In this article, I share with you how to perform four result-producing kettlebell movements as an introduction to this unique and powerful style of training. Used in conjunction with other training tools, the techniques I present here can greatly help you develop a higher level of physical development and fitness.
I have been lifting kettlebells since late 2004 so I’ve been at this for some time. Since implementing kettlebells into my training, I have studied many different kettlebell lifters and methods. I have become RKC and AKC certified. The certification process, combined with hands-on training experience, has taught me many highly effective ways to build strength and power with kettlebells. I’ll share a few of these ways with you here. Let’s start things, however, by examining 10 reasons why you should consider using kettlebells as part of your training.
10 Reasons Why You Should Consider Kettlebell Training
- Kettlebell training is fun to do. You get to literally “swing” iron around.
- Kettlebells are ideally suited for ballistic exercises. This is explained further in a bit.
- Kettlebell movements are well-suited for high-rep training. Thus, kettlebells can be put to great advantage to build extraordinary conditioning and strength-endurance.
- Kettlebell training is terrific for developing speed and explosiveness, the kind power that athletes must often demonstrate to succeed in their chosen sport.
- Kettlebells can be lifted in a wide variety of ways, and you can easily select a lifting style that best fits your training goals.
- Kettlebells work your muscles in ways that barbells cannot. This is primarily due to the fact that kettlebell training involves adsorption and redirection of multi-directional forces. Unlike barbell training, which primarily involves up and down movement in a single plane, kettlebell training often involves moving a heavy weight in two or even three planes of motion. For example, swinging or juggling with kettlebells inherently requires three-dimensional motion.
- Kettlebell moves typically work the entire body. And, combined with high-rep training, the effect on total body power and fitness can be rather profound.
- Many kettlebell movements effectively work the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, and erectors). Development of these muscles is critical for the establishment of athletic movement and strength, reduction of low back pain, and good posture.
- Almost any dumbbell exercise can be substituted with a kettlebell, and substituting a dumbbell movement with a kettlebell version is an ideal way to stimulate your muscles from a “new angle”. In addition, there is interesting stuff you can do with a kettlebell in a “bottoms-up” position, where the mass of the kettlebell is held above the handle. This position challenges your grip, and it can make many exercises, such as the press, much harder and more effective.
- In some cases, the kettlebell can allow you to train from a better position, or with increased leverage. For example, the “Get-up” exercise can be done more effectively with a kettlebell because the offset mass helps to “pull” your arm into a better position versus a dumbbell. The Get-up involves moving from a lying-down position on the floor, with a weight held overhead, and rising to a standing position while keeping the weight locked out the entire time. Then, the movement is reversed as you go back down. This exercise requires great stabilization, as well as many different movement patterns.
Four Basic Kettlebell Movements
The foundation of ballistic kettlebell movements is the swing. In this movement, the kettlebell is swung from the ground up to hip height or higher, and then the bell is lowered back down. The movement is then repeated for the desired number of repetitions, or until you are sufficiently tired.
If you are looking to build explosiveness, go heavier (perhaps by using two kettlebells), and perform multiple sets of low reps, in the 5 to 10 range. This method allows you to really explode and go all out on each rep, versus the pacing done with higher reps.
If you are seeking greater endurance-strength and cardio fitness, perform fewer sets and target a higher number of reps. This can be done by doing normal sets, or by setting a time limit and executing as many reps as you can during the allotted period. High-rep kettlebell training builds enormous endurance, and experienced lifters often demonstrate rather incredible repetition numbers. For example, world-renown strongman Bud Jeffries, has done as many as 3,000 swings in a single workout. He has also squatted 1,000 pounds, so don’t expect to get to that level of fitness straight away!
The basics of the swing are covered here:
The kettlebell snatch is built off of the swing. However, instead of stopping midair, you swing the kettlebell up into an overhead position. It is best to work the kettlebell snatch with a relatively light weight as compared to barbell snatching. You don’t need to get under the weight after the bell is raised overhead.
However, practice is usually required to swing the kettlebell overhead safely and efficiently. There is quite a bit of technique involved, though not nearly so much as required by the Olympic snatch. Be sure to start with a safe weight, and progressively use a heavier bell only as you gain skill, strength, and experience.
In kettlebell sport for men, snatches are typically done with a 32-kg weight for as many reps in ten minutes as possible. In addition, you cannot set the kettlebell down, and you are allowed to switch hands only one time. This makes this movement a test of grip strength, as well as a builder of strength-endurance. Did I mention that kettlebells can help your grip?
Personally, I like to work the snatch similarly to how it is performed in kettlebell sport, but with multiple hand switches. This style of training allows me to work with greater speed.
I have done 301 reps with a 24-kg bell. That’s a quick pace (30 reps per minute), and it is very taxing because I keep the movement going throughout the entire duration. That is shown here:
I have also done 91 reps with the Beast, a 48-kg or 106 lb. kettlebell in 10 minutes time. That’s a lot of volume with a heavy weight. That is also shown here:
Lot’s more information on the kettlebell snatch can be found in my video series titled Kettlebell Snatch Domination. It shows you exactly how I built up to the 301 reps with the 24kg weight to build overall body power, strength, and endurance.
The jerk is another great exercise. Because of the design of the kettlebells, they can rest quite comfortably in the rack position, and this makes it easier to go for high reps. You can perform the jerk with a single kettlebell, or with two. Both versions will be a test of endurance, though I find that the two-kettlebell version is much harder, and not just because of using double the weight. This is because of the flexibility involved in getting your elbows resting on your hips.
There is also the Long Cycle style of the jerk; this style includes a clean with each rep.
All of these require the ability to relax under load and be explosive with a minimum amount of movement. The timing on the jerk stops many newbies, but it is great to really understand how to move differently for the press, push press and jerk.
Here is a video from one kettlebell competition, doing the one arm kettlebell jerk.
Another fun thing to do with kettlebells is known as kettlebell juggling. It’s not traditional juggling, but the flipping, spinning, tossing and catching of a single (usually) kettlebell. Juggling a kettlebell offers the benefits of the exercises described above, but it also works your body from many crazy angles. Try tossing a 70 lb kettlebell behind your back and over your shoulder, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
The sheer variety and ability to complicate movements here allows for the development of ability that goes far beyond average training. For example, think of the hand-eye coordination involved.
Here is a video that shows off many moves:
If you’d like more you can find a free videos series that will get you started at www.kettlebelljuggling.com
This will also introduce you to the Ranking System I created that will progress you through the moves, giving some structure, to an otherwise chaotic training method.
And if you want over 10 hours of instruction covering every possible move I’ve ever done The Definitive Guide to Kettlebell Juggling 2.0 is what you need.
So, now you have four superb kettlebell movements (or really, categories of movement) to try and grow from. I think that if you try one or more of these movements, you will be pleased with the results.
And, don’t be surprised if you find that kettlebell training is flat out fun — most people who lift kettlebells do. This is just one reason why kettlebell training is so effective. Start swinging those bells and you will undoubtedly find many more reasons!
- Need to get kettlebells for yourself? Find the best companies in my training tools page.
- On Kettlebell Technique
- Why You Should Avoid Buying Kettlebells in Stores
- How to Snatch Heavy Kettlebells
- 60kg Kettlebell Snatch
- Heavy Kettlebell Swings for Ab Work
- The American Swing or High Pull
- Double Kettlebell Snatch
- Sig Klein on The Kettle Bell