Oh, Yes ... That. The Kettlebell. (Guess What? You Should Try It)

Related articles

The kettlebell. 

You know what this is, and what it does. Of course, right?

Actually, just kidding. You probably don't, since it's one of the least known, most mysterious pieces of exercise equipment there is. The website Live Science flatly calls it "weird."

If you go to a gym to workout, odds are that you looked (perhaps disdainfully) at this oddly-shaped hunk of metal with the dopey name (you didn't care to learn), decided you couldn't be bothered to figure out how it's used and walked right on by.

Uh oh, I mentioned that dreaded word: Workout. Which everyone hates.

So before you bail on me and click off to another story, just consider this: the kettlebell is excellent at toning muscles all over, and it burns calories quickly and efficiently. And its use produces cardio and strength benefits at the same time. And since those results come quickly, lots of people swear that this odd, dopey object has changed their attitude about working out.

Now, for those of you who are still with me, here's the deal with the kettlebell – and what it can do for you.

For starters, let's start with an easy one: Do you want results, and to see them faster? If so, this is for you, because according to multiple reviewers – and researchers conducting a 2010 study – the kettlebell is worth picking up.

"[T]he average study participant burned approximately 20 calories per minute during a typical kettlebell workout," according to the American Council on Exercise, in writing about the study. "This equates to an astounding 400 calories during a 20-minute workout. In terms of calorie burning, these results are equivalent to running a six-minute mile pace, or cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace." And here's another account of impressive calorie burns.

This efficiency – stemming from how the kettlebell is used – has a lot to do with the fact it works muscles and engages the heart simultaneously. "Swinging" the kettlebell, as seen in the adjacent photos, puts many muscle groups in motion, and uses "more of your stabilizer muscles than in traditional weight training, which translates into an increased calorie burn and a killer workout for your core," writes Shape magazine.

OK, easy. We can do without the mag's hyped, rah-rah, cheerleader language. But you get the point. You get a lot of bang for your bell.

Which is also exactly what the more measured Prevention magazine says: "The kettlebell swing is the foundation for many other kettlebell exercises, and it simultaneously firms your butt and your abs," adding that an adopter of equipment who became convinced of its benefits, "was able to cut her workout time by nearly two-thirds even as her body became leaner than ever."

Moreover, the kettlebell creates what trainers call a "functional workout," because, as the magazine writes, "it works your muscles in the same way as when you do everyday activities, like picking up a toddler, carrying your laptop bag, hoisting a gallon of milk, or lugging a heavy grocery bag." 

Here's a video, showing some basic, non-intimidating moves using the kettlebell to get you started.

In addition to working multiple muscles at once, what also makes the kettlebell better than conventional weights is the movement involved. You see, while individual dumbells require that you to avoid using momentum to get the benefit of each lift, kettlebells call upon the user to incorporate momentum into the task. And so while this "cheating" detracts from benefits being sought by the dumbell lifter, it actually aids the kettlebell swinger.

To get those intended benefits, an important part of using this piece of equipment is using it smartly and effectively. So it's recommended that new users take a quick lesson, to get the proper form right, and then go from there. And finally, since it's not gigantic and doesn't take up much room, kettlebells can be purchased at sporting good stores and used at home.

Perhaps, maybe, the kettlebell isn't so dopey after all?