If you’ve just purchased a gym membership and are new to working out then simply looking at all of the fitness equipment can be pretty intimidating. When you first walk into a gym, you’ll probably see large machines that have hundreds of pounds of iron attached to them. Then, there are stationary resistance band machines, rows of treadmills, stair climbers, large barbells straddled over benches, and a rack full of dumbells. So what do you do? While it’s good to explore all of your options at the gym, there is one workout tool you definitely shouldn’t ignore — the kettlebell.
Kettlebells are free weights that look just like cannonballs with handles. You can usually find a few kettlebells sitting next to the long rack of dumbells. Just like with free weights, kettlebells come in a variety of sizes. If you’re a beginner, you can always reach for a small 10-pound kettlebell. If you’re an advanced athlete, you may want to swing around a 100-pound kettlebell! No matter what size you are swinging around, though, there are big benefits to using this workout tool. Before we go over the top nine kettlebell swing benefits, watch this five-minute instructional video on the correct way to do a kettlebell swing.
*Don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom of this article to see six popular kettlebell workout moves!
1) Total-Body Toning
Rather than isolating certain muscle groups with each workout move (as you do when you lift regular dumbells or use a weight machine), kettlebells work all of your major muscle groups at once. In fact, kettlebell swings target over 600 muscles! That’s because when you swing a kettlebell around, your whole body has to work in order to keep yourself in control. With this type of workout, it’s all about stabilizing your core and keeping your balance.
Breaking down the kettlebell swing, the action first targets your body’s lower half. Your leg muscles (mainly your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves) work with your glutes, hips and lower back to generate force for the swing. According to a 2012 study published in the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,” researchers found the hip-hinge movement of the swing cause the muscles in your lower back and butt to experience a cycle of contractions and relaxation. This cycle helps tone your muscles, giving you that desired lean look.
Once the swing action begins, your body’s midsection kicks into gear. Your abs will immediately contract. Your entire abdomen will work with your back muscles to stabilize the force of the swing, keep your body in balance, and provide you needed strength.
As your arms swing the kettlebell up toward your chest, the primary muscles in your shoulders contract. Additionally, your lats and deltoids act as stabilizers once you reach the upright movement of the swing.
2) Increase Strength
Kettlebell swings are a form of strength training (AKA resistance training), which is a type of exercise that pits muscles against a large force. In this case, that large force is a kettlebell. As you just read, kettlebell swings work more than 600 muscles with just one movement. So it’s no wonder this type of workout can make you stronger in no time!
Despite popular belief, resistance training isn’t only for men. Over the years, countless women celebrities have come forward praising kettlebell workouts. Don’t let the word “celebrities” make you think this type of workout is a trendy fad, though. Kettlebells were reportedly developed in Russia back in the 1700s. So this tool isn’t new to athletes and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon!
3) Increase Endurance
Along with resistance training, kettlebell swings are also classified as cardio. If you’ve ever swung around one of these cannonball-looking weights, you know how it can really get your heart pumping and sweat dripping. The more cardio you do, the more your body will be able to handle.
According to researchers, there are two main factors that contribute to endurance:
- VO2 max – The maximum amount of oxygen a person can consume during exercise.
- Lactate threshold – The exercise intensity at which lactate accumulates in the muscles.
Kettlebell swings (and other kettlebell exercise moves) are a good way to improve both of those factors.
4) Burn Calories
During a study conducted by the American Council on Exercise, researchers found that the average kettlebell workout burns 20 calories a minute. To put that into perspective, that’s a whopping 600 calories in 30 minutes! Plus, don’t forget about the afterburn effect. Intense exercises, like kettlebell swings, can help your body burn calories even after your workout session is over. Desired result? I think so!
Of course, don’t forget to pair your workout efforts with a healthy diet. All of that calorie-killing won’t matter if you put down the kettlebell and then pick up a juicy cheeseburger with a side of French fries!
5) Burn Fat
If you’re looking to burn excess fat from your thighs, belly, or arms, then it’s time to say hello to the kettlebell and make it your best friend. Since swings and other kettlebell moves can burn an impressive amount of calories in a short amount of time and build muscle mass, you will notice your fat disappear in no time.
You’ve probably heard the popular saying, “Muscle burns fat.” While some people tend to exaggerate exactly how much fat muscle burns, that statement is 100% true.
6) Improve Heart Health
Anytime you workout or get active, you are doing your heart a favor. Since kettlebell swings combine both cardio and strength training, though, this form of exercise is one of the best for your vital organ.
According to the American Heart Association, a sedentary lifestyle is one of the five major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Other factors include obesity, high blood pressure, and high “bad” cholesterol. Luckily, kettlebell swings can help with all of that since they: