A kettlebell workout can be a mix of heaven and hell. Your heart rate booms, and your muscles must work to the max to stabilize the asymmetric weight. The heaven comes when you notice that you can handle heavier and heavier bells. And you can earn a figurative halo by performing real halos during your workout. The muscles of the upper body and core work overtime during a kettlebell halo exercise.
Kettlebell guru Steve Maxwell developed the halo move. You hold the kettlebell by the horns -- the outer edges of the handles – pointing the weight toward the ceiling and rotate the bell in a circle above your head. Hold the ball in front of your chest, balanced between both hands. Lift one arm, swing the kettlebell around the back of your head and bring it around your other ear around to the front of your chest. Kettlebell pioneer Pavel Tsatsouline credits Maxwell for this exercise in his landmark book, “Enter the Kettlebell,” and advises that you keep your glutes as tight as possible to support your back during the halo exercise.
If you’re looking to profoundly work out your shoulders, on the level of a Major League Baseball pitcher, you’ve come to the right exercise. The kettlebell halo works the deltoids in the shoulders and the pectorals in the chest, the muscles that lift the arms, notes online fitness instructor Ray Fleser. Your triceps, the muscle at the back of the upper arms, obviously play a role in controlling the heavy weight behind your head. The trapezius, the muscles of the back and shoulder girdle, bring the bell up past your ears and forward to the start position.
Memo to your midsection: The core muscles have got their work cut out for them to keep the body stable as the heavy bell moves in ways that seem geared to put you slightly off balance. You recruit your transverse abdominis to keep your trunk stable, Fleser notes, aided by your six-pack muscles, called the rectus abdominis. Your obliques and erector spinae, or lower back muscles, complete the list of major muscles worked by the halo.
The halo can help you warm up for your kettlebell workout. Select a bell that is light enough to control easily and that permits you to complete the deceptively challenging halo for two minutes. Maxwell recommends one minute of clockwise motion and one of counterclockwise as part of a warm-up that also includes the around-the-body pass and figure 8s. Keep your wrists neutral and your elbows slightly bent.
- Enter the Kettlebell; Pavel Tsatsouline
- FleserFitness: Kettlebell Halo Tutorial
- Pocket PT: A Kettlebell Halo
- Steve Maxwell Strength and Conditioning: The 22 Minute Single Kettlebell Warrior Workout
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.