By: Lisa M. Wolfe
If you look around your health club and discover what appear to be cannonballs with handles placed in a corner, there is no need to walk away in fear: They’re just kettlebells, a venerable resistance exercise tool that has been used for years by Russian athletes and has recently been taken up by actors as well.
Kettlebells are easily incorporated into an exercise program, and their benefits for those with diabetes are high. Exercise helps regulate insulin levels by transporting glucose into the cells to be used as energy. According to The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), when muscles contract during exercise, blood glucose transportation to cells is normal even in those with type 2 diabetes. The ACSM praised the lasting benefits of strength training in their 2010 study, which showed that it lowered blood glucose levels for 24 hours.
If you enjoy strength training benefits but are bored with your current exercise routine, a kettlebell provides an effective workout option. The difference between a dumbbell and kettlebell is in the weight distribution. Dumbbells distribute the weight evenly on both sides of the hand, and the hand is usually placed in a strong position to hold the weight. Kettlebells distribute the weight out in front of the hand, which additionally challenges the muscles due to the increase in arm lever length. When the kettlebell moves around the hand, the muscles are further challenged by the dynamic movement.
For your first kettlebell workout, the suggested weight is 25 to 35 pounds for men and eight to 15 pounds for women. If you are unclear regarding muscle and joint safety when using a kettlebell, seek out a demonstration from a trained professional. Please use caution when beginning this or any other exercise program and talk with your physician to obtain clearance.
The Swing is an exercise designed to increase muscular strength and endurance. The heart rate will rise during this exercise, increasing its calorie-burning benefits.
Stand tall with your feet placed wider than hip-distance apart. Point your knees and toes slightly out to the sides and align your knees over your heels. Place one kettlebell on the floor between your feet. Bend your knees, lower your hips behind you, and pretend to sit into a chair. Keep your back flat and look straight ahead. Grasp the kettlebell with both hands and swing it forcefully between your legs, as if passing a football to a quarterback. Quickly, straighten your legs and swing the kettlebell up as you use your hips to propel the movement. The stopping point is when your arms are extended straight in front of your body. Then, bend your knees into a squat, let the kettlebell swing between your legs, and repeat.
This exercise is for the legs, so if you begin to feel it in your shoulders, concentrate on driving the weight of the bell forward with your hips.
Begin with one minute of the swing and gradually increase your time as your endurance improves. Swings are also performed with a single arm. If you perform this exercise single-handedly, either do 30 seconds on one arm followed by 30 seconds on the other, or switch with each swing. The switching of the hands is done when the arm is extended out in front, not when the kettlebell is behind the body.
The Clean begins the same way as the Swing, but with only one hand. This time, as you forcefully push your hips forward, bring the kettlebell straight up to your shoulder. Try not to think about this as a curling movement. Also, open your hand to maneuver it around the bell instead of letting the bell flip over and hurt your wrist. Begin with 30 seconds on each arm and gradually increase the time.
The Bent Over Row can be done with one or two kettlebells. Place the bell between your feet. Bend your knees slightly and push your behind away from you. Straighten your spine, tighten your stomach, and stick your chest out. Exhale, grab the kettlebell, and pull it in to your stomach. Inhaling slowly, lower the bell without touching it to the floor. Repeat for 30 seconds on each arm.
The Preparation for Turkish Get-up strengthens the stomach, and the arms. Lie on your back and use two hands to place the kettlebell in the right hand. Exhale and straighten the right arm towards the ceiling. Place the left hand out to the side onto the floor. Bend your left knee and lift your upper body off the floor, using the left hand for assistance if needed. Hold at the top, reverse your movements to lower the body back to the floor, and then lower the hand. Repeat for 30 seconds on each side. Sit up on an angle, as opposed to sitting straight up like in a crunch.
Use a kettlebell in place of dumbbells for traditional strength training exercises such as a shoulder press. Stand tall and hold the bell at your shoulder. Allow the bell to rest on the back of your hand, and face your palm forward. Exhale and straighten your arm overhead. Inhale, bend your elbow, and lower the bell to start position. Complete an equal number of repetitions on each shoulder.
Kettlebells may be added to your bodyweight workout routines to increase the intensity of your exercise. For example, perform pushups by placing your kettlebell on the floor and your hand on the handle of the bell. Complete an equal number of pushups with each hand on the bell. To further increase the challenge, at the top of the pushup, lift the kettlebell toward the opposite shoulder as you curl the weight to strengthen your biceps (the front of your upper arm).
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends 48 hours for muscle recovery after resistance exercises, such as kettlebell movements and push-ups, that are designed to strengthen muscle tissue. You damage your muscle tissue whenever you perform strength training. This damage is a natural part of the process involved in making strength gains, but the repair process requires approximately 48 hours.
If you are new to kettlebell workouts, the ACSM recommends two or three alternating days a week for resistance training. As your strength improves, use your kettlebell on a daily basis, but alternate the muscle groups to be strengthened.
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes: American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: Joint Position Statement