Breathing in fresh air, listening to the birds chirping, feeling the heat of the sun, and cooling down with the breeze are all signs of someone taking advantage of the outdoors. I freaking love being outside, and there is no better time then with Spring finally arriving. There have been several studies conducted that concluded what I already knew: That being outside in nature can naturally boost our moods. It makes perfect sense, we spent a majority of our history hunting/gathering and farming and only recently have moved towards indoor sedentary lives.
I have always found the modern gym environment too structured and stale to help energize and motivate me during a workout. Most modern-day gym equipment isolates body parts instead of naturally allowing the body to function as a single unit. It’s boring, it doesn’t tingle my mind nor activate the almighty core. These tools can be useful if you are trying to become a symmetrical body builder, but these are all aesthetic goals. The aspiration should be towards fitness that is functional, protective, and resourceful to the daily tasks of life. If you focus on the functional, the aesthetics will come as an added bonus. If you do enjoy the gym environment – free weights and barbells are cool, but try to keep the machines off the list.
So now that we have ditched the gym membership, we should have some free money to buy equipment. The best deal for your money is without a doubt kettlebells. Kettlebells are easy to travel with – you only need one or two for all your needs, and you can get a full body workout with cardio in a short amount of time. If you have never seen a kettlebell before, they look like a cannonball with a handle on top and were supposedly the secret of strong Russian badasses. Best of all, they are easy to travel with and can easily turn a nice park into an outdoor gym.
The basic motion is the kettlebell swing.
- Start with the kettlebell in front of you like you are about to hike a football. With your hips back and spine neutral, hike the kettlebell back until your forearms are touching your inner thighs.
- Then, pushing with your heels into Mother Earth, pretend you are trying to hit a wall in front of you with your pelvis. This ballistic motion of thrusting your hips forward is transferred into your arms and propels the kettlebell until it reaches around chest level. A key point here is to NOT use your shoulders to move the weight, but to realize your arms are there to merely connect the weight to your body. All force should be generated by the power and movement generated by your hips.
- Squeeze your glutes and abs to lock out in the top position
- For the down motion, control the swing as it comes down and try to aim for your pelvis. This sounds dangerous, but it will force you to push your hips back to load up for your next swing.
This one exercise works your cardiovascular system, grip strength, lats, shoulders, lower back, hamstrings, glutes, and quads. It is as functional as it gets, and teaches your body to work as a single unit. It teaches your nervous system to fire muscle groups together and to help minimize muscle imbalances. This transfers over well into real world applications such as farming or moving heavy furniture.
So let’s conclude: Nature is awesome and good for us, and the kettlebell swing is awesome and good for us. So get outside and start swinging towards a healthier, happier you. If you are having a hard time getting the proper motion down, long bouts of sitting could have deactivated your proper muscle recruitment and caused inflexibility in your hip drive. Try checking out my article on The Founder stretch to help strengthen and lengthen the proper muscles that are directly involved in the kettlebell swing.
Tim Ferris breaking down the kettlebell swing even further:
Video demonstrating other exercises with kettlebells: