August “Scary” Equipment Series – Kettlebell
We often associate the kettlebell with upper body and core exercises. However, the kettlebell can be used to work out the entire body including the legs. It is important for us to train our legs for multiple reasons including balance, strength, support of the upper body, daily movement and calorie burning.
For balance: We use balance more than we think. When you are walking you are constantly balancing on one foot and relying on balance not to fall over. Many times we end up standing on one foot to reach for something on a high shelf or something far away from us. When we work our legs we strengthen the muscles we use to stabilize our entire body. Whether it be in general everyday activities, sports or as we age, balance is crucial to our lives.
For strength: Our legs are our largest muscles and anyone that has worked safety in a warehouse (I have) will tell you that the legs are the strongest muscles for lifting. When you think about lifting a heavy object such as a sofa, table or boxes in the attic you bend at the knees, grab from the opposite ends and stand up keeping your back straight and using your legs to lift and carry. You can also compare it to the proper techniques for a clean and press, snatch or CrossFit stone carry.
Support of the upper body: Do you have low back pain? Most of the time that pain is associated with weak or tight muscles in the lower musculature. If the body is not balanced in one area it will compensate in others. This can lead to muscle imbalance, synergistic dominance (one muscle taking over for another) and pain. Strengthening the lower body will provide a solid base of support and make you look more balanced as you make gains in the upper body.
Daily movement: 80% of non-contact injuries are a result of hip and ankle imbalances. This makes it extremely important to train the legs properly and frequently. We use our legs daily and when they do not function properly it completely changes our lives. Imagine not being able to keep up with your kids, walk up a flight of stairs or compete in the company softball game. Our legs are important to our daily living!
Calorie burning: Burning calories is simple math. A calorie is a unit of energy and the heavier/bigger something is the more energy it takes to move it. The legs are the biggest muscle group in your body, therefore moving them takes more energy, which means burning more calories.
The low lunge works muscles in the glutes, hamstrings, quads, hips and even the calves. By keeping your body upright it also works muscles in the abdomen. Proper form is imperative with all exercise but especially the lunge as it is easy to twist the knee into positions that it doesn’t like. Make sure to read through all the steps before beginning. In this exercise we add a kettlebell pass to engage the abs even more. Adding weight to a lunge can also help with balance by lowing your center of balance.
How it’s done:
1. Stand with your feet under your hips, toes pointed straight forward and kettlebell in your left hand. Make sure your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles are in alignment.
2. Step forward with the left leg, bending at the knee and toes pointed forward. Your shin should be vertical and you should be able to see your big toe if you look down but not your entire foot. The back knee should drop close to the ground and your toes should stay pointed forward. The kettlebell should drop towards the ground.
3. While in the lunge position, pass the kettlebell under the left leg to the right hand and stand up.
4. Repeat by lunging on the right and passing the kettlebell back to the left hand.
Complete 3 sets of 12 reps.
Note: Pick the appropriate weight for this exercise. You don’t want the kettlebell to be so heavy that it makes you tip your upper body over as you lunge.