep the weight as close to your chest as possible. Once your arms are parallel to the ground and the kettlebell is at your chest (elbows should be above shoulder level), you have successfully completed an upright row with a squat. As you become more efficient at this exercise, these two movements will start to look like one.