5-Minute Fitness: Kettlebells

Trim and tone legs, shoulders, and arms with this single exercise.


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Kettlebells combine cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility training. Photo courtesy Shutterstock.

Kettlebells (think cannonballs with handles) are catching on with people looking to burn calories and strengthen muscles.

“A kettlebell workout consistently sheds fat and transforms bodies. It doesn’t build muscle—it takes what you have and tightens it up,” explains Zar Horton, senior national kettlebell instructor and owner of Firebellz gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Lifting a kettlebell (unlike a standard dumbbell) works the entire body. Trim and tone legs, shoulders, and arms with this single exercise.

Overhead Push Press

  1. With palms up, hold kettleball by handle at chest level.
  2. Bend knees slightly, keeping back straight.
  3. Straighten knees, lifting ball overhead.
  4. Return ball to chest level,  bending knees slightly. Repeat at medium pace as able. Gradually work up to 5 sets of 15.

NOTE: Use a kettlebell weight that matches your strength. For beginners in supervised workouts, Horton recommends an 18- or 36- kettlebell for men and women, respectively. Search online at Dragon Door for certified kettlebell instructors in your area.

Research Findings

A 2011 Danish study shows that kettlebells can help alleviate back and neck pain. The kettlebell exercisers reported less pain as well as stronger trunk and core muscles, compared with the control group. Over all, working out with kettlebells reduced lower back pain by 57 percent and eased neck and shoulder pain by 46 percent.

Kettlebell swings and lifts, used for centuries to train Russian soldiers and athletes, are surprisingly aerobic. A study by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) found that a 20-minute kettlebell workout burns about 21 calories a minute, the equivalent of running at a six-minute mile pace. Click here for details and a six-week training plan from ACE Exercise Physiologist Fabio Comana.

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