Two days ago I posted pictures of Vlad the Merciless. Vlad the Destroyer. Vlad the Spinal Cord & Shoulder Dislocator.
Whatever title you wish to call him, he is a creature born of smoke and fire and he will not yield. He is 35 pounds of romping, stomping, graveyard destruction and he will leave your joints and spine quivering in pain and fear when he leaves… especially if you do not handle him correctly.
If you do not believe me when I say that kettlebells are born of smoke and fire, watch this video and know that kettlebells are the Balrogs of the fitness world. My personal kettlebell hero, Russian total-badass strongman Pavel, hosts this look behind the scenes as a kettlebell is born out of the fiery pits of Mount Doom.
So yeah, I think you get it by now. Kettlebells are tuff.
There are tons of videos on youtube of how to do exercises with a kettlebell, but instead of just linking to a bunch of them, I thought I’d just tell you the proper way to lift a kettlebell… so you can do the exercises without separating your shoulder or blowing a hole in your intestines or something else unpleasant.
Ok, the first step to kettlebell fitness is picking out which kettlebell is right for you. Personally, I own an RKC-certified black ball of death from Dragon Door, but they are expensive and I only own one because a friend of mine sent it to me in the mail. I know you can get them pretty much anywhere, including stores like Target and Wal-Mart, but I wouldn’t recommend it. You can tell a cheap kettlebell immediately because it will be two pieces. The handle will be welded to the ball. A good kettlebell will be one solid piece of black death. Also, some kettlebells I have seen don’t even have a round handle! Some of the handles I have seen are pentagon shaped and have edges. A good kettlebell handle will be thick and round, not skinny and shaped like geometry class, so it can roll around in your grip easily.
If you are a ladykettlebell user, I would recommend getting the 12kg model, which is 26lbs to us Americanos. This is, honestly, probably going to be quite heavy for most ladies, but that is the idea. Kettlebell is not supposed to be easy. As Pavel says, “When we say kettlebell, we mean strength. When we say strength, we mean… kettlebell.”
Most guys start out with the 16kg model, which is 35lbs. This is what Vlad is and I can assure you, he is quite heavy enuff, thank you. If you are already in shape, you can always get a heavier one, but even if you are a beefcake, I’d recommend the 35-pounder (the next burger at Hardee’s!!!) so you can practice your form before you take on the slobberjaw-size ones that will leave even your overgrown ass in the dirt.
Most people name their kettlebells. Russian names are popular, of course, so a name like Grigori or Nikolai is ideal for kettlebell nomenclature.
Once you own your own kettlebell, it is very important to first learn how to pick it up without hurting yourself. The main thing to remember is to keep your back straight and your body taut (hard to do for el blobbos like myself).
I was going to try and draw a picture of how to do it, but it is too difficult, and if you do it wrong, you’ll hurt yourself. I can’t have that on my conscience.
Here is a step-by-step on how to lift the kettlebell so you can start your kettlebell workout:
1. First, stand over your kettlebell with your feet facing forward and the kettlebell between your feet with the handle running parallel to your body. You should be standing flat-footed, or as near to that as possible, meaning that barefoot is optimum (drop kettlebell on foot at your own risk for maximum discomfort), and your feet should be shoulder-length apart. Keep your back straight.
2. Keeping your back straight, squat down over your kettlebell like you’re going to drop a steaming deuce on it. At the bottom, your back should still be straight and at about a 45 degree angle from the floor. Your feet should not have moved at all. The kettlebell should be sitting between your knees.
3. Grip the handle of the kettlebell with both hands. I usually hold on to the corners of Vlad. You don’t need to grip it too terribly tight, as eventually this stance will lead into swings and other KB exercises that involve slinging your little Vladimir all over the place and require a loose, but firm, grip.
4. Once again, while keeping your back straight and your shoulders squared off (if you round your shoulders, you are liable to pull them plum out of socket and also more likely to injure your back), use both arms equally to lift Vladimir to your chest.
5. Slowly stand up, but as always, keep your back straight and your shoulders square while doing this.
Now that you are proudly standing up with your new pal, facing down your weakness, you can begin several workouts from this position, which we’ll get to at a later date.
There are also plenty of other ways to pick up the kettlebell, most of which lead directly into some sort of fitness routine, but I thought I would share this with you first, as it teaches you proper form and safety while handling the kettlebell.
Plus, if you do this a few times, you’ll be winded and get a workout just from picking up the kettlebell. At least I am.