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I’m A Functional Medicine Doc: The One Thing You Need To Build Lean Muscle


Jamie Schneider

November 11, 2023

Beauty & Health Editor

By Jamie Schneider

Beauty & Health Editor

Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.

Image by Leandro Crespi / Stocksy

November 11, 2023

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After hearing my co-workers rave about strength training (and even reporting on the benefits myself), I have finally hopped on the weightlifting bandwagon. I’m still a Pilates girl through and through (don’t come for me), but I’ve recently committed to strength training two times a week. 

And honestly, I feel great!I’m increasing my weight from week to week, and I feel strong! It gives me a unique sense of accomplishment when I can really feel my body tone up.

The only downside is the vast amount of tools and workout plans out there to choose from. It’s easy to become intimidated by all those decisions (I’m sure I’m not alone here), but luckily, functional medicine doctor Gabrielle Lyon, D.O., recently shed light on her favorite piece of at-home gym equipment.

“I will do some kind of kettlebell activity,” she shares on the mindbodygreen podcast. Discover why she recommends this type of weight below.

A strong case for kettlebells 

First things first: Kettlebells are versatile. You can use them for a variety of moves (think swings, farmer’s carries, deadlifts, goblet squats, and more). “I will also do a push-press or some kind of squat with kettlebells,” Lyon says. You can even hold the kettlebell in different ways (by its base, its handle, or even upside down) to tweak the difficulty level and how the muscle is being stressed. 

These exercises help you build lean muscle (which Lyon deems the “organ of longevity”), but they also work on your grip strength, which can significantly enhance your quality of life as you age. Research shows that it can even help reduce all-cause mortality

Kettlebells are also compact and easy to store, which is great news for my one-bedroom NYC apartment. Lyon shares she doesn’t have a rack of weights at home; she finds it safer to place kettlebells on the floor in a house with young kids. Plus, some signature kettlebell moves, like kettlebell swings, can’t be comfortably replicated with a dumbbell—so it’s a win-win. 

Feel free to head over here to browse our favorite kettlebells to buy. If you’re a strength training beginner (like me), experts recommend starting out lighter than you think before working your way up.

“A good test is to try and pick up the kettlebell with the nondominant arm and raise to shoulder level 10 times with moderate effort,” advises Jamie Costello, MSC, vice president of fitness and sales at Pritikin Longevity Center. “You can always go heavier, but it’s a bad idea to start out too heavy.”

The takeaway 

If you, too, have recently kick-started your strength training journey: Hi, welcome! It can be overwhelming to navigate all the exercise plans, equipment, and expert tips out there (especially if you don’t have access to a gym), but take it from Lyon: Kettlebells are a sound investment. Looking for specific moves to use your new kettlebell? See here for a full-body, beginner-friendly routine

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