All steamed up from kettlebells exercise

PUBLISHED: 12:45 21 November 2012




Somehow every year there is a new fitness craze that becomes accepted by women's magazines as the answer to getting that dream body. Usually it is thanks to a celebrity claiming her six-pack is a product of the new regime.

Kettlebells has had its fair share of celeb endorsements – former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell and Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey do it – but it hasn’t yet basked in the same success of, say, Spinning, Zumba and Boxercise.

Now fitness experts are predicting that 2013 will be the year that kettlebells makes its mark. As a classical training tool of Russian strongmen, it isn’t the obvious choice, especially since many women shy away from using weights.

Instructor Joanne Comer insists it is about toning up and not building up, and says it works the whole body rather than isolating specific muscles.

Ten minutes into the lesson and I understand what she means.

My legs are wobbling, my arms are killing me and I feel I could keel over at any point.

Joanne teaches Kettlercise, a fitness programme using kettlebells that was first developed five years ago and is now taught all over the country.

The kettlebell, my nemesis, is a cast-iron, handled ball weighing from 4kg up to 20kg and more.

For about 40 minutes we don’t stop moving, doing everything from swinging the kettlebell like a pendulum between the legs to punching it into the air.

The basic swinging drill is fairly pleasant, with the momentum taking some of the weight from your arms, but other exercises – like swinging the kettlebell between the legs, bringing it up and stretching your arm into the air – get my heart thumping at an alarming rate.

The kettlebell may be supported by your arms, but the rest of the body is continually moving, with various squats and lunges, and while there is little movement from the spot it is quite surprising how much cardio it involves.

After 20 minutes, I am suffering and embarrassingly I have waves of nausea coming over me and think I may have to dart for it.

Thankfully I just about retain my self-respect and continue, hoping for the minutes to hurry by, and by the end, despite some unwanted body shakes, I really feel that every inch of my body has been well exercised.

It’s the reason why Joanne trained to teach Kettlercise.

“I like it because it does everything. Rather than spending time on one muscle group at the gym you are getting a complete all-over workout. It combines cardio with toning up and the fat just melts off you,” she says.

In the hour-long class, a moderately fit person can burn off as much as 1,000 calories and, if weights scare anyone off, the trick with Kettlercise is it uses low weights and high repetition to tone muscles.

As with any exercise, the results aren’t immediate and the only effect I feel the next day is a manageable-to-severe ache through my legs, but my arms – admittedly feeble and which struggled with the weight – feel surprisingly pain-free.

Give it a few weeks, Joanne says, and your body builds up strength and will noticeably look more toned.

See you there next week, maybe.


Great: If your idea of exercise is relentless, sweaty, iron-pumping routines.

Bad: If your idea of exercise is more about breathing techniques, the downward dog and chanting “ohm”.

Joanne’s Kettlercise class is on Mondays at 8pm at Shears Green Community Hall and Wednesdays at 8pm at the Old Gravesendians Rugby Club. Contact her on or call 07801 881722.

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