Kettlebell Training – How to get in shape

Have you read the book “The 4 Hour Body Makeover” by Timothy Ferris?  I was intrigued when he first  mentioned the use of kettlebells and their amazing ability to rapidly burn calories  and reshape the body.  (Don’t let the cannon ball like shape of these things scare you off – they’re seriously fun to work out with.)

A plethora of kettlebells

Up until recently kettlebell usage had totally escaped my notice but now I was intrigued, so I decide to start incorporating them into my workout post haste.   All I needed was a cast iron bell to sling around; no fancy gym membership required, which suited my meager budget perfectly.

Not the best choice, but it got the job done.

I drove out to the Treadmill Factory in Mississauga and bought myself an appropriately weighted kettlebell to get going (see above).  Mine was coated in a blue plastic but I’ve since learned that it’s better to get a plain smooth cast iron kettlebell if possible.  (Less pulling on the skin during cleans and snatches and they’re less wobbly when you’re trying to balance on them during more advanced moves.)  I have two plain Agatsu kettlebells on order from a store in Toronto.

This is what you want: Agatsu cast iron kettlebell
  •  Wondering what weight to start off with?  Experts say women should look for 18lbs and males 35lbs.  Since my upper body was weaker than my lower body I bought a 15lbs and a 25lbs  kettlebell and use them for different moves.  This pair suits me perfectly.

It is crucial to start off with good form when working out with these things.   If you can, you should get a certified trainer to show you the basics.    I was on a budget and didn’t feel up to driving an hour to avail myself of  expert instruction, so I cautiously began teaching myself  the two handed kettlebell swing (a foundational kettlebell move upon which all else is built).

Here is a video demonstrating how to execute the two hand swing the right way so you won’t hurt yourself:

I also stumbled across an awesome book called Kettlebells For Dummies by Sarah Lurie.  The instructions for beginners are awesome and there are fool proof methods for learning the moves (and correcting common mistakes), all systematically laid out which make teaching yourself possible.

Kettlebells For Dummies

I was dubious about the claim that kettlebells could reshape my body, but MAN, what a surprise!   I started off  doing the swing with my 25lb bell like a super star (don’t do this – I wish I’d started with my 15lb bell instead) and I didn’t feel that physically taxed initially.

It was a day after my workout that I began to appreciate the butt kicking potential of these bells.    All the muscles in my body (especially the back of my legs and rear end) felt like they’ve been pummeled by a relentless task master.

Two days later my legs were on fire.  I was a broken woman; hobbling around the house with mincing little steps, taking in sporadic Epson salt baths to try to alleviate the soreness.  I had to take a four day break from exercising while I let my body recover, but I was totally excited about kettlebells body sculpting potential.  This is THE workout for people pressed for time.  One intense measly 15 minute workout had done me in.



For women:  Don’t be wimps and go with pathetically small weights.  It looks stupid and you’re just wasting your time.  You’re not going to morph into the incredible hulk if you heft something with some substance.  First of all, you’re using your whole body to swing the kettlebell so a 15-18lb  kettlebell feels a lot lighter during a routine vs when you try to pick it up with one hand, and secondly, you’re not going to bulk up because it’s just not that easy to do so.

I’ve been working out with heavier and heavier bells and after my initial gains my body isn’t changing.  Things are getting tighter and I’m loosing weight but I’m not bulking up.  Rest easy.  If it were that easy to gain significant muscle mass there would be no skinny men on beaches.  You have to really really work at it to get big, and our bodies just aren’t designed to put on serious muscle anyway.  If the weight you’re using has minimal resistance and you’re not gasping for breath between sets, then don’t waste your time – get something heavier and make it worth your while.

15lbs = a bit too heavy for Maui, but she's intrigued.

If you’re not used to working out with weights and/or are new to kettlebells specifically,  take my advice and ease into it slowly during the first week.   You should be working out hard enough so that you’re gasping for breath between sets, but your body is not going to feel too sore right off the bat.  It creeps up on you so go easy on yourself!  Don’t try to do 200 swings like I did, on day one,  is all I’m sayin’.

This is the foam roller I bought

To deal with soreness, I discovered the wonderful world of foam rollers.  I ordered one for myself online and it’s become a crucial tool for post workout recovery.  It looks like a fat pool noddle but is much denser and sturdy and I use it to role out muscle soreness in my legs.  It’s a must have for me now because I can deal with muscle soreness on my own instead of having to book a costly massage.

My Routine

Currently I work out with kettlebells about 3-4 times a week for about 25-30 minutes.  That’s seriously all you need!   It’s the best fitness routine for those pressed for time.

I am following an awesome program outlined in the Kettlebells for Dummies book  featured up above.  Kettlebells are quickly gaining in popularity though so chances are good that your local fitness center might offer kettlebell classes you can take part in, which is a great option if you find it more motivating to workout with others and follow the lead of an instructor.

I went to a beginners kettlebell intro class at a place in Toronto, so they could check my form and make sure I’m on the right track  and it was great.  Working out with other people was really motivational and if I lived closer I’d probably sign up for regular classes.

Kettlebell links and resources in Toronto

It was hard for me to find places offering classes run by certified trainers.  It took some detective work.  Here are the fruits of my labor.

Energia  They sell  cast iron Agusta Kettlebells .  They also have awesome kettlebell classes and an amazingly affordable Intro To Kettlebell class that was $10.00!  It was fantastic and I highly recommend you check it out.

Academy of Lions –  A crossfit training facility.   They have expensive trainers that you can book to work with you one on one but they also have a kettlebell/core conditioning class you can sign up for.  They too sell kettebells.

Crossfit Toronto  – They have certified kettlebell trainers on staff,  offer private training and also sell kettlebells.

Agatsu (Canadian Kettlebell Training): –  If you’re thinking of taking your kettlebell training to the next level, these are the people you want to train with.   It looks like they come to Toronto once or twice a year to offer their grueling certification courses, but if you’re up for the challenge it looks like a lot of fun.

Online Kettlebell Expert:  Steve Cotter –  This guy is incredible.  He has a slew of amazing youtube videos breaking down various kettlebell moves and teaching you how to execute them properly.    Definitely worth checking out.



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