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How Beginners Can Get to Grips with a Kettlebell


How Beginners Can Get to Grips with a Kettlebell

The kettlebell is a powerful tool. There’s a reason why it’s so often associated with iron-hard strongmen from another era.

Where modern gyms are largely filled with intricate machinery designed to work individual muscles from a variety of angles, the kettlebell is the very definition of simplicity. As strength coach Pavel Tsatsouline has said, the kettlebell is an iron-cast cannonball with a handle.

Here’s a look at why it’s worth your while to use a kettlebell, and how to get started.


Kettlebell Benefits

They recruit stabiliser muscles extremely well

In the hierarchy of different fitness equipment, it’s generally agreed that machines, by and large, work the stabiliser muscles the least (virtually not at all in some cases).

Free weights do the best job in this area, and kettlebells - with their off-centred weight distribution - do a better job of this than barbells or dumbbells. You can expect to find that the same weight on a kettlebell feels heavier than on a dumbbell, and that’s because your tendons and supporting muscles are getting a much better workout.


They’re extremely versatile

Kettlebells are a rare bit of exercise equipment, in that they can be used both for serious strength building and for explosive conditioning work at the drop of a hat. The awkward shape, as well as the relatively heavy weights kettlebells are available in, make building real muscle with them a breeze.

At the same time, the handle-and-ball design is perfectly suited for momentum-based exercises such as kettlebell swings, which rely on explosive force from the posterior chain.


They’re extremely simple

Imagine if the only exercise equipment you had — or needed — was a pair of kettlebells. How much simpler would it be to get a workout in on the fly, or to set up a functional “home gym”? Kettlebells are timelessly simple. They’re solid, with no tricky parts, no components that can wear out, and no assembly required.


Basic Exercises

So, kettlebells are good. Now for a few basic beginner exercises.


1: Kettlebell swings

To do this exercise, stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a kettlebell on the floor between your legs. Keep a straight back and hinge at the hips to grab the kettlebell with both hands. While keeping a straight back, swing the kettlebell up and in front of you using the force generated by your hips. This should be done as explosively as possible. Let the kettlebell follow its natural arc and swing back between your legs, then repeat.

This exercise will work your posterior chain like virtually nothing else, it will have you panting for breath in seconds, and it will improve your overall athleticism by leaps and bounds.


2: Kettlebell military press

This can be done with one or two kettlebells, and is a great pressing movement by all standards.

Begin by lifting your kettlebells into your starting stance (a bit of momentum may be needed), with your arms tight against your sides and chest, palms turned inwards. Almost like a boxer’s guard.

Unlike with dumbbells, the shape of the kettlebells means they can find a natural “resting” position on your upper arms and shoulders. From here, breathe out sharply and press the kettlebells above your head, lower, and repeat.


3: Kettlebell cleans

The clean is a great full-body exercise, working the posterior chain, traps, lats and more. To perform a kettlebell clean, stand with legs shoulder-width apart, with a kettlebell on the ground between them. Keeping a straight back, bend to grab the kettlebell in a loose grip with one hand. Your thumb should be pointing behind you here.

Next, exhale sharply as you corkscrew the weight up while straightening your body. The aim here is to end up with the kettlebell resting against the back of your forearm, while your arm is poised as if at the bottom portion of a military press.

Your grip should be loose when the kettlebell comes to rest, your fingers and palm “spearing” through the kettlebell handle.

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