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Kettlebell Exercises and Safety Tips

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Updated August 04, 2014

Kettlebell Exercises

Most kettlebell exercises involve a variety of motions, but most fall into two categories: Grinds are slow, controlled movements while ballistic exercises involve fast swinging and/or momentum.

Grind Movements

The following examples show a few basic kettlebell grinds. These moves, which are much like traditional strength training exercises, become the foundation for the ballistic exercises. If you’ve been strength training, you’ve probably done most of these moves with other types of equipment. If you’re new to strength training and kettlebell training, you’ll want to practice these movements and become comfortable with them before moving on to the ballistic exercises.

Ballistic Exercises

Ballistic moves, as the name implies, involve more explosive, powerful movements. It may seem like you’re swinging or pressing a weight up and down with your arms, but these moves actually involve a hip thrust, allowing you to draw on the power of your hips and legs to move the weight. That means you shouldn’t feel strain in the arms – in fact, the kettlebell should feel weightless at the top of the movement. If it doesn’t, work on driving the hips up as you swing the weight or consider using a different weight. If the weight is too light, the hip thrust won’t make much of a difference. It it’s too heavy, the hip thrust may not be enough to overcome the weight.

When getting started with kettlebell training, it's best to get instruction from a professional to get the most out of your exercises. If you don't have kettlebell classes or training in your area, consider a video such as, Absolute Beginners: Kettlebell 3-In-1 With Amy Bento (Compare Prices) or Gin Miller's Calorie-Burning Workout with Kettlebells. If you're putting together your own workout, you can try the exercises listed above using the following training guidelines:

  • Intensity: Vary the intensity or modify the exercises by changing the lever length (e.g., hold the weight closer to the body) or changing the speed of the movement (e.g., master the technique with slower movements)
  • Weight: Start with a light weight and consider keeping a variety of weights handy. Different weights may be necessary for each exercise
  • Reps: 8-16
  • Sets: 1-3 sets
  • Frequency: 1-2 times per week
  • Rest: 15-60 seconds between sets

Kettlebell Safety and Techniques

While there's a low risk of injury with kettlebell training, there are risks involved, not the least of which is the possibility of throwing your weight across the room or dropping it on your toe. Use the following tips to keep your workouts safe and effective:

  • Give yourself enough space – Some moves involve swinging the weight up, rotating to the side or lifting it overhead. Practice the moves without the weight first to make sure you have enough room to move.
  • Make sure you warm up thoroughly before your workout to avoid injury.
  • Start simple – Even if you're an experienced exerciser, you'll want to start with the basic exercises before going to the next level.
  • Start with a lighter weight – Even if it feels too light, you'll be able to practice the exercises with good form and improve your muscle memory before going heavier.
  • Wear gloves or keep a towel handy - Sweaty hands can cause you to slip and drop the weight.

Sources:

Bishop, E; Collins, M; Lanier, A. Cardiorespiratory Responses to Kettlebell Training Exercises. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 37(5):S51. 2005.

Roberts, Keli. Kettlebell Concepts: Total Body KB Blast. IDEA World Fitness 2009.

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