I've been feeling a bit off for the past few months. My exercise routine has slipped and I miss the post-workout aches and how much clearer my mind feels. I've been searching around for a low-stakes way to get back into the rhythm but kept losing confidence, until I settled on kettlebell swings.
I've had one of the best kettlebells for a few years, but for reasons I can't explain, I relegated it to the corner, favoring a set of adjustable dumbbells for my resistance training sessions instead. Sure, I'd occasionally use it for kettlebell halos, circling the weight around my head, but I never used it to its full potential.
I don't know why I did this either, as I'd learned how to do kettlebell swings a while back and knew how effective they were for building muscle and improving your metabolism. That's why I decided taking on 100 swings a day for a week would be a good way to ease myself back in. Here's what happened.
1. You need your core, a lot
For years, I've focused on building core strength. I have a chronic medical condition that affects my blood pressure, and having a stronger core helps promote circulation.
But I didn't realize just how much I'd rely on it during a round of swings. You get destabilized as the weight rises, leaving your core and lower half to stop you from falling over.
After the first day, it felt like I'd been doing specific core strengthening exercises rather than swinging a weight. It felt sore, but in a good way. The kind of post-workout pain that makes you glad you've exercised, and a sign I'd actually challenged my muscles.
2. It made my heart beat faster
To make it easier to fit 100 swings into my day, I split the challenge into two 50-repetition rounds; one in the morning and one in the evening. It took a few minutes to hit the goal, but my heart rate would jump dramatically in that time, going from about 65 beats per minute (bpm), up to around 140bpm.
This is a hallmark of high-intensity resistance training (HIRT), where you exercise intensely in short bursts with minimal rests. This is how I'd usually train, with a quick but challenging 20 or 30-minute dumbbell workout.
Keeping your heart rate high like this is one of the ways that exercise increases your metabolism, the amount of energy you burn at rest. So kettlebell swings are ideal multi-muscle compound exercise if you're looking to burn fat.
3. It was good to have a routine again
It's really easy to slip out a routine, even when you enjoy it. I've managed to meditate every day but haven't always had the same approach to my workouts. Between social events, vacation, and illness over the summer, it became an accidental habit to put off working out.
By breaking the challenge into manageable chunks, all I needed was around five minutes twice a day to start feeling the effects. This was easy enough to fit in alongside my morning walks, so it felt achievable and I even looked forward to the evening round.
I might not do 100 every day again, but kettlebell swings are definitely going be part of my routine from now on. I'm not the only one who thinks the move is worth the effort, as this personal trainer tried kettlebell swings for a month and it had a big impact on her workout performance, including changes to her box jumps and improved strength in her glutes.
James is a London-based journalist and Staff Writer at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.
In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.
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