Length: 6x 30 minute workouts
Workouts: Full body
Suitable for: Everyone
Overall Rating: ★★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★☆☆☆ Difficulty: ★★★★☆ Results: ★★★★★
Based on 4 weeks of use.
Enjoyment: ★★☆☆☆ Difficulty: ★★★★☆ Results: ★★★★★
Based on 4 weeks of use.
Having spent the past 4 weeks using Kettlercise's new 'Lean In 14' workout DVD, I have to say that, quite frankly, it is the best kettlebell workout I've ever used. And as kettlebells are my favourite form of resistance training, I can say that I've tried quite a few. It's true that it's called 'Lean In 14' and is designed to be used for two weeks straight, but as I like to change my workout up every month and give each new one I try a decent amount of time to prove itself as worthwhile, I used it for four. But, to be honest, I really noticed results after two and a half weeks when I never usually see any until the end of the month, if at all.
Kettlercise's 'Lean In 14' is a two-week workout and diet plan designed to maximise fat loss and lean muscle gain, and is aimed specifically at women. But unlike most workout DVDs, this is not one disc with modifications, this is a 4-disc collection aimed at everyone from absolute beginner all the way to advanced, and includes an instructional disc to help total beginners familiarise themselves with kettlebells before getting started, as they are not the same as hand weights, dumbbells or barbells. There's a free online resource with the DVD which includes workout plans for beginner, intermediate, advanced and 'super-fit' which use certain workouts from the collection in a certain order with rest days, and also contains lots of clean and healthy recipes, a meal plan and tips to get the most out of your two-week workout.
The workouts claim to be 30 minutes each, but this is the only complaint I had: the entire thing, from warm up to cool down, is 30 minutes. I had expected the workout itself to last for 30 minutes, not counting a warm up or cool down, so I was a bit disappointed when I found that the actual work was only about 20 minutes. That might sound silly, to complain that my workout wasn't long enough, but I had expected to work for a certain amount of time and I ended up feeling underworked because of it. I spoke to Seeg about it, however, and when I said '30 minute workout' to him, he actually assumed the opposite, that it was 30 minutes including warm up and cool down. So I'm happy to concede that this point may just be me, but I felt I should mention it all the same.
Kettlebells, obviously, are essential for this workout, and as I've said in the past, kettlebells are not like other weights. Barbells and dumbbells are held by the centre with the weight distributed evenly on either side of the hand/s. Kettlebells, however, are held by the top (or bottom), and the weight is central, which makes it much harder to control. This, along with its bell shape, mean that you can do a lot of different moves with it, like the famous and much-loved (but not all-powerful) kettlebell swing, the clean and press, or snatch. These moves can be done with a hand weight, it's not like trying it will cause a 404 to flash across your eyes, but it won't be anywhere near as effective.
Kettlebells challenge your core, your balance and your muscles a lot more because of its unbalanced weight, which means that most moves engage a lot more muscles than you would think, many of which are full-body.
Kettlebells are also heavier than free weights, and the advised weight for women to start with is 8lbs, or 4kg. This is what I started with, and I'm now using mostly 6kg and 8kg, and it's almost time to move up to 10kg.
Kettlebells are not hard to find - you can pick them up on Amazon or most sports shops. I was given a set of 4 DKN kettlebells, 2kg to 8kg, for my birthday 3 years ago that cost about £30, and though the 2kg has been barely used, the rest of the set has served me very, very well since. They're not too expensive, but even if they were, they are an amazing investment, as although they're unique, they're very old in design and far from a gimmick or passing trend.
Complexes are what make this DVD set amazing. Kettlebell moves tend to be compound, meaning they engage multiple muscle groups rather than just focusing on one, giving you a full-body workout that gets your heart pumping, making kettlebells the best combination of cardio and resistance training, and why they're so good at transforming your body. But these complexes are sequences of combining several compound moves together, for example, in one of the advanced workouts, you spend a minute on a full complex of clean, press, snatch, rack, lunge, and then repeat. The individual moves are already really good, but combining them is intense. The complex section typically lasts about 5 minutes towards the end of the workout, the first few minutes of the sequence spent piecing together a selection of moves before spending a full minute on each side doing the whole thing. But though it sounds and looks very exhausting, it's more mentally taxing than physically. You will get an amazing sweat as you completely avoid muscle memory in these complexes, but you really do have to think while you're doing it in order to get it right. Even on the very last day of my 4 weeks, I got this very same complex wrong, forgetting about the snatch I think three different times on one side and twice on the other.
But the reason it's not as physically taxing as you might think, and not actually scary, is because the variety of moves are organised in such a way that you can complete the whole minute without having to stop due to exhaustion or lactic acid build-up. You'll typically alternate between a lower body move, then an upper body, then lower, then upper, all of which use different muscles such as glutes, then biceps, then quads, then shoulders, making it possible to keep going without stopping, and exhaustion only setting in in the last 15 seconds, when it should.
These complexes are on each level, but only on one of the beginner and intermediate workouts, and in both of the advanced. The complexes also vary in intensity depending on the level, but to be honest I really had to think hard when I was trying the most basic complex from the beginner disc of high pull to dead lift, I just kept getting the transition wrong.
The beginner disc features two 30 minute workouts of increasing difficulty, complete with warm up and cool down, and are a great introduction to kettlebells. The moves are taught slowly, but not so slowly that your workout is hindered by it. To my mind, there's little need to look at the instructional disc, but if you're feeling uncertain about the kit, it's a good place to start. The moves themselves are also not complicated at all, so they're well-explained and easy to grasp, but that doesn't mean that they're not effective. As a beginner, all moves will be challenging for you as you're simply not used to it, but as someone who is a high intermediate level, even this beginner disc can be made challenging by using a heavier weight and moving faster and deeper on each move.
As mentioned above, the two workouts on the beginner disc increase in difficulty - 1 is obviously easier than 2 - and the second workout also features a few complexes. These complexes only consist of two to three moves, and the moves are also simple. It introduces the idea and motion of complexes really well, and once you get comfortable with form you'll be able to get even more out of the workouts.
The intermediate workout disc features two more workouts, and though they are harder than beginner, the jump isn't too large. It's a good transition; intermediate workout 1 does feel like the next step from beginner workout 2, and that's exactly how it should be. The instructor is a little more exciteable, but I like her, as I liked the instructor for the beginner disc, and her instruction is also precise but not complicated.
The moves taught here are a little harder than in beginner, but there are a lot of familiar ones. Some of them have been modified slightly, while others are just done at a faster pace, if you can. But in the first of the intermediate workouts, you're also introduced to 'tempo zones', where you perform some of the moves you learned in beginner at a different pace. Sometimes the pace will be 2:2, so it will be slower and deeper than in beginner, and moving slower and deeper with resistance training engages more muscle fibres and makes it more effective. Other times it may be 3:1, so you sink down into a squat slowly for a count of three, before powering up for a count of one.
The complexes in intermediate 2 are harder than in beginner, but again there are only complexes on this level's second, harder workout, and they equally feel like a step up from the beginner's complexes. The moves are bigger and you're stringing a couple more together, but they're not too advanced for the level, so if you can do the rest of the intermediate workout, you can do the complexes and finish strong.
Like the intermediate disc, this one does feel like a step up from the last, and the moves are more advanced still, such as the windmill: learned in beginner and put through a 2:2 tempo in intermediate, you move the weight into the top hand in advanced rather than the bottom hand, pushing it up as you rise rather than pulling it. Then there are moves like the get-up sit-up, which is like half of a Turkish get-up, or a windmill shoulder press.
However, unlike the beginner and intermediate workouts, there are complexes in both of the advanced workouts, and your instructor is Guy Noble, the man behind Kettlercise. These complexes are longer and tougher than the others, such as the example I gave above, but they're built up gradually and you do get the chance to get to grips with it. And they are hard, and so satisfying to complete.
Unfortunately, as I said at the start of this review and was my only complaint, I was disappointed that the work itself was not 30 minutes, and to make it worse the two advanced workouts seem to be the shortest, clocking in at about 16-17 minutes. I added a few of my favourite moves onto the end to rack it up to 20 minutes, meaning a minute of weights bridge raises, a minute of Turkish get-ups on each side if the workout didn't have the get-up sit-ups, a minute of deadlifts, and a minute of explosive clean-to-presses, and so on.
It usually takes about a month for me to discover any results, and even then they might only be present on the scales or the tape measure. But after Lean In 14, after two and a half weeks I found my stomach flatter, my hips sharper, bum bigger and back slimmer.
Usually these things are just a fluke or I've imagined them, and they tend to pass on their own in a few days. Well, these didn't seem to dissipate until two weeks later, right when that (sorry) 'time of the month' came along, but even then I knew that my eyes had been what had gained weight, not my body. For the results and feeling of change to last so long, so consistently, I knew they weren't in my head. And, indeed, they were not. While it's my tummy that I want to stop jiggling, I simply couldn't deny the change in the rest of my body, or that my lower abdomen had gotten flatter. I saw it every single morning, and I found it in looser clothes, and when I finally took out the scales and tape measure, they both agreed.
Enjoyment: ★★☆☆☆ - I love kettlebells, and the inclusion of 'complexes' really does separate this workout from other kettlebell programs. But it's not conventionally enjoyable.
This has been one of the best workouts I've ever tried, seeing results twice as fast as usual. It was tough, but I was using the advanced set-up, which consisted of alternating between the intermediate and advanced discs 5-6 days a week. That's not to say that the intermediate or beginner set-ups are useless, it's just that the advanced set-up was the most appropriate for me. This DVD collection is a fantastic introduction to kettlebells if you're new to it, and a wonderful way to challenge people who know their way around a kettlebell like me. It scales by level, so everyone can get the best out of it. Beginners will find beginner suitably challenging enough to get results but not so difficult that they can't do it, but there's a lot of room to grow as the intermediate and advanced workouts will be there whenever they're ready.
Difficulty: ★★★★☆ - The complexes are hard, but this program is intended for 14 days of dedicated use, not prolonged as I used it. As such, it has to be difficult if it's to be effective in just 2 weeks.
Results: ★★★★★ - And effective it is.
Kettlebells are not hard to find - Kettlercise even have their own branded bells you can buy with the DVDs to save money.
Honestly, if you only buy one kettlebell DVD, this is it. With six workouts of varying intensity, as well as a new way to use them, I consider it to be an absolute staple piece of anyone's workout library.