Kettlebells can kick-start the toning of your arms -- just as soon as a mail-order set of them arrives in heavy boxes and you try to get them into the rec room of your nest. Or, if you're at the gym, toning commences as you attempt to wrestle a pair from the shelf or rack to the perimeter of your exercise mat. A 15-pound kettlebell in one hand and a 25-pounder in the other can make for a decent workout just over the course of a few steps. Kettlebells most certainly provide a fine workout -- as evidenced by the picture-perfect arms of leading trainers Lorna Kleidman, Lauren Brooks and Neghar Fonooni.
To start with the obvious, the handles of kettlebells are obviously engaged by the fingers, and their weights manipulated in hundreds of ways, requiring the arms to work for every exercise and the biceps, triceps and forearm muscles to become stronger. As with barbells and dumbbells, overhead work particularly engages the arms. These include the huge family of presses, either standing or while lying on the floor, as well as the Turkish getup and snatches. Cleans, high pulls and rows also make heavy demands on the arms. “There are so many movements for the arms besides the clean and press,” notes three-time world kettlebell champion Lorna Kleidman. “In fact, the arms are working as a secondary lifter even on swings.”
Southern California-based trainer Lauren Brooks, in her book “Kettlebells for Women: Workouts for Your Strong, Sculpted & Sexy Body,” notes that arm-specific exercises, while not specific for “a shredded look,” can make a change in your usual workout. So you can perform exercises such as the triceps extension, biceps curl, pullover and pullover-to-crunch to keep the arm muscles especially strong -- valuable especially if you play an arm-reliant sport like volleyball, for example.
Words from Pavel
Kettlebell proponent Pavel Tsatsouline, in his woman-specific book “From Russia With Tough Love: Pavel's Kettlebell Workout for a Femme Fatale,” notes that women, correctly in his view, focus their kettle bell work on the lower body -- thighs, hips and waist. He recommends just one arm-specific lift for women -- the military press, basically a one-armed lift straight up from the racked position -- with KB just under the chin, resting on your forearm. Tsatsouline advocates four weeks of basic training with simpler moves before tackling the military press.
Even given the availability of arm-specific movements for kettlebells, Kleidman notes that she never performs strict arm movements in her training. "I just move the kettlebell in various complexes and the whole body is engaged,” she observes. “Specific two-dimensional movements for the arms are not necessary with kettlebells. In fact, you would have to go out of your way to create moves that zero in on only one or two muscle groups at a time. Leave that to the bodybuilders. You can have great arms without focusing on the arms -- that’s what’s cool about kettlebells.”
- Kettlebells for Women: Workouts for Your Strong, Sculpted and Sexy Body; Lauren Brooks
- Lorna Kleidman: Three-Time World Kettlebell Champion; New York, New York
- From Russia With Tough Love: Pavel's Kettlebell Workout for a Femme Fatale; Pavel Tsatsouline
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.