Workout your body with weights

Flick through the pages of any glossy magazine and there are various celebrities extolling the virtues of kettlebell training. As part of a Life Matters' fitness special, RACHEL BULLER tries the fitness craze sweeping the nation – and was surprised at just how tough it was.

Almost a week on and my thighs still slightly hurt as I walk. I take this as a positive thing. It means my first kettlebell training class did some good.

From Jennifer Aniston to Halle Berry, they can all be seen lunging and stretching in the park with their kettle bells, putting their tiny toned frames down to this wonder fitness craze.

But the problem is, most celebrity exercise fads involve the sort of time commitment that only an actual celebrity with a nanny, cleaner, PA and numerous other staff can realistically manage to stick to. That, and of course the lettuce, quinoa and obscure vegetable juice diet necessary to make it work.

On the surface, doing different combinations of lifts with a slightly odd looking weight with a handle on it doesn't sound that exhausting, it would be easy to assume you would need to do it four times a day for it to work.

But an hour later, after my first class, when my muscles are burning, the sweat pouring and my heart thumping, I realise just why this is such an effective work-out.

Not only does it tone muscle, it stretches every bit of your body and is also a fantastic cardiac work-out.

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Kettlebells are not a new phenomena, they originated in Russia around 300 years ago when they were used as highly effective training tools in the military.

However, a few years ago they began creeping into exercise routines in the UK and America – bolstered by some pretty impressive celebrity endorsements. And it's not just actresses, a lot of elite athletes also use them as part of their fitness regime.

Matt Philpot started kettlebell classes in Norwich last year at Notre Dame School and Hellesdon High School and they have been incredibly popular with women of all ages.

And judging by the comments of my fellow classmates at Hellesdon, they are certainly feeling the results.

I am averagely fit, I do a bit of running when I have the time and generally keep pretty active, but this is a really intense exercise session. If it wasn't for the fact everyone knew I was writing about it and I needed to retain some self preservation, I would have happily stayed lying on the mat after each exercise.

Matt is fantastic at keeping his class motivated and they clearly love his enthusiastic style, which keeps them pumped up and pushing themselves all the time. Many of them now do more than one class a week such is the buzz they get from the session.

I start off with a 4kg weight, which might not seem particularly heavy, but as soon as you start swinging it around, stretching your muscles and pumping those legs, you realise it is more than enough.

After a short warm up, it is down to business.

Matt tries to come up with different routines each week to keep things fresh, changing the combinations of the exercises and interspersing them with bursts of aerobic work.

First off is a basic lift, swinging the kettlebell out in front of you from between your legs. We do 15 of these, followed by 30 seconds of either press ups, squat thrusts or bicycle kicks on your back. So far so good. But then there are another 15 of the first basic lift (which some people do one armed), followed by 15 swings to each side, taking the kettlebell and stretching right across your body and into the air. Then another 30 second aerobic set.

And so it continues, each time you learn a new set, it is added to the previous ones. Each exercise works on a different part of the body, or in some cases all of your body.

We do stretches, squats, complex manoeuvres threading the kettlebell through our legs, big arm swings, simple weight lifts and plenty more in between. It is utterly exhausting and yet utterly invigorating.

Matt has been passionate about health and fitness since joining the Army at the age of 16. After eight years in the forces, a tour of Iraq and several international deployments, he left the Army to pursue a career in fitness, and in 2009 he qualified as a personal trainer, nutrition adviser and advanced fitness instructor.

In July 2010 he set up his own business, ATP Health and Fitness Norwich, running aerobic and circuit training classes, doing personal training and specialising in pre and post natal exercise, core stability and most recently sports conditioning for skiers and marathon runners.

But it is his kettlebell classes which are causing a real stir.

'I think because it is a resistance, cardio and core work-out in one it is really effective. At the gym you might have to do half an hour of weights, then some work on the rowing machine then perhaps half an hour on the treadmill. Kettlebell training brings it all together and makes it accessible,' says Matt, who has a specialist qualification in kettlebells.

To involve people as much as possible and keep them motivated, Matt has a facebook page to encourage people to discuss the classes, enjoy some light-hearted banter, and he awards someone with the 'fitness class person of the month', as well as putting nutritional tips on-line.

'I think the most important thing is to create a fun and friendly atmosphere to encourage people of all ages and abilities to join in and this class seems to do that. There are a lot of people who want to get fit but they are scared to do it, I want to change that.'

Matt also offers a one-to-one training session, giving you a kettlebell to keep and creating a personalised work out to do two or three times a week at home.

'A lot of people are so busy it is hard to commit to the same time every week, so I create a programme for them. Then I am there if they need a refresher, and they can use the facebook page for advice and to feel involved.'

Contact Matt Philpot for more information or 07785105381. Prices for his personal kettle bell session are �25 for an hour plus the price of a kettle bell, starting from �10.