3 Kettlebell Exercises For The Beginner
What’s old is new again.
Kettlebell exercises are back in favour. They’ve been in Russia for a long time, well over 350 years. Soviet strength and conditioning programs used them to train athletes and their soliders. Kettlebells have been so much a part of Russian life that it became their national sport in 1948.
It wasn’t too long after that they were seen in the US. Though it wasn’t until 2001 that Dragon Door and Pavel Tsatsouline developed the first instructor certification program in the USA.
Now you can see kettlebell gyms popping up everywhere. Even many regular comercial gyms include them as standard equipment. As much as I dislike CrossFit I feel as though they’ve created awareness and helped make kettlebell training become more main stream and accesible.
Kettlebell training is fun and effective, I’m a barbell, and dumbbell guy. With that said, there are a few kettlebell exercises I love and happily include in my training routines.
For those thinking of including KB’s in their workouts there are a few exercises I suggest you start with.
How To Get Started With Kettlebell Exercises
Kettlebell training can stand on its own and be your only train tool. Or, what I like to do with myself and my clients is to use the KB to supplement our current training. Where I find kettlebells shine is with core work and conditioning, but, there are a few great strength exercises I like use them for.
Dumbbells, barbells, indian clubs, kettlebells, are all weight implements, so substituting one for another isn’t really that big of a deal. Due to their odd shapes and grips some work better than others for various exercises.
Because it’s so easy to interchange the different exercises, using KB’s doesn’t require you to drastically change up your workout. Anywhere you use a dumbbell chances are you can easily sub in a kettlebell.
But there are a few KB exercises that will fit into your classic dumbbell or barbell routine more easily. Listed below are 3 KB exercises that will seamlessly sub into any workout routine.
3 Kettlebell Exercises To Get Started With KB Training
Overhead Kettlebell Presses
Overhead presses are going to be the easiest and best place to start using kettlebells. Many people actually prefer kettlebells to dumbbells or barbells for many overhead pressing exercises.
1. KB Military Press
How It’s Done
Pick up a kettlebell and bring it in close to your body ensuring that:
- Your wrist is locked, and in the neutral position. You don’t want your wrist bending forward or back.
- The KB rests in the nook of your arm, the space between your bicep and forearm
Be sure to brace your abs. An easy wat to brace your core is to flex as you would if you were about to get punched in the gut.
Keep your wrists straight and in the center of your chest with a neutral grip. To ensure everything stays tight and locked in, grip the handle of the kettlebell as hard as you can.
With a setup complete it’s time to burn some fat and build some muscle. Start the movement by taking a deep breath, then press the kettlebell overhead. Make sure you rotate your hand as you press. Start with a neutral grip where your palm is facing towards the center of your body. Rotate 90° to finish in the pronated position. Basically, your palm will end up facing away from your body, pointing forward.
Unlike other overhead pressing movements, finish the kettlebell press by locking out your arm. For those of you into bodybuilding, resist the urge to keep the muscle under tension. With many kettlebell exercises, you’re going to finish by locking out. When you press overhead, don’t leave a slight bend in your elbow. Instead, press it out fully, and lock it.
Looking out does require a mention of a few key points…
- Your shoulder needs to be down and back, you may hear it called packed or depressed.
- At lock out the KB finishes in-line or slightly behind your head.
- Bicep almost touches your ear. If your shoulders are closer to your ear then you havent packed the shoulder
Retuning to the bottom to do another rep is the same, but in reverse. Just make sure you do it in a controlled manner. Watch the video below for a few pointers on improving your kettlebell press.
Improving your Kettlebell Press
2. Kettlebell Front Squat Exercises
The kettlebell front squat is an excellent substitution for conventional squats, or even better, barbell front squats. If you have a decent squat you won’t be able to handle the same weight with KB’s as you can with the bar on your back, but it’s still a great variation. It will work your core like crazy, and take some of the stress off your spine that heavy squats often have.
As with many KB exercises you’ll start off by picking them up and holding them in close to your body.
- have locked neutral wrists
- rest the KB on the shelf created by your bicep and forearm
- maintain a tight core, visualize that punch to the stomach again
- tight grip on the handels
- have an up right chest and back is flat
To initiate the squat move as you would with the barbell. With the KB’s in tight push the hips back, and break at the knees. As you drop into your squat spread the floor by pushing your knees out. This keeps your muscles engaged and allows your hips to get nice and deep. Continue dropping until your hips are below parallel.
To stand, push knees out, and drive your heels to the floor.
3. Kettlebell Rows
You have two different substitutions available to you can use here.
If you’re looking for extra core work do renegade rows. If you would rather focus on your back muscles, go with the standard one arm row.
The bets replacement for the dumbbell bent over one arm row, it’s best to stick what the conventional kettlebell row. The mechanics are very simular and this method allows you to use more weight, thus build more muscle.
If you do the row unsupported you’re going to still hit the core because it has to work hard to keep your torso stable. Resting your knee or hand on a support will allow you to use more weight, but does take away from the core stabilization.
Few tips on performing the KB row correctly:
- Stand in a staggered stance with feet hip width apart and knees slightly bent.
- Bend at hips keeping your chest up and back flat.
- Firmly grip the kettlebell and hold it in a neutral grip.
- Starting with arm hanging straight down row the KB to your ribs by driving your elbow back.
- Keep the elbows close to your body.
- At the top of the movement squeeze your shoulder blade
- Return to start position.
As you can see, adding kettlebell exercises to your workout is pretty easy. These 3 exercises are perfect for the beginner. They’re simple to do, and don’t require much of a change to your workout.
- Replace squats with kettlebell front squats.
- Replace dumbbell rows with kettlebell rows.
- Replace shoulder presses with kettlebell presses.
If you’re looking to spice up your ab routine you may want to give KB ab exercises a shot next.