If dumbbells were the breakout exercise kit of the first lockdown, kettlebells are the must-have fitness equipment for lockdown 3.0 - GQ even dubbed the popularity of the weight as the "Great Kettlebell Shortage of 2020" when they started to disappear from the shelves; John Lewis reported that sales went up by 292 per cent in the first week of November. If you're lucky enough to already have some at home, here's what you need to know about the heavy handbag shaped weights that are flying off the shelves.
According to personal trainer Dalton Wong of Twenty Two Training , kettlebells' potential knows no bounds. “You can do thousands of different exercises with them to target conditioning, burn fat, strengthen the tummy and bum or to improve posture. You can do so much with them.”
They're a great piece of equipment for fitness newbies; Dr Jason Lake a researcher in strength and conditioning at The University of Chichester published a trial in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research which observed how the kettlebell swing move altered the fitness of a group of fitness novices. "We showed that beginners could significantly improve both their lower body strength and power after five weeks," he said. "On average they showed about 10 per cent increases for strength and 20 per cent for power."
We asked Dalton for the top ten things you need to know about how to use kettlebells, from proper form to his Dos and Don’ts for getting the most out of your workout without getting injured. According to Dalton, “If you know how to use them properly, there shouldn’t be any fear.”
1. Reduce the risks
“When done incorrectly, you can hurt yourself a lot more exercising with a kettlebell than when you’re just using your own bodyweight. Use the appropriate weight for your skill level. Always start off light and then go heavier,” says Dalton.
2. Workout right
“My advice for anyone who wants to buy a kettlebell is to seek the expertise of someone who knows how to use them - and this doesn’t come in a DVD. Most gyms will allow you to hire a trainer or someone who specialises in kettlebells who can alter the exercises if you’ve had a bad back or an injury, so you can reap the maximum benefits without injuring yourself further. They’ll be able to personalise the programme and will be money well spent.” We know what we'll be doing when gyms reopen on the second...
3. Proper form
“When picking the kettlebell up, use your legs and keep your back straight. NEVER pick it up with a rounded back.”
4. Fitness in the fresh air
“You can buy one, take it to the park and use it outside for a bit of vitamin D, or use it in the privacy of own home without having to fork out money on a gym membership. It’s something everyone can do, and when used correctly, it can produce fantastic results.”
5. The Overload Principle
“Kettlebells come in a range of different weights to allow you to follow The Overload Principle, where you alter the weight used and/or the duration while you get used to the exercises. This challenges you and changes your body.”
6. How to do a goblet squat
Once you’ve been shown the proper form, Dalton recommends the following three steps for a kettlebell programme. If you’re a beginner, he suggests starting with a kettle goblet squat. “You need to develop good technique and strong muscles before progressing to the more dynamic exercises,” he advises.
With your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart, hold the kettlebell in front of you at shoulder height and against your chest. Squat to the floor, keeping your chest up, pushing your hips back and your back straight. Push yourself back up using your glutes and quads, avoiding pressure on the knees.
“There should be no pain when doing the exercises and full range is a must,” says Dalton. “The only caveat is that you should be able to squat all the way down to the floor without weights first.”
7. How to do a kettlebell deadlift
Next up is the kettlebell deadlift. From a standing position, have your legs starting at just wider than shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Hold the kettlebell against your pelvis with your arms straight. Push your bum back, keeping your arms straight and your knees above your feet so that your back is parallel to the floor. Slowly stand back up again and repeat.
8. How to do a kettlebell swing
Step three is kettlebell swings. “The final and most advanced, you must be able to do the above two exercises first in order to progress,” advises Dalton. “Done incorrectly, you can really hurt yourself. However, this is one of the best exercises because it’s metabolic, develops your core and torches fat.”
With your feet placed just over hip-width apart and knees slightly bent, hinge at the hips and push your bum behind you. Pick up the kettlebell with both hands and swing between your legs. Push your hips forward, engage your core, squeeze your glutes and straighten the knees to swing the kettlebell up to chest height and repeat, keeping your arms straight and your weight in your heels throughout.
“I would start off slow, focussing on 12 to 15 reps and one to two sets and then progress to more reps and sets once you are familiar with the exercise and technique,” advises Dalton.