What is a Kettlebell

A kettlebell is a type of freeweight with a complete handle. The weight is generally on the bottom in a round shape with the handle on top.

How is it different from other freeweights

A kettlebell is different in the sense that it is a more functional piece of equipment and can be used in many ways that a traditional dumbbell can not. Because of its design it is able to be swung around with a far less chance of loosing grip than a dumbbell. For example if you were to pick up a dumbbell and swing it as fast and hard as you could over your head and then try to control it at the top, it would probably fly right out of your hand. A kettlebell however, is designed so that the weight can turn if need be. Because of the way it is designed its center of mass is outside the handle which makes exercises much harder because your body must compensate for this added resistance. Traditional barbells and dumbbells are great for strength and mass, kettlebells are great for increasing true, raw power. Power will be discussed later on in this article.

What is a kettlebell used for

A kettlebell is so versatile in the sense that it is applicable to almost every function in every day life as well as any sport one can think of. They can be used for the most basic exercises that any type of freeweight can do, but add in much more stabilization throughout the various joints. For example a dumbbell front raise is where you raise a dumbbell straight out in front of you while keeping your arms straight. When performing this exercise with a kettlebell you are now creating more resistance with potentially less weight because the mass is further out from the limbs then compared to a dumbbell; you must also use more forearms to keep the weights straight out rather than letting them roll into your arms. Where they really differ however is in their ability to perform functional power exercises.

What is Power

Power is the ability to exert a maximal force in a short period of time. It is a combination of speed and strength and can be figured out with an equation like this

Force x Distance

Power = Time

When choosing a weight for power it is best to work between 60 and 70 percent of your 1RM. Be sure not to confuse power with strength. Being able to lift a heavy weight once or twice is strength not power. Being able to lift a maximal weight at a high rate of speed is power.

Safety Points

- make sure there is lots of room in every direction so you don't injure yourself or someone else (keep your surroundings clear of anything you could trip on as well)

- keep a strong core throughout the exercise (stomach tucked in, butt muscles squeezed together and tight lower back)

- breathe out on exertion phase

- breathe in on the lowering phase

- keep a closed grip around the handles

- soft joints ( no joints should ever be locked out unless specified otherwise)

Below is a routine that can be used as an introduction program to kettlebell training.

One Arm Chest Press

Set up: lay on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Contract your abdominals and suck your stomach in to stabilize the movement. Bring your arm up to 90 degrees and keep your elbow bent at 90 degrees.

Start: quickly press the weight up above your chest.

End: lower the weight slightly slower than on the up phase and under control. Stop the movement right before your elbow hits the ground.

Explosive Row

Set up: Grasp one kettlebell in each hand ( for and added challenge use one arm at a time). Bend your knees and push your hips back while bending over at the waist (your upper body should be at a 45 degree angle from an upright position). Let your arms hang down towards the ground.

Start: pull the weight up to your midsection explosively. Keep your elbows slightly tucked in by your sides ( don't flare them out ).

End: return the weight back to the starting position slightly slower than on the way up. Make sure your elbows don't lock out at the bottom.

Squat Press

Set up: holding a kettlebell in each hand squat down until just above parallel with the floor and bring the weights up to your shoulders keeping your elbows out to the side. For an added challenge use one arm only.

Start: drive your feet into the ground straightening you body into an upright position. Simultaneously press the kettlebells above your head straightening your arms fully (not locked out).

End: lower the weights back to your shoulders while simultaneously lowering yourself back into a squat position.


Set up: grasp one dumbbell with both hands and lower yourself into a squat position. Let the weight hang down between your legs.

Start: drive your feet into the ground while simultaneously swinging the weight straight up above your head. Make sure your arms remain straight the entire way up.

End: let the weight swing back down towards the ground and absorb the impact with your legs by lowering back into the squat position.

Lunge Press

Set up: hold one kettlebell in your hand. Step out into a lunge position with your opposite leg and bring the weight up to shoulder level.

Start: press off the front leg bringing yourself straight up into an upright position while simultaneously pressing the weight above your head.

End: bring the same leg back into the starting position while keeping your weight over the front leg. Lower the kettlebell back to your shoulder area.

Side Swings

Start up: spread out your stance slightly wider than hip width apart. Place the kettlbell by one of your feet and squat down to hold onto the handle.

Start: drive your feet into the ground straightening your body and simultaneously swing the weight out in front of you across your body and up above your opposite shoulder. Keep your arms straight.

End: let the weight swing back down across your body and absorb the impact by lowering back into a squat position and bringing the weight to the starting position.


Start up: Squat down to grasp the handles of the two kettlebells. keep your body as upright as possible and look straight ahead.

Start: drive your feet into the ground pushing yourself into an upright position while simultaneously straightening your lower back.

End: lower yourself back into the starting position by bending at the waist followed by a squat.

Ab Crunch

Start up: lay on the ground and place your feet up on the wall keeping your knees bent at 90 degrees. Hold the weight above your head.

Start: contract your abdominals and bring your shoulder blades up off the floor keeping the weight above and slightly in front of your head.

End: return to the starting position letting your head and shoulder blades touch the floor briefly.