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Kettlebell Training for Beginners

The cannon-ball shaped lump of iron that is the kettlebell may look like a tool designed only for the most advanced exercisers, but it's actually a good way for beginners to get into training, too. The secret to becoming a master of the bells is to start slow, learn the basic moves and work your way up.

Two-Handed Kettlebell Swing

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in your knees, holding a kettlebell with both hands hanging down straight.

  2. Bring the kettlebell back between your thighs by pushing your butt back, then use this momentum to power the bell up, snapping your hips forward explosively.

  3. Keep your arms straight as you swing the bell up. It should reach its peak height at around chest level.

  4. Use the pop from your hips to lift the weight, not your arms, advises New York-based kettlebell instructor Terence Gore. Ensure you do this by squeezing your glutes and core as you swing the bell up.

Clean and Press

  1. Hold the bell in one hand in the rack position. This requires your hand to be next to your shoulder, with your elbow tucked in and the kettlebell resting in the crease between your biceps and forearm. The rack position needs to be strong, notes strength coach Andrew Read, so take some time to practice it, simply by holding the bell there and tensing your whole body.

  2. Press your arm up powerfully from the rack position. At the top, your elbow should be straight, shoulder locked out and the kettlebell resting against the back of your forearm.

  3. Lower the kettlebell back into the rack position under control. This is the press section of the clean and press. Next up, you'll need to learn the clean.

  4. Hold the kettlebell in the same position as you did for the swing, but just in one hand this time.

  5. Lift the bell up in the same manner as you did for the two-handed swing, by using the power from your legs and hips. Keep the bell close to your body and maintain a loose grip, advises Mike Bell, personal trainer at WillSpace, New York.

  6. Catch the bell in the rack position. Once you've mastered both the press and the clean separately, put them both together for the clean and press.

Goblet Squat

  1. Hold the bell in both hands at chest height. It should be close in to your body, to keep it near to your center of gravity.

  2. Assume a similar position as you did for the swing, but with your feet slightly wider and your knees and toes turned out a little.

  3. Squat down by pushing your knees out and butt back. As you squat, think about trying to get your elbows to touch the insides of your knees, notes Read. This will keep your back straight and torso more vertical.

  4. Pause momentarily in the bottom position, then push back up. Drive up strongly and keep the weight on your heels and head looking up.

    Tip

    Between them, these three moves work your whole body and are more than enough to keep you making progress in the early days of kettlebell training. Combine them in a circuit-style workout. Perform 15 two-handed swings, followed by 10 clean and presses each side, then 15 goblet squats. Rest 60 seconds then complete three more circuits.

    Warning

    Check with your doctor before starting kettlebells and run through your techniques with a certified kettlebell instructor or personal trainer.

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About the Author

Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.

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