As you get older, taking care of yourself becomes important – and a big part of that is exercise. Older adults in their 60s and over should make exercise a part of their daily and weekly routine, as it can delay the onset of common health problems. Exercise can also lower blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease, help you get better sleep and improve balance.
Just moving your body regularly is enough to feel it positive effects of exercise, but if you’re ready to progress in your training, a great way to do it is to build muscle strength. Weight training is one of the best ways to do this, and using kettlebells (or birth control) is a safe and easy way to use weights.
Kettlebell exercises for older adults can increase muscle and bone density, increase grip strength, improve mental health, and increase self-confidence. Kettlebells are comfortable, compact and take up little space, and the five moves below cover all major muscle groups to ensure you get the most out of your kettlebell workout.
It is very important to follow the instructions so that you use the kettlebell correctly. There are some safety precautions for older adults when doing kettlebell exercises: If you have heart problems, avoid overhead movements that will strain your heart; If you have wrist or knee problems, a kettlebell may not be the right tool for you. And of course, you should always get medical clearance before starting a new exercise program.
Kettlebells are often labeled and sold in kilograms, so pay attention to them to make sure you’re not taking on too heavy a load. When starting a kettlebell training program, the recommended weight is 8 to 12 kilograms (or 17 to 26 pounds) — but you may want to start lighter depending on your fitness level.
1. Sitting Box/Squat Bench
Squats are a great lower body exercise for hitting almost any muscle in your legs. Adding a kettlebell helps focus your balance and keeps your joints flexible. Using a chair as a goal for your squat depth is a great way to get a feel for it how low should you aim to go.
- Find a solid surface (such as a chair, bench, or box) and stand in front of it.
- Hold your kettlebell by the handle or by the bell at chest level.
- Place your feet shoulder width apart with your weight balanced on both feet.
- Keeping your chest high, push your hips back and down toward the chair or box as you shift your weight to your heels. Touch your glutes to a chair or box.
- Press through your heels to return to your feet.
As soon as you can squat below a depth where your hips are in line with your knees or you have established good balance, you can continue this movement by removing the bench.
2. One Leg Squat to Bench/Box
This one-leg squat takes the seated squat one step further by isolating each leg, building your one-leg strength. Keeping your heels on the ground will help with balance and allow you to focus on using the right muscles (you should really feel these in your quads, glutes, and hamstrings).
- Stand in front of a bench or box. Extend your left leg, and place your heel on the ground. (This will be the stationary leg.)
- Put your weight on your right leg, and push your hips back up to your point of contact (box/bench). As you lower, bend your right leg to 90 degrees, with your knee in line with your toes. Your left leg, or stationary leg, remains straight.
- Once you touch your point of contact with your glutes, push your hips up and forward to finish. Repeat for 8 reps, then switch sides.
To make this move work best for you, try lifting your feet off the ground (beginner), lowering the box (intermediate) or removing the box altogether (continued).
3. Bending Row to KB Fly
Focusing on the upper and lower body is important for full-body strength, and this move will help build muscle in your back and shoulders. During the row, really focus on pulling your shoulders back. You want the pulling motion back to come from the muscles around your shoulder blades.
- Hold your kettlebell in your right hand and stand about two feet in front of your bench/box. Bend at your waist and knees and place your left hand on the bench/box, so that you are standing on a table, with your knee under your hip and your left wrist under your shoulder. Try to keep your back straight.
- With the kettlebell in your right hand, pull your right shoulder away from your ear. Make sure you keep your elbow close to your body, and pull your right elbow back.
- Complete the bent row by extending your arms fully downwards. Then, finish the fly: Keeping your right arm straight, pull your arm to the side away from your body until your hand is in line with your shoulder.
- Drop your arms back to the sides and repeat 8 times before switching sides.
To make this exercise easier, you can start in a staggered position and divide the exercise into two parts. If you want a challenge, take your time with 30 seconds on each side.
The goal of the intense “skull crusher” movement is to work your triceps, a muscle that is usually weak. Make sure you start with lower weights and work your way up with this one – you might be surprised at how tired your triceps are after a few reps.
- Lie on your back on a bench or on the floor.
- Hold the kettlebell by the bell.
- With your arms straight over your chest, bend only your elbows.
- Pull the kettlebell toward your forehead.
- Press the kettlebell back down once your elbows reach 90 degrees.
5. Reverse Lunge Press Knee Up
This is the most advanced birth control exercise. We are working on mobility, strength and balance. On its own, it’s a full-body move: you’ll feel the pressure of the kettlebell on your shoulders and lunges in your quads and hips.
- Start by holding the birth control bell at chest level.
- Step your left leg back about three feet, bending both knees to 90 degrees while pushing your left knee down. You don’t need to touch the ground with your left knee, but the closer you can get, the more effective this move will be.
- As you step back and forth, push the kettlebell up at the same time.
- Push your right foot, push your left foot forward and up. Your left knee should be pointing towards your chest. Hold for 1 to 2 seconds to establish balance. That’s one representative.
- Repeat 8 times before changing legs.
To make this exercise easier, divide it into two separate parts. First, work on mobility counter-attack. Once you feel strong, do the knee movement.