The title could in reality be about training with ‘anything’. Dumbbells, a barbell, a rock from the garden or a big bag of potatoes. The key in starting and not shelving the notion until Monday is this – keep it simple.
There are millions of training videos, tips, articles and instagram worthy inspirations to blow your mind – let’s do a quick google search here – yep, 48 million search results for Kettlebell Training. I’ve got competition haha.
But my job here is to help you find your starting point. I’m not aiming to motivate you, tell you what to do or sell you something. I simply want to offer a guide for ‘starting’.
For everyone starting out, your starting point will be different. Depending on your background of physical exercise, sports, occupation; you’ll be in your starting point. That does pose a slight conundrum in relation to a prescription, but if I provide categories of movements, there will be something for everyone. Let’s put this in context of a squat with a brief demonstration. A squat is defined as a sitting down movement with the hips and knees bending to their largest (comfortable) range of movement. Forgetting about holding onto a weight for a moment, let’s take a glimpse at a squat (taken from the video to follow below).
The left image is a fine squat to aspire to. The hips descend to below knee height with the back remaining flat. If your squat only allows you to descend similar to the right image, or a little higher, that’s where you are, where you are starting from. It’s okay. It’s not a bad squat – it’s just what it is ‘now’.
The same applies to the other movement categories I’m listing next, from which a good starting program can develop from.
Beginner Movement Categories:
- Hip Hinge (like a deadlift – picking something up)
- Bracing your midsection
We’ll stop there and yes, at just 5 movement categories. That does not mean just 5 movements although that would be just perfect, but 5 categories from which can stem alternatives.
A motivated beginner may start with kettlebells but remember this. We train to make movements stronger. Whether you and your body are ready to add external loading to this equation i.e. ‘we train with loads to make movements stronger’, totally depends on your starting point. And that’s what we’ll look at now, to determine which movement categories can commence with loading (your new flat black kettlebell or garden rock) or stay bodyweight, just you, sans loading.
We train to make movements stronger
To test each of the 5 categories we will take a bodyweight, unloaded version to measure and screen our capacity to move and hold a position. If all good and comfortable, we can be pretty well assured that adding load is good to go. This is not an extremely detailed screening and assessment like I would do with someone in the gym in front of me, but for you to start, it is a simple way to screen yourself to see where you can start and then get started.
What to Do?
The assisted squat in the video below helps many people focus on the movement of a squat whereas the rocking on the floor helps immensely with developing the mobility required for the squat. Practicing both of these for 2 to 3 sets of 20 – 30 seconds a few times a week will be very beneficial and for the absolute beginner, these two would be a great program starting point.
If you can squat well, grab something light and start practicing short sets of 5 squats holding the weight in front of your chest aka the goblet squat.
What to Do?
This is one of the screens that also suggests the fix. To get better at hinging your hips back, you practice hinging your hips back. Maintaining a flat back throughout is vital. A rounded back is not a good shape to practice in. The free standing movement and the ‘find the wall’ drill are both great starting points. Of course, if this movement seems strong to you, check out this how to deadlift short video.
What to Do?
Pressing is one of those special movements, that when done correctly, feels awesome. Thrusting your arms overhead is one of those human positions of pleasure, happiness, victory. Think of it – what do people do when they win something? They punch their arms overhead. Apart from the feel-good factor, pressing weights overhead also challenges and develops muscles throughout the body. A press (a proper press) is not just about the arms and shoulders. The hips, legs, feet, upper back and torso tense up to assist stabilise the body to allow for a powerful and strong press overhead.
However, we live in a world that doesn’t ask us to put our hands overhead often. Many adults have tight upper back muscles and pectorals and this limits the safe positioning of the arm(s) overhead. But don’t stress, here’s a link to a video with a series of mobility moves to help get those arms up.
If building a foundation of strength is in need, the rocking push up below is a great starting point. Work the range of movement that suits you – you don’t have to get your nose all the way to the floor from the get-go. The second video, the bottom up press helps to develop a straight forearm for an even better press.
If you are good to go, you can get your arms overhead safely without contorting and twisting, here’s a link to a video all about pressing. The techniques demonstrated are applicable to both pressing a dumbbell and the kettlebell.
What to Do?
For the most-part, pulling or rowing exercising are a great inclusion for beginner programs and of course more advanced programs. We spend so much of our time with our shoulders rounded, leaning over a keyboard, gripping a steering wheel or folding our arms, that our upper back muscles start to lose purpose! The act of pulling is a step in the right direction. The instructions are simple and clear; pull your shoulders back, followed by elbows until the thumbs reach the side of the chest. If your range of movement is limited by tension in the chest muscles, that’s fine. Meet your body where it is and row. More details are in the video above.
What to Do?
Training the abs or abdominal muscles aka the trunk, is a go-to for most beginners but there are a couple of pointers to check-off first. The video covers these but in short, you should be able to maintain a braced or tense midsection, whilst breathing in the nose and out the nose, with your four limbs placed over your trunk and back engaging the floor… like in the video. If this is a challenge, then this is your starting point. No planks or fancy stuff until you can hold this position for a good 5 to 10 breaths. The deadbug is a very suitable progression thereafter. Check the video out.
In part 2 I’ll lay out the program now that you know where you are.
The recommendations and ideas on this post are not medical guidelines, but are intended for educational / interest purposes only. You must consult your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program, if you have any medical condition or injury that contraindicates physical activity.