Time is money—it’s a really valuable commodity and we have to make decisions on how we spend our time on a daily basis. One of the real benefits of kettlebells is that they combine the benefits of strength training with aerobic cardiovascular training at the same time.

You see kettlebells everywhere now. But I roll my eyes when I see some of these hokey knockoff products. The market for kettlebells is growing very fast and companies see the sales potential, but they haven’t done their research as far as understanding the tool. Kettlebells have a unique design and have to be balanced in a certain way. You’re better off shopping online; the kettlebell community started there. It didn’t grow through traditional retail outlets like Sports Authority.

It’s not a magic bullet. It’s just a very simple and effective tool. The same rules apply for kettlebells that apply for other types of training. You need to make gradual progression, not try to get in shape super quickly or try to achieve your best results in a short period of time, but just try to make a little bit of progress from one workout to the next.

Three moves everyone should do are the swing, the clean and push press, and the front squat. The kettlebell swing is going to develop that posterior chain, improve your grip, and build anaerobic conditioning. It’s the king of exercises from an overall fitness perspective.

The most common mistake on the swing is disconnecting the arms from the body. People essentially lift it using their anterior delts like they’re doing a front raise. The proper way to do it is to swing it so the bottom of the kettlebell goes behind the legs. The forearms should be connected to the trunk so that as we’re extending the knees and hips and pushing the kettlebell forward, we have body mass behind it.

You want to try to decelerate that downward phase of the swing, but it has to be done not through muscling the bell, but through coordinating. Just as you use your body mass to aid the thrust of the upswing, you use your body mass to absorb the load in the backswing.

When I started training with kettlebells, one of the mistakes that I made was using too much tension. That, and not coordinating my breathing with the movements. Practice proper form and you’ll learn to flow with the movements.


Cotter is the founder and president of the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation, and the author of Kettlebell Training, an authoritative guide to kettlebell techniques and programming, available at humankinetics.com.