02 Jun The Ultimate Guide To Kettlebell Training

KBguide

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN IN THIS GUIDE:

1) A complete and comprehensive overview of the benefits of kettlebell training

2) Whether there limitations to kettlebells or are they a “one-stop-shop” for everything?

3) What you need to know about the 2 main styles of kettlebell training

4) Specific steps for how to get started or elevate your training to the next level

5) The key exercises to focus on – whether you’re beginner or advanced

6) Key resources for learning and advancing with kettlebells 

WHAT THIS GUIDE REPRESENTS

This guide represents the definitive guide to kettlebell training available online today.

What does that mean exactly?

It means it contains everything you need to know to begin or further develop your training with kettlebells.

It’s designed to represent a comprehensive description of all the essential information when someone asks “how can I learn more about kettlebells” or “how should I get started?

It also serves as resource guide for more advanced kettlebell enthusiasts.

If you’ve haven’t started with kettlebells yet, this guide is everything you need to know to make the best and most important decisions to maximize your experience.

And, if you’re already well into kettlebell training, then please review this article and share it with others who need to learn more.

As we begin, I want to mention that I am an SFG Level II kettlebell instructor.

That means that this is my preferred style of training and I’ll explain why later in this article.

SFG is the Strong First Girya kettlebell certification that’s offered through StrongFirst, the organization created by Pavel Tsatsouline, who’s considered the founder of the modern day kettlebell movement.

A few years ago when Pavel left the RKC (more about this later), I chose to continue my journey with StrongFirst and the instructors who I had learned from all along such as Brett Jones, Dave Whitley, Dan John, and Geoff Neupert (although Geoff has since moved on with his own pursuits such as founding Original Strength).

In this article, I also wanted to be “fair balanced” and will discuss other training styles and organizations related to kettlebell training, so that you can make your own decisions about which style is best for you.

With that said, let’s get started.

BACKGROUND AND HISTORY OF KETTLEBELLS

Kettlebells are powerful tools, my friend. Very powerful.

A kettebell is a strength and conditioning tool that’s shaped like a cannon ball with a handle.

Kettlebells are just tools, but they are extremely effective for a high level of health and fitness that produce fat loss, lean muscle building, exceptional conditioning, and athleticism.

But, kettlebells aren’t anything new.

In fact, they’ve existed for a hundred years or more, depending on who you read. Some sources report that kettlebells originated in Greece, but many sources point to the origination in Russia.

The Russian kettlebell or girya (as it’s historical known) teaches us about human movement and physical performance.

It opens the doors to a new level of motor learning, that goes way beyond just kettlebells.

It was through Pavel’s game-changing books, The Russian Kettlebell Challenge, Enter the Kettlebell, and the most recent Simple and Sinister that kettlebells have grown exponentially in popularity.

Kettlebells are popular for a reason, they work.

They produce results and have done so for many years.

The challenge is learning how to use them properly.

And, for those who discover how to use this tool effectively, they become dedicated to using it for a lifetime.

It’s a simple, portable, and high-impact training tool.

This is NOT “drinking the kettlebell cool-aid” so to speak (there is no such thing).

I keep saying, it is only a tool.

But, in my many years of training , it’s clearly one of the best options for multi-purpose fitness.

In fact, I use many other tools besides kettlebells and the truth is my passion is barbell training.

Kettlebells support and perfectly complement barbell training.

One thing is for sure, I’ll use kettlebells for the rest of my life because they are simple, effective, and have a role in any training program.

PROBLEMS

Some of the problems in the fitness industry are the fitness fads and gimmicks. You know, the things that over-promise, under-deliver, and fizzle out quickly.

Kettlebells aren’t like that.

There are things that keep people distracted with SNTS (shiny new toy syndrome).

SNTS is moving from one training method or toy to the next, without ever getting good at anything.

Frankly, this is a damn shame.

All we need are simple, proven tools, not the gadgets, gimmicks, and fads.

We need to stick to what works and excel with the basics.

We need to stick to fundamental movements, lifts, and exercises to get the best results.

If there is a “secret,” this is it.

Kettlebells are fundamental. And, they’re also here to stay.

WHY USE KETTLEBELLS?

A kettlebell will teach us more about human movement and strength with one simple, portable system than almost anything else.

Kettlebells offer a high level of strength and conditioning, can address almost any fitness goal, and can be used for a lifetime.

They can help anyone improve their level of health and fitness.

But, let’s talk specifics.

KETTLEBELL BENEFITS

Kettlebells offer many benefits.

Kettlebells are a home gym system that you can store away in a corner, unlike any bulky home gym station, squat rack, or even a barbell set up.

Something I explain to people who are interested in kettlebells is that a kettlebell can literally be your entire fitness system for months on end – all depending on your goals and your background in training.

A kettlebell can literally be your entire fitness system…

It’s a simple and effective solution for strength and conditioning and it activates parts of our bodies that have atrophied (ex. glutes).

It “wakes up” our bodies and stimulates movement systems to a whole new level.

Again, let’s talk specific benefits.

Here’s a quick list of the unique benefits of kettlebell training:

  • Hacks body fat
  • Improves full body strength
  • Enhances flexibility and mobility
  • Builds lean muscle
  • Forges athleticism
  • Builds a high level of cardiovascular fitness
  • Improves functional performance
  • Teaches human movement and motor control
  • Keeps us “injury-free”
  • Builds mental toughness
  • Allows for portable training – anywhere, anytime
  • And, so much more…

Are there limitations to the tool?

Yes, there are.

I’ll discuss some of those limitations in just a bit.

A DIFFERENT VERSION OF STRONG

One of the best descriptions about kettlebells came from Physical Therapist and Strength Coach, Charlie Weingroff.

Charlie stated that “kettlebells are a different version of strong.”

He nailed it because kettlebells are simply a different kind of tool.

They are different from dumbbells, barbells, and many other training modalities.

Why?

The simple answer is because of the shape and design of the tool and how we use it.

Each exercise is full body. Again, every exercise is full body.

And, the ballistic exercises (the fast and explosive lifts) are a 2 for 1 hit.

What I mean is you are working on STRENGTH and CONDITIONING.

That’s the 2 for 1, which is unique to kettlebells.

LIMITATIONS

Kettlebells do have limitations.

They aren’t the ONLY tool I’m suggesting, but they can certainly be a foundation of your training program for the rest of your life.

What you use ultimately depends on your goals.

But, if you want to get in all-around great shape. get stronger, build athleticism and functional performance, it’s a tool that should be foundational.

Kettlebells transformed my training years ago and have further enhanced many other areas of my exercise approach.

I highly value the tool, but they do have limitations.

Let’s talk about it.

1-THE BARBELL IS KING FOR MAXIMUM STRENGTH

The big barbell lifts (bench, squat, deadlift, snatch, clean & jerk) are king for maximum strength.

A barbell simply allows for maximum load with the big lifts.

The only kettlebell exercise that produces 1 RM (1 rep max) strength development is the kettlebell press.

You could also state a case for a 1 RM Turkish Get Up.

Don’t get me wrong, kettebells build tremendous full body strength, but barbells are the king here.

2-KETTLEBELLS WILL GET YOU ONLY SO FAR IN MUSCLE BUILDING

I’ve written about this before, but if maximum hypertrophy or muscle building is the primary goal, you have to do some “bodybuilding” style training.

Can you pack on muscle mass by doing a kettlebell program?

Absolutely, without question.

There are some great programs out there that produce muscle building benefits.

The Shock and Awe Protocol is one of them.

What I’m referring to is the bodybuilding types of results, meaning targeted muscle building.

You see the difference here?

Now, if I were going to compete in bodybuilding again, personally I’d have to do a lot more than just kettlebells.

Again, don’t get me wrong, kettlebells will put on mass, but to get the “bodybuilding effect,” you do have to train like a bodybuilder.

In conclusion, these 2 things would be considered limitations with kettlebell training:

1-LIMITATION IN DEVELOPING MAXIMAL STRENGTH
2-LIMITATION IN DEVELOPING MAXIMUM HYPERTROPHY

STYLES OF TRAINING – WHICH IS BEST FOR YOU?

Here’s a big topic, which style of training is best?

It basically comes down to 2 major styles of kettlebell training, Hardstyle and Girevoy Sport (also known as Kettlebell Sport).

For me, it’s always been the hardstyle approach which simply aligns more with my goals and preferred way to train.

I’ll explain why I prefer this style and think it’s the best fit for most people.

HARDSTYLE (Russian Style Kettlebell Training)

These are the techniques of Pavel Tsatsouline of StrongFirst.

Now, I want to be ‘fair balanced’ in this article and with that said, they are also taught by the original RKC that Pavel started.

There are differences between the SFG and RKC, so please do your due diligence with additional research to learn about the differences to make the best choice for you.

For me, I simply decided to continue my learning and development under Pavel’s techniques, since that’s where I started.

Hardstyle kettlebell training originated in the special operations unit of the Soviet Union in the 1970’s.

Hardstyle training is simply the balance of muscular tension and relaxation.

It’s also a safe and biomechanically efficient way to move and produce force fast (with the quick lifts or ballistics).

The kettbell swing, for example, is a great demonstration of balance between tension and relaxation.

Tension is strength and power.

Relaxation is speed, endurance, and flexibility. Many sports demand both qualities.

Hardstyle teaches us the effective interplay of tension (strength) and relaxation (speed).

The slow strength lifts (press, squat) are performed with dynamic tension as the muscles generate more force by tensing.

Tension = force.

The more muscular tension we create in the muscles, the more force is produced.

At the same time, we don’t want to “over-tense” and that’s where the balance comes into play with tension and relaxation.

It’s been said that mastery of relaxation is a hallmark of an elite athlete.

In summary, the techniques of hardstyle are focused on power production and safe, efficient biomechanics of movement.

My personal belief is that the hardstyle techniques are the logical style and approach for most people.

The reason being is that the style will not only get us stronger and more conditioned, but will address so many physical qualities with safe and efficient movement that will ultimately help us in functional or athletic performance.

My belief is that the hardstyle techniques are the logical style and approach for most people because the style will not only get us stronger and more conditioned, but will address so many physical qualities with safe and efficient movement that will ultimately help us in functional or athletic performance.

It’s much different from GS, which we’ll discuss next.

GIREVOY SPORT (GS) KETTLEBELL SPORT

First, I have great respect for the GS style of training and the athletes who compete in kettlebell sport.

If you want to compete in kettlebells, then Girevoy Sport (GS) is the competitive style of kettlebell training.

It’s an entirely different animal from hardstyle, in terms of biomechanics, technique, and training goals.

The main goals of GS are to produce as many repetitions in a designated amount of time.

GS is classified as cycling training, which means it’s similar to cyclical endurance sports such as rowing, biking, or running.

Why do GS style?

If your goals are more endurance related, then GS style will likely be a fit for you.

And, as mentioned, if you want to compete in kettlebells, then GS is the style you must use.

As much as I love kettlebells, the truth is I’m not into the GS side of things.

I have nothing against GS style and I don’t think it’s a bad thing, it’s just in alignment with my goals (at least right now).

It goes back to being clear on WHY you train and WHAT your specific training goals are and the GS style is not a match for me personally, at this time.

Again, consider GS an endurance sport because it requires athletes to work for longer time periods under sub-maximal loads.

To participate in a sport that requires 10 minutes of continuous kettlebell lifting requires a high aerobic demand and oxidative capacity.

Again, GS is endurance.

Here’s a quick overview of GS.

The athlete performs as many repetitions as possible (AMRAP) in a set time frame, usually 10 minutes of continuous training.

There are 3 major lifts/events in GS style competition.

  • The kettlebell jerk (2 kettlebells are jerked as many reps as possible)
  • The long cycle clean and jerk  (2 kettlebells are clean and jerked cyclically)
  • The snatch (1 kettlebell is snatched, 1 hand switch is permitted)

Techniques are different as to “conserve energy” for such long, continuous bouts of training.

Techniques can also vary depending on the individual and body types, but basic principles apply to GS training styles.

The breathing is even different to “conserve energy.”

10 minutes of continuous kettlebell work is an extremely long time.

The bottom line that GS style is about competition.

If competing in kettlebell sport is a goal, GS is the style for you.

If you’re just starting, then I’d recommend the hardstyle approach as there is more broad application and the style is effective for so many other benefits beyond endurance.

As with anything, take some time to do your research and learn more about which style is best suited for you and your goals.

THERE ARE OTHERS…

There are also many other certifications out there, as well.

There are other methods and techniques that are taught, depending on the certifying organization.

I can only speak to the hardstyle approach because that’s been my experience and what aligns the best with my goals and preferred methodology on performance training.

For me, it’s movement that makes sense.

WHO ARE KETTLEBELLS FOR (AND NOT FOR)?

Kettlebells can be used by virtually anyone, irregardless of age or athletic background.

It’s a simple tool, however, it requires proper training.

Finding random YouTube videos by an unqualified, untrained instructor will get you nowhere fast and will not only limit progress, but put you at risk for injury.

It’s critical to use this tool properly and safely.

Kettlebells are extremely accessible to most people, from youth to 80 year olds, providing they have qualified instruction, as I just mentioned.

As with any exercise or tool, the individual should be medically cleared for exercise and should and be in good general health and free from injury.

Kettlebells are not for people looking for the latest exercise “craze” or exercise fad (it’s neither).

If you are considering kettlebells, take the training seriously and commit to learning how to use them the right way.

I’ll cover that next.

5 SIMPLE STEPS TO GET STARTED

STEP 1:
EDUCATE

The first step is to really understand the tool fully, deepen your knowledge, and learn as much as you can about why kettlebells are such an effective training tool.

I recommend the books or DVD’s listed below in the resource section of this article.

STEP 2:
PURCHASE A KETTLEBELL

In addition to getting one of the learning resources I mentioned, you obviously need to purchase a kettlebell to start.

I will cover the size you need and my brand recommendations below, but if you are just starting all you really need to begin with is a single kettlebell.

If you’re more serious and absolutely know you’re doing to be in for the long haul, then you could get a few different kettlebell sizes.

When I started out, I purchased only one kettlebell, but quickly added to the collection later.

STEP 3:
GET A COACH

This step could actually be the first step, so keep that in mind.

The single biggest way to accelerate your progress is by getting a qualified coach.

Even ONE session will greatly accelerate your training and learning.

I’ll have more resources below in this article about how to find a qualified coach.

STEP 4:
DEEP PRACTICE

If you’re starting, take things slow because you will be sore as your body “wakes up” to this style of training.

You want to get off to a good start, so my advice is to start slow to have the best experience.

Of course, this will completely depend on where you’re starting point is. In other words, are you starting from ground zero in your training (probably not) or are you more advanced and already exercising?

You have to think of your workouts as “practice” where each session you are getting better and refining your techniques.

Practice the skills and work on your technique to maximize results.

Focus on the fundamental exercises (I’ll cover them in detail below).

STEP 5:
TRAIN (FOR A LIFETIME)

Read this article completely and understand it.

Do the steps I mention here and train for a lifetime because kettlebell training can always be a part of every fitness enthusiasts or athletes training program.

The tool offers so many benefits that can it be used through a lifetime of training.

Consider workshops and certifications to deepen your skills. I’ll also discuss this more later.

KETTLEBELL SIZE

What are kettlebell sizes to start with?

Here’s the kettlebell sizes for the “average” strength individual or basically for those who are just starting out with kettlebells.

Of course, if you’re a larger framed individual or more experienced strength athlete, you’ll want to start heavier. I started with 16 kg, then quickly bumped up to a 24 kg kettlebell. It all depends.

Women: 8kg (18lb) kettlebell (or up to 12 kg – 26 pounds)
Men: 16kg (35lb) kettlebell (or up to 24 kg – 53 pounds)

If you’re more serious and want to invest in a set of various kettlebell sizes for the different exercises, here’s what I’d recommend for most:

Women: 8kg, 12kg, 16kg
Men: 16kg, 20kg, 24kg

I would not invest in doubles (doubles = 2 kettlebells of the same size) until you have mastered the single ketttlebell skills.

Save the doubles for later.

KETTLEBELL BRANDS

First, I do NOT recommend any of these types of kettlebells:

  • plastic kettlebells
  • adjustable” kettlebells
  • rubber coated kettlebells
  • sporting goods kettlebells
  • odd shaped or designed kettlebells

None of these are good options, in my opinion.

I wouldn’t train with any of these myself due to poor quality, lack of effectiveness, and/or safety issues. I wouldn’t waste money on these kettlebell brands and products.

Instead, I highly recommend to get a solid cast iron kettlebell with outstanding design and the highest quality to maximize training effectiveness.

ROGUE

My top choice, at the time, continues to be the Rogue Kettlebell. The Rogue kettlebell is simply an exceptional quality kettlebell for the price. It’s got a great feel to it with the textured surface and the shape and design of the bell is very similar to the other high quality kettlebells on this list with one major difference. The price is unbeatable. Click here to see the Rogue kettlebell I use.

DRAGON DOOR

The RKC kettebell by Dragon Door is an outstanding kettlebell, without question. For a long time, it had been the leading kettlebell brand due to the high quality. However, in recent years, many new kettlebell brands have come onto the the scene producing similar high quality at much lower costs. That’s why I like Rogue. But, the RKC kettlebell is still an exceptional brand kettlebell, you’ll just pay a bit more. Click here to check out the RKC kettlebells.

KETTLEBELLS USA

Kettlebells USA makes a great high quality kettlebell, as well. The cost is decent and it’s a great bell, very similar to the ones I’ve already mentioned. This is another great kettlebell I have and would definitely recommend. Click here to see the Kettlebells USA brand.

The bottom line is that any of these kettlebells are great options.

They are all great quality with subtle differences.

The major difference is price and my preferred brand has become Rogue for the reasons I mentioned.

COMPETITION KETTLEBELLS

I’m often asked about competition kettlebells.

Competition kettlebells are kettlebells that are all the same size, regardless of weight.

If you’re going to train GS style and compete in kettlebell sport, this is what you’ll want to get.

If not, I suggest getting one of the “Russian” kettlebell brands I’ve mentioned above (Rogue, Dragon Door, etc).

My own preference is with the “Russian” style kettlebells and I think there are advantages, as well.

One such advantage is the grip strength development with larger bell size, something that you don’t get with the competition kettlebells because the grip width is the same with competition bells, no matter what bell size.

Also, I like the “feel” of the Russian style bells.

OTHER BRANDS

Certainly, there are also many other brands now available for kettlebells. I’ve listed my favorites and recommendations.

A FEW TRAINING TIPS

SAFETY

Kettlebell training starts and ends with safe training. Treat training as “skill development” and don’t worry about feeling annihilated after a session.

If you’re new, start slow and if you’re advanced, hone your skills.

Kettebells are extremely safe tools, when used properly. Kettlebells don’t hurt people, bad technique and bad coaching hurts people.

Keep “safe training” as priority #1.

GLOVES

As a general rule, don’t wear gloves with kettebells.

Wearing gloves interferes with the tactile input and actually makes holding a kettlebell more challenging and cumbersome, especially with the ballistic or explosive exercises.

If you’re that worried about your hands, kettlebell training is probably not for you, to be completely transparent.

That doesn’t mean I’m suggesting in any way not to be cautious about tearing up your hands.

Higher volume, high repetition work can be tough, but technique has a lot to do with it and it’s something that requires “practice” to spare the hands.

There is an option I’ve recently heard about that seems to be good for hand protection and wouldn’t interfered with techniques, etc.

Natural grips.

I have nothing to do with this product whatsoever, but it seems like a valid solution for hand care with high rep, high volume training.

It looks like a reasonable option, so I thought I’d share it.

You can check them out at thenaturalgrip.com.

FOOTWEAR

Proper footwear is essential.

The main thing is do not wear cushiony shoes (such as running shoes) when training.

Either train in bare feet or wear a flat soled shoe like Converse Chuck Taylor’s (or another flat and stable shoe).

You don’t want to wear a cushioned shoe because it does not provide a stable base and will affect the mechanics of certain exercises. This is extremely important.

BREATHING

Proper breathing is critical with kettlebell training (or any training, not just kettlebells).

The breathing that’s used with hardstyle technique is the biomechanical matched breathing (or power breathing), which means the exhalation matches the force production. (Note: GS uses a different breathing style).

For example, in the kettlebell swing, the exhalation is when the kettlebell is projected forward with the explosive hip power.

This helps to make the technique safe, efficient, and powerful. Proper breathing is a very big deal.

A SUGGESTION BEFORE GETTING STARTED

Before you start training, obviously, be medically cleared for exercise.

Ideally, it would beneficial to have an FMS (Functional Movement Screen) to assess a baseline of movement.

For more details and to find an FMS specialist, go to FunctionalMovement.com.

THE FUNDAMENTAL EXERCISES

As I go through these fundamentals, the video below demonstrates the 7 most important kettlebell exercises.

These exercises are what should be considered the foundation for an effective kettlebell training program.

And, it should be noted that these are the “hardstyle” techniques that I use in my training.

FIRST, THE HIP HINGE

Before any of the exercises, the truth is that it all starts with the hip hinge.

The hip hinge is folding at the hip with a neutral or flat spine.

In the resources section of this article, you’ll find a video by Dan John that demonstrates his hinge assessment technique.

The kettlebell swing is built on an effective hip hinge.

1-THE KETTLEBELL DEADLIFT

First, let’s not confuse this with the barbell deadlift.

The barbell deadlift is done to produce maximum strength while the kettlebell deadlift is about learning the proper loaded hip hinge movement.

It’s a very important exercise, but we need to understand why we do this, to effectively learn the hip hinge to prepare for the kettlebell swing.

The deadlift is the precursor for the kettlebell swing.

2-THE GOBLET SQUAT

The goblet squat (GS) is an exceptional movement and mobility exercise. Of course it’s used for strength and conditioning, as well.

The GS is done by holding the kettlebell in front of your body and squatting deep in a slow, controlled movement. It requires full hip and knee range of motio (ROM).

DL-GS3-THE KETTLEBELL SWING (Russian Style)

The best description of the kettlebell swing I ever heard comes from Dan John.

Dan says “the kettlebell swing is a fat-burning athlete builder.

The swing is foundational to kettlebell training and is one of the highest value exercises we have available to us.

In case you’re wondering about the Russian style swing compared to the American style swing, see this previous article for a full explanation.

Here’s a short summary of the Russian style swing:

  • Full body explosive power
  • Excellent for back health and core strength
  • Offers a high level of strength and conditioning
  • Outstanding for fat burning and athleticism
  • Builds cardiovascular fitness to a very high level

4-THE TURKISH GET UP

The Turkish get up is another amazing exercise that most of the population does NOT do.

The Turkish Get Up (TGU) involves getting up from the ground while holding a kettlebell and then going back to down again.

Many tools can be used to perform a TGU, however, a kettlebell is most optimal due to the shape and design.

Here’s more about the TGU:

  • Requires dynamic full body movement to perform
  • Builds full body stability and mobility
  • Can be used in a variety of training programs
  • Has unique shoulder and upper body strengthening benefits
  • In addition to strengthening, also enhances conditioning with increased reps
  • Greatly enhances function

The TGU is a “one-stop-shop” for full body strength and conditioning, which is very unique to other exercises.

TGU-SW5-THE KETTELBELL PRESS

The kettlebell press is a great full body lift and can be used for maximum strength development.

Why press with a kettlebell? Isn’t a dumbbell press the same thing?

Getting back to the shape and design of the kettlebell, the kettlebell allows for a natural motion of pressing, which is different from a dumbbell and certainly different from a barbell.

The shape of the kettlebell allows for a unique press motion that is natural for the shoulder joint and this is more “comfortable” than a dumbbell press.

I’ve pressed dumbbells for many years and will confirm that the kettlebell press is different and distinct.

As mentioned, it’s NOT just a shoulder press, but a full body exercise when performed correctly.

INTERMEDIATE EXERCISES

The CLEAN and the SNATCH.

Why are the clean and snatch intermediate exercises?

Because if you don’t have the swing nailed down, you’re not ready for the clean and snatch.

You must spend time on the swing to properly establish the hip power and explosiveness. Once you have the mechanics of the swing, then and only then, can progression be made to the clean and the snatch.

CleanSnatch1

6-THE CLEAN

As Dave Whitely states, “the clean is a swing that finishes in the rack.”

The clean is a ballistic (fast, explosive movement) that uses the hip drive to project the kettlebell vertically up your body to finish in the rack position. (The rack position is a shoulder height position in which the kettlebell is held securely.)

The clean is an excellent exercise in itself, but is also an extremely valuable component of kettlebell complexes such as the “clean and front squat” or “clean and press.” (A complex is 2 or more exercises that are strung together).

7-THE SNATCH

The snatch is the ultimate.

The kettlebell snatch is about elevating the kettlebell from a low position to full lockout overhead in one explosive movement.

It’s outstanding for shoulder health and a high level of cardio-respiratory fitness.

A uniquely powerful and valuable exercise to forge athleticism and full body power.

The kettlebell snatch test (5 minutes to complete 100 reps) is the ultimate test of strength endurance, conditioning, and mental toughness.

It’s an exercise that demands respect and offers major benefits.

There are technical nuances to effectively perform this exercise and, of course, the explosive hip drive from the kettlebell swing must be present for a successful snatch.

ADDITIONAL EXERCISES AND PROGRESSIONS (BEYOND THE BASICS)

Here are some additional high value exercises beyond the basics, each offering different benefits.

  • Windmill
  • Push Press
  • Jerk
  • Bent Press
  • Front Squat
  • Bottoms up work
  • Kettlebell carries
  • Kettlebell complexes
  • Double kettlebell work (once single kettlebells skills have been established)


REPS AND SETS

I’m often asked about reps and sets.

The real answer is “it depends.”

In general, here are some guidelines on reps ranges and volume.

  • Turkish get ups (1-5 reps per side)
  • Swings (higher rep work is more appropriate anywhere from 10 reps to 50 reps per set for a 2 hand swing)
  • Squats (sets of 5-10)
  • Presses (typically, sets of 5 or less)
  • Cleans (sets of 5-10)
  • Snatches (sets of 10, but may go much higher when working to improve the snatch test).

*Snatch Test = 100 reps with appropriate size kettlebell in 5 minutes or less.

3 WAYS TO GET QUALIFIED COACHING

1) IN-PERSON TRAINING AND COACHING

The fact is that nothing beats “live” in-person instruction.

I have listed certification organizations at the end of this article where you can search for local, certified kettlebell instructors.

This is the single most effective way to accelerate your learning for optimal technique and maximal results.

2) ONLINE TRAINING

Online training is definitely a reasonable option, especially if you don’t have a local, certified, qualified kettlebell instructor.

You might be surprised how much great feedback you can get from an online coaching experience.

This is the beauty of living in the technology world we live in today and having great opportunities available to us.

If you find a certified instructor that you can’t get to for “live” sessions, see if they offer “on-line coaching” as an alternative.

3) WORKSHOPS OR CERTIFICATIONS

Again, please see the organizations I provide at the end of this article for further information about learning experiences.

If you haven’t done anything yet, the SrongFirst Kettlebell Course is a great place to start.

It’s a low cost, one day workshop that introduces kettlebell enthusiasts to the following exercises.

  • Deadlift
  • Squat
  • Swing
  • Turkish Get Up
  • Military Press


SUMMARY ACTIONS

This article serves as a comprehensive resource for kettlebell training. Don’t let the amount of information be overwhelming to the point that you don’t take action.

You either do one of 2 things after reading this article.

OPTION #1: GET STARTED

Simply follow the steps above in this article to get started and get to work.

OPTION #2: GET BETTER

Decide what you need to do to get better with your training.

Do you need a coach? What additional resources do you need?

Do you need to finally take a workshop?

Are you ready to finally get certified yourself?

What do you need to do to get better?

Pick one thing and get to it.

Whatever option you choose, be in for the long haul.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES FOR KETTLEBELL TRAINING

I highly recommend reading and learning more about kettlebells prior to starting because this will provide a more thorough understanding of the unique benefits.

These are resources for someone new or even advanced to build essential knowledge and understanding.

I highly recommend any or all of these.

If you’re not sure what to start with, I’ll make it easy, get SIMPLE AND SINISTER.

SIMPLE AND SINISTER by Pavel Tsatsouline

Simple and Sinister is Pavel’s latest book and possibly his greatest work. The book covers a simple program built around the kettlebell swing and Turkish get up. There’s a lot of great information in the book about the benefits and importance of kettlebell training.

ENTER THE KETTLEBELL by Pavel Tsatsouline

Still a classic and an essential kettlebell training resource. Enter The Kettebell (ETK) is the book I read before I even touched a kettlebell. A great book and essential read covering all the kettlebell basics I’ve discussed above and covers essential programs for getting results.

KETTLEBELL RX by Jeff Martone

Kettlebell Rx is a great book, as well, with a different perspective. Jeff Martone is a highly respected kettlebell expert and CrossFit kettlebell instructor, so this book offers different insights and additional approaches to kettlebell training.

KETTLEBELLS FROM THE GROUND UP, DVD and manual by Gray Cook and Brett Jones

This is an extremely valuable DVD and training manual covering the Turkish get up in great detail. The TGU is such an important and valuable exercise and this DVD/book will teach you all about it. To fully understand the TGU and maximize performance, this product is essential.

DYNAMI, KETTLEBELLS FROM THE CENTER DVD and manual by Gray Cook and Brett Jones

This DVD and manual is an awesome product that covers most of the kettlebell fundamentals is a comprehensive guide and DVD instructional experience. Extremely informative covering progressions with the most important kettlebell exercises and the accompanying manual is outstanding.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE HIP HINGE

To see the hip hinge as I mentioned previously, here’s a great video by Dan John on his hinge assessment technique or HAT.


LEADING CERTIFICATIONS AND LEARNING EXPERIENCES

To find out which certification is best for you, please do your due diligence to determine which style, organization, and leadership best suites your needs.

STRONG FIRST

To learn about the most up-to-date and current training principles of the hardstyle training approach by Pavel Tsatsouline, go to StrongFirst.com.

StrongFirst produces the SFG level I and SFG level II kettlebell certifications, among other workshops and offerings.

Again, this is the organization I’m certified through as an SFG Level II kettlebell instructor and SFL barbell instructor.

*Please review the testing “standards” for each organization to fully understand the differences in certification criteria.

DRAGON DOOR

Dragon Door produces the RKC, level I and level II certifications.

As mentioned previously, Pavel has moved from RKC system to now lead StrongFirst. The hardstyle techniques are still present with the RKC. For more information, go to DragonDoor.com.

WORLD KETTLEBELL CLUB

World kettlebell club is an organization dedicated to GS or kettlebell sport. This organization is led by Valery Fedorenko who is a world champion kettlebell athlete. For more information, go to WorldKettlebellClub.com.

IKFF

Again, this is a different style of training from what I do and more aligns to the GS style. IKFF is founded by Steve Cotter. For more information, go to IKFF.net.

OTHERS

There are other learning experiences and workshop opportunities, as well.

For example, Mike Mahler and Steve Maxwell offer workshops. Both Mike and Steve have been around for a long time teaching kettlebells.

There are many other opportunities out there.

Again, I would take some time to really understand the background of who you learn from.

I’ve provided my best suggestions to start, the rest is up to you.

FURTHER QUESTIONS AND UPDATES

If you have questions that are not addressed in this article, please post them below.

The intent of this article is to be the definitive guide to kettlebell training, so if there are things that should be included, the best way to let others know is to post questions and comments below or contact me through this website.

Can you think of others who would benefit from The Ultimate Guide To Kettlebell Training?

Then, please share this on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere you’d like.

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Scott Iardella, MPT, CSCS, SFGII writes about training methods to optimize health and performance. If you enjoyed this article, join a strong and growing community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and subscribe below to get a ton of cool, free stuff! Subscribe below or go to RdellaTraining.com/join to get FREE training resources.

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