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Fit Over 40: How to Safely Train Kettlebells for Strength Endurance

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Forty is the new twenty — with a side serving of occasional hip and back pain.

That being said, those over the age of forty tend to know their bodies best, and remain rife with endurance and fortitude, while perhaps making “smarter” choices when it comes to their fitness routines.

So, if you’re forty or over and looking to give your at-home fitness routine a little (safe) kick in the rear

I’d like to introduce, or reintroduce, you to — the kettlebell.

Why Train with a Kettlebell?

If I were forced to pick one singular piece of gym equipment to keep myself fit from here to eternity, it would be the kettlebell. Here’s why:

  • You can take it anywhere.
  • You can do cardio workouts and strength routines with it.
  • You can move in all directions, challenging your muscles in all planes of motion.
  • It takes little to no space in your home and is always on the ready for days when you have a mere ten minutes of exercise time to spare.

And it is possible to safely train kettlebells, even (or maybe even especially) for those of us over forty.

Where Do I Find Kettlebells and Which Should I Buy?

Kettlebells are for sale in Wal-Mart, Target, on Amazon. You can find them just about anywhere. This is one of the few exercise items I would suggest buying in person, though, so you can check your grip and the comfort of the handle. Personally, I prefer kettlebells with a smooth metal handle versus anything plastic-coated.

Weight recommendations:

  • Novice females should typically start with a 12kg kettlebell.
  • Intermediate to advanced females should purchase a 16kg kettlebell.
  • Novice males should typically start with a 16kg kettlebell.
  • Intermediate to advanced makes should purchase a 20kg kettlebell.

With the exception of some advanced movements, you can do a lot with a single kettlebell. So, if budget is an issue, just start by buying a single one.

P.S. 1kg = 2.2lbs. The quick approximate math: 12kg =25lbs, 16kg= 35lbs, 20kg=44lbs.

Download the "Beginner's Exercise Plan That Works" E-Book

A Couple Kettlebell Basics Before We Begin Training

Now that you have your own kettlebell (or you’re planning to use one at the gym), let’s walk through the basics you need to know to make your workouts both safe and effective.

How do I hold a kettlebell?

There are a few basic grip positions:

Swing Position (Two Hands on the Bell)

Fit Over 40: How to Safely Train Kettlebells for Strength Endurance

Front Rack Position

Fit Over 40: How to Safely Train Kettlebells for Strength Endurance

By the “Horns”

Fit Over 40: How to Safely Train Kettlebells for Strength Endurance

What kind of warm-up should I do before I use a kettlebell?

Using a kettlebell is a full-body workout. This warm-up will mobilize your ankles, hips, and spine while also waking up your core and shoulder joints. Try going for a short walk or stair climb and following it up with this series before getting into your kettlebell workout. Doing all this will set the stage for you to safely train kettlebells.

How to Effectively and Safely Train Kettlebells

What’s unique about forty-plus exercisers? They have endurance. They have been through serious adversity and injuries. They have determination to stay fit. So, what better way to challenge your fortitude (or, should I say, FORTYtude) than by kicking up the rep scheme with a strength endurance workout you can do anywhere?

Fit Over 40 – 8 x 40 Rep Kettlebell Challenge

Do the following list of exercises one time. Complete each of the movements 40 times with as little rest as possible:

  1. Kettlebell Goblet Squat
  2. Kettlebell Kneeling Single Arm Shoulder Press (20 each side)
  3. Kettlebell Russian Swing
  4. Kettlebell Cossack Squat (20 each side)
  5. Kettlebell High Pull (20 each side)
  6. Kettlebell Upright Row
  7. Kettlebell Alternating Reverse Lunge (20 each side)
  8. Kettlebell Sit-up and Press


  • Instead of completing 40 repetitions in a row, do only 20. Work your way through the list of exercises two times to hit the total of 40 reps per movement.
  • Break that down to 10 reps and repeat the circuit four times if needed.
  • Rest is your friend. If you’re feeling smoked, set the kettlebell down. Leisurely count to 10 and start again.


This 8 x 40 rep challenge is a great once-a-week or once-every-two-weeks challenge that can take the place of any cardio routine you might have. Write down your first total time for completion and see how much time you can shave off with practice.

How to Do the Exercises

Kettlebell Goblet Squat

Kettlebell Kneeling Single Arm Shoulder Press

Kettlebell Russian Swing (Slow Motion)

Kettlebell Cossack Squat (20 each side)

Kettlebell High Pull (20 each side)

Kettlebell Upright Row

Kettlebell Alternating Reverse Lunge (20 each side)

Kettlebell Sit-up and Press

You Can Safely Train Kettlebells After 40

If you managed to finish this routine in less than ten minutes, it might be a good idea to go return your new kettlebell and level up a couple kilograms. Or, perhaps it’s time to add more reps. Over twenty minutes? Work on reducing your rest breaks.

Congrats on taking forty-plus by the horns. The kettlebell is a solid companion to carry you and your fitness to the next decade.

Liz Marmesh
Liz is a NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and 200HR Yoga Instructor. Liz has been in the fitness industry since 2003, working in fitness education, fitness management, personal training, and group fitness in Boston, South Beach, Los Angeles, and the DC area. Liz graduated from the University of Miami with a Masters in Exercise Physiology.

A believer in constant movement, Liz has partnered with clients of all types to achieve various end goals. You can catch her teaching yoga at Ballston CrossFit in Arlington, Virginia.