So as far as I can work out, lockdown witnessed an unprecedented run on certain retail items (beyond the initial toilet roll mayhem).
These items appeared to include bikes, hot tubs, puppies, and of course the noble kettlebell. And suddenly getting your hands on a decent cast iron kettlebell for under £75 minimum is a hard task! But the popularity does suggest the fuss must be about something right?
Cardio Kettlebells has been Move Happy Fitness’ flagship class since starting up in June, but I only realised this week I was yet to write a blog about the benefits of working with them. So wanted to unpack it just a little bit to help people find motivation to either give it go or come back for some more!
Kettlebells combine strength AND cardio AND flexibility training, all in one work out.
In using kettlebells, we don’t isolate and work one muscle group at a time before moving on to the next. We pretty much hit them ALL, at the same time. These big kettlebell moves such as the swing are said to regularly activate around 600 muscles per movement. 600 muscles! And these include the big ones we know about burning oh so many calories – the glutes and the hammies etc - but also the smaller stabilising muscles. The unique and unevenly distributed shape of the kettlebell with its offset handle means all of your muscles – big and small - are working overtime to keep you stable. So that’s a major burn and metabolic boost for you not just during your session but lasting up to 24 hours afterwards too.
As well as this, when we work all our muscles and joints simultaneously in these compound movements, we’ve got to feed them with that oxygen. Our breathing and heart rate go up, and with regular training so does our cardiovascular fitness. So if you worry about your cardio but hate running? No worries! You can still take care of it using a kettlebell.
The great thing is that we can get a huge amount done very quickly, feel that beautiful after glow, then can go about getting on with the rest of our day. If you love HIIT because of its efficiency (and why else??) then kettlebells are absolutely your best option if you want to add a bit of versatile and highly portable kit to mix it up and keep things interesting.
Furthermore, working with kettlebells is an ideal type of ‘functional training’ as it follows what we consider functional movement patterns for the human body – the lunge, squat, push, pull, hinge, carry and rotate. So beyond the cardio and aesthetic benefits people are after, in a more basic sense this type of work actually serves us in our daily life and enhances our day to day ease of movement and activity. It will ensure you retain your fitness and mobility as the years go on, getting up, down, reaching under or over things, or even running for the bus / after the grandkids as required. Maintaining ease of these movement patterns is even more important if we find our work, driving the car, and other modern day tasks demand we sit down for long stretches at a time.
Another benefit is that a kettlebell workout can also be done with little or no movement of the feet, so if you need to make things low or minimal impact it is perfect. Also, it means little workout space is required – this is extra handy in our post COVID world when we are either working out at home a lot or looking to keep mat based in classes, keeping 2m distance from each other.
Finally, kettlebells are often commended – by physios and doctors too – for their use in supporting recovery from injury. In doing my certificate in kettlebell training back in 2014 (while pregnant with my son), the course leader had an incredible story of his own. He’d previously had a motorbike accident with significant damage to his knee, to the point that the doctors didn’t imagine he’d have much mobility at all ever again. Over time (and with careful physio) he slowly built up to full recovery, specifically using kettlebells, and was fitter than ever before and completely unrestricted in what he could do or how he could move. The benefit of working with kettlebells is the functional strengthening and way they can, when performed correctly and with control, restore both joint stability and mobility.
So the take-away from this? For busy ladies with a huge amount on our plates, I believe carving out just a little bit of time for ourselves is essential. And if you want to get maximum results in terms of strength, cardio and weight-loss in that time, I genuinely believe kettlebells is the way forward.
In terms of Move Happy sessions, if you’ve not been before, here’s some stuff to know:
· You don’t need to have done kettlebells before. Just come and see what it’s like – we can take it slow! We will build up to each move and you can take it at your own pace. Modifications are always possible, as is the option to do each move using bodyweight only. The plan is ALWAYS to have you feeling good about yourself and happy with what you have done at the end of class
· Classes are small so there is room for questions, feedback and support throughout. We are together to lift each other up (mentally, not physically that is)
· We are health and safety conscious. We ensure hand hygiene and social distancing. A little dampness underfoot in the park doesn’t stop us training, but we absolutely do not want to attempt gripping and swinging kettlebells in the heavy rain. I call it an hour before if we need to cancel (and you get your refund).
· Sessions generally do include the famous kettlebell swing, and once mastered, you will feel like absolute hero doing it! But I promise we do get there gradually. We will not be performing kettlebell swings for the full 45 minutes!
· It is possible to do an incredibly quick full body workout with kettlebells in just 20 minutes or so. However in class we take our time with the moves and also allow time for a good stretch afterwards.
· Kettlebells are awesome 😉