Absolute Beginners Kettlebell 3-in-1Amy Bento
Year Released: 2009
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Iím reviewing this workout after watching the instructional segment once and doing each workout once each.
General workout breakdown: This 53.5-min. kettlebell DVD contains 3 parts (hence the 3 in 1 title): a 10.5-min. instructional segment, a 20.5-min. beginnerís workout, and a 20-min. Intermediate workout; the two workouts end with the same 2.5-min. seated stretch.
ē The instructional segment covers some concepts behind kettlebell training, the double arm swing, one arm swing, (one arm) clean, (one arm military) press, (one arm) jerk, and front squat; you will use all of these moves (and really only these moves) in the workouts. Amy includes some nice form pointers, including how to release the bell.
ē The Beginner Workout begins with a short warm-up of demi plie squat with arms up & down, demi squat with arms forward & back, squat with hands behind legs & up over head, dynamic lower back stretch, static lower back stretch, and squat side to side. The workout proper runs through a circuit of double hand swings, one hand swings, cleans, presses, jerks, and front squats, each done anywhere from 5-15 times each; the entire circuit is repeated twice, with a short break in between. Amy pauses for a few moments between exercises, which is great if youíd like to use bells of different weights. After a short cool-down with breathing with arms up & down, standing hip flexor stretch, two static lower back stretches, and standing outer hip / glute stretch, the seated stretch segment focuses on the hamstrings and glutes / outer hips, ending with a lying full body stretch and rocking on the spine before finishing in a cross-legged position with relaxing breaths.
ē The Intermediate also begins with a short warm-up of taps side to side with slight torso turn, taps side to side with reaches up and across, wide squat, rolling up and down through the lower back, torso twist with legs still, and good morning (unweighted). Here you alternate kettlebells with floor cardio segments. The segments are swing & clean; jump rope; swing, clean, & press; side squats; jerk & front squat; high knee jog; double arm swing & one arm swing w/ mid-air switch; squat to touch floor & slight jump; clean, press, & front squat; double rope (aka double hop); swing, clean, jerk, & reverse press; and fast jog w/ feet wide (sometimes called basketball or football run / feet). Amy doesnít do more than 3-5 rounds of each kettlebell exercise (on each side, where applicable), and cardio bursts last about 30 seconds. Amy shows lower impact options for only one or two of the cardio segments. After a short cool-down of wide squat pulses and breathing with arms & down, a standing hamstring stretch, a wide lunge for an inner thigh stretch, and two static lower back stretches, the same seated stretch segment appears.
If you donít care for the jerk, in the Beginner workout itís easy to switch to, say, a squat & press or push press, or you could substitute in another move, such as standing chest press in one round and then 1-armed back rows in the next. I had a hard time coming up with ideas in the Intermediate, however, as the transitions were too quick for inexperienced me to think on the fly.
The seemingly short length of the workouts is intentional and a good thing, as you will need to build some endurance for this type of training. (If you donít normally run, even if youíre in great shape, would you go out and run a marathon or even a 5K the first time you strapped on running shoes? No, youíd work your way up. Same goes for kettlebells, believe it or not.) Once you feel comfortable with the two segments individually, you can them combine them together. With the proper weight these should pack the proper amount of punch. And with kettlebell training less is more, quality over quantity, etc.
Level: Iíd recommend this to, well, I would NOT recommend this to absolute beginners to exercise. I wouldnít recommend this to experienced exercisers who consider themselves absolute beginners to kettlebells without supplementary material, namely other instructional videos, books, and/or a live class (this would be best!), for issues Iíll discuss below in comments.
That said, those around the intermediate to intermediate plus level of general exercise will probably get the most out of this.
Iím an experienced exerciser (I consider myself an intermediate / advanced in cardio, strength, and Pilates, while Iím more of a low intermediate when it comes to yoga), but Iím still new to kettlebells. When I tried this DVD, I had watched Lisa Shafferís instructional video, read her manual, and tried her 6-week beginnerís e-book program plus had been taking classes at my gym. (I did the Beginner workout a month or two before I did the Intermediate a few weeks ago, and at the time of this review Iíd have to say I have 4-5 months of kettlebell experience under my belt, but Iím only doing kettlebell stuff on average once a week.) I found these got my heartrate up decently, and the Beginner workout left me feeling decently worked out with the weights I chose, but they definitely didnít wipe me out.
Class: Amy alone, instructing live.
Music: non-descript, kind of techno-ish instrumental. Itís soft in relation to Amyís voice.
Set: somewhat industrial-looking set, with purplish lights on a plain background in front of which stand a few metal structures and some plastic drums arranged in way that makes me think a voice will come on and say, ďAT&T: more bars in more places.Ē
Production: clear picture and sound, no distracting camera angles.
Equipment: Amy uses one kettlebell for all exercises, suggesting you use 10-20 lbs. That said, 8 kg (17.6 lbs.) is the usual suggestion for women and 12 kg (26.4 lbs.) for men who exercise relatively regularly but are new to kettlebells.
As someone who in class still uses 8 kg for most exercises but 12 kg for double-handed swings, some squats, and deadlifts (although I should be getting close to the point where I can try this weight for cleans and other exercises), I used my 25 lb. for the double-handed swings, 20 lb. for most other exercises, and the 15 lb. for the press and jerk in the Beginner Workout, but I ended up sticking with my 20 lb. for the entire Intermediate.
Youíll want flat-soled shoes; if you have cushy cross-trainers like I do, youíre better off barefoot, which is how I do my kbs.
Oh, and if you sweat as profusely as I do, have a towel and a bottle of water handy.
Space Requirements: enough room to do a swing in front of you and to do a big step or so to each side. This has a very small footprint and is perfect for those without much room.
DVD Notes: The main menu options are Tutorial, Beginner Workout, Intermediate Workout, Credits, and Audio Options (Full Mix or Music Only).
Comments: At the time of filming, Amy was into the Renegade style of kettlebell training (although she has since switched to the original Pavel-backed Russian Kettlebell school). I donít know much about the Renegade style, so when comparing Amyís form in this video to the standard RKC form and instruction I canít say whatís the result of this style (other than the inclusion of the jerk Ė I think) and whatís the result of her relative inexperience with this style of training. I am in no way knocking Amyís credentials and capabilities as a fitness instructor, especially one who manages to juggle many different types of training; however, it is a fact that when filming this video she did not have as much experience with kettlebells under her belt as she did when she filmed her first step, hi/lo, kickboxing, and traditional weights (i.e. dumbbells, barbells, etc.) videos.
I am not a kettlebell expert, having only recently taken up this type of workout, but a few things stand out to me. Before I state them, I admit that Iím fussy about form and, yes, can be one of those annoying ďpuristsĒ (that is, I prefer my styles straight up rather than fused, and I like to know about the original / more traditional forms before exploring more recent takes) when it comes to learning methods. Again, Iím not slamming Amy, and Iím especially not saying sheís deliberately doing anything wrong; itís just that as someone coming from a more RKC-centered background I noted some differences in her form compared to that of other instructors, live or on media, with which Iíve been working.
- Amyís swings donít have the explosive pop thatís usually recommended. As other VFers have suggested, Amy may be using too light of a bell for her fitness level (she may be working with the weight she expects her average viewer to use and/or going lighter to hold up under filming conditions) and working to the beat of the music rather than going at her own, natural pace (again, this could be deliberate, or it could just be that her years of group fitness instructing taking over unconsciously).
- Amy begins with the bell farther forward than what Iím used to and goes a tad lower on her passes than Iíve been taught. She places it down between her legs closer to her toes, while Iíve been taught to greet the bell with it back near or even slightly behind my heels. I have seen other instructors on other videos begin with the bell more in the middle, so my instructors may be (over?)emphasizing that back starting position since weíre all so new to this training.
- Amy rests her non-working hand on her leg during one-handed moves. Donít do this! This is a habit that can be hard to break. Yes, itís tempting to do as a beginner because it can help you stay stable and even, but the flip side is that it cheats you out of learning to balance yourself without any aid and out of working your core and other stabilizer muscles just that little bit more.
- There seem to be differing opinions on the proper location of the bell in the rack position, especially for women (particularly those with larger busts). I go with Lisa Shaffer and Sarah Lurie here, who present what seems to me a happy medium between Amyís position on the far outside of the body and my (male) instructorsí position with the thumb jammed under the middle of the chin and the arm across the breast.
- In terms of instruction, in the Intermediate Workout, Amy uses ďcleanĒ to mean performing a full clean, a lowering down of the bell from military press, and holding the bell in what is traditionally known as the rack position. What I know as a clean is the explosive movement from the floor or between the legs into the rack position only.
I really wanted to give this video a fair shake, as I like Amy a lot as a fitness video instructor and like the concept behind this DVD and its two workouts. I knew going in that people had some concerns about Amyís form, but I thought itíd be easy to work around them. However, now that Iíve tried to work along with this DVD, the fact that I have access to half a dozen live kettlebell classes each week at my gym plus several other videos aimed at kettlebell newbies makes it hard for me to justify spending a lot of time trying to make it work.
Part of my trouble is that Iím used to going at my own pace in a live class, so being expected to follow the beat and match someone elseís pace is throwing me off; this is something thatís easier to work around in the Beginner rather than in the Intermediate, however. Also, the Beginner is more of what Iím used to with kettlebell training, namely circuits where you repeat a certain exercise for so many reps before moving onto the next. As a result, I was uncomfortable with the combos in the Intermediate and couldnít stop banging the bell on my forearm, as Iím not used to transitioning between an explosive swing and a clean; also, I found the quick catches of the bell before launching into the squat awkward.
Amyís verbal instruction sounds good to me, but because Iím a strongly visual person I have to spend just that much more energy focusing on doing what she says, not what she does.
If youíre looking for a solid beginnerís kettlebell workout that balances working out and the basics, IMHO youíd probably be better off with Sarah Lurieís Iron Core Vol. I, which retail for about the same price ($15) and can be found at places like Target and Amazon. Amy wins out over Sarah in terms of on screen personality and mirror cuing as well as including more joint mobility work and stretching (including a cool-down stretch, which Sarah skips altogether), but Sarahís form is more in lines with traditional / standard RKC kettlebell form, plus she has more variety for upper and lower body moves and leaves out the jerk in favor of other basic kettlebell exercises.
Of course, there is no substitute for live instruction, especially since as a beginner itís hard to self-diagnose form issues and problems. Amy is as always comfortable in front of the camera, cracking a few jokes and not being afraid to let you see her sweat. She is friendly and encouraging, wanting to make this all seem doable. She mirror cues (in other words, when she says ďright,Ē she intends for you to use your right while she demos with her left).