A Beginner’s Guide to Kettlebells
The kettlebell is one of the most versatile pieces of fitness equipment ever created. In fact, many would argue that if you were to own only one weight, machine, or workout tool, the kettlebell would be it. Many people get into kettlebell training because it looks rather badass. Who wouldn’t want to look like one of those old-school strongmen slinging cast iron in muscle onesies?
Coolness aside, kettlebells are extremely effective and should be a key part of any training program with long-term objectives.
Kettlebells may seem intimidating at first. They may also feel a bit awkward the first time you pick them up; however, after time and practice, they might become a staple in your weekly workout regimen. Let this be your guide to kettlebells and kettlebell training. It covers everything a beginner should know to elevate their mobility, strength, and endurance.
Let’s get to it.
Why Kettlebells Work
Whether you have swung a kettlebell or not, you have likely seen others do it. Kettlebells require a ton of strength, power, and stability. The offset nature of the weight really sets it apart from other weights, particularly the dumbbell. The center of gravity in a kettlebell lies six or more inches from the handle, which makes it very bottom-heavy, and subsequently, more difficult to control.
As a result of its design, kettlebells require a stricter adherence to form. The kettlebell features a bell, a handle, and the areas of the handle that slopes down into the bell, which are called the “horns.” Squats will require you to grab the horns for greater stability, while the handle will be used for most exercises, including the ever-popular swing.
The kettlebell also forces you to alternate between intense contraction and a more controlled relaxation, which gives you an efficient workout that combines both strength and endurance. In turn, you will build both muscle and cardiovascular endurance with regular use. The bell also requires you to use oft-neglected stabilizing muscles. And they work your core too.
The Benefits of Kettlebell Training
One of the biggest benefits of kettlebell training is its versatility and propensity for delivering a full-body workout. In fact, most kettlebell exercises serve as total body workouts. No matter what you do with the kettlebell, you are likely going to activate more muscles and perform more natural movements than you would during traditional strength training exercises.
Here are some major benefits of kettlebell training:
Improved Core Strength and Greater Mobility
Many muscles benefit from kettlebell exercises. Most kettlebell workouts involve your abs and entire core. Moves like the kettlebell squat, kettlebell lunge, and kettlebell Russian twist are particularly taxing on the midsection. Kettlebell training also improves your mobility, enabling you to quickly and effectively move without discomfort or injury.
Improved Cardiovascular Endurance
Unlike barbells, kettlebells are designed for high-rep movements. Most kettlebell exercises involve your entire body, working muscles over wide ranges of motion, requiring more effort from the heart. As a result, many trainers and athletes use kettlebells as a staple in their conditioning workouts.
Better Coordination and Athleticism
Many kettlebell exercises require tremendous skill, concentration, and agility. They also improve grip strength, which is important in a vast range of sporting endeavors. Moves like the Turkish get-up require total body awareness, while the kettlebell snatch involves an explosive hip drive, which can improve your speed and explosiveness. The quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves serve as the main source of power during a sprint. And kettlebells work every single one.
Greater Power and Efficiency
As mentioned, kettlebell workouts require explosive movements. Instead of being limited by the weight you are using, you are in control of your push velocity, as well as the direction of the kettlebell. With traditional strength training, your range of motion is more limited and linear. The quick, powerful nature of the kettlebell swing can improve powerlifting moves like the deadlift due to the intense hip and lower back engagement.
And since kettlebell training works many muscle groups at one time, you can work up a sweat more quickly, building both strength and cardio endurance at the same time.
The Best Kettlebell Exercises for Beginners
As seen in other multi-use gym equipment, some kettlebell exercises are more advanced than others. And you can find plenty of beginner exercises to get you going. In fact, some could take as little as 5 minutes to learn. A good deal of basic kettlebell movements build strength throughout the entire body. Compound lifts like squats, presses, and deadlifts require muscle groups to work together; and subsequently, burn fat and build strength more quickly.
Try out these moves before taking on the snatch, Turkish get-up, and other advanced exercises.
The Kettlebell Swing
Let’s start with the swing. The kettlebell swing is a powerful, foundational movement that improves flexibility and strength, while also increasing cardio endurance when performed at high reps. The movement will have you sweating and building strength in no time.
Follow these steps to get your first swing:
1 – Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
2 – Hold the kettlebell by the handle with two hands.
3 – Lower yourself into the starting position, with the bell hanging between your legs.
4 – Hinge forward a little at the hips and using a hip thrust, swing the bell directly in front of your body.
5 – Let gravity take the bell back down and between your legs. Repeat
The Kettlebell Goblet Squat
The squat is the ultimate multi-muscle exercise. It engages your core, legs, and glutes, all while improving strength. When a press is added to the top of the movement (or a curl to the bottom), its far-reaching effects only expand. The goblet squat is a great movement for beginners and seasoned experts alike.
Here’s how to perform a goblet squat:
1 – Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Adjust, as needed, according to your natural stance
2 – Grasp the kettlebell by the “horns”
3 – Drop down as low as you can while maintaining perfect form. Keep your torso upright, chin up, knees behind your toes, and your weight in the heels.
4 – Stand upright and repeat.
The Kettlebell Deadlift
The kettlebell deadlift is another simple, yet incredibly effective move. Much like the standard barbell deadlift, the kettlebell deadlift works the hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calves.
These steps will help you master the move:
1 – Place the kettlebell on the ground between your feet. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
2 – While bending your knees slightly, push your butt back, digging your feet into the floor as you lower your torso towards the ground and grab the handle.
3 – Keep your core tight, and keep your eyes straight ahead and chin slightly down.
4 – With your chest up and back naturally arched, drive your hips forward to lift the kettlebell until at a locked-out standing position.
The One-Arm Overhead Press
The overhead press is a simple and effective move that any beginner can perform. It’s a great strength builder, and when added to other movements, it can really get the blood pumping.
Here’s how it’s done:
1 – Stand straight with your kettlebell in one hand, at shoulder level. Brace your glutes and abs.
2 – Press the weight overhead, pulling your chin back. Try not to arch your back.
3 – Once your arm is straight, lower the kettlebell back down as if you were coming down from a pull-up. Don’t worry about locking out just yet.
4 – Reset and repeat.
The Two-Hand Kettlebell Clean
The two-hand kettlebell clean is another full-body exercise. It is a powerful movement that involves lifting a kettlebell from the floor to chest height in one swift motion. It activates most muscles making it a great strength building and fat burning exercise.
Here’s how to do it:
1 – Place the bell right between the arches of your feet
2 – Hinge at the hips and pick up the bell with two hands
3 – Pull and Catch pull the bell explosively using your hips and snap your elbows down to your sides to catch the bell
4 – To release, slide your hands to the center of the handle and deadlift back to the ground
Once you master the two-hand clean, try a single-arm clean.
Last Thoughts On Kettlebell Training
If you are unsure about what weight you need, try the JAXJOX KettlebellConnect. We designed and developed the kettlebell so people could quickly and easily track progress and change weight. That makes it the perfect kettlebell for both first-time swingers and seasoned experts.
Kettlebell training can and will change the way you view workouts. It’s an entire world within the world of fitness. And once you start, you might never want to pick up a barbell—or sit at a resistance machine—ever again.
Who is JAXJOX?
JAXJOX is a connected fitness platform designed to change the at-home workout experience. We are reinventing fitness equipment by combining motion sensors with connectivity to provide detailed tracking and offering guided workouts to help our customers achieve their fitness goals.