Looking to Burn Fat? Grab a Kettlebell!
By Stephanie Van Ness, CSCS
Swinging a kettlebell can incinerate fat. If done properly, that is. Correct technique requires specific attention to the start, the swing itself, and the finish. Here are some tips for each phase.
Stand with your feet planted outside of your shoulders. With head up and chest out and gaze forward push your hips back. Fold into your hips, keeping your weight over the middle of your feet. Bend your knees a little. Place your arms between your legs with your hands together. Your wrists should touch the inside of your thighs like you are going to hike a football. You should feel a hamstring stretch. If you feel your quads more than hamstrings, your knees are bent too much. You're looking for a hip hinge, not a squat. The hamstring stretch helps generate a powerful swing.
The finish position is the same as the start position with feet placed outside shoulders. Your hands should be loosely clenched, arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the ground. Engage your lats by drawing your shoulders down. Tighten your abs like you're bracing for a punch. Squeeze your glutes. Your body should form a straight line. Be sure not to arch your back as the kettlebell rises to horizontal.
To move from the start position to the finish you must load the backswing by snapping your hips and keeping your arms straight. Do not lean back at the top of the swing. If you do this rather than fully extend your hips you can hyperextend your low back -- a recipe for injury.
One more note regarding potential low-back injury: the Russian-style swing, where the bell ends up slightly higher than horizontal, is safer than the American style (popular in the CrossFit community), which requires the bell to finish overhead.
With either style, you can make the exercise more challenging by grabbing a heavier kettlebell. If you prefer, you also can achieve a similar result without increasing the weight by simply contracting your muscles harder (in the finish position), and swinging at a faster pace. You also can mix it up by swinging two lighter bells simultaneously.