Congratulations for wanting to lose weight and become a fitter Nestie. Now shift your thinking slightly and decide you want to lose fat and gain muscle rather than "lose weight." This point of view works well because replacing fat with muscle should be your real goal -- and it’s quite attainable, whether you work out with kettlebells or stick with body-weight exercises. You can even enjoy both on your path to becoming and staying lean and strong.
Your own body becomes the gym when you perform body-weight exercises. These include pushups, planks, chin-ups, sit-ups, dips, burpees, crunches and calf raises, among many others. Body-weight exercises such as lunges, squats and planks can become kettlebell exercises with the simple modification of holding the kettlebell as you lunge or squat, or by rowing it -- pulling it toward the ceiling -- while you maintain a plank position. If you wonder whether body-weight exercises help you lose fat and gain muscle, look no further than to Olympic gymnasts: lean and functionally strong simply from moving their bodies through space.
As a newbie to strength training, you can start with body-weight exercises. After you gain a measure of control and strength, kettlebells provide a natural progression, upping the resistance your muscles need to progress. The kettlebell swing and Turkish get-up require dynamic motions that can be performed -- with practice -- for several minutes. Thus they provide a phenomenal cardio burn as well as resistance to burn fat and create muscle. These two exercises are unique to kettlebells, while other exercises, such as the snatch and press, are shared with barbells and dumbbells. You can also add kettlebells to body-weight exercises by, for example, performing pushups on a pair of kettlebells or wearing a kettlebell in a backpack as you do pushups.
San Diego-based kettlebell trainer Lauren Brooks describes herself as a huge fan of both body-weight and kettlebell exercises. As an advantage, the kettlebell adds to the intensity of the movement, she notes. “Kettlebells are purely an extension of the body. Adding the extra weight, especially in the shape of a kettlebell, allows you to naturally swing with power and a purpose.” Since appending a kettlebell to an exercise requires more energy and skill, you boost your energy demands and metabolism and increase fat loss, she observes.
Combining the Two
Leading trainers including Brooks state emphatically that it’s a wonderful idea to do both kettlebell and body-weight exercises to achieve your weight-loss goals. This keeps your workouts fresh, even as you become strong enough to go with heavier and heavier kettlebells. Variety will expedite training results, notes fitness and combat conditioning guru Ross Enamait.
For fat loss, Timothy Bell, founder of Jungle Fit training, recommends supersets -- one exercise after another without a break -- that combine kettlebells and body-weight exercises. Warm up by jumping rope for five minutes, and then perform three to five sets, without rest, of a circuit consisting of single-arm kettlebell push presses, burpees with a pushup, kettlebell single-hand swings, mountain climbers and kettlebell goblet squats, he advises.
- Mahler's Aggressive Strength: Blending Your Kettlebell and Body Weight Training
- Beat the Gym: Personal Trainer Secrets -- Without the Personal Trainer Price Tag; Tom Holland, Megan McMorris
- Lauren Brooks; Owner, On The Edge Fitness; San Diego, California
- Mike Mahler's Aggressive Strength: The Importance of Variety
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.