Get Fit with Marta Montenegro: Got 12 Minutes? Get a Super Effective Workout.

Sounds like a commercial for a gimmicky workout? Actually, it’s the truth when it comes to working out with kettlebells.

Using kettlebells, a popular piece of gym equipment that looks like a cannonball with a handle, is one of the most effective ways to work the entire body, incorporating strength, endurance and power components. Certain exercises can burn more calories than running at 7-minute-mile pace.

Researches from the University of Wisconsin found that kettlebell snatches (an exercise that starts in a squat-like position and goes into an upright row to a shoulder press in a single smooth and powerful move) can burn up to 20 calories per minute.

This is more potent than the elliptical (10 calories per minute), spinning (15 calories per minute), or running at a 7-minute miles pace (18 calories per minute).

In another study participants who did a 12-minute kettlebell swing (the basic kettlebell move) showed a significant metabolic stress that impacted their maximum oxygen consumption as much as any other high-intensity cardiovascular workout.

If you want to work on pure fitness, fire up your metabolism during and after working out in a short period of time, grab a kettlebell and do this workout.

Why Are We Afraid of KB?

The KB are my favorite piece of equipment, but I have to admit that they can be intimidating for some. For others who don’t know how to use them, it can be a ticket to getting injured. Before you do this KB workout, read this:

-- If you’ve never worked out with a KB before, do the same routine with dumbbells until you can master the exercises or do it all with a very low weight KB.

-- The tricky thing about the KB is that the majority of the exercises should be performed as a whole powerful and smooth move. To achieve this, you must use the legs to transfer the energy from the bottom up.

-- The swing is one of the basic exercises. You’ll do well if you understand that when using the KB you’re in a squat position and by using the strength of the lower body you can perform any upper body move. Keep your core engaged at all times. One of the most common mistakes that I’ve seen while doing KB is people flexing at the waist, a move that can be really harmful for your back and shoulders.

-- Be humble and start with a lighter kettlebell than you think you might need. Because of its design and fulcrum point, a 10-pound KB being held at shoulder height weighs more than what it is.

Now, be fearless!

This is a high intensity workout so perform it twice a week on non-consecutive days. I provide two different intensities with the same workout. The first one will be performed in circuit – one exercise after another without rest, just at the end – which will increase the heart rate rapidly.

Due to the intensity of the routine, you’ll finish it faster than the other one, which tackles more volume – more sets and rep – and exhaust some muscles at the same time before moving to the next giant set to hit other muscles.

The exercises:

Part I: Do 1 to 2 full circuits depending on your fitness level. Rest 60 seconds on the end of the circuit.

Swings: 15 reps. Let the kettlebell fall between your legs and thrust your hips to swing the kettlebell out. Do not use you arms to raise the kettlebell.

Squat to overhead extension: 12 reps. Bring two kettlebells behind your head for a triceps extension position. Squat and, as you rise from the squat position, go into the full standing triceps extension in one smooth motion.

Squat passing the KB over: 15 reps. In one a smooth motion, pass the kettlebell from one hand to another in front of you body and go immediately into an even squat with the kettlebell on one side of your body. As you rise from the squat, make a smooth handover to the other side.

Deadlift to bent over row: 10 reps. Using two kettlebells, sit back, leading with your hips, to a deadlift. Immediately stand straight and go right into an full upright row full extension (as pictured). Immediately descend into the next deadlift in a smooth controlled manner.

Plank to row: 10 reps. Also called the Renegade Row, this is great for the core and the back muscles. Do this exercise in a very controlled manner, carefully securing the base of the kettlebell after lifting it. Get into a plank position, back and neck straight.Do a row with one arm, keeping the core tight, and return to the plank position. Do a row with the other arm. That’s one rep.

Bicep curl to lateral flexion: 12 reps. Stand straight with two kettlebells. Descend into a squat. As you rise up do a curl with one arm while holding the arm stable at your side. Do the curl with the alternate arm while bringing your other arm to your side. Return to the first position with both kettlebells are your sides. Repeat.

Split jumps to shoulder press: 12 reps. Start in a standing shoulder press position with two kettlebells. Go into a split jump and rise up and go right into a double shoulder press in a smooth motion. Switch legs on the next split jump and repeat the second part of the move.

Unitateral deadlift to row: 10 reps. Start by standing straight with two kettlebells at your sides. Slowly and in control, bend forward with one leg on the ground, the other going back, with your arms relaxed. Hold your balance on the single leg position and do a double row, pulling both kettlebells upward. Let the kettlebells return to the bottom position and go back to the standing position with both feet on the ground. This one is tough!

Deep front squat to shoulder press: 15 reps. Place both kettlebells in a front squat, or “racked” position. Go into a squat, leading back with the hips, and as you rise up, go into a smooth double overhead press in one motion. Lower the weights to “racked” position and descend into another squat just as smoothly as you came up.

Figure eight: 15 reps. With a single kettlebell, move it in a controlled figure 8 motion between the legs, only raising the hip enough to create a smooth motion.

Part II: Giant sets using the exercises described above. Complete 2 to 3 sets of each exercise. Rest 60 seconds after each set.

Swings, split jumps to shoulder press, squat to overhead extension and deep front squat to shoulder press. (10-12 reps each)

Deadlift to bent over row, unilateral deadlift row, squat passing the KB over, bicep curl to lateral flexion. (12-15 reps each)

Plank to row, figure eight (limit these to two sets and do 12-15 reps)


-- Always check posture by keeping the back straight, core engaged and chest up.

-- Use your legs and your abs at all times for strength and balance.

-- Do a light warm-up and stretch at the end.

-- Make every rep count.

-- In case of you don’t understand something, don’t feel afraid of asking. This is the only way to learn and to take your program to the next level.

Marta Montenegro inspires people to live healthy lives by giving them the tools and strength to find one’s inner athlete through her personal website She created SOBeFiT, a national fitness magazine for men and women, and the Montenegro Method DVD workout series – a program she designed for getting results in just 21 days by exercising 21 minutes a day . Marta is a strength and conditioning coach and serves as an adjunct professor of exercise physiology at Florida International University.