The Best Kettlebell Exercises to Change Your Body

The Best Kettlebell Exercises to Change Your Body

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Kettlebells can dramatically transform your body.

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Kettlebell exercises definitely change your body. Trainer Tracy Reifkind, in her book “The Swing!”, recounts losing 120 pounds and going from a size 24 to a size 6 after picking up the kettlebell swing. Whether you are looking to get thinner, more muscular or just improve your core, leg and upper-body strength for athletics, the best kettlebell moves will take you from where you are now to a sleek, gymnast-style build.

A Move for Beginners

You have to give some consideration to the snatch as a top exercise. This remarkable fat burner was studied by the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse at the behest of the American Council on Exercise. But prominent kettlebell trainer Anthony DiLuglio, of Art of Strength in Providence, Rhode Island, sees drawbacks to relying on the snatch as a starter exercise. The snatch demands a fair amount of shoulder range of motion and flexibility, making it challenging for beginners. Instead, DiLuglio suggests you start with the Turkish getup “because that gives seven individual, distinct movement patterns to get you ready for this change.” The Turkish getup will show you your strengths and weaknesses, he notes. “You have to get up on your elbow, your hand, get your butt and foot up, bring your knee in to chest, roll your leg under you into a lunge, push off your hand to get into a 90-degree angle, and stand up. You might be efficient at five movement patterns, and not at the other two.”

Get in the Swing

The classic single-handed swing works best performed old-school style -- with one hand on the handle, not two. “The original swing was two swings in the right hand, a hand-to-hand switch in midair, and two on the left,” DiLuglio notes. The two-handed swing is a progression that arrived later that puts too much stress on the back, he observes. Return to the one-handed version to change your body. One-handed swings allow the receptors of your feet to work independently, as well as permitting your obliques and your glutes to work separately. “Your entire left side of your body works, while the right side rests,” DiLuglio states. “It's proper and safe.”

Take It to the Top

For your third body-changing exercise, “now you want to get overhead with something,” DiLuglio observes. You've learned how to change planes with the Turkish getup and how to decelerate weight with the swing. To build your hands and glutes to be resilient, and add in some overhead work, he suggests the dead clean and press. This move starts with the bell between your heels -- hence the term "dead" -- with a clean into the rack position. You sink the bell, compressing your obliques to “load” the press move, and then press the bell directly overhead using your obliques as well as your shoulder. To further change your body, add in the long cycle; this means performing a move with lots of volume, doing the clean and press continuously for up to 10 minutes.

Add Some Combinations

For additional work on the legs and abs, as well as improved flexibility, DiLuglio suggests a windmill and overhead squat combination. The windmill also works the hips and shoulder girdle. The overhead squat is simple to describe -- a squat with one hand pressing the bell overhead, elbow locked out -- and deceptively difficult to execute.

Your Program

To put your program together, do one Turkish getup per side. Follow with 20 seconds of one-handed swings on the right, a 10-second rest, 20 seconds on the left, and repeat for a total of four sets. You can also switch the bell hand to hand. For the clean and press, DiLuglio suggests ladders -- one on each side, then two per side, then three, adding one more at each additional workout. Windmills and overheads squat can be your choice -- do them for time, for reps or ladders, DiLuglio suggests. If you can't decide, do three reps per side.

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