Beginner Kettlebell Training

By Coach Izzy

Among the many inquiries beginner kettlebell lifters have, the one standing out most besides proper technique is how to put it all together into a cohesive program.  A beginner kettlebell training program should focus primarily in the development and refinement of skill as well as proper recovery strategies. As skills develop and the beginner kettlebell lifter gets more acquainted with the modality, he or she may start tailoring the intensity, duration and tempo to meet personal goalssuch as reduced body fat, increased muscle mass, athletic performance, or just aesthetics. Now, you will hear many kettlebell lifters enthusiastically endorsing kettlebell training as the fastest way to create a lean body.  While the excitement is contagious, always keep in mind their views are subjective and your results will vary.

If you are not already familiar, a kettlebell is a rounded iron bell with a handle. It usually has a flat bottom to allow resting the bell on the ground for a different array of exercises and efficient storage. Nobody knows with certainty what the true origins of the kettlebell are and the issue is hotly debated. What goes without a doubt is that the Russians, who have been holding kettlebell competitions for years, made it popular. Kettlebell lifting competitions use the snatch and the clean and jerk as their main events, just like Olympic Weightlifting. Unlike Olympic Weightlifting though, kettlebell competitions focus on maxing out repetitions in a time frame instead of maxing out the load.

Kettlebell training is a great choice for beginners, not because kettlebell training is better than other training modalities, but because of the endless options kettlebell training provides for the novice. The variety of exercises is infinite, the equipment can take a beating, last virtually a lifetime, and takes minimal storage space. Add commitment, discipline and smart recovery strategies and fast results will materialize when least expected.

Even experienced weightlifters, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts will get tremendous benefits by adding a new element to their routines and learning new skills. The main difference is the more experienced exerciser may be able to start the program with a heavier weight, but even so, these athletes must keep in mind there is a learning curve and it is best to put the ego aside until skills are mastered.

So how does one go about starting a beginning kettlebell program?

The safest and most efficient way is through the guidance of an experienced coach. Your coach will help you select your beginner kettlebell loads, make sure you do not develop poor habits, and help you with accountability. Alas, if for whatever reason you cannot be under the watch of a coach, books and DVDs do a great job of introducing you to the basics. If this is the route you choose, make sure to take your time and go over your book and/or DVD repeteadly.  Practice constantly and keep an open mind.  If an exercise does not feel right after lengthy practice, chances are it is not being executed properly.  Keep reading your books and watching your videos to find out where your mistakes may be.  Be patient! Kettlebell training offers an ample selection of exercise variations to help the beginner kettlebell lifter make the most out his or her time, develop skills, avoid boredom, and stay safe.

For more advanced stages, the eye of a coach is definitely a plus. The beginner can start adding complexity and even start using two bells.  Some may even start considering competition style lifting, gunning for hundreds of repetitions in the snatch and clean and jerk.  Whatever the goals, what is true is that one cannot get to this stage without mastering  the basics first.

A significant concern for the beginner kettlebell athlete is choosing the right load to begin training. I have covered the topic extensively in another article titled What Size Kttlebell Should I Start With?which includes a handy table to make the selection process easier. Make sure to go over it as covers many neglected but critical aspects in the initial load selection for the beginner kettlebell athlete. The inappropriate load not only increases your risk of injury or developing sloppy form, it also fails to give your body the stimulus it needs to incite the changes you are striving for. Develop skill first and the loads you handle will increase in no time.

It is always a good idea to purchase a pair of kettlebells even if you are just getting started. You will not use both at first, but if your beginner kettlebell program is well structured and you allow your body to recover and develop, a second bell will come handy and add a new dimension to your training.  Again, be patient and keep practicing.  Two kettlebell lifting requires a high degree of skill and kinesthetic awareness, qualities you can only develop through constant, smart practice. I cannot stress enough the importance of skill development. It is what will keep you safe and making progress for many years.

What do I mean by skill development?

A beginner kettlebell training program will include learning all the fundamentals strategically progressed with a strong emphasis on proper form. Movements like the rack, the snatch, the swing, the clean and jerk, the overhead presses and their many variations, along with mastering the starting positions, require attention to detail but should allow for individual variations to prevent the training program from becoming stagnant. Once the beginner kettlebell lifter understands the importance of the hip snap to generate force and propel the bell, he or she will without a doubt have a good mastery of the basics and be ready for more advanced drills.

Whatever your goals, whether performance, health, or simply aesthetics, chances are there is a way in which you can fit a kettlebell training program to add a new dimension to your training and help you reach your goals. Add perseverance, clean up your eating habits, increase your sleep and you won’t believe the results!

See you on the exercise floor!

About The Author


Coach Izzy has been part of the Strength and Conditioning field for over 25 years. He speaks of the advantages of self-sufficiency and the drawbacks of relying on the liner approaches the health world seems fond of.