Kettlebell Training: A Perfect Start

When it comes to kettlebell training people have many questions. Some are uninformed and unsure where to turn, some are misinformed and others simply misunderstand. Some have had bad experiences with unqualified trainers using kettlebells improperly as if they are nothing more than oddly shaped dumbbells, missing the point entirely and never getting to experience their unique potential and benefits.

I’ve written this post to answer the following questions:

  • What is a kettlebell?
  • Why do people train with kettlebells?
  • What makes the kettlebell special?
  • Are Kettlebells Dangerous?
  • How do I start to learn how use kettlebells properly?

 

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WHAT IS A KETTLEBELL?

Kettlebells are hand held weights shaped like cannonballs with a handle.  They have been around for hundreds of years and in the last 10 years or so have returned to the spotlight due to the teachings of Pavel Tsatsouline and the kettlebell revolution he has inspired. The kettlebell’s unique design allows for a wide variety of standard lifts as well as extremely powerful specialized lifts which are unique to the kettlebell.

WHY KETTLEBELL TRAINING?

The beauty of kettlebell training is in it’s elegant simplicity, versatility, freedom and scalability.

No other single piece of equipment will allow you to accomplish so much in so little time, can be used or taken anywhere and can be made as challenging or as easy as necessary.  A young teenager can learn to safely swing a 24kg, a strong athlete in his or her prime can be challenged and made to sweat bullets with a 12kg kettlebell or a 70 year old grandma can learn to safely deadlift the massive 48kg.

Dumbbells and Barbells are unquestionably powerful & effective tools and the barbell is the undisputed king when it comes to lifting very heavy weight, but the kettlebell’s unique design gives it the following advantages:

  • Kettlebells are small, portable and versatile.
  • They can be taken anywhere, and require minimal space
  • They allow you to perform all the lifts and movements used with barbells and dumbbells, plus they allow you to do many things that can’t be duplicated with dumbbells and barbells.
  • They can be passed from hand to hand
  • They can be held in different ways manipulating leverage.
  • They allow for keeping a safe neutral wrist position while lifting.
  • They are great for stretching with.
  • They allow for greater range of motion and more degrees of freedom.
  • They can be swung between the legs and safely accelerated during the negative phase for a powerful training effect.
  • They allow for safely executing high repetition quick lifts.
  • They can be stacked, thrown, dragged and even juggled.
  • The off-balance center of provides an extra degree of challenge strengthening stabilizers and forcing the entire body to work together as a single unit.
  •  Additionally, the kettlebell’s versatility makes it the perfect tool for learning the principles used to make you safer, stronger while training so you can then apply them to any other modality including the barbell, dumbbell, bodyweight, TRX and more.

THE POWER OF KETTLEBELL TRAINING 
If you want to escape the gym, the combination of bodyweight and kettlebell training gives you the freedom and the ability to train anywhere, on your own terms and only requires a small amount of space.

If you seek a versatile tool that allows you to train for strength, flexibility, power, endurance and fat-loss, no other single piece of equipment does it better. Kettlebells allow to perform the same lifts as dumbbells and barbells + many powerful lifts that can only be performed with kettlebells.

If you want to burn calories, kettlebell ballistics which burn over 20 calories per minute are hard to beat.

If you love variety, the kettlebell’s unique design makes it possible to perform an endless variety of exercises, combinations and complexes without the need to change equipment, set the bell down or wait in line at the gym.

If you want to be challenged, the simplest kettlebells workouts have proven to humble the strongest athletes.

If you seek simplicity, look no further. Thousands of people have experienced amazing results (losing 100lbs?) from programs consisting of only one or two kettlebell techniques.
BUT…
As powerful as kettlebell training can be, it’s not about the kettlebell.

The kettlebell is only a tool. Without the proper expertise it’s nothing more than an oddly shaped dumbbell… or a doorstop.

Powerful and effective kettlebell training is first and foremost about moving well, then matching the right techniques to the individual, combining that with intelligent programming and the application of proven principles. This can be difficult or impossible to learn on your own through books, videos and internet forums. There is a proven process to follow, but more on that later.

ARE KETTLEBELLS DANGEROUS? 

Kettlebells are like any powerful tool, the magic is in HOW you use them and they are firm adherents of the “garbage-in-garbage-out” principle. When used properly and expertly they can produce amazing results … and when used inappropriately, inexpertly or irresponsibly the results can be less the optimal at best or catastrophic at worst. The internet is full of people who put down one form of exercise over another as dangerous or stupid, but what the best trainers understand is that context is key. What determines the safety or appropriateness of any given exercise technique or tool is knowing how to match the right movements, techniques, tools and loads to the individual.  No single technique is appropriate for everyone, the best instructors know this, and investing a great deal of  time and resources  learning how to properly assess and progress each trainee as a unique individual.

GETTING STARTED

THE RECIPE FOR SAFE AND EFFECTIVE KETTLEBELL TRAINING
In order to train with kettlebells safety and effectively or train others responsibly you will need three things

  1. Live, in-person, expert instruction. Nothing will accelerate or ensure proper technique like immediate feedback, technical subtleties and hands-on corrections that personal attention from a StrongFirst certified instructor provides.
  2. A proven system and a set of principles to follow (such as StrongFirst provides) that keeps you safe, guides you down the right path and allows for growth. The StrongFirst system we utilize is known for making novices strong and champions stronger.
  3. A Community of like-minded individuals to support, challenge and encourage one another.  Through the StrongFirst community you will join a world-wide family.

 

GET STARTED TODAY 

The one-day StrongFirst Kettlebell User Course is the perfect opportunity to be introduced to all three.

Whether you are an absolute novice, experienced with kettlebells but have not had qualified instruction, or a trainer who wants nothing but the best for your clients, the StrongFirst User Course is a perfect place to start.


 

Our next StrongFirst Kettlebell User Course is Sunday April 24th in Omaha, NE
“The StrongFirst Kettlebell User Course is the 8-Hour Kettlebell Workshop – Perfected.”
[Reserve your spot today: Space is limited to 10 participants for this course.]

Register Now


 

Alternatively, you may consider our 8 class / 4 week beginner’s course, private training or group classes.

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Squeeze More out of Your Only Kettlebell

Squeeze More Out of Your Only Kettlebell: Omaha Elite Kettlebell - John Scott Stevens, SFGII

Keeping a kettlebell at the home or office is a great way to recharge during a 15-minute break from the computer.
Not everyone has a wide variety of bells to choose from and some people have only one bell, often a relatively light beginner bell and they quickly outgrow it… or so they think.

With a little creativity you will find plenty of ways to make a light bell seem heavier than it should and keep your strength gains coming.

Here are just a few examples of how to squeeze more out of a given size bell. Each list is arranged from easiest to hardest. Aside from doing more reps or taking less rest… when a particular version of a technique begins to feel easy,  start working on one of the versions further down the list.  Safety is always a priority and so is your dignity, for that reason you will never attempt any kettlebell exercise while standing on a bosu ball or standing on a kettlebell. [Note: If your idea of kettlebell training involves doing a single leg squat atop a kettlebell… you’re doing it wrong.]

This list is by no means exhaustive and with a little imagination I could easily double the variations shown below.
With variations like these I can keep a 16kg kettlebell challenging although I can readily swing, bent press, squat and do getups with a bell three times that size.  I’m not trying to brag, there are many stronger people in the world… but, my point is this:

Strength is a choice: If you have a kettlebell you think you’ve outgrown, you’re probably wrong.

Enjoy & Don’t forget to share this post if you do!

 

KETTLEBELL DEADLIFT

  1. Easiest: Sumo Kettlebell Deadlift
  2. Harder: Sumo Kettlebell Deadlift from an elevation
  3. Harder: Single arm suitcase deadlift
  4. Harder: Single Leg Kettlebell Deadlift

KETTLEBELL HIP HINGE

  1. Easiest: Two Hand Swing
  2. Harder: Hand to Hand Swing
  3. Harder: One Hand Swing
  4. Harder: High Pulls
  5. Harder: Snatches

KETTLEBELL PRESS

  1. Easiest: Push Press
  2. Harder: Military Press
  3. Harder: Bent Press
  4. Harder: Military Press Blind Folded, Standing on one leg… or both.
  5. Harder: Tall Kneeling Military Press (Blind folded too)
  6. Harder: Press Up, 1/4 the way down & back up, 1/2 the way down & back up, 3/4 down then up.
  7. Harder: Seated On The Floor Press
  8. Harder: Press from the bottom of the squat
  9. Harder: Press while seated in the splits

KETTLEBELL GETUP

  1. Easiest: Partial Getups
  2. Harder: Full Getups
  3. Harder: Full Getups with several presses on the way to standing.
  4. Harder: Slow Motion Getups: 1 minute + per repetition.
  5. Harder: Continuous getups for up to 5 reps without setting the bell down before switching hands.

KETTLEBELL SQUAT

  1. Easiest: Goblet Squat
  2. Harder: Reactive Goblet Squats  (Engum)
  3. Harder: Goblet squat with the bell held upside down (bottom up)
  4. Harder: Goblet Squat with a 10 second pause in the bottom while shaking the bell vigorously. (Dan John)
  5. Harder: Front Squat
  6. Harder: Cossack Squat
  7. Harder: Bottom Up Front Squat
  8. Harder: Goblet Squat with the bell held overhead
  9. Harder: Single Arm Overhead Squat (hold the bell overhead with one arm locked out and squat)
  10. Harder: Pistol (a.k.a. Single Leg Squat)
  11. Harder: Racked Pistol
  12. Harder: Botom Up Racked Pistol
  13. Harder: Overhead Pistol

KETTLEBELL CLEAN

  1. Easiest: Cheat Clean with both hands
  2. Harder: Clean (standard)
  3. Harder: Dead Clean with no backward hike pass between reps.
  4. Harder: Bottom Up Clean
  5. Harder: Add a 15 seconds hold/pause in the rack position between reps.

Kettlebell Juggling: Omaha Elite Kettlebell - John Scott Stevens SFGII

KETTLEBELL JUGGLING
Kettlebell juggling sounds scary, but it’s not nearly as hard as it sounds.  You will need to perform these outside of course where the bells won’t bounce.

  1. Easiest: Two Hand Release & Catch at the top of the swing
  2. Harder: Hand to Hand Release & Catch
  3. Harder: One Hand Release & Catch
  4. Harder: Hand to  Hand Release into a flip & catch
  5. Harder: One Hand Release into a flip & catch
  6. Harder: One Hand release into a helicopter spin & catch
    (For a greater list of kettlebell juggling techniques and progressions I recommend the works of Jeff Martone and Gus Peterson)

WANT MORE?
For even more kettlebell lifting variations check out “More Russian Kettlebell Challenges” from Pavel Tsatsouline.
More Russian Kettlebell Challenges