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Why Kettlebell DVD Workouts Freak Us Out

Posted Nov 19 2010 6:00am

Kettlebells seem to be all the rage these days. And because it’s an exercise known for being tough, gritty and somewhat complicated, I’ve been interested in trying it for the last few years (glutton for punishment, I am). But it wasn’t until Bob’s peeps sent us his new contoured kettlebell and accompanying workout DVD that I gave them a go. And what a go it was.

First, let me say that although I am a certified personal trainer, I am not—I repeat NOT—kettlebell certified. Sure, I know a little about them, but I am no expert. So the below kettlebell workout DVD reviews are taken from the perspective of someone who knows something about fitness, the body and proper instruction, but has only basic knowledge on the principles of kettlebell exercises. Second, I’m pretty sure that the instructors of all of the kettlebell workout DVDs that I tried (see full reviews below) fall in that same boat. They may have worked with kettlebells more, but I couldn’t find anything online nor did the DVD covers say that they were certified or specifically educated in kettlebell training.

This may not seem like that big of a deal, but working with kettlebells is intense and some of the movements are downright dangerous and can result in injury if you do them improperly. And because many of the moves—especially the compound ones—are extremely challenging, it’s likely that when you get tired (and you will get tired), your form will go to ish. And ish ain’t good.

Let me ask you this question: Would you want your gynecologist performing brain surgery on you? I didn’t think so. But it’s all medicine, right? Well sort of, but not really when you get down to specialties. And fitness is no different. Kettlebells aren’t just another fad you can pop in and try. It involves jerking heavy weights over your head and onto your wrists. Serious business, kids. So before I get into these reviews, let me STRONGLY urge you to try kettlebells first in a class setting with a certified instructor. Once you learn the basics, sure, have a heyday at home. But until then, PROCEED WITH CAUTION.

bob-kettlebell Bob Harper Kettlebell Basics: Body Shred Workout

Despite my rant above, this was my favorite of the kettlebell DVDs I tried—and not just because Bob tickles my fancy. (Now that sounds dirty…) Bob does a great job of slowly showing you the main kettlebell moves. He’s extremely serious about form and is constantly giving you pointers. The 30-minute workout is actually more of a tutorial than a workout—but with cleans, snatches, halos, squat and swings—you’ll definitely get your heart rate up and your calorie burn on. I was sore the next day.

Not to mention that the DVD comes with a contoured kettlebell that I really, really liked. I got the 10-pound yellow one and with a rubber concave base, it made snatches a little less tricky (keyword being “little”) and a little more comfortable. The handle was also easier to hold when moving from hand to hand during alternating swings. Bob mentions that you can do the moves using a dumbbell instead of a kettlebell, but a kettlebell actually comes with it, so, you might as well use it.

FBG Rating (Out of 5):
Instruction: ★★★★
Long-Term Likeability:★★★
Music: ★★★
Fun Factor: ★★★★
Meets Expectations: ★★★★

Overall: ★★★1/2

Best for: This is a great kettlebell to own and a great 30-minute workout…If you’ve already taken a kettlebell class!

jillian-kettlebells Jillian Michaels: Shred-It With Weights

Now before even doing this kettlebell DVD , I already felt sorry for Jillian over this sensational article that questioned her credentials and integrity . Sure, Jillian isn’t kettlebell certified, and I’ll agree that the moves are way over most people’s heads, but to basically call her a fraud in general? Well, that’s just below the belt. Jillian obviously gets good results with her clients ( The Biggest Loser winners , ahem!), and I love her focus on the mental aspect of weight-loss.

With that said, anyone who has never taken a live kettlebell class or learned moves from a qualified instructor should stay far, far away from this DVD. While Jillian does do a great—and I mean great—kettlebell tutorial that goes over each move, the moves are just too complicated to do in your living room without someone being there to correct form. It’s too complicated and too dangerous. The DVD does show modifications to do exercises with a free weight instead of a kettlebell, which is a little safer, but still problematic. Sorry, Jill.

If you know the moves well, then this is the advanced workout your looking for. With two 30-minute workouts—Level 1 and Level 2 like in her previous Shred DVDs —these are intense, multi-movement exercises that will get results. Again though, these workouts are almost so hard that I worry about people’s form slipping when they get tired. And poor form is a bad, bad thing with kettlebells.

FBG Rating (Out of 5):
Instruction: ★★★
Long-Term Likeability:★★★
Music: ★★★
Fun Factor: ★★★
Meets Expectations: ★★★★

Overall: ★★★1/2

Best for: Advanced kettlebellers looking for a challenge and who aren’t afraid to push pause to catch their breath so that their form isn’t compromised.

10-minute-kettlebell 10 Minute Solution: Kettlebell Ultimate Fat Burner

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: This is NOT a kettlebell DVD. Sure, the instructor is holding one of the cover, but not once in the DVD do you see her actually use one. And while some of the moves translate well to a kettlebell (mainly the swings), A LOT of the moves and especially the pace of the exercises do not (her “snatches” are almost laughable as they’re so far off from what you can reasonably do with a kettlebell). We’re usually big fans of these 10 Minute Solution DVDs , but in this case, I was pretty disappointed.

Like all of the 10 Minute Solution DVDs, you have five 10-minute workouts: Maximum Fat Burner, Upper Body Power Sculpt, Thigh & Buns Blaster, Total Body Sculpt and Accelerated Ab Toner. Each had some really good moves, and after getting through the first one somewhat awkwardly with the kettlebell, I found that just using a 5-pound dumbbell was the way to go (and probably how the workout was actually designed), as its what the instructor Michele Olson uses. Michele is encouraging but not great with giving form cues, the music is mediocre, and unlike other DVDs in this series that are known for their unique moves, this one fell kind of flat. Maximum Fat Burner, Total Body Sculpt and Upper Body Power Sculpt were definitely the best, but I swear she ran out of exercises in the Thigh & Buns Blaster segment and just had us do squats (an old group exercise instructor trick of mine—I’m on to you Michele!). And the abs section? Sure, some of it was challenging, but we ended up doing a series of exercises twice. Seriously? In 10 minutes you can’t throw in all different exercises to keep it fresh and moving along? Lazy choreography.

FBG Rating (Out of 5):
Instruction: ★★
Long-Term Likeability:★★
Music: ★★
Fun Factor: ★★★
Meets Expectations: ★★★

Overall: ★★1/2

Best for: Those wanting to try kettlebell-type movements without a kettlebell!


Phew, there you have it: Our rant on kettlebells. If you have a kettlebell DVD that you love, please enlighten us in the comments! —Jenn

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