Five Kettlebell Exercises Everyone Should Know
In order to get the best kettlebell workout, you will want to get a handle on these five kettlebell exercises. These exercises can offer you a full range of benefits, ranging from metabolic conditioning to pure strength building awesomeness!
1. The Swing
The swing is the center of the kettlebell universe. Nearly every exercise revolves around a solid swing, set up, and execution. The most important thing to keep in mind is the swing is a hip hinge, NOT a squat.
The phases of the swing are as follows:
The setup before you swing is incredibly important. Without a good setup, everything after is likely to be less than optimal.
The hike is the initiation of the swing and should be done with great intent and purpose. A weak hike, leads to a weak swing.
The next phase is the explosion of the hips into full extension (think standing plank), propelling the bell forward and upward bringing you into a standing plank as the bell travels through its upward and then downward path.
On the downward travel portion of the swing, you need to remain standing tall. Only when your triceps make contact with your ribs, should you push the hips rearward to the position you were in during the hike phase of the lift and eventually return to the start of the hike where the bell is parked in front of you.
The swing can be both metabolic and strength building exercise depending on how it’s programmed.
2. The Press
There’s a saying that happiness is lifting heavy stuff overhead! There are actually quite a few variations of the press. Today, we will talk about the strict or military press.
Although it may seem quite simple, if you want to get a LOT out of your press, there can be many nuances to consider and utilize.
You need a strong clean. The clean is to the press, as the hike is to the swing.
Having a strong clean ends in a proper “rack” and sets you up for a great lift.
Corkscrewing your feet into the ground (also called rooting) will establish your foundation for a strong press. Tightening your glutes combined with corkscrewing will not only give you a strong foundation, but it will tie you into an untapped resource of inner strength from a process called recruitment.
Keep your elbow tucked in forming a tight “rack” position and begin your press keeping the bell close to your center of balance. Pretend you are inside a chimney and you can’t move your arms or elbows outside of that “cylinder.”
Keep your elbows and forearms vertical moving like a piston inside its cylinder and drive the bell upward until your elbows lock out in a full extension with the bicep positioned near the ear.
3. The Clean
It’s been said that the clean is a swing that ends in the “rack” position, which has a level of truth to it. However, we like to say that it’s a modified swing ending in the rack position.
The clean is a great exercise that utilizes all the benefits of the swing with a little extra emphasis on the back, which is used to “tame the arc” of the swing.
This taming of the arc is the secret to a comfortable clean, which will enable you to properly do this lift without leaving bruises on your forearms from the bells “crashing” into your arms.
Starting the clean from the normal proper swing set up, you hike the bell and begin a basic hard style swing. However, as the bells pass the knees and begin to make their ascent upward, you keep your elbows pinned to your side and essentially give a slight tug with your lats and shoulders altering the path of the bell from an arcing “C” to more of a vertical “J.”
As the bell makes its way upward in its now vertically altered path, you will “insert” your hand into the handle causing the bell to flip and come to rest on your forearms ending in the rack position we spoke of in the press section of this article.
4. The Goblet Squat
The kettlebell squat is a great leg and core builder! Like many other kettlebell movements, there are quite a few variations offering various levels of intensity and difficulty. Today we will discuss the Goblet Squat.
This movement can be started in two ways, either via the traditional KB Swing/hike method or in a vertical, upright row method initiated from the deadlift position. Today we will be discussing the Swing method.
You will start in a traditional swing set up. After your setup is correct, hike the bell and begin a two handed swing. Once the bell clears the knees and begins it’s ascent, you can begin to tame the arc much like you would do with the clean, however, there is a slight change.
There is no hand insertion and flip of the bell like what’s done in the clean, rather the bell stays vertical and each of your hands move to their respective side of the handle bringing you to the two handed, single bell, rack position as shown above in figure “i.”
From here, you will begin the process of squatting by bracing/tightening your stomach as though you were getting ready to take a punch, squeeze your armpits tightly and begin to make your descent downward, keeping your chest up and your but down.
Slowly continue this descent allowing your knees to track outward, never inward, until your hips EITHER get to slightly below parallel OR a point at which your range of motion safely allows. For some people, this will be above parallel.
The key is keeping your knees apart as shown above in “ii” and the chest upright. One thing you can do to get this upright feeling is to do these squats standing about 12” away from, and facing a wall.
The key here is to squat as low as you can without allowing your torso to lean forward and your face to touch the wall.
Once you get to the bottom of this range of motion, you will stand upward again until you reach your starting position at which point you will complete the movement by squeezing your legs, core and glutes.
5. Turkish Get Up
The mother of all full body kettlebell exercises is the Turkish Getup! This movement has it all: core, lunge, hip hinge, shoulders and back, just to name a few.
One of the most interesting things about the TGU is that the slower you do it, the more beneficial it can be.
This offers multiple benefits ranging from increased strength building via increased time under tension, to increased opportunity to hone and practice the skill of the intricacies of each phase of the movement.
These phases can actually be considered as being a complex (series of linked movements), which can result in being one of the best kettlebell workouts you’ve ever done, simply by doing just this movement. Although it can take a little time to learn, we feel this is absolutely worth the effort!
It is with absolute certainty that we can say that if you take the time to learn these five movements, you will find incredible versatility and have the ability to get a world class workout or even the best kettlebell workout in nearly any location with only a single kettlebell.
We highly recommend that you consider contacting your local Strong First kettlebell coach to learn these exercises in person. Fortunately, the Strength Refinery has two such coaches, Robert Gagnon and Diane Bednarek.
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