the joy of strength training


August 22nd, 2009 at 6:28 pm

A girl’s guide to choosing a kettlebell

Written for by Andrew Stemler of Crossfit London. Andrew was the first person to teach me kettlebells and I have benefitted from the infamous ‘hosepipe’ technique (mentioned below). Andrew has written a great kettlebell training guide which is available in the shop. He is also originator of the i-Course (all the Crossfit skills in one day) and the Elite Fitness Manual. Over to Andrew >>

Choosing the right weight of kettlebell  is easy.

There are just two rules:

  1. Avoid ones that are stupidly light
  2. Avoid those that are stupidly heavy

But thats too stupidly obvious.

Start off thinking about the basic moves you will be doing. You will be swinging and snatching, so get something that you can swing in one hand – a bag, a dumbbell from a gym, a patient cat – and see how it feels (swing it forward to about chest height and let it swing back).

Start light and work your way up. Find a weight that is challenging but fun (refer to rules 1 and 2). I find this tends to be between 8 and 16kg.

Ideally you will learn to snatch a kettlebell with a really light weight. On the Crossfit London i-Course we use a ring of hose pipe. Once you have the technique, I’ve seen most women happily snatch between 6kg and 8kg. At this early stage, people seem to be happy snatching what they can press a couple of times but it can be nice to practise your first few snatches on something light (note, not stupidly light).

The problem is that if you buy too light a bell, you quickly need another; too heavy and your form goes and you injure yourself.

A difficult choice. The reality is that you need a bell to swing and one to press and snatch. This probably means two bells.

If you are terrified by weight, a 6kg and 8kg could be a starting point. I’ve spoken to one very annoyed girl who bought a mini pack (a 1kg, a 2kg and a 4kg). She gave them to her four year old and bought an 8kg and 16kg.

My gut instinct is an 8kg and a 12kg for most women, but you could need access to a 4kg and 10kg dumbbell as well.

I suppose the real point here is this:

Do you understand what a particular weight means to you? Can you visualise 3kg, 5kg, 10kg and what basic moves you can do with those weights? If I made you squat with 30kg are you happy or sad?

So get to know how you feel about different weights. At the worst, if your 15 kg child rushed at you wanting to be picked up, can you do it?

It’s the weight, not the tool that’s important. Understand what you can lift, and the other decisions become easier.

Thanks for that, Andrew! Here is a video clip from Andrew on the kettlebell snatch: how to punch up through the movement in order to catch the bell before it whacks you on the wrsit, and how using a bit of hosepipe will help you get the technique.

I agree with Andrew’s suggestion of two kettlebells. At the moment I only have a 14kg and it is not suitable for all exercises. I’ve been trying some of the more adventurous kettlebell exercises from the Bodytribe Strength Rituals DVD and find 14kg a little heavy as a learning weight for some of the exercises. On the other hand I could handle a larger weight for exercises like swings, cleans or windmills.

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