How to Start Training with Kettlebells the Right Way
There are a ton of reasons why training with kettlebells should be a part of your fitness, which we’ll dive into more in another article. For the scope of this one though, let’s just assume that you already know that kettlebells will help you gain lean muscle, functional strength, increase your mobility and turn you into a fat burning machine.
But maybe you’ve been holding back on introducing this awesome tool into your arsenal because you’re not totally sure where or how to start.
So whether you’re a beginner with the kettlebell or need a little refresher on how to safely and effectively use the kettlebell, we have you covered. This article will cover everything from the anatomy of the kettlebell to novice applications to get you started strong!
The Anatomy of the Bell
Kettlebell anatomy is made up of 4 parts: the Horns, the Bridge, the Bell and the Base.
The main body of the bell, conveniently named the “Bell”, is a solid piece of iron (Hardstyle) or steel (Competition) and is usually in the shape of a cannon-ball with a flat base forming, well, the Base. From the top of the Bell, you’ll find the handle component which comprised of 2 Horns connecting into a Bridge.
How Kettlebells Work
The anatomy of the Kettlebell provides unique benefits that can’t be found in the more conventional tool of iron, the Dumbbell, in the way that the weight is distributed from the handle and the ways you can hold the tool.
With a Dumbbell, the weight is centered and found at the ends of the handle. Whereas the Kettlebell’s weight and center of gravity is found several inches away from the center of the handle. This difference in weight distribution allows the ability to provide a different level of stress on the muscular structure during exercise.
The other difference the Kettlebell provides, is the many ways you can hold the tool. Each way brings a different level of stress, thus providing a different opportunity of benefits. Grips can vary from the Bell, Horns and Bridge as well as Pistol, Bottoms Up, Crush and many more options to add some variety to your training. Holding the Horns (Goblet) and Bridge (Hang) will be your mainstay options.
Why Use Kettlebells
Like I mentioned in the introduction, there a tons of reasons why you should be using this amazing tool to help you reach a higher level of fitness. Here I’ll layout just a few of those reasons as reminders!
The distribution of the weight being several inches away and more centered with the handle, promotes better posture, more core involvement and requires more movement awareness than the more conventional movements like pulls, squats and presses while also providing the opportunity for more Kettlebell based movements like Swings and Snatches.
Let’s take the squat for example. With the Kettlebell Goblet Squat (KGS), the bell is found out in front of the chest with hands holding onto the horns. This provides the athlete the opportunity sit deeper into the hips while keeping the torso upright and spine more neutral, increasing the activation of the core muscles, mobility in the hips and length-tension in the fibers of the thigh and gluteal muscles. The KGS will bring about more benefits and less injury risk than Dumbbell or Barbell Squats.
As mentioned above, Kettlebell exercises require more out of your core. This becomes increasingly apparent during movements like the overhead press and swing, where a braced core is essential to preventing injury and creating more strength in the movements. With any Kettlebell exercise, you’re guaranteed to provide a greater challenge and therefore elicit better gains in core strength, stamina and stability, than you would using the more conventional tools.
You may not consider yourself an athlete, but consider this – whether you’re on a court, field, urban-jungle or hiking trail, having certain level of athleticism is crucial to ensure that you not only avoid injury, but that you also enjoy the activity more.
Adding Kettlebell exercises into your fitness plan will bring a level of athletic gains not typically found with more conventional tools by better simulating a shifting level of gravity, requiring stability and balance while creating force.
The anatomy and weight displacement of the Kettlebell requires more from your fingers, wrists and forearms while performing exercises than you’d find working with Dumbbells, Barbells and Machines. Having multiple grip options, such as Goblet, Crush and Bottoms Up for example, also provides variety in challenging the muscles needed for a strong and confident grip.
Start With The Basics
Whenever I get the opportunity of introducing someone to the Kettlebell, I treat the moment very delicately. My number one objective is to make sure to do no harm with my clients, my number two goal is to ignite a passion for movement, health and vitality. If I carelessly introduce a new client to the Kettlebell, you can kiss those two goals goodbye! That’s why I always start with the basics.
And you too, should take your first time with a Kettlebell with extreme care and go slow with movements until you have mastered them – then you can add in a little spice.
Here are the first 3 Novice Kettlebell Exercises to help you get started, the right way.
1. Kettlebell Deadlift
The Deadlift, is considered a great strength builder for the muscles of the posterior chain (back) including the hip complex (glutes, hamstrings, etc).
- Stand with feet shoulder width apart and Kettlebell in between the feet.
- Maintaining a neutral spine and braced core, send the hips back with a slight bend in the knees, keeping the shins vertical.
- Grasp the bridge of the bell firmly with both hands, keep the shoulders packed into their sockets.
- Keeping the tension throughout the body and keeping good posture, drive through the heels, tighten your glutes and stand up tall.
- Shoulders need to be pulled back and down, keeping the chest open throughout the movement.
- Return the bell safely back to the ground by sending the hips back and slightly down. Don’t break form until the bell is fully on the ground.
2. Kettlebell Goblet Squat
The Kettlebell Goblet Squat challenges the strength in the thighs as well as the strength in the core.
- Hold the bell in the Goblet position, feet shoulder width apart and standing tall.
- Brace the core and maintain a neutral spine while sending the hips back and down, as if sitting into a chair.
- Keep the chest open and tall as you make your way down till your elbow are in between your knees. Or as low as you can go with good form.
- From the bottom, drive through the heels, keep your chest tall and core tight as you return to standing.
3. Kettlebell Swing
The Kettlebell Swing uses the same movement pattern as the Deadlift (hip hinge) but in a more ballistic fashion, which promotes the power of the hips and cardiovascular health.
- Begin with bell in front roughly 2-3 feet and standing tall with feet shoulder width apart.
- Send the hips back as far as possible while reaching out for the bell.
- Arms should be straight, shoulders pulled away from the ears, spine neutral and core tight with hips above knees and below shoulders.
- Hike pass the bell between the upper inner-thighs as far as possible while keeping the chest open.
- Once you’ve loaded up the hips, snap back to standing, squeezing the glutes tight and maintaining good posture.
- The bell should travel no higher than eye level (if you’re going past eye level with ease, good job…now go get a heavier bell!)
- Maintain tall and tight posture while the bell makes its way down.
- Once the upper arms reconnect to the ribs – roughly 45 degrees from the body – send the hips back while pulling the bell through until your forearms connect with the inner-thighs.
- From here, either perform another Swing or return the bell to the starting position.
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