For a great workout, get a grip on kettlebells

Gaining that extra edge in any competitive sport takes dedication and knowledge.

Understanding how the body functions and how to best achieve your desired fitness level isn’t always easy. For Travis Wiuff, a mixed martial arts fighter and personal trainer, being open minded to trying new ideas in training techniques has been very successful.

Having a regular training regimen dedicated to his sport keeps him strong and healthy, but taking fitness to the next level for him meant implementing kettlebells into his workouts. "The main reason I started using kettlebells is to work on explosiveness and quickness that I wasn’t getting from a regular workout. Feeling strong in the weight room didn’t transfer over to feeling strong in competition," he said.

Kettlebell workouts help develop more strength, endurance, agility and balance — all important aspects for his fighting and overall fitness.  Russian kettlebells are traditional cast iron weights that look like a cannonball with a handle which are used in controlled swinging motions. This type of workout challenges both muscular and cardiovascular system with dynamic, total body movements. 

It’s completely different than lifting regular weights because the power comes from movement in the legs and hips, whereas traditional strength training involves as little momentum as possible.


An entire kettlebell workout can be completed with one or two weight sizes, which is a great option for home workouts.  For an average male that is used to working out, a 35-pound kettlebell is a good beginning weight. Most men eventually progress to a 50-pounder. 

The average woman should start with an 18-20 pounder, and perhaps advance to the 35-pounder.  An example workout may include the following, resting one minute between each set, keeping the form tight:

• One arm swings: 4-5 sets of 5 (5 right and 5 left).

• Squats: 2-3 sets of five.

• Overhead military press: 2-3 sets of 3-4 on each side.

• Windmills: 2-3 sets of 3 on each side.

• Cleans: 2-3 sets of 3-4 on each side.

Start out learning the first two exercises and introduce a new exercise every week. Try to lift four-five times a week for 10-30 minutes to keep your muscles and nervous system developing. Be conservative in your number of repetitions and pay attention to your joints, especially your elbows. Back off if they begin to hurt.


Having control of the swinging motion is important to avoid injury, such as dropping the weight against the thigh or overextending a joint.  Many resources are available on the internet to teach proper technique.

An advanced beginner or intermediate is best trained with a high number of sets and low reps to better focus on proper form, which is important to avoid injury. Short recovery periods will give more cardiovascular benefits and replicate the body’s energy systems that are demanded in some sports, including martial arts, football and racket sports.

Whether you are a beginner or have been dedicated to regular workouts for some time, you can reap the numerous benefits by implementing kettlebells as a new workout tool. Just remember to listen to your body, start light and gradually work your way up to heavier weights. There are many ways to incorporate this training into your regular workout schedule, and as you become more advanced, you will challenge yourself with more moves and heavier weights.

If you are interested in burning fat, building muscle, or increasing strength and stamina, then kettlebell training is a fit for you. To contact Wiuff regarding kettlebell training, see

Shelly Greenfield is an athletic trainer and writer in Rochester. Fitness Matters features the fitness stories of area residents. To offer a story, e-mail

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