This kettlebell circuit routine will rev up your muscles and get you ~in the mood~.

By Mary Anderson
February 10, 2020

The idea that working out can boost your physical and mental health is nothing new, but recent research shows that getting your sweat on can also make you want to get down to business

“Exercise can play a major role in enhancing a woman’s body image and self-esteem, which affects women’s sexual self-confidence and desire,” says Cindy Meston, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. “It can also increase the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which surges during the fight-or-flight response. And we know from numerous studies in my lab that this activation facilitates sexual arousal in women.” Meston’s research showed that women who did a 20-minute treadmill run at a moderate pace experienced an arousal boost post-workout. (This was true even for those who took antidepressants, which suppress the sympathetic nervous system.)

One of the prime hormones that help your body sculpt muscles—namely testosterone—also drives desire. “There’s irrefutable evidence that testosterone enhances libido in women, and high-intensity exercise boosts testosterone levels temporarily,” says Robert LeFavi, Ph.D., a health science expert and the dean of the University of South Carolina Beaufort. A study at Kennesaw State University in Georgia showed such an uptick in women after CrossFit sessions, and intensity is the key. “The data seems to be on the side of HIIT or lifting loads at least 85 percent of your maximum strength,” says LeFavi. (An increased sex drive isn't the only perk of lifting weights.)

If you’re looking for a workout that gets you fired up in more ways than one, grab a 12-kilogram kettlebell (or a 20- to 25-pound dumbbell) for this high-intensity kettlebell circuit from Shape Brain Trust member Alex Silver-Fagan, a Nike Master Trainer, yoga teacher, and StrongFirst kettlebell instructor. “These moves hit the entire body, work the core throughout, and develop a baseline of cardio endurance,” says Silver-Fagen. “There’s also something sexy about using a kettlebell and creating power with your body.” To make the sweat sesh even steamier, work through the moves with a partner. (And yes, there are health benefits you can get from getting it on after exercising.) 

How it works: There are two kettlebell circuits, one that focuses on strength and the other than focuses on conditioning. Do each move for the number of reps indicated. Repeat the first kettlebell circuit three times before moving onto the next circuit. The second kettlebell circuit is a 10-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) ladder workout. You’ll start by doing 1 rep of each move. When you’re done with the circuit, start back at the beginning, but do 2 reps of each move. Repeat, increasing your rep count by 1 each time. Stop at 10 minutes, no matter how many reps you’ve done. (Related: This Kettlebell Workout Sculpts *Serious* Muscles)

What you'll need: One 12-kilogram kettlebell or a 20- to 25-pound dumbbell

Kettlebell Circuit 1: Strength

Hollow-Body Chest Press

A. Lie face-up on the floor with legs extended. Hold the kettlebell in both hands directly above chest. Lift shoulders off the floor, engaging abs and pulling low ribs down.

B. Extend legs, raise them to a 45-degree angle off the floor, and hold them straight.

C. Press the kettlebell toward the ceiling.

D. Lower the kettlebell slowly to chest to return to start, holding the hollow-body position throughout the movement.

Do 10 to 12 reps.

Scale down: Instead of extending legs, start with legs in a reverse tabletop position, with knees bent at a 90-degree angle. While pressing the kettlebell toward the ceiling, extend the right leg out, kicking through heel, to hover an inch off the floor. Lower the kettlebell slowly to chest and pull right leg back to the tabletop position to return to start. Do 10 to 12 reps, alternating legs.

(Along with dead bugs, try these killer exercises to tighten your core.)

Half-Kneeling Press-to-Stand

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold the kettlebell in the right hand. Raise hand up to sternum so the kettlebell is resting on right forearm in a front rack position. Keep wrist straight and elbow tucked at right side.

B. Step left leg back and lower left knee to the floor. Right knee should form a 90-degree angle.

C. Press the kettlebell overhead, bringing bicep next to ear. Lower the kettlebell slowly to the front rack position.

D. Press into right foot and come up to stand. Reverse lunge with left leg to begin the next rep.

Do 6 to 8 reps per leg.

Single-Leg Deadlift Row

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hold the kettlebell in the left hand by side and shift weight onto right foot.

B. Extend left leg back slowly, kicking through left heel until left leg is full extended, parallel to the floor. Simultaneously lower the kettlebell down to right shin.

C. Holding this position, row the kettlebell up to lower rib, keeping bicep close to side and bringing elbow up toward the ceiling.

D. Lower the kettlebell back to shin, lower left leg to the floor, and slowly stand to return to start.

Do 6 to 8 reps per side.

(Love rows? Try these back-strengthening moves from fitness pro Hannah Davis.)

Kettlebell Circuit 2: Conditioning

Clean to Goblet Squat

A. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly pointed out. Place the kettlebell in between arches of feet.

B. Push hips back, slightly bend knees, and reach down for kettlebell. Pull shoulders back and down to create a flat back and tighten glutes.

C. Grab the kettlebell handle with both hands, open hips, and shrug shoulders, drawing the kettlebell up to chest and scooping elbows up to clean it up to a goblet squat position.

D. Drop into a squat, pushing hips back and knees forward. Stand and reverse the movement to lower the kettlebell to the floor to return to start.

Lateral Lunge to Balance

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hold the kettlebell in front of sternum, one hand on each side of the handle.

B. Step right leg out to the right side, push hips back, and bend right leg into a lunge so left leg is straight (but not locked). Keep toes facing forward and feet parallel to one another.

C. Push off the right leg to stand balancing on the left, bringing right knee to chest. Pause for a moment in this position.

D. Step right foot next to left to return to start, then on left side.

(BTW, lateral lunges can do wonders for your glutes.)

Single-Arm Kettlebell Push-Up

A. Place the kettlebell on its side and start in a plank position with feet slightly wider than hips-width apart. Place right hand on top of the kettlebell and left hand on the floor. Make sure hands are directly underneath shoulders.

B. Push elbows out so arms form a 45-degree angle to body. Slowly lower body, and stop 3 inches above the floor, keeping core engaged. Make sure body forms a straight line from head to toes.

C. Push away from the floor to return to start.

D. Walk hands over to the right so left hand is on the kettlebell, and repeat on left side.

Scale down: Instead of starting in a plank position, start in a modified plank position with knees placed slightly wider than hips-width apart on the floor.

(If you’re struggling to nail the push-up, work your way through these four progressions.)

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