A common misconception among people who are new to kettlebell training is that you need to “get in shape” or be at a certain level of fitness in order to use kettlebells. I assure you, you can start training with kettlebells right now, no matter what your fitness level and exercise history is.
Starting any new training regimen can often feel a bit intimidating, however anyone can learn to use kettlebells safely. One of the reasons I love kettlebell training is that not only is it accessible at any ability level, it is incredibly efficient. With this single training tool you can work both, endurance and strength, and because you’re using your whole body, performing and recovering from the workout will be very metabolically expensive (read: burn a lot of calories), which is a great bonus if you’re looking to get a little leaner.
Performance goals? Physique goals? One thing is certain about training with kettlebells: whether you’re new to training in general, or just new to kettlebells, this tool can help you reach your goals efficiently.
If you’re not familiar with kettlebells, I highly recommend that you meet with a certified kettlebell instructor to learn some basics. (Ask at your gym if anyone on staff has a kettlebell certification such as SFG, or search for an instructor online.) Doing so will decrease your learning curve and help you learn how to train safely.
But if working with a kettlebell trainer is not an available option, plenty of resources exist to help you get started on your own. In addition to learning basic safe kettlebell handling, becoming familiar with a few of the basic movements is key. In the following video, I review staple kettlebell exercises to help you establish a solid kettlebell-training foundation. After you watch the video, check out the cues below, and then try the exercises for yourself.
It is incredibly important for effective and safe kettlebell training to first learn a proper hip hinge. The hip hinge can function as its own awesome exercise that strengthens the muscles of your posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) as well as your core. It is part of many everyday movements, from picking things off the ground, to transitioning between sitting and standing, to moving large objects.
The hip hinge is also the foundational movement of many kettlebell exercises and most athletic movements. Good hip hinge movement places less strain on your low back and lowers your risk of injury, whether you’re in the gym or rearranging your living room furniture.
To perform a basic hip hinge:
After practicing and mastering this hip hinge wall drill, try completing the same movement away from the wall without the dowel rod. Once you feel comfortable with the movement, you can move on to perform it with a load.
Considered a “slow grind” movement, the deadlift is basically a loaded hip hinge that will increase your stability and strength, especially throughout your glutes and lower body.
The swing is a “ballistic” hip hinge that will increase your strength and power. Plus, since the movement utilizes your entire body and is very metabolically demanding, it can be highly effective if your goal is fat loss.
The TGU is a full-body skill that you can perform with light weight for higher reps or heavy weight for lower reps, depending on your goals. This one skill can greatly improve your mobility, stability, and strength.
It’s important that you learn and practice this move using just your body weight, prior to performing it with a bell. A great way to learn a solid pattern is to practice the TGU while balancing a shoe on your working fist. Once you are able to completely stand up and return to lying on the ground without dropping the shoe, you are ready to start loading this move with a bell. Also, the TGU can be broken down into its individual steps. If you encounter a sticking point, stop there, and pattern and practice just that step.
The goblet squat is a fantastic exercise that helps you build strength and stability. This movement allows you to lightly load a squat and build a solid pattern before working with heavier weight. Also, holding the weight in front of you elicits greater engagement of your core, which helps you control your pelvis and protects your low back.
These five basic kettlebell movements are great if you’re just getting started with kettlebells. You’ll get quite a workout just patterning and practicing them at first. Once you get comfortable with these movements, you can combine them to create a solid kettlebell workout—which I’ll be sharing with you here next time!
And if you need more help putting together a program that will work for you, we can help!
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