By now, you’ve seen them everywhere. Little “cannonballs” with handles, which vary in weight, size, style and color. You may own one, use one at the gym or wonder what the hell to do with one when you walk by it in the fitness aisle at Target. I can tell you this: working with a kettlebell is one of my favorite ways to spend a Wednesday night. Once you try it, it will be one of yours, too.
Finding its origins in Russia over 100 years ago, a kettlebell is a cast-iron weight used to perform ballistic exercises that combine a perfect trifecta of cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training. Rather than focusing on one isolated muscle group, like typical weightlifting exercises do, kettlebell training utilizes large groups of muscles at once throughout your entire body, while its dynamic motions increase your heart rate after every repetition, allowing you to stay in that fat-burning zone, also known as, the kicking- ass-and-asking-questions-later zone. What I’m trying to say is that it’s one hell of a workout.
When I walked into Dexter Training Concepts (DTC) for Lisa Smith’s kettlebell class, I immediately noticed the size of the workout room we’d be in. It was smaller, with space for about ten participants and their equipment. It always makes me incredibly happy when a class is smaller in size because it means the instructor can provide more personal instruction and attention as she walks around to check on your form. There are no wallflowers here. Which is exactly how any solid fitness class should be.
Lisa, who has been a certified fitness group instructor for eight years and a personal trainer and kettlebell trainer for three years, helped us get settled with our mats and weights and gave us a rundown of what to expect. In the typical Rhody fashion of “everyone is your cousin,” Lisa was introduced to DTC owner’s Paul and Laura three years ago through a mutual friend and immediately hit it off, having been a group instructor with them since. “I teach Bootcamp, Circuit (with battle ropes and kettlebells), and Kickboxing/Step class at DTC, but what I love most about the kettlebell class is that it involves multiple energy systems to perform,” Lisa tells me. “It gives you the ability to work aerobically and anaerobically simultaneously and, no matter what size bell you’re using, if you are working to your maximum potential with good form, you can tone, build strength and burn a great amount of calories.”
I was about to put that theory to test. After a quick warm-up, we began. The first move was the kettlebell squat. Holding the kettlebell at chest level with both hands and keeping our elbows close to our bodies, we pushed our hips back and squatted down to the floor, driving ourselves back up through the heels of our feet. Sounds easy, right? Try doing 34,000 of them. From that nice allover leg burn, we moved into a series of a whole bunch of other butt-kicking moves, from figure eights, snatches and sumo high-pulls into tricep extensions to kettlebell swings, windmills and cleans. Not even ten minutes into the class, I was dripping with sweat, loaded with energy and felt that beautiful burn all over my entire body. I may have gotten yelled at a few times from my friends who joined along, since I kept hoarding their bells to switch weight for each exercise, but they soon forgave me, like good friends do. Plus, I’m a Virgo woman. Options (and hoarding) are necessary.
Lisa’s spunky and sassy teaching style made it easy to stay motivated and inspired. She would show us each a series of moves and would walk around to help as we cranked out our reps, all while loudly cheering us on with a smile. Toward the end of class, after exhausting 90% of our muscle groups, she instructed us to do renegade rows and one-armed sit-ups with the kettlebells. If you have no idea what either of those exercises are, let’s just say it’s okay to go home and eat an entire Friendly’s Peanut Butter Cup Sundae afterwards.
Simply put, I loved this class. There is nothing that makes me feel like I got an amazing entire-body workout all at once than kettlebell training. I felt strong, powerful and like I could take on the world when it was over. It’s a class that can be adjusted to anyone’s fitness level and will guarantee that you won’t walk straight for the next three days. I think everyone should incorporate kettlebells into their weekly routine, like they do showers. And when they do, they should head on over to DTC to see Lisa. Training Concepts 1543 Mineral Spring Ave North Providence 228-7906.