Here's What You Need To Know Before Doing Your First Kettlebell Workout

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Kettlebells can seem a little intimidating if you're just learning the ins and outs of strength training exercises. The fitness tools are a mainstay at gyms and personal training studios, offering dynamic lifting possibilities in a compact size. Despite their novelty, they're not exactly new. Early examples of kettlebells have been documented across the globe for centuries, according to Kettlebells USA.

Like free weights, you can find kettlebells in various sizes, and experts from Kettlebell Kings suggest that you start with a comfortable weight between 18 and 35 pounds if you're a beginner. One easily acquirable version is Blogilates' 15-pound pink kettlebell at Target, which boasts rave reviews from customers like Shrimpie, who states, "This kettlebell makes me look forward to working out because of its cuteness!" For a classic look and premium construction quality, you can explore offerings from American equipment manufacturer Get Rx'd, a favorite of fitness clubs and home gym owners.

If you primarily work out at home, you may want to consider investing in floor protection. You can use a yoga mat as an impromptu way to soften any errant blows from your kettlebell swings, but larger spaces may require an unusual solution: the horse stall mat, like the  4 ft. x 6 ft. Thick Rubber Stall Mat from Tractor Supply Company. Home fitness enthusiasts swear by them as a stable alternative to interlocking foam mats, as they won't pull apart during fast-paced workouts.

Pros and cons of kettlebell workouts

Proponents of kettlebell usage believe they have significant advantages over free weights like dumbbells. Kettlebell workouts often emphasize speed and balance due to the momentum involved in swinging them, and WebMD reports that they can help you burn nearly 400 calories in as little as 20 minutes. According to fitness experts, the kettlebell's unique design may even promote improved posture. "The weight is distributed differently than a typical dumbbell, so it works different muscles doing the same movement," personal trainer Jessica Sims told Self.

As an added benefit, the exercises involved in a kettlebell routine are relatively straightforward and satisfying to perform. In one YouTube video, BodyFit by Amy explains the proper posturing for one of the most popular exercises associated with the fitness tool, the kettlebell swing, which includes bending the knees, leaning your back forward, and swinging the kettlebell between your wide-set legs. You can perform an entire workout using swings or choose to include squats or lunges.

Always be conscious of your form and limitations when performing any strength training exercise to prevent the risk of injury or strain. "You need to know exactly what to do with the kettlebell and which exercises are appropriate. Otherwise, you'll increase your risk for injury, even with a lighter kettlebell," physical therapist Nancy Capparelli explained to Harvard Health Publishing. For more information about form, you can contact a personal trainer for tips on best practices.

Determining if kettlebells are right for you

Provided you don't have a history of bone, joint or spinal complications, you should be able to tolerate a beginner's workout with kettlebells. Strength training, especially with free weights, is only safe when performed correctly, so novices should meet with their physician or a certified trainer to assess before embarking on a new routine. "People look at it [and] say it's dangerous. If you have good technique, it's not dangerous at all," exercise physiologist Pete McCall clarified to Reuters.

Lifting weights is crucial for developing healthy muscle mass, which is something we all lose as we age. Research from the journal Current Opinion in Rheumatology shows that muscle loss is unavoidable over time, and the process usually begins in your forties. Fortunately, you can stave off muscle degradation through regular exercise and weight-bearing activities, like working with kettlebells. "Younger adulthood and middle age is when you want to get a jump on [exercising] to preserve muscle strength over time," physical therapist Gary Calabrese told the Cleveland Clinic.

A kettlebell is the perfect solution for someone who wants to improve their health from home but faces space limitations and budget concerns. Whether you're keeping up your gym streak or just getting back into working out, kettlebell training can be a valuable way to support your strength goals.