Kettlebells may look as though they belong in an exercise museum, but they’re fast becoming one of the most important pieces of equipment for the modern workout. “Traditional Western lifting focuses on isolating muscle groups,” says Pavel Tsatsouline, a trainer from the former Soviet Union who is widely credited with introducing kettlebells to America. “But kettlebells, which have an awkward balance and are often swung, force you to integrate muscle groups the same way you would playing most sports.” The kettlebell workout is also economical: A 35-pound bell (the weight Tsatsouline recommends for beginners) costs $70 and is all you need to do the exercises in our primer — right at home.
Do each exercise for 20 seconds, followed by 20 seconds of swings. Rest a minute. Repeat twice.
Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width while holding a kettlebell by the handle with both hands. Hike the bell back between your legs, then propel it forward to sternum level (keeping your arms straight) by explosively thrusting your hips and straightening your body. You’ll work your shoulders, back, core, and legs.
Hot Potato Russian Twist
For cast-iron abs, sit on the floor, legs out in front of you, palming a kettlebell in one hand. Press your elbows tight against your ribs and lean back until you’re almost falling over. Quickly pass the kettlebell from hand to hand.
Stand with your feet about twice as wide as shoulder-width with your toes angled out slightly. Hold the kettlebell by the handle with both hands just below your chin. Slowly drop into a deep squat. Place your elbows inside your knees and try to push them apart. Drive off your heels to return to the starting position.
While standing with your arms extended down in front of you, squeeze a kettlebell between your palms. (Fully extend your fingers to ensure you’re squeezing it and not simply cradling it.) With your upper arms locked in tight by your sides, curl the kettlebell up by slowly bending your elbows. When your elbows are fully bent — with your upper arms still glued to your sides — slowly reverse the motion to complete the rep. Works both chest and biceps.
Around-the-Body Pass and Walk
To strengthen biceps, grip strength, and core, hold the kettlebell by its handle and pass it around your body while standing. Further challenge your midsection by quickening the pace at which you transfer the bell from hand to hand. When you master this move, start walking while doing it.