Is your fitness motivation fading?
Have no fear! Pick up a kettlebell and try these five kettlebell exercises that will improve your strength and endurance.
Note: For a cardiovascular-focused workout, use lighter weights with increased reps. Start with 8-12 reps, then increase to 20-25 reps to initiate fat loss. To improve strength and build power, use heavier weights with a small number of reps. Depending on the load, aim for 8-12 reps or even 5-8.
How To Use Kettlebells To Work Your Entire Body
If you’re just starting out with kettlebells, the deadlift is a great first step. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width, with both your toes and knees pointing directly forward. Lower the kettlebell to the ground between your feet while pushing your hips backward. Envision someone standing behind you pulling a rope that is tied around your waist. You should feel like your hips are being pulled backward.
Related: 6 Great Exercises To Gain Muscle
While in this lowered position, your knees should be over your shoelaces. Make sure they don’t cave in or bow out. To stand back up, initiate the motion with your hips, not your back.
Maintain a straight, neutral spine throughout the exercise. Continue this alignment through the neck, with the chin slightly tucked. You should only be leaning forward because your hips are pulling back. A good way to ensure proper back alignment is to have someone hold a PVC pipe or foam roller against your spine while performing the exercise.
The deadlift works your posterior chain, including your hamstrings and glutes. It is a great exercise to train hip extension, which is the foundation to nearly every athletic movement, including running and jumping.
2. Kettlebell swing.
The kettlebell swing is very similar in movement to the deadlift. Start this exercise the same way – feet slightly wider than hips and back straight. Push your hips backward to initiate movement and lower the kettlebell between your feet, keeping your back straight and your knees over your shoelaces.
Activate your glutes to initiate standing as you swing the kettlebell directly in front of you. The weight should not go any higher than parallel to the ground. Sink your hips backward to repeat the motion, keeping your back straight and your neck in line throughout the exercise.
This exercise, like the deadlift, works your hamstrings and glutes as well as your shoulders and core.
If you’re looking to build aerobic endurance, use lighter weight with higher reps. To build strength and power, use a heavier kettlebell with lower reps.
3. Goblet squat.
Also called a front squat, the goblet squat focuses on controlling the downward motion. Like the deadlift and swing, initiate movement by sinking your hips backwards. Keep your back straight, but stay as upright as possible. You knees should stay forward and never go past your toes. Aim to keep the lower half of your leg as upright as possible.
This exercise will strengthen your quadriceps and is a great foundation for building up to barbell squats.
4. Squat to shoulder press.
Take your goblet squat to the next level by working your shoulders and core with this squat to shoulder press. After performing the basic squat, engage your shoulders to lift the kettlebell directly overhead. Keep your core engaged to improve stability. Lower the kettlebell to your chest and repeat.
5. Back row.
Start in a squat position with your back a little higher than parallel to the ground. Place the kettlebell in one hand then pull it upward toward your chest, keeping your elbow tucked in toward your body. Make sure not to round or arch your back.
This exercise will work your biceps and upper back muscles, including the rhomboids and rotator cuff muscles. Holding the squat position will simultaneously build isometric strength in your hamstrings and glutes.
Kettlebells are a great way to work multiple muscle groups at once. These five exercises will improve your core strength and stability while working your upper and lower body.
***Are you ready to make this year your healthiest year yet? Get your FREE 5 minute kettlebell workout designed by Russian Kettlebell Coach and fitness expert Pat Flynn so you can get fit, strong and healthy in 2015.
Jeff Richter, CSCS, USAW, is a strength and conditioning coach, certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, at St.Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis. For more tips, follow @DefiningSports on Twitter.
Photo by Mr. Vincent Freeman