Are You Ready for Kettlebells?

Test your kettlebell readiness

Professor Attila Kettlebell
Stark Center UT Austin

You don’t have to be fit or athletic to begin kettlebell training. However, you need to have basic control over your body in order to perform kettlebell training safely. Toward that aim, it’s recommended you do a few simple tests to check your readiness before picking up your first kettlebell. These assessments test your core stability (mid-section), shoulder stability and hip and trunk mobility. If you are able to easily clear these basic assessment tests, you can be confident that you are ready to safely begin kettlebell training

Assessment Exercise 1: Kettlebell Deadlift

Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart with the kettlebell on the floor just in front of you. Keep your chest lifted as you sit back with your hips until your hands can reach the handle. Grab the handle with both hands and stand up by pressing your feet through the ground until your body is fully upright. Repeat by sitting back to lightly touch the KB to the ground. Do 10 controlled reps with a light weight then repeat with a more challenging weight. (e.g women start with 8kg for 10 reps, then 12kg for 10 reps; men 16kg for 10 reps then 24kg for 10 reps). This basic exercise teaches you to keep your center of mass aligned vertically over your base of support. A strong and stable base will keep you safe when swinging the kettlebell. 

Assessment Exercise 2: Squat

Stand with feet shoulder width apart or slightly wider. Sit the hips back and down, as if you are sitting onto a chair.

Keep chest lifted and trunk arched as much as possible. The feet press firmly into ground, not letting the heels raise or weight shift onto toes. The ideal squat aims to sit all the way down to full range of motion in the flexed (bottom) position. It takes time to develop this flexibility. Work at your range and aim to improve it over time.

From the bottom position, stand up by pressing the feet into the ground. Repeat for 10 repetitions. Increase the range of motion progressively, starting by squatting onto a box. Over time use shorter boxes and eventually full range of motion squats.

Assessment Exercise 3: One-Arm Press

The one-arm press tests core stability and stability and mobility of the shoulder girdle and upper back. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Use two hands to pick up a kettlebell and position it in the hand. Keep your legs straight and stomach/midsection firm (tight but not tense). Take a deep inhale and exhale as you push the kettlebell directly up over your shoulder. Press until your arm is straight, no bend in the elbow, and the kettlebell is directly over your feet/base of support. Take another inhale while the kettlebell is locked out overhead and as you exhale let the kettlebell drop back down to your chest again. 3-5 repetitions with each arm.

Assessment Exercise 4: Plank

The Plank tests the stability of hips, shoulders and mid-section.

Make a tight fist with both hands and bend your elbows so that you form a right angle on each arm between the forearm and upper arm. Keep your abdominals tight, hips pressed forward (in line with the spine) and balanced on your forearms and toes with nothing else touching the ground. Hold this position for 30 seconds and work up to 1 minute. 

While it is not a requirement that you can pass these 4 Assessments, they are a useful barometer to determine that you have adequate strength and control to handle the demands of kettlebell training.

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