We Tried It: What to Expect in a Kettlebell Class

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I always try to stay on top of the latest fitness trends—not only because it helps me to answer questions from our members and keep our fitness content fresh, but also because I'm a bit of a fitness junky. I like to try new things so that my workouts stay fun, exciting and effective. Kettlebells recently caught my eye, and I can't even tell you how I first heard of them. But then, I kept hearing more and more about them and began to see trainers working with them at the gym, too. I started to watch kettlebell videos on YouTube just for fun—it looked so different and intense—and that led me to researching and writing an article for SparkPeople that explains the benefits and basics of kettlebell training. (If you've never heard of kettlebells or don't know much about them, I suggest starting with that article.)

One thing was clear to me from my research and my interviews with kettlebell experts: Kettlebell training isn't something you can just jump into without the proper instruction. As a fitness professional, I understand a great deal about how the body works and how to move in a safe and effective manner, but kettlebell training looked so different and unusual to me, that I knew I had to learn about it directly from a true expert if I was going to do it right. So that's exactly what I did!

I gathered a couple of my co-workers who were also eager to try kettlebells, and we met up with Henry Marshall, a NSCA-certified personal trainer and IKFF- and AOS-certified kettlebell trainer for an hour-long workout at HealthStyle Fitness club in Cincinnati. This was our first time trying kettlebells. Want to hear what we thought about it (and see the short video we filmed during our session)?

This video (below) shows just a sampling of the moves that we learned and practiced during our workout. It gives a good idea of what kettlebell training is like. Notice how we squat deeply (all the way to the floor), lock out our knee and elbow joints during the movements, and harness momentum—techniques that most fitness professionals avoid during traditional workouts because of their potential injury risk. That's a big reason why you should always get expert instruction and oversight when you begin exercising with kettlebells.

If you have trouble viewing this video here, please click here to see it on YouTube.

Overall, here is what each of us thought about our first kettlebell workout:

Paul tried a 16-kilogram (35-pound) kettlebell. He said, "I loved it, and it was very difficult! I'm pretty active—I do weight training 4 or 5 days a week, and I do cardio like running and boxing/wrestling, too. Still, I found my first workout with kettlebells to be pretty challenging. There is a lot to coordinate and think about when you're doing the moves, which involve your whole body. I was pretty sore for a couple days—especially my hamstrings and, strangely, the arches of me feet were a little sore even during the workout. I would say kettlebells would be very good for people who want to switch up their workouts to something more full-body, and/or something that involves a little more thought, skill or coordination. I definitely think you wouldn't get bored doing kettlebells!"

Tim used a 16-kilogram bell, too. "I have to say I really enjoyed the workout—it was both challenging and fun," he commented. "This full-body workout combined strength training, cardio, anaerobic activity and coordination. The different movements allow you to work muscles you wouldn't normally use, which meant that I was sore for a few days following it! I consider myself an active person; I lift weights and do some type of cardio about 5 days a week (running, sports, hiking, biking etc). I'm the kind of person who loves to mix up my workouts and find new ways to stay active and kettlebells seems like a great additional 'change of pace' workout to add to the routine!"

My Take: I LOVED the kettlebell workout! I am hooked! I worked out with a 12-kilogram (about 26 pound) bell to start, and near the end that become too difficult and I had to drop down to the next level they had available (8 kilograms or about 18 pounds). I knew that kettlebells were supposed to combine strength training and cardio into one workout, so I wore my heart rate monitor during the workout and my heart rate was way up—near the top of my aerobic range (80% to 85%) during most of the workout. It was intense! I was dripping with sweat and I felt tired as if I worked out much longer. But at the same time, it flew by because it was so fun and different.

I loved how kettlebells train your muscles (strength training) and your heart (cardio) in a single workout—it's like multitasking! I'd liken it to other mind-body exercise, like Pilates or yoga, because you have to focus so intently on the task at hand. You are coordinating so many parts of your body at once that you really have to pay attention and think about what's going on to do the move safely and correctly. Some people like a mindless workout where they can distract themselves for an hour, but I like a mindful workout where you focus on what you're doing. To me, it was like a sort of meditation—other thoughts don't creep in because you're so "in the moment" during the workout. But beyond that, it was just a great workout. I used my body in new ways and felt really strong and accomplished by the end.

I was sore for a few days afterward—especially in my hamstrings, butt, inner thighs and lower back (in a good way). Since our workout with Henry, I've purchased my own 20-pound kettlebell and I've been practicing what I learned at home once or twice a week, as well as trying out some of the kettlebell DVDs that are on the market. I highly recommend learning directly from a kettlebell professional before you try it on your own, but I do plan to review some of these home fitness products in future blog entries.

Thanks again to HealthStyle Fitness and Henry Marshall for the great kettlebell experience!

Are you interested in kettlebell training? Have you tried it yourself or seen others use kettlebells?

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I am certainly game for a mindful workout! =) Report
I'd like to try this, as it seems like it would be a good alternative to aerobics now that I can't do those anymore due to a bad nip and knee. I have read, however, that the blisters and calluses it causes aren't worth it. Any feeback on this? Thanks! Report
How do you track this on the cardio fitness tracker? Report
That looks awesome!!! I am definetely going to try these. i need to see if my gym has a trainer in it. Report
Can swinging that kettle bell really be good for you? It doesn't look that good to me. Report
I'll pass. Report
Kettlebells does look like a fun
and different workout! My husband
would be very interested in this
workout! Report
The first time I tried kettleballing, I pulled a muscle in my back! But it was a very extreme workout, and it burns calories really quickly. Of course....I didn't know what I was doing, and the girl on the infomercial made it look so easy! LOL! Report
I have to agree with Shadoza - I see the potential for some pretty painful wrists, at the very least. And for folks who may already have issues with RSI this could be a problem. Report
This looks like such a blast! I would really love to try them someday with a proper instructor. As I was watching the video, I was wishing like anything that I was in the class with you all doing that! Report
The ergonomics of it doesn't seat well with me. In the video, I noticed several moves that could provide serious injury if even a slight mistake is made. Report
I love them! Got one for Moms Day from my 4 daughters - one of whom is a fitness instructor. Its 15 lbs and so far I have just used the demo dvd that came with it. I have done two arm swings, one arm swings and alternating swings. It really give you a workout in a very short time - heart is pumping! My daughter and I plan to take a class from her friend who's a certified kettlebell instructor sometime soon - hope to learn some of the other moves. Am trying to incorporate them into my workouts 2x a week. Thanks for the story and video!
I *love* kettlebells. I use them once or twice a week as part of my gym session and have blogged about them a couple of times. I love the fact that they work everything at once so once I have done my 10k run training, I can carry on working my cardio whilst doing ST. Another bonus is that it works the core hard too so if I don't have time to do separate core exercises I have them covered anyway.

I agree that if you want to try it out find a qualified trainer to take you through the basics first but don't be put off by the weight. The lowest weight on offer at the gym I go to is 8kg (18lbs). Report
Looks interesting - but unfortunately my town not only doesn't have a fitness center that has these - we don't have a fitness center! Report
Good for nicole!! but I would throw out my back. Report
I have the Kettlenetics system and I love it; it's like nothing I have ever done before. I was surprised how much of a cardio workout I got with it also. My heart rate was up really high and even had to stop a few seconds to catch my breath. I really believe the Kbell is a wonderful way to get in shape. I have only been doing it for a couple weeks but already feel stronger and my arms are getting some definition. The Kettlenetics starts out with a 4 lb. bell, then you can work your way up to the 8 lb. They say it takes several weeks to work up to the heavier bell, and I can believe it. 4 lb.s doesn't sound like much, but when you're swinging it for 20 to 40 minutes or so, believe me, you can feel it. I also saw the Firm Kbell workout on Amazon for those who love the Firm. Report
Those look like intense fun! When I saw "kettlebells" it sounded like a cross b/w handbells & kettledrums, wondered who incorporated those into working out. Whew, I want to try the little ones first! Report
My trainer has been incorporating some things from kettlebells in my work out. I can truly say that if it is not done properly you can really hurt yourself, however it does work you very hard. I love doing it. Report
My knees hurt just watching that video. I've injured both and can barely do regular squats because of pain; if I squatted all the way to the floor, there's no way in hell I'd be able to get back up again. Especially with crap in both hands. lol Report
Sorry , I just don't get it at all. Not something I think I could do at my age, and with my back and knees! Think I will stick to my bands! Report
WOW!! They look great. And yes they do looks safer than any kind of free weights. Report
Very interesting, look more safer the free weights since you have more grip on it. Report
I was glad to read the article I have seen the kettle balls and have been thinking about adding it to my exercise routine. I will give it a try now. I have been exercising 7 days a week and like to mix it up a bit and think this will give me the change and challenge I need to keep working at my weight loss. Report
Sounds like fun, and a great way to multitask, but I have a really bad back. I'm afraid this might put me out of commission. Report
Your article inspired me to go out and buy myself a set of kettle balls. I can't wait to try them out. Report
I was glad to see this video. Our large gym only has 1 certified kettle ball trainer. Very few people seem to take a session, probably because we were told you need to be in really good physical condition before starting with the kettle balls....well, that let's me out for some time. Report
I tried these at the gym too and LOVED them! It's totally true - a great cardio workout while working out upper and lower body for nice muscles! I was sore for about 4 days afterwards for the first several times. I started with 15 lbs kettlebells and that was heavy enough for me for just starting out anyways (I do bicep curls with 10lbs weights). I'd recommend a trainer to avoid injury, but I also youtube'd some video instruction and found that helpful in picking up new moves. Remember to "thrust" your hips when needed to offset the overhead weight! Report
I heart kettlebell training! I've been working with a personal trainer for 6 weeks and we use kettlebells in every session. It's challenging, fun and my strength has improved tremendously! Plus my workouts take less time than if I were using lots of machines at the gym. What's not to love!? :) Report
thanks for the info. I've been curious about this Report
I've seen these before but never had the chance to use them. The gym I'm currently at doesn't have them. It looks very challenging. I think if I could find someone to show me proper form I would like it. Report
I always like to try new workout to change my exercise up and possible change my weight and tone more. Report
It's so great to see real people. Woo hoo. Looks like you guys had a blast, too. My gym has kettleball classes sometimes, but it's $90 or so for 8-12 weeks of classes in addition to the regular membership, and I can't afford that.

- Josie Report
We have the kettle balls at my gym. Goodlife Fitness (Canadian chain) and I used them a couple of times with my trainer. I loved it. But would have to say that to start out I think it would would be best to have a session with a trainer or take a class. For one thing if you do it wrong or used the wrong weight you could get hurt. Plus I would want to see if I liked it before buying them to use at home. It takes some people time to get the method down. Some pick it up faster. I know my trainer said a couple of her clients took several times before they were able to do it. Report
I have to agree with the previous poster. I have rheumatoid arthritis and just watching made me hurt. LOL I have 2 pound hand weights which is about all my hands and wrists will tolerate. It sure looks like fun, though! Report
This idea seems great. I do suspect my arthritic writs might have problems with it, but think that for most people the kettlebells seem more versatile than dumbells and would be a 'fun' workout! But... my guess is that anyone with arthritis in fingers or wrists might need to try them out before buying them. Report
It looks like a very effective workout, but I agree with others that technique and form is key. I can't afford a personal trainer, and I workout at home doing exercises that I know and/or that are safer, where I can feel when I'm doing something wrong and work on correcting it rather than noticing after injury that I did it wrong. But it looks like fun! Report
This has certainly piqued my interest! :) Report
A couple of weeks ago on a ride to a store, I noticed a new gym. It was called Kettleball Gym. All you could see hanging on the walls were kettleballs of different sizes and colors. It looked very cool. But then I was like really? Would I pay for a membership to just use kettleballs. But, someone was telling me you don't pay for a membership you pay a monthly class fee. Some have unlimited classes some are just once a week, like what you would do at a dance school but this is just kettleballs. I was like hmm. Might be interested in doing a one time. But maybe once I get in shape a little more after watching that workout. It looks like it might be a little further out in my future. But, I will definately consider it. It looks like as far as strength training it would be a great booster! Plus a nice change. If I only took one or two classes a month, it would be a nice change and not that expensive! Report
To each every one their own. I like to see an exercise program that works the muscles and cardio and address the whole body connection; however, I get this without a prop in a Bikram yoga class. Working with your own body weight is as difficult as it gets for me and their is always another level to your practice. But that's my preference and I support anyone's activity so long as they enjoy it and feel a good workout after. Report
Sounds like a great workout! But since I can't afford or have the time to take a class or see a personal instructor, I probably won't give it a go. Unless Coach Nicole says there's a DVD that it would be safe to try with (and then I'd probably go with the lightest one I could find, until I know I can do it safely). Proper form is key with all exercises, but it looks especially important with the kettlebells. Report
The trainer in the video looked like he was straining his neck and shoulders as he swung the kettlebell. I also noticed one of the SP trainers was bending his wrist back as he used his kettlebell (the trainer in the foreground). That can't be good form!

Although I don't have the knee strength or the fitness level at this point to try this, I wouldn't rule it out for future routines! Thanks for the very informative article (and I read the original article, too) and video! Definitely a new option to consider. Report
Between my new kettlebell (mine is only 7 pounds) and my new Wii Fitness Trainer, I have embarked on a whole new method of working out at home. It is great. Report
Kettlebells are my new passion! I had ankle surgery in august and can no longer run. Atleast for now. Jumping is not good either so things like step aerobics are out for now. But kettlebells, no jumping and my heartrate is through the roof! In 20 minutes I can get a kickbutt workout! Check out www.liftkettlebells.com for free audio downloads to your mp3 with cues and changes in exercise (really like them), also www.sheknows.com has a few kettlebell articles and routines there. I took a class first at an MMA gym and loved it! You do not need to lift heavy. I have a 10pound kettlebell right now and I'm going to get a 15 and then maybe an 18. Costco has a 5-20 pound set for $150. Don't laugh at the name (ok do!) but Missy Beaver is a kettlebell trainer and has some great workouts and has a dvd out too that i'm going to get. I hear the kettleworx set of dvd's are great too. I have cut shoulder muscles now thanks to kettlebells!!!! And my quads and hamstrings are stronger than ever! Allison Report
It looks like a good workout, but I have to agree with a couple of the other older posters. I'm 50 and don't think my knees or back could take all the deep squats. It's hard enough with dumbbells! Report
Generally speaking, I tend to not favor the use of a multitude of trainig props. I really haven't found any gizmos that do any more (and a lot of them don't do squat) than you can do with your body. New or casual exercisers tend to rely on the props to heavily and often use them a couple of time and then they collect dust because they think they aren't effective. Bottom line is with anything, to be effective you have to use them consistantly and correctly, and most of the time, if you exercise consistantly and correctly without them, you will get the same or even better results. Report
Wow, kettlebells look like a great exercise. I will have to check into using them. Report
I love working out with my Kettlebell. I use a DVD that I purchased online and it has a introduction part to it that shows you the correct way to do each exercise. Its great and I work up a sweat every single time I do the workout. Report
Kettlebells look like GREAT exercise! I'd love to try it - will have to ask around to see if there's an instructor near here who's got the appropriate training!

Thanks for trying it out and letting us know how great this felt! :)

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