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3 Great Kettlebell Exercises

by Leslie Pepper  

Fitness trends come and go, but one current craze—kettlebells—is one we think is well worth trying. Never heard of a kettlebell? It’s a cast iron ball with a handle attached to the top (picture a round, heavy purse). Kettlebells can, weigh anywhere from 4 pounds to 75 pounds or more and are sold in sporting goods stores, big box retailers, and online.

Working with kettlebells not only helps build muscle strength, but can help work your heart, since some kettlebell exercises involve movements like swinging. They also help build balance and give your core a hefty workout. Here are 3 moves to get you started, which we curated with the help of Anthony Wall, director of professional education at the nonprofit American Council on Exercise. If you’ve never worked with kettlebells, don’t worry about the number of reps you’re doing. Instead, concentrate on form. For each exercise, do a few reps, stop and rest, and then repeat a few more times. Then add more repetitions as you get more comfortable. Start with a light kettlebell, then work up to a heavier one as you get stronger.

Kettlebell deadlifts

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out slightly, with the kettlebell centered in front of your feet and knees bent slightly. Hinging at your hips, bend down and grab the handle of the kettlebell with both hands. Exhale as you push through the ground with your heels, pull your shoulders back, and drive your hips forward until you’re back to a standing position. Make sure your back stays straight throughout the movement. Then bend forward from your hips again to put the kettlebell back on the floor.

Kettlebell two-arm swing

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out slightly, with the kettlebell centered in front of your feet. Bending at the hips, grab the handle of the kettlebell and swing it up and back between your legs (like you are hiking a football). Then, keeping your arms straight, drive your hips and knees forward to propel the kettlebell forward. The kettlebell should reach somewhere between your belly button and your chest, but no higher. Then bend to put it down on the floor again.

Goblet squat

Stand up straight, feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. With both hands, hold the bottom of the kettlebell against your chest. Inhale as you lower your body by bending at the knees and pushing the hips back, as if you’re about to sit in a chair. Keep the weight in your heels and your elbows pointing down. Stop when your knees reach a 90-degree angle, pause for a moment, then exhale as you push through the feet and bring your hips back up to the starting position. Keep your upper body straight throughout the movement so that your lower body is doing the work.