Kettlebell Training for Beginners


Authored by Andy Chasse’ in Exercise 
Published on 07-04-2009

Kettlebell training is a great form of exercise that has been around for years and years, but is only recently becoming popular with the mainstream fitness population. Kettlebell training includes a number of benefits followed by only a few drawbacks and may serve to break through that horrible plateau that no ordinary barbell or dumbbell work seems to fix.

Kettlebells are small cast iron weights that range from five pounds way up to 50 plus. They are bigger than a baseball but smaller than a basketball. Take something in the middle of those and add a handle to it and you now have a kettlebell. Although they originally became popular in Russia, strength coach Pavel Tsatsouline has popularized them in the United States. Although kettlebells are especially popular amongst mixed martial artists and the like, athletes of all types of now beginning to utilize this essential training tool.

With the history lesson out of the way, let’s take a look at the benefits of this odd implement. The biggest draw with the kettlebell is simply that it is odd. It can function as a great change of pace for someone looking for a break from traditional weight training. In addition, kettlebells also provide a much higher level of cardiovascular stress.

There are only two real drawbacks. First off, the previously mentioned stress may be a problem for beginners. Everyone has to start somewhere, though. Beginners must simply check their ego at the door and be open to working with some lighter weights at first until the body is properly conditioned. In addition, the learning curve is rather steep on some of the exercises as compared to traditional barbell and dumbbell training. While many of the movements are similar, it is much different holding a barbell or dumbbell than holding a big metal ball with a handle. Fortunately, a little time and practice negate these two minor negatives.

While there are a wide range of movements that may be performed with kettlebells, this article will only focus on the most important beginner movements. These exercises will allow the newbie to become comfortable with this odd little implement.

1. Kettlebell Swing. This is the most basic kettlebell movement and closely mimics the dumbbell front raise. In the front raise, the legs and torso remain static and stabilized while both arms raise out in front of the body. This same concept applies with a minor change. The legs and torso will now come into the movement to provide additional momentum. Stand with legs shoulder width apart and grip a kettlebell with one or both hands directly between your feet. Slightly bend the knees and arch the back. Powerfully swing the kettlebell up off the floor out in front of the body, just as in the dumbbell front raise. Allow it to drop back down without touching the floor and repeat. Don’t be afraid to use a little momentum on this exercise.

2. Kettlebell Push Press. This exercise mimics the dumbbell push press exactly. A dumbbell push press is simply a dumbbell shoulder press with leg drive to provide additional momentum and power. However, gripping a dumbbell straight above the head is a little different from gripping a kettlebell. Let’s just say it is a tiny bit more awkward. As with the dumbbell push press, begin the movement holding the kettlebell with one hand next to the shoulder. Bend the knees slightly and blow the kettlebell up into the air using your shoulder and triceps strength in addition to the leg drive. After it reaches lockout, allow it to slowly sink back down to the shoulder and repeat.

These are the two most basic kettlebell exercises and should be performed on a regular basis to ensure your comfort level with this implement. As with any other exercise performed, technique is extremely important so be sure to master these basics before moving on.


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