A Tale of Two Cuties

This week’s blog I dedicate to the fairer sex.

In my many years of training and coaching I’ve spent a full 65-75% of my time training women of all ages. From young, nubile teens to 82-year old grandmothers. I’ve trained at least 30 women through full-term pregnancies and trained some of their daughters as they came of age for training, not to mention my three wives, multiple girlfriends, and two daughters.

I can’t say I got along with all of them but one thing I did (and even people who don’t like the Ol’ Coach will tell you this) was produce some amazing results.

One of the most dependable tool in my bag of tricks is the humble kettlebell. This simple ball of iron has helped me sculpt and tone the lard off a lot of fat asses!

I remember one of my high-powered female clients who was especially resistant to trying the kettlebell: she challenged with, “Give me three good reasons why I should do this!”

The Ol’ Coach, not to be thwarted, thought fast on his feet and came up with these three reasons:

  1. The kettlebell gives you significant results in less training time
  2. The kettlebell strengthens every muscle in your body from head-to-toe while burning fat…
  3. and simultaneously improving the cardiovascular system

She said, “Well, then…ok!” Because high-powered, busy people want the biggest bang for the buck. They don’t have time to be messing around. Let’s examine each of the reasons in detail, why kettlebell training is the best value for women per minute of time.

1. Significant results in less training time
Most women gravitate towards long, slow, cardio-endurance training on treadmills and ellipticals. They operate from the mistaken notion that this is the best way to burn off excess body fat. Nothing could be further from the truth! Empirical evidence and the latest scientific findings show over and over again that short-duration, high-intensity exercise is best for stoking the metabolic furnace.

The idea that you can walk or jog off fat with long, slow exercise, simply doesn’t work. The moment a woman stops jogging is the moment she stops burning calories, but with high-intensity training the caloric after-burn leaves the metabolic furnace revved-up long after the exercise session is over, ultimately expending far more calories.

Kettlebells are the ultimate high-intensity training protocol, and the best thing of all, they are so portable, training can take place right in your bedroom or living room, because very little space is required. Because of the intensive nature, the workout duration must be kept short. A woman can perform either a lot of easy, less-intense work, or a smaller volume of very hard work. But the body cannot perform a large volume of hard work. A large volume neither improves fitness parameters, nor is it efficient. The kettlebell, by its very nature, is extremely efficient.

2. Strengthen every muscle in your body from head-to-toe while burning fat
Most women weight train more as an after-thought than a primary element in their workout and if weight training is added at all, it consists of light dumbbells and isolation exercises, producing little in the way of worthwhile results. The major fear is getting big, ie, masculine-looking, muscles and no longer appearing pretty and feminine. We know that this is impossible without a hormonal profile conducive to building mass.

Kettlebell training consists of whole-body movement exercises requiring athleticism and coordination. It’s well-known that compound movements are superior to isolation exercises for improving muscle tone, strength and body composition. (That’s not to say isolation movements don’t have their place, but compound movements are the winning ticket for our purposes here.)

The type of physique kettlebell exercises build is svelte, wiry and lean. Think Sarah Connor in The Terminator, or Madonna…but in a fraction of the time those women spent chiseling out their bodies!

Another advantage of the kettlebell over machines or light dumbbells is the importune muscle-loading and ballistic nature of the bell. This counteracts one of the leading problems with aging in women: decreasing bone-density.

Kettlebells further strengthen the connective tissue, eg, tendons and ligaments, making the joints tougher and less-susceptible to injury.

3. Lifting kettlebells improves the cardiovascular system
Most women who have kids and work (and husbands can be like having an extra kid) simply don’t have the time for a strength program separate from their cardiovascular program. With the kettlebell, you get both in the same package! Not only that, but the heart-strengthening effect of performing high-repetition kettlebell exercises has proven to provide superior heart and lung conditioning than you’d ever get on a treadmill. I’ve already discussed the importance of high-intensity training for fat-burning, but here I’d like to stress that improved heart-lung conditioning doesn’t come from long, slow, cardio workouts. With steady-state cardio, any improvements in fitness parameters happen within the fist couple of months…only to subside. With kettlebell training, because of its intense nature, you get continual fitness improvements, and it’s much easier to gauge these same improvements because as soon as the current load becomes sub-maximal, you jump up to the next weight!

Another key point is the simultaneous loading of both the upper and lower extremities. Most cardio machines involve primarily the lower body (with the exception of rowing and certain elliptical machines.) Even when the machines DO add an upper-body endurance component, it’s generally through a pitiful range of motion. The kettlebell puts the arms and shoulder girdle through a very wide range of movement possibilities, much of it being vertical, placing tremendous stress on the cardio system, thus offering considerable benefit. This saves the busy woman a huge amount of time in her day, because all of her health and aesthetic concerns are wrapped up into a single, kick-ass-and-take-names workout done 2-3 times per week. What more could a busy, modern woman ask for?

Two perfect examples of what kettlebell training can do for women are two of my favorite clients, Teresa and Jane. Both women are over forty but look like teen models when training time comes around! Check out the beautiful contours and curvaceous, feminine physiques, while sporting that enviable, lean, G.I. Jane look.

I’ve produced these same results in hundreds of women. The proof is in the pudding, my friends! I stand by my work. I don’t know about you, but I prefer my women with balls of steel!

In Strength & Health,


P.S. The Portland MaxBells Kettlebell Instructor certification is sold out but there is still space in the Kettlebell Basics Workshop Saturday 8 November. The workshop is from 1-5PM. Contact Nathan Jeffers: natetina@mac.com or phone: 503-243-5644

Please join us! I’d love to meet you.

Q: I have very good friend who was in a bad accident a few years ago. His hip was broken to pieces and had to get bolted together, and his arm was dislocated and the front muscle’s torn. He can’t even throw a stone without extreme pain. We wanted some advice on whether or not it would be a good idea to introduce him to kettlebells or is the hip movement to much for that kind of injury?

A: Several of the leading back pain specialists are now using the kettlebell swing as a rehabilitation tool. The swing is a very safe exercise because the back muscles themselves–and the spine–stay in perfect alignment throughout the exercise, through static contraction
of the spinal muscles. The KB is actually propelled by loading the hamstrings and the glutes. many former back patients claim the swing makes their backs feel great.
(One word of caution: the back must be flat, not rounded.)

Many people who’ve experienced back pain from injuries become frightened when they feel muscular fatigue in the low back and sacral region. They equate all back discomfort, including the discomfort of exercise, with injury. Like all muscles, the muscles of the low back will burn, ache and even get a “pump” with blood, just like the biceps and thighs.
People need to learn to recognize the difference between injury pain and exercise pain, especially those who’ve been injured in the past.

As far as your friend’s hip goes, there’s only minimal bending of the hip and leg and no arm involvement at all in the execution of a kettlebell swing. So the KB swing is ideal for knee and hip patients. The hamstring and hip muscles will get a nice overload without any damage or injury.