Exercise, Kettlebells

Working Out With Kettlebells, aka: Girls, You Won’t Look Like Arnold

September 4, 2012

So, if you’ve read my blog for a while you know that my exercise of choice is kettlebells. Years ago they got my interest but I never wanted to invest in a kettlebell. Plus, I didn’t really know how to work them. Then I lost quite a bit of weight and really wanted to gain more muscle and the free weights were really boring. I didn’t have energy to do much of anything on my diet and even hiking was a huge chore. Finally I started eating again and took a class.

I had done a lot of research. There were so many options. It gets kind of overwhelming. I took a class because in every exercise I do I believe form is key. You should have some initial guidance  since you can really hurt yourself if you are doing something wrong. My first class in St. Louis was free, and then I got them for $10-12 a pop on a punch card. Now I go to a boxing/mma gym and just pay the flat gym fee but get unlimited classes in a ton of things and use of the gym itself. Google classes or instructors in your area. Believe me, instructors only want to see you doing the exercises properly so that you can continue without injury and get/stay healthy. There are even some video chat instructors now so you can get instruction from your own home. Pretty sweet.

Here’s where I say things get confusing. Kettlebell people are sticklers on form. It keeps you from dropping 50 pounds on your head. However, if you fail to realize there is more than 1 (or 30) way to complete an exercise you are going to get frustrated fast. There are a million different videos and instructors out there all with their own finesse. I started off with Agatsu assuming kettlebells were kettlebells since the form was pretty similar to what I saw on youtube videos that were “hardstyle” or RKC. I moved to RKC with the Enter The Kettlebell workouts when I had to do things by myself. The forms are kind of similar between these two but the philosophy and exercise load  is a bit different (and honestly I prefer Agatsu, but that’s a personal choice). I’ve seen some crossfit kettlebell workouts that make my head tilt. That’s a weird technique to me.

However, I’ve been doing a Russian style for a year now and honestly our technique changes with the wind. It’s probably just the instructor, not really the style difference, but still, totally different in some instances. That really messed with my head for a while. Not saying the form goes from  sloppy to fixed or poor to great. Everything is always executed perfect to hit a certain muscle group. So you think you have a basic swing down and then you are asked to do a swing with only a hinge in your hip with no squat. Bad form? No, different technique. Hitting different muscle groups. Different grips, different movements, it can infinitely be changed up.

Say you want to invest in a kettlebell and do it at home. Amen, I had to do that for about 9 months since I couldn’t find a non crossfit gym that had kettlebell classes around here. Enter The Kettlebell is an amazing home resource. I highly suggest starting there. The actual program is a bit hard to iron out, but if you google “Enter The Kettlebell workbook” you get a stellar pdf from the Art Of Strength guy who has great dvds too. I really like the AoS videos, I found them super challenging and a good workout. And when I say super challenging, I feel like death if I make it to the end and might be rough for a beginner but it’s a great workout to try to get through.

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So, you read my babble but still are interested. Here’s a recap.

Find some help.
Form is key. Ask around, maybe find a class before investing in a kettlebell if you can since they usually provide kettlebells. If not, EtK and YouTube should help you get started, I highly suggest following a pre-planned routine if you aren’t going to a class. Some programs can get boring with the same 5 moves, mix it up. Find some forums or hang out on Reddit. Lots of info and nice people who want to help.

Don’t buy little cute pink kettlebells.
(unless it is the pro grade kb, the 8kg is pink!) Start with an 8kg or a 10kg kettlebell (I started with an 8kg). Yep, it’s heavy, don’t worry, it’s supposed to be heavy. Can’t lift it over your head with 1 hand at the beginning? It’s about practicing, I couldn’t either. Check out ebay or amazon or your local sports shop. Craigslist too! I actually got my last few out of a guy selling from a warehouse space I found on Google for super cheap.

Don’t fall for girly marketing of high repeats at lower weight or “toning”.
You can handle the heavier weights, babies are heavier than 2lbs, so are groceries.  You can do the same program as a guy. Seriously. Just lower the weight. Okay, some balance moves (like pistol squats) are harder with a different center of gravity but it can be done with a lot of work (ps, I still can’t do these unassisted, doesn’t mean I need a girl modification, just means I can’t do them yet). Building muscle isn’t bad and you won’t look like a bodybuilder unless you have a pretty rare genetic disposition to quick muscle gain. Promise. And the more muscle you build the more fuel you need for your body (you get to eat more!). Also: lifting heavy kettlebells is serious cardio so it’s good for weight loss. Trust me.

Don’t get discouraged.
This is hard. Really hard. It took me maybe 6 months to do a proper Turkish get up. I bitched about it in my past kettlebell posts. I feel like a failure when I can’t do something. With hard work it will eventually click. I feel like I’m going to die after every workout. It’s still hard. But totally worth it.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Debra September 4, 2012 at 7:47 PM

    Thanks for the post about kettlebells. I have one in my living room and have tried it a few times; thinking it would be good to pick up seriously. It was interesting to me that you are doing the Russian form, as I have a friend here in Tx who teaches that form.

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