Grab the Bell by the Horns

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Did you know that there’s another kind of bell in the gym other than the dumbbell or the barbell? I encourage you to grab a kettlebell off the shelf and experience the amazing results it has to offer.

Be the machine

At first, the Kettlebell can be as intimidating as it looks!  This canon ball with a handle is an efficient tool that commands effort and delivers results. Think of working with the kettlebell as a partnership between your body and the bell where nothing works independently from each other. (Think of the partnership of Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in “Dirty Dancing”.)

Learning to harness strength and power from the ground up will channel a synergistic flow of effortless movement patterns to create increased amounts of torque and power.  It is your hip thrust and core stability that initiates and drives this force, not your arms and shoulders.  Picture a wrecking ball on a chain.  The chain doesn’t directly control the wrecking ball. The power for the swing comes first from the machine (connected to the ground by its base) that drives force through the chain.  Your powerhouse is the machine.  With this in mind, you’ll want to choose a kettlebell that is heavy enough to force this partnership.  Using the exercises below as an example, if the kettlebell you select is light enough to raise with straight arms, using only your arms and shoulders then it is too light.  Choose a bell that offers you challenge.

By understanding the connection between grounding and hip thrust, you will increase your mobility, flexibility, torque, and overall power.

More bang for your buck

Personally, I approach kettlebells with a quality over quantity philosophy. You will get cardio gains without hours on a treadmill, build beautiful long lean muscles from ballistic movement patterns, improved flexibility and joint mobility, and significantly increased core function and strength as it is essential for any kettlebell exercise.

Think of the benefits to your game, your sport, or your overall posture and strength.

Start small but don’t start too light. Start with less reps or time and build up. Incorporate the kettlebell into your regular workout routine with intervals of an exercise you are comfortable with. Here are some of my favourites to get you started.

Get into the swing of things

My favorite kettlebell exercise is the swing as it improves both full body strength and cardiovascular health.  The swing creates full body power as you have to get behind the movement and use your entire body.  Here are a few cueing tips to incorporate:

  • Plant your feet square on the ground and don’t let your toes lift (think of pinning down your big toe, pinky toe, and heel throughout movement).
  • Initiate your movement with the hips hinge (think of jumping forward with your feet nailed to the floor and the thrust it creates.
  • Keep chest tall- (keep logo on front of shirt visible)
  • Keep spine neutral (even back of neck – don’t watch yourself in mirror) and avoid any rounding in your lower back.
  • Lock your breath to assist in stabilizing core and to support the lower back.
  • Set your shoulders back and relax your arms (wrecking ball and chain)
  • Focus on hip hinge and avoid squatting (kettlebell shouldn’t go past knees)

When you are ready to move up, instead of increasing kettlebell weight, take it to a single arm swing or 2 kettlebell swing.

A final note on breathing

Proper breathing is vital to all kettlebell lifts, especially lifts like the ones above as they require momentum that is generated and transferred through the core.  Think of a tennis player audibly expelling their breath as they exert the maximum force behind their swing.  Proper ‘locking’ of the breath also provides protection and stabilization to the lower back during the ‘swing’.  Focus on audibly locking in your breath while lowering the kettlebell then aggressively and audibly breathing out upon raising the bell while under exertion.


Want more help?

Whether you need to break through a plateau, add more power to your sport or spark new motivation and confidence in the gym, the kettlebell will give you results. Instead of looking at the kettlebell as intimidating, look at yourself with the kettlebell as a force to be reckoned with!

To learn more about kettlebells just sign up for any of my kettlebell classes on the schedule each week at Urban Athlete – they’re free with membership!  Or feel free to contact me directly for personalized workouts!

Yours in Balanced Health!

Wendy Peterson, PTS, TSCC1, Certified Kettlebell Instructor