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How It Works

Burn up to 400 calories in 20 minutes: That's what you'll get from a kettlebell workout.

A kettlebell looks like a cast-iron cannonball with a handle on top. They come in various weights. You'll use them as you do things like lunges, lifts, and shoulder presses.

The workout gets your heart pumping and uses up to 20 calories per minute: about as much as running a 6-minute mile.

Kettlebell workouts offer a lot of flexibility. You can include a few of the moves in your own workout or do a dedicated kettlebell workout a few times a week.

Buy a DVD or sign up for a kettlebell class at the gym to learn how to do the moves safely. It won’t take long to understand why celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Biel, and Katherine Heigl are huge fans of kettlebell workouts.

Intensity Level: Very High

You’ll work up a sweat doing a series of fast paced cardio and strength-training moves like kettlebell swings, lunges, shoulder presses, and push-ups.

Areas It Targets

Core: Yes. Most kettlebell workouts include squats, lunges, crunches, and other moves that work your abs and other core muscles.

Arms: Yes. The kettlebell is used as a weight for arm exercises like single-arm rows and shoulder presses.

Legs: Yes. Lunges and squats are among the most popular moves in a kettlebell workout.

Glutes: Yes. Your tush will be toned by using the kettlebell for added weight during lunges and squats.

Back: Yes. Using a kettlebell for a dead lift helps tone your back muscles.


Flexibility: Yes. Working out with kettlebells will improve your flexibility.

Aerobic: Yes. This is a high-intensity workout that will get your heart rate pumping.

Strength: Yes. The kettlebell is an effective weight that will build muscle strength.

Sport: No. This is a fitness activity, not a sport.

Low-Impact: No. You can expect to be running, jumping, and doing other high-intensity moves.

What Else Should I Know?

Cost: The cost of a kettlebell ranges from $10 to $100 depending on the weight of the kettlebells (heavier ones are more expensive). You may want to buy DVDs or sign up for classes to learn the basics of a kettlebell workout.

Good for beginners? Yes, if you take a class or pick a DVD that's for beginners and use a lighter kettlebell. There are also more advanced kettlebell workouts for those who are fit.

Outdoors: You can do a kettlebell workout outside or indoors.

At home: You can use kettlebells at home.

Equipment required? Yes, a kettlebell. You can buy kettlebells in weights ranging from 5 pounds to 100 pounds at sporting goods stores and online retailers.

What Dr. Melinda Ratini Says:

Using kettlebells can be a great way to pump up your workout. You will be burning more calories in a shorter period of time.

Depending on the program, you may be getting both your strength training and your aerobic workout at the same time. Ask your doctor first.

Treat this workout with respect. If you choose a kettlebell that is too heavy or if you have poor form, you are likely to lose control of it. This can lead to a serious injury to your back, shoulders, or neck. Start out with an experienced trainer who can correct your technique before you hurt something.

Adding a kettlebell to your existing workout is great if you want to burn through more calories in less time. It will quickly add muscle and stamina.

This type of high-intensity workout is not for you if you would rather do a more meditative approach to body sculpting, or if sweating isn’t your thing.

If you are trying to get into top form or keep in top shape, then swinging a kettlebell can help you reach your fitness goals.

Is It Good for Me If I Have a Health Condition?

With your doctor’s OK, you can include kettlebells in your fitness routine if you have diabetes. You will be building muscle while losing fat. Muscle burns energy more efficiently, so your blood sugar levels will go down. Depending on the workout, you may also get some cardio to help prevent heart disease.

This routine can also be a great way to help lower your blood pressure and your “bad” LDL cholesterol. Check with your doctor first, especially if you already have heart disease.

Using kettlebells in your workout puts some serious demands on your hips and back, as well as your knees, neck, and shoulders. It is a high-impact program. If you have arthritis or pain in your knees or back, then look for a less risky strength-training program.

If you have other physical limitations, ask an experienced instructor for advice on how to modify your workout.

If you are pregnant and have never used kettlebells, then this is not the time to start. If you worked out with kettlebells before becoming pregnant and are not having any problems with your pregnancy, then you will likely be able to continue using them -- at least for a while.

You will need to make some changes as time goes on. As your pregnancy hormones kick in, your joints will become looser. You can adjust by using lighter kettlebells and avoiding certain moves. Talk to your instructor and your doctor first. They might suggest switching out your kettlebells during your last trimester.

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