This two-time Ms. Bikini Olympia and two-time Bikini International champion opens up to Oxygen.
I wish women in the fitness industry didn’t think they have to look perfect. It seems like they are never really satisfied with the way they look, which is a shame. It is important to enjoy the process of getting fit and making sure you do it in a healthy way.
What’s your favorite bodypart to train?
“My favorite bodypartto train is my glutes, and my favorite exercise is glute kickbacks. In fact, I always bring a Schiek ankle strap with me when I travel so I can do this move in any hotel gym.”
What is your dream vacation?
“Though I have traveledmany places as a pro, my dream vacation would be Italy. The people seem to be very warm and friendly — and of course, the food is amazing!”
Is there anything in life you wish to re-do?
“If there was one mistakeI could go back and correct in my life, it would be to learn English before moving to the U.S. from Brazil. It would have made things a lot easier.”
To what do you owe your success?
“In order to be successful,you have to employ mental strategies along with the physical work. I visualize achieving my goals every day as if they were really happening. I even feel the chills of the moment of winning when I see it in my mind.”
Who is your fitness inspiration?
“My inspirationwhen I started in fitness wasn’t a woman — it was Arnold Schwarzenegger. He came from another country and used bodybuilding to become a legend. He is an example that it doesn’t matter where you come from — that everything is possible when you’re willing to work hard for your goals.”
How would you describe your family?
“We are a fit family. My husband Marco works out, as well, and is a black-belt jiu-jitsu instructor. He definitely lifts more than I do! But I do love to lift heavy, and I always use a Schiek lifting belt to protect my back.”
Use these strategies to kick the calorie-counting habit once and for all.
When it comes to trimming down, counting your calories used to be the go-to plan. Thankfully, a new era of research has been steadily pounding nails into this antiquated calorie-counting coffin. Case in point: A study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods while eating more whole foods without worrying about counting calories or limiting portion sizes lost significant amounts of weight over the course of a year. And a New England Journal of Medicine investigation showed that people whose diets included more servings of junk food, potato-sweetened drinks and red/processed meats gained weight during four-year intervals while those who ate more vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and yogurt were protected from creeping weight gain — regardless of calorie intake.
This is not to say that calories don’t matter in the battle of the bulge; they do. But those 100 calories from bologna are not the same as 100 calories from broccoli, and the number of calories in a food absolutely does not indicate its healthfulness. “People would be better served by shifting their priorities away from counting calories and toward improving diet quality and eating habits,” says Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim: 30 Days to Permanent Weight Loss One Portion at a Time (Center Street, 2019). “Not only can calorie counting be tedious and inaccurate, it doesn’t give the full picture.”
Dump those tired calorie-counting apps and instead use these body-benefiting metrics to get your fit on.
1. Focus on Fiber
Your Goal: 25-plus grams per day
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that simply focusing on eating a higher-fiber diet is just as effective for weight loss as following a set diet plan. “Fiber is found in foods that are relatively low in calories,” Young says. “It also fills you up, so it’s a weight-loss win-win.”
More reason to rough it: An investigation in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consuming more fiber improves your microbiome — for example, the levels of beneficial bacteria in your gut — and a robust microbiome has been linked to everything from better digestion to improved mental health. Yet despite these results, dietary surveys show that more than 90 percent of American adults don’t get enough daily fiber.
If you’re among the fiber-fraught, look into some legumes: Just 1 cup of beans offers 15 grams of fiber, which brings you more than halfway toward your daily goal of 25 grams. Other fiber-friendly foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
2. The Chew
Your Goal: 20 to 30 percent fewer bites
It sounds too simple to be legit, but a Brigham Young University study found that people who counted their daily food bites and sips of non-water liquid and then committed to taking 20 to 30 percent fewer food bites and sips were successful at shedding several pounds over the course of a month — without making any other changes to their diet or exercise routine. “Counting bites slows down your food intake, which helps you eat more mindfully and better notice your body’s satiety signals,” Young notes. In other words, you’re less likely to eat and drink more than you actually need if you monitor how often you bring fork to mouth.
Want to try it? Simply count the number of bites of food or gulps of liquid other than water you take over the period of a week. Take the average and reduce that number by 20 to 30 percent per day to hit your goal. For example, if you average 120 bites/sips a day, you’d reduce that to 100 bites/sips daily.
3. Pumped-Up Protein
Your Goal: 20 to 30 grams per meal
The recommended amount of protein for active women is roughly 1.5 grams for every kilogram of bodyweight to support the repair and creation of muscles while keeping your appetite in check. The latest science also indicates that when you eat it is as important as how much you eat: Instead of consuming your daily protein quota at a single meal, distribute it more evenly throughout the day. A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that muscle protein synthesis increased when people consumed 30 grams of protein in a meal (about 5 ounces of chicken breast) and that taking in more than that didn’t bring about bigger gains. Remember that additional calories of any kind — protein, fat or carbs — will be stored as body fat.
To cover the spread, look over your weekly meal plan and include a protein with each and every meal and snack. Chicken, fish, Greek yogurt, legumes and eggs are all great options.
4. Don’t Dine Out
Your Goal: 3 or fewer meals per away from home per week
An American Journal of Preventive Medicine study found that adults who ate out more frequently consumed less nutritious diets and had higher food expenses, and a Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics study showed that women who ate lunch out at least once a week lost an average of 5 fewer pounds over the course of a year than those who brown-bagged it more often. Furthermore, women who consume lots of fast food may be more likely to experience infertility than women who rarely, if ever, eat fast-food meals, suggest researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia.
“While it’s hard to eat healthy if you’re always eating out, it’s also difficult to eat poorly if you’re cooking for yourself using mostly whole-food ingredients,” Young explains.
To reduce your weekly dining-out habit, plan a week’s worth of healthy meals and snacks, and then carve out some time to batch-cook your fare. Takeout is way less tempting when you’ve got a tasty homemade meal to nosh.
5. Volumize Your Vegetables
Your Goal: 3 cups daily
Most nutrition maxims come and go, but the push to eat more veggies will never wane. Beyond reducing the risk for nearly every disease under the sun, a large review of studies published in the journal Nutrients showed that women who eat more daily servings of vegetables tend to have slimmer waistlines and do a better job at staving off weight creep.
“When you eat more veggies, it tends to crowd out other higher-calorie foods in your diet to help with weight management,” says Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, author of Essential Sports Nutrition: A Guide to Optimal Performance for Every Active Person (Rockridge Press, 2018). “And their added fiber will slow down digestion, which promotes satiety to help put the brakes on overeating.” Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 in 10 Americans are eating the daily recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables.
Infuse all your meals and snacks with veggies to ensure you hit your optimal intake: Add shredded carrots to your morning oatmeal, dig into a big green salad for lunch and toss around a veggie-laden stir-fry for dinner. Frozen vegetables are a convenient and budget-friendly way to work more into everything from soups to smoothies.
6. Slash Added Sugar
Your Goal: Less than 40 grams (10 teaspoons) daily
Studies show that people who eat too much added sugar (extra sweet stuff added in as opposed to that naturally present) face an increased risk for conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease — not to mention unwanted belly flab — and those sugar spikes and crashes can leave you feeling haggard. “There’s a very different reaction in the body when foods with naturally occurring sugar are consumed like fruit and dairy as compared to foods such as cookies that are heavily processed with added sugar,” Sumbal says.
Chances are you’re overloading on sugar without even knowing it; various sugar aliases are pumped into nearly everything, from ketchup to salad dressing to almond butter. And so-called “natural sugars” such as added honey and coconut sugar do not get a free pass: They too count toward your daily added sugar allotment.
Thankfully, a new nutrition label calls out the grams of added sugar, making it way easier to keep tabs on your intake of the sweet stuff. Limit your intake to less than 6 to 12 teaspoons (24 to 48 grams) per day. Swap out products that list higher amounts of added sugar like flavored yogurt and granola with low- to no-sugar-added alternatives, such as plain yogurt and unsweetened muesli.
7. Beware of the Booze
Your Goal:Fewer than 3 drinks per week
The research against alcohol is bulletproof: A 2018 study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing found that people who abstained from alcohol were more successful at dropping pounds during a four-year lifestyle intervention program. And a report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that women who drink heavily when they’re younger have a higher risk of becoming overweight as they age. What’s more, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that consuming one to two alcoholic drinks more than three times a week raises the risk for dying earlier — especially from cancer — by about 20 percent because alcohol is broken down in the body into the carcinogenic compound acetaldehyde.
“When you drink, the liver is forced to metabolize the alcohol instead of fat, which may increase fat accumulation around the midsection,” Sumbal says. She adds that people often overlook the calories in booze (and sweet mixers), which can really add up over the course of a week. Factor in the lowered inhibitions when you get your buzz on, which make you more likely to mindlessly munch, and you could be in deep doo-doo.
You don’t have to totally swear off cheering in the weekend with your gal pals, but be smarter about imbibing: Trim a drink or two from your weekly routine, pour yourself smaller servings, and order cocktails made with soda water and wedges of whole fruit.
Once working mom Sarah Grant made herself a priority, she lost 57 pounds.
Sarah Grantgrew up poor, but once she got her first job, she quickly discovered the joys of a disposable income — and decadent food. Grant became a fine-dining foodie who reveled in eating for pleasure and didn’t really notice that a few extra pounds had begun to stick. But once she had kids, she also stopped being active and the weight became an issue. “Unfortunately, exercise is one of the self-care things moms tend to take off the schedule when life is busy and we prioritize other things,” she says.
In 2005, Grant had a lot of changes in her life: She went back to work full time, her son was diagnosed with high-functioning autism and her daughter was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. “Food was my coping mechanism for the grief and guilt you go through as a parent when your child received a tough medical diagnosis,” Grant says. And though her coping mechanism meant continual weight gain, Grant still did not see her health as being important. “I felt like it would be selfish or vain to prioritize myself when I had a family and a career that needed attention,” she says.
Shedding the Guilt
A few years later, a friend got into strength training and Grant saw a transformation in her that was inspiring. She sat down with her friend and learned about macronutrients, energy expenditure and basic strength-training splits. Because she was not confident enough to join a gym, Grant bought her own barbells, weights and equipment and built a home gym in her garage. She started with very basic lifting and began eating a well-balanced, whole-food diet of lean protein, healthy carbs and healthy fats.
Slowly but surely, Grant whittled away at the layers of stress and grief, and a little over a year later, she emerged 57 pounds lighter. “A whole new world of possibilities opened up at that point,” she says. “I got down to 118 pounds and went from over 40 percent body fat to around 20 percent.”
Though she didn’t think it would, Grant discovered that taking care of herself by getting healthy and fit has been one of the best things she’s done for her family. These days, she trains six days a week and is still working on adding lean muscle to her frame.
However, muscle isn’t the only thing she has gained from her experience. “One of the really remarkable things about the strength-training community is the sense of family and friendship,” she says. “Everyone welcomes you with open arms, and it’s very special in today’s world to see that kind of connection and community. My lifting family is by far one of the best ‘gains’ to come out of this experience.”
Sarah Grant/Jupiter, Florida Age: 42 Old weight: 175+ lb Current weight: 118 lb Occupation: Chief financial officer
Get started with what you can do right now. Make a commitment to yourself that no matter how long it takes, you will get up every day and work toward your goal.
There are no shortcuts, no quick fixes, no easy answers to weight loss. You simply have to make it happen every single day — especially on the days you don’t feel like it.
Having the support of others is crucial. I would not have been able to weather the tough days without the support of the amazing women I have met in my journey. They gave me a place to cry, celebrate, and share the ups and downs of this process.
Judoka Nicole Stout ignored her father’s directive and followed her martial arts dreams — to the benefit of the world.
Growing upin a household of athletes, it was only natural that Nicole Stout began competing in sports by the age of 3. While her father and brother practiced judo under Olympian Patrick Burris, Stout chose to focus on gymnastics and ballet. By age 12, she was competing as a rhythmic gymnast on an international level. However, she quickly burned out.
“Between being bullied by my teammates and struggling with the negative body image ideals my coaches forced upon me, I knew I had to quit,” Stout says. “I’d always wanted to make an Olympic team, so quitting was very hard for me.”
Burris suggested she try her hand at judo, and against her father’s wishes, Stout accepted the challenge. Her father was concerned for his little girl’s safety in such a physical sport, but proving to him that she could be just as good as her brother became Stout’s driving force.
After working hard for a year to build her judo essentials, including strength, flexibility, balance, power, endurance, speed and agility, Stout finally won her first match and was hooked. She did sustain a couple of potentially career-ending injuries on the mat, including a broken foot and a torn ACL, which she incurred during the Judo National Championships, but Stout pushed on. She trained under some of the biggest names in the sport, including Japanese national champion Shinjiro Sasaki and four-time Olympian Jason Morris, and she earned her way onto various championship teams around the world. Currently, she’s a 2020 and 2024 USA Judo Olympic hopeful.
Fueling Her Fire
Stout practices judo twice a day, hits the weights daily and squeezes in twice-weekly cardio sessions — a grueling schedule that relies on proper nutrition and supplementation. “I eat a lot of fish such as salmon and tuna because they have so much protein and fantastic vitamins,” she says. The CarnoSyn-sponsored athlete also makes sure to include a carb and a vegetable to ensure a complete meal.
Stout is no stranger to pursuing goals and drawing inspiration from successful people in her inner circle — her parents hold multiple doctorates, and she works closely with Olympians on a daily basis — and has big goals for her future.
“This is going to be my most ambitious year yet,” says Stout, who is currently pursuing a degree in computer science at Harvard. “I’m competing every month and attempting to qualify for the World University Games, where I would represent Harvard and the United States in a tournament second only to the Olympics.”
Where does her father stand on her decision now? “He is proud that I am a fighter like he is,” Stout says. “He is excited to see what I will accomplish as I continue on my judo journey.”
All you need is a single Valslide and your own bodyweight to do this core-intensive workout.
Think you’ve got core chops?Before you brag about your planking prowess, try this workout that uses only a Valslide and your bodyweight.
“A Valslide helps you focus on control, core stability and range of motion, and it allows you to gain strength while lengthening your muscles,” says Erin Gales, ACE-CPT, who designed this workout. “And since all these moves are bodyweight-based, you’ll also fire up your stabilizing muscles to build strength and endurance.”
Complete these five moves in a circuit and challenge yourself to rest as little as possible in between. (It’s harder than you think!) Do a total of three rounds and rest 30 seconds between rounds, if needed.
Get onto all fours with your knees under your hips and your hands underneath your shoulders, back straight, head neutral. Place your left toes on top of the Valslide and turn your right toes underneath, then pick your knees up off the floor a few inches so your shins are parallel to the floor, back straight, head neutral. From here, lift your right hand and open your chest to the right side as you slide your left toes along the floor underneath your body and extend your left leg completely out to the front. Slide your foot back to the start and replace your hand. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Trainer’s Tip: As you return to the start, make sure your hips stay low so your knees and legs return to the proper position.
Get into plank with your hands underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels aligned. Place your toes of both feet on the Valslide, legs together. Keep your arms straight and your core braced as you lift your hips toward the ceiling and pull your feet underneath you until your body makes an upside-down V. Pause briefly and then return to the start slowly and with control.
Trainer’s Tip: Make sure your head and neck stay aligned: As you reach the pike position, allow your gaze to come through your arms. As you return to plank, return your focus on the floor just in front of your hands.
No Valslide? No problem: Use a small hand towel on wood or ceramic floors, or a paper plate on carpet for the same effect.
Get into plank with your hands underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels aligned. Place your toes of both feet on the Valslide, legs together. Maintain this body position as you walk forward with your hands and pull your feet behind you.
Trainer’s Tip: Brace your core to prevent your body from swaying side to side as you pull with your arms.
These moves not only train your core 360 degrees around, but they also hit your shoulders, chest, triceps, upper back, glutes and even your inner thighs.
Alternating One-Arm Push-Out
Get into a push-up position on your knees with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees, hips and head aligned. Place the heel of your left hand on the Valslide, and as you bend your rigth elbow, slide your left hand out in front of you, arm straight. Extend your right arm and press yourself back to the start as you slide your left hand back underneath you. Continue, alternating sides.
Trainer’s Tip: As you pull your hand back underneath you, press down with it into the floor to accentuate the muscle contraction.
Get into plank with both feet on the Valslide, hands underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels aligned. Keep your upper body in place as you bend your knees and slide your feet underneath you and to the outside of your right hand. Return to the start. Repeat on the other side to complete one rep.
Trainer’s Tip: The goal here is not speed but control. Make each phase smooth and fluid, not bouncy.
You could actually improve your overall health (and shrink your waistline) just by changing when you eat. Read on to learn about the research so groundbreaking that it won the Nobel Prize.
Midnight snacks, second breakfasts, late-night bites, midmorning nosh. As a culture, we eat around the clock, incorporating food into social gatherings, work hours and even downtime.
Case in point: One study conducted by the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, asked participants to use a mobile app to track everything they ingested over the course of a day. More than half the participants reported eating for a span of 15 hours or longer — almost from the time they woke up until when they turned in for the night.
But is all-day dining a problem? If you stick to healthy, whole foods and keep an eye on your overall caloric intake, is there really any difference between eating three squares before 7 p.m. and nibbling on a dozen mini-meals right up to bedtime? As it turns out, when you eat is just as important as what you eat. Thought the explanation is hundreds of thousands of years old, scientists are just beginning to understand it, thanks to recent research on circadian rhythms and the body’s internal clock.
The Body Clock
The phenomenon known as the circadian rhythm is based on the rotation of the earth. As part of our species’ evolution, our bodies have adapted to daylight and nighttime, regulating certain biological functions accordingly — sleep, metabolism and hormone production, to name a few. In 2017, three American scientists won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery that all multicellular organisms — humans included — have so-called “clock” genes that dictate wake and sleep patterns. They found that these genes still continue to function even when the organism (a fruit fly, in this case) was kept in complete darkness, proving that our internal clock doesn’t just react to light and day — it actually keeps time along with it. And that internal timekeeper is very picky about when we should and should not be eating.
Timing Is Everything
Pamela M. Peeke, M.D., MPH, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction (Rodale, 2012), explains that our natural eating patterns are part of our “primal software.” Cave women, she reasons, ate early in the day when they woke up hungry, and food was readily available and easiest to procure. Nighttime was for sleeping and hiding from predators.
Even though we no longer have to worry about T. rex and modern refrigeration keeps our favorite eats within arm’s reach 24/7, we’re better off sticking to our ancestors’ more restricted feeding schedule for a variety of reasons.
First, certain times of day are more conducive to processing certain macronutrients — aka carbohydrates, proteins and fats. While healthy fats like avocado, nuts and olive oil can be eaten throughout the day, Peeke suggests consuming the majority of your carbohydrates (bread, grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, etc.) in the morning and early afternoon. “Up until about 3 p.m., you’ve got different insulin secretion and therefore have a more optimal glucose-burning engine going at that time,” Peeke explains. “It becomes less and less efficient after 3 p.m.” Lunch should be your biggest meal of the day, and for dinner, your focus should be on lean protein, healthy fat and lighter, water-based carbs like broccoli and green beans.
Second, your body requires periods of nonfeeding to perform a host of reparative functions. Satchin Panda, Ph.D., a professor at the Salk Institute and author of The Circadian Code (Rodale, 2018), explains that about six to eight hours after your last meal, your body switches from burning available sugar and glycogen stores to burning fat. Besides producing ketones, which have been shown to improve brain function, this fat-burning phase runs parallel with an important detoxifying process called autophagy. “The body will go around and see whether there’s any recyclable material available and recycle it,” Panda explains. By sweeping up damaged proteins and organelles (structures within a cell), autophagy helps counteract disease and aging.
Your gut (specifically your gut lining and microbiome) also requires a break from digestion, since it works all day breaking food into fuel. According to Panda, the gut generates a new lining every 10 to 15 days: Every night your body removes 7 to 10 percent of the old cells and replaces them with new cells. “You cannot repair a road when the traffic is still moving,” Panda says. “That’s why you cannot repair gut lining properly if you just ate and went to sleep.”
Graze No More
So how long should you refrain from eating in order to get the optimum benefits? Research suggests at least 12 to 14 hours. The same study that revealed our propensity for all-day grazing eventually introduced its participants to “eating windows.” Those who typically ate over the course of 14 hours or longer were asked to restrict their eating to between 10 and 12 hours. They were allowed to choose their own time frame and were not required to alter their caloric intake or change the quality of their food. After 16 weeks, participants reported multiple benefits and expressed an interest in continuing with time-restricted eating. According to Panda, who co-wrote the study, participants experienced higher energy levels and deeper sleep.
“Deep sleep is very important because only [then] do we produce growth hormone, and that repairs our gut lining, our skin and some muscle,” he says. Participants also lost an average of 7.2 pounds, most of which they kept off for one year after the study.
Of course, one could argue that by limiting the number of hours during which you can eat, you may naturally cut calories (and dodge less-than-nutritious late-night temptations). However, another study conducted by Panda and his team compared the health outcomes of two groups of mice — one with unrestricted access to food and another with access to the same exact amount of calories but only over the course of 10 hours. Even though they consumed the same diet, the mice with free rein became obese and developed metabolic diseases while the mice who ate within a 10-hour window remained healthy.
The take-away? Even a diet filled exclusively with nutritious foods can work against your health and fitness goals if it’s not timed properly. Mind your body’s clock, feed it properly and you’ll soon be in sync.
Restriction ≠ Deprivation
In practice, eating according to your circadian rhythm isn’t particularly difficult. With a little extra planning and few adjustments to your current schedule, you can reap the benefits of time-restricted eating without feeling deprived. Here are a few basic guidelines to get you started.
Plan your macronutrients accordingly. Consume the majority of your carbs before 3 p.m. when your body most efficiently burns glucose. In the late afternoon and early evening, focus on protein, cruciferous, and leafy vegetables and healthy fats.
Take note of the time when you take your first bite of the day (yes, coffee with milk and/or sweetener counts), then time your last meal so you finish eating 12 hours or less later. For example, if you grab a breakfast wrap at 7 a.m., finish eating dinner by 7 p.m.
If you eat your last meal a bit later than you’d like, Pamela M. Peeke suggests delaying your breakfast the following morning to allow for an adequate nonfeeding period. While you don’t always have control over dinner (no one’s suggesting you force the early-bird special on all your friends), you usually have the final say on when you eat breakfast.
Put down the dumbbells and grab their cannonball-like cousins for your next compound-movement workout.
If you’ve spent some time in the gym, you’ve no doubt seen (and probably participated in) a few basic kettlebell exercises — the conventional swing, single-leg deadlifts and maybe a farmer’s walk. But kettlebells offer so much more versatility in your workouts than just these moves and plenty of other benefits, as well, including:
Nonstop movement. When it comes to conditioning workouts, the anatomy of a kettlebell allows for a variety of hand transitions. Since you don’t have to pause and reset your weights, this allows you to do nonstop circuits and keep your heart rate up. Since there’s no real uncomfortable position to put the bells in, you can keep them in the rack position or overhead so that you can always keep moving.
Stability builder. For strength workouts, kettlebells build strength from an angle you won’t get using a balanced tool. Their offset center of gravity pulls you in a different direction, which adds variety to your movement pattern and forces your muscles to fire differently. Your goal is to create stability with a tool that’s trying to pull you in different directions.
Power and strength. Believe it or not, most people don’t know how to use their entire body to do exercises — they are used to singular exercises that don’t move from one position to another position. In contrast, a full-body kettlebell workout provides the most bang for your buck when it comes to building strength quickly because you can incorporate ballistic (explosive) work with cardio.
When we work with clients who are new to kettlebells, they typically start the session feeling a bit intimidated and with quite a few “how-to” questions on their minds. Here are our answers to the most common questions we hear:
How Do I Grip a Kettlebell?
Hold a kettlebell as if you’re holding a bird — not so tight that you’ll crush it but not so loose that it’ll fly away. You want it to be able to move seamlessly in your hand, without creating too much friction because that’s how you’ll rip up your hands. For sports buffs, another way to think about it is how you would grip a tennis racket or golf club. You’re swinging it around, so it needs to be mobile enough but grippy enough, too. It’s also important to be able to control your grip strength because it’s connected to all your other movements.
What Should I Expect With My First Kettlebell Workout?
Full disclosure: There’s a small learning curve to kettlebells, but once you understand how to use this tool, you’ll really feel the difference in your body. The first time someone picks up a kettlebell, they usually say, “I can’t curl this!” That’s OK — it’s not about a single-joint movement because you’re going to be using your whole body.
So the first thing you should do is learn how to pick up a kettlebell properly (flat back, bend knees, squat and grab) so you’ll feel comfortable doing so in between sets. Next, because it’s important to understand positions and tension, we have everyone practice holding the rack position (the handle should be slightly diagonal angling across your palm and down toward the pinkie side of your wrist, keep your wrist in a neutral position, and maintain vertical alignment of your forearm), which is the foundation for many moves. Finally, you’ll practice the overhead position. (Your forearm muscles should be relaxed, so you may need to push your fingers farther through the handle.)
This upfront work may seem tedious, but it will help you develop a strong foundation for proper form and build the awareness of the mechanics of these basic positions. Once you’ve mastered the essentials, then you can start doing windmills, presses, snatches and cleans. But initially, go slow and steady, and focus on static, then controlled, then ballistic movements.
How Heavy Should I Lift?
While you’ll have to play around to find the right weight for your workouts, here’s a general guideline on how to start finding the right size: Typically, if a woman can do 10 solid push-ups, then she can use a 26-pound bell; if she can do a plank for a minute, she can use an 18-pound bell. Thankfully, kettlebells have advanced over the years — they used to only come in increments of 18 pounds, but you can now find them in every 2 pounds or so, which makes it easier to move up in weight as needed without too much of a shock to your system.
We think kettlebells are not only a really fun tool in the gym but also incredibly time-efficient — with a little practice, you’ll be a kettlebell pro in no time.
Looking to challenge your body from multiple angles, including strength, athleticism, balance, mobility, coordination and power? This summer, we are pairing movement specialist and certified trainer Venus Lau with master kettlebell trainer Marcus Martinez for a series of 30-minute Kettlebell & Flow workouts that will train both your mind and body.
So what are you waiting for? This high-octane program designed exclusively for Oxygen is guaranteed to build incredible resilience, strength, and body awareness — so switch things up by choosing kettlebells over dumbbells this summer! Join Kettlebell & Flow today.