Average, everyday strength-training workouts employ tools such as dumbbells, barbells and weight machines. There’s nothing wrong with those devices, but maybe you’re looking for something more interesting than an average, everyday workout. Kettlebells offer benefits that are similar to dumbbell workouts, while the sledgehammer is a unique tool that can provide a total-body fitness experience.
Kettlebells, which were developed in 18th century Russia, are round metal balls with fixed, semicircular handles on top. Like dumbbells, you can grasp one kettlebell in each hand, or place both hands on a single kettlebell. The devices come in various weights, also like dumbbells, but the handles allow you to swing kettlebells and enjoy a different range of motion when compared to other hand weights. A 2010 study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise determined that kettlebell workouts can burn approximately 20 calories per minute.
Use 8- to 15-pound kettlebells to start and eventually graduate to 18-pound kettlebells. Perform a full-body kettlebell routine two to three times per week. Hold a kettlebell in each hand to perform deadlifts and pushups. Hold a kettlebell in one hand to do a shoulder press, a single-arm row, a single arm swing -- in which you swing the kettlebell between your legs, then up to shoulder height in front of your chest -- or a Turkish half get-up, in which you lie faceup on the floor, then sit up and extend the kettlebell over your head. Hold a single kettlebell in both hands to perform walking lunges or halos, in which you stand erect and circle the kettlebell above your head.
A sledgehammer is an old-fashioned construction tool -- or a destruction tool, depending on how it’s used. Unlike the kettlebell, the sledgehammer wasn’t designed as a workout device, but boxers and other fighters have increased its popularity as a training tool. As with dedicated exercise weights, sledgehammers come in a variety of sizes. If you’ve never trained with a sledgehammer before, try an 8-pounder first.
To work out with a sledgehammer, you’ll typically beat it against something. An old rubber tire, which many dealers will give away, makes a good target. Go outdoors for your workout so you won’t damage anything if you miss the tire. Place the tire on the ground, then grasp the sledgehammer with one hand near the top of the handle and your other hand closer to the hammer end. Swing it back, then shift your weight forward and bring the sledgehammer down on the tire, allowing your upper hand to slide down the handle toward the bottom of your swing. Whack the tire for two to four minutes, reversing your hand positions after 10 or 15 swings.
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