What is Kettlebell Training?
Kettlebell training is a mode of exercise that uses the ultra-versatile, extra-portable, and compound-movement friendly kettlebell for your training goal. Using this cannonball with a handle can completely transform your training, as it did mine.
Almost a year ago, I was stagnant in my home gym routine. I wanted to add some weight into my bodyweight training, but I was tired of the monotony of dumbbells and didn’t have the space for barbells.
I stumbled across a video of someone doing kettlebell complexes (here’s an example of one). The rhythmic flow with a very heavy weight intrigued me, and I was immediately hooked. Several books, programs, and almost a year later, I’ve been kicking myself that I didn’t incorporate kettlebell training into my home gym routine sooner.
Why Train with Kettlebells?
In this prior post I wrote about kettlebells, I shared a list of 7 benefits of training with this tool. Here are three reasons of those reasons to help you started.
The kettlebell is an ultra-versatile tool suitable for any training goal.
Do you want to lose weight?
Do you want to build muscle?
Do you want to improve mobility?
Do you want to develop functional fitness?
Do you want to strengthen your cardiovascular system?
Identifying your goal is the very first step with kettlebell training. The kettlebell can help you accomplish any of these training goals.
Kettlebells can be transported and used in just about any location. You can take them to your local park, on the beach, on a mountain, in your living room, etc… This affords you the opportunity to take your gym with you anywhere you can drive, all while only taking up a few square footage of space everywhere you use them.
“Real Life” Movements
After years of training with dumbbells, I was used to isolating muscle groups in my training sessions with Bicep curls, Tricep extensions, forearm curls, etc… While I enjoyed strength training, these movements always felt disconnected from the day-to-day movements in real life.
After I started kettlebell training, it wasn’t long before I noticed the small correlations between kettlebell movements and everyday life… picking up one of my kids (Clean), hinging down to pick up something from the floor (Deadlift), putting a heavy object on a shelf over my head (Get-up, Press), carrying groceries or a suitcase (Farmer’s Walk) etc…
While of course the kettlebell does not precisely mimic our everyday movements, the closer connection utilizing mostly compound movements made me enjoy my training sessions more.
Kettlebell Movement Basics: Ballistics, Grinds & Hybrids
The movements of kettlebell training can generally be divided into three categories: ballistics, grinds, and hybrids. All of the following movements have a linked video page on the LF Hub, which is a free resource you can use to study and improve your form in over 50 exercise movements.
Kettlebell ballistics are movements that are explosive, dynamic, and rhythmic. Ballistics are typically completed in a high-rep range, which can strength your cardiovascular system and burn some serious calories.
Here are some examples of kettlebell ballistics:
Kettlebell grinds are movements that are slow, controlled, and powerful. Grinds are more similar to power lifting movements and are typically completed with a lower-rep range, which can build muscle, increase strength, and improve mobility.
Here are some examples of kettlebell grinds:
Kettlebell hybrids are movements that are a mix between kettlebell ballistics and grinds. This movement patterns can help strengthen your cardiovascular system, increase strength, build muscle, and improve mobility.
Here are some examples of kettlebell hybrids:
How can I get started with Kettlebell Training?
To begin, you will need to identify your training goal. Do you want to lose weight? Build muscle? Focus on longevity and function? Strengthen your cardiovascular system?
The good news is that kettlebell training is suitable for any of these goals. I’ll give you an example to help you get started.
Based on what I now know, if I could have gone back to when I started training with kettlebells and set my training goal, here’s what I would have done:
Here’s why and how.
Why: What’s with the swings and get-ups?
Swings are a ballistic movement that builds posterior chain strength and mobility, strengthens your aerobic system, and shreds your core. Get-ups are a grind movement that strengthens every muscle in your body, teaches you balance, and forces you to focus on your breathing while you exercise.
In other words, you get a complete, full-body workout with just these two movements. This dramatically simplifies your training and weight selection.
How: Is there a program that focuses on swings and get-ups?
Yes! Pavel Tsatsouline wrote his Simple and Sinister Program, which uses these two movements, and will keep you busy for months! The training time only takes 20-30 minutes per day, at about 4-6 sessions per week. The goal of this program is to help you complete:
- Simple Standard: With a 32kg kettlebell, complete 100 1-hand swings in 5 minutes, and 10 get-ups in 10 minutes.
- Sinister Standard: With a 48kg kettlebell, complete 100 1-hand swings in 5 minutes, and 10 get-ups in 10 minutes.
If you want to learn more about this program, you can also read my post on it called the minimalist exercise routine that works.
(Some of these links are affiliate links, and as an Amazon associate I earn on qualifying purchases)
What Weights Should I Use for Kettlebell Training?
The answer to this question depends on your goals, current mobility and strength, and proficiency with technique.
In general, here’s where I’d recommend starting:
- For men, one 16kg kettlebell (or 12kg for exercise novices)
- For women, one 12kg kettlebell (or 8kg for exercise novices)
For beginners, your primary objective will be to learn form and technique with each kettlebell movement prior to adding weight.
How much weight you will add depends on your goals, current mobility and strength, and proficiency with technique. However, if you’re following the Simple and Sinister Program, then here’s the weight advancement you can follow.
- For guys, you will need 3 kettlebells in 8kg increments to get started. This will be would one 16kg kettlebell, one 24kg kettlebell, and one 32kg kettlebell.
- For women, you will need 4 kettlebells in 4kg increments to get started. This will be one 12kg kettlebell, one 16kg kettlebell, one 20kg kettlebell, and one 24kg kettlebell.
What Kettlebells Should I Purchase?
Ah, interested in stocking your home gym? I made a few mistakes when I started purchasing kettlebells, so I wrote a Kettlebell Buying Guide you can use to avoid the same mistakes I made.
A Final Word on Kettlebell Training
Kettlebell training has been an enjoyable experience for me. I’ve built muscle, leaned out, and developed full body mobility and strength. It’s been a fantastic method to use to exercise, and I hope you also can use it to crush your own goals.
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- A Minimalist Exercise Routine That Works
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Ready to get started?