Ultimate Kettlebell Workouts for Beginners

Paul Katami
Year Released: 2012

Categories: Kettlebell, Total Body Workouts

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I've been using kettlebells for about a year and a half now; although I'm not a beginner, I thought this DVD might be nice for variety. Also, I was interested in the tutorial segment, as it is vital to maintain good form when using kettlebells. This was my first DVD with instructor Paul Katami. I have seen clips of his prior kettlebell workouts, and I know that they tend to be faster-paced and use lighter kettlebells. (Usually, kettlebell work is done with much heavier kettlebells: recommendations average about 10-18 lbs. for woman and 26-35 lbs. for men.) Regarding weight, Katami says only to "choose the right weight" for your fitness level, but he does not make specific recommendations, nor does he reveal how heavy the weights that he and his background exercisers are using. I was also disappointed that Katami failed to talk about footwear for kettlebells, particularly in a DVD geared toward beginners. Kettlebells are traditionally performed barefoot or in low-soled shoes (Katami and crew are wearing Nike sneakers, which may or may not have low soles). Personally, I performed the workouts on this DVD barefoot and mostly using my 8 kg (about 17 lbs) kettlebell.

The Main Menu of this DVD lists the following options: Introduction - Workout Options - Bonus Features (Paul Katami Biography, Bonus from STRONG BODY, FIT BODY, Bonus from EXHALE: CORE FUSION POWER SCULPT) - Also from Acacia - Credits. Selecting Workout Options brings up a submenu with the following choices: Play All (79 min) - Tutorial (28 min) - Drills & Combinations (26 min) - Core (25 min). I have broken down each workout in detail below.

Katami is joined for the tutorial by background exerciser Nichelle; as with all the routines on this DVD, the tutorial is filmed in a pretty outdoor patio setting. This is actually more of a workout in and of itself than a true "tutorial," which usually means that the instructor breaks down individual exercises one by one. Although Katami does provide a bit more of an introduction for each exercise than he does in the other two workouts (he also offers form pointers throughout), again, this segment is definitely a workout in its own right. Katami begins with a brief warm-up consisting of breathing, jogs, and wrist rolls. He then does review various kettlebell grips before moving into the kettlebell exercises themselves. The moves are performed in drills, usually for 30 seconds each. He begins with the halo then moves on to the squat, swing squat, and kettlebell swing, performing three 30-second rounds of the latter. Next, Katami introduces the one-hand swing, performing these on either side and then moving into alternating swings. This is followed by the high pull (double 30 seconds, single either side 15 seconds). Following the pulls, Katami explains the rack position. From here, he does VERY FAST "power" cleans--clearly NOT a beginner move! These are followed by a series (15 seconds each) of front-loaded squats, squats with overhead press, and push press, repeating on the other side. Next comes a 45-second series of lunges, adding in rotation and then a chop. The final few moves include a bent-over row with an optional balance and bottom windmills. There is no stretching to conclude this workout.

For this workout, Katami is joined by both Nichelle and another background exerciser, Marlene. Each person has two sizes of kettlebells in front of them, but as noted above, Katami never cues which size kettlebell to use. The 2.5-minute warm-up includes breathing, wrist rolls, knee hugs, knee swings, and a brief jog in place. Except where noted, virtually all of the exercises in this section are completed for 30 second intervals. Katami again begins with the halo, but this is followed by a halo with squat and then squat with upright row. Next comes a series of swings: double swings, double swings with step out (either side), single swing, and single swing with step out (either side). As with the tutorial, Katami performs fast "power" cleans and then moves into a clean with overhead press combination; he also adds on an overhead triceps press here. (Note: I found it difficult to continue with the same kettlebell weight for some of these exercises.) He then repeats the same forward lunge series from the tutorial, this time for 60 seconds. Next comes a new move, lateral (side) lunges, adding on a biceps curl (I went down to a 10-lb. dumbbell for this and the next move). This is followed by a rear lunge, adding in a row, and the the two lunges/arm movements are put together for a combination, the last move of this routine. This time, Katami does include a short (2.5 minute) stretch: he starts with a standing forward bend to stretch the hamstrings, then moves into a standing quad stretch. He concludes with a standing stretch for the upper back and a few deep breaths.

Katami is again joined by both Nichelle and Marlene for this section, the first 7.5 minutes of which take place standing. After a brief warm-up consisting of standing twists and side dips, the group picks up their kettlebells. The exercises are again performed in 30 second drills, and the standing moves include halos, halos with ribbon, twists (both right and left), weighted lunge with twist (both sides), bow ties, side dips from lunges position (both sides), and finally, bottom windmills. Moving down to the mat, Katami goes through several tough sets of crunches, first with the arm in rack position, then with the arm straight up overhead (repeating on the other side). Moving the kettlebell to a horn grip, he then performs several variations of crunches up and over: standard, knees in, twist to either side, and tuck with twist. The next position is plank with one hand on the kettlebell for a knee tuck, and then side plank with a kettlebell pull. Coming back to a lying position, Katami performs a few more challenging crunch variations (bench press with crunch and fly with crunch) and then finishes with seated twists. Coming to hands and knees he concludes this routine with a few brief stretches, including child's pose and cobra. This was my favorite section of the DVD, and I definitely felt it the next day!

Overall, I thought that Katami did a good job with this DVD. He provides very good mirrored cuing, and he often gives form pointers during the exercises, pausing to provide reminders using his background exercisers.

The main problem I have (and why I gave the product 4 out of 5 stars) is with marketing this DVD as being "for Beginners" when it is so clearly NOT appropriate for beginners! First, although a tutorial is included, it is not nearly detailed enough for those who have never tried kettlebells before, and second, the workouts themselves are MUCH too difficult for beginning exercisers--they are more of an intermediate (using a light kettlebell) and even close to an advanced level (using an appropriately heavy kettlebell). Those who are experienced exercisers but new to kettlebells MIGHT be able to get by using this DVD, but for those who are true beginners, I would recommend Andrea DuCane's Kettlebell Boomer (geared toward older adults but great for anyone) or Iron Core Kettlebell (Vol. 1--a little repetitive but an excellent way to learn & grow).

Otherwise, if you have some prior kettlebell experience and are up for a challenge, I would recommend this DVD.

Instructor Comments:
This was my first workout by Paul Katami. I thought he did a very good job as an instructor, offering near-flawless mirrored cuing and frequently giving reminders on form (generally walking to one of his two background exercisers to point out specifics).

Beth C (aka toaster)


Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this workout.

I like Paul Katami, but find most of his workouts are more advanced and/or more intense than I want to work. So, when I saw he had come out with a workout for beginners, regardless of the equipment used, I was interested. I own several kettlebells, so I was set.

I am an almost-50-year-old woman with arthritic hands and wrists and knees. I enjoy standing workouts rather than floor work. I have regularly worked out with videos for over 10 years. And, a few years ago, I took private lessons on using kettlebells for exercise.

This DVD is labeled as a kettlebell workout for beginners. If you have never touched a kettlebell before, I'm hesitant to recommend this DVD as a place to start. Paul gives tons of form pointers and many people will be okay with his instruction, but using kettlebells effectively really depends on form and this DVD does not provide the in-depth, detailed instruction I think people need to use kettlebells. However, it is more detailed and in-depth than most of the mainstream kettlebell workouts that I have seen coming out recently. Many of the others can be downright dangerous. The biggest lack in this DVD is the absence of a discussion about the weight of kettlebell to use. Paul doesn't even mention the topic and any instructional DVD for beginners to kettlebells should address the topic. So, if you have an education in kettlebells already, I think this DVD is a great option. Paul gives many, many, many form pointers in a friendly and encouraging way. He also discusses modifications to moves and encourages people to use the moves that work for them.

The DVD includes 3 workouts, each in the 23 - 29 minute range.

The first is the tutorial, which you can also use as a workout, since it covers all the major muscle groups. Most of the tutorials I have seen have you standing around watching explanations. In this option, Paul briefly explains what you need to know the most and then has you start doing the move as he continues to explain the move.

The second workout puts the basic moves together into drills and combinations. They are easy to follow thanks to Katami's cueing and the demonstrations from him and his two students. I really enjoyed this segment and when he started winding it up I looked around to see what time it was because it didn't seem like it could be done already.

The third workout focuses on building core strength. I found this one to be the most challenging. It starts with standing moves and then moves to the floor with moves like crunches and planks.

The workouts are set outdoors in a really pretty garden setting. There are two background exercisers and Paul spends a lot of time pointing out their form. Frequently, he will start the moves and then move to one of the background exercisers to explain form and then finish the set with them. If you like an instructor that does the entire workout, you won't like this. However, I thought he was really natural about it as he is so all about form in these workouts. The music is there and I can't tell you a thing about it. In other words, it was pretty forgettable.

Overall, I liked that:

> It includes a tutorial on using kettlebells (that can also be used as a workout)
> The instruction is friendly and helpful and specific and effective
> These workouts could be used by a range of beginning to intermediate exercisers
> Workout does not require a lot of space

The one big con to this workout is that there is no guidance on what size kettlebell to use.

Instructor Comments:
He is such a good instructor. He clearly explains what to do in a friendly and engaging way.

Laura S.


This dvd contains these three 25 minute workouts: a tutorial, drills and combos, and a core workout. Paul leads with 2 background exercisers in a beautiful outdoor setting. You will need a kettlebell for these workouts.

Tutorial: Teaches proper form, safety tips, and all of the kettlebell exercises you need to know to do the next two segments.

Drills & Combos: after a warmup each exercise is performed for 30 seconds with little rest in between. Exercises include halo, halo & squat, squat, squat & upright row, swing, swing side step, single arm swing, clean to rack, clean to rack and overhead press, tri extension, progressive lunges, side lunge, side lunge & bi curl, dips, cooldown & stretch.

Core: after a warmup each exercise is performed for 30 seconds with little rest in between. Exercises include halo chops, torso twists, lunge twists, side bend, windmills, bell crunch variations, bell situps, V ups, sit up tuck & twists, a plank series with one hand on the bell, bench press & crunch, fly & crunch, and a stretch.

I rate these solid intermediate routines that are very straight forward and athletic in nature. I think the term beginner in the title is due to the fact that there is a 25 min tutorial included to get you safely started with kettlebells. You can adjust the intensity of the last two routines by adjusting the weight of your kettlebell. I used a dumbbell for these workouts and found it was easy to modify. I received this dvd to review.