Sure, bands and bars can provide the resistance needed to sculpt your muscles. But to really maximize your gym time, pick up a kettlebell. Research shows that working out with these weights torches up to 50 percent more calories than a traditional strength session, netting a burn similar to that of running.
A kettlebell’s design makes it possible to do high-intensity moves that you couldn’t perform with other equipment. “Most kettlebell exercises use many muscle groups at once,” explains Michele Olson, PhD, an adjunct professor of sport science at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, AL, and creator of the Perfect Legs, Glutes & Abs DVD. “That takes more energy, so you burn more calories.” Try Olson’s five-move workout to get in the swing fast.
Your Go-To Kettlebell Workout
You’ll need a 12- to 15-pound kettlebell. Do each move below for 30 seconds, in the order given, taking 15 seconds to catch your breath between moves. Then rest for 1 minute and repeat the entire circuit once more.
Squat to Upright Row
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell in front of you with both hands, arms straight. Squat until the kettlebell touches the floor. Stand up, bending your elbows out to the sides, and lift the kettlebell toward your chin. Repeat.
Make it easier: Don’t squat as deeply.
Begin in a lunge with your right foot in front and your left heel lifted; hold the kettlebell in your left hand at your side, arm extended. Straighten your legs as you bend your left elbow up, bringing the kettlebell toward your shoulder. Lunge as you extend your left arm. Repeat for 30 seconds on one side, then switch sides.
Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, a kettlebell on the floor between them. Bending your knees, hinge forward from the hips and grab the kettlebell with your right hand. Bend right elbow up, bringing the kettlebell outside your right shoulder, then extend your legs as you straighten your right arm overhead. Reverse the movement to return to starting position. Repeat for 30 seconds on one side, then switch sides.
Single-Arm Kettlebell Swing
Place a kettlebell on the floor and stand facing it with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides. Bending your knees, grab the handle with your left hand and swing the kettlebell back between your legs. Stand up, thrusting your hips forward as you raise your left arm straight up to chest height, swinging the kettlebell forward. Repeat for 30 seconds, then repeat for 30 seconds on opposite side.
Make it easier: Perform the swing with both hands holding the handle.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent, heels touching the ground and toes in the air, holding the kettlebell in front of your chest with both hands, elbows bent. Lean back slightly and rotate your torso to the left, then immediately to the right. Continue, twisting from side to side.
Make it harder: Lift your feet off the floor. Need more of a challenge? Use a heavier ’bell or do a total of three circuits.