For people who are unaware of kettlebells, their odd-looking appearance seem out of place when compared to dumbbells and other weights. Made from cast-iron or steel, a widened handle sits atop a flat-bottomed round base allowing for one or two-handed exercises. These weights can range anywhere from 5 lbs. (~2 kg.) to 200 lbs. (~90 kg.).
So what is it about kettlebells that make them so effective for building muscle, losing weight, and improving your overall health and physique? There are many answers to this question. First, it’s important to appreciate the rate at which calories are burned by exercising with kettlebells.
A 20-minute kettlebell workout burns an average of 400 calories
The American Council on Exercise conducted a study of people performing kettlebell snatch exercises. They concluded that participants burned an average of 20 calories per minute. By their comparision, that is similar to running a mile at a pace of 6 minutes!
If you’re curious how this stacks up against other popular exercises, this kettlebell guide compares several of them. The treadmill and elliptical, which have long been staples of exercising equipment, burn up to 50% less calories in a 20-minute session.
While these facts are pretty astounding, the reasons behind them are equally impressive. How can such a small tool outperform true and tried fitness machinery? It’s not as complicated as you might think.
Kettlebells work multiple muscle groups simultaneously
The kettlebell swing is by far one of the most popular kettlebell exercises. By it’s design, muscles for your abs, glutes, shoulders, hamstrings, hips, and pecs are activated. This is just one exercise that provides a full-body workout.
Other exercises such as the pistol squat, are great for improving balance and target a specific muscle region. As your body becomes accustomed to these exercises, a change to a heavier kettlebell will increase the difficulty. This makes for great scalability and ensures your body will always be challenged.
Off-center of gravity forces your body to work harder
Most hand-held weights have an equal distribution of mass. A kettlebell’s center of mass is several inches away from its handle. This means that your body will work harder as it is swung, thrusted and flipped around.
Exercising with the unique design of the kettlebell emulates activities such as lifting heavy objects. The force necessary to raise such things is unbalanced. Contrast that to the symmetrical shape of a dumbbell and it makes sense as to why kettlebells require more effort.
Chain several kettlebell exercises together for maximum efficiency
Normally, you’d want to rest your body for several seconds after finishing a single kettlebell exercise before progressing to the next. However, if you want to get the most out of your workout, exercises can be performed seamlessly. Of course, it is more difficult but gets even better results in less time!
Eric Leija, a Senior Kettlebell Coach at Onnit, is constantly sharing his kettlebell flows. As you can see below, these workouts are as beautiful as they are intense. Keep in mind, that what you see is just a couple of repetitions of this workout. Each set will naturally become more exhausting.
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Other Benefits That Kettlebells Provide
If you’re still looking for a reason to try kettlebells, here are several others:
- COST – A full-body workout can be done for the fraction of the cost of an exercise machine. Kettlebells are extremely affordable and should be readily available at most athletic stores.
- PORTABLE – Small and compact, they are easier to store and move around. No need to waste space when they’re not in use. They’re also the perfect way to stay fit while traveling. Going on vacation or visiting family? Put a few in the trunk of your car and you’re good to go!
- INCREASE GRIP STRENGTH – You know the feeling of trying to twist open a tight jar? Regular usage of kettlebells will make that task much easier. The ability to apply force with your hand will grow the more you exercise with kettlebells.
- BETTER MENTAL HEALTH & FOCUS – Mental clarity isn’t something that is usually mentioned with fitness. However, as the result of increased blood flow to the brain, you’ll find decision-making and problem solving simpler to perform. Since kettlebells do such a great job of getting your body into shape, this side effect is greatly increased than with other workouts.
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