Kettlebells are a great tool for strength training and one that’s much more diverse than a dumbbell or barbell. Their unique shape makes them easier to move around than dumbbells, so you can do more with less. Whether you’re new to training or a certified pro, kettlebells definitely deserve a spot in your strength training routine.
Not sure where to start? We’ve broken down five basic kettlebell moves that you can master, whether you’re an expert or a total beginner. Practice these moves, and the next time you’re at the gym, you’ll have the confidence and the know-how to take that bell by the horns.
1. Goblet Squat
It’s like a squat… but with weight! The squat is one of the best ways to work your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. By now, you may have already mastered this move, but adding a kettlebell increases the resistance your body must work against to stand back up.
How-To: 1) Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the sides of the kettlebell horns (aka the handle) with both hands at chest height. 2) Bend your knees, push your butt back, and lower into a squat keeping your back flat. Bring your butt down past your knees if you can! 3) Driving through your heels, return to a standing position, keeping the kettlebell in line with your chest throughout the move. Repeat.
Swings are almost automatically associated with kettlebells and for good reason. The movement is great for your glutes, legs, and lower back. Kettlebell swings are one move that gives you the ability to easily work towards a heavier weight, but it’s important to start out with a lighter weight and work your way up gradually in order to avoid injury.
How-To: 1) Stand with your feet hip-width apart with the kettlebell on the floor slightly in front of your feet. Push your butt back and grab the kettlebell handle. 2) Thrust forward from the hips to bump the bell into motion and straighten your arms as you bring the bell up to chest level. 3) While the bell starts making its descent back down, bend your knees slightly, but don’t squat. Instead, push your butt back and let the bell’s momentum carry it down between your inner thighs. 4) Repeat the motion, exhaling as you swing the bell up, and inhaling when it comes back down. Make sure your power is coming from your hip thrusts, not your arms!
3. Tricep Press
Triceps are one muscle that many people neglect, but this move will get them working in no time. When performing this move, make sure you don’t arch your back, or you could easily strain your lower back.
How-To: 1) Stand with your feet hip-width apart and grip the kettlebell by the ball (the round part) near the base of the horns with both hands. 2) Raise the bell directly overhead. 3) Keeping your elbows close to your ears, lower the kettlebell behind your head until it reaches neck level. The horns should be facing down. 4) Pause, then straighten your arms all the way up to raise the bell overhead. Repeat in a slow, steady motion.
We love halos, and not just because they remind us of Beyoncé. This is one of those jacks-of-all-trades moves, working your shoulders, chest, and core. The important thing to note here is control, control, control. Move the bell too far away from your head, and it may throw off your balance. Too close, and you may end up smacking yourself in the head. This move should always be done in deliberate, controlled (read: slow) motions.
How-To: 1) Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent, not locked. 2) Grip the bell by the horns with the ball up so the bell is upside down. Hold it at chest-level. 3) Lift the ball to eye-level, then slowly circle it around the back of your head until it returns to your chest. When the bell reaches the back of your head, the horns should face up, and by the time the bell reaches your chest, they should face back down again. 4) Keeping your core engaged throughout the movement, preventing your body from twisting, you can repeat the motion, carrying the bell around your head in the other direction. 5) Repeat, alternating the direction of your circles with each rep.
5. Suitcase Lunges
This move works the legs and glutes (combine it with the squats and swings, and you’ll really set your bottom half on fire!) Suitcase lunges get their name from how you might carry a heavy suitcase: keeping it close to your sides without letting it swing around. No matter what weight you choose to work with here, it’s important to follow suit (see what we did there?) with the bells. If they start to sway, you could lose your balance. How-To: 1) Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding one kettlebell in each hand with your arms by your side. Hold your chest proud. 2) Take a big step forward with one leg. 3) Keeping your back straight, your core engaged, and your shoulders back, lower your body down, bending both knees to 90 degrees. Keep the bells stable by your sides. 4) Pushing your weight into your back foot, push through your heels to return your front leg to your back to return to a standing position. 5) Repeat the movement, alternating legs with each rep.
Please keep in mind that where your power is coming from has a huge impact on the safety of the workout and how it affects your body. In order to ensure that your workout goes well, targets the proper areas of your body, and doesn’t leave you injured, make sure that your stance is correct and that you’re using strength from the right places. And remember to breathe through your controlled movements.
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