Most kettlebell workout routines are appropriate for everyone. Should women practice with kettlebells differently than men?
The basic principles of Hard Style Kettlebell Lifting are of course the same for both sexes – power breathing, whole body bracing, focus on acceleration in quick lifts and full body tension in slow lifts, bare feet, perfect technique …
That said, here are the top 5 exercises with kettlebells that my women clients choose to practice “a little extra”. Please bear in body and mind that these are still whole body functional movement exercises. Although they may target (work, strengthen) some strategically important parts of the female physique, there is no isolating of muscle groups or body parts, no “working the legs”, no “working the butt” or just the abs. Instead, think of it as strengthening / cultivating the whole you, practicing for perfect movement and function, utilizing exercises that happen to also have desired effects on the glutes, thighs, belly, and any other body part of your choice.
Most women tend to be more coordinated and have more grace in motion. Lovely. They also possess more natural flexibility, their joints tend to be loser than men’s, which will require more stabilizing effort. Actively bracing all joints with muscular tension during practice will provide protection and overall greater joint health and muscular balance, thus preventing the dangers associated with hypermobility (double-jointedness). Be safe and prevent injury, brace yourselves!
Kettlebells for Women # 1: Kettlebell Swings
Start with perfecting the 2-arm swing, the most basic and foundational exercise with kettlebells. High repetition swings in many sets will rob you of fat, offer you the best cardiovascular conditioning you have ever been in, charge you up with energy, make you walk tall and strong.
Other Kettlebell Swings to explore after mastering the 2-arm swing, for variety or additional challenge would be 1-arm swings, alternating swings, cleans, high pulls, and finally the Kettlebell Snatch, as Pavel Tsatsouline puts it – the czar of Kettlebell Swings. All these of course deserve a separate article and discussion, so more on this topic later.
Kettlebells for Women # 2: Turkish Get-up
Develop slow (sustained) strength while perfecting the art of effortlessly getting up and down. This is probably the most valuable exercise I know of from the point of view of creating symmetry and neuro-muscular communication (re-education) from head to toe.
Focus on grace in motion (not numbers of repetitions or weight) and go for 5 minutes of alternating TGUs (switching sides every rep), and expect your waist to pull in, your obliques more defined and your whole body toned and ready to go. Being able to move smoothly, with power, under load will also do wonders for hip, spine and shoulder mobility and stability.
Kettlebells for Women #3: Goblet Squat
The goblet squat will work strongly your hip and thigh muscles, and finally it’ll become clear what “lifting with your legs” actually means. Very practical, real life motion, I enjoy combining the squat with a Push Press for a full body extension at the top, to strengthen and condition the shoulder girdles as well. Think lifting a suitcase onto the luggage rack. Again, as with all “grinds” (slow strength), perform up to five repetitions for 3 – 5 sets or until you notice your technique becoming less than perfect.
Kettlebells for Women #4: One Legged Deadlift
The one legged deadlift will test your core strength and stability, develop super strong legs and abs, and reshape your butt. (It’ll push it up). 3 – 5 sets, up to 5 repetitions, single or double Kettlebells, you will feel this one, please be safe and progress slowly.
Kettlebells for Women #5: Reverse Lunges
Somewhat advanced but well worth the effort, will wake up your glutes like nothing else, while making your thigh muscles very very hot. Maintaining balance on one leg, under load, in motion is not a simple task. Add the handing over of the kettlebell behind the front leg from one hand to the other and come up to upright stance – makes me feel the burn just writing about it….
Definitely work your way up to this one with just bodyweight and a light kettlebell, maybe a softball even, to practice the coordination part of this drill and create a sound, safe groove to move within.