Today’s guest post is by Peter Hirsh from Kettlebell Movement, a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years.
I know that I have a lot of busy moms that read my blog. Getting to the gym can be really tough for some of us. I was an avid Crossfitter before I had Indyanna. For years, I made it to my local box 3 to 5 times a week religiously. I would even hit other boxes when I was traveling. Between work, taking care of our little and our house, it seemed like I was getting there less and less.
Finding quick and effective workouts to squeeze in at home in between sessions was key to staying in shape for me. I found kettlebells to be one of the most effective ways to get a holistic workout with little time. Also, one of the most affordable! You can get reasonably priced kettlebells and slowly add heavier weights to your collection, as you need. It’s much cheaper than a gym membership and you can do so much with just 1 kettlebell.
I invited kettlebell expert, Peter Hirsh to share more about the effectiveness of this functional movement and to teach us the basic lifts for getting started. I highly recommend checking out Peter’s Youtube channel to learn more about using kettlebells properly.
Kettlebell Training. Have you heard of it? Have you had any experience with it? These black iron bells with handles are quickly gaining a positive reputation in the fitness world today. I myself have been in the fitness industry for over ten years and recognize the intimidation that the average person feels when watching or learning about kettlebell training. Let’s just clear this up, it looks a lot scarier than it really is, I promise you that. It is my goal to take the mystery out of this type of exercise and help you not only learn how to use them safely and effectively but to also understand why you should give it a try!
Why kettlebell training is effective
First, let’s talk more about why these tools are so effective and why they appeal to the paleo crowd so much. The answer to this is pretty simple; kettlebells are holistic. They treat your body as a whole, not as separate links in a chain. Traditional weight lifting doesn’t do this and neither do most conventional diets that have come and gone throughout the years.
Kettlebell training, much like the paleo lifestyle, is about doing what is most in sync with your unique biology. When training with kettlebells you are forcing your whole kinetic chain to work as one, just like it would in the real world. Most traditional weightlifting seen in gyms today focuses on isolating one muscle at a time. Our ancestors would not have been found sitting in a chair pressing their leg muscles to build strength. Instead, they would be squatting, running, jumping, and lifting various items overhead. By training your body as a whole (functionally) you will see greater benefits than you would with any other type of training.
Kettlebell training isn’t the only type of functional exercise you can do, but in my experience as a health coach and personal trainer, it is one of the most effective. Training with kettlebells teaches you how to use your body by creating motor patterns that directly correlate to real world activity. Doing this will help you move through the world injury free. Ultimately, kettlebell training will connect your mind to your body, build muscle, and train your flexibility and cardiovascular system all at the same time.
Kettlebells train core strength like nothing else and were even mentioned in a recent article in Time magazine that training with kettlebells “creates 70% more core strength than training without them.” This type of training is wonderful for general injury prevention because it teaches your body how to properly move. You are training multiple muscles at once as well as hitting your cardio which means you can reach amazing results in much less time. A 30 minute kettlebell training workout beats running on the treadmill for 60 minutes any day.
Although many people see kettlebells as a tool only for serious athletes or young people, this is very far from the truth. I have worked with people ranging from 14 years old to 65 years old and kettlebells and functional training has been beneficial to each individual in different ways.
Kettlebell training teaches your body how to move properly. This type of training is essential for people as they age to prevent injuries and allow you to properly bend, extend, squat, and lift things overhead. Muscle isolation exercises will not teach your body this and instead will cause tightness and damage to your body. That being said, kettlebell training is only beneficial when learned properly and there is a lot to learn. Ninety percent of the time I see trainers teaching kettlebells improperly, especially in major chain gyms. It’s so important that you are using proper form when training, otherwise you risk injuries and you won’t see the real benefit.
Instead of overwhelming yourself, learn these basic lifts. These are all you will really need to get unbelievable benefits from kettlebells. Once you have spent a lot of time practicing the basics, then you can begin exploring more advanced moves.
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The 4 Basic Kettlebell Lifts
So what are the basics?
To begin, learn and perfect the deadlift This is not only the most important exercise to perform before learning kettlebell basics, but it is also the most important exercise you will ever perform for real world strength and safety. The deadlift is all about learning how to lift with your legs, not with your back as effectively as possible. Once your deadlift is consistently competent with a proper hip hinge, flat back, and flat feet, then move to the kettlebell swing.
2. Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing turns the strength phase deadlift into the power phase, from up and down to front and back. The benefits of entering the power phase are almost too numerous to count and will become immediately obvious once you begin. Your core will have to engage more than almost any exercise you’ve ever done and you will have to focus and connect to your body every moment of the exercise. The acceleration and deceleration from your hips when swinging a kettlebell is incredible for anyone that wants to build strength or prevent injury. The kettlebell swing is also an example of an exercise than can only be performed with kettlebells.
3. Clean & Press
After you have learned and practiced the kettlebell swing to the same degree you refined your deadlifts, you can move to the clean&press, and its’ variations. The clean&press will teach you safe and effective lifting of weight overhead. The benefits of this are also countless, the most significant being the effect of aligning your posture to neutral. Lifting weight overhead from standing teaches your nervous system where the plumb line of your body is and helps you develop the flexibility and awareness to maintain good posture throughout the day. When you begin lifting overhead you will also notice how engaged your core must be to perform the lift properly.
4. Kettlebell Snatch
After you have learned all of these progressions, it’s time to learn the the kettlebell snatch. This is a full-body explosive lift that is the pinnacle of kettlebell training and possibly the most enjoyable lift you will ever perform. The clean&press is about lifting the weight from the ground to overhead in two moves, the snatch does it in one.
The swing, clean & press and snatch are the three basic kettlebell lifts and as I mentioned should only be attempted after the deadlift. The deadlift can be performed with a kettlebell, dumbell or barbell. For most people, it will take months to practice these basic lifts to perfection before moving on to more complex lifts within the same teaching. All four of these basic movements will provide you with a variety of workouts that will give you unbelievable health benefits.
Lift Smart and Have fun!
Kettlebell training isn’t something you do so much as it is something you learn, which I think is a trademark of all of the greatest sports and physical arts. My best advice for a new practitioner is to stay process oriented and enjoy each and every step. There is a huge boost of confidence and adrenaline every time you get to the next level or perfect that challenging move. Your development will be in your mind, your muscle, your flexibility, and endurance. As a result, you will see big changes very quickly. Remember to use exact technique, progress safely, and always listen to your body! Bad technique is absolutely pointless and will lead to injury and kill your morale.
The art of functional training is highly addictive. I want to help people learn how to do these basics safely so that anyone can benefit. If you are a member of a gym, many carry a selection of kettlebells. If not, they can be purchased for a reasonable price quite readily. A small investment, probably less than that of a startup fee at a gym, could get you started with a kettlebell that will last forever.
For more information on getting started with kettlebells view Kettlebell Weight&Style Selection, Understanding Kettlebell Basics, and Common Kettlebell Mistakes. Keep checking back with me at Kettlebell Movement for new instructional videos and workouts and always feel free to ask me questions so I can help you get the most out of kettlebells, calysthenics, and health!
Peter Hirsh is a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years. Peter has dedicated his life to the enrichment and well being of others and currently owns Peter’s Personal Training where he teaches classes and trains students one on one in San Diego, California.
Wanting to reach a larger number of people with his teachings, Peter started Kettlebell Movement, a website dedicated to maintaing the authentic teachings of kettlebell training and promoting a simple and effective holistic lifestyle anyone can follow.
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I’m a new reader and really enjoy your blog. I was wondering if you can be contacted by email? I really identified with your story in the “about me” section and have a couple of questions about how you found healing. Thanks so much for your response.
Arsy Vartanian says
Hi Wendy! Sure thing… Use the little email icon in the social media section (in my sidebar).
What size kettlebell do you use for your workout?
Arsy Vartanian says
I use 35lbs. for most of my workouts. But, I started with a lower weight and worked my way up. Hope that helps!