I didn’t end up with any major muscle soreness or dark bruises from my Kettlebell Athletics training workshop this past weekend, but I did walk away with a Kettlebell Level 1 Certification. Score!
Overall, it was a fun and productive two-day workshop, which went by pretty quickly.
What is a kettlebell?
Let’s take it back to the beginning. The kettlebell is a weight-training modality (or tool). It’s made out of cast-iron, and it has a handle.
The kettlebell first appeared in America in the nineteenth century. It came from Europe, and its origins can be traced back to the fairs and markets of the ancient world, when strong men used iron balls as weights.
Fast forward to today, and the kettlebell is growing in popularity as a full-body strength-training tool. You’ll find kettlebells in gyms throughout the world. They have become even more popular as the Crossfit craze continues to grow.
Here’s a look at a few different sizes …
So what’s different about training with kettlebells rather than conventional dumbbells, barbells or other weights?
Kettlebells vs. conventional weight-training tools
According to the Kettlebell Athletics manual, here’s why kettlebells are superior:
- Kettlebell training produces strength at extreme ranges of motion.
- Kettlebells exploit endless exercise variations with just one tool. Just change your grip, and you’ve changed the muscles and movement pattern.
- Kettlebell training teaches your body how to absorb force and redirect it.
- Kettlebell training amplifies your power output. You perform moves very quickly.
- Kettlebell training teaches your body how to contend with a constantly changing
center of gravity. It swings, it moves,and it’s not static.
- Kettlebell training builds powerful forearms and a strong grip. You have to hold on tightly.
- Kettlebells improve your cardio and respiratory fitness. The swinging motion can really get your heart-rate up.
- Kettlebell training eliminates the need for a large training facility. They’re small and only need a compact space on the gym floor to be effective.
- Kettlebell training allows you to reduce overall training time. It’s all about compound and explosive movements, which bring results quickly.
What was the Kettlebell Athletics certification training like?
It was two days from 12:15 p.m. to 5 p.m., so about 10 hours total. It was designed just for fitness professionals, and there were 17 personal trainers in attendance.
The workshop was held at the Equinox in the Financial District, which is where I did my initial Equinox training and onboarding before beginning to work at the new location in the Marina.
The workshop was green and nearly paper-free. That’s much different from other fitness training programs I’ve attended, which all usually feature a large program manual. In fact, on day one, after signing safety waivers, we were given one piece of paper with the link to our downloadable manual and exercise guide, and that was it.
We didn’t take any notes, nor sit through any official lectures. All we did was practical application. We were encouraged to read the manual before attending the second day of the workshop, (which I did), and it was pretty short and to the point.
In order to become certified, we had to show our mastery of the material by demonstrating all of the exercises correctly and working in small groups on a case study at the end of day two.
What do you learn at Kettlebell Athletics training?
We learned how to perform and safely coach basic exercises with the kettlebells, as well as the best correctives to get people moving in the right way. We also spent a little bit of time on programming for kettlebells, but the bulk of that information is included in the manual for our future reference.
The exercises we covered in Certification Level 1 included:
- Day 1 – Deadlifts. Single-arm deadlifts. Swings. Single-arm swings. Pops. Cleans. Single-arm cleans. Rack carries. Overhead presses.
- Day 2 – Squats. Single-arm squats. Low and high windmills. Turkish get-ups.
The instructor of the course was a very fit and mobile fellow named Clif, who drove up from San Diego. This was his 150th kettlebell certification weekend, and he showed us his expertise throughout the two days. Quite frankly, he was awesome.
He told us what we needed to know. He demoed the moves. He taught us how to do the moves. He walked around and helped us perfect our movements. He pulled people out of the group and used nearly everyone as an example in front of the class to see how we could correct their form. When we all had a handle on things (no pun intended), we moved on. He gave us breaks when we needed it, and he let us ask questions whenever we wanted.
He had a few one-liners that had me chuckling. For instance:
- “Most people suck at body awareness.” (Which yes, is totally true.)
- “People can’t move.” (Once again, agreed.)
- “Have you ever heard the phrase you can’t shoot a canon out of a canoe?” Well, Clif reminded us of that one when referring to bracing your abdominals before starting a move, then several times throughout the day he told us to not let our cores get all “canoey.” True story. I loved that one.
He used some colorful language at times and even took this group picture at the end …
Yes, that’s me toward the right in all black with the creeper smile. What can I say, I was a little tired on a Sunday afternoon.
What do you need to know about kettlebells?
Be careful. They are heavier than they look, and they require some patience to get comfortable with. Be prepared to start at a light weight and learn some basic low-range movements before ever attempting to go overhead. It’s a good idea to start out wearing wristbands, maybe even gloves, and always remove your watch, bracelets and rings, because the kettlebell may bang up against them.
What weight of kettlebells should you use?
According to Kettlebell Athletics:
The average adult male can usually begin with a 16 kg. kettlebell, for most lifts. Stronger males will progress to the 24 kg. or even the 32 kg. bell. The average adult female can usually begin with an 8 kg. Stronger women can start with a 12 kg. kettlebell.
I would agree with that advice. You can use a heavier kettlebell for moves like deadlifts, and switch to a lighter kettlebell for overhead movements like Turkish get-ups. I used a 12 kg. kettlebell for most of the moves, but switched to the lighter kettlebell during some of the single-arm overhead work.
Like any other weight-training modality, you’ve got to have perfect form. Chest up, abs braced and glutes engaged during every single movement. Breathing patterns are also important, in which you offer a huge exhale during major points of thrust or exertion.
Now that I’m officially certified in kettlebells, I still have to wait a while to be able to use them with clients at Equinox. However, I’m definitely going to incorporate them more into my own training program. Maybe I’ll even work up to using them without gloves? I’ve got a good start on the calluses needed already.
If you’ve never tried kettlebells before, I suggest you talk to a personal trainer for some help before getting started. Better safe than sorry, my friends!
Questions of the day
Do you use kettlebells? Do you prefer to learn by the book or with hands-on training?