This article was originally published on September 10, 2015.
The kettlebell looks something like a cross between your grandma’s purse and an old-fashioned teapot, but it's been getting a lot of attention at gyms these days — and not just for its often candy-colored paint job. “Using a kettlebell can be one of the most efficient ways to train,” says Lauren Brooks, a southern California-based certified kettlebell coach and owner of On the Edge Fitness. “It allows you to get very strong and conditioned, all within one workout.”
The secret is its unique displacement of weight, which is ideal for being swung dynamically, rather than pulled or pushed against gravity, like dumbbells. The result is a more metabolic (read: calorie-torching) workout, often in less time than a traditional weight-training session. “It also shapes the butt very nicely and helps keep the abs strong!” Brooks adds. “Who doesn’t want that?”
The aim of this monthlong challenge is to get you swinging a kettlebell both safely and effectively. The first lesson: It’s not about the arms. “You actually use the hips, glutes, and abs to power the movement,” says Brooks. “Once those posterior chain muscles are activated all at once, the arms simply help guide the movement.” To get you there, you must hinge and deadlift before you swing — all of which are explained in detail below.
You’ll need a kettlebell in the 15- to 20-pound (or 12- to 16-kilogram) range. You may find that you’ll want to increase the weight of your kettlebell as you get stronger, which Brooks encourages. However, don’t do it on a day when your reps are also increasing (for example, don’t do it on Day 18, wait for Day 19).
Even after the first few days when you’re learning, you’ll start every workout with a set of hip hinges to remind your body of the proper motion and to warm up. “I also like to add a 30-second plank to the warm-up, to ensure muscle activation throughout the abs, glutes, and quads,” Brooks says. “This really sets people up for success with the top of the kettlebell swing, because a plank is the top of a swing, just reoriented so you’re on your feet.”
On days when you’re doing more than one set (x2 or x3), take a 30- to 60-second rest between sets. The day after a Rest Day will be more intense than the previous workout, so definitely don’t skip those breaks — they’re essential to letting your muscles recover.