Obviously this question has some leeway based on the strength levels and height/weight, but here goes:
I bought a 25 lb. kettlebell, have done quite a bit of reading up on technique, and did my first kettlebell workout this morning - only the basic swing for 6 minutes Tabata interval style. Very challenging, and I will be sore tomorrow for sure, but the intensity feels about right, and I could feel my whole back and core muscles engaging throughout the swings.
My mother-in-law had seen the 25 lb. kettlebell yesterday and remarked that it seemed too heavy - she was worried for me. (She also remarked that it looked like a masculine bodybuilding thing - as in "not for ladies", but I'm hoping that an increasingly lean physique may help to convince her otherwise in the long term.)
Is 25 lb. a good starting point weight for women doing basic swinging workouts? I'm not doing Turkish getups anytime soon - will want to have a much stronger, more stable core for that first.
For context on my stature and fitness level, I'm 5'7", in the 180s (and dropping), and regularly carry a 25 lb. baby around throughout the day. I have also recently started doing planks/pushups, etc. and Mark Sisson's Workout of the Week.
ALSO - if anybody has links to any youtube kettlebell workouts that are beginner appropriate - and especially those with women involved, I'm interested!
Based on your size, stature, the fact that you carry a 25-lb baby all day, and you made it through a challenging 6-minute tabata...I'd say 25 lbs sounds perfect for you.
I'd also just add: don't over do it at first, and the instant you feel the "wrong" kind of pain...stop! Avoiding injury is crucial.
And as far as it being lady-like goes...it's all about the results. I'm amazed at how well women seem to do on crossfit-type regimens. My wife started off totally out of shape and thought crossfit was CRAZY. Now, she regularly out-does me in our workouts.
I would say that especially on the swings, you should go as heavy as you can while still maintaining good form. I see so many women in the gym go for the super-light weights, but it lets them get away with AWFUL form, and they never get any better at it. With heavier weights you're forced to use your hips to correctly generate power.
I use the 8kg kettlebell most of the time. Dr. Wendy Schauer, Chiropractor, is dedicated to keeping her patients strong & healthy; she teaches them kettlebell work outs. She trained me! She has YouTube video's under the name: KettleBellOlympia
Along with trainer Jake, they have uploaded many beginner exercies using kettlebells. She is the owner of Abundance Fitness Center & Community Chiropractic.
I love the core strengthening exercises. Kettlebell workouts address strength, flexibility, & cardio. My favorites: turkish get-up, squats, swings
Here is a link of Jake showing the beginning and advanced squat: http://www.youtube.com/user/KettleBellOlympia#p/u/6/VtjxxdBwnso
Check out the Dragon Door forums. There is a massive FAQ megathread there that will answer all your questions.
Also check out Dan John's Q&A over at the Dave Draper/Iron Online forums
And I'm pretty sure most KBers will recommend starting with the Program Minimum, which is basically swings for 12 minutes, twice a week, and get-ups for 5 minutes, twice a week ...ie 4 very short workouts a week.
I've just started KB training too, after a couple of years of barbell training, and this is what I am doing.
I felt like I should also be doing KB cleans, presses, snatches etc etc and I'd be missing out by not doing them, but I know the Program Minimum will build me a solid foundation and help with fat loss.
I let myself do a couple of workouts doing these other moves just to get it out of my system.
Now I'm just doing the swings and get-ups. I may add the occasional brief sprint workout once or twice a week if I feel like it.
BTW, it's not 12 minutes of continuous swings - warm up, then just do some reps until you feel yourself fatiguing/form breaking down, then stop and 'actively rest' (jog, skip, walk, planks etc), then carry on swingin a bit more.
Get-ups: not a race. Just alternate 1 rep per side for 5 mins. Don't try and get more reps than last time, just try and do them well.
I have been learning the get-up by doing half get ups - only going as far as the high-hips position, rather than standing all the way up. At first I was very wobbly and nervous. Now I am getting stronger and my shoulders becoming much more stable. (Just from these simple workouts!) Once I am 100% confident I will start working in the full movement.
I train with kettlebells both for fitness and for competition. I would also recommend an 8kg (about 18 lb) bell for starting out, it will help you master the movements initially. Once you feel confident with the techniques using the 8kg bell, you'll be less susceptible to injury when you move up in weight. I prefer the competition-style kettlebells, as they are all the same size, even at different weights.
And contrary to many grandmas' opinions, most elite kettlebell lifters are much more sinewy and lean than people who lift other types of weights! The movements are very cardio-involved, dynamic and ballistic.
Along with the other links provided above, look here for a good set of videos to help with technique, and just general Kettlebell Sport info: http://www.ickbgirls.com
Also, because I'm a total kettlebell geek, I subscribe to this YouTube channel, it's a series of workouts by Valery Federenko, a world champion lifter who is credited with bringing the sport of kettlebell lifting to the US consciousness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uFeHYi1ewE
Keep swinging that bell!
Dragon door is the best source. I use KBs and swear by them as the best form of general form of conditioning. I bought a few books from Pavel but finding a Rfc instructor was the best thing I ever did, even when I thought I knew a lot.
Bells are collected- you can never have enough so don't be afraid of buying a few of different weights or duplicate weights.
JUST USE THEM- and find a Rfc instructor.
Hehe, reminds me of my grandma. She always told me that although exercise is healthy, I should not do so many laps in the pool because I might develop big muscles and then men won't like me! She was honestly worried! I think a lot of older women have trouble processing the concept that women can be strong and lift heavy things and still be feminine. I think it's really more of an emotional issue than a logical one. Lifting babies seems feminine but lifting weights, perhaps not to a woman raised in an different era and environment. And so she worries because she is not sure exactly, but something seems not quite right about the slinging around of the big metal object..
+1 on finding an RKC instructor. I began learning about KBs on my own by reading and watching videos online. I bought a 20 lb KB to start out. The advice I heard over and over was to get some sessions with an RKC. I found one through Dragon Door an hour and a half from me. My husband and I made the drive once a week for classes with him for a total of 8 or 10 classes. I'm so glad we did! I now have a solid foundation to build on.
After we started classes I bought a 15 lb KB for one-handed stuff like cleans, presses, and snatches. Then I moved up to a 25 lb one for swings. Currently the 20 pounder is gathering dust.
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