Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cross Training with Kettle Bells - Choosing Traditional or Contoured

Contoured Kettle Bell by GoFit
Cross Training Indoors
As the weather gets cooler, especially here in the great northeast, I'm looking for ways to augment my cross training exercises with new indoor challenges. This year I've added some serious running in the mix and did the More - Fitness Half Marathon as well as the FlexIt Pink and Women's Health Magazine's Run 10 FEED 10, 10k's this year. Still even with all of the running, I've always made sure to include weight training on my off days. 

My Nordic Track Ultra Lift
Weight Machines VS Free Weights
As Kettle Bells fall into the category of "Free Weights" a weight lifting or Universal Machine constitutes an assisted lift. This means that the machine is doing some of the balancing work for you. The larger muscle groups get a good workout but the smaller tendons and muscle fibers...not so much. This is because just the act of balancing free weights calls into action more delicate attenuation. So which type of weight lifting should you do? I do BOTH. You'll find adding free weights to your weight machine routine to be a major benefit to muscle development. Using a machine is great for maintaining correct form and thus preventing injury but to activate the majority of muscle fibers possible, add free weights.

Free weights = dumb bells and kettle bells.
Kettle Bells - Traditional Round or Contoured?
So once you've settled on adding free weights to your workout, you'll want to look in to getting a kettle bell. Traditional Kettle Bells are very versatile and generally easy to handle. If you are a woman and just starting out, choose between a 15 lb - 18 lb bell. The regular kettle bells are usually constructed or cast as one piece with the handle attached. Some may be coated with vinyl or a rubber casing. Here is an example of a traditional kettle bell with a round "bell".

18 lb or 8 kg traditional or Russian kettle bell.
Conversely, you can now purchase a contoured kettle bell. I brought mine on Amazon. It is a GoFit Contoured & Coated 15 lb kettle bell. Since it is contoured on both sides, you do not need to adjust it to have the concave side against your skin.

So here's the issue. SOME of the kettle bell exercises require that you "rack" or allow the kettle bell to rest on your wrist between exercises. If you look at some trainer's videos, i.e. The Kettle Bell Bombshell, she recommends wearing padded wrist guards. This is because working out with traditional kettle bells can cause significant bruising on your wrists.  While I do use weight lifting gloves when exercising with my contoured kettle bell, I do not need wrist guards/pads and have had no bruising from using it.

This coated and contoured kettle bell is concave on both sides.
Correct Form is Key
The key to kettle bell success is to make sure your form is correct no matter which type you choose. My GoFit Contoured 15 lb Kettle Bell came with instructional videos specific for that bell. My favorite move is the overhead press which requires the bell to be racked in between reps. Using a contoured kettle bell is VERY comfortable and secure. I have small hands so the iron handle isn't comfortable to grip without padded gloves. Even so, I've found the contoured kettle bell to be very easy to work with, especially if you are a beginner. Bruised wrists also are not an option. Who needs that?

So you choose. Just add free weights of various sorts and don't forget to try the newer, more versatile shaped kettle bells. 

6 lb weighted "medicine" ball

To insure optimal muscle development, give yourself rest days and or attack different muscle groups each session. Also be sure to grab some high quality protein after your workout. Right now I'm enjoying this Organic Naked Rice Protein (also available on Amazon), I just received from Naked NutritionEach serving gives you a serious 25 grams of Protein and 4.9 grams of Branched Chain Amino Acids. The flavor is pretty bland so I would recommend mixing in a banana, apple, cranberries or blueberries for a bit of added deliciousness.

Adding fresh fruits and vegetables to my organic protein powders.

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