The Best Exercise You're Not Doing

The Best Exercise You're Not Doing

Those wishing to lose weight permanently face an uphill battle. They decide to reduce caloric intake drastically; the more virtuous may even add some aerobic exercise. At first, it works well enough, but eventually weight loss grinds to a halt. Over time, sustained calorie deficits reduce basal metabolism — the energy your body’s tissues and organs require daily to carry on life functions like breathing, digestion, and muscle contractions. Severe dieting reduces muscle mass, and muscles use lots of energy. Eventually, the unwary dieter ends up thinner, but not leaner, than they were before they began the diet. Worse, that dieter is almost guaranteed to regain the lost weight!

Let’s be realistic!

Do you have to lose muscle while losing weight? Not really, if you go about it the right way. First, you need to be patient and set realistic goals, say one pound of fat loss per week. You will also need to find an exercise, preferably full-body, that will help build muscle while burning large amounts of calories. That exercise would, ideally, be both a cardiovascular and muscular workout. The kettlebell swing may be the answer to your prayers, the best exercise you’re not doing.

The equipment you’ll need:

You will need a kettlebell, which is essentially a metal ball with a thick handle and a flat bottom. The weight you choose is critical. You will need a weight that allows you to generate power, which for most people is about 30% of bodyweight. If you weigh 175 pounds, your kettlebell should weigh around 53 pounds.

You should have competent instruction:

If done properly, the kettlebell swing is inherently safe, but it is deceptively hard to master. Still, a single session of instruction can set you on the path to perfection. Look for professional trainers with kettlebell experience, preferably those who have certification.

The movement:

You can do the kettlebell swing with either one or two hands. You will focus on hinging the hips, and the majority of the power you generate will come from dynamically hinging and unhinging the hips while maintaining a slight, constant knee bend. You should begin as if you intended to hike the kettlebell between your legs; you will feel a considerable tension in your hamstrings and glutes. Hike the kettlebell, and then, keeping your back flat, unhinge the hips and snap them forward. Near the top of the movement, forcefully squeeze your glutes together. 

The power you generate will carry the kettlebell to shoulder height. There is no need to go further. Resist the urge to lift with the arms. The motion is not weightlifting; it’s a swing. Now hinge the hips, letting the kettlebell fall between your legs, and thrust it forward again. Try to do this about 20 times without stopping. That’s one set. Start out with a few sets and build up repetitions over time.

What you will experience:

In only 10 minutes per day, you will see changes in your body composition if you’re eating properly. When you can do 300 swings daily, which may take only 15 minutes, you’ll be well on your way to greater strength, a much leaner body, and excellent cardiovascular health. Your entire posterior chain — calves, hamstrings, glutes, and low back — will be healthier, and your core musculature will be much stronger. Your mobility and posture will improve.

The kettlebell made its first appearance in the annals of history a few centuries ago, but its enduring value lies in reshaping the landscape of modern fitness. It’s time to get into the swing of things.