Why the Kettlebell?There's a reason this old Russian weight is showing up in gyms: "It's user-friendly and doesn't require as much wrist, shoulder, or upper-back flexibility as barbells and dumbbells do," says Jason C. Brown, creator of kettlebellathletics.com. And you can swing from one move to the next without stopping, making workouts more intense in less time. "You speed your metabolism and burn more calories while adding more total muscle," Brown says. (The exercises are fluid movements, so you have to see them to understand them. Click here to view video.)
Watch YourselfKettlebell lifts require a lot of movement, so it's important to maintain good form in order to avoid injury and maximize muscle. Brown suggests doing the lifts in front of a mirror. The key points to monitor: For overhead presses and Olympic lifts, your elbows should always remain close to your body. And on all lifts, keep your shoulders tucked down and back by squeezing them together.
Find Your Footing"Keep your weight on your heels during almost all kettlebell exercises," adds Brown. Doing this recruits the muscles in your glutes and hamstrings, resulting in more strength, power, and muscle gains.
A bent wrist may strain during a lift. Straighten your wrist to better transfer force from your core to the bell.
The awkward positioning builds coordination, much the way holding the bottom of a baseball bat does.
On overhead lifts, don't let the bell flip over and smack your wrist, Brown says. Instead, when the weight is at eye level and upside down, quickly punch upward to make the bell rotate around without slamming into your wrist.
The maximum number of kettlebells you need for a workout is three (but you can do plenty with just one). Start with a weight you can lift comfortably.
For easy storage in a home gym, buy an adjustable version at getpowerbell.com.
To pack on size fast, try this strength-boosting routine of eight other exercises you've never done before.
The Basic Swing
Grab a kettlebell with both hands and assume a shortstop position (quarter squat, hips pushed back, spine in alignment), letting the bell hang in front of you. Swing it between your legs and behind your hips. Now stand and swing it up to eye level while extending your hips and contracting your glutes. Drop back to the starting position; let gravity bring the kettlebell back between your legs. Do 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.
Kettlebell workouts combine different swings and lifts. You might, say, perform a clean and press, then a front squat, then the basic swing.