Fitness Articles

The Iron Truth about Kettlebell Training

Find Out If This Fitness Trend Is Right for You

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Because kettlebell lifts are more subtle than traditional weight training exercises, it takes coordination and kinesthetic (body) awareness to perfect the exercises. A single exercise consists of multiple joints and muscle groups moving simultaneously, often in ways that are new and unfamiliar to most people. And because the movements are different than traditional strength exercises, they take practice—and professional attention—to master. When done wrong, there is more risk than just dropping the weight on your toes or bumping yourself, as Scott alludes to. Bad form could seriously injure your joints, neck, back and spine. The bottom line is to be safe—and learn how to use kettlebells from the pros.

Marshall couldn't agree more. He also recommends seeking advice from a certified trainer before even picking up a kettlebell on your own. A kettlebell instructor will teach you how to move correctly, he says. "Through correct movement comes an intrinsic action in which your mind becomes one with the movement, so that you no longer think about the action," he explains in a very Zen-like way. "Similar to riding a bike, once you learn you never forget."

How much do kettlebells weigh and where do you get them?
There are kettlebells from two pounds to 106 pounds and beyond, according to Marshall. Naturally, you should start with a lower weight until your skills improve enough to try a higher weight without risk. Men usually start with a kettlebell that weighs between 25 and 35 pounds, while women tend to begin with a 12 to 26 pound kettlebell, depending on their fitness level. Scott says that lighter kettlebells are not recommended for most people. "It is necessary to have a kettlebell that's heavy enough to engage your hamstrings and glutes during the swing, the most basic kettlebell exercise." Even though smaller kettlebells exist, even in the five to 10 pound range, these would be "totally inappropriate" for many exercises, according to Scott. Although it seems counterintuitive, a weight that is too light may encourage improper form. But more importantly, you'll derive little to no benefit from using such a lightweight kettlebell.

It's challenging for a novice to pick out a high-quality and comfortable kettlebell since they often don't know what to look for. "There are a lot of companies making cheap kettlebells, and they either have a weird handle shape or rough handles," says Scott, who once bought a cheap kettlebell from Craigslist that badly tore up her hands. She recommends that you look for a kettlebell that is smooth and basically feels good in your hand. For clients who have been using kettlebells in a group or private training setting for a while, it's easier to find the right fit since they know from their instructor what "feels right." So once you have some experience using them, comfort, shape and fit is important in selecting kettlebells for at-home use.
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
Nicole was named "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" in 2011. A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, she loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Her DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and in stores nationwide. Read Nicole's full bio and blog posts.

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Member Comments

  • This site is the only place that I've encountered kettlebells. - 8/8/2014 6:50:53 AM
  • I didn't think I'd really be able to do kettlebells, but I had a kind, patient instructor that really worked with me. He didn't make me feel wimpy for starting out with tiny, lightweight kettlebells. Shop for your instructor and don't be afraid to tell them if you need clarification. - 8/7/2014 3:17:42 PM
  • I've been doing kettlebells for a short time now and love it. It is a great workout and can be as challenging as you need. Currently I have two 16 kg, a 24 kg, and a 32 kg. I got into them through a friend who is associated with StrongFirst. www.strongfirst.c
    om I didn't see it listed in the article and thought I'd post it in case anyone is looking for an instructor, they are all over the country. - 7/12/2014 1:59:45 PM
  • I'm not coordinated enough to use a kettleball. I'd probably injure myself. - 6/30/2014 10:25:19 AM
  • I would love to take a class, but I have knee issues and am concerned that I will hurt more than when I do squats. - 6/23/2014 8:44:09 PM
  • For those complaining about cost, try these kettle bells available through Amazon (free shipping for prime members). GoFit Contoured Single Vinyl Coated Kettlebell are easier on the arm and cost less that the recommended sites. The vinyl coating saves your floors. 35 lb bell is around 65 dollars and the 25 lb bell is around 56 dollars. Works like a regular kettle bell, but the concave surface rests better against the foreare. - 6/19/2014 4:16:15 PM
  • I had a personal trainer who loved them, but I kept getting nasty bruises from where they hit my arms. After reading this, maybe he wasn't a good trainer for kettleballs. - 6/3/2014 3:30:56 PM
  • I started using one a couple years ago. I bought it at wal mart, It came with a dvd. it was around 12-20. so it does not have to be expensive. I totally love it. I feel like I am getting a good quick workout. - 5/28/2014 3:48:59 AM
  • JSWAMBACH
    I love Kettle Bell training, I train at MMAXOUT Fitness and its an amazing workout. Try to find a place that teaching the Russian Style of Kettlebell. Im in the best shape of my life. Great Article

    Jen - 10/23/2013 5:32:34 AM
  • PEACENCARROTS
    I tried a kettlebell workout once and it wasn't my favorite. Maybe I will try it again. - 9/19/2013 11:00:02 AM
  • HOLY CRAP - the brands of "recommended kettlebells" are frickin' EXPENSIVE! I would love recommendations on some for a REALISTIC budget! - 6/11/2013 8:39:54 PM
  • I just got into this workout! I have been wanting to buy for some time now,I just got a 3 piece set at Aldi!!! for only $12!! I started that day, it is a super workout. I was sore at first, now I wake up at 5am and do a 1/2 hour. The set I am doing has a 5, 10 and 15lb. And watching tons of videos that are really easy and helpful. Good Luck all, this is a strength workout you can't pass up:] - 5/28/2013 10:44:24 AM
  • I started using kettlebells two or three years ago and I love the workout, but it is definitely for intermediate to advanced fitness levels...I haven't done it in a while because I am out of shape but I really enjoy it and hope to be able start up again soon. The DVD that I have is called "The Kettlebell Way." - 4/2/2013 8:51:41 PM
  • I just purchased the Skogg system DVD from Amazon. I did the introductory lesson on Monday. The instructor seems to be very thorough about showing you the proper technique and the 5 DVD set takes you from beginner workouts to advanced/Warrior level workouts. - 4/2/2013 6:08:45 PM
  • My husband bought me a 10 lb. kettle ball and I need a beginning video for it. Any suggestions? - 4/2/2013 2:51:07 PM
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