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New to Kettlebells? Here are the Top 7 Things You Need to Know

Kettlebell training changed my body. 

Even more, it changed my mind about how I should exercise for results AND how long I should exercise each day to get those results. But at one time, I was brand new to kettlebells.

Before I was introduced to kettlebells (and how to use them properly), they seemed scary and quite intimidating. I pictured some big ol’ Russian dude with a cartoon like weight lofted overhead! Ha!

Boy was I wrong! Once I used them successfully, I gained confidence that was previously lacking.

Just to clear up some of the confusion that I had in the beginning- I thought it beneficial to blog about some of the things I wish I had known from the beginning of my kettlebell journey. First of all- Starting something new doesn’t have to be scary! Because knowledge is POWER 🙂

New to Kettlebells? Here are the Top 7 Things You Need to Know Before Starting Kettlebell Training

  • What is a kettlebell?new to kettlebells

Kettlebells are essentially a “handheld gym.” It looks like a cannonball with a handle and is traditionally made from cast iron. According to Wikipedia, kettlebells have been around since the 1700’s. They were first used in Russia for weighing crops but were soon used as a strength training tool.

  • Why should I train with a kettlebell?

The kettlebell is a versatile tool! It can essentially replace nearly any other fitness tool. You no longer need dumbbells, barbells, cardio equipment, medicine balls, and more. You certainly can’t safely swing or snatch a dumbbell with the same effectiveness as a kettlebell! A dumbbell swing encourages you to raise your shoulders instead of keeping them down and back. No bueno!

This one simple tool can make you stronger, faster, and leaner, in LESS TIME than any other piece of fitness equipment. I don’t know about you, but I love ANY thing that is time efficient PLUS superior!

As a busy, homeschooling mom of 2 boys, a business owner, an involved church member, and a wife, I totally get that time is valuable! Kettlebell training allows me to workout no matter how tight my schedule gets. 🙂

It’s small enough to throw in the car and take anywhere- to the park, the beach, your friend’s house, or on vacation. I personally love the portability bonus!

Plus, you can NOT destroy the kettlebell. I can’t say the same for some of my other fitness equipment! Once you own a kettlebell, you’re good for life. In the beginning, you’ll really need just ONE. Having a variety of weights is nice, but you can get a super awesome workout with just one single bell. Down the road, you can decide whether or not to add to your kettlebell collection.

  • What size kettlebell should I purchase to start with?

It’s typically suggested that women start with an 18-pound kettlebell (8 kg) and men a 35-pound kettlebell (16 kg). If you are really strong already, as a female you could potentially decide on a 20 or 26-pound bell.

  • Where is the best place to purchase a kettlebell?

The most important aspect about the kettlebell and deciding which one to purchase is the handle! You want a smooth-ish handle, but not TOO smooth! There is a fine line!

Dragon Door is known for the selling the highest quality kettlebells on the market, so that is my top recommendation. You will not be a disappointed!

This MDUSA kettlebell is one I’ve used as well. My opinion is that they are really close to Dragon Door quality and definitely have better handles than the ones I’ve seen at local Sporting Goods stores. This MDUSA kettlebell has been my favorite, budget-friendly bell by far! (As of this writing, the MDUSA kettlebell line is widely available in less expensive than other bells of its quality.)  I have two 30 lb kettlebells from this brand. My husband and I both love them!

I have a few Apollos that I’m happy with, and CAP is a brand that is easier on the budget. It’s coated and tends to chip, but it’s a decent choice for the money.

  • How do I hold the kettlebell?

There are several ways to hold the kettlebell and it is completely dependent on the exercise you are performing.

1. Overhead hold (1 hand): This hold is used whenever the bell is over your head. Your thumb is under the handle and your fist is as parallel as possible to the ceiling. The handle is placed between your thumb and pointer finger and lays diagonally down your hand toward your wrist on your pinky finger side. Here is a great video demo of this hold. You keep a straight wrist (don’t let the bell pull your wrist backward). The overhead hold is used for shoulder presses, the Turkish Get Up, push presses, and basically any exercise where the kettlebell is over your head.

2. Handle hold (1 or 2 hands): This is when 1 or 2 hands are holding the top of handle for an exercise such as the swing, deadlift, or to carry the bell. Your thumbs are wrapped under the bell’s handle.

3. By the horns (2 hands): When you goblet squat or goblet clean, your hand position begins on the top of the handle while the kettlebell is on the ground. As you pull the bell up to chest level, your hands move around to the SIDES of the handle. This is called grabbing the bell “by the horns.”

There are certainly more advanced ways to hold a kettlebell such as a bottoms-up hold and a waiter hold, but I’ve given you the basic ways you’ll need to know to begin using kettlebells in your workout routine.

  • What types of exercises are performed with a kettlebell?

There are basically 2 types of exercises performed with a kettlebell- ballistics and grinds. Ballistic exercises are dynamic, speed movements like swings, cleans, and snatches. During these dynamic exercises, the shape and size of the kettlebell REQUIRE you stabilize to your core. This is one of the ways kettlebells work your core without doing daily ab work! (Bonus!)

Grinds are slower (strength) movements like squats, deadlifts, military presses, and Turkish Get Ups (TGUs). This will also require core stability while building strength and muscle. Grinds require full body tension while completing the exercise.

  • Can kettlebell training be effective AND fun?

Because of the kettlebell’s unique ability to train the entire body (strength and cardio), tighten your core, and encourage stability and flexibility in a short workout session, training with them is not only time efficient- it’s effective!

But is it fun?

I guess I can’t speak for everyone, but I certainly find kettlebell training super fun or I wouldn’t do it! I think it’s important to find a way to exercise that is SUSTAINABLE. Kettlebells training has become just that for me! I actually can find time to fit it in without it taking up hours of my day.

I also enjoy the challenge of getting stronger with certain exercises (like shoulder pressing a higher weight, swinging a heavier bell, etc.). I love meeting new goals that I never thought possible (like completing multiple sets of pull ups for several reps!). For me, the challenge is the fun!

The only way you’ll know if it’s fun for you is to give it a try!

Ready to start using kettlebells in your exercise program? I created Simply Kettlebells  for busy women who are interested but somewhat intimidated by kettlebells. The 8 week, DIY training program takes you through 8 weeks of kettlebell and bodyweight exercises so that you can learn the basics of kettlebell training and reap the results! It’s a downloadable program so you will have access to it forever! Find out more HERE.

Questions? Email me at jill@jilljacobs.me 🙂


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