What is Kettlebell Training?

Kettlebells are cast iron weights that are almost circular in shape with a handle…a client of mine likens it to a small bowling bag 🙂 Kettlebell training uses dynamic movement to improve muscular strength and endurance, agility, aerobic endurance and balance. It can be a challenging workout, but because kettlebell weight can range from 5 lbs to over 100 lbs, a routine can be developed that is adaptable to any fitness level.

Workouts with the kettlebell consist of a variety of swinging, pulling and pressing motions designed to challenge core stabilization and integrate the whole body within every exercise. Athletes will experience increased power development and improved endurance while decreasing their risk of injury. Everyone will benefit from improved agility, better posture and an increase in coordination. The exercises are simple and since you need only one piece of fitness equipment, the workout if very time efficient.

Often times I get asked the question: What is the difference a dumbbell and a kettlebell?  

This sums up the answer really well:

With a dumbbell, the center of gravity lies in the your hand but, with the kettlebell, the center of gravity lies outside of your hand, which means it can change depending on how you are holding it and moving it. The momentum of many kettlebell movements (a big no-no in traditional strength training), creates centrifugal force, focusing more attention on the muscles used for deceleration and stabilization. This type of multi-directional movement mimics real life movements such as swinging a suitcase to put it in an overhead bin, for example.  Dumbbells are great for building muscle and strength with slow, controlled movements while kettlebell training involves the entire body and focuses on endurance, power and dynamic movements.” 

Kettlebell Training:
As a beginner to kettlebell training, it is advised to work with a trainer to learn proper form and technique. Done correctly, kettlebell training will not hurt your back. Instructors should guide you through correct lifting techniques versus focusing on going through many exercises.  Once you can manage the basic swings, presses and pulls originating from your core and hips, you will be able to more complex exercises.

Not only will you learn how to use the kettlebell properly from an instructor, but you’ll be able get assistance choosing the right weight for you. Here are some general recommendations I found:

  • If you are in average to good shape and have some experience with weight training: An average woman should start with an 18 pounder (8 kg) and an average man should start with a 35 pounder (16 kg).
  • If you are strong and in great shape with a lot of experience with weight training: Women can start with a 26-pounder (12 kg) (some will progress to a 35-pounder) and men can start with a 44-pounder (20 kg), but may want to use a 35-pounder (16 kg). Most men progress to a 53-pounder (24 kg), the standard issue in the Russian military.
  • If you are out of shape with no experience with weight training: A woman should probably start close to a 14 lb (6 kg) and men should consider the 26 lb (12 kg)

4 Kettlebell Exercises:

  • Get into a pushup position, on the knees or toes, placing one hand on the handle of the kettlebell (harder) or on the bell part of the weight (easier).
  • Keep the abs braced and the torso stiff as you bend the elbows, lowering into a pushup.
  • Because one hand is elevated, only go down as far as you comfortably can and avoid straining the shoulder of the elevated arm.
  • Push back to start and repeat for 8-15 reps before switching sides (1-3 sets on each side)


  • Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, holding handle of kettlebell with both hands, arms in front of thighs, palms in.
  • Squat, keeping chest open and back flat, and hinge forward from hips as you swing kettlebell with control through legs behind you.


  • Hold a kettlebell in the left hand and bend over at the waist, back flat and abs engaged, until the torso is parallel to the floor.
  • Take the right arm out for balance and keep the knees bent to protect the lower back.
  • Squeeze the back muscles to pull the elbow up to torso level.
  • Lower the weight and repeat for 8-15 reps before switching sides (1-3 sets on each side)


  • Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a kettlebell in both hands.
  • Bend the knees and, keeping the torso upright and the back straight, lower into a squat, taking the weight towards the floor.
  • At the bottom of the movement, keep your abs in and the knees behind the toes.
  • Squeeze the glutes to push back up without locking the knees.
  • Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-15 reps

Kettlebell Resources:

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