Why spend so much time in the gym isolating muscle groups when you can build dynamic total-body strength and conditioning with kettlebells?
The kettlbell has been around the fitness industry for many years. More recently, they have been gaining more popularity with CrossFit, F45 and a variety of other high intensity circuit type training programs.
When used correctly, kettlebells are extremely effective training tools for providing total-body strength and conditioning. The problem is that most people use kettlebells incorrectly. Like any other movement within the gym, proper coaching and execution is required to maximise the benefit.
The army often uses the term “be brilliant at the basics” and elite athletes are usually elite because they’re better at the fundamentals than everybody else. Mastering the fundamentals is critical to success. In training and in life.
The fundamentals of kettlebell training can be broken down into a handful of exercises. If you can master these movements you’ll be well on the way to developing a highly conditioned physique.
Below is a list of exercises that form the fundamentals of kettlebell training:
The Goblet Squat
The squat is one of the 5 basic movement patterns and has many variations. The goblet squat isn’t just a lower body exercise… it’s a full-body conditioning exercise that promotes optimal mobility.
Check out this article for a more detailed description of the goblet squat.
The kettlebell swing, in which you project the kettlebell to shoulder-height only, is an insanely effective exercise when executed with proper form. Hip power, hip hinging, and breathing techniques make it incredibly powerful.
It’s a two-for-one exercise, meaning you’re able to combine strength training and cardiovascular conditioning into one efficient movement.
Check out this article for a more detailed description of the kettlebell swing.
The get-up is a slow, deliberate movement that’s been around for centuries. The get-up will help you with functional tasks as well as higher-level exercises. It teaches you to move fluidly, and when you add the external load (such as a kettlebell) it requires strength, mobility, coordination and is a skilled movement.
Check out this article for a more detailed description of the get-up.
Similar to the kettlebell swing, the clean is another explosive exercise for total-body strength and conditioning. The main difference from the swing is that the kettlebell finishes in the rack position as opposed to being projected horizontally away from your body.
As defined by Pavel Tsatsouline, an accurate description of the kettlebell clean is:
- Pick up the kettlebell, swing it back between your legs as if for a swing, and bring it to the rack in one swift movement.
- Then drop the kettlebell back between your legs and repeat the drill for repetitions.
This movement can take some time to learn, but once you have it mastered it can be used high-powered kettlebell strength and conditioning complexes.
If you have mastered the earlier exercises, you should have demonstrated appropriate shoulder mobility and stability required to press.
The kettlebell press is another exceptional movement to learn. The press is not just a shoulder exercise, as you are required to recruit muscle activation from the entire body for maximum pressing power and strength.
If you work on your overhead presses hard enough, you will hardly need to do anything else for your upper body and midsection.
- Clean the kettlebell and press it strictly overhead to lockout.
- Pause for a moment, in the rack position to ensure that you are not using any momentum generated by the clean, for the press.
- Press with the knees softly locked and with minimal back / side bend.
- Keep the whole body tight, specifically the midsection, glutes and quads.
- Keep the pressing shoulder down.
- Lock out the elbow completely and pause at the top.
There are two ways to press overhead for repetitions. The first being to clean the kettlebell before each press. This is known as the “clean-and-press”. The second method is cleaning the kettlebell once, then pressing it multiple times from the rack position. This is known as the “military press”.