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Kettlebells; the beginning

My collection of kettlebells. Here there are three pairs; 16kg, 20kg and 25kg. Plenty to be getting on with!

About four years ago I realised that I needed to improve my overall fitness and conditioning. I’d reached my late thirties and with two young children and a highly committing job time was limited to say the least. I was spending my time chasing between work and home trying to balance my work and family life and it was and continues to be a struggle sometimes, I’d realised that whilst I was a regular runner, cyclist and swimmer my health and condition were ok but I’d gained some weight and wasn’t finding it as easy to shift it as I may have done some years earlier.

Whilst losing weight wasn’t a priority for me, being stronger and generally fitter was. I was finding that whilst my runs of about five miles, three times a week were improving my running ability I wasn’t feeling particularly stronger or more agile so I started to look around at different ways to improve my strength and condition.

Initially I used traditional bodyweight conditioning exercises such as push ups; burpees; squats etc which made a real difference to the way I felt generally and I’ve stayed with these basic exercises to try and keep in some shape. I considered joining a gym but with my schedule I’m generally out of the house at around 7am and often not back until late afternoon and sometimes later, I don’t want to compromise on my time with my girls so by the time I get any time to do anything it’s after 9pm most days so getting close to closing time for most gym’s. (I’ve since found a gym that I can use 24hrs a day which has made a huge difference!) It wasn’t long though before I started taking a bit more interest in what was available with regards to simple and relatively cheap equipment that could supplement my training and provide a different challenge. It was around this time that I found Kettlebells.

I have to say at this point that I’d never heard of kettlebells before and it seemed to me that such an uncomplicated and simple piece of equipment couldn’t be that difficult to master could it? I soon found out…

I made the leap and ordered my first kettlebell, a 16kg kettlebell and started to do some research in relation to using it as safely and effectively as I could. A great help to me at this time was Stan Pike and Rob Beauchamps book ‘The Kettlebell Bible’ which is a comprehensive reference book detailing the history and exercise science behind kettlebells as well as an exhaustive compendium of exercises that can be achieved using a kettlebell as well as a number of exercises that complement and support kettlebell training and use.

Like most people starting with kettlebells I focused on the Kettlebell Swing to start, a simple hip dominant snap swing, which seemed easy enough at the outset but which provides a really challenging cardio vascular and strength training workout without resorting to any other equipment and movements. The relative simplicity of the ‘snap’ movement required belies it’s effectiveness as a total body conditioning movement. It takes time to get it right though and it’s well worth taking time to pay attention to every part of the Swing process in particular the hip dominant aspect of the snap that creates the power in the movement.

Below is a video of  Phil Scarito demonstrating the swing:

The mastery of the swing was a great leap forward for me and I was pretty much hooked from the start, I stuck with the swing and it’s variations using a single 16kg kettlebell for about a year and a half. During this time I realised that my kettlebel sessions were becoming more frequent and playing an increasing part in my regime.

If you’re new to Kettlebells, or even if you’re not I think that the best kettlebells available in the UK are those produced by Stan Pike. If you’re at all serious about doing anything with kettlebells then The Kettlebell Bible by Stan Pike and Rob Beauchamp is essential reading. It really is the only book you’ll need in relation to kettlebell training. An excellent condensed version has been published under the title Kettlebell Genesis which is another excellent book. Please note that I have absolutely no affiliation to either Stan Pike or Rob Beauchamp other than I’m a very satisfied customer. I’ve read almost all of the major publications relating to kettlebells and these are the best by a long way. You can see Stan and Rob’s products and publications here: Intense Fitness – Highest quality Kettlebells made in the UK.

(Next time a breakdown of the Swing and Moving on to Snatches and Cleans.)