When I was 17 my Dad bought me this kettlebell for Christmas:

Bell

I was kind of confused…

Did he want me to swing it? Carry it around?  Or….?

confused

I wasn’t so sure…

Naturally I looked at it, thanked him, put it in my closet and on a mental list of “things I should do in all of my free time” and unfortunately let it stay there for five years.

Flash forward five years and I was frantically digging through my closet to find it after attending my first ever “introduction to kettlebell” class at Rebell Strength and Conditioning in Chicago.

Over time my red kettlebell at home slowly began to seem smaller and smaller!

But let me tell you, as a beginner, having that single kettlebell at home was incredibly helpful to not only break a sweat inside during the crazy Chicago winters (Chiberia) but to practice technique and skill work with the bell.

Establishing a good technique base allowed me to build more strength.

So, what exactly can you do, or should you do with your (new) kettlebell to get the best workout with the little experience  knowledge/skill base?

I am going to take you through the top five exercises to learn and do as a beginner. Then I will show you some ways to progress the exercises once you master the basics.

It’s gonna be extra sweaty and super fun!

Top five exercises to do at home with your kettlebell:

athome

1. The deadlift

How (in five steps):

  • place the bell between your feet
  • hinge your glutes backward by reaching them towards the wall
  • grab the bell and pull it upward with locked out arms
  • stand up with a proud chest and squeeze your glutes
  • keep your armpits tight to your body (engaging your lats) and lower it down back to the same spot inbetween your feet.

Why (five reasons):

  • learn the pattern of hinging your hips so that you can crush some perfect kettlebell swings later
  • get a lower body push movement in your workout
  • build that booty
  • learn the basics so you can progress to barbell stuff later
  • learn perfect form so you can eventually lift heavier weights and get stronger

What does it look like:

Once you get it with your single, light kettlebell, try a heavier one at the gym, and eventually buy a new bell.

And, who know! Maybe you will start a collection of kettlebells!

What comes after the kettlebell deadlift? Where can you go from here when you have access to a gym and a strong foundation? See below.

At-home deadlifting mini-circuit workout:

  • 5 deadlifts
  • 5 push ups
  • repeat 5 times

2. The clean

How (in five steps):

  • place the bell between feet and hinge down to grab it
  • brace your abs and as you stand up (just like the deadlift with squeezed glutes, tall chest) pull the bell upward in a “zipping your coat” motion
  • make sure your hands follow the curve of the handle and grab the horns in the finishing position
  • exhale as you pull it upward and keep your abs braced (flex like you’re about to be punched! don’t suck it in)
  • to do several in a row just place it back down on the floor in between each set or you must hike the bell backward like a swing inbetween reps

Why (5 reasons):

  • get some sexy arms
  • include an upper body pull in your workout
  • it’s a safe movement to get the bell in your arms without hurting you back
  • you can go into several other exercises one you have it in the racked position
  • you can do a static hold with the bell in that cleaned position

What it looks like:

Once you master the single kettlebell clean you can work on double cleans to add a greater load to your training (as long as you have a second bell)!

Then you can work on barbell cleans!

struggle

At-home kettlebell mini circuit:

  • 10 cleans
  • 10 squats
  • 10 overhead presses
  • 5 rounds

3. Overhead kettlebell press

How (in five steps):

  • clean the bell into the racked position
  • brace your abs and take a deep breath
  • press the bell overhead while holding the horns
  • exhale as you press, keeping abs engaged
  • slowly lower it all the way down to the racked position

Why (five reasons)

  • get some sexy triceps and shoulders
  • increase your upper body push strength
  • build technique to work single arm presses and then progress to double kettlebell presses
  • improve shoulder mobility and range of motion
  • have the skill to make your workouts more effective

Here’s a progression with a barbell for when you get stronger and have a gym:

At-home overhead press mini-circuit:

  • 2 cleans
  • 5 presses
  • 2 cleans
  • 4 presses
  • 2 cleans
  • 3 presses
  • 2 cleans
  • 2 presses
  • repeat 3 times through

4. Goblet Squat

How (in five steps):

  • clean the bell properly
  • engage your abs, squeeze the horns and take a deep breath
  • descend with your knees tracking your toes, create space between your hips (use a box if necessary)
  • come just below paralellif you can
  • exhale as you push the floor away from you to stand up

Why (five reasons):

  • improves mobility
  • builds that booty
  • strengthens your quads
  • makes any workout that much harder
  • prepares you to dominate barbell back squats

My favorite variations:

  • 3-5 second hold at the bottom
  • 1 and 1/2 squats
  • 5 second descend
  • goblet squat to pulse
  • goblet squat to hop

Here’s a mini circuit to try with squats:

  •  5, five second descending squats
  • 5 cleans
  • repeat three times

OR

  • 3 goblets with a pulse, 3 goblets with a hop
  • 3 overhead presses
  • repeat 3 times

Here’s where you can go once you build a strength base with kettlebells:

5. The kettlebell swing

How (in five steps):

  • place the bell 1-2 feet in front of you and the hinge back like you would for a deadlift
  • reach for the bell and tip it towards you, take a deep breath
  • hike it back between your legs and begin the deadlift lower body push and stand up tall
  • let your arms float up with the bell, like the bell is cemented to them, or your hand are just hooks on the bell.
  • make sure the arms fly up in front of you due to momentum from explosive hips, not because you lifted them upward

Why (five reasons):

  • swings are very challenging so the sooner you start learning the better
  • these can burn more calories than riding a bike
  • swings are an effective fat loss and conditioning tool
  • swings make workouts fun while working the posterior chain
  • swings challenge your grip and reinforce the hinge pattern

Swing circuit:

  • descending ladder- 10,9,8….. to 1 (rest 30 sec or less between each set of reps)
  • ascending ladder 1,2,3,4… to 10 (rest 30 seconds inbetween)
  • 10 swings On The Top of the Minute (OTM) every minute for 10 minutes (100 swings)

OR:

  • 10 swings
  • 5 squats
  • 3 presses
  • 5 rounds

Bonus exercise: narrow chest press

How (in five steps):

  • lie on your back knees up
  • grab the sides or the horns of the bell
  • hold it over your “sports-bra line” or sternum
  • pull it down toward you, keeping your shoulder blades tucked tightly underneath you, elbows in close
  • press the bell upward while exhaling

Why (five reasons):

  • you can use the kettlebell to work your chest muscles
  • include chest work besides pushups in your training
  • more tricep work
  • mix it up
  • use the kettlebell for everything when you are not at a gym with other tools

What it looks like:

 

Wrapping Up!

As you can see there are five very simple exercises you can practice at home with one kettlebell and build an incredible strength base.

The kettlebell is a remarkable tool to use if you are first starting to incorporate weights into your exercise regime!

crof-kettlebell-headshot-slide

It allows you to obtain the technique and skill needed for barbell lifts. Barbell lifts are the same exact movements; using a barbell simply allows you to add more load to the movement and get even stronger.

If you didn’t notice there are five re-occruing themes throughout this article:

  1. Breathing is important.
  2. Bracing you abs is key.
  3. The hinge pattern is the basis for everything (every time you want to pick up, swing or squat the bell).
  4. There are several ways to use one tool.
  5. Kettlebell training makes you strong but requires learning the skills and technique

Here’s a fun (and *very* tough) workout to try with one bell or two depending on your level!

 

#Daretomove

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