Kettlebell expert Eric Spector shares his favorite fundamental movements.
Kettlebells are an amazing way to get a killer full-body workout. Whether you’re working out with limited equipment, or just don’t want to deal with moving from machine to machine at the gym, mastering a few fundamental kettlebell movements might just lead to the minimalistic-yet-effective workout you’ve been searching for.
While you might not think of kettlebell movements as minimalistic, they don’t have to be as complicated as they look. According to kettlebell expert Eric Spector, these complex moves keep a lot of people – including himself – from getting involved.
“Typically in the kettlebell community, I assume most people think that I keep things too simple,” he says. “But having said that, I was really intimidated by kettlebells back in 2020. That’s why I never used them. I was just scared of hurting my lower back, and when I saw someone snatching a kettlebell, I thought ‘That just can’t be good for you.’”
To combat his hesitancy about integrating complicated kettlebell movements into his workouts, Spector “started slow and with the basics,” and now recommends that as a great place to start for others. So, what are these “basics?” Keep reading to see the first five movements Spector recommends for building a beginner kettlebell workout.
While swings might seem like the simplest move, Spector emphasizes that simple movements are the foundation to build on. “In my opinion, I think you should just initially start with swings. They look easy, but they’re very complicated in the sense that it’s difficult to get your form correct.”
To begin building your kettlebell fundamentals, Spector suggests starting by “getting that swing down.” As you learn the swing, continue doing other simple, non-kettlebell movements such as running, push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and other traditional exercises.
Once you master swings, Spector recommends “learning how to clean and bring [the kettlebell] up to the rack position. With a typical ballistic clean, the bell starts in front of your feet, you swing it behind you, and then you clean it up to the rack position.”
A fundamental move for creating your kettlebell workout, cleans will become your starting point for squats, lunges, presses, and dozens of other more complex exercises (but you can worry about mastering those once you’ve got these five staples down).
Speaking of squats, this is the next exercise Spector advises beginners to master. “Once you have the clean, then I would suggest going on to squatting with the bell. Even adding a simple squat is difficult, especially if you have just one kettlebell because you’re offset in terms of the weight distribution. So you have to squeeze your abs, which people don’t realize how involved the abs are and the core in general for stabilization when you’re using kettlebells,” he says.
“If you’re going in all these different angles, you have to activate different muscles to ensure that you just stay upright, so that’s a big part of it, too,” he continues, emphasizing that although these exercises might seem like beginner moves, they pack a big, full-body punch when done correctly.
Once you get the squat down, Spector suggests moving onto presses. “Again, when you’re moving vertically, you still have to stabilize your core and everything else,” he says.
While presses provide another straightforward move to add to your kettlebell arsenal, don’t be fooled by their simplicity. When done correctly, the no-frills press targets your deltoids, supraspinatus, subscapularis, infraspinatus, triceps, erector spinae, trapezius, abdominals, and serratus anterior¹ – and that’s without even adding anything like a squat or lunge in!
“Once you get those four moves down, then in my opinion, you should go onto the snatch,” Spector says.
A staple movement for building on, the snatch combines each of the moves previously mastered and provides a whole-body workout with one single move. It’s often referred to as the “king (or queen)” of kettlebell lifts, and once you give it a try, you’ll see why.
After mastering your form with these five exercises, Spector suggests moving onto “more complicated stuff like Turkish get-ups, windmills ,bent presses, and lateral cleans.” While these names sound complicated, Spector says that many of them are just “variations of the basics,” which once again proves why starting with these simple, staple exercises is the best way to get comfortable with kettlebells.