Photo credit: Girl Sunbathing by Petr Kratochvil

The lazy woman’s exercise: kettlebells

Let me tell you a little secret: I don’t like to exercise. In fact, I’m lazy, okay? I want to do the bare minimum. Does that sound like you too? So when I learned I could get a total body workout in only 15 to 20 minutes, I thought, this is something I can do and will do. And I’ve been doing it now for over two years.

I’m talking about kettlebells. Kettle what? Surprisingly, most people still don’t seem to know about them, even though they’ve been gaining in popularity in recent years.

This is a kettlebell

my 10 lb kettlebell by Iron Core

My 10 lb kettlebell by Iron Core

It’s a round weight with a handle attached. They’ve been popular with Russian bodybuilders for many years but were only introduced to America around the year 2000. Many celebrities have talked about using kettlebells.

The celebrity workout

Photo courtesy user kain_020

Photo courtesy user kain_020

These celebrities have been known to work out with kettlebells: Jennifer Lopez, Kim Cattrall, Penelope Cruz, Kim Basinger and Katherine Heigl.

In fact, it was seeing Katherine Heigl on TV talking about her kettlebell workouts that really piqued my interest: “It’s a mix of cardio and weight training but I only do it for 20 minutes twice a week and it’s changed my body shape.”

And that’s the key right there. It’s an efficient and effective workout because you train different body parts at the same time, and you really work up a sweat while doing it.

I’m not saying you’re going to look like Katherine Heigl or JLo (hey, it’s a kettlebell, not a magic wand), but you will be the best version of YOU that you can be.

What I like about using kettlebells

  • I like the simplicity of it: not having to drive to a gym, not having large pieces of exercise equipment cluttering up my house, and having just one small kettlebell I can tuck away in my closet.
  • I like feeling strong and having a body that’s flexible.
  • I like knowing that my bones are being strengthened as well.
  • I like having plenty of time to surf the web, talk to friends, watch TV and hang out with my dog

The basic move

The basic move in kettlebells is the swing. It looks deceptively easy but you’ll be working up a sweat in no time. To do the swing, stand with your feet about 12 inches apart. Hold the kettlebell with both hands and swing between your legs, aiming for your hips (swinging too low will cause injury).

As you’re swinging, bend your knees and push your hips back as if you were going to sit in a chair, then you pop your hips forward as you swing the kettlebell out in front of you while tightening your buns and abs.

The proper form is demonstrated in this video

There is only one right way to do the swing. Doing it wrong will put you at risk for injury. Watch this short video by Iron Core trainers to see the right and wrong ways demonstrated. The sound quality isn’t great, but it’s still worthwhile.

More about the benefits of kettlebell training by Sarah Lurie

Certified Russian Kettlebell Trainer and founder of Iron Core

An interview of Sarah Lurie by Vanessa Valiente on the benefits of kettlebell workouts and how popular they are with celebrities. You will also see some moves in action.

What you need for a kettlebell workout

I use and recommend GoFit kettlebells and workout DVDs.

Someone who has not been weight training should start out with a 10 pound weight. That’s the one I started with, then went to 15 pounds, and now I use a 20 pound weight.

When you buy a GoFit kettlebell, it comes with an instructional DVD that only shows you how to do the different moves. You’ll also need to get a separate workout DVD.

This four DVD set will take you from a beginner all the way to an advanced user.

Tips for sticking with your fitness program

You need more than willpower

Photo credit: motivation by Nono Fara, on Flickr

Photo credit: motivation by Nono Fara, on Flickr

These techniques have helped me stick to my fitness program for more than two years:

  • Find your motivation. Starting an exercise program is easy. Sticking with it is a lot harder. Think about what you want to accomplish and why. You should have both positive and negative motivations. For example, a negative motivation might be that you want to avoid getting osteoporosis like your mother. A positive motivation might be the good feeling you have wearing your skinny jeans.
  • Make an exercise schedule. Decide how many days per week you are going to exercise and what routine you will be doing.
  • Make a commitment to yourself. There will be times when you just don’t feel like exercising. We do lots of things we don’t feel like doing because they must be done. Not being in the mood is not a good enough reason to skip your exercise. When all else fails to motivate you, just do it because you promised yourself.
  • Record your accomplishments. When I’m done with my workout I mark it on the calendar. Seeing my accomplishments in writing makes me feel good.

My workout

I started off with three 15-minute workouts a week. Within a couple of weeks I was seeing great improvement and wanted to do more. That’s when I started working out with Sarah Lurie’s Iron Core kettlebell DVDs. I couldn’t even do all the reps at first but I would do as many as I could. Every day I was able to do more until it became quite easy and took less time. That’s when I would switch to a more advanced routine or get a heavier kettlebell.

As a middle-aged woman, I felt like I needed to do a little exercise six days a week. Three days a week I would do the longer “strength training” workout and the other three days I would do more aerobic-type workouts of kettlebell swings or an 8-minute Tae Bo workout. Now after reaching my goals, I maintain my results with six 10-minute workouts per week. I do the Kettlebell Express workout, with a 20-pound weight, on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday I do kettlebell swings or an 8-minute Tae Bo workout. Saturday I rest.

Update: I’m still exercising six days a week, but I’ve switched up my exercise routine a little bit. Now I only do one or two kettlebell workouts and the other days I do 12 minute PACE Express workouts.

My results

Photo © 2012 Lynda Makara

Photo © 2012 Lynda Makara

It took about nine months to get fit with kettlebell workouts and healthy eating. Yes, it was slow (that’s the tradeoff for being “lazy”) but consistent. This was the only thing that worked for me (a postmenopausal woman in my mid 50s), and it will work for you too.

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