We asked fitness guru Alex Najarian why strength training is vital to your health
What if you could do a full-body workout with just one piece of gym equipment? Meet trainer and nutrition coach Alex Najarian. She pushes clients to build muscle mass using the kettlebell. “There is such a misconception that strength training is only for hugely muscular men in their 20s,” Alex told KCM. The reality is that muscle mass begins to deteriorate at the age of 27 and strength training with a kettlebell can help reverse the process.
By adding exercises like the Farmer’s Carry March and the Goblet Squat into your workout routine, Alex says you are setting yourself up for more long-term results than a thousand-dollar treadmill ever would. We talked to Alex about where to buy a kettlebell, what weight she recommends, and her go-to workout for when she only has 30 minutes.
Katie Couric Media: Why is the kettlebell your go-to piece of workout equipment?
Alex Najarian: The kettlebell is an extremely versatile piece of equipment that allows you to train every necessary athletic quality for optimal health: strength, power, cardio, endurance, and rehab, to name a few. Learning to use a kettlebell eliminates the need for expensive purchases like treadmills, weight machines, and other high-priced gym items. By investing in a kettlebell and learning to use it, you are buying yourself the most affordable home gym and setting yourself up for more optimal results than a thousand-dollar treadmill ever could.
Is there a brand you recommend?
I recommend the powder-coated kettlebells at roguefitness.com.
Let’s talk weight. What size kettlebell do you recommend for the client who is just starting out?
For females with limited experience lifting weights and building their base…
- 8kg-12kg (15-25Ibs) for upper body movements (row, press)
- 12kg-16kg (25-35Ibs) for lower body movements (squat, deadlift, march)
For males with limited experience lifting weights and building their base…
- 12kg-16kg (25-35Ibs) for upper body movements
- 20kg- 24kg (40-50Ibs for lower body movements
‘Strength training’ can sound intimidating to some people — especially those who are easing their way back into a workout routine. What do you tell your clients who are new to strength training?
There is such a misconception that strength training is only for hugely muscular men in their 20s. The reality is, strength training is vital to your health at every age. After the age of 27 (yes you read that right!), muscle mass begins to deteriorate. Less muscle mass means weaker bones and a slower metabolism. Strength training reverses this process.
By adding strength training to your routine 2-3 times per week, you will increase your bone density and increase muscle mass. This will allow you to move better without pain, increase your energy, and help you feel leaner in your clothes. Strength training is the magic age-reversing pill!
What are some kettlebell exercises people can start incorporating into their workouts?
Start with the basics: The deadlift and the squat.
These two movements mimic daily life activities that you do every day: picking something up and sitting down. Ever heard the expression, “If you don’t use it, you lose it”? Every day that goes by where you aren’t practicing a weighted squat, you are losing the ability to perform basic functions like sitting to use the restroom! On the contrary, every day that you train with your kettlebell, you are preparing your body to function well for life’s tasks like lifting a suitcase over your head, carrying heavy grocery bags comfortably, and running around the backyard chasing your kids. Lifting weights can greatly improve your quality of life.
Note: Hiring a coach, in the beginning, is a very beneficial investment to help you build a solid foundation by learning and practicing proper form. As you develop excellent technique and practice with consistency, you are guaranteed to get stronger and reap the benefits, which will encourage you to keep going!
What is your go-to 30 minute exercise?
I’ve put a simple workout together. Do 10 reps of each exercise (if it’s a single arm exercise, do 10 reps each side). Repeat each circuit 2-3 times through depending on the time you have.
A1) Single Arm Farmer’s Carry March
Hold the kettlebell in one hand. Stand up tall and begin to march in place. Stay tall, with your ribs stacked over your hips. Resist leaning to one side. 30 seconds each side.
Start with your feet hip width apart, toes face forward. The kettlebell begins on the floor in between your feet, towards your heels. Hinge your hips back behind you and grab the bell. With a neutral spine, push through your feet and stand up tall.
A3) Single Arm Bent over Row:
With your feet hip width apart, send your hips back and place one hand on a chair. With your free hand, reach for the bell and pull the kettlebell back towards your hips. Make sure you keep a flat back.
B1) Goblet Squat:
With your feet shoulder width apartment, bring the kettlebell up to your chest. Keep it there as you bend at the knees and drop straight down. Keep your chest up and your spine neutral. Push through the feet to stand up tall.
B2) Half Kneeling Single Arm Overhead Press
Start in a half kneeling position. Bring the bell to a racked position on the opposite side than the leg that’s in front. Press the kettlebell up straight overhead. Return the racked position.
B3) Elevated Push up
Lean up against and counter or table with your body in one straight line from head to heels. Bend at the elbows and bring your chest to the edge of the table. Push through your hands to return to the starting position.
Alex Najarian is a New York-based trainer and nutrition coach. She founded training programs Fit Foundations and the A Team.