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.