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Getting Started With Kettlebell Training


Updated August 04, 2014

kettlebells in the gym
Victor Casale/Flickr

You may have heard of kettlebell training as being the next big thing in infomercials, on videos or even at your gym. It looks intriguing - a big heavy weight you get to swing around, but what exactly can it do for you? Kettlebell training can benefit anyone, from seasoned athletes to the average exerciser.

Although it doesn't necessarily take the place of regular cardio or strength training, it does involve elements of each. The dynamic, often ballistic movements involve the entire body and work on areas such as balance, coordination and power development, that don't get the same kind of attention in traditional training. Best of all, it's fun and can refresh and rejuvenate your workouts.

How You Can Use Kettlebell Training

Kettlebell training can be used in a variety of ways - to help you build strength and power as an athlete, to help you get started as a beginning exerciser or to make your current workouts more interesting. A few ideas for how to implement kettlebell training:

  • As a supplement to your workouts – Try adding basic kettlebell exercises at the beginning or end of your cardio or strength workout to get a little more out of your current routine.
  • As a part of your workouts – Another idea is to integrate kettlebell exercises into your routine. For example, doing a clean, push and press as part of your shoulder routine or a swing before moving on to heavy squat work.
  • As a cross-training workout – You can also try kettlebell training as a separate workout you do for an active rest from your typical routine. Putting together a simple series of exercises such as swings, alternating swings, high pulls, presses, deadlifts, squats and rows, can give you a full body routine that works your body differently than your other workouts.
  • As your only workout – Kettlebell training doesn't take the place of regular cardio and strength but, if you avoid traditional training like the plague, trying kettlebells may be the motivation you need to exercise more regularly. You should have previous exercise experience under your belt before trying kettlebell training.

Choosing Your Kettlebells

Kettlebells come in a variety of styles and weights, starting at 5 lbs and going up 5 lb increments to over 100 lbs. The key in choosing your weight is to make sure it's heavy enough to challenge you without causing too much strain. It may take some trial and error to figure out the right weight and you'll find that different exercises will require a different load. If you’re just getting started, many of the more ballistic moves (such as swings or push presses) will be a little strange to you, so start with a light weight to perfect your form.

Below are some general guidelines to use when choosing your weight. These are only suggestions, so err on the lighter side if you're not sure:

  • 5-10 lbs – For women new to kettlebell training
  • 10-15 lbs – For fit women somewhat familiar with kettlebell training or men who are new to kettlebell training
  • 20-25 lbs – For fit women who've tried kettlebell training or men who are familiar with kettlebells
  • 30 lbs and up – For very fit people with previous kettlebell experience

If you plan on regular kettlebell training, you'll find that you'll need a variety of weights depending on the exercise you're doing. When in doubt, start with a light weight and practice the moves before moving up in weight.

You can find kettlebells at most sporting goods stores or discount department stores or you can order them online (Compare Prices). They can be expensive, but keep in mind that you can also use kettlebells for traditional strength training as well.

Next: Kettlebell exercises

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