Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Kettlebells: Russian fitness at its finest.

Kettlebells intimidated me. I saw people swinging them at the gym, and I could imagine the great workout they were getting. But I feared that if I picked one up, it would somehow manage to slide loose of my grip. I'd be standing in front of the mirror and end up with no less than seven years of bad luck. Or the poor soul next to me would end up with a giant purple bruise. But again, I could imagine the great workout, which is why I decided to woman up and get acquainted. If they could do it, so could I. Right?

For starters, being the writer that I am, I did some research. Did you know that kettlebells hail from Russia? Evidently they've been quite popular over there since the 1700s. And with good reason. These handled hunks of cast iron combine cardio and strength training into one efficient workout. And because the weight of the kettlebell is centered off of the hand, one can swing it. This type of movement increases the intensity of a particular exercise because the muscles are being engaged in a slightly different manner than when a dumbbell is used. That's not to say you can't swing a dumbbell, it's just that the effects are greater.

But anytime you swing weight in a workout, you're calling on force and momentum. And Sir Isaac Newton would be proud of me for reminding you that (as I was reminded of this in my class at Blue Heron Academy) for every action there is a reaction, and objects in motion stay in motion unless something stops it. So for safety's sake, choose a kettlebell that you can easily control. Don't go heavy without being ready. You'll risk injury.

I myself am still learning the basics of kettlebell training, so although I don't quite consider myself an expert yet, I do know that the kettlebell swing is the base of most kettlebell exercises. I found this video on YouTube and, despite the cheesy drama of it all, I think it gives an excellent how-to.

I don't know about you, but I'd join the Kettlebell Union if it meant that I could work out to such stimulating music. Just watching this video made me feel like a Shakespearean Queen. But the Kettlebell Union is in London and I digress. So when they mention the posterior chain and lifting your toes, that's an option that puts more emphasis on your glutes and hamstrings. You should probably save this tweak until you've mastered the basics. Until then, practice makes perfect.

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