The Best Kettlebell Workout For Beginners
Strength is made for everyone, young and old, from novice to elite. In my opinion, training with kettlebells is no different. There’s a misconception about training with kettlebells. Common questions/comments I often hear are:
- Don’t I need to get in shape first?
- Do I need to have a certain level of strength first?
- And, “Oh, they’re not for me.”
Likely due to an intimidation factor or the fear of getting too “bulky.”
Being an experienced kettlebell coach, I thought it was appropriate to clear the murky waters and share why YES (!) you can train with kettlebells even if you’ve never touched a bell in your life.
Should you decide to “enter the kettlebell” as Pavel has so famously written, you’ll soon find that in fact training with bells will cure your ailments, get you in the best shape of your life, and prove that YES, they are indeed for you.
The first thing you should learn as a greenhorn is the two categories of lifts: grinds and ballistics.
These are your slow-moving, high-tension lifts. Picture grinding through an exercise like the feeling you have in your legs while doing a heavy squat or deadlift.
Examples of grinds would be:
- The Getup
- Presses and pressing variations
- Squats and squatting variations
- Deadlifts and deadlift variations
- And various carry’s such as Suitcase, Farmers, Rack, Overhead, or Zercher
These have a tendency to leave you out of breath, get your heart rate up, and you’ll probably dread them at some point altogether (in the best way possible!).
Ballistic exercises are quick, in fact a little quicker than your comfortable with, as opposed to grinds, which are a little slower than you’re comfortable with.
Examples of ballistics would be:
- As well as variations of each lift
Drills For The Novice
As a new student of the kettlebell, once you have a clear understanding of the two kettlebell exercise categories you can begin to learn some of the basic drills.
What’s great about each of these movements is that each is the foundation to a bigger kettlebell lift.
For example, when learning the deadlift you’re actually setting yourself up for success in the swing. Your swing will become a dynamic deadlift. Your starting position in the deadlift will become the starting position in your swing, simply behind the bell rather than over top of the bell.
Here are a handful of the top exercises you can do with a kettlebell as a new trainee of strength:
Goblet Squat/Kettlebell Front Squat
A staple kettlebell exercise that should always be included whether you’re a novice or an elite.
The beginning of your kettlebell swing and one of the best all around exercises you can do. At some point you’ll likely have to swap out your bell for a barbell should you decide to pursue serious strength in the deadlift.
My favorite “stretch”, the arm bar gives you the shoulder stability and upper back mobility needs to perform many overhead kettlebell exercises such as the snatch, getup, and clean to press.
A great warm-up drill to open up your back and shoulders. Learn more with this video.
A staple to developing overhead strength. These should continue to be included in your program as you graduate from trainee to master.
A great way to “swing without swinging”. Belly swings also serve as great warm-up drills prior to starting a swing session. Learn more with this video.
You’ll notice there aren’t any ballistic exercises on this list. This is done on purpose. The speeds of a lift will 100% influence and affect your technique. When you’re first learning how to properly workout with a kettlebell you want to make sure give it your full undivided attention.
By nature when you speed things up you require more control of the lift. So, have patience and know that the 2-4 weeks you spend mastering your grinds will give you a better swing, snatch, and clean down the road – practice patience, another tool of strength.
Elite Programming For Beginners
You’re quickly on your way to becoming one of the finest kettlebelle users out there. You don’t become the best by using old and outdated training programs. It’s time you swap out your traditional 3 sets of 10 and start learning how to use rep ladders.
A ladder is simple: 1-2-3. That would be a ladder where set 1 is 1 rep, set 2 is 2 reps, and set 3 is 3 reps.
Some rep ladders I like to use when coaching are:
You can use these ladders however you’d like. For example, to develop a top-of-the-line deadlift I’d start with a ladder of 2-3-5. This ladder will give the novice enough of a stimulus to learn the exercise without burning him/her out.
Once the trainee understands the lift, you can move up in weight and keep the same ladder, or keep the same weight and move to a ladder with a higher volume – say 3-5-7.
The best kettlebell workouts for beginners alternate between grinds and ballistics. This allows the student to learn the exercise under safe conditions while elevating their heart rate with others.
“But there aren’t any ballistics on your exercise list”, you say. True, there aren’t, which is why you swap out other forms of ballistics such as:
- Battling Ropes
- Med Ball Slams
- Or Fan Bike Intervals
Once your technique is ready for some speed, it’s time to swap out your deadlifts for swings.
The Best Kettlebell Workout For Beginners Program
Putting it altogether, here are a few workouts you could do with everything mentioned earlier:
A great warm-up would include:
- Arm Bar – done for 1 on each side and held for roughly 10-15 seconds on each side
- Goblet Squat – done for 3-5 reps holding the bottom while prying the hips apart
- Halo – done for 3-5 each direction
And now the workouts:
- Deadlift – done for a ladder of 2-3-5
- Battling Ropes – done for 30 slams
- Belly Swing – done for 10-15 reps
- Repeat through this circuit for a total of 6 sets (2 full ladders through the deadlift)
- Deadlift – (3-5-7)
- Fan Bike – 60 seconds
- Military Press – (2/2-3/3-5/5)
- Repeat through this 2-3 sets total, doing all reps of the ladder of each exercise before moving on to the next exercise
- Military Press – 3/3-5/5-7/7
- Med Ball Slam – 10 – 15 – 20
- Belly Swing – 10
- Run through the entire circuit once
These are some of the simplest workouts you’ll likely do, but will quickly bring you from beginner status to advanced in a few short weeks. As with any program, consistency is key. Practice patience, remain focused, and you’ll soon see why these workouts rank as some of the best kettlebell workouts you can do as a beginner.
If you want more, click the image below to download your free copy of The Best Kettlebell Workout for Beginners Program!