5 Crazy-Effective Beginner Kettlebell Exercises Even Newbies Can Master
Working out with kettlebells is almost always a good idea (here are all the crazy benefits you get from just doing a kettlebell swing). A full kettlebell workout? That can get you total-body toning, increased cardiovascular fitness, core strengthening, and improved posture and balance—without a big time investment. Plus, one oft-cited study by the American Council on Exercise found that the average kettlebell workout burns 20 calories a minute—that's a whopping 600 calories in 30 minutes.
"One of the main kettlebell benefits is that it's an effective, efficient workout of cardio and strength training in one," says Sarah Lurie, author of the book Kettlebells for Dummies and founder of Iron Core Kettlebell Strength and Conditioning in San Diego, CA. Instead of isolating muscle groups as you do when lifting dumbbells, you work all your major muscle groups at once with a kettlebell. That's because you have to work continuously to control the bell's shifting center of gravity as you move it around your body, Lurie explains. (Related: This Kettlebell Cardio Workout Video Promises to Get You Breathless)
But here’s the thing: If you've ever walked by that rack of cast-iron kettlebells and whispered "WTF" in your head (or out loud), we feel ya. Kettlebells can be, well, intimidating for beginners—and even for those who have used the weights before.
Of course, the benefits of using kettlebells faaaar outweigh their can-be scary demeanor. Ready to get started using the weights? Here’s what you need to know, plus a killer kettlebell workout for beginners.
The Prep Work
As a beginner, follow the below guidelines to set up for your kettlebell workout from Lurie.
1. Pick the right weight and set up your space. If you’re comfortable using 8- to 10-pound dumbbells, start with a 14- or 15-pound kettlebell, says Lurie. If you don't currently lift weights, try a 10-pound bell. You only need one bell to start gaining kettlebell benefits. From there, all you need is a yoga mat or padded or carpeted floor to stand on and a 5x5-foot space so you can move easily in all directions.
2. Think about ditching your shoes or wearing flat, thin-soled shoes. Being able to feel the ground can help you be more grounded and balanced while you work.
3. Use the right posture. Stand about one foot in front of an office chair and then reach your butt back to sit down into it, starting the movement from your butt and hips and letting the knees follow. That natural “S” curve in your back as you reach back is what you want when you're doing a kettlebell workout. "A neutral spine will distribute the weight of the kettlebell throughout your muscles properly and prevent injuries," Lurie says.
4. Find a focus. While doing any kettlebell exercise, fix your eyes on a focal point that's six feet away and down toward the ground. This keeps your head and neck in alignment with your spine and avoids strain.
5. Always warm up and cool down. Warm up with two to three minutes of dynamic movements-such as 10 repetitions of body weight squats or downward dog into cobra pose movements. Cool down after your workout with two to three minutes of full-body stretching. (Related: The Dynamic Warm-Up for Weight Lifting That Will Improve Your Performance)
Complete the below exercises as a circuit for the prescribed amounts of reps.
What you'll need: An 8- to 12-pound kettlebell.
Holding handle of kettlebell in right hand, arms by sides, stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend right elbow by side to bring right hand in front of shoulder so that ball of kettlebell rests on front of forearm. Do 5 reps on each side.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding handle of kettlebell in both hands, arms extended at waist level in front of you. Release left hand so you're gripping handle with right hand. Pass the kettlebell around you counterclockwise for 5 circles then clockwise for 5 circles.
Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, holding handle of kettlebell with both hands, arms in front of thighs, palms in. Squat, keeping chest open and back flat, and hinge forward from hips as you swing kettlebell with control through legs behind you. Do 10 reps.
Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out 45 degrees, with kettlebell on floor between legs, arms by sides. Squat, keeping chest open and abs engaged, as you grip handle of kettlebell with right hand, palm in. Do 5 reps alternating sides.
Press the kettlebell overhead as you lunge forward. Bring it back to chest as you stand. Do 10 reps per leg alternating legs. (Related: The Best Kettlebell Exercises for the Butt of Your Dreams)