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How a fitness trainer and flight attendant uses kettlebells to help women get stronger, more flexible, leaner and better conditioned - without bulking up

January 18, 2011 10:16 AM

Susan Himsel tells how Kettlebells Help Women Get Stronger, More Flexible, Leaner and Better Conditioned

"The kettlebell has the ability to streamline a woman's physique more as opposed to standard ways of weight training. I have seen my lower body change faster using the kettlebells than by using the standard squats, walking lunges, and leg extension machine."

In addition to being a flight attendant for 16 years, Susan Himsel of Magnolia, Texas is a Certified Fitness Trainer with the International Sports Science Association. She is also the pro behind , a website that features kettlebell training as a means to improve performance in a variety of sports. Susan earned her Russian Kettlebell Challenge certification in September of 2003.

D.D.: How did you get started?

S.H.: A trainer friend told me about Pavel two years ago. I read Power to the People and actually came to Pavel's stretching seminar to increase my flexibility. My goal was to compete in a fitness competition this. I broke my toe nine weeks out from competition. I still came to the seminar and found many of his teachings quite useful. The toe injury gave me enough downtime to stop and look at kettlebells. And just like Steve Maxwell, who had injured his toe, I used kettlebells to train.

D.D.: What made you want to come to the kettlebell seminar?

S.H.: After being exposed to kettlebells and working with them, I realized that my flexibility had increased tremendously and in a very short time frame. I was able to do jumps and splits that were hard to accomplish prior to training with kettlebells.

Coupling kettlebells with the stretching seminar I did, and using the techniques in Pavel's Super Joints , I have been able to make fast gains. There is no comparison to using kettlebells versus my old training routine (strength training, stretching afterwards, and then doing gymnastics).

I now have a different approach to training. I bought into the standard weight training/bodybuilding exercises in order to compete for fitness. Now Pavel has enlightened my way of thinking. My gymnastic coach has seen a big improvement, and for a 43-year-old woman, this is saying a lot.

D.D.: What are the specifics of your strength, flexibility, and endurance gains?

S.H.: My flexibility, strength, stamina, and endurance have all just gone through the roof.

I can now do the splits. I do not have to spend so much time stretching like I did before.

As for strength, my personal records have been achieved in a short period. I trained with a 12 kg at home to obtain the required snatches for my Russian Kettlebell Challenge. Yet here, at the seminar, I'm using a 16 kg kettlebells. I am using either double 12 or 16 kilos, thanks to my instructors, Steve and Jack! My recovery period has decreased.

Originally, after the gym and practicing my routines, I could feel the catabolic state my body was in for several days. It would take longer, more lactic acid would build up. I recuperate faster. My endurance is double what I used to do, thanks to the Swings!

D.D.: Susan, as a woman, do you see kettlebells affecting you in ways that are perhaps different from the ways they affect men?

S.H.: Yes, I do. With most traditional strength training routines, they're designed to build mass. I am finding the kettlebell is a strengthening/conditioning tool. It builds the foundation of the muscle, making it stronger.

Think of the ligaments and tendons as the foundation of a home. The house is the belly of the muscle that sits on top. This will appeal to women who are looking for an elongated muscle. Especially when they work the gluteal muscles, quads, and hamstrings.

The kettlebell has the ability to streamline a woman's physique more as opposed to standard ways of weight training. I have seen my lower body change faster using the kettlebell than by using the standard squats, walking lunges, and leg extension machine.

As a working mom with several different careers and two children who are in various activities, my time is extremely limited. Now less time is spent on my training, only because I'm more energy- and time-efficient.

I see the appeal kettlebells will have with working moms and women in general. Time constraints are always a factor. Women can keep a kettlebell at home and train for 10-20 minute intervals throughout their day. That way, their daily plan is not interrupted. Training at the gym requires at least one-and-a-half to two hours easily and then you have to get back to the daily grind!

Kettlebell lifting done at home enables people to exercise at a high intensity that's very effective, energy-efficient, time-efficient, and still have time for the kids or laundry.

D.D.: Have you already incorporated kettlebells into your training business?

S.H.: I have. I have clients who are avid kettlebell lifters now. They really do like "taming the iron."

One, for example, is an executive business traveler. It's amazing the amount of cardio we're able to do. He has progressed from slow jogs on a treadmill to kettlebell swings with speed rope (jump rope) intervals. His heart rate goes through the roof, he is extremely oxygenated afterwards, and he thoroughly enjoys it.

His wife ran eight miles daily. Traditional strength training for her was not appealing; training her with strength training methods, it was harder for me to wind her. With kettlebells, I feel like I can achieve that. With kettlebells, she gets her money's worth at weight training and endurance- related exercises.

I've also incorporated kettlebells into my husband's basketball training. My children swing the four-kilo kettlebell. My six-year-old son plays baseball and is a faster runner and swings the bat more consistently because of Swings. My nine-year-old daughter does gymnastics. She has gained greater strength and flexibility in her backhand spring.

I have several other clients that are just now beginning kettlebells. One is a horseback rider and the Swings and rocking squat have helped her to control her horse better. All of my clients like the progress their bodies are making. The mind-body connection really is an integral part of the exercises.

With traditional strength training, you don't really have to think about what you're doing. Heck, I've had training days where I was in the gym, but mentally elsewhere and my workout suffered. Not so with kettlebells: it's more cognitive.

D.D.: Susan, how has it been for you at the Russian Kettlebell Challenge certification , considering that before you were just learning from the videos and books?

S.H.: Coming to the seminar has been very informative. I watched the femme fatale video [ From Russia with Tough Love ', and I read Pavel's Power to the People . There were instructions I couldn't grasp from the video and the book, even though they're highlighted. After receiving hands-on experience, the instructors drove home the critical techniques necessary for safe kettlebell lifting.

The seminar is very engaging. There were many "A ha!" moments for me. I was surprised-don't tell Pavel, but I have very little soreness in my body! It's not the same type of soreness from weight training. I'm tight and charged. Don't get me wrong, you'll get exhausted, but when you lift the bell properly, your endurance is better!

The seminar is extremely informative; I'd highly recommend this seminar to anyone who's looking to expand on kettlebell lifting.

D.D.: What are your future goals?

S.H.: My long-range goal is to put kettlebells in major hotels. As a flight attendant and fitness trainer, I deal with business travelers and airline employees like myself who can't train the way we want to on the road. will provide its members with special cards to be used at major hotels that have kettlebells available to train with. The hotels do not have to worry with kettlebells walking off; you can't get them through security. This will make being on the road nicer!

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Susan Himsel tells how Kettlebells Help Women Get Stronger, More Flexible, Leaner and Better Conditioned Susan Himsel demonstrates success with Russian Kettlebell Strength Training Susan Himsel succeedes with Russian Kettlebell Strength Training