Take your training beyond bars and machines. Gain strength, develop athleticism, and tone with these kettlebell lifts.
You probably fall into one of the following kettlebell camps:
Camp One: You know kettlebells for those awkward, dusty things in the corner of the gym.
Camp Two: You carry them and occasionally squat with them.
Camp Three: You are a kettlebell master, your body moves in unison with the “bell”.
Why are most powerlifters still in the top two camps? Probably because many people confuse strength training with strength training. Strength is the ability to generate a force against a load. Power is the rate at which we generate that force.
Most lifters are good at prioritizing strength and building bigger muscles. But direct strength training is often overlooked, and the kettlebell is the best tool for training it. Let’s improve skills with four basic exercises:
The swing is the gateway to all kettlebell exercises. The construction of the clock—with a handle at one end and a concentrated mass at the other—is suitable for swinging around.
A golf swing is about power, momentum and timing, so it’s ideal for heavy and high-intensity swings. If you lift enough weight, it can hit your glutes, hamstrings, back, shoulders, and even your grip. It is great for improving hip speed and teaching athletes how to move explosively under control.
There are many swing variations, but the faithful must be the basic two-handed swing.
- Place the kettlebell on the ground in front of you, within reach of you.
- Keep enough tension on your body to keep your back safe.
- Lower your body height by pushing your hips back and bending your knees as needed.
- Grab the bell and imagine you are trying to snap it in half. This helps you tighten your shoulders and develop a stiff torso.
- Keeping your shoulders over your hips, then explosively lift the kettlebell behind you, trying to draw your arms in.
- Once you reach the “down bar” position, stand up explosively. Imagine you are jumping without leaving the ground. This allows you to maintain an upright posture without hyperextending and leaning back, and without losing strength by keeping your hips back.
- Hold your head high and stand proudly. In the top position, the “bell” should be anywhere from navy to eye level, depending on how explosive you can be lifting the kettlebell without your shoulders.
- When you reach the top of your swing, pull the bell back into the downswing position between your legs. Don’t get out of the way too quickly. Time it so that the bell moves down when it’s about to hit the cargo (not a split second later). Push your hips back and down.
- Repeat or let the bell swing down and forward to the ground without breaking tension in your upper body.
No, it is not necessary. Due to the kettlebell’s anatomy and hand position being much narrower than shoulder width, it puts you in an unnatural overhead position. This can cause shoulder problems. Not to mention, most people stick their head forward while at the top, trying to gain some extra range of motion and putting unnecessary stress on the neck.
Overhead is more common in CrossFit. It’s a skill in the sport.unless you are a Crossbodythere’s no value in adding overhead, and there’s some risk involved.
For strength and power: Get a heavy kettlebell (that fits you). Do 4-6 sets of 5-10 reps each. Rest as much as possible to generate as much force as the previous set, usually 2-3 minutes. Do these actions at the beginning of your workout.
For stamina/conditioning: Use light to medium weights. Do 5-10 sets of 15-20 reps with as little rest as possible. Add some movement or poses for balance.Since it is primarily a rear chain To your workout, you can add some planks, leg raises, push-ups, or anything that works your front (front) core. Do these near the end of your workout.
The one-arm kettlebell clean gives you many of the same benefits as the Olympic weightlifting variation, but with less technical difficulty. It enhances vertical jumping, increases total body explosiveness, and helps you create power.
Since you can only use one side at a time, the clean also requires you to resist torso rotation, making it a great core-strengthening exercise. Since you have to maintain a loose but firm grip on the kettlebell, it helps you develop a stronger grip. Once mastered, it can transition to most other kettlebell exercises as it allows the kettlebell to reach the rack position efficiently.
- Place the kettlebell on the floor in front of you, the same distance as you would in your swing.
- Create total body tension, hinge the hips, and lower the body to reach the “bell,” but don’t overextend.
- Squeeze your glutes and abs, then lift the “bell” back, connecting your arms to your torso.
- Once you reach the top of the downswing, stand up explosively and bring the bell as close to the front of your body as possible. This creates a natural arc, and when the kettlebell reaches belly button height, you can rotate it so that it rests safely in the rack position between the forearm and upper arm.
- Keep your wrists straight and your forearms in a relatively vertical position. There shouldn’t be any grand slams here. One of our favorite methods is to use two hands and slow down the motion, letting the “bell” spin in the hands. Don’t over grip it or your hands will get rough and your forearms will hurt.
- Reverse the motion by unhooking the kettlebell around the forearm, straightening the arm, and moving the kettlebell quickly to reset it back to the rack position or back to the ground.
With the clean, you’re targeting many of the same areas as the golf swing, effectively hitting the hamstrings, glutes, back and shoulders as well as the grip and forearms.
For strength and power: Using heavy bells, repeat 5-10 times on each side. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets and 2 minutes between sets. Do 3-6 groups. Stop when your shape starts to deteriorate. Do this early in your workout.
For stamina/conditioning: Cleanse for 30 seconds on one side, rest for 15 seconds, then do 30 seconds on the other side. Do 5-8 sets. Do it later during your workout.
The snatch is a powerful full-body exercise that strengthens your back, shoulders, grip and core. Once you’ve mastered the clean, the snatch is relatively easy.
The kettlebell can reach the overhead position in two ways. In one, the kettlebell moves up and lands on your forearm, but this requires “punching” and timing to ensure there are no jerks. We prefer another method: the corkscrew method. There’s more control, less timing, and you’re less likely to ring the “bell” on your forearm.
- Place the kettlebell on the floor in front of you, the same distance from the swing.
- Create full-body tension, using your hips as a hinge, and lower your body to reach the bell without overreaching.
- Squeeze your glutes and abs, and lift the “bell” back, connecting your arms to your torso.
- Once you reach the peak of your downswing, stand up explosively, keeping the kettlebell relatively close to the front of your body.
- Let the “bell” pass over your head as you stand and pull.
- Before reaching the overhead position, rotate the forearms so the end of the kettlebell doesn’t flip over completely. It simply rotates around the forearm or into an overhead position.
- To put it down, put it back in the rack position.
- From there, you unhook it like a clean, but instead, you bring it back to the overhead position. Once you’ve learned to descend safely from there, you can lower it overhead into the downswing position.
- Keep your torso stiff and tense, and your shoulders taut. Even light weights feel heavier with speed.
For strength and power: Using heavy bells, repeat 5-10 times on each side. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets and 2 minutes between sets. Do 3-6 groups. Stop when your shape starts to deteriorate. Do this at the start of your workout and before any grueling strength training sessions.
For stamina/conditioning: Do 10-15 snatches on each side with very little rest between sets. Do 3-5 groups. Complete your workout with these.
The motion is similar to a two-handed swing, but instead, you land on your toes at the top of the motion, then immediately embrace the downward swing for a few reps. The added triple stretch (a fancy term for getting your heels off the ground while simultaneously extending your hips and knees) is great for generating more power and building coordination/timing.
This is similar to the barbell high pull with repeated efforts, but instead of holding the bar in the vertical line, you pull the bar back like you would at the bottom of a two-handed swing. This is a great exercise to work the glutes, hamstrings, back, and upper back and shoulders with extra tension.
- Place the kettlebell in front of you, lower it low enough to keep your shoulders over your hips, double the tension on your whole body, and then explosively raise the “kettlebell” behind you.
- As you push yourself back up, press your toes into the ground and lift your heels up while pulling the kettlebell up slightly, like an upright row. Don’t try to make it too high. A little goes a long way.
- As the weight comes down, plant on your heels and accept the downswing.
For strength and power: Grab a heavy kettlebell. Do 4-6 sets of 5-10 reps each. Rest as much as possible to generate as much force as the previous set, about 2-3 minutes. Do this at the beginning of your workout.
For stamina/conditioning: Use light to medium weights. Do 5-10 sets of 15-20 reps with as little rest as possible.
Practice makes progress, so start off a little lighter than you think. Once your technique is in place, add some weight and build strength.
Us chumps may be tempted to try to build muscle with moves like Olympic lifts and kettlebell exercises, rather than with proper form and use of momentum (something we’re taught not to do with barbells and dumbbells). Once you get the technique down, heavier weights will force you to rely on good technique rather than muscle.