The first question you might have is which part of the program do I start with?
Obviously, if you've been training for a little while and you've got a lot of experience with kettle bells, then you wouldn’t want to start off at the beginner phase.
Conversely, if you're an absolute beginner who's never exercised a day in your life, then starting out by picking up an iron cannonball with a handle on it can be a little intimidating, so let's start there.
Beginners should absolutely start with the beginner phase one workouts.
These workouts were designed for two reasons:
One, to teach you the fundamentals of the most common exercises, and by that I don't just mean kettle bell exercises, but exercise in general.
There are a lot of principles in kettle bell training that carry over into regular exercise with resistance. You'll notice that in this phase, body weight training is the most prevalent form of exercise.
I come from a training philosophy whereby if you can't handle your own body weight, then you have no business using external resistance – be it a kettle bell, a medicine ball, a barbell, or a dumbbell.
You need to MASTER THE BASICS first – push-ups, body weight squats. You need to learn how to squeeze your shoulder blades together without allowing your shoulders to hike up to your ears or how to bend forward without flexing or rounding your back.
The second reason why beginners should start at the beginner phase one is because it teaches you how to use your abs properly.
Now, I hate using the word "core," but this area of the beginner phase one is called core support because of that reason. You must learn how to support your torso and midsection area – your core.
This part of the beginner phase one will teach you how to properly brace your abs and show you that your abs aren't meant to bring your chest into your hips as in a crunch or a sit-up as previously thought years ago, but the actual purpose of your abdominals is to stabilize your spine and to prevent rotation.
Think of it this way – if your abs were meant to bring your chest into your hips as in a sit-up or a crunch, then it would look like a hamstring because that would be a flexion type of muscle – a single-joint muscle.
But they don't look like that. They have lines running both vertically and horizontally across them, because they're there to stabilize you in all planes of movement, to prevent rotation and to really stabilize your spine and your fragile low back.
Okay. If you're not an absolute beginner and you have some experience in the weight room and with kettle bells, then my suggestion to you would be to start at the intermediate phase one workouts, with two exceptions.
Number one, you must be able to complete the full core support program found in both of the beginner phases – that is, you must be able to hold a plank for three minutes, hold a side plank for two minutes, hold a hip bridge for three minutes, and hold a prone cobra for three minutes.
Now, this is for your SAFETY only. Again, kettle bell training involves a lot of stabilization and a lot of focus on bracing your abdominals, so being able to complete that core support program is of the utmost importance.
The second exception is that you must be able to complete the challenge workout in both beginner phases within the required amount of time, and I'll tell you a little bit more about the challenge workouts in just a second.
Now, the question of whether or not you can start right at the advanced phase may come up, and my suggestion to you is no, DON'T START HERE. The intermediate phase workouts will be a challenge enough for you, even if you have experience in the weight room and you have done a little bit of kettle bell work before.
The intermediate phase of the workout was designed to progress you to the advanced phase.
And by skipping the intermediate phase and going right into the advance, you could be losing a lot of what you will be learning in that critical intermediate phase, as far as basic movements are concerned and learning several techniques to progress you into the more advanced and more strenuous workouts.
So those are your two starting points.
If you're an absolute beginner then I say start with the beginner phase one. If you have experience in the weight room and with kettle bells, then start at intermediate phase one but make sure that you are able to master the core program and both of the challenge workouts found in beginner one and beginner two.
If you are in shape and you've done a lot of training before like turbulence training, then mastering those two challenge workouts and the core program should not be a problem at all. After that, feel free to go right into the intermediate phase and get ready and prepped to get into the advanced phase.
Remember, it's not a race. The most important thing is safety and thereby mastering the proper technique to gain the greatest benefits from these kettle bell workouts.
-Chris Lopez, CTT, CSCS
Author, TT Kettlebell Revolution