If you dismiss Cheng's comments as those of someone jealous of Michaels' fame and riches, consider that he is far from the only certified kettle bell instructor disconcerted with her technique. Denver-based instructor Josh Hillis had this to say in a blog post regarding her technique: "It's just wrong ... in every way. All of it. Every single thing she does is wrong."
Austin, Texas, trainer Jude Howe was so disgusted with Michaels' kettle bell movements that he posted a YouTube video showing how they really should be done. "Her technique and approach was so off the mark," he told me. "It couldn't have been more dangerous, and I felt the need to show people proper form."
If you decide to try kettle bells, Cheng recommends your instructor be RKC-certified, because the process is mentally and physically grueling, and they'll actually fail potential instructors who don't cut it; some other organizations will certify anyone who shows up with cash.
Now let's take a look at Michaels' weight-loss claims using the example of a middle-aged woman who weighs 190 pounds. Since there are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, to fulfill Michaels' promise of losing 5 pounds a week, this woman needs a weekly deficit of 17,500 calories.
Part of this massive caloric deficit can result from dietary restriction — but not too much or it could cause her metabolism to slow down and she would experience intense hunger. A minimum intake for our hypothetical woman is around 1,400 calories a day, which is about 500 less than her typical weight-maintenance diet. Over the course of a week, she could lose 1 pound this way. So just 4 pounds — or 14,000 calories — left to account for.
Kettle bells can be a tremendous calorie-burner in the hands of an experienced user. But since Michaels' DVD is targeted at overweight and out-of-shape women, I think a generous estimation of how many calories our hypothetical woman can burn is about 600 an hour. Considering that she would burn roughly 100 calories sitting on the couch, the actual extra calories burned from doing Michaels' workout is 500 per hour.
Dividing that into the remaining weekly deficit of 14,000 calories, we find that our poor woman needs to use Michaels' kettle bell DVD for 28 hours each week. That's four hours of kettle bells a day — every single day.
I can hear the exploding lumbar discs already.
Since no one can reasonably expect that people are going to do this DVD for 28 hours a week, the only conclusion we can make is that Michaels is really bad at math.
I contacted Michaels to get her side of the story, but her schedule was too full to make room for a conversation with me, according to her publicist Ashley Sandberg in New York.
While Jillian Michaels fans must be frothing at the mouth, I think when a person proclaims the only way to get in shape is through hard work (true), then adds her name and image to a brand of diet pills (hypocritical), then faces a class-action lawsuit over the lack of efficacy regarding said diet pills (unsurprising), coupled with myriad examples of unqualified and unsafe training along with outrageous weight loss claims, then it's time to find a new source of fitness education and inspiration.
Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, Canada.