A Beginner’s Guide to the Kettlebell (Guest Post!)

My good friend {and kettlebell extraordaire} offered to help us get started with Kettlebell training!  If you’ve never tried it, it sure is a good workout!  Even as a seasoned exerciser, when I work out with one it sure gets the body pumping (and sore!) :)

A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing a Kettlebell & Getting Started Using one…

So, you’ve heard of this “fad”; this crazy cannonball with a handle; this device that can burn up to 20 calories per minute, this rustic thing that came from Russia, but you are not sure where to start?

Have no fear, beginners, this guide is for you.  If there is a mistake to be made in choosing and practicing kettlebells, I’ve made it, so have no worries.  Let me help.

Kettlebells can be purchased at sporting goods stores or through online sellers.  I like to purchase most of my bells only after having seen them, touching them and holding them for a few reasons:

What to look for when choosing a bell:

  • Weight.  Choose a weight that will challenge you, but not inhibit your practice.  Ideally, you’d have a lessor weight for pressing (pushing the bell up overhead) and a heavier weight for swinging, but if you are in the market for just one bell, split the difference and choose an in-between weight.  No baby weights.  Most ladies are pretty comfortable swinging a 20-25lb bell.
  • Handle.  Make sure the handle is smooth and durable.  No plastic handles as they get too slippery.  No hard ridges on the handles or you’ll get unneeded blistering. Make sure the handle is wide enough to fit your two hands and that your knuckles don’t scrape on the bell when your hands are gripping the handle.
  • Vinyl coating or not?  I will leave this up to you.  Some find that the vinyl coating is more comfortable when holding the bell in the racked position (resting on the hand and between the bicep and the forearm) and some find the vinyl coating will pinch and pull too much to be comfortable.
  • Shape of the bell.  Shape should be the traditional “ball” with a handle.  No egg-shaped bells.  No bell shaped bells.  No concave (thank you Bob Harper) shaped bells (these will not allow for proper positioning in the “rack”).  Stick with the round “ball” shape and you will be fine.
  • Bottom of the bell.  Check the bottom to make sure the bell will sit flat without wobbling.  When doing movements like renegade rows (think plank position, hand on Kettlebell and rowing the bell back) you don’t want a tippy bell. Vinyl coated bells tend to wobble.

So you have your bell.  You’re ready to start!  Of course, I suggest finding a certified kettlebell instructor to help you through the learning of the movement patterns.  I’m certified through Dragon Door, the original Russian Kettlebell people, and they have a listing of instructors on their website.  If you use DVDs or online resources, please use caution.  Here are some basic things to keep in mind that the instructor should be talking about – if not, skip to the next DVD or the next online video:

  • Hip Hinge/Hip Drive.  One of those 2 terms should be explained
  • Packed shoulders.  The idea of keeping the shoulders pulled back and down.  Crucial.
  • Flat back/long spine.
  • Muscle tension – squeezing the glutes, hamstrings, quads and the rest of the core at the top of the swing.  Critical to proper form.
  • Swinging to shoulder height.  Some placesteach a different style swing that goes above the head.  I don’t advocate this.
  • No dropping the kettlebell below the knees on the downswing.  Keep that bell in the “Upper Triangle.”
  • BREATHING!  Exhale at the top of that swing.

Anything else you need?  I might suggest that beginners invest in a pair of wrist bands/sweat bands.  This will simply give you more confidence in some of the movements you will be performing.  I don’t wear wrist protection anymore, but I did when I started.  No reason to purchase any specific kettlebell wrist guards as I found them a waste of my money.  The rubber was hot & sweaty, they ripped and cracked.  A cheap pair of sweat bands will be perfect.  And they are washable!

For beginners, I’d suggest a little set like this to start:
10 2-Handed Swings x 5
5 Front Hold Squats
5 Presses Right
5 Presses Left
:30 Forearm Plank
Repeat for 4-5 times

Check out my website, www.trainwithdinah.com, for training tips and ideas, recipes and just random thoughts from me.  Have fun!  Kettlebell training is excellent for cardio health, strength gains, flexibility and basic mobility improvements.  Successfully training with kettlebells will strengthen your entire body to live your life long & strong.


Dinah Spurgin
NETA Certified Personal Trainer
NETA Certified Kettlebell Instructor
HKC Certified Kettlebell Instructor


**and yep, that is an awesome CAN’T FAKE STRONG tank she’s sportin’ **

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