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WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Kettlebell workouts are a way to burn fat, create lean muscle tone and build endurance.

You can work with only one kettlebell at a time if you like. Hoisting a heavy metal bell not only helps strengthen your arms and back but also works your core, heart, and lungs.

"A Kettlebell is basically a canon shaped ball with a handle," explains Jamie Lloyd, a Kettlebell and Strength Coach based in South West London.

The shape of the kettlebell, therefore, means that there's an offset centre of gravity, which means your body has to work extra hard to maintain balance and in so doing, you'll work many different muscle groups, while also getting your heart rate up.

man working out with kettlebells

Kettlebells: The facts

According to The American Council on Exercise (ACE) a kettlebell workout will burn approximately 20 calories per minute. In terms of calorie burning, this is the equivalent to running at a six-minute mile pace, or cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace.

"Kettlebells require you to focus on whole-body conditioning. So that means that no muscle is ever used on its own," says Jamie.

"Over time our gluteal [bottom] muscles become lazy, especially if you sit down all day, every day, and that is why a lot of us can suffer from lower back pain and tight hamstrings," he says. "Kettlebells are great for working your posterior chain (basically from your head down your spine to your toes) and re-engaging your glutes [gluteal] muscles as all the action and force comes from contracting and using your bottom as your dominant muscle."

Kettlebells explained

Here's what you need to know about these user-friendly cast- iron weights:

  • The handle: "Kettlebell lifts require a lot of movement, so it's important you keep your back straight, head in neutral position and your shoulders down and back," says Personal Trainer Nick Mays.
  • The grip: "Keep your wrist in a straight line at all times," says Nick. "This will prevent injuries and help transfer more force from your core to the kettlebell."
  • The bell: "This bulk of the weight at the end of a 'lever' will create an instability, especially when swinging and lifting it," Nick explains. "Keep your weight on your heels to engage your bottom muscles and your hamstrings."

Tips for getting started with kettlebells

Kettlebells made their way to Russia at the beginning of the 18th century. At this time the kettlebell just happened to be used as a weight to measure grains and other goods. It wasn't until workers started swinging and lifting them to show their strength, that their health benefits became widely recognised and they were used for weight training.

Kettlebells are now everywhere, and with good reason; they can improve your posture, assist with weight loss, help with body conditioning, as well as improve your muscular strength and bone density.

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