Kettlebell Training for Youth Athletes




Youth Athletes With Kettlebells

by Pamela MacElree of www.KettlebellAthletics.com


Kettlebell training for kids and youth athletes

There really are hundreds of ways to train youth athletes, all the way from traditional weight lifting to strongman training, and everywhere in between.  Some programs focus strictly on gaining mass, some focus entirely on sport specific practice, some can’t get enough speed and agility, and others have no real basis at all.  Implementing kettlebell training into a youth training program has a variety of complimentary benefits to existing programs.


1. Limited equipment  Often times equipment can be limited in the weight room, but when implementing kettlebell training with youth athletes it’s very easy to have 2-4 athletes train on one kettlebell in multiple small groups.  This is also another way to add team building into a training program.


2. Fresh air   Kettlebell training can certainly be taken outside.  It’s the perfect reason to train outdoors but not necessarily touch on sport specific practice on the field.


3. Ease of implementation  Much of Kettlebell training is based off of Olympic Weight lifting variations, but with slightly less technical requirements.  Kettlebell training also requires less flexibility than what is sometimes required in Olympic Weight lifting.


4. Cost  This is a big factor, especially when dealing with limited school budgets.  

For the cost of one machine, many kettlebells can be purchased for training, allowing multiple youth athletes to train at one time.


5. Fun  Kettlebell training is fun.  Plain and simple, no explanation needed.


These a just a few examples of why it’d be beneficial to integrate Kettlebell training into an older youth training program.


This is really just the introduction to youth Kettlebell training, there are far more topics to explore such athletic development, power endurance training, general fitness, and the list goes on. 


Going forward I’ll be addressing each of these topics individually.  In the mean time if there’s something specific you want to know, let me know, and I’ll get the information to you.

29 Responses

  1. I’d love to read your opinion on what age this would be safe to start at…along with which exercises would be applicable to each age group.

    I’m keen to start a youth kettlebell class!

  2. Erak says:

    Hi Brian,

    I have a 7 year old son that plays tennis and I’m showing him how to do some basic kettlebell moves using a 2kg weight. How does this fit with what you’re promoting?

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Kind Regards
    Erak Simsson
    Also: http://www.sportscircuits.co.uk

  3. Neil Plimmer says:

    We coach children of all ages, golf, from 4 – 16
    Do you have any ideas/thoughts on how we could implement using kettleballs into our development coaching

  4. I am going to be working with a group of 9-12 year old hockey players. Would kettlebells be appropriate for this age group? And, could you share a few exercises that would be beneficial for hockey athletes?

    Thank you.

  5. Does the IYCA really believe that strongman training is ideal for kids?

  6. John Yo says:

    This is great to see someone else is training kids with kettlebell. I agree 100% with what you have written about kettlebell. I have been training youth with kettlebell since I opened my coaching facility and getting a great results, meanwhile they are having fun doing it.

    This is another great tools of trade!

    Best of luck!
    John Yo

  7. Dr. Kwame M Brown says:


    I don’t believe that’s what’s being said here. The kettlebell is simply an implement. How you use it, and how much, is up to the maturity level of the kids, your application of the art of coaching, and knowledge of developmental physiology. I think that you may be extrapolating here based on maybe your experience with kettlebells, or your concept of what that training is.

  8. Rob Wagner says:

    How about we just teach the basic weight training exercises with a empty or light bar. As far as the ascertion that the kettlebell movements are similar to Oly Lifts, depends on the teacher, my experience is that they promote to much swing in the movements removing the linear force development that is required in sport and do not reinforce the upper body positions that are required for effective weightlifting. I would also question why I would want children not to enhance their flexibility if possible at the same time while building a strength foundation and improving coordination. Don’t believe the hype.

  9. Mike says:

    Kettlebells can be a lot of fun to use and don’t require the same level of expertise as olympic lifts, but they do require that the coach / trainer know how to properly use them. I’ve see a lot of kettlebell video on youtube and other sites that is pretty bad in the way the tool is being used. There are many certified kettlebell instructors around that can teach their proper use. Find someone who has been certified by RKC, AKC, or AOS to learn the proper technique first before you try and start coaching kids to use them.

  10. Dr. Kwame M Brown says:


    Before I go any further, I don’t use kettlebells. But this is not because I don’t believe they can be a great implement. It’s just because I don’t have any!

    The regulation / mastery of swing and momentum are perfectly valid skills to have for a young athlete. Again, making decisions about maturity physically and mentally is the job of the experienced, well educated coach.

    “required for effective weightlifting”: I can tell you that I, for one, do not believe that the end goal of training is effective weightlifting. It is command of the degrees of freedom an athlete needs to move effectively. There are many paths to that destination.

    Barbells and sticks can, on the flip side (if this is the only movement experienced), make kids rigid. I don’t think that anyone is talking about ONLY using kettlebells. It seems that may be the assumption you made.

    The nervous system is certainly capable of learning to “switch” between different movement patterns. Furthermore, this switching, and variety of movement focus and pattern, can make for a better mover in the long run.

    The IYCA is for the use of the Art of Coaching, applied with knowledge of development and physiology, no matter what the implement is.

    Let’s stop prejudging things until we know how they are being applied.

  11. Let me see if I can answer all these…

    Christian, I wouldn’t start kettlebell training with most kids.youth until they’ve reached that 13/14 age range. That being said all the kids/youth that I’ve worked mostly focus on bodyweight and game-based play.

    Aaron, in the intro I was referring to the IYCA believing that strongman training was ideal, I was encompassing all programs that are out there and available.

    Kelli, I probably wouldn’t load 9 year olds, I tend to have them stick with BW exercises and agility type work at this age.

    Rob, I agree that some bar work especially for a focus on strength development and the type of athlete is essential. There are several variations and teaching styles when it comes to kettlebell training. Whenever I’m dealing with a more athletic population youth or adult, I teach and implement a recti-linear pattern for the lifts (as opposed to the variations that hike back behind the hips – which is most often taught). Kettlebell lifts can be taken from the same dead hang position or pulled from the floor as with barbell training.

  12. Christian, I meant to write that the kids/youth I’ve worked with under the age of 13/14 focus more on bodyweight and game-based play.

  13. Raj Thompson says:

    I always thought kettlebells was the way to go for the furture of athletic training. What age and how much weight should kids be working with because most kids are stronger than others. How would you incorporate kettlebell training if you are using olympic lifts? Thank you


  14. Raj, as with all other training the weight is going to depend on the individual athlete’s strength and skill set. I wouldn’t be able to say that all 15year olds should be using a certain size kettlebell. If they are just starting out probably somewhere around 20-30lbs depending on the person. If olympic lifts were the bigger part of your program I would include kettlebell training 2-3 times a week as a conditioning tool. However, there are a lot of variables surrounding your question.

  15. Joyce Stevens says:

    This is exciting! I have been using kettlebells with my youth soccer teams for 3 years! Any time you add weight to a workout, whether kids or adults, it should be done with safety in mind. But I have found that the kids love them and Pam is right….you can use one bell with a small group and I can take the workout and make it double as a teambuilding activity as well. As far as kids using weights, my kids back packs weigh more than the kettlebell they use and they carry them around all day long! Our schools do not provide lockers! They continually pick their back packs up, put them down, throw them on their back, throw it on the desk, walk to and from class or the bus stop with it over their shoulder or on their back, etc….many of the kettlebell movements mimic these movements! Kettlebells are great!

  16. Jonathan Wengel says:

    We use Kettlebells with all of our clients, young and old.
    Kettle bells are great if used properly and consistently ( meaning proper instruction and using them more than once a month).
    We like them for the fact that they promote “unilateral movements”–
    How often do we see people so strong on one side and so weak on the other. Kettlebells for youth training makes sense so the participant can work one side at a time . We use 5lb KB to start with then once proper form and technique is consistent then we advance in weight.

  17. Mike, I forgot to mention that Kettlebell Athletics offers a Kettlebell Certification that is focused directly toward fitness professionals and sport coaches.

    Jonathan, I agree, just as with every other training tool, kettlebells are great when they are used properly as well as when they are instructed by someone who uses them properly on a regular basis. The other key point to what you wrote, about exposing the weaknesses found in unilateral movements is very accurate.

  18. SoCal Brian says:

    First let me say, I appreciate reading these articles. Kettle bells are a really old form of training used by russian soldiers. I personally don’t think they are necessary or that good for youth training. I know that they can be a little uncomfortable and dangerous at first to use and they are very expensive for what your getting. I would advise looking up some of the adjustable versions for the kids to use at first and go from there if you like them. I’m old school and proud of it, I like to stick to the basics while training kids. Thanks for all of the information and comments, information is key!

  19. Eru says:

    Firstly,welcome Pamela,i am a new convert to the kettlebell type training and find it a dynamic and exciting option too get my athlete’s into shape,soo can’t wait to get more info.(nb.I get the younger athlete to use a light weight just to assimilate that explosive type movement.) Eru

  20. Tim James says:

    @ socal Brian G’day mate,

    I dont know what your experience is with Kettlebells but I have had huge success training a moto cross youth (14 yo) with implementing them along with body weight exercises. He went to take first place in State titles.

    I am Australian certified and I disagree that they are uncomfortable and expensive. When I consider that once I have a kettlebell I can work every muscle in my body I dont NEED any other equipment then I think they are actually undervalued.

    Now you know I am passionate, thank you for posting.

    Good to see you here Pam, looking forward to more posts.

    Cheers Tim

  21. Dr. Kwame M Brown says:

    Has anyone ever checked out sandbells? These may solve some of the inherent issues, and provide a new kind of stimulus as well.


    Eric Chessen told me to check these out a while back.

    Great discussion all! I don’t think that we should get so “married” to our points of view sometimes. Realize that there is an inherent danger in pretty much everything we do that is progressive. The biggest issue is figuring out based on the kids in front of you when the right time is to progress. What is the right equipment to use based on your facilities / requirements / population?

    I agree with the fact that the kettlebells can be awkward to use for the “unpracticed”.

    Use discussions like these to shape what you do. There are no “requirements” here, except for developing a student’s ability to command his / her body without becoming part of the problem. Have you tried kettlebells? Are they not working out for you and the group of kids that you work with? Do you have the requisite expertise (as with anything else)? Find the answer to the questions, and solve the problem.

    The old school comment is funny to me actually. Kettlebells are pretty darn old school. So is squatting. Again, how is it used. Heck, yoga can be dangerous when improperly taught.

  22. John Yo says:

    First, ketllbell workouts not all about what you see on Youtube videos and others. It is how you implement it. This is another valuable tool coaches can use it to enhance the youth’s fitness level. But you gotta know and must learn what kettlebell training is all about before you implement it.

    kind regards,

    John Yo

  23. BJ Gaddour says:

    Great post Pam and having just caught the kettlebell bug after being Level I certified through Kettlebell Athletics I can say firsthand that kettlebell training with proper progression can have massive benefits for EVERY athlete, young and old 😉

    Crank it Pam!


  24. Naomi says:

    I agree with Dr. Kwame, a few people here are jumping the gun and basically implying things that were never said in the post above made by Pamela. I love Kettlebells and it is up to a coach to decide when a young athlete is ready to implement these tools.

    If your first thought in implementing kettlebells with youth is to go super young and the route of a Strongman, then you’re right, you probably shouldn’t train them with kettlebells. However, the person who approaches it with at least an ounce of common sense can do a great job with it.

    @Socal- There are plenty of “old school” implements that have some degree of danger, namely barbells (with added plates). I think the most important thing is to be properly trained in using the tool with proper progressions which will in turn minimize associated risks.

  25. Rob Wagner says:


    Please look at my post again the info I placed in the message was drawn from Pams original post. My statement about effective weightlifting positions relates to the statement that KB movements are based off of Oly Lift variations. I am not certain on the history of the KB vs the BB but as far as the pull mechanics of OLY lifting and KB there are major differences just based of a single arm approach let alone the myriad of others that come into play. In my experience as a collegiate S&C head coach and a sport performance business owner and trainer, many, not all, but many individuals with good intentions and certifications teach improperly. I know Pam and Jason Brown whom she works with. They are excellentteachers and the comments are not at them. But when I see posts about 7 years olds and KB training I am left concerned at all levels. While I admit that my don’t believe the hype statement made it look judgemental, it was more out of concern of people goingdown a path that may not be in the best interest of the athlete.

  26. Jason Oldham says:

    I have been using kettlebells with my students at school and they absolutely love them. You obviously needs to be cautious with many of the movements you do with a kettlebell but a basic swing and sumo squat not only provide the students with a muscular strength alternate but also one that is great for muscular endurance. Many kids are not exposed to the different ways that you can workout like in the past. I believe that this has lead to a contributor in kids being obese no more creative play and kids do not know how to exercise. Has anyone seen any videos on YouTube or on other website of school aged children using indian clubs on a regular basis. Where has the need for authentic strength and endurance gone? Now we kids are told how to workout with Wii Fit and so on. More tools that students have the easier it is for them to grasp something that they like.

  27. Cheers Pam,

    I was thinking of the 15 plus age group.

    Are there any exercises you would steer away from when training teenagers?

    I’m thinking most are ok, as long as the overload is appropriate?

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  29. Lorraine says:

    I enjoyed your article and all the thoughful comments about youth training. We as parents need to educate ourselves about the options and opportunities for physical activity and fun. My daughter uses KTB’s as a part of a afterschool program . She loves it and it offers a change of pace from the regular activites they do at school. This excercise program provides a great off season activity for her. I recently wrote about her experience on my website.


    I recieved one comment that was particulary hasrh.Mostly from a point of view that was not based on science but unfounded “feelings”. I think what we do for our children should be base to the best of our abilty on current knowledge. Sites like this help tremendouously the parent that desires up to date information. Thanks for sharing this timely information.

    Dr.Lorraine Williams

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