Spend much time in the gym and you'll probably come across some odd-looking objects that look like part medicine ball and part handbag.
These oddities are known as kettlebells, and they may hold the secret to improved fitness. However, if you're not careful, they can also cause your physical downfall.
Here's a quick look at kettlebells and how you can use these strange weights to your advantage.
In essence, kettlebells are bowling balls with handles. Compared to other weight-training tools, the strange shape of kettlebells force weight lifters to focus on their every movement, which results in a whole-body workout with a lot of focus on the lifter's core. Traditionally, kettlebells are made of cast iron and come in weights that range from 2 to 100 pounds. The relatively light weight of the heaviest kettlebells is made up by the range of muscles that get worked out when using kettlebells for any exercise.
Because kettlebells are being rediscovered by today's weight trainers, many companies offer more cost-effective options than the cast iron originals. Some kettlebells are even adjustable, allowing you to handle kettlebells with varying weight without having to have a room full of kettlebells on the floor.
Unfortunately, these adjustable kettlebells aren't as durable as traditional, one-piece kettlebells, opening the door to a kettlebell falling apart during your exercise routine or even breaking if it hits the ground hard enough.
Using kettlebells can be as simple or as difficult as you choose. For many people, a great introduction to kettlebells is to use them instead of dumbbells or barbells to perform familiar exercises. Bench press, military press, curls, and other common exercises can be performed using kettlebells. The only difference when using kettlebells is the shape of the weight.
Once you become comfortable using kettlebells, you may want to strengthen your relationship with kettlebells by performing kettlebell-specific exercises. Fortunately, there are many exercises that were created specifically for the unique size and shape of kettlebells. These exercises, such as the kettlebell basic swing and the wonderfully named Turkish Get-Up, give the kettlebell user access to an otherwise unavailable group of intense exercises custom-made to challenge the entire body and build muscle.
Since some of the most beneficial kettlebell routines look easier than they are, kettlebells in the wrong hands can lead to disaster. If you've never trained with kettlebells, don't approach them lightly or on your own. Find someone who has plenty of experience handling and using kettlebells properly. A great place to find a certified kettlebell trainer is the American Kettlebell Club or the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation.
As you learn how to use the kettlebells properly, you'll find out that those awkward motions aren't random - or easy to perform. They're very controlled and have definite purpose. Learning the proper motions early on will allow you to sidestep potential dangers of using kettlebells and will increase your strength and range of motion more than any regular weight-lifting routine you've ever tried.