In order to benefit from the unique advantages of the kettlebell, you need to train in such a way that takes advantage of its unique properties. And to that end, you need to get a little more advanced. Let’s take a look at how to do that with some of the more exciting moves.
The Kettlebell Swing
When you say the word kettlebell, it will be almost synonymous with the word ‘swing’ as far as many people are concerned. That’s because the kettlebell swing is a movement that has so many incredible benefits that it has become somewhat famous in its own right. We’ll be discussing this move a lot more throughout this book but for now let’s just learn how to use it.
To perform this move, you are going to take the kettlebell and place it between your legs with your feet planted about shoulders width apart and feet pointing forward. Now, bend the knees slightly in order to pick the weight up off the ground and then stand with it hanging directly in front of you, held in both hands. Stand up fully straight before you begin.
What you’re now going to do is to bend the knees just slightly and allow the kettlebell to hang between your legs. Now, stand up by driving through the floor and only moving the knees slightly but pop the hips forward as you do. You should be contracting the glutes, abdominals and lats as you do this and it should then force the kettlebell to swing up into the air in front of you.
Your arms remain straight and now your legs are almost straight but the weigh should be hanging at around chest level directly in front. Eventually, gravity will take over and the weight should begin to fall again. As this happens, allow your body to drop and let the kettlebell swing back through the legs behind you again. Then thrust forward and up again and repeat the process.
By the end, you should now be thrusting the hips repeatedly in order to get the kettlebell to swing up in front of you. This should involve your legs a little but shouldn’t actually involve too much knee movement. The back should also remain straight throughout the movement – imagine that you have a meter stick ruler pushed down your tshirt along your back and you can’t break it.
This will build your posterior chain muscle, which are the ones used in jumping. It’s also a fantastic form of cardio that can be just as effective as going for a run. We’re going to explore this a lot more later on.
The kettlebell swing can also be referred to as the ‘Russian Swing’ which is to differentiate it from the American alternative. The American swing meanwhile involves a very similar basic movement except that the aim is to get the weight to swing up much higher – almost to the point of being overhead. You are still avoiding using the arms during the motion however.
Single Armed Kettlebell Swing
This is another movement that involves a twist on the classic kettlebell swing. This time, the difference is that you’re only using one arm. You can alternate arms, or take it in turns. If you want to be very fancy, then you can actually throw the kettlebell in the air and catch it in the alternate hand. Likewise, you can also perform a slight throw and a catch when performing the regular kettlebell swing. This adds a little flare and makes it a little more fun!
Turkish Get Up
The Turkish getup is another movement that utilizes the kettlebell in a truly unique manner for the kind of fitness that you simply couldn’t get with a dumbbell.
In this case, you will be aiming to stand up while holding the kettlebell. This is easier than it sounds, as you will learn…
The starting position involves lying next to the kettlebell on one side and holding the handle with both hands. Knees should be bent and pulled up to your stomach. You should gaze lovingly at the kettlebell. Now you are going to roll onto your back and place the kettlebell on your stomach. From here, you are now going to plant one foot on the ground with the knee bent, while the other is stretched out in front of you. If you are lifting the kettlebell with your right hand, then the right knee will be bent and planted on the floor. Your other arm should be out to one side, bracing you against the floor, while you look straight up.
Now, holding the kettlebell on your stomach in just one hand, you are going to press it directly upward over your shoulder and lock out that arm.
Now, push up on the arm and foot that are flat on the ground, moving your weight onto the foot that is flat on the ground while keeping your eyes firmly on the kettlebell that is raised above you.
Push through the floor with the leg on the working side and roll the other arm up onto the elbow and then onto one hand. You can now bring your buttocks off of the ground. You’ll be squeezing your glutes and your hips at this point and you’ll want to maintain a vertical extension in the arm with the weight.
Now bring the flat leg underneath yourself so that you’re on one knee, with the weight still up in the air. The knee should be pointing at a 90 degree angle to your other foot. With your neck still looking up, it’s time to raise up into a lunge and then stand straight up. You should end up standing right up and with the weight above you in one hand.
What now? Now you lie back down of course!
To do this, you are going to lower yourself down onto one knee again so that it is perpendicular to the leading leg. Then place one hand on the ground and use this to hold your weight while you bring the leg back out and lie it flat.
Roll down onto your elbow and then onto your shoulder. Grab the kettlebell with both hands if necessary and lower it down onto your chest or stomach. Place it onto the floor next to you and roll back into the starting position. Time to repeat the move on the other side!
This is an insane move, yes. But it’s also one that trains nearly every muscle in the body, builds contralateral strength, balance and coordination and can generally greatly enhance your athletic performance.
This is another slightly more technical move, though not half as technical as the one we just covered! This time, the aim is to start with your legs just wider than hip-width apart and then to get into a quarter-squat position.
Now you’re going to grab your kettlebell in one hand – let’s say the left hand shall we? – and swing it around the outside of the leg on that side. Now come back in through the middle and go around the outside of the right leg, switching hands as you do. As you can imagine, this basically draws a figure of eight around your legs and will work the obliques as well as the core and legs.
The halo is a very unique exercise that involves swinging it around your head! Stand in a similar position to a kettlebell tricep extension, so that the weight is hanging behind your head. Now, bring the weight around in front of you clockwise and the sling it over your other shoulder before continuing through the same motion.
As you circle your head with the weight, you can move your body in accordance, turning this into a great oblique and core workout.
Looking for something even more dynamic and challenging? Kettlebell windmills are it! Here, you are going to stand with one kettlebell held over head in one hand and your feet shoulder width apart. Your toes will be pointing away from the kettlebell.
Now bend at the hip. Your torso should be slightly twisted so that one side is facing down (the other side) and this is going to allow you to bend and touch the ground with your free hand. This is a great move for training pretty much the entire body, including the core, the obliques, the shoulders and the back. It’s also great for challenging mobility.
Again, this is not a comprehensive list. However, you can hopefully start getting some idea as to the more complex and challenging moves that are possible with kettlebells. And this is certainly enough to begin challenging yourself with a highly effective workout routine that does a lot more than simply sculpting your guns…
Carries are exactly what they sound like – exercises where you simply carry the kettlebell. You can do this any way you want but the idea is that you’re going to cover distance while working the muscles. A good example is the farmer’s walk, which involves holding a kettlebell (or another weight) in each hand and then walking a long distance.
Why not take your kettlebell with you next time you make a trip to the shops? You can leave it outside and rest assured no one will steal it!