April 6, 2009

Try a Kettlebell Workout

My friend, Mark, has been raving about his kettlebell workout for so long that I finally decided I had to see what all the fuss was about. Surprisingly, kettlebells have nothing to do with kettles or bells. Instead, picture a cannonball with a squared handle and if that makes you think, "heavy" then you're on the right track.

Kettlebell training is a Russian invention that has become very popular in recent years. As instructor Michael Krivka said repeatedly, "this workout isn't to make you pretty. It's for athletes who want to build the strength, endurance, balance and speed they need to become even better athletes." There was no doubt in my mind about the strength and endurance part.

When I arrived at Mike's gym in Gaithersburg, MD, everyone was choosing their equipment. Kettlebells come in different weights. Being a wimp, I started with the smallest -- 16 lb --which I didn't think I would be able to handle but I surprised myself. There were quite a few women in the class and all of them were throwing around much more weight with ease. I was breathing hard before we even got to the heart of the class.

The basic workout really calls on leg, back and arm muscles to help you perform squats, lifts and thrusts while swinging a weight. In some cases, it also involves tossing the kettlebell in the air and catching the handle while maintaining control. All of this is built into a routine that the class performs as quickly and accurately as possible during a fixed amount of time. The more reps you do, the better. Where most of the class completed more than 50 reps I didn't bother to count -- I was just happy I didn't drop my kettlebell more than once...OK maybe twice.

Let me tell you that this is one heck of a workout; cardio and strength in one package. If you're looking for something different, a change of pace from spin class and weight machines, give it a try. Want more information? Check out Mike's blog for some great videos and a list of celebs who are Kettlebell fans -- you'll notice that almost half of them are women. To find a kettlebell instructor near you, start here.

Image courtesy of Michael Krivka

1 comment:

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