Kettlebells For Dummies
Using kettlebells has been hailed in recent years as the most efficient and effective way to train your body for burning tons of fat, getting super strong and lean, and obtaining the ultimate physique. Many people have found in kettlebells what they couldn’t find in other workouts — an exercise program that can be done in half the time of a regular workout with twice the results. To get started, you should know how to pick the right kettlebell, position your back properly, use your hips to move your kettlebell, practice proper form, and breathe correctly during a workout.
Tips for Picking the Right Kettlebell
When you’re shopping for workout gear, investing in a good, high-quality kettlebell is the best way to go. After all, you certainly don’t want to be slinging a cheap kettlebell around your body and head.
Here are some useful tips for purchasing the right kettlebell:
Make sure your kettlebell isn’t too heavy or too light; you should be able to press it over your head with control and stability, but with some resistance.
Test the handle size to make sure both hands fit comfortably on the handle without touching each other.
Wrap one hand around the handle to make sure the tips of your fingers are only a couple of inches from your palm.
Purchase a solid cast-iron kettlebell without a vinyl coating. Vinyl coating doesn’t enhance performance or protect your floors, and it won’t have much longevity as it starts to crack and peel. Perhaps most significant, though, is the fact that when a kettlebell is covered, you can’t see whether holes from the mold were filled with a material other than iron. If they were, you really aren’t getting the size that’s indicated on the bell.
Make sure the kettlebell is made from one piece, instead of the handle being attached separately. You don’t want your kettlebell to come apart while you’re swinging it.
Check to make sure your kettlebell comes with a one-year guarantee. Manufacturers that aren’t willing to stand behind their products aren’t making quality kettlebells.
Positioning Your Back Properly for a Kettlebell Workout
For all kettlebell exercises, you need to make sure your back is positioned correctly so that your hips, not your back, absorb the force of the kettlebell. The term neutral spine describes the position in which your back should be for all your kettlebell routines — and it’s easy to achieve.
Try this simple exercise to achieve neutral spine:
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms down at your sides; focus your eye gaze on a point about six feet in front of you on the floor to keep your neck and head position neutral.
Reach your hips back as if you’re reaching back for a chair, and let your arms follow your hips back.
If you’re in the right position, you look like you’re getting ready to take a vertical leap in the air.
Look in the mirror; if you achieved neutral spine, you have a nice, natural S curve in your spine (in other words, your back isn’t rounded).
Using Your Hips to Move Your Kettlebell
Your hips do a lot of work when it comes to moving your kettlebell. To help engage them properly during a kettlebell workout, put on clothing that allows you to sit all the way back into your hips (baggy clothing can impede you from moving well), and do the following:
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart (or slightly wider), your arms down at your sides, and your eyes focused on a point on the floor about six feet in front of you; have your kettlebell on the ground between your feet back by your heels.
Stomp both your feet into the floor to plant (or root) them solidly into the ground.
Letting your hips lead the movement, sit back and let your knees follow; keep your weight in your heels as you reach back and down to put your hand(s) on the kettlebell.
As you sit back with your hips, pretend you’re reaching back toward a box, chair, or wall. Remember that you must let your hips lead to achieve neutral spine.
Generate force from the ground up by driving through your heels, pulling up your kneecaps, tightening your abs and glutes, and forcefully snapping your hips to move the kettlebell.
Remember the kettlebell hip snap is not a pelvic tilt!
A Checklist for Good Kettlebell Form
Executing kettlebell exercises takes a lot of concentration. Commit this checklist to memory, and use it as your guide for getting into the right start position for all your kettlebell exercises:
Position your feet shoulder width or slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
Put your weight on your heels.
Keep your shoulders back and down and chest up.
Maintain a tall spine and neutral head position.
Look at a focal point on the floor six feet in front of you.
Pinch your glutes, tighten your thighs and abs, and pull up your kneecaps.
Make sure the only thing in the area immediately surrounding you is the kettlebell you’re using in your routine.
Breathing to Keep Yourself Safe during a Kettlebell Routine
Breathing plays an essential role in keeping you safe when you’re using kettlebells. To breathe correctly during a kettlebell routine, you need to know how to tighten your abdominal muscles. Try this simple exercise to master the art of tightening your abs:
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, your weight on your heels, your spine tall, and your arms down at your sides.
Have a partner pretend to throw a punch at your stomach.
What was your reaction? If you tightened your abs as a reflex, you braced yourself for the punch.
Try to initiate tightening your abs on your own without your partner’s help; as you do, place your hand on your stomach — it should expand as you brace your abs.
If you do this exercise correctly, you should feel not only your abs tighten, but your pelvic region as well. This type of tightening is what you want to feel with each inhale you take while doing your kettlebell workouts. By bracing your abs and breathing correctly during your kettlebell workouts, you protect your spine and give your body the oxygen it needs to achieve optimal performance and burn fat.