Get more from your workouts with kettlebells

By Tessa Thomas

 Kettlebell | Photo by  Dorianrochowski

Kettlebell | Photo by Dorianrochowski

A workout should give you more than it takes out of you.
— Pavel Tsatsouline

This may come as a surprise, but for a workout to be effective it doesn’t have to end with you lying sweaty and nonverbal on a gym floor. The beautiful thing about kettlebells (effectively a cannonball with a handle) is that they deliver supreme, all-around fitness in ways that most other tools fall short – they defy specificity by developing a broad range of characteristics desired by athletes at all levels and in varying disciplines, including: strength, endurance, power, fat loss and better overall health. Kettlebells are also portable, compact, economical and durable – they often outlive their owners.

Pavel Tsatsouline is the chairman of StrongFirst Inc. and is credited with introducing the kettlebell to the United States. He is now a consultant for the US Navy Seals, Marine Corps. and Secret Service. If you often find it challenging to get to the gym and don’t want to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on home equipment, a few kettlebells and Pavel Tsatsouline’s Simple and Sinister Program might just be the perfect place to start. As always, prior to beginning any new training program, you should get medical clearance from your physician. Safety at all times is paramount.

The Simple and Sinister Program includes only two exercises, the kettlebell swing and the get-up. These two moves have been paired together because they compliment and balance each other – while the swing is the ultimate quick lift, the get-up is the ultimate slow lift. The benefits of the kettlebell swing include: exceptional conditioning, rapid fat loss, explosive power through the hips, increased health of the posterior chain, improved grip strength and minimal impact on the knees. That’s pretty good for one exercise! The get-up is regarded as an exceptional functional exercise and its benefits include: training primitive movement patterns, building pressing strength, increasing the strength of shoulder stabilizers and, best of all, mastering control of your own body – few things can make you more aware of gravity and your body in space than having a 35-pound iron ball held over your head.

 Stretching | Photo by  tacofleur  

Stretching | Photo by tacofleur 

The goal of the Simple and Sinister Program is to eventually work up to completing 100 total swings (two-arm) in 5 minutes and 10 get-ups in 10 minutes, only then should the weight be increased. It is advised that women start with 18 lbs., 26 lbs., or 35 lbs. depending on current ability and men begin with 35 lbs. or 53 lbs., again depending on current ability. Working with kettlebells is not the time to be overly ambitious, take it slow and only increase weight gradually. The first time you attempt a get-up should be without any weight at all; a fun way to perfect the form is to balance a running shoe on the palm of your hand for the entirety of the movement. If you can get through the full motion without the shoe falling off, then progress to a light kettlebell. It is also advised that a proper warm-up, including a mobility practice, be used to support kettlebell training – to be strong you must first be mobile. Remember these key tips when training with kettlebells:

  • Always be aware of your surroundings
  • Wear flat shoes or train barefoot
  • Do not compete for space with a kettlebell
  • Use perfect form
  • Respect the kettlebell, even the light ones 
  • Focus on quality, not quantity of reps

One piece of equipment providing multiple benefits and efficiency of movement – isn’t that what a workout should give you?

For the full Simple and Sinister program visit:


Tsatsouline, Pavel. Kettlebell Simple and Sinister. Power by Pavel Inc., 2013.

Disclaimer: Good Read Magazine and its contributors are not responsible in any manner for any injuries that may occur through following the instructions contained in this material; readers should always consult a physician prior to engaging in a new training program.