This content originally appeared online at HCA Midwest Health.
These kinds of questions crack me up.
Do you clean your house before the maid comes?
The answer should be "No I don't."
You don't start an exercise program because you're already in shape. You start an exercise program to get in shape. Using kettlebells is no exception. While the look of a kettlebell, the motions you might see someone perform with one, and the rather large weights they can come in can all be intimidating, kettlebells, like almost all other forms of fitness exercise, are very scalable.
The key to starting a kettlebell program is your trainer knowing your current physical condition and limitations, and then tailoring your workouts taking your current state into account. For example, if you're deconditioned (i.e. not fit), your trainer won't start you with overhead swing snatches and gladiator presses. (I can already hear you saying "Oooh! What are those?") Your trainer will start you out with the basics: core strengthening (planks are an excellent start, as are 1 arm farmer walks), total body strengthening (deadlifts, which are a lead in to kettlebell swings), basic overhead presses and basic 2 arm swings. While these exercises are all "basic" and "foundational" you WILL feel it, you WILL be sore and you WILL love it!
An important point as you start: muscular soreness the next day is fine but if you so sore you can hardly move the next day, your trainer over did it. Joint pain and low back pain is never OK. Tell your trainer if you have extreme muscular soreness, muscular soreness that doesn't go away after 2 or 3 days, any joint pain and any low back pain. They will modify your next workout to make sure you're workout out at the correct level.
And if they tell you "Pain is weakness leaving your body," thank them for their time, walk away and find a trainer who knows what they're doing.
While looking brute and primitive (neither of which is meant as in insult) kettlebells are not the exclusive domain of massive grunting World's Strongest Man competitors. All other physical factors considered (injuries or other pathological constraints) they are great for everyone, of any body size & type and any age.
One of the greatest benefits of a kettlebell workout is the total body conditioning kettlebell exercises give. Unlike gym machines, cable machines, barbells or dumbbells, there are almost no kettlebell exercises that are isolation movements. Take the most basic kettlebell exercise, the two handed swing. The primary force of the movement comes from the hips, as would happen in a jump. However, you're also holding a heavy bell, which adds in your back, arm and shoulder muscles. Also, since the lower body and upper body have to coordinate their activity in order to do a proper swing, the core is intrinsically involved. Every limb is involved and the torso is powerfully and actively engaged. The kettlebell swing really is a near perfect exercise.
The functional transferability of kettlebell exercises is another great benefit. In the real world, you will rarely be attempting to move or lift an object that is centered perfectly in line with your forearm the way a dumbbell or barbell generally is when lifting weights. What is much more likely is the object you're trying to move is away from your center of gravity and your attempt to move it will shift your center of gravity. Think about picking up a child. Not only can you not keep the weight of the kid directly in line with the bones of your arm, but kids wiggle around and continuously affect your center of gravity. The form of a kettlebell, a heavy weight with a displaced handle, puts the center of gravity of the bell away from your center of gravity. Even with a kettlebell directly overhead, the handle may be in line with your structure (arms/spine) but the majority of the mass is off center. When doing a swing, the mass of the bell is moving in a circular movement around your center of gravity and never in line with it. This requires your body to find stability with a changing center of gravity (your center + the kettlebell).
Safe lifting and swinging is of utmost importance. A kettlebell swing does not involve a squatting motion. I can't emphasize this enough. The root exercise of a kettlebell swing is a deadlift, not a squat. If you're unsure of form, please seek a certified professional.
You can easily incorporate Kettlebells into your Power Training. Swings, Cleans and Snatches are all Power exercises. An example would be to do a Heavy Set of Bench Press for 6-8 reps immediately followed by a set of Kettlebell swings in the 12-20 reps range. The swings will task the entire body. In addition to Power there is an Extreme Cardiovascular effect! Kettlebells require a lot of technique and practice. Once mastered, they can become a very beneficial part of you workout!