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Why Kettlebell DVD Workouts Freak Us Out

KettlebellDVDsKettlebells 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-kettlebellBob 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-kettlebellsJillian 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-kettlebell10 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

FTC disclosure: We often receive products from companies to review. All thoughts and opinions are always entirely our own. Unless otherwise stated, we have received no compensation for our review and the content is purely editorial. Affiliate links may be included. If you purchase something through one of those links we may receive a small commission. Thanks for your support!


  1. Jackie says:

    Thank you so much for these excellent reviews. It’s great to be able to learn more about a fitness DVD before spending (or, in some cases, wasting!) money on it. 🙂

  2. Gbea says:

    I really like Lauren Brooks’ DVDs – Body Sculpt and Conditioning w/Kettlebells Volumes 1&2 – lots of instruction and excellent follow-along-workouts. I also enjoy Anthony DiLuglio’s The Kettlebell Way Volume 2 – no instruction, follow-along-workouts only (but he has several other instruction-type DVDs). I also have a few that are more aerobic (I guess that’s the instructor’s intent?) but they move so fast it makes me nervous I’m going to bash my knee in or something so I don’t do them as often.

  3. Kelly says:

    DVD’s are definitely NOT the best way to train if you are unfamiliar with the movements & apparatus are unfamiliar.

    If you are interested in Kettlebell training, find a personal trainer who is Kettlebell certified. I despise the “Bodypump with Kettlebells” format!

  4. Lynn says:

    You’re looking at the wrong DVDs for kettlebells. Try Lauren Brooks, Missy Beaver or Art of Strength. These people know what they are doing!

  5. vicki says:

    A personal trainer had me using kettleballs for a workout once. I generally have good form using weights. But because you need to swing the kettleball, it seemed very easy to pull something out of alignment by accident. This made me nervous–injuries take so long to recover from for us AARP members. Maybe it’s a misperception, but as the poll proposed, kettleballs aren’t my cuppa.

  6. mia says:

    Tracy Reifkind’s New kettlebell swing DVD is amazing, though it’s not a follow along workout, but a taping of a workshop she gave.

    I think i read that she’s taping a follow-along beginner workout soon, which I’m expecting awesomeness from.

  7. Nicole says:

    Why not mention a few TRUE kettlebell workouts, by actual certified trainers, like Lauren Brooks, Sarah Lurie, Anthony Diluglio? Any of those three (as well as Pavel!) are GREAT to learn proper form from, so you’re working out safely. As for the Jillian dvd, it’s been pretty widely stated that several of the moves in her dvd are made up and very unsafe, and her form is awful. I lost all respect for her when she released this dvd, because clearly she was out to make a quick buck by jumping into something she knew nothing about.

  8. Tamara says:

    Thank you for giving an honest review. I had been thinking of purchasing a kettleball dvd but was very conconcerned about these very issues. Glad I read this first! I can always count on the FBG to be honest and informed!

  9. Missy says:

    I use the Iron Core/Sarah Lurie DVDs. They are good. Marianne Kane has her own website with free workouts at http://www.myomytv.com. Marianne ROCKS!!!

  10. suzzielux says:

    Beginners should NEVER let a dvd be their first tutorial on how to use a kettleball. There are plenty of good workout programs that contain much simpler moves, yet still get your heart up. Shreddingpounds.com is a new site that comest to mind. So does metabolicconditioning.com.You want to get in shape, yes. But safety first.

  11. Debbie says:

    The DVD’s you reviewed are not really the the best since the celeb trainers you picked don’t really know kettlebells. I am a certified kettlebell instructor and would not recommend to kb train to a dvd form and safety are very import!!!! My clients all own their own, so when they can’t to me they can still do it on there own. And they do!!! They love it!!!
    Lauren Brooks has some great dvd’s out take a look at those.

  12. I couldn’t agree more–If you’ve never worked with kettlebells before, seek professional instruction from a certified kettlebell trainer. Training at home is great, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you will get hurt.

  13. Megan says:

    I have never watched the kettlebell videos that were recommended, however I have seen the poor form used on Biggest Loser. It scares me. Kettlebells are one of the most amazing workouts I have ever tried, yet if done improperly, one can hurt themselves very bad. Find a certified russian kettlebell trainer, then work hard & have fun.

  14. Lynn says:

    Just adding my opinion to this article…
    Yes, KB workouts are extreme can be extreme if you don’t start with the beginner level, like most will do if they have any sense. I have not yet attended a formal class or training session with Kettlebells which you insist is important. I wanted to try this new workout method and purchased the GoFit.net Kettlebell Konnections DVD by certified Kettlebell instructor Jessica Huthmaker. It teaches you to safely and effectively execute the kettlebell basic moves. It was a sound investment 6 months ago as I was able to pick it up at Target, and the package included the 7lb Kettlebell, much like Bob’s set.
    As a testimony to Jessica’s coaching skills, she does a remarkable job teaching the moves and I never once felt I was in harms way following her workout. Unfortunately, that is the message I got from this reviewer. “Freak us out” is part of the title of the article.

  15. Sexylibra says:

    Thanks for the review I was thinking about purchasing a dvd

  16. Jane says:

    My personal trainer recently had me start using the kettlebell swing as part of my workout. I really liked it and I could really feel how it was affecting my muscles. I agree with others; if you don’t know at all what you’re doing; it’s probably best to begin with a certified trainer. If you can’t afford that, I just purchased the Lauren Brooks DVD on Amazon; she’s a wonderful instructor and makes it easy to follow her routine. Try it out if you want a really good workout!

  17. molly says:

    The kettlebell workouts really helped me to tone up and lose weight. After looking at some reviews http://shrinkingtheplanet.com/weighless/?p=7375 I started with a beginnger dvd that gave me some very detailed instructions on how to perform the moves and safety tips. I was then able to do the workouts correctly.

  18. The kelltlebell workout is the best workout i have ever done. i am a 22 year old dutch student with really not that much time to train on a daily bases. the kettlebell workout was and still is the best workout out there for me. In The Netherlands this workout is not this popular so i made a website recommending this product. It is an awesome workout i could see the effects on my body within a month.

  19. Monica M. says:

    The Bob Harper kettlebell is the most ridiculous ripoff of a kettlebell yet invented by another one of these fraudulent “celebrity trainers.” Just like Jillian Michaels doesn’t know anything about correct kettlebell technique, Bob Harper doesn’t know anything about kettlebell design. There is a reason kettlebells have endured for centuries in the classic design. Do NOT buy this absurdity. Buy a real, quality kettlebell from a reputable manufacturer like http://www.kettlebellsusa.com

    And get some real instruction from an actual kettlebell instructor.

  20. HeatherNoble says:

    DuCane is certified, so is Sarah Lurie, Lauren Brooks and several others. All of them have kick-a** workouts on DVD. Just because some people want to make a buck (fitness gurus like Kathy Smith, Jillian – neither of whom have proper form, I wince just watching them) doesn’t mean the sport is bad, derp. That’s common sense. Research the credentials and training of the instructor, that’s all. Basic common sense.

  21. Hey! I’m a trainer/pilates instructor/blogger outside of Nashville. I’ve just recently started studying kettlebell and am taking classes. As I was writing a review about my experience, I came across this article and could not agree with you more! I love that you did a review of the DVD’s! Super helpful. I added a link to your post on my review!
    Check it out: AshleyBensonFitness.com – “Kettlebell Review”


  22. Dee says:

    Thanks for the review!
    As a trainer/ fitness & pilates instructor (and yes, kettlebell certified) it really upsets me that industry ‘professionals’ feel they can sell equipement they know very little about! The biggest misconception that most women have when using kettlebells is that they chose something too light; sorry 10lbs is too light, especially if you are somewhat fit. The idea is to have weight a little heavier, so you can utilize strength from you middle and through momentum (especially in swings). The weight connects you to your core through posterior and anterior core systems; cleans, swing, snatches, etc should be explosive and come from your middle (ahem, core!) you should not feel like you’ve used your elbow or wrist to get the move down. Find a certified professional to learn technique and form, then if you really want use a video, go nuts!

  23. Sadie says:

    I love Sarah Lurie’s Iron Core DVD set. She is certified. She has great tips to keep you from hurting your back. Her CDs provide a true workout when you use a heavier bell–you have to work up to the right size bell. The first 2 CDs of the set teach you how to use the kettlebells. The other 2 CDs are heavy workouts. Its a great workout for days when I can’t get to the gym.

  24. Wendy Roberts says:

    I agree with everyone’s Sarah Lurie comments. I had never used a kettlebell before I purchased her 4 cd set Iron Core about 5 months ago.
    The first two dvds really teach and constantly remind you of proper form OVER reps. Then moving on to the Kettlebell Boot Camp and Kettlebell Warrior (2nd two cds in the set) once you have really mastered proper technique learned in the first two videos. Her tips, reminders, and shots from all angles really walk you through what to do … and what not to do. I started on a teeny tiny 5lb-er just to get the feeling of the correct technique. Then up to 10, and quickly onto 15lb. Now, I am ready for the 20lbs.
    Already a person who worked out 4-6 hours per week (cardio and calisenthics) – I have been trying to gain noticeable abs, stronger legs and toned arms – finally have defined abs, arms, and leg muscles for the first time in my life!
    Cannot say enough good things about Sarah’s DVDs!

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