Kettlebells are everywhere right now - in hardcore strength gyms, commercial training centers, even WalMart has some. A kettlebell is a cast-iron weight that resembles a cannonball with a handle, and the unique way the weight is distributed allows for many total body exercises.
Total body exercises have been shown to burn the most calories during and after a workout session. Kettlebells are nothing new; in the 1700s, kettlebells were used as counterweights for Russian farm equipment. As Russian farm workers began working with them they realized the possibility as a fitness tool. The kettle bell's popularity spread throughout Russia and, by the 1940s, lifting them would become the country's national sport. Russian power lifters were not the only ones using them, it wasn't long before the Olympic team, military and Special Forces began training with kettlebells. In recent years, various athletes and public personalities have helped spread their popularity along with several different certification bodies including the Russian Kettlebell Challenge, the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation and Strong First.
The metabolic demand of kettlebell training is intense. A study out of the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse Health and Exercise Program tested the kettlebell snatch. The Kettlebell snatch is a total body move the swings the kettlebell overhead. The subjects, men and women between the ages of 29-46 years old, continuously performed kettlebell snatches during a 20-minute period. The study funded by the American Council on Exercise found that, "In terms of calorie burning, these results are equivalent to running a six-minute mile pace, or cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace." The authors went on to state that, "Overall, kettlebells use can produce remarkable results, which is what virtually all fitness enthusiasts look to get from their workouts. Kettlebells not only offer resistance training benefits, they also will ultimately help people burn calories, lose weight, and enhance their functional performance capabilities."
In addition to being good for fat loss and conditioning, the kettlebell swing has been show to increase mood as well. The recent study published in May of 2013 took mostly women from occupations associated with a high levels of muscle pain and discomfort and gave them one exercise; the kettlebell swing. The swing takes the kettlebell between the legs and swings to chest level and then back for repetitions.
After eight weeks of kettlebell swing training, the employees that did the swings saw the results. The authors said, "according to this study, 8 weeks of kettlebell training can improve job satisfaction, socializing with colleagues, and general wellness".
Recommended starting weights for recreational weight lifters beginning kettlebell training are 8kg (18lbs) for women and 16kg (35lbs) for men, although each person will be different.
Consult your doctor prior to starting any exercise program and if you are unsure how to properly perform any exercise, seek the advice of a trained fitness professional.