What are the Kettlebell Basics?

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  • Written By: Micki Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 07 January 2020
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The kettlebell is a fairly small, round weight with one large handle attached, and it can be used in one’s strength-conditioning and training routine. Understanding proper use is likely the first step in kettlebell basics. Though a kettlebell can be used in most any move one would typically do with a dumbbell, there are certain basic moves associated specifically with the kettlebell. These include the kettlebell swing, clean and press, and the Turkish get up.

One should first become comfortable with kettlebell basics in terms of the proper way to hold the equipment. A kettlebell may be grasped by its handle using one or both hands. For some exercises, one might instead choose to hold onto the rounded part of the kettlebell. If one makes this choice, using both hands is a wise idea.

Many kettlebell basics involve swinging or flipping the kettlebell, so holding the handle may be the safer method in those cases. One should grasp the handle with a tight grip, yet take care not to tense or lock the arm muscles or the wrist and elbow joints. Doing so could cause strain or overextension. As the wrist and elbow often absorb most of the weight of the kettlebell, one should take care not to twist these joints too much while holding the object.


Once one has learned the proper use of a kettlebell, there are several exercises specific to kettlebell basics. A kettlebell swing is probably the best move for beginners to master first. One should begin in a squatting position in which the gluteus is behind the feet while the back is kept straight. Grasping the kettlebell with both arms, the equipment starts between the legs and is swung forcefully in front of the body, stopping when the arms are straight out in front. The swing can be done one arm at a time, too.

Another move common to kettlebell basics is the clean and press, performed one arm at a time. While in a standing position, the kettlebell is held at arm’s length and centered, as if reaching toward the knees, with the wrist turned in toward the body. The equipment is often swung carefully up toward the chest, with the wrist now facing outward. The arm extends until the elbow is at 90 degrees, as if to perform a shoulder press; then, the individual does just that, pressing the kettlebell above the head before returning to the starting position.

The Turkish get up is perhaps the most intricate and difficult move of all the kettlebell basics. One should consider asking a trainer or fitness expert to walk him through each step. There are also various free instructional videos and directions available. After mastering the kettlebell basics, one can increase the weight or experiment with new, challenging moves.


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