Kettlebell Basics Book Review: Enter The Kettlebell

Enter the Kettlebell Book

Enter the Kettlebell by Pavel gives you a complete template for conditioning, size and strength using the kettlebell as a stand-alone tool.  Pavel’s incredible knowledge and sense of humor also make it an enjoyable read.  If you’re trying to learn or refine the basics of kettlebell training, Enter the Kettlebell is without a doubt one of the best resources around.

Pavel kicks things off by giving a short overview of what kettlebells are, and all the reasons why they’re probably perfectly suited for your fitness goals.  He takes you through a very basic self-movement assessment and provides a quick warm-up and a couple of corrective stretches.  He gives you the ‘basic’ program, the program minumum – the PM uses only two kettlebell exercises but is simply amazing in moving you towards a greater base of conditioning and strength.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I personally actually lost body fat and gained muscle doing this routine exclusively.  One of the most amazing things is it’s efficacy – four workouts a week which amount to less that an hour a week – total! – of working out.

The next step is the ROP, or Rite of Passage, and Pavel gives you a great template to help you become a ‘man among men’: 200 snatches with a 24k kb in 10 minutes and a 1/2 body weight single arm clean and press.  Complete this goal and you’ll be one strong – and top notch conditioned – mo’ ‘fo.

This is the book that righted the ship for me. I swung around a kettlebell in my back yard for a month or two before purchasing the book with really nothing to show for it.  After reading through it several times and taking meticulous notes, and following both programs in it to a ‘T’, I made some great progress with regards to my conditioning, strength, and kettlebell technique.  If you haven’t ordered Enter The Kettlebell by Pavel yet, make sure you do so right away by clicking HERE!

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Kettlebell and Bodyweight Workout

One could, in theory, perform swings and get ups almost exclusively for a period of several of months and likely make some great progress. I think you’d be hard pressed to find more than a few pairs of exercises that this statement would hold true for (one exception to this would be the core Power to The People workout – Pavel uses the deadlift and the side press exclusively.  This program works like crazy for getting you strong, by the way).

On the other hand, I’m well aware that just practicing the basic kettlebell exercises over and over can eventually get a little … well … boring.  I’m going to give you a workout that incorporates some basic body weight moves with swings and goblet squats (a squat holding a kettlebell in front of you at chest height).  This workout provides some much-needed variation to your routine, still allows you to work on your basic kettlebell drills, and if done for time is a hell of a workout.

Here’s a quick demo:

So to quickly recap:

Start with 20 push ups

Do 20 KB swings – these can be two handed, one handed, or hand to hand

Perform 20 full sit ups

Do 20 more swings

Finish with 20 KB squats

Repeat three times with as little rest as possible.

Incorporate this workout into your routine only after you’ve learned the swing well.  This means that you can execute the movement safely and efficiently.

This workout performed once a week should provide some nice variety and leave you smoked in 15 or 20 minutes flat!  Enjoy.

Why You Need To Practice Your Kettlebell Skills

Learning good kettlebell technique is like learning any other skill – it requires regular practice.  When I started practicing the basic movements on a daily basis is when I really started seeing measurable progress with my KB program.  If you’re serious about getting everything you can from your kettlebell training and realizing its true benefits, you have to focus on good technique. Let’s go over a short example and talk about a good way to structure your daily practice routine.

An example of an exercise that requires a lot of attention to proper form is the clean and press.  This is a highly technical exercise.  A lot of people – myself included – go out on day one and do a full fledged c + p workout – maybe 50 or so total reps of the movement.  The problem is that your form is crappy and you can’t lift as much weight as you could if your form was better and you just end up with a banged up and bruised forearm. So with this kettlebell exercise, just like all the others, the key is practicing and getting your form down before you include it in a full blown workout.

So what do I mean by practice?  Just start every workout by practicing the basic drills you’re working on.  For example, if you’re learning how to do the swing and the get up, pick a light weight and do a few get ups and a few dozen swings.  Practice the various positions of the get up.  Go back and forth through the parts of the movement you’re having trouble with.  For the swings, do 10 or 12 at a time, focusing on one point for each set – staying tight, keeping the lats engaged, proper breathing, etc.  Don’t come anywhere close to failure on either drill.

The key to making real progress with your kettlebell training is proper form. Practice your drills every day according to this basic schedule and you’ll be well on your way to more effective and efficient kettlebell training!

I’m Going To Purchase Some Kettlebells; What Size Do I Need?

So you’ve (hopefully) done a little research,  and you’re ready to purchase a kb or two and get started.  But what size to start with? Good question – I’ll try to help you out by telling a little about my own personal experience and that I’ve had with my clients.

The first thing to think about is what exercises you’ll be doing with the kbells. Seems obvious, but for some reason most people don’t seem to give this a lot of thought. Most people – men and women included – could probably handle the Beast (the 106 pounder) for deadlifts. On the other hand, if you’re doing turkish get ups, you’ll probably need a little lighter weight.  That being said, the first exercises I always teach my clients and force them to master before moving on to more advanced drills are the swing, the get-up, and the goblet squat.

For those exercises, an average woman would be well served with a 12k (26 pounds) for swings and squats and an 8k (18 pounds) for get ups.  Squats could be done with either weight.  Most women can progress fairly quickly to the 16k (35 pounds) for swings.

An average strength man will use a 16k for swings and a 12k for get ups to start, and either weight for squats.  Most men can progress quickly to the 20k or 24k for swings.

These numbers are guidelines, obviously: you could start higher if you’ve got a solid background in strength training and athletics, or lower if you’re new to working out or just getting back into it.

Like I’ve mentioned before, my personal favorite brand of kettlebells is Dragon Door; if you’d like to know the reasons why check out this post. Above all else, find a quality brand of kettlebells; you’ll be happy you made the little extra investment.

Another thing you might want to check out is the starter kits available from Dragon Door – they give you an instructional book, DVD, and a single kettlebell.  This is actually probably exactly what I would buy if I was starting all over again with kettlebell training – Pavel is the man when it comes to kb instruction.  And learning to do things right from the start is so important.  Click on the banner below to find out more about these packages:

DragonDoor Quick Start 468x60

So, use this info to figure out what size kettlebell would work best for you and your goals.  Most importantly, pick one up and get started!  And remember, if you’d like to receive free email updates from, be sure to subscribe by entering your email in the box in sidebar!

A Word Of Caution + Why The Basics Are So Important

I’d like to kick things off here by telling you a little bit about my own experiences with kettlebell training over the last couple of years – for a very specific reason.  I think it will be of a great benefit to you as you progress in your kettlebell training career.

I’ve been involved in various athletic endeavors for the last 20 years or so – baseball and basketball in grade school, football and track and field in high school and college, a ‘cup of coffee’ in the NFL, and more recently in triathlons believe it or not (I played offensive line if that gives you an indication of why I say that – I was at about 310 lbs at my biggest).

I still consider myself to still be in pretty good shape.  I work out five or six times a week, although admittingly I suffer from a little bit of ‘workout ADD’ (I have trouble sticking with a program for more than three weeks or so).  I’ve dabbled in literally almost every imaginable training style, from Olympic Lifting to German Volume Training to CrossFit to HIT – you name it, I’ve probably done it.

About two years ago, I heard a few of my trainer friends were getting into kettlebells, and it sounded interesting.  Honestly, my first thought was that there couldn’t be too much to it – nothing more than I could figure out on my own.

So I go buy a couple of kettlebells at the local used sporting goods store.  I do a search for ‘kettlebells’ on YouTube to give me an idea of some basic drills (bad idea, in retrospect).  There’s some good stuff on there, but there’s also a lot of crap – and I happened to stumble on the crap.

I think my first workout consisted of about 50 clean and presses and 50 snatches.  If I remember correctly, an ill locked-out snatch and an actual glancing blow to the head by a kettlebell finished my workout for the day.  Luckily, I didn’t do any serious damage, but my wrists were bruised and swollen, along with my ego, for about a week.  Not so good.

After a few months of playing around and not really knowing what I was doing (or really getting anything out of it, for that matter), I decided I wanted to do things right.  I bought Enter The Kettlebell by Pavel, which in retrospect was what really got the ball rolling and is probably why I’m so into kettlebells today.  I went through the book, made detailed notes on everything, and went through the Program Minimum first, followed by the ETK Rite of Passage.

I was shocked at how well the Program Minimum worked!  I got stronger, lost a little fat,  and actually improved my cardio conditioning with basically less than one hour a week of workouts!  I knew at that point I was hooked.

After a couple more months of training almost exclusively with kettlebells and making some great progress, I decided to sign up for the RKC certification because I knew I wanted to take my KB training to the next level.

In short, it was an incredible experience, was extremely physically demanding, and more than anything incredibly educational.  I couldn’t recommend the course more to anyone wanting to get serious about kettlebell training.

Another thing I learned from the RKC certification is that perfect execution of the basics is critical.  You can get an amazing amount of milage from a few basic kettlebell exericses – in fact, you could probably only do the core five or six drills forever and continue to make progress.

This blog is dedicated to helping you learn the basics really, really well.

Now I use kb’s at least 50% of the time with my one-on-one and group training classes and in my own training.  I’m hooked for life, and I hope you soon will be too.

So that’s a few words of warning and some basic advice on where to start.  I’ll be frequently updating this blog with basic exercise descriptions, new workouts that have worked well for me and my clients, reviews of books and DVD’s about kettlebell training, and much more.  Hope to see you around!

Forest Vance, RKC

P.S. If you’d like to shortcut your learning curve a bit, check out my manual and training course all about mastering the Kettlebell Swing by clicking the link below:

Learn The Basics of Safe, Productive, and Effective Kettlebell Training

I’ve started this blog to teach you how to use kettlebells to burn fat, build muscle, improve your condition, and get into better shape than you ever thought possible.

Building a proper foundation of technique, core strength, stability, and flexibility is so critical – I know I learned the hard way.  I want you to have all the tools you need to get started and master the basics of kettlebell training.

I’ve got a few posts up already to kick things off – take a few minutes and check them out if you can.  While you’re here, make sure to subscribe to our email updates – just pop your email address into the form in the top right hand corner.  Also, I’d love to get a little feedback on what you all would like to hear about in coming weeks and months, so please take a second and jot down a few ideas in the comment section of this post.  Thanks for visiting!

A Beginner Kettlebell Workout


Let’s take two basic kettlebell movements – the Swing and the Get-Up – and put them together into a 15-20 minute gut-busting workout.

Start with a 10 minute warm-up – pick three or four body weight exercises like push ups, squats, sit ups, etc. and put them together into a circuit – do 10 reps of each about two-three times through. Make sure to chose movements that hit different parts of your body – for example:

10 body weight squats

10 push ups

10 sit ups

Repeat this sequence 2x without rest

Now grab your kettlebell.  We’ll start with sumo deadlifts.  Do two sets of 10 slow and deliberate reps, emphasizing the stretch in the back of the legs.

Next, perform five sets of 15-20 reps of kettlebell swings.  Take 30 seconds rest between sets.

Finally, do three Turkish Get-Ups on each side, switching sides with each rep.

Cool down and you’re done for the day!  This workout should only take you 15 or 20 minutes, but it’s guaranteed to leave you smoked if done with the proper intensity.  Try adding this into your regular routine two times a week – let me know what you think!

How To Do A Turkish Get-Up

Combined with the Swing, the Turkish Get-Up forms the foundation of our basic kettlebell exercises.  In contrast with the Swing which is considered a ballistic move (it’s fast and explosive), the Turkish Get-Up is a considered a grind (slow and controlled).  One of the best descriptions of the movement I’ve heard comes from world-famous physical therapist and Certified Russian Kettlebell Challenge Instructor Grey Cook: “(The Turkish Get-Up) is as close to weighted yoga as you’re going to get with a kettlebell”.

Take your time to learn the Swing and the Get-Up before moving on to more advanced kettlebell drills.  I was guilty myself of trying to jump the gun and get too fancy when I first started my kb training; when I took the time to go back and focus on refining the basics is when I really started to see serious improvements.

So here’s a quick video of what the Turkish Get-Up looks like:

Let’s break it down:

1. Start the movement lying on your back with the kettlebell at about shoulder height.  Roll to your side, pull the kettlebell into the body, roll to your back, and punch it up towards the celing like you’re doing a chest press.  Both hands should remain on the ‘bell until you get it situated.

2. Keeping the arm extended, roll to the opposite elbow and straighten the off arm.  Refer to the video if you’re having trouble visualizing any of this.

3. Bring the leg underneath you, come up to a lunge position, and stand up.  Keep the shoulder ‘sucked down’ – nice and stable and attached to the body.

4. Reverse the motion and return to the ground.

That’s the Turkish Get-Up in a nutshell.  A good way to learn this movement is by simply doing the first 1/2 of the movement – here’s another video for you breaking that down into a little more detail:

Once you have the 1/2 Get-Up down cold, you can move on to the full version. Master the Get-Up and you’ll be well on your way to bigger and better things!

The Kettlebell Swing

The Kettlebell Swing forms the foundation of kettlebell training.  It hits almost all of your major muscle groups, especially those of the all-so-critical posterior chain (a fancy term for the back of the body): the glutes, hamstrings, back extensors, and lats.  It can be used for a wide variety of applications, including fat loss, conditioning, building explosive strength, and much more.  First, watch this video to see how the movement is done:

Now we’ll break it down into steps:

1. Before you attempt the full kettlebell swing, do a kettlebell sumo deadlift.  Start with the kettlebell between the feet.  Initiate the movement by pulling the hips back.  This is different from a squat; you should feel a stretch in the back of the legs if you’re doing it right.

2. The swing is simply an extension of the deadlift.  Start with the weight about a foot or so in front of you; hike it back between the legs and use the legs and hips to snap it up.  Remember that the swing is a lower-body driven movement, not a squat and front raise.  When the ‘bell reaches the top of the swing, it should float for a second if you’re doing it right; snap the weight back down and repeat for reps.

Those are the basics of a kettlebell swing.  Refine this movement until you’ve got it down before moving on – you must perfect the swing before moving on to more advanced drills like the clean and press and the snatch.  Good luck!

Dragon Door Kettlebell Review

If you’ve shopped around for kettlebells at all, you’ve probably found that there are a lot of different brands out there at a wide range of different prices.  I’ve personally used quite a few different brands of kettlebells, and I can tell you firsthand – there’s a difference!  I’m going to give you a few tips on your purchase, and also explain why a quality ‘bell – particularly a Dragon Door kettlebell – is worth the extra investment.

First, don’t cheap out when purchasing a kettlebell.  Although I’ve never witnessed it first hand, I’ve heard stories of cheap kettlebells coming apart  at really bad times – like when the weight is pressed overhead.  That being said, quality is obviously an important factor.

Secondly, if you’re just going to be doing really basic stuff with the kb’s, like squats or two-handed swings, then you can probably get by with a lesser brand.  But as soon as you progress and start doing things like higher-rep cleans, snatches, etc., the smoothness of the handle and the way the weight is balanced become really important.

Third, I’ve found that cheaper brands of kettlebells tend to come apart pretty fast.  For example, I purchased a few kettlebells from a local sporting goods store when I first started getting in to kb training, and within six months the rubber coating came off and they started to rust.

Dragon Door Kettlebells are the best I’ve trained with and I’m currently in the process of replacing all my non-Dragon Door ‘bells.  They just have the best finish, the best workmanship, and are the best balanced.  If you’re just starting out with kettlebell training, a single kettlebell is fine – an average man could start with a 12k or a 16k, an average woman an 8k or 12k.  Use the information on this blog to help get you started and you’ll be on the fast track to reaching your fitness goals with kettlbell training! Click the link below to order a kettlebell from Dragon Door now and get up to 30% off:

Save up to 30% on Dragon Door's classic Kettelbells