Kettlebells 101 – Oxygen Magazine

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Kettlebell 101

Kettlebell & Flow coaches Marcus Martinez and Venus Lau

If you’ve spent some time in the gym, you’ve no doubt seen (and probably participated in) a few basic kettlebell exercises — the conventional swing, single-leg deadlifts and maybe a farmer’s walk. But kettlebells offer so much more versatility in your workouts than just these moves and plenty of other benefits, as well, including: 

  1. Nonstop movement. When it comes to conditioning workouts, the anatomy of a kettlebell allows for a variety of hand transitions. Since you don’t have to pause and reset your weights, this allows you to do nonstop circuits and keep your heart rate up. Since there’s no real uncomfortable position to put the bells in, you can keep them in the rack position or overhead so that you can always keep moving.
  2. Stability builder. For strength workouts, kettlebells build strength from an angle you won’t get using a balanced tool. Their offset center of gravity pulls you in a different direction, which adds variety to your movement pattern and forces your muscles to fire differently. Your goal is to create stability with a tool that’s trying to pull you in different directions.
  3. Power and strength. Believe it or not, most people don’t know how to use their entire body to do exercises — they are used to singular exercises that don’t move from one position to another position. In contrast, a full-body kettlebell workout provides the most bang for your buck when it comes to building strength quickly because you can incorporate ballistic (explosive) work with cardio.

When we work with clients who are new to kettlebells, they typically start the session feeling a bit intimidated and with quite a few “how-to” questions on their minds. Here are our answers to the most common questions we hear:

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How Do I Grip a Kettlebell? 

Hold a kettlebell as if you’re holding a bird — not so tight that you’ll crush it but not so loose that it’ll fly away. You want it to be able to move seamlessly in your hand, without creating too much friction because that’s how you’ll rip up your hands. For sports buffs, another way to think about it is how you would grip a tennis racket or golf club. You’re swinging it around, so it needs to be mobile enough but grippy enough, too. It’s also important to be able to control your grip strength because it’s connected to all your other movements.

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