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New to Kettlebell Swings? Read This First!

Just over 6 years ago, I decided it was time to venture into fitness after my childbearing days had come to a close. (Why I waited until then is a completely different blog post!) My first attempt to “get fit” was to pick up running. I didn’t know the extensive benefits of strength training for women, and I certainly had never heard of kettlebells, so running it was.

 

As soon as the weather cooled off, I jumped on the chance to try an indoor program- not for the benefits of said program, but to get away from running, especially running in the COLD! No thank you!

 

I purchased and went through P90X a few times that fall and winter. I saw results that running didn’t offer me and was prompted me to research more and more about strength training.

 

That’s how I discovered kettlebells!

 

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! #SCORE

 

The very foundation of a great kettlebell program is the Russian kettlebell swing. I get a lot of questions from readers and facebook followers about how to swing, what weight to swing, and what are the benefits to the swing.

 

Kettlebell swings are known as the “mother of all kettlebell exercises” and for good reason. They give birth to many of the other kettlebells exercises. In other words, the kettlebell swing is a foundational exercise AND has some major fitness and fat loss benefits!

 

Here are a few of the benefits of the kettlebell swing. If you incorporate swings in your workout regimen, you will:

 

  • Get stronger
  • Get faster (hello better 5k time!)
  • Become more powerful
  • Perform better in other sports with increased endurance
  • Get Leaner
  • Develop the infamous “kettlebooty” and who doesn’t want that?!!
With all of these benefits, I know you’re really wanting to add kettlebell swings to your life! The problem is that many people perform the swing incorrectly. This diminishes the benefits and increases the risk of injury. *sad face*

 

Because I don’t want that to happen to any of you, I asked my friend and colleague, Kristy Agan, who is a Level II RKC Instructor to lay out exactly how to progress into being able to perform the swing. She was kind enough to include some video demonstrations as well as a couple of bonus workouts for you to try! Take it away, Kristy…
Kristy Agan, RKCII

Kristy Agan, RKC Level II Instructor

Swing Tutorial for Beginners

By Kristy Agan

Kettlebell swings are a fundamental exercise when training with kettlebells. It is a very effective and explosive movement that burns fat and develops power. But before you can safely perform a swing, you must first learn how to correctly do a hip hinge, and from there, a deadlift.

Hip Hinge

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart
  • Push your hips back and allow your torso to move forward
  • Lengthen your spine and open up your chest
  • Your shins should remain as close to vertical as possible

Deadlift

  • Stand over the kettlebell
  • Perform a hip hinge until your hands are touching the bell (Refer back to the steps for performing a Hip Hinge)
  • Before you lift the bell, pull shoulders back/down and engage your lats (do not round your shoulders)
  • Brace your abs
  • As you lift the bell, think about pressing your weight into the floor and keep the weight on your heels
  • Stand up tall and squeeze your glutes
  • Repeat hip hinge pattern until bell is back on the floor

Russian Kettlebell Swings – Demo of the hinge and deadlift

Next: Transition to the Kettlebell Swing

Hike

  • Step back from the bell
  • Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart
  • Perform a hip hinge until your hands are touching the bell
  • Tilt the bell towards you
  • Before you hike the bell, pull your shoulders back/down and engage your lats (do not round your shoulders)
  • Brace your abs
  • Hike the bell between your legs. Your arms should come in contact with your ribcage and your forearms should come in contact with your upper thighs.
  • Return the bell softly back to the floor in front of you

 

kettlebellswing

Swing

  • Hike the bell between your legs
  • Stand up explosively, snap your hips and squeeze your glutes
  • The bell should float up into the air after your hips snap forward
  • Then hold your hips forward and maintain tight glutes until your arms come in contact with your ribcage as the bell begins to drop.
  • Then push your hips back quickly out of the way allowing the bell to go between your legs. (see video below of kettlebell swings)

Russian Kettlebell Swings – Demo of the hike and swing

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For more information and fitness tips from Kristy Agan, subscribe at www.kristyagan.com and receive a FREE copy of her Healthy Living Guide.

 

You can also follow Kristy on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!readerschoice

 

More about Kristy:  After the birth of her first child at the age of 27 Kristy realized her desire to pursue fitness as a career and not just a part-time gig. Kristy began her career as a  group fitness instructor certified through AFAA . Through training clients with multiple tools, Kristy quickly discovered her passion….kettlebells. Kristy self- taught her way into the kettlebell world where she eventually earned her HKC, RKC, and RKCII. Kristy is also a certified personal trainer through the American Council of Exercise (ACE) and TRX qualified. This wife and mother of two kids maintains a large following of faithful clients in Rome, GA where she trains at Pro Performance with Tim Vicchrilli and Mike Sarver. A big congrats to Kristy is in order! She was recently awarded the Readers Choice Award from Rome News Tribune as Best Personal Trainer for 2014.

 

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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!


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