If you want to add strength to the training program of your children and are not sure what kettlebell exercises are safe for your kids then this article will explain exactly what 5 kettlebell exercises for kids or children are good to start with.
Priority Number 1 Groundwork
Adding strength training is a great thing and is highly recommended for ages 7 and up but there are some very important rules to follow, and in fact, they apply to any age. Before adding resistance, which the kettlebell is, the groundwork needs to be done, and a foundation of strength needs to be built.
The groundwork is making sure that the fundamental movements are executed correctly and that there is already some strength, especially core strength. The fundamental movements are bodyweight-only movements upon which a lot of kettlebell exercises depend, they are:
- Hip hinge
If these fundamental exercises are not performed correctly then there is no need to add additional resistance/weight to them, and doing so would cause injury or other issues. This applies to any age, there really is no different rule for children. Of course, children are likely to have less strength than an adult, and therefore more caution should be taken and the steps that are usually skipped by adults should definitely be taken.
The only other difference to take into consideration is attention span and focus, which should be supervised and promoted by an adult/professional.
Kettlebell Exercises For Kids Or Children To Build Strength
Priority Number 2 Safe Progression
Once you’ve made sure that they have the strength to perform the fundamental movements and do them correctly, then it’s time to add resistance, this is where the kettlebell comes in. You start very light and teach them to respect the weight. Refrain from explosive fast movements until the kettlebell fundamentals are covered, they are:
- Squat deadlift
- Hip hinge deadlift
- Assisted dead clean drill AKA cheat clean
- Shoulder press
- Supported split stance bent-over row
The squat deadlift is one of the safest ways to lift the kettlebell and works all the muscles in the legs, every joint is involved, i.e. the ankles, knees, and hips, which makes it a great exercise to develop strength in many areas while staying as safe as possible.
When the squat is done correctly, i.e. hips low and shoulders high on the down phase, then the back is less affected than it would be in a hip hinge. A conventional hip hinge is two joints, the knees and hips, and the shoulders come low and the hips stay high. This movement puts a lot of load on the back, this is not a back thing, on the contrary, but the form and technique plus the right weight progression and programming needs to be present.
The hip hinge deadlift is great for laying the movement pattern later used for the swing, which progresses to the clean, and finally the snatch. But all that is for much later in life. The deadlift also strengthens the back, which is super important for staying injury-free.
The assisted dead clean drill AKA cheat clean is super important for teaching some of the most important aspects of kettlebell training, which is the grip transition for the clean and racking. They’re often overlooked, but the clean is the exercise that everyone NEEDS to learn. If you want to press, you need to clean, if you want to perform any other exercise that starts from racking, then you need to clean the weight up. Not spending time here is what often leads to misunderstanding the clean, and getting blisters, and bruises.
The shoulder press with very light weight is used to create overhead stability and flexibility in the shoulders. Before doing anything overhead like jerks, windmills, snatches, etc., stability, strength, and flexibility need to be present in the shoulders. The strict slow and controlled shoulder press will lay this foundation.
The supported split stance bent-over row works on another very important area and that is the latissimus dorsi, also known as lats. This exercise works on the rear delt, lat, and triceps. The support of one arm on the knee is used to not overtrain the core which already does a lot of work in the squat, hip hinge, and even in the shoulder press.
What Weight To Start Kids With?
The lightest weight that you can find is the weight to start with, for example, 2kgs/4.5lbs. When is it time to up the weight? You increase the weight gradually and only once the child shows full and total control of the weight. That means that the full movement is made without instability and the weight goes all over the place with whatever exercise is performed. Remember, the weight will be different across exercises, the more muscle involved (think joints), the heavier the weight can be, and the fewer muscles involved, the lighter the weight has to be.
For example, a squat involves both legs and 3 joints on each side, that’s 6 joints that will work to lift the weight. Muscles act upon the joints. A shoulder press is unilateral and only involves 2 joints.
Making Sure It’s Done Right
Teaching your children about strength training takes a lot of time, if you do not have that or just want to make sure it’s done correctly, find yourself an online or local kettlebell coach and get them involved. If you are going to teach your kids, then you should educate yourself in all the important areas like avoiding common mistakes and preventing injuries. We have designed several online instructional videos and written books that help you understand these topics.
The Most Important Thing
And the most important thing is fun, it needs to be fun for your child to work out with the kettlebell and create strength. The great thing is, with a good program, and close observation, not much time is needed out of your child’s day. What makes it even better is that it doesn’t need to take much time for you either. You can both work on creating strength together in a short period of time. That is if you’re working for maximal strength.
And what’s better than spending time with your child or children, enjoying yourselves, and also improving your lives, and working on something so important for children especially?
Progressing With Complexity
I mentioned that ballistic exercises should be done later in life, but there really is no magic number of months or years that should pass. If the progression is followed correctly, the foundation is laid, and the strength and ability are there, then a child can move on to kettlebell swings, but again, with a light weight, but heavy enough to provide resistance. The reps and sets should be low and the highest priority should be put on form and technique.
The same goes for the kettlebell clean and snatch.
By far, this video is one of the most important ones that you can and should start your children with. Once the groundwork is laid, you can look at other strength training ideas.
Should kids use kettlebells?
Yes, kids should use a kettlebell under the guidance of an adult and with the progression as explained above.
What size kettlebell should I get for kids?
The lowest weight possible and under close observation you should work on progression. Don’t worry about getting weights too light, a light weight will be good later on for shoulder raises and mobility work.
What type of exercise is best for children?
The best kettlebell exercises are those 5 listed above after the requirements are met, and the exercises are: squat deadlift, hip hinge deadlift, assisted dead clean drill AKA cheat clean, shoulder press, and supported split stance bent-over row.
Is a 4 kg kettlebell too light?
It is generally too light for ballistic exercises, as explained above, those need to be progressed too. For an adult, a 4 kg is too light to do anything fast, but it can be okay for slow and controlled shoulder raises. For a child, it will be good for a lot of slow exercises, like the 5 covered in this article.
What is a good workout for a 10-year-old?
A good kettlebell workout for a 10-year-old is one that includes all 5 of the exercises covered in this article.
Still not sure whether your child should be strength training or not? Stanford Medicine says “Weight Room No Longer Off-Limits to Kids” https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=weight-room-no-longer-off-limits-to-kids-1-1187