Types of Kettlebell Exercises
Key Kettlebell Exercises
Types of Kettlebell Exercises
There are hundreds kettlebell exercises, and variations – but at the heart of it, most kettlebell exercises separated in to 2 categories: Ballistics and Grinds.
Ballistic kettlebell exercises (e.g. Clean, Snatch, Swing, Jerk) are more dynamic and work on the power generation and absorption in a dynamic fashion, while grinds (Windmill, Turkish get-up) train the body under controlled and deliberate tension for an extended period. Hydrids (Kettlebell Thrusters, Overhead Squat) should also be mentioned combine attributes or movements from ballistic and grind. Well-rounded programs include both ballistic and grind exercises as these contrasting exercises complement each other in helping you create a strong and powerful body. Using the 2 of them, you will improve almost every aspect of your body’s movement.
Ballistic Kettlebell Exercises are anaerobic exercises which recruit muscle activation throughout the body to generate and absorb power in the exercise. They build your focus and coordination through cyclic tension and relaxation in the body, mimicking natural movements of the body, promoting better sequencing, muscle firing and joint movement as well as burning calories and. A perfect way to get stronger, more mobile and burn fat. Classic Kettlebell Ballistic Exercises include:
Grind kettlebell exercises challenge your ability to maintain tension, smoothly transition through the exercise and highlight weaknesses in your structure and alignment. Through the exercises you will learn to reduce and mitigate these weaknesses. You will know the exercises which are grinds as your body is typically under tension throughout the exercises, the movement is slow – hence the name. Classic Kettlebell Grind Exercises include:
- Turkish Get-Up
- Squats (front squat, goblet squat)
- Kettlebell Bent Press
- Renegade Rows
- Kettlebell Windmill
As with all exercises – form is very important – study the form, get advice and start with lower weights first. There is enough time to keep building up strength and weights – the aim is to continue injury free so that we can lift more!
Key Kettlebell Exercises
Below are some exercises which will feature (of variations thereof) on almost every beginner, intermediate and advanced kettlebell program. These kettlebell exercises compliment and improve the basic moves of the human body and because of this off set mass of the kettlebell, the body recruits increased stabilization. will improve strength throughout the body and lead to better mobility.
Once they are mastered at a given weight, there are options to add in variations for more difficulty, add an additional kettlebell or simple increase weights. These key kettlebell exercises can be grouped as follows:
- The Squat (e.g. goblet squat, bottom up goblet squat, front squat, pistol squat)
- The Press: (e.g. seated press, pure press, push press, Jerk, side press, bent press, high windmill, thrusters, double press, alternating pressing).
- The Swing (e.g. 2 handed, 1 handed, hand to hand)
- The Clean (e.g. 1 kettlebell, 2 kettlebells)
- Get ups (e.g. Half Turkish get up, full Turkish get up)
These are not starter exercises and you should build up to these exercises. Check out some fundamentals here. Whilst they can not all be mentioned in this post, we note the some of the key kettlebell exercises. For each we make give some ideas of the exercises prepare with and to follow on after.
Single Kettlebell Front Squat
Works: Legs, core, back
How: Feet pointing straight ahead slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Bring weight up into rack position. Put your empty arm out to the side away from your body. Squat down, keep weight carrying elbow tucked close into the body, lean back away from the weight. Stand up, drive all the way up until legs are straight. Complete set then switch hands
Why: It's asymmetric - As you are holding a weight on one side of your body, you core on the opposing side will contract during the exercise. As the kettlebell is out in front of you, your back is also engaged to resist the weight.
How many: 3 sets of 10 reps on each arm.
Tips: For your non-weight carrying arm, roll your should back to open up your chest and stand up straighter. Keep the forearm carrying the weight straight, keep your wrist straight and firm not flexed back.
Build up with: Goblet squat, bottom up goblet squat
Move onto: Heavier weights, Pistol Squats
Seated bottom-up Press
Works: Shoulders, core
How: Sit down with knees slightly bent, heels on the ground out in front of you. Bring the kettlebell up around the outside of you arm. Your body will naturally slightly lean against the weight. Press the kettlebell up above your head. During the press, straighten your body so that it is almost vertical with the kettlebell is in the full extended position. Bring back down in a controlled fashion, pause and repeat.
Why: Great starting press as a foundation to build from
How many: 10 reps on each side
Tips: Your body will naturally adjust to counteract the moving weight, this is good, embrace it.
Build up with: Shoulder mobility exercises, seated bottom up press.
Move onto: Kneeling press, clean and press and double squats to build a foundation for our favorite: the Seesaw press.
2 Handed Swing
Works: Hips, core
How: Standing position, feet pointed straight ahead shoulder width apart. Have your kettlebell around 18-24 inches in front of your toes. Take the kettlebell with both hands, pull the kettlebell back between your legs, your arms will be far enough back to be touching the inside of your thighs, snap your hips forward to drive the kettlebell. You are not pulling the kettlebell up with your hands, the motion is generated from the hip snap. At the top of the swing the kettlebell should be out in front of your face or below. You legs can lock out but your arms can have a slight bend in the elbows. On the way down, bend at the hips with only a slight bend in the knees. You are not squatting in this version of a classic swing. Then snap the hips again to bring the kettlebell back up.
Why: Build explosive strength in the hips, improve your natural jump. This is the fundamental swing and building block of many kettlebell exercises to come
How many: 10 to 20 reps in a minute, 3 sets
Tips: A good hip hinge is absolutely required before starting this. There are ways to force the kettlebell into position with your arms but you need to get the feeling for truly bending at the hips and snapping them forward. Get used to the feeling with the dowel hinge. If you feel your form slipping then stop and start again when rested.
Build up with: Bent over row, hip hinge, dowel hinge.
Move onto: 1 handed swing, hand to hand swing, cleans, clean and press, snatch
Single Kettlebell Clean
Works: Hips, core
How: Kettlebell starts below the waist and comes up to “rack position”.
Stand up with feet shoulder width apart and feet pointing forwards. Start with the kettlebell 18-24 inches in front of your feet with the handle of your kettlebell parallel with your feet. Draw the kettlebell back so your arm contacts the inside of your leg. Your second hand should be held out away from your body and not touching it. Bring the kettlebell forward, straighten your legs, and end up in the rack position with the kettlebell on the outside of your wrist. Wrist should be straight and not bent back. Elbow should be tucked into your body and legs should be straight at the top of the movement. Stand straight up, squeeze glutes at the top.
For clean and press: From the rack position, you can add in a shoulder press for the top of the movement to work the shoulders. At the top have your arm straightened out with wrist straight and strong, not bent back. Bring down and back to the rack position before starting before starting the next rep.
Why: This is a slightly less technical and safer version of the barbell equivalent but with all the benefits and more. Great cross-stabilization exercise, your core is working overtime throughout. You’ll start to feel the real benefits of kettlebells with this exercise.
How many: 3 sets of 1 minute (10-20 reps in a minute)
Tips: Keep your wrists straight, and forearm vertical, with the kettlebell handle directly above the bones in your forearm.
Build up with: 2 handed swing, 1 handed swing
Move onto: Double kettlebell cleans, clean and press, snatches
Single Kettlebell Snatch
Works: All body exercise (this term gets thrown around a lot, but ask any trainer – this one is a beast).
How: Standing position, feet shoulder width apart and feet pointing forwards. Start with the kettlebell 18-24 inches in front of your feet with the handle of your kettlebell parallel with your feet. Pick up the kettlebell with 1 hand, thumb pointing back, draw the kettlebell back so your arm contacts the inside of your leg. Stand up, drive the hips forward, and bring the weight all the way up over your head with your arm straight. Keep the wrist strong and straight, not bent back. The kettlebell should rotate around the hand not straight over the top. This will prevent the kettlebell from throwing the wrist back and backing into you forearm. Rotate the thumb in toward the body on the way down, the kettlebell should travel around the outside of the hand, not swinging over the top of your hand.
Why: One of the best full body workouts you can do. Period
How many: Typically a low weight, high rep exercise. Perform in sets of 1 minute on each side. Try to build up to 20 reps per set. Keep adding on the sets for a total of 5 mins on each side (10 mins today). Call it a day – you’ve just done what most people cannot.
Tips: Follow the progression above, get familiar with the beginnings and end positions as well as wrist positioning.
Build up with: The progressions for this exercise is as follows: 2 hand Swing, 1 hand swing, 1 hand clean, clean and press, clean and press up / reverse snatch down, forward snatch up / clean and press down. Snatch up/ snatch down.
Move onto: Double Kettlebell snatch
Full Turkish Get Up
Works: Full body, core
How: Summary of main movements: From laying on the ground, press kettlebell up, roll/turn to shoulder, move the support to your elbow, transition support from elbow to hand, roll you shoulder back, move leg underneath your body, orientate body upright and stand up.
More details breakdown: Start laying on your side, shoulder on the ground, grab the kettlebell and roll it onto your body. Bend the leg on the same side of the kettlebell. Place your elbow on the ground with forearm vertical. Press the kettlebell and lock out your arm. Wrist should be straight and strong in a line with your forearm. Once your arm is locked, it will remain locked throughout the exercise. Roll to the side bringing your carrying shoulder away from the ground. Stabilizing yourself with your opposing (non-carrying) arm on the ground. Push up and away from the ground so that your arms form a vertical line with the kettlebell above you. Roll your bottom shoulder back, push into the ground to lift you butt off the floor, bring your lower leg around and underneath your body. Bring your lower hand off the ground so now you are in a stable kneeling position with front and rear legs at 90 degree angles, stand up on your front leg into a fully standing position.
In the reverse direction, step back, kneel on one leg, lean over this knee and put your palm on the floor. Rotate the kneeling leg back underneath you, so that it is stretched out in front, bring your shoulder back to the ground, followed by the carrying shoulder, bring the carrying elbow down. Support the weight with your non-carrying hand and roll to the side.
Why: In classic weight training, there is an almost complete lack of exercises teaching us how to get up. Learn to get off the ground in a controlled way holding a weight in a locked-out position. Archetypal grind exercise holding your body under tension.
How many: Strength training: exercise low reps, start with 1 rep will take around 30 s per load. Start with 3 sets of 1 rep on each side – get to 3 reps in a minute.
Tips: Keep your eyes on the kettlebell, this will improve your ability to keep it stable. Try not to move your stabilising points to much through the exercise, transition deliberately and with intent between phases.
Build up with: Build up through each movement pattern. Start with ½ Turkish get up to elbow, ½ Turkish get up to hand, Turkish get up floor press, bridge press, ball press, half kneeling press, windmills. Master each with stability in each position and exercise before moving on. You can also do this with no weight until you are confident of each movement and transition. It will only really make sense when you have a weight in you hands though!
Move onto: Increasing reps, aim to get to 3 reps in a minute.
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