Russian musclemen swung cannonball-shaped weights in the 1700s to build strength and endurance in record time. Hundreds of years later, people are using kettlebells to achieve the same combination of cardiovascular and strength training. If you’re too busy to get to the gym, you can always do a 20-minute kettlebell workout that’ll match a half hour of lifting weights and a half hour on the treadmill, according to “Kettlebells: Twice the Results in Half the Time?” by the American Council on Exercise. Several kettlebell exercises will blast your traps, including swings, cleans, lifts and shrugs. Women should work with bells weighing from eight to 15 pounds and perform eight to 12 reps per exercise.
The swing is a common exercise in kettlebell workouts, blasting your back and leg region and improving posture. To perform a two-handed kettlebell swing, stand with legs shoulder-width apart. Place the kettlebell between your feet. Keeping your back straight, bend your knees into a squat position until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Take the kettlebell with both hands and swing it back behind your legs. Immediately reverse the direction, swinging the bell straight out in front of you until it reaches shoulder level height. Drive with your hips, contract your glutes and lock your knees. Pushing against the ground, snap the hip. Allow the bell to return to starting position.
An effective and foundational exercise that will work your traps is a clean. The movement is a modified swing, in which you bend your elbow, draw your fist to your shoulder and rotate the kettlebell over to the back of your hand. The bell will finish on the outside of your upper arm. As you begin to swing the kettlebell up, you break the path of the swing with the elbow bend when your arm is slightly higher than your waist. Use a corkscrew motion to rotate your fist properly. At the end of a clean, your forearm should be vertical while your upper arm and elbow are pressed tightly to your chest.
A deadlift is simply a lift of an object that has no kinetic energy. For women, a deadlift can give your traps a substantial workout. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees as if moving into a squat and grab the bell with a two-handed grip. Straighten your legs, using slow and controlled movement. Hold the peak position for a second before returning to the starting position. Keep your back straight and abdominals contracted throughout the exercise.
The shrug is an intense exercise that will build the mass of your upper traps. Lift two kettlebells from beside each thigh. Bend your knees as if you’re about to make a vertical jump. Snap your hips and straighten your knees in a quick powerful motion. At the same time explosively pinch or shrug your shoulders up. Expect your heels to lift slightly off the floor as your weight shifts to the balls of your feet. Squat and shift your weight back to your heels before repeating the shrug. Avoid pushing your head forward like an ostrich during the exercise.
- The Russian Kettlebell Challenge: Xtreme Fitness for Hard Living Comrades; Pavel Tsatsouline
- Fundamental Weight Training; David Sandler
- American Council on Exercise: Kettlebells: Twice the Results in Half the Time?; Chad Schnettler, et al.
- Body Strong Kettlebell Blitz: Beginner Program; Paul Bova, et al.
- Kettlebells: Strength Training for Power and Grace; Smith Vatel, et al.
Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.