5-disc DVD set; includes 12-week workout plan and illustrated instructional poster
For those who don’t spend a ton of time in the gym, kettlebell training can seem like a fairly intimidating workout, especially when you think about the potential risk of injury. While this perception is understandable, it is also unfortunate because, when used correctly kettlebells can be an incredibly effective form of training.
Trainer Michael Skogg aims to demystify kettlebell training and make it accessible to every fitness level, even those who have never touched a kettlebell before. This 5-DVD set includes a 32-minute instructional disc, which covers basic form, including stance, hip crease and thrust, and an introduction to the kettlebell. Also covered are the hand pass (used frequently in the workouts), as well as the six primary moves: swing, clean, clean and press, squat, high pull and snatch. These six basic moves comprise the four levels of workouts featured in the remaining four discs: beginner (1), intermediate (2), advanced (3) and warrior (4). Each level builds upon the next, so workouts become progressively longer as the exerciser becomes stronger. Warm-ups and cool-downs run about five minutes each, while the workout portions range between 10 and 35 minutes.
The four workout DVDs also feature progressively harder workouts: Roots, Intervals, Ladders and Flow. According to the enclosed 12-week workout guide, the Ladders workout isn’t introduced until week 4, while a Flow workout isn’t attempted until week 5. Of course, more advanced exercisers may choose to try these workouts earlier. Each level uses the same warm-ups and cool-downs, although each DVD features a unique set of warm-up and cool-down exercises. The workout portions feature variations on the six basic exercises, so, while the workouts do become increasingly more challenging, the exercises remain largely the same (a feature that may not appeal to those requiring more variety in their workouts). These exercises are foundational to many kettlebell-training programs and are effective for targeting the entire body, including the core.
Each workout features a different approach to training: basic (alternating sides), intervals, ladders (quickly moving between exercises and increasing from one rep to five on alternating sides) and flow (doing all the exercises on one side, top to bottom; switching sides and performing the exercises from bottom to top). The last two workouts are the most challenging, particularly as the exercises move quickly from one to the next and feature a lot of passing the kettlebell between the hands. This can easily lead to a dropped kettlebell or poor form, so exercisers should be particularly cautious during these segments (even the beginning levels are challenging in this respect).
Skogg includes detailed instruction on form and technique throughout every workout. It helps that his demeanor is calm, yet motivating—he’s not a drill sergeant, which is appropriate given the fact that getting too revved up or “pumped” could quickly lead to poor form and injury. Even with the detailed instructions, however, it is always a good idea to receive in-person, hands-on instruction when trying a new modality or technique. Kettlebells are no exception—to help ensure good form and proper technique, it is always a good idea to receive some one-on-one instruction prior to attempting at-home workouts.
Recommendations are given for appropriate kettlebell weights for both men and women at each fitness level. The lightest recommended weight for beginners is 4 kg (9 lb) for women and 8 kg (18 lb) for men. However, exercisers should choose a weight that feels most comfortable, especially as they work to develop good technique (i.e., those who are strong, but new to kettlebells, should consider starting with a lighter weight, even if they think they are accustomed to using heavier loads). Also, it might be worth investing in two sizes of kettlebells—a lighter one for warm-ups and a heavier one for workouts. No additional equipment is required. (Note: Skogg and his participants perform the workouts in bare feet, but this shouldn’t discourage those who feel more comfortable—and protected—while wearing shoes.) Exercisers are urged to complete “level testing” before progressing. For example, beginners should be able to perform snatches for one minute per arm before moving on to the intermediate level.
The Skogg System is a straight-forward, no-nonsense workout program that, when followed, is sure to produce results. The instructions are clear, the workouts build upon each other and are challenging for a wide range of exercise levels. As mentioned earlier, kettlebells can be an extremely effective form of training—but it can also be harmful if not performed correctly or safely. At-home instructional videos like the Skogg System offer exercisers the opportunity to enjoy these workouts at home, regardless of their fitness level. However, to be on the safe side, it is always a good idea to receive hands-on instruction on good form for each exercise, prior to performing kettlebell workouts at home.
What we liked:
· Comprehensive system that is appropriate for a wide range of fitness levels, from beginner to “warrior”
· Detailed instructional DVD, combined with a poster of the six basic movements, encourages safety and good form
· Each workout becomes progressively longer and more challenging as the exerciser becomes stronger
· Instructor’s demeanor is calm, yet motivating; requires no equipment other than one or two kettlebells
What we didn’t like:
· The use of the same six basic exercises throughout all the workouts may not offer enough variety for some exercisers