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Lawson Auden is the owner of Go Train East Rocks, an outdoor Functional Fitness Facility in Dunbar, East Lothian.
I got introduced to kettlebells about 12 years ago during my training. They are what I used to start my career in fitness which now extends to over 10 years and owning Go Train East Rocks, a predominantly outdoor fitness space that houses Strongman, a CrossFit Affiliate, and a host of other fitness activities.
But it all started with about 5 Again Faster Kettlebells and slam balls a decade ago, and you know what? I’ve still got them. All of them.
They owe me absolutely nothing, but they have brought and continue to bring fitness development, coaching, blood, chalk, sweat and tears. They are constant in an ever-changing landscape of fitness fads and phases.
With one kettlebell, you can perform a whole host of gym membership-canceling fitness. With two, three, four… the possibilities are endless.
But what if you’ve never touched a kettlebell before? Maybe you are new to training, just getting back into it, or got one during Lockdown and don’t know what to do with it.
The go-to movement with the kettlebell is of course the mighty swing. Underappreciated, underutilised, and under-coached. I’d love just one pound for everyone that’s come to my gym saying they hurt their back with a swing. Kettlebell swings are a powerful movement. Essential to vitality, beneficial to a host of other lifts and not to be underestimated. For that reason, I’m not going to go through them here. That’s for another time. There are strength and balance exercises to look at first and I want to take this back to basics.
Let’s start with the deadlift. A hinge movement. If you’re not familiar with the hinge - our good friend the kettlebell can teach you. Just hold the ‘bell in both hands behind your back. Now try and squat. It’s difficult.
Hold the bell in that position, soften the knees and send your bum back. You’ll feel a stretch in the hamstrings, your chest will face the floor and your head and neck will remain in line. That’s a hinge. Remember that position and bring the kettlebell down to the floor in front of you, between your feet. Hinge and grab hold of the handle. Squeeze your shoulder blades together so we’re in a position of tension, then lift the bell, with the hips and shoulders rising at the same time.
Return the kettlebell to the floor by repeating that movement in reverse.
That’s the basics of a deadlift. This movement will hit the glutes, hamstrings, and back. You might think that the weight is a little light for the movement, but that’s ok - because the first workout hits a bit of volume.
Focus on form throughout and try this:
AMRAP (As Many Rounds and Reps as Possible) 15 (Minutes)
10 x Deadlift with One Kettlebell
10 x Push Ups
Nice and simple, with a good Push and Pull. Once you get more confident and stronger, try putting the kettlebell outside of one foot and lifting it with one hand. A suitcase deadlift. You need a solid trunk for this, as we don’t want to be leaning at all.
Now we have a hinge, let’s try a squat. Pick up your ‘bell and hold it by the horns. Squeeze your elbows in so you have tension through the upper body. Send the hips back first then bend at the knee, like you’re going to sit on the toilet. Feet should be outside hip width, toes pointing forward. Squat until your hips pass just below your knee if you can, and drive back up to a stand powerfully.
That’s one squat. Here’s a workout to do with the squats -
10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1
Next up, is the press. We’re going to keep this simple too, with the strict press. You can do these single-arm or with two hands on the kettlebell. It depends on the weight you have. Pick up your kettlebell and bring it to your chest.
Squeeze your quads and glutes, and make sure your chest is up but your rib cage is down so the midline is braced. Move the head back (imagine someone is wafting stinky cheese under your nose) and press the kettlebell up in a straight line, while the bell is above, bring your head back in line. Then move the head back to bring the bell down in a nice straight line again.
Our workout for this will be a strength piece. Try this -
5 sets of 8 -12 Kettlebell Strict press.
If you complete this with one arm, you’re in for a ride as I want you to do 8 - 12 on each arm.
There are 3 workout ideas to get you started with Kettlebells workouts. Give those a go - make notes on each one - number of rounds and reps on the AMRAP, time on the Squats and burpees, and reps on the strength session. repeat them to see if you can beat your scores and have noticeable progress.
There’s so much more to talk about with kettlebells but hopefully, this will get you started on a great journey to incredible lifelong fitness.