How to Get Started with Russian Kettlebells

The following is a guest post from Nathan Donahue from Kettlebell Planet.

I first learned about Russian Kettlebells in 2002 while reading Pavel Tsatsouline’s Power to the People. As a competitive powerlifter I was always looking for new ways to get stronger and Pavel’s writing was very interesting and informative. In the back of his book was an ad that boasted, “Burn body fat without the dishonor of cardio!” Now, as a big fat powerlifter that really interested me because running sure didn’t! At the time of reading that ad I was 23 years old and lifting in the 242 lbs (110 kg) weight class. I was big strong and really out of shape. I loved powerlifting and being huge but carrying all that blubber was unsightly and unhealthy.

I spent a few days reading about kettlebells online, back then it was just Dragon Door promoting them, and finally bought one 35 lbs . It was pretty expensive at the time to buy a kettlebell and have it shipped across the US border to Canada so I was kind of regretting my purchase as I waited for delivery. But when the kettlebell finally arrived I was like a kid at Christmas and tore open that box!

After my parents were done asking me what the hell I just spent my money on, I finally got to try this crazy tool. My first time with the kettlebell I popped in the VHS (yes, VHS) and went through Pavel’s workout. It was brutally hard for me and my technique was appalling. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to do a darn . I kept lifting the kettlebell like a weight and messing up the movement. It took me 4 days to finally figure out how to do the two handed kettlebell swing but once I got the hang of it I started to really enjoy .

At the time my workout schedule was high volume powerlifting 4 days a week and kettlebell 3 days a week. That is a lot of volume and I would not recommend it for anyone else, but I was a crazy kid so what can you do? I trained with the kettlebell for 30-45 minutes each time and almost passed out each time. I would blast heavy metal and just go crazy swinging, cleaning and snatching that thing until I had to lie down to avoid passing out! Remember I was both fat and out shape so kettlebell training was very demanding for me. I really was not used to the oxygen debt you experience when training with them. Picture running sprints and lifting weights at the same time. Would that lean you out? Would it be really, really demanding? Well, that’s exactly what it was like for me.

In four weeks I lost about 20 lbs of fat! I kid you not. I lost weight so fast I could actually notice a difference in my belly every time I worked out! I lost fat so quick my little sister did a double take of me in the kitchen one afternoon. Nobody could believe it, even me! Keep in mind, all the I was doing had built muscle, but I had layers of fat on top of it. During this period I was not dieting or changing my at all. The only factor I changed was adding kettlebells and that was only 30-45 minutes, 3 times a week! Kettlebell training had literally melted the fat off my body but that was not all. My powerlifts did not decrease as some would suspect. In fact, my squat increased nicely because all the dynamic lifts with the kettlebell had improved my explosiveness. This was really evident in the vertical jump. I must have gained three inches on my vertical jump from kettlebell lifts! It was crazy. I was leaner, stronger and faster than I had ever been. All from throwing around this big metal ball for about 2 hours a week that no one had even heard of!

Ever since then kettlebell training has been a very important part of my regime and I recommend it to anyone who needs to or improve their fitness levels. Getting started with kettlebells is easier than you think too. It might be a little intimidating at first because those bells are mean looking, but it shouldn’t be. Trust me, they work and they are fun for men and women! In fact, kettlebells will help sculpt a women’s physique to perfection because it will not build muscle mass but will simple melt off the fat and tighten up the muscles.

Getting Started

Here is the best process to follow if you are interested in kettlebells.

  • Do some internet research and find a good kettlebell and kettlebell materials vendor. I have done well with Mike Mahler and Dragon Door respectively.
  • Purchase one kettlebell, a video and a book.
    • If you are a man purchase a 35 lb/16 kg kettlebell
    • If you are a women purchase an 18 lb/8 kg kettlebell
    • It may seem light but you need to start with high reps for maximum learning ability
  • While waiting for your kettlebell package to arrive, start preparing the body for the exertion to come
    • Body weight squats, push-ups, lunges, sit-ups and the like done in a circuit would be a good start
  • Once your kettlebell package does arrive, first cheer, next get really serious. It is pain time!
  • Okay use the video and the book to learn the kettlebell two handed swing. This move is the foundation which all other drills will be based on. Do not progress past the kettlebell swing until you have truly mastered it. I cannot emphasize how important snapping the hips is in this movement. Do not lift with your back or shoulders, simply snap the hips forward and send the kettlebell moving through the air. Your arms should act like a rope that the bell is tied to.
    • Swing, swing and swing until you can’t do it anymore!
    • Sets and reps are not too important at this stage but aim for as many reps as possible each workout
  • Once you have mastered the swing, now start learning all the other great kettlebell drills, you won’t be sorry (unless you hate sore muscles and hard work)
  • Upon mastering many of the other kettlebell drills such as the clean, high pull and snatch, consider purchasing a heavier kettlebell or a second one of the same size.
    • Using two instead of one is VERY demanding and will really turn your workout up a notch
    • Using one heavier kettlebell is great also and you can even use different weights at the same time!

I would love to spend more time explaining specific drills to you but the professionals who make kettlebell videos can do a better job. Learn from them and then see what is new on the internet when you need inspiration. Check out and my kettlebell blog for great ideas and tips on keeping your fresh!

  • Check out Nathan’s blog Kettlebell Planet, for more Kettlebell info!
  • Also check out and to get a head start on your fat loss!
  • If you enjoyed this post, then don’t forget to subscribe via RSS Feed.
  • How did you guys get started with kettlebells? Post your answer to comments.

Editor’s Note: Kettlebell training is still a rather new form of training, even though it was first developed in the 18th century in Russia. There are only a handful of really great instructors out there. The rest of them either are trying to be great, or are just plain bad.

Either way, your goal is someone who’s brand new to Kettlebell training is to keep learning. I personally try to get my hands on as many training guides as possible, especially since I can’t afford a coach or seminar. I’ve gotten pretty good at training on my own.

One of the best guides out there, is a brand new system just developed by Craig Ballantyne and Chris Lopez. Craig Ballantyne is the creator of , one of the best home fitness programs on the market. Chris Lopez is the first Turbulence Training certified instructor.

Together, they’ve come up with a great program known as the Turbulence Training Kettlebell Revolution. This program is packed with exercises, workouts, and training techniques. Click here to learn more about the Turbulence Training Kettlebell Revolution program.

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About Parth

Parth Shah is the creator of which teaches people how to use mental mind tricks to conquer the world and become healthier and awesome in the process. Check out his Book Bodyweight Toughness Thanks, and enjoy the site!

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