Kettlebell Exercises: Solid Foundations
So you have a kettlebell, it looks pretty cool and you've heard good things. You have some ideas of what it can do and now you're ready to unleash it's potential on your body... nice! The following will give you some good places to start and some advice to move forward with.
Things to keep in mind
As with all weight training, there is a risk of injury involved with kettlebell training especially if not done correctly, here are some common-sense rules to keep safe.
Warm up and cool down: Even if you’re doing a short workout with your kettlebell, make sure you take the time to warm up and loosen up before starting. After completing your session – make sure you take the time to cool down. This is often an overlooked but if you want to get all the benefits – you’ve got to do it. Cool down exercises will lengthen your muscles again, improving recovery, reduce post workout aches, reduce stiffness before the next workout. The time you spend here will be paid off several times as you will have more time to workout later and you'll have more range to do so.
Use in an open area: You are moving a heavy and hard object around at a height and in some cases swinging it. Always use in an open area away from other people, children and animals. Check your surroundings in each direction before starting each set.
Form first, reps later: Start with simple exercises and build up, build in more variations and keep challenging yourself but don't push yourself outside of you capabilities. Check out the form for each exercise before you start, if you feel your form slipping, wait and recover before starting again. Maintain your form over the sets before moving up in weight. If a weight is too heavy for correct form, then downgrade the exercise to a less challenging one for you or use a lower weight and achieve great form. If you need help with form, you can contact us here.
Maintain good grip: Whilst out powder coated kettlebells provide excellent grip, if for some reason sweaty hands are giving you less grip, dry it off with a towel and make sure it feels secure for your workout before starting the next reps.
Warming up with Kettlebells
You're about to ask your body to lift something heavy, repeatably. You need your body to wake up, your muscles to start firing in the right sequences, to engage your core, ready for action. Warming up is an essential part to protect your self from injury and to get the most out of your workouts. Warm ups can be short and effective, below are some of our favorite exercises for warming up before a kettlebell workout. If you're feeling particularly stiff then you might want to check out some of our mobility exercises as well.
Around the world (a.k.a slingshot):
Works: Core, lower back, grip and shoulders
How: while standing up with feet together, touching each other and pointing straight ahead. Start with the kettlebell in front, move the kettlebell around your body in a continuous circular motion, passing the kettlebell from hand to hand and it moves behind and in front of you. Then change direction.
Why: It's simple, it's underestimated. This exercise gets your hands used to moving the kettlebell between it coordinating your movements. By moving a weight around your body, the opposing side of your body must activate to counteract the swing. So your core is being warmed up on all sides from this single exercise; requiring stabilisation from your back when the kettlebell is in front of you, from your abs when it's behind you or at either side.
How many: 20 reps each way or 60s each direction.
Tips: Don't drop it! Think about it moving from hand to hand getting a firm grip on it each time.
Combine with a Halos (below) in your warm up – get all parts of your core warmed up effectively.
Move onto: Try as a workout workout exercise with heavier weight. Move your legs to shoulder width apart and feet point forwards. You will feel weight transfer between you feet and you’ll notice you start pushing a little from your hips and legs to keep it moving.
Halos (a.k.a Around the Head Rotation)
Works: Shoulders, core
How: Hold the kettlebell in front of you with handle down and bell up, roll shoulders back squeeze elbows into your body, keep 90 degree angle bend in the elbows.,. Tuck elbows into your body. Move around your head, keeping close to your head. Move the kettlebell around your head, keeping you head still (i.e. don’t simply move your head out the way of the kettlebell) when behind your head, it should be low against your back from circling above your head. Return to center with the kettlebell in front of your chest with arms tucked in by your sides
Why: Warm up your shoulders and core, get comfortable manoeuvring and manipulating the kettlebell moving around your body. Keep your feet pointing forwards. Your spine and body naturally rotates in the opposing direction to the kettlebell motion.
How many: 5 reps each direction typically with a lighter weight than the one you’re using for your workout. Make sure the form is correct before moving up the weight.
Tips: Keep the kettlebell in front of your chest in the start position, don’t rest the kettlebell on your chest. Keep your elbows by your side, not pushed back behind you or flared out.
Make sure the kettlebell is down low when behind you and not floating above your head. The kettlebell should be lightly touching your back, arms bent and hands close to the back of your neck. You will engage you triceps when you are bringing it up and around.
Move onto: Alternating Halo – where you alternate the direction after each rep - do rep in 1 direction immediately followed by a rep in the opposite direction. Sounds simple, just try to keep track of which way you’re going.
Figure 8 (front to back)
Works: Legs, hips, knees, hands core, shoulders
How: use a wide stance with feet pointing straight ahead, get down into to create nice bend in the legs. Pick up the kettlbell, pass the kettlebell between your legs to your opposite hand which will collect it from the back. Bring the kettlebell around your leg, while straightening your legs, as the kettlebell comes around again, bend your legs and collect with the first hands again. You should be at your deepest during the hand transition. Keep going, straighten you legs as the kettlebell comes around your leg. Keep your motion rhythmic and controlled. You should be stood all the way up in between the movements and you should be at around a half squat during the transition.
Why: Great arm up for deadlifts and swings. Your abs are working all the time during this exercise, combining it with your legs makes this a great warm up.
How many: 60 seconds.
Tips: Start with your 20lb and work your way up. Try to straighten your legs fully. If you’re struggling with standing up, you can stay in the squat position.
Move onto: Figure 8 back to front
Flat Back Pull Over (Legs up or Down)
Works: Abs, Shoulders
How: Use bottom up grip. Lay down, knees bent, keep elbows into the body, arms at 90 degrees, soles of feet flat on ground or if you confident then feet off the ground. Push lower back into the ground for the whole exercises. spine into the ground. Pull from the kettlebell all the way from your waist, to behind your head, touch the kettlebell against the ground in a controlled way and continue. Keep arms at 90 degrees throughout the exercise.
Why: Great warm up exercise to get your abs firing
How many: 12-15 reps or 45 seconds
Tips: Think about keeping your lower back flat on the ground throughout the exercise. This is not a crunch so your abs should not be moving or spine or extending. If you are extending then use a lower weight.
Move onto: Pullover sit up and standing pull over
Works: Legs, Core, Grip and wrists
How: Stand with your feet slightly wider than should width apart, feet facing forwards. Hold the kettlebell inverted, handles down/bell up, tuck your elbows into your body. Squat down, elbows should end up between your knees. When you stand up, stand all the way up straight. Keep the kettlebell away from your body during the exercise. If you feel like you have to keep the kettlebell next to your chest then you should reduce the weight until you can comfortably keep it away from your body.
Why: Your core contracts during the squat with the weight in front of you. You can get nice and low with your squat as you and use the weight as a counter balance.
How many: 10-15 reps or 45 seconds
Tips: On standing up, concentrate on standing up straight and not leaning forward. Keep your elbows tucked into your body
Move onto: Halo goblet squat (combine a squat at the end of each halo rotation).