By Su Reid-St. John
One entire corner of my den is littered with dumbbells of various weights, along with a medicine ball or two. So it seems I’m the perfect candidate to test out the new Weider 20-Pound Powerbell, a single adjustable-weight kettlebell that offers seven weight options—and, potentially, a freed-up den corner.
What’s a kettlebell, you ask? It’s a type of weight that resembles an iron ball with a handle. Its shape allows you to make fun swinging motions you couldn’t do easily with typical dumbbells, so it’s no wonder these Russian strength-builders are now the focus of trendy fitness classes in gyms all over the country.
Regular kettlebells come in a bunch of different weights, just like dumbbells do. The Powerbell is Weider’s attempt to convince you that you only need one. It’s a nifty idea, to be sure. The handle itself weighs 5 pounds, and there are six 2.5-pound plates that you can add or subtract to get to the perfect weight. The plates are a cinch to change; you simply click open the locking mechanism and slide them in and out.
Individual kettlebells tend to be smallish (think softball-size with a handle for a 10-pounder), but this one is noticeably larger; it’s about the size of my new teakettle. It’s also a little clunky; the plates shift a tiny bit with every move. There’s nothing dangerous about it, mind you—it’s just a little noisy.
The Powerbell is also a little more uncomfortable during over-the-arm moves than an individual kettlebell would be, thanks to the gaps between the handle frame and the plates (unless you’re woman enough to use all of the plates, which I wasn’t).
The Powerbell comes with a DVD boasting a full-body workout by kettlebell trainer Michael Skogg. Despite also being a former U.S. Special Forces member, he’s a really informal guy, and the DVD has more than a hint of a thrown-together-in-someone’s-basement feel to it. It seems clear, too, that the company shot this DVD in one take—at one point, Skogg does a move and then says, “Oh, I did that wrong.” (Now that's something I’ve never witnessed on a workout DVD before.)
This is a basic, no-frills workout (a nod to his military past?), with the clank of the kettlebells and accompanying heavy breathing the only “music” to be heard. To my disappointment, Skogg never really addresses how much weight you should be using—you have to just experiment. Still, he gives otherwise clear instructions and it’s a challenging strength workout (the moves kicked my butt, I must admit) with some cardio benefit, too, as evidenced by my pounding heart.
All this being said, I’m not ready to give up my dumbbells. I like the comfort and solidity of them, and enjoy the fact that I don’t have to worry about swinging into the television or fireplace mantel as I do my reps. But I can definitely see using the Powerbell and Skogg’s workout as an occasional butt-kicking break from my usual strength routines. So much for shrinking that den collection.
Product: Weider 20-Pound Powerbell Adjustable Kettlebell
Pros: It’s easy to adjust, so you can quickly move from one weight to another, eliminating the need for multiple kettlebells. Comes with a kick-butt full-body strength workout DVD.
Cons: The plates clank a little during use, and the kettlebell can be uncomfortable during some moves. The production values of the accompanying DVD are somewhat amateurish.
Cost: $120 at getpowerbell.com
Extra tip: If you’ve never used a kettlebell before, take the time to go through the somewhat lengthy intro, in which Skogg coaches you through the six basic moves.