Kettlebells Kicks It Up!

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Tina from Kettlebells Niagara. She’s using a heavy kettlebell here… in class I typically use a lighter weight such as 10, 15 or 20 lbs, depending on what we are working on.

If you have heard of the Kettlebell workouts that have become so popular, and were curious about this amazing whole body exercise, this post reviews my experience with this exercise.  Last year, I joined a kettlebells class at Kettlebells Niagara with Tina.  It has changed the way I look at building strength and fitness forever.  I been wanting to share a post on this topic for a long time to help shed some light and inform others about this great fitness option.

What I Did…

With balancing work and home life, these days I’m on the lookout for quick, efficient and effective ways to keep my muscles strong.  A number of years ago I injured my back and have really had to stay on top of my fitness to prevent a reoccurrence of the injury.  An ideal exercise class is one I can do that will strengthen, yet at the same time, won’t compromise my back.

The hubby had done Kettlebells with Tina and was an instant fan.  We had talked about the type of work out it was for a long time, but I wasn’t sure I could do it.  Was it right for me?

Here’s what I gathered from our conversations:

1) A good instructor, like Tina, will educate you prior to starting about good form and technique.

2) Every person works at their own pace.

3) The classes are only 30 minutes in length!

For some reason, my wheels started turning last year…maybe I could give it a try.

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Kettlebell is a cast iron weight with a handle on top.

What is a Kettlebell?

1) Cast iron weights that have a handle on top.

2) They come in weights that range from as light as five pounds to 50 lbs and up!

What is a Kettlebell workout?

1) Historically, Kettlebell workouts originated in Russia in the 1700s.  Inspired by a technique used by grain farmers to counter their balance as they worked, the use of kettlebells extended into a workout for the military and as a sport.

2) Kettlebell workouts involve a basic swinging movement of the weight.  There can be other non-weight related exercises that are part of a class.

3) The weight used can be tailored based on a person’s needs.  The use of the weight makes the class challenging but when the class is done with the appropriate technique it is a safe way to use weights to strengthen the whole body.

4) As strength is gained, the participant can graduate to a more weight, more challenging exercises or a more intense pace.

5) Kettlebell workouts help with strength, cardiovascular health, endurance, flexibility, balance and coordination.

Ok… I did my research and I’m ready to start…

I have never enjoyed doing “weights” at the gym.  In the past, although I’ve worked with many well meaning trainers, I always ended up developing a minor irritation or injury (i.e. typical for me was my shoulder or hamstring) when I used free weights or weight machines.  It would discourage me from using weights.  I knew how important it was to use weights to challenge my muscles and bones, but I just couldn’t bare to even look at the weight room without rolling my eyes.

I wasn’t sure if this would factor in with Kettlebells, but I kept an open mind and decided to test it out.

I was very fortunate to start with Tina because I talked with her about my disdain for weights and she understood where I was coming from.  She explained that Kettlebells was a whole body workout, which made it different from isolating one muscle, or a few select muscles, and working it with a weight.  It was a more complete way to strengthen, which can reduce injury.  It would also provide a great cardiovascular workout.  For each person, it supports what their body needs in fitness.  Moreover, even if a person had a very low fitness level, Kettlebells provides them with a workout that will build the foundation they need for optimal cardiovascular and structural (i.e. muscle and bone) health.

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The baby bell. This is where I started! 🙂 Compare to Tina’s bell in the first pic.

I spent some time learning the “swing” with a very light weight (5 lbs and 10 lbs), other basic movements with the kettlebell and how to maintain good form during a workout.  I did this before I jumped into a regular class.

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Working out with Kettlebells

The workouts at Kettlebells Niagara is only 30 minutes in length.  We arrive early to warm up and as we are, Tina discusses with each participant what weight they should start with, any modifications they need to make in the class and she goes over the cycle of exercises for that class.  Tina has a very keen sense of what her participants need to have a successful class.  She is very attentive and is very in tune throughout the class.  For example, if she notices I’m exhibiting signs of fatigue toward the end of the class, she’ll approach me and give me some direction to help me maintain my form or modifications if it’s time to do less.  I really appreciate this level of attention.  She does this with all her participants.  Moving through the class, she spots each person and gives guidance.

Every class is different.  I’ve been doing kettlebells almost weekly with Tina since Spring 2013 and I have not done the same class routine twice!  She mixes up different kettlebell exercises with the use of other types of exercises such as abdominal work, squats, rings, ropes, steps among many more.  The variety is great because it is always exciting, challenging and fun.

At the end of every class, Tina strongly encourages everyone take time to cool down and stretch out.

The Experience

I was so happy to see people of all ages and fitness levels in class with me.  The is truly a workout that is for everyone.  It’s up to each person to make it as easy or difficult as they like, working with the kettlebells and other exercises that are the right fit for their body.  The environment is supportive, positive and encouraging with no pressure!

There are days that I work harder than others… either because I feel really in the mood to go hard, or because my mind’s not in it and I’m willing myself to get through the sets.  If I feel like it’s too much I switch to a lighter kettlebell, slow down my pace or talk with Tina mid-class about what I’m feeling and she usually gives me a great modification that gets me through.

The workout itself is a whole body workout because as a person uses the kettlebell, and going through complimentary exercises, they are encouraged to keep their entire body strong and engaged.  Doing this for a full 30 minutes ensures the big and little muscles are all targeted and strengthened.

Furthermore, the “swing” is a full body movement.  This movement helps to create flexibility while strengthening the body at the same time.  It also helps with balance and co-ordination.  The added benefit of increased balance and co-ordination has helped me tremendously, especially since most days I look like this:

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By the end of the class I am sweating, my heart rate is up and I’ve used every muscle in my body!  It didn’t take long for me to see how this workout could result in all those benefits.

I have not once injured myself as a result of the class, and if anything, I feel the strength I’ve gained from the class is helping prevent my back injury from acting up.  And… I love it because the workout is so fast… I’m home and back in no time!

Bottom Line

Kettlebells is an effective, whole body exercise experience that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels, when one’s own health history and abilities are respected and factored in to each class.

There are reports that warn against doing Kettlebells if you have back or shoulder problems or a weak core.  However, if you are properly guided by a great teacher and fitness expert, like Tina, then Kettlebells has been reported to help prevent these same issues.  When following an approach that suits your individual needs, this workout builds all the things we need to prevent injury: mobility, increased range of motion and strength.

To learn more about Kettlebells check out Tina’s website here: Kettlebells Niagara.

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2 comments

  1. diane k. · February 5, 2014

    Amazing! Thanks Dr. Laura for such a comprehensive review!! Sounds like the perfect workout for everyone from a fantastic, observant instructor 🙂

    • Dr. Laura Imola, BSc, ND (Licensed) · February 5, 2014

      Hi Diane,

      Thanks for your feedback! Glad you enjoyed the post. It truly is a great work out and Tina is a fabulous instructor.

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