As a beginner, you need to start out with a modest and appropriate kettlebell weight, working from lighter to heavier weights as you becoming more experienced, notes expert Steve Cotter in “Kettlebell Training.” The weight of your bell varies according to your sex, current level of conditioning, goals and workout order. You protect your muscles and joints when you choose the right size kettlebell for your workouts.
See the Future
Kettlebells are designed to improve your strength, power and endurance. Your goals determine which exercises and the number of repetitions you perform, Cotter notes. Cleans and Turkish get-ups require few repetitions, while swings and snatches may entail long, timed sets with dozens of reps. Also, you perform most exercises with one hand, and some with both, which changes the load amount required for muscular fatigue. For these reasons, you will likely want to invest in a set of bells. If you are confined to selecting one bell, choose a medium-weight bell and adjust the repetitions according to how long you can maintain proper form, certified kettlebell instructor Mike Mahler advises.
Work Like a Man -- Women, Too
Men and women should begin with different kettlebell sizes, but this doesn't mean women should use extremely light loads. You need to challenge muscles to the point of fatigue. Men can often begin with a 16-kilogram bell, notes leading kettlebell author Lauren Brooks, while women can try 8 kilograms or sometimes 12. The nearest standard weights in pounds for men are 35 pounds, and for women, 15, 20 and 25 pounds.
One way to test if you have the right size bell is to perform one set, either counted or timed, of the exercise. If you are able to complete the desired number of repetitions or time and need a slight rest between sets, you have the right size bell. If you cannot complete the repetitions, you selected a bell that is too heavy. If you feel you could continue into your second and third sets without rest, you need a heavier bell. The structure of your workouts also dictates the load of the bell. Begin with exercises that use lighter loads such as halos or figure eights between the legs. These warm-up movements require a lighter bell. Then, progress to movements that require heavier loads such as swings, cleans and presses, Cotter advises.
Ballistics and Grinds
A kettlebell workout may require a set of several bells, given the range of movements you must perform. Movements are categorized as either ballistics or grinds. Ballistic movements are dynamic and typically use more than one joint, such as the swing, clean, snatch and jerk. In contrast, grind movements are stationary, typically slower and demand a higher muscular contraction. Examples are the overhead press, squat, deadlift and single-arm row. You use a heavier weight for the dynamic movements than for the grind exercises. If you perform movements that combine the two types, such as thrusters, the squat jerk and overhead squat, you may need an in-between sized bell.
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