Your personal trainer may have had you swing kettlebells. But lots of things—like safety concerns to fears of scratched studio floors—have kept the weights out of group fitness classes, says David Ganulin, founder of Kettlebell Concepts, and the country’s de facto kettlebell authority.
Not anymore. Gyms and boutique studios across New York City are realizing the benefits of these Russian-born bad boys and finding creative, safe ways to incorporate them into fun, blood-pumping classes.
“The kettlebell is a very effective tool to get someone sweating in a very short period of time, and it works both the anaerobic and aerobic system,” says Ganulin. The key is an instructor who can demonstrate proper form, ensure safe spacing, and get creative with a hunk of cast-iron. We set out to find them. Here are the city’s seven best kettlebell classes…. —Lisa Elaine Held
Photo: Dasha Libin Anderson of Kettlebell Kickboxing
Popular trainer Eric Salvador (who was certified by Ganulin’s Kettlebell Concepts) leads a group of seriously bad-ass women through an incredibly tough sequence of lunges, squats, dead lifts, and more.
I marveled as they clean-and-jerked bells that weighed upwards of 22 pounds and then put them down for fast-paced burpee intervals.
Salvador’s charisma and killer playlist keep the class fun, and he’s also a stickler about form and offers helpful corrections throughout.
And since this class is part of New York Sports Club’s Small Group Training program, both members and non-members can sign up. www.mysportsclubs.com
Nedra Lopez, co-owner of The Studio at Remorca Fitness, is becoming known as top instructor in the city. She has a knack for designing total-body classes—like this kettlebell-TRX fusion class—and for seamless cueing. You get your heart rate up and work your lower body during swings, lunges, and dead lifts with the bell, and then use the TRX to sculpt arm and back muscles.
The class has a low-key vibe, especially since you’ll typically be one of 3-5 participants (most of which are Upper East Side moms), and Lopez offers constant hands-on adjustments to correct form and technique. She also carefully sequences the class to stretch hamstrings and hips before picking up the ‘bells—to make sure you have enough flexibility and range of motion to avoid injury.
Bonus: You strap on a high-tech heart monitor during all classes at The Studio, so, at the end, you’ll get to see how many calories you burned, and how hard you were working. www.remorcafitness.com
Competitive kettlebell champ Lorna Kleidman created KettleX Step, which is like an ’80s step aerobics class on steroids. It’s creatively choreographed to music, so you’re stepping up and down on a riser and adding moves like lunges and twists to the beat, all with a 15-to-25-pound kettlebell.
Then, when you think it’s over, Kleidman takes you onto the ground for killer planks with kettlebell lifts and rows. You finish it all off with plyometrics, jumping on and off the riser, still clutching your bell.
The class is a seriously tough, all-over workout: You’ll feel your abs working during every single move. Kleidman’s other class, the signature KettleX, is slightly more athletic, with less “stepping.” www.fitnesscellcollective.com
This just may be the city’s most serious kettlebell class. Steve Feinberg, the founder of Speedball Fitness and another Ganulin kettlebell protege, is the creator and instructor. And in his class, you’ll never once put the bell down (except to take a sip of water).
Feinberg spends a good chunk of time in the beginning demonstrating correct form and technique, and then gets everyone going with with squats and swings. The moves are traditional, and difficult, so expect lots of cleans, jerks, snatches, and rows (and some top-of-the-wrist bruises if you’re a beginner).
The city’s most well-known kettlebell class is routinely packed wall-to-wall with fit Lululemon-clad 20-somethings (and lots of magazine editors).
They’re here for founder Dasha Libin Anderson, whose method alternates traditional kettlebell swings and lifts with martial arts-based moves like high kicks. This gives the class a heavier cardio emphasis than many of the others.
Rap and dance beats are bumping throughout class, and Libin Anderson, who’s a champion martial artists, intersperses her cues with funny stories of clubbing and skinny dipping. It’s like girls night out—with more sweat, and kettlebells. www.kettlebellkickboxing.com
Upper East Side fitness playground Exceed Fitness uses kettlebells in most of its group classes, and this fusion class with happy-go-lucky Livingston Miller is no exception.
The name, however, doesn’t begin to describe everything you’ll encounter. Kettlebell squats and swings are scattered among upper-body work with the TRX, Bosu burpees, jumping rope, high knees with a medicine ball, push-ups, mountain climbers, and more.
It’s impossible to get bored or burned out with this much variety, a playlist of remixed Rihanna and Gotye, and Miller’s encouragement and easy laugh. www.exceed-fitness.com
The Refine Method
Plenty of boutique-fitness-loving women have been turned on to the benefits of kettlebells at Refine Method. While not exclusively a kettlebell class, Refine’s founder Brynn Jinnett features them prominently in her popular interval-based workout. The former professional ballet dancer and sports-science geek swears by the ‘bells as a better, more efficient way to tone and train.
So, depending on the class and the circuit sequences, you might clutch one big kettlebell to your chest, drop into a side lunge, then pop back up to standing with the kettlebell. Other timed circuits include standard lunges with one kettlebell in each hand, push-ups on the kettlebells, and kettlebell squats.
And all of these are folded into the workout, which features weighted pulleys for strength training, cardio drills like high-knees sprints, glides for ab work, and pop music to keep you from collapsing. www.refinemethod.com