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Kettlebells: The Good, the bad and the (potentially) dangerous

Monday - 5/13/2013, 11:50am  ET

Kettlebells.jpg
Kettlebells -- or as some people call them 'cow bells' -- are perfect for high intensity interval training, which is an important kind of training for fat loss. (Thinkstock)

Josef Brandenburg, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - One of the newer exercise tools on the market is the kettlebell, a weight in the shape of a ball with a handle on the top.

Kettlebell swings, when done correctly, are very safe, convenient and efficient. In this post we're going to go over the actual benefits of using kettlebells, the risks associated with them and the correct way to start working out with kettlebells.

Kettlebells are tools, not training systems. And like with all tools, if used correctly and for the right job, kettlebells will yield good results. But if used incorrectly, kettlebells could be potentially dangerous and/or ineffective.

The benefits of kettlebells

Kettlebells -- or as some people call them "cow bells" -- are perfect for high intensity interval training, which is an important kind of training for fat loss.

Here's what makes them so special:

  1. Kettlebells have zero impact. Plyometrics have strangely become popular as interval training tools. However, if you read the research or talk to trainers, you'll discover that they're not supposed to be done for high repetitions with low rest periods because they're very stressful on the joints. This means they are very dangerous over time.

    But with an exercise like the kettlebell swing, you can get a lot of the benefits of plyometric exercise (very high intensity) without leaving the ground (no impact).

  2. Kettlebells help make buns of steel. Gluts make a movement called hip extension, and kettlebell swings are a high-speed hip extension. In short, they provide some much needed butt work.

  3. Kettlebells are inexpensive. A good treadmill for your home will set you back at least $1,000 and probably more if you want a higher quality one. However, you can get a kettlebell shipped to you for $60 -- and you can do more than just one exercise with it.

  4. Kettlebells are small: You can put a kettlebell in the corner of your living room or in a closet. You'll never know it's there.

Are kettlebells dangerous?

When done correctly, kettlebell training is safe. It really comes down to three things.

  1. Get good instruction.
  2. Don't do foolish things with the kettlebells.
  3. Make sure you physically qualify to use them.

To help with the first point, here are some instructions on how to use kettlebells:

Make sure you are physically ready for a kettlebell swing.

How to do the two-hand kettlebell ‘sumo deadlift.'

Follow this video for how to get started with the deadlift. For the next few weeks do two-to-three sets of eight of this basic movement.

Editor's Note: Josef Brandenburg is a D.C.area fitness expert with 14 years of experience and co-author of the international best-selling book "Results Fitness." In 2004, he started The Body You Want personal training program, which specializes in helping you get the body you want in the available time you have. You can also check out his blog, follow him on Twitter, or check out his fitness videos on YouTube. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.

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