Getting Started with Kettlebells: How to Buy, Learn & Train
Now that kettlebell training has become popular with fitness professionals, the mainstream population is finally catching on. Seven years ago, when I picked up my first kettlebell, it was rare to find anyone who even knew what a kettlebell was. I remember for years explaining it over and over to my friends, new clients, other personal trainers, and family members. People still referred to them as “cow bells” or “kettle balls.” Someone once asked me how my “cow balls” were doing. I have to admit I had a real hard time keeping a straight face.
These days I’m happy to say I don’t have to explain what kettlebells are as frequently, and people are slowly starting to call them by the correct name. Unfortunately, like any fitness tool that becomes popular it tends to get very watered down. Fly by night kettlebell certifications are constantly popping up as well as new kettlebell brands, shapes, and sizes. Poorly designed, cheap kettlebells that come with a tutorial DVD equally as bad can be found all over major stores now.
How is a beginner supposed to be guided in the right direction with the kettlebell market becoming so saturated? Any Joe Shmoe in the fitness field thinks he or she can pick up a kettlebell and teach it to their clients. It’s very frustrating to see fitness “professionals” teach their clients how to use these cast iron weights in a dangerously incorrect fashion. No wonder why some gyms have to lock up their kettlebells in order to stop people from hurting themselves. I have seen signs on kettlebells saying, “Make sure to seek out one of the personal trainers at the gym before using this equipment.” It’s a shame many of these gyms don’t realize it’s their own trainers who are often adding to the injuries.
Beginning your kettlebell journey can be quite overwhelming and one needs to be careful when choosing a path. For optimal success there are key elements which I will be covering in this article. This will ensure you are on the right path to proper technique, form, increased results, and all without wasting time or money, and hopefully avoiding injury.
Seek out a certified kettlebell instructor from a highly respected kettlebell organization. I am obviously a little biased being that I have been a part of the Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC) community since 2005 and am now a RKC Team Leader. However, I am open-minded and have looked around.
The RKC has high standards and is very selective with granting their individual certifications. There are several former Senior and Master RKC’s who have formed their own certifications or workshops utilizing different approaches. Nevertheless, all of the quality ones I have researched have been affiliated with the RKC and Pavel’s instruction at some point or another. Even instructors with the highest regarded certifications can slip through the cracks. Do your homework, research their individual background, and/or sit in on a class or session when finding an instructor for yourself. Be sure their philosophy matches your needs.
If you don’t have access to a quality kettlebell instructor then the next best thing is a highly regarded instructional DVD. If you are brand new to kettlebells, The Ultimate Body Sculpt and Conditioning with Kettlebells, Volume 1 is a great beginner DVD. There has been tons of documented success from people who have learned strictly from DVD’s. Instructional books such as, Enter the Kettlebell by Pavel or my book, Kettlebells for Women: Workouts for your Strong, Sculpted, and Sexy Body are also great resources. Ultimately learning in person is by far the best scenario, but a quality DVD is definitely sufficient if that is your only option.
SHOPPING FOR A KETTLEBELL
Finding the right kettlebell can be very confusing. Knowing what sizes to purchase and brands to invest in can be very overwhelming. Generally when just beginning your journey you can purchase just one kettlebell. There is no pressure to rush and order several at a time. Developing strength will be an organic process when done correctly. You will know when you are ready to incorporate a heavier kettlebell into your program.
At the very minimum this is what I recommend:
- Women - 8kg (18lb) kettlebell
- Men - 16kg (35lb) kettlebell
In a perfect world it’s nice to have options for the different exercises. If you have the funds to invest in several at a time then this is what I’d recommend for the average male and female:
- Women - 8kg, 12kg, 16kg
- Men - 16kg, 20kg, 24kg
Now let’s talk about brands of kettlebells. I have owned over 50 kettlebells in my life. I have tried and tested many different brands and styles. The original kettlebell I started with is the Dragon Door kettlebell. Although pricier than the rest, they have outlasted all the other brands I have tried and feel the best in my hands.
Brands such as Life Line, Ader, and Apollo are all good alternatives. They are cheaper in price and will do the trick, however, most of my clients end up gravitating to the Dragon Door bells. The other three brands I mentioned are much better than the ones you will find in mainstream sporting goods stores.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
The main question I get asked when starting kettlebells is, “How do I incorporate kettlebells into my weekly schedule?” If you are working out on your own, kettlebells can easily fit into any regimen. For many folks who lift weights regularly and do cardio, incorporating a balanced program with kettlebells can actually replace your gym routine all together! If you are an athlete, practicing the foundation moves as little as twice a week can create a huge carry-over effect in performance.
There you have it - an honest guide of how to get started! Once you develop the proper foundation and technique the next step will be developing a program. There are lots of different ways you can design a program depending on your goals. You can also find programs and workouts laid out for you in the kettlebell books I mentioned above.
Look out for my next article on how to design a strength and conditioning program with kettlebells. I wish you success in moving better and finding the right path into kettlebell training. It’s truly the most amazing training I have ever discovered and it actually delivers the most incredible results!
Don’t hesitate to contact me at Lauren@socaltrainer.com if you have any questions!