Last week, while I was in San Diego at the TT Summit, I interviewed Forest Vance. We decided to start from the beginning when it came to the kettlebell. Here is a beginner’s guide to kettlebells.
Rick Kaselj, MS
P.S. – If you are interested in a wide variety of workouts from beginner to crazy, check out Forest Vance’s Kettlebell Challenge Workouts 2.0.
Description of Beginners Guide to Kettlebells
I am in San Diego at the Turbulence Training Seminar or TT Summit. I stepped out of the conference and will do a quick video interview with Forest Vance.
Forest and I are going to chat about a starter’s Guide to Kettlebells. From the absolute beginning of the kettlebells stuff.
At the start, I thought it would just be another toy that entered the fitness industry and was popular for six months an,d then left. But it is stuck, and I am starting to see the benefit of utilizing kettlebells. You can only do with the kettlebell when it comes to unique exercises, unique workouts, and exercises. And nothing else when it comes to injuries and exercises.
Who is Forest Vance?
Rick Kaselj: First, I will get Forest to introduce himself and let people know a little about him.
Forest Vance: Thank you for having me, Rick; much appreciated. I am a trainer, Bootcamp instructor, gym owner, kettlebell guy, and kettlebell expert based in Sacramento, California.
My athletic background in the past was I played pro football for a couple of years. And that was about ten years ago. I played the offensive line. I was about 65lbs heavier when I was playing. It ended up right after I left and retired. I knew that I wasn’t going back.
I was a trained athlete. The way that we trained was we lifted heavy. I was force-feeding myself, trying to become as big as possible. And so I had to adjust to the real world and get down to get where I wanted, not to be 310lbs anymore because it wasn’t fun.
Well, I didn’t even work out as hard when I stopped, and I got fat. To be honest. So I lost like 64lbs in 7 months. That was right after my football career, and that transformation got me into the fitness industry.
Now I’ve been training for almost ten years. I got into the kettlebells about 5 or 6 years ago. And that has done a lot to help me maintain my fitness. I use it with my clients every day in my studio. And helped me maintain my weight loss as well.
What is Kettlebell?
Rick Kaselj: Awesome! So lets’ start knowing what the kettlebell is.
Forest Vance: The Kettlebell is like a hunk of iron with a handle on the top. I believe that they are the best strength and conditioning tool around for losing fat, building muscles, and boosting your performance.
Rick Kaselj: How did you get into kettlebells? Because if you think like professional athletes. I think of them or envision them doing the barbell stuff, the bench press, and all that. I don’t envision their training programs; they are doing much kettlebell stuff.
Forest Vance: Yeah, I think the kettlebells have picked up a little steam. I think a lot more people know about them. Even then, I started training with them 5 or 6 years ago. I think a couple of NFL teams are using the kettlebells at this point.
Kettlebells have been around for a long time. In Russia, the military uses them. They’ve used them long because their standard issue is their weight. Suppose you will look at the pictures of like old-time strongmen. From the turn of the century, they were using kettlebells with two people on the one hand and then a kettlebell on the other. I got a picture, actually, and I look at it now and then in my gym. But they weren’t popular in the industry until maybe 5 or 6 years ago.
When I was playing football, I wish I had known about the kettlebells, but I didn’t use them back then. But the way I got into them, I have this crazy training partner guy. And we were doing an intense workout program using the kettlebells. He wasn’t like an expert on the technique. So we just flopped them around. And then I was like, that was a cool training tool, and I could see how this is such a great workout for your whole body. We can get to this a little bit more later. But you can do a lot of things like you were saying.
A lot of people might see kettlebells. And think, “it’s just a weight, and why just not use a dumbbell?” But you can do like a kettlebell swing as a good example of a movement that you can do that is high rep ballistic exercise. And the kettlebell lends itself to doing those sorts of things much better than any other training tool. You can get a really fast and efficient workout in a short amount of time. In a minimal amount of space which is awesome as well.
Rick Kaselj: Where can someone get a kettlebell? And what should they look for in a kettlebell?
Forest Vance: That’s a good question.
First off, I think it depends on the quality that you want to get. It depends on what you will be doing with it. You could probably go to the local department store and get one. I don’t recommend that necessarily for people to get them from there. Because the quality will not be that great, and they are also really light, and that’s a big mistake. What many people make is when they start, they start with like a 3lbs. Kettlebell or something because they don’t want to injure themselves. They don’t want to do things correctly. But the reality is it is so light a lot of times, you can’t use proper form and are not getting anything out of it.
I would say you can order it online. It’s a good place to order them online. In my gym, we have all the kettlebells from Dragon Door because I think I just like that brand of the kettlebell. Apollo is another good brand that you could order if you are going to order them online. But it depends on what you are going to do with it. If you do some more basic stuff, you don’t have to go out and get the top-of-the-line type of kettlebell.
If you are going to do more of the advanced exercises because the thing is the kettlebell will rotate on the palm of your hand, for example doing the clean, doing the snatch, those exercises are on the spectrum a little bit more advanced, you can get like abrasion and stuff on your hands when you are doing high reps of those exercises.
I’ve seen someone hurt his head with a kettlebell falling apart when someone had it pressed over their head and fell on top of their head. So that’s a good story to tell not to use a cheap kettlebell.
Differences Between Kettlebells and Dumbbells
Rick Kaselj: I haven’t heard that, but I could see that happening. So when looking at the kettlebell, why should I choose a kettlebell over a dumbbell?
Forest Vance: As I said, there are certain exercises that you can do with the kettlebell. The kettlebell has a handle, and you got a thick grip. It has a thicker grip than a dumbbell which is great for building grip and functional strength.
The kettlebell’s weight distribution is slightly different from a dumbbell’s. The weight distribution makes for a different challenge. You have to use your grip and wrist and stabilize the bell more strongly than you could with a dumbbell.
Let’s say people anywhere from an everyday type of activities, or they need to strengthen their grip up to sports or anything like or they would be planked, is beneficial. And then also, like I was saying, the kettlebell swing should be done for higher reps.
I will give you a very good example, certain schools of training, I am not going to say who they are exactly, but some like to do high rep Olympic Lifting, which is a slightly popular thing some people do. You probably have heard about this, Rick, and I don’t know how you feel about this, but I am not a believer in high rep Olympic Lifting in 95% of cases because usually, people get sloppy, and that’s not how it is supposed to be done. You are not supposed to do a clean press or a snatch for 30 reps at a time with an uneven bar. Some people may be able to do it, but many people can’t do it properly, and they get sloppy and get injured.
To counter that, if you want to get the same benefits but keep it safe and stay injured-free, you can do something like a kettlebell swing, so you get a lot of that high-rep ballistic conditioning benefit. With the swing, you can have different types of steps, like it decelerating that load and its great speed. It has a lot of athletic benefits there for different sports and stuff like that where you have to absorb force.
Also, it is relatively easy to learn compared to the same power clean. The kettlebell swing is easier to teach someone when they hadn’t properly done a power clean; that’s another big benefit.
Unique Kettlebells Exercises
Rick Kaselj: Maybe you can list some examples of exercises that are unique to the kettlebell that can’t be done with another piece of equipment or is not as effective with another piece of equipment. I know it isn’t easy to demonstrate it here, but you can talk a little bit and give a little description.
Forest Vance: Sure. The two basic movements that we start with, at least in a hard-style school of kettlebell training, are different approaches people take. But if you want to do competitive kettlebell lifting, that’s one thing you are training specifically. It’s like an actual sport. But for the school that I teach, it’s like 98% of people who want to use the kettlebell as a tool to get in shape, lose fat, and gain lean muscles.
Rick Kaselj: I think I have a video for both of them. You and I have already done the video regarding the kettlebell swing. And we have also done a video with the Turkish GetUp. If you want to see those videos, just head to exercisesforinjuries.com or type in kettlebell on my YouTube Channel, and those will pop up. Those are two unique exercises that are best done with the kettlebell.
Kettlebell Exercise for Lower Body
Forest Vance: That’s right, exactly. As I was saying, many people are trying to do swings with the dumbbell. Well, it can be done, but it’s not quite the same, and a lot of this is because of the weight distribution of the bell. So you have a handle, and you weigh the bottom of the handle so you can hike past the weight back and exert a maximal amount of force as it comes up to your chest level, which is what we do in the Russian swing.
You see other people do the American overhead swing, they call it, this is the Russian swing we go up to the chest level. But you cannot get that sort of force generation and hip snap and all that stuff that goes with it nearly as well trying to hold a dumbbell or something else like that; that’s the big reason we use kettlebells. If people are going to do nothing else, swing; I think getting the kettlebell will be well worth it.
Rick Kaselj: Yes, because it is a ballistic movement which more and more research is showing is beneficial but under control. It’s the high intensity, and with the intensity, you can get more benefits than just walking on a treadmill.
I also find that it is the best exercise to help teach hip hinging, and that is the number one thing you could do, like learning that hip hinge. The kettlebell swing is awesome at it to help like prevent irritating your back.
Forest Vance: Absolutely! I couldn’t agree more. I can’t even describe how many people I see daily, new clients, who don’t know how to do that hip-hinging movement properly. Like they’re lowering their back, tweaks, and different stuff going on, and they are going to pick up their kettlebell, and they are like a rounded turtle or something.
Rick Kaselj: And it all ends up being a new movement. I like the kettlebell swing when it comes to teaching that hip hinging movement, which is so important to help prevent back pain and then also to educate you to get that movement; because I know since I’ve been doing more of that kettlebell work, I just end up moving better when it comes to the hip hinging movements, squatting down better, reaching down for the ground better. So if my movement improves, it puts less stress on my back and knees, which is good.
Forest Vance: Yes, I agree. Absolutely! You may try a little bit of the Turkish Get Up too.
Rick Kasey: We got a video on that. We will look for the video, and I will put it on my YouTube Channel, or I will put it down below. I will put the video that you and I had done. Are there any other last things people should think about when it comes to starting right out there? They’ve heard of all these kettlebell things and want to give it a go. We talked about what it is. What should they look at when it comes to getting a kettlebell? How is it kind of different from other pieces of equipment?
Do you have any last-minute tips or like learning these techniques regarding kettlebell stuff? I know you have some resources and a recent resource you’ve created regarding kettlebell exercises and workouts.
Forest Vance: Yeah, sure. A couple of things I would say, number one, is to take your time as a beginner. Learn the form. Make sure that you practice and are taking the time to instead of just going on Day 1 and trying to go all out on every single exercise you do with the kettlebell. Be safe. Practice using proper form. That’s one thing.
One thing I like is that kettlebells tie in well to sort of like performance-based targets. Let’s say you have a workout you put together, and maybe you are doing a certain amount of swings. For example, mix it with bodyweight movements like goblet squats, swings, and pushups. We use these at my boot camps and my training studio monthly to gauge people’s progress. So you put it as a circuit; it’s a cool way to put together the workouts and gauge your progress over time.
Let’s say what we will do is like you do a circuit of exercises at a certain amount of reps at a certain amount of time. Make sure they are using the same weight each time they do it at the beginning and end of the month, and you can see how you are progressing over time.
Kettlebells are Great
It motivates many people further than just saying I want to lose 10lbs., and they are saying, “oh, I can do the swings better. I can use more weight.” You know you can do this round, this circuit more times in a certain amount. It is super motivating for people to get them going towards their goals with fat loss, muscle gain, performance, or whatever.
Rick Kaselj: Yeah. I recommend that for people because I know there are all kinds of research back, like tracking progress and marking things down, and that I’ve done it for a while, and then I stopped for a few years. And then I got back into it just writing what I’ve done? What are my workouts? What is my weight around? And What am I able to do now? It’s needed to see progress. It’s needed to see it as it motivates you. And it shows you where you were and where you’ve moved on to.
And doing that kind of self-test at the beginning of the month and the end of the month. You can see how your times and techniques improved and how many repetitions you can get in. It’s cool. It’s good. I highly recommend writing it down. It’s more accountable, and it’s more tangible when it is written down.
Forest Vance: Absolutely! That thing has been around for a long time. The physical fitness test that we did when we were in elementary school. It’s a sort of a new spin on it, and it’s also kind of fun to do this. We do it in Kettlebell Challenge Workouts. So it’s a fun thing to do that you get to see your progress over time.
Rick Kaselj: Awesome! Forest, where can people get more information about you?
Forest Vance: They can head over to KettlebellChallengeWorkouts.com. That’s my website, dedicated to the workouts we were talking about here; that’s the best place to find more information about me.
Rick Kaselj: Thank you very much, Forest, for your time. Suppose you are brand new with kettlebells or thinking about it. Hopefully, this gave you more insight and information on what to do. And how to get started.
If you are watching this on YouTube, make sure you head on up above and hit subscribe. What that would end up doing is it will subscribe you to my YouTube Channel. So whatever interviews or videos like this come out, you will get a notification saying, “Hey, Rick’s got a new video.”
And then, let Forest, and I know what you think of this video. Head down below and hit like or leave us a comment or a question and we will help you.
There you go. This is Rick Kaselj in San Diego and Forest Vance in Sacramento. Thank you very much for joining us, and we will talk to you soon.
Take care and bye-bye.
Rick Kaselj, MS