Kettlebells are an excellent training tool. The workouts may involve only the swing or they can be highly complex, offering a variety of drills within the course of one workout. The brilliance of the kettlebell, though, is ease of use. With proper guidance, you can acquire competency in the basic swing in one to six sessions. Knowing the proper starting weight (and a few other tips) can streamline the learning process.
Start with a light weight, approximately 25 to 35 pounds. Kettlebell training is rough on the body and going easy on the weight will give your body time to acclimate to this potent workout tool. If kettlebell drills are unfamiliar to you, there's a greater chance of low-back injury, especially if your form deteriorates over the course of a training session. Even with a light weight, you may be very sore after the first workout. In addition, kettlebells are rough on the grip. Better to be patient and injury free using a lighter weight, than to have to drive home with a low-back strain and a hand covered in blisters!
Check Your Technique
Keeping the starting weight low allows you to focus on technique. And there are a few pointers you can follow. One, keep your arms relaxed. This will preserve your deltoids. Two, squeeze your glutes and inner thighs at the top of the swing. You'll feel your core contract when you perform it successfully. This is very important, and the primary reason you should start with a relatively light weight. If you can't focus on developing proper hip drive and bracing with your core, then you're exposing your lower back to injury. If you feel pain in your low back during a kettlebell workout, it's time for a systems check. Drop weight and focus on contracting properly.
Warm up with light cardio, progressing to three sets of kettlebell deadlifts. Rest 30 seconds to one minute between sets. Place the bell between your legs. Push your butt back on the way down and your hips forward on the way up. Practicing the deadlift improves swing form because the swing is a ballistic variation of the deadlift. When you're ready to swing, maintain the hip and glute drive movement pattern. With arms loose as wet noodles, swing the bell forward with the hips. As the bell falls downward, drive your butt backwards and the bell will pass between your legs. Maintain this pendulum motion for the duration of the set. Perform five sets of ten to 20 swings and rest 30 seconds to one minute between sets.
If you can perform five sets of 20 with moderate effort, then you're ready to increase the weight and move on to intermediate routines. However, what you do largely depends on fitness goals. If you're training for general fitness, you won't need to go beyond 35 pounds for a long time. In fact, you may drop the weight to 25 pounds for routines involving power swings, snatches, cleans and turkish get-ups. If you're focused on developing speed and power for athletic development, kettlebell expert Brett Hetzler recommends using a bell that is approximately 30 percent of your body weight.
About the Author
David Arroyo is a 20th level nerd with specialty classes in fitness and arts. After getting his Master of Arts in English from Florida State University. He became an A.C.E.certified trainer and health coach. In addition, he completed the Crossfit Kettlebell certification. When not consumed with writing, he's pursuing his purple belt in BJJ.