One Calorie-Burning Exercise You Can Do During Commercial Breaks

Whether you’re watching a “House Hunters” reunion, catching up on the nightly news, or tuning in to the latest fall premiere, you can squeeze in a quickie workout during commercial breaks when you have the right tool in your living room: A kettlebell.

Kettlebell swings are a total-body workout that will work your glutes (butt muscles), hamstrings (back of thighs), core and arms, advises Kym Nolden, CPT, NCSM, AFAA, exercise specialist at Hearst Towers in New York City, who’s taught kettlebell group fitness classes. And they don’t take up too much room, making them perfect for living room workouts.

Ready to get moving during movie night? We asked Nolden for some advice on how to get started:

First: Start With a Deadlift

If you’ve never tackled a kettlebell swing before, Nolden recommends working your way up from a classic deadlift first. “I tell my clients that the kettlebell swing is an explosive deadlift,” Nolden says. “Get your deadlift form down and build from there.”

How to Do a Dumbbell Deadlift:

  • Think about the main motion being in the hips.
  • Start from a standing position with a slight unlocked but sturdy knees, holding a 10-pound dumbbell in each hand.
  • Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Then, push your body back into your hamstrings and glutes, while hinging at the hips as your dumbbells go towards the floor.
  • Try to make an upside down capital “L” shape with your body.
  • Your core should feel as tight as when you do a full plank.
  • As you use your hips, butt, and hamstrings to pull your body back up to the starting position, you can have your thumbs lightly graze your lower legs while you pull up (to make sure the dumbbells are at the correct distance in front of the legs) and then let the arms hang naturally once you hit your knees and continue pulling up.

“Full range of motion for the deadlift would be a 90-degree bend in the hips, where your trunk is parallel to the ground,” Nolden advises. Dumbbells will be hanging down around your shins.

“As long as you’re feeling the work in the back of their thighs and your butt, you’re doing it correctly,” Nolden says. And as long as you aren’t experiencing pain in your back or knees, you can move on to kettlebell swings.

Ready to Try Kettlebell Swings?

The kettlebell swing is an exercise will get your heart rate up while working the glutes (butt muscles), hips, hamstrings, lats, abs, shoulders, pecs, and grip.

“The biggest mistake I see beginners make is that they use a weight that’s too light, and then they can’t get the rhythm,” says Nolden. “The kettlebell needs to have a significant amount of weight because your glutes are strong. Glutes and hamstrings are probably some of the strongest muscles in the body, so we really need a little bit of weight to get that rhythm of the pendulum swing.”

If you were using two, 10-pound dumbbells to do a deadlift, start with a 20-pound kettlebell, Nolden suggests. Using five-pound dumbbells? Start with a 12-pound kettlebell.

Set yourself up in a place where you aren’t going to hurt anyone (or pets or something expensive) if you accidentally let go of the kettlebell while swinging.

How to Do a Perfect Kettlebell Swing:

  • Start with a wide stance, wider than shoulder width.
  • Set the kettlebell on the floor or a mat about 12 inches in front of your feet.
  • When you pick up the kettlebell, your back should be a sharp parallel to the ground. Hips will be right in line or slightly above your chest depending on your height.
  • If your shinbone is perpendicular to the ground, your stance should be good. If you’re tall, you may have a slight angle.
  • Turn the crook of your elbows out past your shoulders.
  • Grip the top handle with both hands, palms facing you.
  • Hike the kettlebell back like you’re hiking a football.
  • Using your glutes to swing the kettlebell forward.
  • While you’re first learning, keep the swing low, swinging to where your forearm is parallel to the ground (probably chest height). As you get more comfortable, you can swing it to the height of your head.
  • Pull the kettlebell back down and try to catch it in your hip and hike it back with your shins.
  • The kettlebell should hit your butt on the arc behind you.

Nolden advises that getting into the right rhythm can be tricky. “As you’re doing your swings, wait for the kettlebell,” she says. “It’s going to be one of those challenging things for a lot of people because they’ll want to shoot their butt back before the kettlebell is low enough. You want to wait, and you kind of want to pull the kettlebell down. It’s like you’re playing catch. You have to wait for the ball to enter your mitt.”

“You’ll feel this exercise in the glutes, hamstrings, on the back of the thighs and the butt,” Nolden says. “Particularly the outside of the butt because you’re in such a wide stance. You’ll also feel your core, shoulders, and arms working.”

But keep in mind that you never want to feel the impact of a deadlift or a kettlebell swing in your lower back, advises Nolden. “If you do, stop, reset, and either go see a trainer or try to correct your own form.”

Once you have a good form down, you can start to make this move a regular part of your nights at home.

Try this kettlebell commercial break routine:

Go for three, 30-second rounds of kettlebell swings during commercial breaks.

“Aiming for time is better than going for reps because you get to practice without trying to think of hitting a certain number of reps,” she says.

Not a TV watcher? Holden recommends doing a combo workout during a song.

“I’ll do kettlebell swings during the chorus and I’ll practice slow deadlifts during the verse,” she suggests. Try those for three minutes and we promise you’ll be sweating.


Photos: Christine Han | Wardrobe Stylist: Shea Daspin | Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh | Hair/Makeup: Valissa Yoe

Wardrobe: Sports tights: H&M | Tank: Lukka Lux | Shoes: Athletic Propulsion Labs | Water bottle: S’Well Ombre | Hand weight: FILA® at Kohl’s

Working Out While Binge Watching? Now That’s Multitasking.

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