Barbells are a great way to build strength as they allow us to lift heavy loads. However, when it comes to entering the weight room for the first time, using barbells is not typically ideal. Instead, kettlebells provide a great and safe alternative while training people who are new to the weight room.
While the kettlebell is more known for exercises including the Kettlebell Swing, Clean, Snatch and Turkish Get-Up, these are not the most beginner-friendly exercises. Rather than using the kettlebell for its signature, and more advanced exercises, the kettlebell is used in this instance as a substitute to a barbell for exercises including Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press and more.
After proving a good grasp of movement patterns including Squat, Hinge, Press and Row, loading up the movements with kettlebells is an ideal next step. Here are a few ways that beginners can add kettlebells to their workouts.
For Squats, the Goblet Squat and Racked Squat are two Kettlebell Squat varieties that help reinforce a sound movement pattern and build good foundational strength. Both of these Squats place kettlebells in front of the lifter causing the upper body to be the limiting factor once strength is not an issue. For beginners, this is not a problem because movement pattern mastery and creating a strong foundation are key. Once good strength is developed, lifters can progress to Barbell Back or Front Squats. Until then, the Goblet and Racked Squats are great ways to add load to the movement in a safe manner.
For Deadlifts, a Kettlebell Deadlift helps beginner lifters learn to get full mobility and proper movement on the lift. The kettlebell adds mobility as its handle sits higher than any unloaded barbell on the floor. Additionally, kettlebells have a wide range in weight, which allows for weight to easily be added by changing bells while never changing the height or placement of the bell on the lift.
If reaching the kettlebell at its standard height is an issue, then lifting it with a plate under it is an easy fix to help with mobility impairments. As mobility improves, the kettlebell can be placed lower to the ground, until it starts on the ground. Furthermore, not having to scrape a bar against the shins is a way to help new lifters become comfortable with the lift. Finally, when a lifter becomes strong enough, a Two-Kettlebell Deadlift is an option if the lifter does not want to immediately progress to a barbell or trap bar.
Kettlebell Presses and Rows
For pressing and rowing, a kettlebell can be used just like a dumbbell. Because of this, exercises can be performed both bilaterally and unilaterally. Some pressing options include, Kettlebell Bench Press and Kettlebell Shoulder Press; both of these can be performed with either one or two arms at a time. For Rows, 2- and 3-Point Bent-Over Rows are a great start with Kettlebells; also, using a bench for a Chest-Supported Row or Single-Arm, Single-Leg Bent-Over Row may provide an easier start. If kettlebells are not provided at your gym, dumbbells are a well suited alternative to them for these movements. As the movement pattern and strength is proven to be sound, then these movements can be progressed to a barbell.
Between Squats, Deadlifts (hinges), Presses and Rows, the kettlebell is a phenomenal tool for teaching new lifters the four most major movement patterns in lifting. They are easy to progress, and provide a good weight range that allows for novice lifters to help build up weight while also increasing mobility. Even more advanced lifters can take advantage of building accessory strength with these lifts too. The kettlebell is a great and sometimes underutilized tool for everyone.