Kettlebell Training For Women
By Andrea Du Cane, Senior
Russian kettlebells are great! You’re a guy
and you “get it.” Maybe you’re
in the military, or are into Martial Arts, Powerlifting,
or some other extreme fitness or hardcore training.
Or you’re an FRWTL-gal and have been having
trouble interesting your female friends and clientele.
Maybe you have a wife or girlfriend, who despite
all your pushing and prodding just isn’t interested
in “your thing.” Or being a newly certified
RKC you want to add to your core clientele. How do
you attract women to the RKC program? And then, how
do you address their goals and physical and philosophical
differences, while achieving the results and goals
they want and need? Well, I’m here to help.
Before I begin I would like to add a disclaimer.
The women I am referring to in this article are NOT
the FRWTL and RKC certified women. The FRWTL women
are tough, strong of mind and body. (I want to add
that so I won’t offend any of my tough sisters!)
I am referring to the women who have not yet become “enlightened”;
the ones you will see at your local Curves gym and
Lifetime Fitness. She may be your girlfriend, wife,
sister, mother, neighbor, co-worker or friend. Your
goal is to attract the average women, gym-bunny or
couch potato and turn her into a Tough-Love- Femme-Fatale.
What I have outlined below should give you some tools
you’ll need to do just that.
Getting women interested
First attracting the interest and attention
of women is going to take a different approach than
you first might think.
If you think you’ll impress them with snatching
and pressing the 40kg, well let’s say you’ll
get a reaction, just not what you might expect. Your
average gal is actually thinking either “that’s
too hard or scary” or “that’s not
for me” or “I don’t want to get big
muscles.” And that’s if you’re lucky
and she didn’t turn and run in the opposite direction.
If they didn’t run, have a copy of the FRWTL
book handy and show them the pictures of D.C. Maxwell
and me; that should alleviate any fears or misconceptions.
Women also will not respond in the way you expect
with regard to military attitudes and jargon. Most
women just aren’t into that mentality. That
doesn’t mean they don’t like a hard workout,
they just like you to smile when you ask them to
do 30 more swings. Many women especially those coming
from an aerobics, yoga or dance background, like
a softer, supportive approach. They also tend to
be social and like to talk about what they are feeling
and experiencing during the class or lesson.
Men may scoff at the pastel-colored “Barbie
dumbbells” you see at some gyms. However, like
a bee to a flower, women are attracted to bright
and cheerful objects. The bells will appear less
intimidating. So paint your kettlebells. RKC Anthony
Diluglio painted his kettlebells when he realized
the women at his gym were avoiding the “ominous
looking torture devices.” Once painted, he
couldn’t keep the women away from them.
Target marketing IS important
You will need to market your classes or
private training in a way that will easily get their
attention. I have successfully used these two phrases
to get my female clients excited about kettlebells: “YOGA
WITH WEIGHTS” and “ADVANCED PILATES.” (Whatever
your private thoughts about either yoga or Pilates
may be, it is a hook that works.) Many women have
tried either or both yoga and Pilates. By referring
kettlebells to either of them you are automatically
drawing them in and getting their interest.
Getting more specific with regards to marketing
the exercise program, the biggest seller is: “IT
The average woman above all is interested in weight
management. Next, they want overall fitness, which
includes muscle-toning and cardiovascular health.
Lastly, they are looking for all that in the shortest
amount of time in the “gym.”
give you a few more ideas:
- “ A GYM IN YOUR HAND”
- “ All-IN-ONE FITNESS PROGRAM”
- “ TOTAL BODY WORKOUT”
Form versus function
Women tend to have a different fitness background and
attitude than men. Often they have had some amount
of dance, yoga, and aerobics. Generally they are
faster at learning complex and subtle patterns of
movement (Martial Artists also fall into this category,
whether male or female).
Women tend to have very good coordination with small
motor skills and technique driven exercises. They
are not necessarily interested in “how much
weight,” “how many reps” or “how
fast can I do something.” They will tend to
be more interested in “ how can I do the lift
or drill exercise better,” “how pure
is my form.” In other words, they like the
poetry-in-motion feeling. And, of course, they want
to know it will give them the results they are looking
Let’s look at some of the physical differences;
some of it is obvious and some is not. First, women
have less overall muscle than men. They have more
flexibility, especially in the hips, legs and shoulders.
That is why an average women will have better form
in the Good Mornings, Windmills, and Overhead Squats
right from the start. These exercises will come faster
and easier for women than perhaps for a man.
Women also tend to have a greater relative lower-body
strength than upper body. This means they will tend
to have an easier time with lower body exercises
and can use heavier weights than for the upper body.
Modified Pistols are a good example; women have an
easier time with Box-Pistols than many of the men
in my experience.
Here is an example with this reverse strength ratio.
I was teaching a class and had to switch weights
with a 30-year-old male, who had been using his 20kg
for upper body, with a 55-year-old female, who had
been using an 8kg. They switched weights for the
one-legged deadlifts. Yet, she could barely do one
set of Military Presses with the 8kg. With this tendency
for great differences in strength, it is very helpful
when training women to have a number of different
size KBs around just for that reason. I recommend
8kg, 12kg and 16kg.
A less obvious but important training tip is to
remember that women tend to have looser and more
flexible joints. This is a result of the different
hormones, which I’ll address later. This can
be both a good and a bad thing. Having more flexible
joints allows them to get down into deeper positions,
but there is also a greater risk of injury. Watch
for hyper mobile elbows and knees, and weak wrists.
Keep a careful eye out for proper technique and clean
grooves. If they tend toward hyperextending their
elbows teach them to hold back, to go to STRAIGHT-arm
and not beyond that point.
The major difference This brings me to the not often
mentioned hormonal differences and how that can affect
a women’s training.
First, as you all know, women have much less testosterone
than men. You can honestly tell the women you train
that they will NOT end up looking like Mike Mahler;
no matter how hard they try. As I said earlier, have
her take a look at the FRWTL book or video for a
more realistic role model. D.C. and I are living
examples of what women can achieve with the FRWTL
Hormones have monthly effects, as well. This is
a very individual thing, many women have little or
no monthly symptoms, and others notice big changes.
Keep in mind that their strength, energy and stamina
may be lower. Also, they may complain of lower back
pain. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish whether
the pain is hormonal or training related. They should
listen to their own body and not push it if it doesn’t
Kettlebells and pregnancy
If you are training someone who is pregnant or recently
given birth, they MUST check with their doctor first,
they need to be “cleared” before you
should work with them. I am not an M.D., but here
are a few things to keep in mind:
- Their hormones will have further loosened their
- The joints will become weaker and more prone
to injury, so best to avoid exercises that can
put undo stress on the joints. For example, Windmills
can be replaced with Overhead Squats or the Side
Press. Another option is to go down to a lower
weight for most of the overhead drills.
- Pregnant women tend to overheat easily. Overheating
should be avoided. Lower the intensity of the cardio
- Avoid Power Breathing or any high pressurization
techniques. This means you will have to avoid the
exercises that specifically require them. Front
Squat is a good example. Have them do Dragon Walks
or lower the weight so pressurization isn’t
Is it safe to do Kettlebells during pregnancy? A
lot will depend on the woman and her initial fitness
level. As long as she has her doctor’s permission,
listens to her body’s signals, lowers the intensity
and weight when necessary, kettlebells can be a healthy
addition to pregnancy.
Kettlebells and menopause
Menopause (which usually happens between the ages of
45 and 50) is another time of incredible change and
challenge for many women. I believe Kettlebell training
is the secret to a smooth and healthy transition.
There are many different symptoms and effects, and
each woman will experience something completely different.
I will address a few of them here.
It is a good idea to have them checked out by a
doctor to make sure they are in overall, good health.
A few common symptoms are:
- Loss of energy and endurance.
- Sudden loss of strength.
- Unexplained weight gain, especially around the
You may think this is no concern of yours, but if
you are training someone it IS your responsibility
to know what’s going on with their bodies,
because it will affect their training. I have heard
from many women going through menopause, about their
feelings of frustration, failure and depression.
It appears all their hard work has disappeared. The
worst thing they can do is quit. Adjustments need
to be made in their training, perhaps increasing
or decreasing weight or intensity. Again the most
important thing they can do is listening to their
bodies and not giving up. The most important thing
you can do as their instructor is be supportive and
make changes where necessary.
Don’t make this mistake
You may already know much of what was in this article;
hopefully you learned some new and useful tools.
If you’re thinking, why spend the time and
energy trying to attract women clients; you’d
rather work with athletes or servicemen? Well, I’ll
tell you why: Women make up a huge portion of the
fitness market. Tapping into that will result in
a successful kettlebell training business for you!