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Are kettlebells a good choice for your exercise program?

Helping people get the most out of every workout is my job, as a trainer. People are busy and they want to burn the most calories in the least amount of time, generally with the least amount of discomfort.

This desire often leads people to be enticed by whatever the latest exercise craze that is being pushed by mainstream marketing. The marketing is all the same; whatever this “new” thing is, it will make you thin, fit, and beautiful in very little time with minimal effort.

Right now one of these products is kettlebells. These weights are shaped like little round balls with a handle (to me, they look more like a little handbag than a kettle).

There are a plethora of advertisements about the use of kettlebells in the market-place right now. You can find infomercials that guarantee that you need nothing else except a kettle bell. You will also see many gyms advertise that they have special kettlebell classes.

So, is this the new magic bullet? If you have read my articles in the past, you already know the answer is no. However, kettlebells are a good and useful workout tool, but they are no more than that; one more tool in your workout tool chest.

At their essence, kettlebells are a dumbbell. They are a different shape than the dumbbells that you are used to seeing, but they are still just a weight that gives your resistance to your muscles. They don’t do anything magical, but because they are shaped differently, you can use them to do different exercises than a traditional dumbbell.

Kettlebells can help you increase the kinds of exercises you do in your workout and because they are different can challenge your body in a way that can produce results; increased strength and fat loss. It’s not because they are magical, it’s because they force you to do different things. When your body does something new and different, it is often inefficient at the new activity. This inefficiency burns a lot of calories; the more inefficient you are at an activity, the more calories you burn doing that activity. As you master any activity, you become more efficient at it and burn fewer calories doing it. That is why you are usually sore whenever you do something new and different, even if you are in really good shape.

For example, if you ask a marathon runner to swim in the pool, he will burn more calories per lap than an Olympic swimmer. Why? Because the runner is a lousy swimmer and he wastes energy with every stroke. This is a generalization of the physiological concept but delivers the point I am trying to make.

Now, how can kettlebells help you burn more calories and have a more efficient workout?

First, you can find many kettlebell workouts on the web; just search “kettlebell workouts”. There is a lot of hype out there, but you can find some good, free workout info. If you are looking for a good product, and a tough workout, search for the “TRX Kettlebell” workout. This combines the suspension trainer TRX along with kettlebells. I like that this product has choices for beginner, intermediate, and advanced people. Also, I like the core/balance component that the TRX brings in.

Another good choice to learn about kettlebells is to ask a qualified personal trainer. Although kettlebells can provide you with good exercises that can add to your current workout, there are many dangers with them if used incorrectly. The most common injuries when using kettlebells improperly are in the shoulders, wrists, and low back. The kettlebell “swing” and the “snatch” are 2 of the most common kettlebell exercises, but they are not for everyone. This exercise can hurt your rotator cuff or your low back if done incorrectly. During many kettlebell exercises the bell itself rotates over your hand and lands on your wrist; the force of this landing can do some real harm, if you do not prepare for this impact correctly.

Bottom line, kettlebells are a great tool to add to your workout routine, but you must take the time to learn how to use them correctly. If you have any questions or concerns about using kettlebells, seek the advice of a qualified trainer.