Master the Kettlebell: 9 Exercises You Should be Doing

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Master the Kettlebell: 9 Exercises You Should be Doing

The kettlebell has become an increasingly popular tool for enhancing athletic performance. Multiple studies show that using the kettlebell for movements, such as the kettlebell swing and the clean and jerk, can help to increase muscular strength as well as power. As an athlete, power is required in many different forms to excel at your sport. In sports such as football and rugby, the need for power is obvious, but even in sports like golf a more powerful swing can lead to a better game. Using the kettlebell for functional (link), full-body training can help to improve your power output, while also combining strength training, cardiorespiratory conditioning, core stabilization, coordination, and dynamic mobility. Clearly, kettlebell training can do wonders for your performance.

Whether you’re new to the kettlebell or you’ve been incorporating it into your training for years, there is always room to improve. Below we have separated some of our favourite kettlebell exercises into beginner, intermediate, and advanced categories. With helpful tips to improve form, you’ll be a kettlebell master in no time. We’ve also created a sample full-body kettlebell workout that is guaranteed to make you break a sweat.

Beginner Exercises

If you are just starting out with kettlebell training and want to learn the basics, these are the exercises for you.

Kettlebell Swings

The kettlebell swing is one of the foundational kettlebell movements, with numerous benefits for increasing power output. To perform, begin in a standing position with feet hip-width apart and a kettlebell in between your feet. Bend down into a half squat position to grab the kettlebell. Continue sliding your hips back into a hip hinge, while holding onto the kettlebell with both hands. Use your hips to begin the explosive swing forward into a standing position, while simultaneously bringing your arms up to shoulder height. Repeat the hip hinge back and then swing forward.

Expert Tip: Use power breathing to stabilize your core and spine. This will create a safer movement as well as help you to generate more force. When you begin the hip hinge backwards, breathe in slowly through your nose. As you swing forward, let out a sharp, short exhalation. 

Goblet Squats

Begin in a standing position with feet hip-width apart. Hold the kettlebell upside down with both hands. It should be at chest height. Hinge at your hips, with your toes tracking over your knees, as you lower yourself into a squatting position. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the ground. Pause for a brief second before using your glutes to rise back up into the starting position.

Expert Tip: The weight in your feet should be focused in the heels.

Kettlebell Single-Arm Row

Hold a kettlebell in your right hand as you begin to hip hinge backward, pushing your butt out with a slight bend in your knees. Bring your torso forward until it is parallel with the floor. Ensure your neck stays in line with your spine, so don’t look up. To begin the exercise, pull your right elbow backwards past your body until the kettlebell is in line with your chest. Focus on squeezing your lats as you pull. Return your arm to the starting position and repeat.

Expert Tip: Initiate the row by squeezing your shoulder blade back, rather than by moving your arm.

Intermediate Exercises

Once you feel comfortable performing the beginner kettlebell exercises, progress to the exercises below. Don’t forget to continue to incorporate the beginner exercises into your routine; they are easier to master, but equally as effective as the more advanced options.

Kettlebell Lunge Press

Start in a standing position, holding a kettlebell in your right hand. Bend your arm and raise the kettlebell to shoulder height. Step backward with your left leg, lowering yourself into a lunge position and stopping before your knee touches the ground. As you do this, straighten your right arm and raise the kettlebell up above your head. Step your right leg forward into the starting position and lower your right arm back to shoulder height simultaneously.

Expert Tip: Balance is key in this movement. Find a still object ahead of you to look at, such as a weight or even a spot on the wall. Keep your gaze focused on this spot as you complete the movement. Having your gaze set on an unmoving object, can help you to keep your balance.

Kettlebell Single-Arm Squat to Press

Start in a standing position, feet hip-width apart. Hold the kettlebell in one hand at shoulder height. Bend your knees and hinge at your hips as you lower your body into a squatting position. Stop when your thighs are parallel with the ground. As you begin to stand up into the starting position, straighten the arm with the kettlebell over your head. Bring the arm back down to shoulder height as you lower yourself back into the squatting position.

Expert Tip: Don’t let your arm swing out wide when you are raising it. Keep it close to your head.

Kettlebell Sumo High Pull

Place the kettlebell on the ground between your feet, which should be in a sumo (wide) stance. Bend at the knees and hips as you lower yourself into a squatting position to grasp the kettlebell with both hands. Extend your hips and knees as you stand up, bringing your arms and the kettlebell up to shoulder height. Think of leading with your elbows, which should be above your shoulders at the height of the exercise.

Expert Tip: Keep your lats engaged and your chest up throughout the entire movement.

Advanced Exercises

The following exercises are increasingly difficult and should always be performed with correct form to prevent injury. Follow the tips below and take your kettlebell skills to the next level.

Kettlebell Push Up with Row

Get into a push up position, holding a kettlebell in each hand. Keep your entire body flat as you bend your elbows and lower yourself into a push up, still balancing on the kettlebells. Push yourself back into the start position. With your right arm, pull your elbow straight back and up into a row with the kettlebell. Think about squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lower your arm back to the ground and perform another push up before completing a row with your left arm. Ensure your body remains straight throughout the entire movement.

Expert Tip: When performing the push up portion of the exercise, do not push your head forward to get closer to the ground. Your chest and nose should touch the ground at the same time.

Turkish Get Ups

To begin the exercise, lay flat on the floor, face up. Hold a kettlebell in your right arm and perform a chest press to push it up above your face, vertical to the floor. Hold your arm in this position for the rest of the movement. Bend your right knee and plant your foot firmly on the ground. Lift your right shoulder off the ground and begin twisting your body slightly until you can place your left hand on the ground behind your body. Raise your butt and your extended left leg off the ground. With your weight balanced on your left hand and right leg, begin to pass your left leg underneath you until your knees and toes are on the ground in a lunge-like position. Stand up from here, keeping your right arm extended above you the entire time. Pause at the top before reversing the movement and lying back down on the ground. 

Expert Tip: Keep your elbow straight throughout the entire movement. Bending your elbow destabilizes your shoulder and can increase your risk of injury.

Kettlebell Pistol Squats

Pick up a kettlebell with two hands and hold it at chest height by the handle. Lift one leg off the ground, balancing on the other. Begin bending the knee of the foot planted on the ground as you lower yourself into a squat position. Keep your back straight and maintain tension throughout your body for increased balance. Squeeze your glutes and extend your knee and hips to raise yourself back into the standing position, without placing the raised foot on the ground.

Expert Tip: Focus on pushing through the heel, big toe, and pinky toe as you extend your knee and hips to a standing position.

Sample Full Body Kettlebell Workout

Complete all exercises in the circuit before resting for 2-3 minutes. Repeat for a total of 3 rounds. Use a weight that feels challenging, but that you can still maintain proper form with. It’s alright to use different weights for each exercise.

Exercise

Reps

Sets

Goblet Squats

10

3

Kettlebell Sumo High Pull

10

3

Turkish Get Ups

6 (each arm)

3

Kettlebell Push Up with Row

8 (each arm)

3

Kettlebell Swings

15

3

Kettlebell Single-Arm Squat to Press

8 (each arm)

3

 

Incorporating kettlebell exercises into your training program is a great way to add variety and condition the full body for optimal power output. Give these exercises a try and see improvements in your strength, power, and performance.