You remember the three bears: Papa, Mama, and Baby Bear. This kettlebell workout is one that the Bear family may have favored in their little cottage in the woods. The light, medium, and heavy weights create an opportunity for a heart-pumping circuit.
The Three Bears format underscores the kettlebell’s versatility. It’s not only a strength-training tool, says Philadelphia-based trainer Jen Sinkler, PCC, RKC-II, but also an underrated piece of cardio equipment.
Training with kettlebells — with lighter weights, higher reps, and little rest — “resembles the cadence of more traditional cardio activities like running, rowing, or cycling,” allowing blood to flow back into the heart in a pattern similar to that of traditional cardio activities, she explains.
This is great news if you have to forgo traditional cardio because of injury. And Sinkler notes that people who train with kettlebells often comment on “how much more easily they get around in their daily life — from hefting dog food, running after the kids, and having faster 5K, marathon, bike race, and triathlon times.” (She advises, however, that “if you want to train as a runner, keep running, too!”)
The following workout uses a range of three weights, each one assigned a certain number of repetitions — the heavier the weight, the lower the number of reps.
You can apply this workout template to the swing, clean, or snatch — popular kettlebell moves that are fast and explosive, making them particularly well suited for working up a sweat, burning fat, or simply trying an alternative conditioning routine.
Light weight: 15 reps
Medium weight: 10 reps
Heavy weight: 5 reps
Choose weights that allow you to perform clean, sharp reps for the number prescribed. Remember, you want to move fast — and keep moving!
Stick with one move for the entire circuit. Make sure to get some practice reps in (and work on form with a trainer) before doing this drill.
Complete as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes, starting with the lightest kettlebell and progressing to the heaviest one. For the single-arm movements, perform the reps on each arm before moving on to the heavier weight. Rest after the heavy set as needed.
This is a fun workout to do with one or more partners: Cycle through the kettlebells and cheer each other on!
- Place a kettlebell on the floor about a foot in front of you, feet about shoulder width apart, both hands gripping the handle, and knees bent in an athletic stance.
- Hike the kettlebell back and up between your legs; your forearms should make contact with your upper thighs.
- When the kettlebell reaches its farthest point back, quickly stand up, using the power of your hips, hamstrings, and glutes to “float” the kettlebell up to about shoulder height. Keep your shoulders pulled back and down, and don’t let the kettlebell pull your chest forward.
- Reverse the movement by pulling the kettlebell down through the same arc, staying upright as long as possible before pushing your hips backward and swinging the kettlebell high between your legs. Keep your chest lifted the entire time — someone across the room should be able to read the writing on your shirt throughout the movement.
- Place the kettlebell on the floor in front of you, feet about shoulder width apart, one hand gripping the handle, and knees bent in an athletic stance.
- Hike the kettlebell up high between your legs, and quickly stand up, using the power of your hips, hamstrings, and glutes to float the kettlebell up.
- As it rises, keep your upper arm tight to your body and rib cage, and bend your elbow to keep the kettlebell close to your body.
- Loosen your grip to rotate your hand so your palm faces inward, allowing the kettlebell to swivel around to the outside of your forearm.
- Quickly rotate your elbow underneath the kettlebell so that your forearm is vertical as the weight comes to rest gently on your wrist and forearm in the racked position.
- Reverse the movement to lower the kettlebell into the bottom of a swing, gripping it again as in the first step as you hike the kettlebell between your legs for another rep.
- To start, place a kettlebell on the floor in front of you, feet about shoulder width apart, one hand gripping the handle, and knees bent in an athletic stance.
- Hike the kettlebell up between your legs and quickly stand up, explosively extending your hips. Use the power of your hips, hamstrings, and glutes to float the kettlebell up, allowing your elbow to bend as the weight rises. All of the power should come from the hips, not from pulling with your arm.
- As the kettlebell continues to rise above your head, extend your arm to punch the kettlebell overhead. If you time the punch correctly, the bell will gently transition to rest against your forearm at the top of the move.
- To reverse the movement, lightly flick the kettlebell forward and pull it down in front of your body, hiking the kettlebell between your legs as if you were doing a swing.
This originally appeared as “The Three Bears Circuit” in the September 2018 print issue of Experience Life.