kettle bell workouts

Kettle Bell Conditioning

Back in December I wrote a little bit about my experiences at The Warrior Room kettle bell gym here in Portland. You can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and also the background to this post here.

Why Kettle Bells Are Awesome

I’ve been a fan of kettle bell workouts for a few years now. Michael turned me on to them because besides cycling, his fitness was pretty much entirely kettle bells. While working out with KB was fun, I didn’t really get really into it until a few months ago when I went to the Warrior Room. Why? Because I knew my form wasn’t quite right. Going to the classes and learning the proper form and having an instructor correct my movements made a WORLD of difference.

What I love about kettle bell training is how EFFICIENT it is. If you are short on time but still want to workout, you can get in a pretty kick-ass workout in 30 minutes. The other bonus is that you don’t need a gym membership! Kettle bells can be affordable and they can be expensive. It just depends on what you’re willing to spend. But buying a kettle bell or two of various weights is a whole lot cheaper than an expensive gym membership! If you’re still unsure, and live in the Portland area, get the Groupon deal for the Warrior Room. Minimal commitment and you get to try it out for yourself. That’s how I started! And now I’m hooked.

Another reason I love KBs is the progress I saw. After going to 8 classes at the Warrior Room I saw definition in my arms and shoulders I hadn’t seen before with traditional weight lifting.

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Now my triceps need to get on board with my biceps and tighten up. 😉

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Kettle Bell Conditioning

Because I blogged about my experiences there, they offered me a free Kettle Bell Conditioning class for me and a dozen of my friends/readers who wanted to give it a try. It was very generous and the second I posted the news on Facebook I was flooded with comments and emails from people who wanted to give it a try.

The gym added a class that was specifically called Kettle Bell Conditioning and was exactly what I was looking for when I first started. It was less “crossfit” and more instructional. The class is entirely about learning the form and movement in a proper way. I’ve taken one of these specific classes before the free group class.

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I enjoyed it so much and left feeling more confident in my abilities. The instructor corrected a few of my moves and postures but overall I did okay. I was also able to take the tips I got with me to my regular gym to practice on my own.

Free Class

I was really happy with the turnout. Eight blog readers and friends came out to give the Warrior Room a try. A few had to cancel last minute due to the nasty flu/bronchitis/cold thing that is going around. So there were 9 of us working out and that turned out to be a great sized class.

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We started with the usual warm-up: 30 jumping jacks, 15 squats, 10 push-ups, repeat. Ashley, the instructor, told each person what color kettle bell to grab for the first lesson and we got started.

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Some of the things that were covered were how to do a proper deadlift and how to do the swing. The swing is the challenging part. I struggled with that when I first started at the Warrior Room. For some reason I couldn’t make my body do the proper hip hinge and snap. It’s a lot harder than it looks! But with practice and correction from Ashley, I am doing so much better! Having the right hinge and snap in the swing is so important because the potential for back injury is there if you don’t. You don’t want to thrust your hips/stomach forward on the swing, it’s more of a snap up.

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We did a little tabata workout next. 4 sets of 20 seconds of high-knees and then we grabbed more kettle bells for the next training part. This time she showed us how to do goblet squats, sumo squats and then some ab work (crunches, double crunches, bicycle crunches). Next was some easier upper body workouts. I think everyone was feeling the burn already! We did overhead press with two kettle bells and then also did the up-right row (which is one of my favorites).

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If you hadn’t noticed, we’re doing the kettle bell workouts bare foot. Why? As a runner, I thought it was very weird the first time I took a kettle bell conditioning class and we went barefoot. I am so used to wanting LOTS OF CUSHION it seemed foreign. But in reality, doing weight lifting and kb workouts in running shoes interferes with the natural movement of the foot and ankle. It also changes the way you step and walk. Going barefoot will improve your posture, form and stability. I noticed a difference right away with squats. Squats were a million times harder barefoot because I was so used to using my shoes as a crutch. Without that crutch I had to focus on staying balanced on the heels of my feet. So much harder than it sounds!

I used to have very weak ankles. So weak that I’d strain and sprain them on a regular basis. What changed that for me was swimming. Becoming a strong swimmer strengthened my ankles and I’ve never had an issue since. Gone are the days where I’d roll my ankle just standing. Instead, my ankles became the rock hard support for my body I needed. Swimming and kettle bell training seem to go hand in hand with strengthening weak parts of my body.

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I truly hope everyone had a good time at the class. I’m sure it was harder than they were expecting and somewhat foreign if they’d never picked up a kettle bell but if I convinced even one person to give it a second try I’ll be happy. I think kettle bell workouts are one of the most efficient fitness I’ve tried thus far. It’s fast-paced and there is no chance you’ll be bored! I promise. And I promise a good sweat and a good calorie burn! The free training class lasted about 45 minutes and I burned 500 calories. Have I convinced you yet? 🙂

Warrior Room Part 2

You can check out the first half of my review here. I was half way through my 8 pack groupon deal. I’ve enjoyed the classes I’d taken thus far. They are a really good workout, thoroughly butt-kicking and the camaraderie is kinda nice.

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Here is the final review:

The Fifth Class – “1/2 Isolation, 1/2 Tabata”

I like this format of class because it’s a little bit of everything. It was a fairly small class, about 6 of us. We alternated with the isolation routines then tabata, then isolation, then tabata and finally abs and cooldown.

For the isolation we worked on this routine:

2 arm kettlebell swing

1 arm kettlebell swing

2 kettlebell swing 

The second round of isolation workouts later in the class were:

Deadlifts with kettlebell

Alternating lunges with 2 kettlebells

Rack squats with 2 kettlebells (see the photo example below)

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Like I said before, the tabata portion of the class is the fast burst of exercise for 20 seconds, balls-to-the-wall, then 10 seconds of rest and REPEAT! An example of a tabata portion:

Mountain climbers

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Complex burpees (see the example below)

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We also did something new to me. I don’t know what the workout was called but we grabbed a plate weight and stood in a wide squat position, kept our core straight and unmoving and then swung it between our legs then up to a neutral arm position. Then we did jumping squats holding the plate weight against our chest. It was hard!

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Even though I’d taken this type of class previously, it was still hard work. My heart rate was really high and I was dripping in sweat! It was a great workout.

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The ab workout at the end was 100 Double Sit-Ups and 100 Bicycle Crunches. Boy do your abs starting BURNING after you do a few! Ouch ouch!

The Sixth Class – “Warrior Workout”

Why did I sign up for this killer class a second time? I don’t know. But I’m glad I did! It was a killer workout! This time we did partner drills. I was paired with a very nice girl who was very understanding that I was slower than most of the people in the class. The first set of drills we had to do was 20 pushups where we high-five each other after each one, then 20 tricep dips and 20 burpees. It was timed. Then the class did a circuit workout.

The first station was wall-sits holding a kettlebell. The second station was using the boxes we normally jump on to do pushups. The third station was the one-armed kettlebell swing. The last station was chest press or clean and press with a kettlebell. I REALLY liked the circuit. You knew that you only had to be at that station for a little while then you got to move on.

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The workout was a good one but a killer, too. I was starting to fizzle out towards the end. The next day I went to yoga class and I am so glad I did. It really felt good to stretch the sore muscles and I found that I was sore in places I never expected to be!

The Seventh Class – “The Seventh Ring Of Hell”

I really planned on taking the Tabata class but it just didn’t seem to work out with my schedule. I hope to give it a try in January. So I took another 1/2 and 1/2 class and was surprised that it wasn’t that class. No it wasn’t the 7th Ring of Hell, but it felt like it. I guess it was “Teacher’s Choice” night because we did something different.

There were just three of us in the class so the instructor gave each of us individual workouts. I worked harder in that class than in any of the others. I had to stop to rest several times. There were a lot of chest presses, overhead press, squats, push-ups and kettlebell swings. But I also got to practice with the Battle Ropes!

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Never heard of battle ropes? Check out this video to get a good idea. The ropes are so much fun and it is a REALLY intense workout. Your heart rate gets really high and you will definitely feel sore the next day.

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If you see battle ropes at your gym, give them a try. I guarantee you’ll have fun!

The Eighth Class – “Fundamentals”

I like the “fundamentals” class because it’s kind of an entry-level type class. It is doable for most people. You don’t have to be advanced, or know a lot about kettlebells in order to get a good workout done.

This particular class it was a lot of squats, squat jumps, chest press, shoulder press, see-saw shoulder press, and pushups. I was dripping in sweat!!

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I’m also really enjoying the progress I’m seeing. I feel stronger, I am stronger, and I’m seeing a physical difference. My triceps are STILL  a trouble area. Maybe it always will be. But my biceps and delts are doing better!

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The instructor, Ashley, made me go up in weight on the kettlebells at this class. I had been using two 15 pound kettlebells for that workout and she said I could do heavier and she was right. I struggled, but I could do most of it. It was a good reminder NOT TO GET STUCK AND COMFORTABLE, otherwise I won’t see progress!