When it comes to workout equipment, your options may seem endless. Most gyms are a gold mine of weight machines, dumbbells, cardio machines, and smaller (yet still mighty) things like resistance bands. Recently, you may have noticed more gyms and fitness pros pulling out the kettlebells, those ball-shaped weights with a big handle on top. While they can look a little intimidating if you’ve never used one before, kettlebells are actually great tools for getting a total-body workout.
Quick lesson on the lingo: The “ball” refers to the heavy sphere at the bottom of the kettlebell, and the handle is the part attached to it. The handle is also referred to as the “horns,” and can be gripped at the top, on the sides, or near the base where it meets the ball.
So why should you even bother picking these up over other your standard dumbbells? “Kettlebells are versatile, portable, and taxing on the entire body during most movements and movement patterns,” Lacee Lazoff, a trainer at the Fhitting Room in New York City, tells SELF. “Just holding a heavy bell at the chest is an effective way to strengthen the core, back, arms, and shoulders. I have two 12-kilogram bells at home and often challenge myself to move with them for 20-plus minutes on days when I’m not able to fit in a gym workout.” Although in many exercises dumbbells and kettlebells are somewhat interchangeable, the handle and ball allow for a swinging motion that dumbbells just can’t match. When you hold the kettlebell with the ball up, there’s also a stability because the ball wants to fall one way or the other, and your body has to work to resist that movement.
To take full advantage of the kettlebell, we asked Lazoff to put together a quick and effective workout routine you can do with just one of these weights. The workout below will take around 20 minutes to complete (more if you choose to add more rest in between circuits) and works your entire body. If you’ve never used a kettlebell before, Lazoff suggests starting light and slow, focusing on proper form first and foremost.
“This workout is focused on total-body movements in functional patterns (aka ways in which we as humans move every day),” Lazoff says. “I created short intervals with various movements in sequences to keep the body moving, increase heart rate, and balance upper- and lower-body work.” Lazoff adds that moving with a kettlebell continuously for a few minutes at a time requires both cardio endurance and strength. By stringing kettlebell moves together into an interval workout (like the one below), you can keep your heart rate high and get the most out of a shorter workout.
You’ll notice that there are some bodyweight-only moves peppered into this workout. Lazoff explains that she did this to give your grip, forearms, core, and shoulders a slight break from the weights. Trust us, you’ll be grateful for the chance to put the weight down every now and then.
The workout is also focused on time instead of rep counts. Lazoff, who demonstrates the moves below, says this makes it easier to focus on quality versus quantity.
Here’s how the workout is set up:
Kettlebell Swing — 30 seconds
Forearm Plank — 30 seconds
Jump Squat to Reverse Lunge (bodyweight) — 30 seconds
Do three times.
Squat With 3-Second Hold — 30 seconds
Push Press — 30 seconds
Thruster — 30 seconds
Do three times.
Dead Clean — 30 seconds right side
Lateral Lunge — 30 seconds right side
Bent-Over Row — 30 seconds right side
Dead Clean — 30 seconds left side
Lateral Lunge — 30 seconds left side
Bent-Over Row — 30 seconds left side
Do two times.
Kneeling Halod With Twist — 30 seconds
Around the World Lunge — 30 seconds
Walking Push-up — 30 seconds
Do three times.
Take anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes to rest in between each circuit.