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The Pre-Kettlebell Training Checklist

The truly monstrous Forest Vance


This is a guest post from Forest Vance, RKC.  Forest is one of the most gigantic men I’ve ever met.  He also helped me find the perfect hamburger in Minneapolis: the Juicy Nookie.  He’s going to talk today about one of the most important things about kettlebell training: getting ready.  I was as guilty as anyone when I got my first kettlebell–I did too much, too soon, with too much weight.  Forest will help you be sure that you’re ready to take the first step.  Great stuff.  We did it all for the nookie, Forest.

The Pre-Kettlebell Training Checklist

You just came home with – or received in the mail – your first kettlebell.  Sweet!  Now the question is … what to do with it?  Well, for starters, don’t do this:

(Seriously Jillian – that’s just embarrassing). Swings, get-ups, clean and presses … these are some drills that, done consistently, can build great strength, flexibility, and endurance.

But hold on a second – there are some basic drills you need to be able to perform with perfectly before you attack your kettlebell training with full force.  Some of you might be able to do all of these things right now – and if so, great!

Pre-requisite strength, flexibility, and fitness guidelines

My intention is to ensure a basic level of core strength, flexibility, and fitness before you get started.  Ideally, your next step would be to take a few sessions from your local RKC – here is a link to find an instructor near you.  At minimum, purchase a book and video – Enter The Kettlebell! By Pavel is a great place to start.  If, on the other hand, you try the plank, and find yourself having a hard time holding for even thirty seconds with good form, you have a little work to do.  Make sure you meet the below requirements before getting started with your ‘bell:

You can hold a solid plank for one minute

A great exercise that tests midline stability, breathing, ability to engage the right muscles in the right places, etc.  Take a look at this video to see what a good plank looks like – my plank demo is towards the end.

You can keep your lower back flat at the bottom of a deadlift

You have to be able to pick up your ‘bell while keeping a nice flat lower back.  This requires, among other things, a certain level of hamstring flexibility.  Get someone who knows what they’re looking for to assess your form.  And stretch those hamstrings!

You have the flexibility to stand at the top of a kb deadlift with the hips fully extended

You also need to have the hip flexibility stand up tall at the top of the deadlift – hint: most people that work at a disk or sit a lot of the time (that’s probably you) don’t.  Another hint: stretch out those hip flexors!

Once you can do these three drills well, you should be close to being ready to start learning the swing.  You’ll thank me that you prepared the right way when your form is better and you stay injury free.  Hopefully this will be the beginning of a long relationship between you and your kettlebell!

Forest Vance is a Certified Personal Trainer, M.S., and RKC based in the Sacramento are.  You can visit Forest at The Fitness Monster and his training website, forestvancetraining.com.  He is also a genius and has a kung fu grip.  And wow, can the boy eat a hamburger. Please go say hi.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jeff June 18, 2009, 7:22 am

    Good Stuff – I see too many people jump into too many types of training without the proper preparation. This all too often leads to disappointment or injury. This is a great basic guideline for beginners!

    • Josh Hanagarne June 18, 2009, 7:27 am

      Yes. The prep stuff isn’t that fun or sexy, but too important to overlook. My first kettlebell workout was to do about 50 snatches. It wasn’t very good for me.

  • Liako June 18, 2009, 7:22 am


  • Sarah Rippel June 18, 2009, 2:52 pm

    Hola there!
    Great post! I love the fact that my vid clip of Jillian’s failed kettlebell attempt has drawn a lot of attention! I can’t believe I seem to be the only one who shot video of the antics! 🙂 Glad I did, though! Can ya tell i’m trying not to laugh during it? Keep doin’ your thang!

    Yours in Health,

  • Forest June 18, 2009, 3:12 pm

    I know that clip is hilarious – I remember some of my clients who are fans of The Biggest Loser talking about it and saying how bad her form was! It was actually the first thing that popped up in a google search – but I’ve seen it on a few other blogs too. Good job catching that one on video!

  • Ben Owens June 18, 2009, 4:55 pm

    This would have been great for me about a year ago. Unfortunately I to did too much too soon. It was “love at first snatch” for me…you just probably wouldn’t have recognized it as a snatch had you seen me do it!

  • Stephen "Steve" Ruiz, RKC June 20, 2009, 6:44 am

    Hey, I got the chance to meet Forest at the June ’09 RKC Cert. You are right, he is a giant of a man and strong as “heck.” Great post for people too anxious to start “throwin’ some iron around.” There are prerequisites…Love it!

    • Josh Hanagarne June 20, 2009, 7:09 am

      Forest was really funny, too. He made me laugh every time we talked. He also went to two NFL training camps.