There are thousands of exercise variations that can be done with the kettlebell. It is a tool that is used by almost everyone in the industry and for good reason. The displacement of the weight from the handle adds an extra challenge especially when performing exercises like farmers walks and swings. “Bottoms up” exercises and carries take grip strength training to a whole new level. My favorite reason for using the kettlebell is the integration of functional movements. Most variations are full body exercises, crossing myofascial lines and training the body to move as one unit. The power starts from the feet, transfers from the ground thru your core and our arms creating movement. This is key for so many athletes because it develops so much more than just raw strength. Powerful movements require coordination, balance, rhythm, and timing. This applies to movements like sprinting, jumping, and changing direction. However this amazing tool is not just for athletes. Since most kettlebell exercises are full body, that means we are using more muscles to create movement and therefore using more energy. For people who are trying to lose weight, this means more calories burned and in less time! It's the perfect modality for training at home because there are so many variations and it takes up almost zero space! With all of the different exercise variations, it's like having a full size gym that takes up less space than a pair of shoes!
2 Arm Kettlebell Swing
This is a simple but highly effective move for developing a strong posterior chain. The swing starts from the ground but the power is created with a hinge from the hips. Start with your feet in an athletic position and drive your hips backwards as you reach behind you. From there thrust your hips forward without over extending your back at the top of the swing. Although your arms swing in this exercise the power is not coming from the arms. The backwards/forwards movement of the hips creates the momentum that transfers into the arms causing the kettlebell to swing.
*This is a horizontal movement similar to that of a standing broad jump. This is not a vertical movement like the squat. The knees can bend but most of the power is coming from the flexion and extension of the hips.
*Arms should always be straight and should never go higher than eye level. There are plenty of variations where the arms swing all the way to an overhead position. There is nothing wrong with that variation but it does involve more risk. By stopping at eye level, you can still reap all the rewards of this great movement without taking on unnecessary risk.
*This is a two way exercise! By driving the hips forward and stopping the arms at eye level, the athlete now has to rapidly decelerate the momentum of the bell by engaging the core and pulling the kettlebell and down and back.
1 Arm Kettebell Front Squat
Again this is a simple move with big time benefits. The power starts from an athletic base position with your feet pushing into the ground. Hold the kettlebell in a racked position, with your wrist firm, your elbow forward and high. If you're doing this right, your fist should be touching or almost touching your cheek. From this position, squat down as low as you can get comfortably and stand back up by pushing the ground away. This is a big key coaching point when performing squats or really any other “pushing” movements. Don’t think about the body moving up and down. Instead think about maintaining a strong pillar and use your feet to load the body by pulling the ground into your center of mass. Once you are in the loaded position, focus on maintaining a strong pillar and push the ground away from you.
*Loading one arm at a time challenges the core to stabilize an unbalanced position. This will help develop the anti-rotation and anti-flexion qualities needed for powerful movement. It's also a great way to sneak in a great “abs” routine for people who are just looking for a great workout.
Active Straight Leg Raise
This looks a lot more complicated than it really is. By holding the kettlebell bottoms up, the athlete is forced to stabilize the shoulders. It's the ultimate “external cue”. While lying on the ground, come up into a bridge to extend the hips and activate the glutes. Now while maintaining your bridge, completely straighten one leg and raise that leg as high as you can while maintaining knee extension and dorsiflexion. I love this exercise because it trains flexion on one side, extension on the opposite side, all while maintaining shoulder stability. This translates well when teaching sprint and acceleration mechanics.