What is a Kettlebell?

by Anna D

Kettlebells have been around for many years and it originated from Russia. The Russian name for it is Girya and their military used it to get fit for war and fighting. Kettlebells were brought to America about 10 years ago by Pavel Tsatsouline who is a former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor. These cast iron metal balls that have handles on them can come in different colors but the most common and popular one is black. Their weight can either be measured in kilograms or pounds and can go from 5 lbs and up.

The Kettlebell (KB) is fast becoming one of the most popular training equipment in the fitness and entertainment industry because of its versatility. Ironically, I first heard about them while I was reading Reader’s Digest in an article interviewing actress, Katherine Hiegl. Hiegl was asked what she does to stay in shape and she mentioned that she works out with kettlebells twice a week for 20 minutes. I remember going, “are you serious?”

So, the curious creature that I am, I Googled the word “Kettlebell” and I landed on the Dragon Door web site. Back then, there were only a handful of retailers selling kettlebells and sometimes their sales people did not even know what the heck I was talking about (try the kitchen section?). To make the long story short, I bought two Kettlebells one is 8 kg. and the other one is 16 kg. I also bought an instructional DVD entitled, From Russia with Tough Love, by Tsatsouline. I know, it sounds corny but it really is tough love. I highly recommeng this DVD too because Tsatsouline goes over all the basics in every excruciating detail to make sure that you train safe. But, if you live in Concord, Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Walnut Creek, and surrounding areas, you should come to one of my kettlebell classes to learn it from me as I am only one of the few certified kettlebell instructors in the area. If you’re not local and you’re reading this, find a local kettlebell instructor near you. Having someone teach you how to use a kettlebell is very important so you can make sure that you’re doing the exercises with proper form.

The swings are probably the most popular KB exercise that I see people do at the gym and, most of the time, they perform it incorrectly. To have an idea on how to do swings properly, please watch this instructional video of me doing Kettlebell swings:

Beginners usually start with 8 kg (~ 18 lbs) for women and 16 kg (~ 36 lbs) for men. This is a good guideline to follow because even if you’ve been lifting for awhile, Kettlebell workouts can be tough. Unlike traditional strength training or weight lifting, KBs can give you a full body workout because you are incorporating several muscle groups in one exercise. Some examples of these exercises are the KB swings and the Overhead Presses.

Here are some great benefits of KBs and KB workouts:

  • Builds strength and endurance which can be great for sports training or just doing everyday activities like lifting heavy objects, etc.
  • Builds core strength due to the use of your stabilizer muscles.
  • The KB’s compact size makes it easy to travel with and workout in your home. It’s like a mini-gym in a ball.
  • They can be a fun, cheaper, and more effective alternative to boring cardio.
  • You can look cool (or weird) doing some exercises because no knows what the heck you’re doing (that is, if you work out in a public place).
  • KBs can double as a lethal weapon…just kidding. But, be careful when you use them around other people especially kids or pets as they are heavy objects. Safety first.

Some of the negatives can be that it can be a little difficult to learn some of the exercises at first. As I’ve mentioned earlier, you should make sure that you’re performing the exercises correctly before you do them on your own. This can be prevented by getting your form checked by a certified kettlebell instructor.

So, now that you’ve had your introduction to the kettlebell, I’d like to leave you with my “light” day workout. It’s not necessarily light because I sweat profusely after this workout but it is a quicker workout than my regular ones. Here it is:

Warm-up: 50 reps (repetitions) of swings with 8 kg kettlebell

Workout circuit:

30 reps with 8 kg KB swings
20 reps with 16 kg KB swing
10 Burpees
I took a 1 minute rest and repeated the circuit 3 more times.

This workout usually lasts for about 20 minutes but boy those are 20 minutes of hard work! The good thing about this workout is I always have fun doing them. It never gets old because there are many other KB exercises to choose from. I can almost feel the fat melt off of me when I do these! For more information on ATD Fitness Kettlebell Classes, go to the Kettlebell Training page here. If you have any questions about kettlebell training, please do not hesitate to ask them in the comments section.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Darrin June 28, 2010 at 9:21 pm


I’ve been doing the RKC Minimum recently as I build my kettlebell skills. A can attest that you can get awesome results with this one piece of equipment!

Anna_d June 28, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Hey Darrin, are you going for the cert? I sure hope so as it is the most amazing experience ever! Kettlebells are awesome. I love them – can you tell? LOL


Darrin June 29, 2010 at 11:24 pm


Not planning on getting certified yet. Still getting my “sea legs” with the things, but everything’s going amazing so far! Who knows? A year or two I might go for it. I saw in your blog you came out to San Diego (where I live) to get yours awhile back, so anything’s possible!

Anna_d July 5, 2010 at 11:16 am

Darrin, you’re lucky that you live in San Diego. Takes out another hindrance to go. I’m sure you can do it!


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