Getting Started With Kettlebells – What I Learned
There are a lot of folks out there looking at getting started with Kettlebells in the New Year, so I felt that now would be a good time to share my own story of getting started. It should provide some insight to those of you out there in the same stages, and even veterans might be able to learn a thing or two or chime in below and add their own comments.
One thing is guaranteed, getting started is a great experience.
Starting out with the right weight
I read many different guides online that recommended 35 lbs (around 16kg) as the ideal starting weight for men, so that’s the one I went for. I’m not located near any Gyms that have their own Kettlebell collection, (and I’m not a huge fan of them anyway), so I couldn’t try one first.
When it arrived, I was surprised by two things. One, how much heavier it was than expected and, two how I was still able to swing it in spite of this.
I never would have been able to perform so many reps of a 35 lb dumbbell and got the same benefits out of it, so I felt pretty confident moving forward.
I was a pretty skinny guy when I started, so 35 lb probably IS the ideal weight for most men. I did find that some exercises were beyond me until I had developed more arm strength though.
For women, you’ll want to choose a 12 or 16 lb Kettlebell (6 to 8kg) to start with. You may be used to lifting heavier weights, but Kettlebells are different. However, if you’ve never lifted before, don’t underestimate the amount you can lift either.
Start off simple
My first workout was literally just some squats, 10 reps three times, with a break in between. My arms could handle them fine, but my legs were killing me. Definitely make sure you warm up and stretch EVERY muscle first, as Kettlebells seem to find them all.
Over the first week, I added in some slingshots and swings, so that I’d be able to focus on arms while my legs were recovering,and. Vice versa.
I wanted to try some halos, Turkish get-ups, and other fancy looking exercises, but I just wasn’t strong enough. Even swings were difficult at first, and my form started to mess up after more than 10 reps.
Here’s a great video for Kettlebell Swings by the way, it’s excellent for beginners.
Form is essential
If you don’t know if already, form is the single most important part of kettlebell workouts. Doing it wrong can put you out of action for some time with injury.
I found out quite quickly that my form might start OK, but 5 to 10 reps later my back was aching.
It’s also quite a hotly contested subject. There are dozens of YouTube vides out there with plenty of commenters criticizing the form. There seems to be a bit of form snobbery on YouTube, but then that’s just the nature of the Internet.
One thing is for sure though some “instructors” have bad form, and beginners are almost definitely going to have bad form.
Here are some steps I took, and you can take too, to improve your form:
1.) I practiced I front of a full length mirror without Kettlebells. This is partly because my full length mirror is in my bathroom, but mostly because getting the form correct is easier without the weights, and then muscle memory helps when you’re using them.
2.) I worked out less than my maximum. I know you want to get the most out of every session, but over doing it and injuring yourself isn’t ideal. When you get tired, form will be the first thing to go wrong.
3.) I bought a Kettlebell DVD. There’s so much inconsistency among YT videos that I wanted to learn from an expert. Halina is currently doing the same thing, see her profess here!
Small and often
The debate about whether or not to take rest days is an interestng one. Generally, the days when your muscles rest, is when they rebuild and grow, however I recommend beginners exercising every single day.
I find that with the idea of workout out every other day, people tend to workout too hard, and end up with muscle stiffness and soreness, which is almost counter productive.
It’s also a lot easier to fall out of your habit if you are only exercising every other day. start off by exercising just ten or fifteen minutes a day, and go from there.
Until your body has increased its recovery I time, and you’ve built up a habit of working out every day, keep it small, but do it as much as often. Once a day for ten minutes, or even mornings and evenings is deal.
When you feel your strength starting to improve, you can try working out longer sessions and giving yourself rest days. See what works for you.
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