Kettlebell Frequently Asked Questions

What is a kettlebell?

A kettlebell is a centuries-old Russian training tool that looks like a bowling ball with a handle. It is essentially a weight, with a handle that displaces the weight from your body.

How are kettlebells used?

Kettlebells can be used in ballistic or swinging movements or used in press and pull exercises similar to those one would use with a weight. The displacement of the weight from the hand requires that the stabilizing muscles engage more with each movement than would be required of a similar movement with a weight such as a dumbell. Kettlebell exercises are whole-body exercises requiring full body integration and core stabilization. There is no such thing as isolated muscle work in Kettlebell training.

Why would I want to use them?

Real Fitness Results. With proper training and real physical exertion –yes, you do work hard with kettlebells — a 20 minute workout will get your heart pounding, strengthen your muscles and even increase flexibility. It’s an efficient whole-body workout for strength, stamina, strong abdominals, aerobic exercise and dynamic flexibility. Time-efficient, functional and effective.

Who uses kettlebells?

AthletesThe 1980 Russian Olympic athletes swept Gold in all throwing events after training with kettlebells. Pro- and amateur athletes from triathletes to football players to martial artists to dancers have discovered the benefits of kettlebell training. Athletic-trained individuals usually feel an immediate affinity for kettlebell training. The movements make sense in the body. Athletes routinely work with momentum and therfore experience direct benefits when working with momentum-based kettlebell moves.Military —Long used by the Russian military, it’s no surprise that when kettlebells were brought to the U.S., one of the first groups to recognize the benefits of working with kettlebells was the U.S. Military and Secret Service. As a matter of fact, Sonoma FIT’s Sandy Young trained under Steve Maxwell, RKC who trained the U.S. Secret Service’s (already highly-trained) Counter Assault Team with kettlebells.

MomsMothers and other busy women gravitate toward kettlebell training when they discover the kinds of results they can gain in a time-efficient workout. Yes, kettlebell training provides excellent results for all the areas women complain about –abdominals, buns and thighs. Minimal time but NOT minimal effort! You don’t have to be an athlete to train with kettlebells.

ExecutivesMale and female, working executives, college students and office personnel all face the challenges of high stress, minimal available time and too much time sitting. Too much sitting can lead to bad posture and weakened hip and back extensors, hamstring and gluteal muscles. Counteract stress and muscle imbalances, increase cardiovascular endurance, improve stamina and forget about the office! You won’t even be able to think about the office because kettlebell training requires concentration and focus. You can sweat out your troubles in 20 minutes or less! (Physical exertion required!)

All agesChildren and Seniors, alike, can be taught how to use kettlebells. In our studio, the range is 16-70. Some of our regular kettlebell participants are in their sixties, and in Russia, it’s not uncommon to find people in their 70s and 80’s continuing to work with kettlebells.

NOTEKettlebell training is rigorous and is most enjoyed by those who like to challenge themselves physically.

CautionIf you don’t meet the requirements below*, these kettlebell group trainings are not appropriate. One-on-one training would be recommended.

Is this good for my back?

If you are a healthy, active individual without back pain, kettlebell training may keep your back healthy and pain-free. Basic kettlebell moves require back endurance and strengthen the back extensors. Proper training teaches abdominal bracing –a method of supporting the spine. Robin McKenzie, a world-renowned physical therapist who devoted his life to the study of mechanical disorders of the spine and their treatment, found a correlation between back pain and lack of back endurance. Kettlebell training builds great back endurance and strengthens the postural muscles of the back. As with any exercise, it is important to learn correct form and technique before performing a new move.

Although a number of our students have resolved back pain issues through regular attendance at kettlebell classes, you should check with your doctor if you have back issues.

What about shoulders?

The Russians don’t know rotator cuff injuries. Kettlebells almost force proper shoulder form. People have reported increased range of motion and greater joint integrity (balanced strength around the joint) from using kettlebells. As with everything, proper warm-up, sequencing and form are important. Always check with a doctor before beginning any new exercise program and if you have physical issues. The great thing about kettlebells is that you can work with a lighter bell to develop proper form before adding greater load.

It looks like a lot of arm work. Is it?

It may look that way to the uninitiated because it appears as if the swings are done by pulling up with the arms. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Swings are leg, hip and core training. The swing is all about “hip drive”, the same motion used in jumping or running. It’s a very functional move that works most of the body, and while the back and shoulders act as stabilizers, they do not pull up or lift the kettlebell during the swing.

Will this be too hard for me?

Kettlebell training is not something you can do while being distracted or staring at a TV screen. You cannot just throw a kettlebell around or lift it up any way you choose. There are specific postures and skills required for effectively working with kettlebells. Like anything new, you must make it through the learning process to have success. An athletic individual or someone accustomed to working with weights may pick up the technique and learn proper form more quickly than someone who has never trained before. On the other hand, some of our best kettlebell students had never had formal exercise training before learning kettlebells.You do not need any particular background in order to train with kettlebells. Just about anyone can learn to work with kettlebells. Beginning kettlebell exercisers learn technique with a lighter kettlebell and then progress to a level that is more physically demanding.

* Note: Required

Group trainings at Sonoma FIT are designed for students who have at minimum the following basic functionality: Able to comfortably squat and easily get up and down off of the floor. Students who don’t meet these requirements will need more tailored one-on-one guidance than this workshop will accommodate.

How heavy are the kettlebells?

Our studio has kettlebells ranging in weight from approximately 8 lbs. to 50 lbs. This won’t really mean anything to the student until s/he learns to use kettlebells. Each person in the workshop will work at his/her level and will be guided toward finding the appropriate kettlebell for the various moves.

Is this high impact?

Kettlebell exercises are very low impact and yet weight-bearing.

Kettlebell Classes & Workshops are taught by: Sandy Young, CPT


Sandy Young, Director of Sonoma F.I.T., is a nationally certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor with over 20 years of teaching experience. She’s a master at translating personal training concepts into classes that make complex and advanced training safe and accessible to students in a group setting.

Certifications include ACE and NCSF Personal Trainer, Swift Conditioning, Kettlebell Concepts, Physical Mind Institute Pilates Instructor, and TRX Instructor Trainings. Additional Kettlebell Training under Steve Maxwell, RKC, owner of the first kettlebell gym in the U.S., Kettlebell Trainer to US Special Forces.

What our students are saying…

–P.W. (grandmother)

“A workout-and-a-half!”
–J.B. (tiathlete)

“Awesome core work.
The best I’ve ever done.”
–T.M. (power lifter)

“I finally lost the weight I couldn’t lose before.
–E.C. (new Mom)

“My runs are stronger.”
–J.U. (competitive rower)

“I dropped a pant size.”
–K.L. (business manager)

“I lost 4 inches around my waist.”
–B.H. (grandmother)

“Now I swim straight in my backstroke. That never happened before kettlebells.”
–C.W. (Administrator)

“I love kettlebells!”
–E.M., E.C., C.M. and others
(ongoing Sonoma F.I.T. students)

After Kettlebells

“After Kettlebell Class”