You may have noticed them lined up in the corner of your gym, or being swung above the heads of the muscular.

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Australian Kettle Ball
Russian twist

You may have even heard them being lauded by celebrities such as Katherine Heigl, Penelope Cruz and Jennifer Lopez. Kettlebells are the latest phenomenon to take the health and fitness world by storm, with trainers and users alike swearing by this form of hand weights. But for the beginner these cannonballs with handles are very intimidating and frankly, rather weird looking.
But don’t let their strange appearance turn you off, as these beauties are a unique fitness tool that can combine cardio and strength training in half the time of a normal workout. Sound amazing? We think so too.
The basics
Kettlebells originated in Russia in the 18th century, where they were the weight of choice for the military and weightlifters alike. Giryas (kettlebells) have been an integral part of Russian fitness culture since that time, making an appearance in the Russian dictionary in 1704 and gaining further recognition as a fantastic weight loss tool in 1913 when featured in the fitness magazine Hercules.
They made their way to the United States thanks to Pavel Tsatsouline, an ex-trainer of both the United States and Russian armed forces. When the United States realised that they could not last as long as their Russian counterparts during competition, they began incorporating kettlebells into their training and have never looked back.
However, it wasn’t until the 21st century that kettlebells found their way to Australia, and due to their limited availability it has only been more recently that they’ve made their way into our gyms and fitness regimes.
The weight itself is shaped like a cast iron teapot without the handle, giving it properties and characteristics previously unseen in workout equipment.
“The kettlebell’s centre of mass is displaced from the handle, meaning that the weight constantly pulls against your hand and requires not only strength and coordination when exercising with it, but also the recruitment of other muscles through your arms, shoulders and trunk,” says Vesna Jugovic from Iron Edge/Australian Kettlebells.
They are available in a variety of sizes, beginning at 4kg and increasing in 4kg increments up to ‘The Bomb’, which weighs in at a whopping 80kg. The weight you choose to use will not only be determined by your strength and fitness level but it will also vary with the exercises you do.
Due to their user-friendly handle, kettlebells can be used to increase the challenge of almost any exercise, as well as having their own unique set of exercises guaranteed to work up a sweat.
Getting started
Kettlebell training requires a different technique to free weights or machines, so it is highly recommended that you begin your training with a qualified kettlebell instructor.
“A certified kettlebell instructor will not only teach you the foundation skills of kettlebell lifting but he or she will also be qualified to cover safety guidelines, breathing patterns and choice of the proper kettlebell weight according to the particular exercise, your size and your skill level,” says founder of Kettlebell Athletica Jad Marinovic.
Most women begin using 8kg kettlebells, while particularly strong women may begin by trying 12kg kettlebells, Marinovic suggests.
Technique is critical when performing kettlebell exercises, and your instructor will help you master the basics before you move on to more advanced exercises.
The main starting position for most kettlebell exercises is the ‘power stance’, and you’ll need to be confident with this before beginning your kettlebell routine.
Begin by placing your feet shoulder-width apart, with your weight over your heels and the kettlebell between your feet.  Maintain neutral spine (the natural s-curve of your spine), contract your pelvic floor and brace your abdominals as you use your hips to make a ‘sitting’ movement, keeping your shins vertical as you lower your behind slightly towards the ground. Hold the kettlebell by the handle with an overhand grip and you’re ready to perform an exercise.
One of the most popular beginner kettlebell exercises is the swing, and with good reason. The swing combines strength and cardio as it targets your back, abs, core, glutes, hamstrings and calves, as well as your upper body. 
From the power stance position swing the kettlebell back between your legs and then forward as you powerfully snap your hips and contract your glutes and quads. Let the kettlebell free-fall back down between your legs, always keeping the kettlebell in line with your arms and keeping your abs and core strong.
The exercises you can perform using kettlebells are myriad, and they can also be incorporated into your traditional exercises. Try using kettlebells as you perform squats, or hold one in each hand for walking lunges. We guarantee that you’ll feel the difference instantly.
The benefits
Their unique design makes kettlebells the ultimate fitness tool, as they provide both resistance and cardio training in a short, intense workout session. In essence, they’re the perfect workout tool for busy women.
In fact, research conducted by the American Council on Exercise revealed that kettlebell training achieved a “higher-intensity workout than standard weight-training routines”, burning at least 20.2 calories a minute. That’s the equivalent to cross-country skiing up hill at a fast pace, or high-intensity running!
Swinging these coloured cannonballs above your head will not only get you puffing and your muscles screaming, but it will also increase your power, endurance, mobility, flexibility, speed and coordination. This translates to a healthier heart, faster metabolism and more calories burnt simply from regular kettlebell training.
“Because they are harder to handle you must use your whole body to control the kettlebell, which will quickly increase your heart rate making you work harder and lose fat faster,” Jugovic says.
The risks
The problem with engaging so many muscles every time you lift a kettlebell is that incorrect technique can potentially spell big problems. It’s therefore absolutely essential to ensure that you have mastered the technique for each exercise before you perform it.
“Kettlebell lifting is a skill so it’s important that you treat every workout as a practice session so that you learn the proper technique first,” Marinovic says.
To minimise the risk of injury always remember to maintain neutral spine during your exercises, as well as keep your abs and core engaged to prevent any strain on your back.
As with all resistance training it’s also crucial to make sure you’re lifting the right weight, so consult with your instructor at the beginning to determine the weight that’s right for you.
Once you’ve perfected your technique with an instructor, Marinovic recommends integrating a general kettlebell workout into your fitness regime two to three times a week, progressing the exercises only when you’re proficient at the basics, which can take time.
The exercises are infinite, so enjoy the variety of your new workout weapon as you watch your body transform by swinging handle-less teapots over your head. The only thing better than your results will be how much fun you have while achieving them!