“One thing to rule them all,
One thing once ye find them,
One thing to lift – for all,
And in thine home – hoist them!”
It is a truth universally acknowledged that we all want to feel good and have a body that we are proud of (with clothes on and even more so without them on, ooooOOOO!). We also want something that is not only simple to do but something that will actually get us results without wasting a lot of our time, effort, and money.
Let’s picture the entire world of fitness…
Think about some of the wildly different things you can do or spend money on to reach your goals. Gym memberships, training sessions, group fitness classes, bootcamps, books, DVDs, weight machines, cardio machines, weights of every kind, balls, pools, tracks, cool kicks, yoga classes/mats/pants/alloftheaccessories… or hearing the nightmarish echo deep in your psyche of someone shouting at you to “COME ON! ONE MORE TIME!”
One thing that forever comes to mind for me when I think of fitness is the epic Rocky 4 training montage and its deep implication (we’re gonna need a montage! MONTAGE!):
I really just put this video here because it’s rad as hell.
From the low tech, ultra-utilitarian, to the high tech and fashionably trendy, there are SO many things to choose from before you ever even get started working out.
And therein lies the problem.
It can be an incredibly overwhelming zerg-rush of options.
Especially when the trap that a lot folk fall into is buying the idea of getting fit (literally, whether it’s new workout accoutrements or getting a gym membership) and dreaming of the perfect body that should result.
It’d be like a person who’s brand new to PC gaming obsessing over needing to buy all of the top-of-the-line gaming accessories. Sure, having a good computer will help, but the gaming keyboard and mouse probably won’t solely improve their control over units in a game or their aim for that one shot, one kill. If you need to get good at games, and I mean real damn good, having that fancy captain’s chair is not going to turn you into a pro esports athlete with mad skillz (although, I admit, it may improve your comfort levels for the EXTENSIVE hours of practice needed to reach that high level).
The first thing that people need to know, (no matter what their experience level,) is that when you get right down to it, any type of exercise can get you results — as long as it’s done consistently over time. Trying a variety of stuff is great, BUT, it’s getting started, staying consistent, and developing the habit of exercising that will get you fit over the long run.
Now, that’s not sexy, and I know you’re here because you want sexy, so depending on the specific results you are looking for is where the different types of training and tools come into play.
They are not all created equal.
So where do you start?
Generally, depending on your goal (fat loss, strength and power gains, muscle mass, cardio, endurance, athleticism, mobility, flexibility, energy, sport specific, the list goes on) will determine the type of training you need to do.
But what if you want something that does it all, you know, like something you can just farm XP off of efficiently to make your character level up faster?
Like Michelangelo discovering the statue hidden within a block of marble, we find that as you chisel everything else away you are left with one simple tool that you can use anywhere and get in amazing, sexy-statue-shape:
Read on as we dig into why kettlebells are the best tool to start with no matter what your goal, a 5 minute workout that can be done with just one single kettlebell, and how to choose the right kettlebell size for you.
WHY KETTLEBELLS ARE THEBOMB.COM AND THE ONLY THING YOU NEED TO GET STARTED
What if I told you that you could get up, walk a few feet away from your computer, effectively hip thrust the air for a few minutes, and after doing this every day for awhile you could completely transform your body?
No, cereal for the real, home dogs.
I know, that sounds ridiculous, and too good to be true, but it’s actually not far off.
If we put a kettlebell in your hands, and make you thrust your hips with gusto, you are now doing kettlebell swings AKA the King of Cardio exercises. The Sultan of Swat! The AK-47 (accept no substitutes).
Feast eyes here upon this mighty display:
This is why Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Body touts the power and efficiency of kettlebells and why he selected the kettlebell swing exercise as the #1 exercise to do in order to massively improve your fitness and your physique.
But swings aren’t the only exercise you can do with a kettlebell, oh-ho-ho-NO, my friend!
In fact, the creativity and variety that can be achieved with kettlebell training is one of the strongest draws to using them.
Thus, as the core of the earth is made of iron, so too will you find at the heart of the swirling fitness vortex an iron ball with a handle on it.
That iron ball represents:
- Weight training
- Strength training
- Cardiovascular training
- Fat loss
Here’s an excerpt from the post “The 5 Week Holiday Kettlebell Program: How To Burn Fat & Get Strong While Doing Practically Nothing, Eating Pies & Playing Games This Holiday Season” that goes further into the awesome benefits of kettlebells.
[SIDE NOTE: This post also has a simple and effective 5 week kettlebell workout program I highly recommend you try! Doing this program (which we did live on our Twitch channel over the holidays) helped Nicole and I both maintain our weight and enter the new year in better shape and with lower body fat despite all of the holiday gluttony we partook in! What more can you ask for?]
A kettlebell is a gym in your hand. I stand by kettlebells for any and all people who can learn the proper form as a way to min-max the fuck out of exercising.
Having one kettlebell by your computer and a bit of clear, comfortable floor space is more valuable than a gym membership — and the KB you only have to pay for one time.
Kettlebells are the ultimate strength and conditioning tool for a reason. With one piece of equipment (read one single kettlebell ) you can do power/explosiveness training, strength training, strength endurance training, and cardiovascular training. You can shred fat and be working out your muscles with a SINGLE activity.
The demands of moving a kettlebell involve your proprioception and your brain more than basic fitness activities. This translates to being more efficient and better for fatloss (oh, and not boring!).
Unlike sitting on a bike or going for a run, every time you do cardio with a kettlebell you are simultaneously putting a training effect on your posture muscles as well as your posterior chain (glutes and hams). This is the polar opposite of biking or running which, if you sit a lot, further tighten you up and exaggerate bad posture.
While others are training only their cardiovascular system, you are doing MORE with a kettlebell without…
…having to go outside
…needing a treadmill or other machine
…and without even straying far from whatever else you’re doing in your day.
And this is great for someone like me because I think cardio is a lame use of time.
Using kettlebells also strengthens your grip and wrists, two things that people who use computers a lot can benefit from.
Consistently doing full body exercises with a kettlebell helps to increase your flexibility and mobility (even without additional stretching) while increasing your ability to generate tension with your body. This is going to enable you move like a predatory cat, supple and explosive, instead of a lumbering oaf. Just going to the gym to pump up your chest and arms could not give you the same feeling of full body power in a thousand years.
HOW TO GET A FAST, FULL-BODY WORKOUT WITH ONE KETTLEBELL
A single kettlebell is all that you need so that even if it’s just you, buck-naked in your house, with only that one kettlebell, you can work yourself most of the way towards every fitness goal you can conceive of.
We shot a quick video that shows how you can strength-train every major muscle group while also getting in your cardio and functional mobility all in one circuit with one kettlebell:
Here is the workout written out for you to insert during any part of your day or gaming session:
5 x Kettlebell Deadlights
5 x Kettlebell Military Presses with left arm
5 x Step-back Lunges left side
5 x Kettlebell Military Presses with right arm
5 x Step-back Lunges right side
5 x Long-stance kettlebell Rows left arm
5 x Long-stance kettlebell Rows right arm
5 sets of: 1 Goblet Squat, 2 Curls, 2 Tricep Extensions
10 x Kettlebell Swings
Repeat 2 – 5 times.
I’m using a 20kg (44lbs) kettlebell in the video.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE KETTLEBELL TO FIT YOU
In the video above, I show you how to get a quick, effective workout that will smoke you all while using just one kettlebell; having additional sizes of kettlebells and pairs is AWESOME and ideal, but you DO NOT need them to get the initial results you’re seeking.
Here’s how to find what size kettlebell is right for you when getting started, especially if you can only afford one.
To know the size you need, you should have some idea of your approximate height and what body type you have. The three, oft-discussed body types are:
Given basic, day-to-day nutritional upkeep and minimal exercise, what body type sounds the most like you?
(These are not so much a science as a guideline. Many people fall between types so be aware of that as well.)
Do you tend to hang on to muscle definition even when not exercising much? Can you go up or down in body weight more-or-less as you desire? Do you have a really strong handshake? Are you naturally talented at lifting weights and such without necessarily being physically large?
You are likely a Mesomorph.
Do you tend to store a lot of fat if you don’t exercise a lot? Are you naturally strong in the sense of being able to manhandle things (think: moving furniture) because of your size? Are your joints (hands, wrists, ankles, etc.) thicker and sturdier looking than other people’s?
You likely are an Endomorph.
Do you tend to become skinny and light? Are your joints and body structure a bit narrower and lanky, maybe giving you the illusion of being tall even if you’re not? Can you eat “whatever you want” and not gain weight? By that same token, do you have trouble gaining weight or putting on muscle? Do people ask you if you were (or are) a swimmer or basketball player?
You likely are an Ectomorph. (Like me!)
Now that you have a rough idea of your body type, take a look at the chart below:
|Body type ↓ Height →||Less than 5’5”||5’5” to 5’10”||5’10” to 6’3”||Greater than 6’3”|
|Mesomorph Male||14kg (31lbs)||16kg (35lbs)||20kg (44lbs)||20kg (44lbs)|
|Endomorph Male||12kg (26lbs)||16kg||20kg||20kg|
|Body type ↓ Height →||Less than 5’3”||5’3” to 5’6”||5’6” to 5’10”||Greater than 5’10”|
|Mesomorph Female||8kg (18lbs)||10kg (22lbs)||12kg (26lbs)||12kg (26lbs)|
What we want is the Goldilocks kettlebell.
That should be the kettlebell recommended for your height in the chart above, with possibly a minus 2-4kg for men and minus 2kg for women. And of course with anything, use your best judgement.
For example, if you are tall (6’2”) but very thin (159 lbs), ectomorphic male, you definitely want to consider a kettlebell 2kg lighter than recommended at least.
Want more than one? Want to drop some weight, fast? GO HEAVIER.
If you can afford two kettlebells…
If you want to primarily focus on fat loss/cardio/lower body work (swings and deadlifts)…
If you are already pretty strong and athletic…
I recommend getting a heavier kettlebell: at least 24kg (53lbs) for men and a 16kg (35lbs) for women.
Also, if you’re sole focus is to drop some weight, just do 100 kettlebell swings every day OR better yet do 10 minutes of kettlebell swings broken up into 30 seconds of rest and 30 of seconds work (interval training). Do this 3 times a week. We did this as a finisher in the 5 week holiday program.
Too light versus too heavy
I admit, choosing only one kettlebell to own is really tough! Ideally you have a lighter one for upper body work and high reps and then a heavier one for lower body and strength work.
If you go too light, your lower body is not going to be getting enough training effect after a month or two and your form is going to be sloppy because you can just muscle the weight around instead of properly using your hips to lift or snap the weights up. Example: with kettlebell swings if the kettlebell is too light people will not use their legs and hips and will instead try to use their arms to lift the weight up (I’m looking at you, gentlemen!).
If you go too heavy, you risk being intimidated by the weight and limiting the amount of use you get from it. You may only be able to do one or two reps of upper body moves and it’s going to be a struggle. You’ll have a mental roadblock on your hands.
So find that Goldilocks ‘bell or just order two and have done.
ADVICE FOR NEWBIES
When training with kettlebells, it is incredibly important to use good form because you can easily hurt yourself if you are doing it incorrectly (as with most things, but particularly when you are swinging balls of iron around). Ideally you should have someone checking your form.
As a Senior RKC kettlebell instructor, I teach and certify other trainers to become kettlebell instructors so that they can go out and teach their clients safely and effectively. As such, I cannot recommend highly enough that you have your kettlebell technique(s) reviewed by a trained eye. It makes a huge difference! Our online personal coaching clients get this as an included benefit, but we will soon be offering an option for you to submit your form for review and to get a personalized video analysis in return. Interested? Let us know here.
You can also check out the videos on the our YouTube channel where we go over the correct technique and how each exercise should look/be performed.
We dream about getting the body we want with little time and little effort. If that’s what you’re looking for, get a kettlebell. See the guide above on how to choose the right size kettlebell for you and try out the workout video. Actually, you should probably just read the whole post.
I rarely use kettle balls but I don’t disagree with this article. I prefer rip-rap (the large stones you see in ditches to prevent erosion) but the idea is the same. We went to the beach for a week a couple years ago and I wanted to stay in shape and saw some along the road near the beach house. Really, you could easily bring a couple kettle balls with you on the trip since they take up so little room. I do like to hurl the stones as part of the exercise so in terms of being damaged the rocks may have a slight advantage. Either way this approach is easy to motivate yourself to do partly because you can tell yourself you’re only going to do one set or do it for 2 minutes, etc. Maybe that’s all you do that day or maybe you do more but it’s mentally easier to start than thinking you have to do an entire workout when you’re trying to tear yourself up away from the screen.