Food scientist Robert James shares his top 5 fat-burning kettlebell exercises
There are plenty of workouts that can make you feel the burn. Kettlebell training is one of those methods that will blast fat and build muscle – while also working mobility.
A kettlebell is basically a cannonball with a handle on top. A kettlebell’s center of gravity is all going straight down and often times the exercises associated with it renders the user struggling for balance and yes, that is a good thing. Kettlebell workouts are definitely a favourite for me.
It’s not balanced like other weights, which makes it much more awesome. Why? Because exercises paired with a kettlebell usually promotes a form of imbalanced training that makes your muscles work twice as hard. This is what I call the Secret of Kettlebell Training. Not only are your muscles struggling with the exercise and weight of the bell but it’s also trying hard not to make you topple over and maintain core balance. More effort means more fat burn and is often equivalent to more muscle growth.
Why choose the kettlebell?
Kettlebell training isn’t really meant to get you huge. It can help but that job belongs to barbells and maybe with a bit of help from supplements. Barbells don’t have much to offer when it comes to minimalism or variety, though – that’s where kettlebells come in.
Kettlebells are relatively small and portable. This characteristic paves the way for home workouts or a train-anywhere approach. When you have a tool that can go anywhere with you, there is almost no excuse for not training.
5 kettlebell exercises to burn fat and build muscle
I’ve listed the five kettlebell exercises you need in your artillery, along with a few videos from reputable coaches – not just some run-of-the-mill guru-wannabe. Trust me, master these five moves and you’ll be unstoppable.
The Kettlebell Goblet Squat
The Kettlebell goblet squat is easily one of the first exercises you’ll learn and most likely stick with. Just like in the video, it’s done with just one kettlebell and makes you perform a standard front squat. This exercise may look simple but anything simple in the fitness world is not always easy. It’s one of those exercises that challenges core stability, much like what we talked about imbalanced training.
It will put your quads and core to the test while forcing your arms to bear all that weight throughout the duration of the exercise. As a bonus, it also makes an excellent addition to your usual home exercise routine.
The Kettlebell Swing
Kettlebells were built for swinging. The kettlebell swing is by far one of the basics but is also the most used in virtually any type of workout programme.
This exercise is ideal for beginners, as it has a very easy learning curve. Anyone can learn to do it well with just a bit of practice. Many strength coaches even say if you’ll only be doing one type of exercise for the rest of your life, it would have to be the Kettlebell swing.
The Kettlebell Clean
This is a highly technical kettlebell exercises and allows you to perform more movements that require an overhead lift finish (presses, jerks, etc.). The kettlebell clean is similar to the barbell clean in a way that you’re “swinging” the kettlebell from the bottom all the way to the rack position. It teaches you to maintain control of an otherwise unstable weight tool which teaches you how to transfer energy from one location to another.
Pro tip: Move the hand under the bell or punch under it just before it lands on your forearm. This counter-force will offset the impact.
You might end up getting bruised a bit when catching the bell, but once you master it, you can definitely transition towards more exercises and even try out a few kettlebell complexes.
The Turkish Get-Up
They say you’re not a real kettlebell lifter if you don’t know how to do a basic Turkish get-up. It’s one of the most loved exercises due to how it can translate to other forms of training. It utilises all major muscle groups, while also promoting core strength.
Unlike most of the exercises in this list, the Turkish Get-up is meant to be done at a slow and steady pace. Some say the slower the better, but a standard practitioner usually takes 30-45 seconds per rep where one rep is bottom to top to bottom again.
Being a slow exercise makes it the perfect choice as a good warm up or finisher to your daily training.
The Kettlebell Snatch
This is what we call the Tsar of kettlebell training. The snatch is probably one of the last exercises you’ll learn due to the technical difficulty involved. It’s very similar to the swing, but much more technical, so you’ll want to master the basics first. The hardest part is learning to catch the kettlebell which, more often than not, results in bruising – especially if you’re trying out a heavier weight.
Once you do master it, you will be unlocking one of the most complete exercises in the world. The snatch makes use of all muscle groups, puts emphasis on core strength, balance, and hip hinge, and is performed with significant volume.
Get yourself a kettlebell
We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of Kettlebell training. There are many ways to train with this tool and some of them include using two kettlebells, complex and chain training, and advanced exercises that make the hardest barbell lifts look easy.
But don’t worry about those. Focus on the basics and make them yours. With enough practice, you’ll be a good example to the kettlebell community in no time.
Robert James is a food scientist and fitness writer. His weapon of choice is the kettlebell. See more from Robert at fitandwrite.com.