Interval training with kettlebells is a fast and effective way to change the way your body looks and feels. Interval training involves alternating between periods of work and rest -- for example, working for 15 seconds, resting 15 seconds and repeating. The simple construction of kettlebells allows nearly limitless options for interval training. The best kettlebell exercise choices focus on your large muscles to get the maximum effect.
To design a good kettlebell interval program, start by designing a program that incorporates a hip hinging exercise, a squat, a pull and a push. Some exercises are actually a blend of a few of those categories. For instance, a thruster is a combination of a squat and a push, while a snatch is a hip hinge with an upper body pull to finish the movement.
Begin every workout with a thorough warm-up. Start with five to 10 minutes of light cardio work before doing a few sets with a lighter kettlebell to practice your form. At the beginning of your program, start with about a 1-to-3 work-to-rest ratio -- for example, 15 seconds of work to 45 seconds of rest. Using a circuit, begin with the first exercise for one set, then the second exercise for the second set and so on. Once you reach the last exercise, start over with the first exercise again.
Choose a kettlebell weight that allows you to complete the exercises but leaves you breathing hard at the end of your interval. If you aren't able to complete your set, use a lighter kettlebell or shorten your work time. Repeat this circuit for 10 minutes and progressively add time to your workout to increase the difficulty. As your fitness levels improve, use heavier kettlebells or take shorter rests in between sets.
Snatches are one of the most taxing exercises in any kettlebell workout, which is why most consider them an advanced exercise. The snatch requires a total body effort to get the kettlebell from between your legs to over your head. The snatch requires explosive contractions from your hips, specifically your glutes and hamstrings, to get the kettlebell to the overhead position. Your upper body comes in play to finish the exercise and stabilize the weight overhead. In fact, kettlebell snatches are so challenging that the Russian Kettlebell Certification uses them as a test for instructor certification.
The kettlebell swing is the first exercise that most people learn. This doesn't diminish its effectiveness as a fat-burning interval exercise. Kettlebell swings are an intense hip-hinging exercise that strengthens your glutes and hamstrings. They can be a substitute for a kettlebell snatch for the sake of variety or as a beginner replacement. For safety, swing the kettlebell back between your legs, making sure your wrists engage your upper thighs. Also, focus on keeping a straight spine throughout the motion.
An intermediate exercise, kettlebell thrusters entail a combination move that works on the major muscles of your lower and upper body. Focus on keeping a straight spine during the squat and using the upward momentum of your legs to propel the kettlebells overhead. When you press the kettlebell overhead, keep your body in a straight line so you don't needlessly put your back in harm’s way.
Carl Galloway is a strength-and-conditioning coach at a high school in Southern California. He is certified as an Olympic lifting coach through USA Weightlifting and as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Galloway holds a bachelor's degree in kinesiology and a master's degree in coaching and athletic administration.