It is this simple: you will never have exhausted all possibilities for training with kettlebells. All we can do is continue to learn more about them.
For those of you that have been following this four-part series focusing on training with kettlebells, you will have seen a variety of exercises meticulously performed for the camera. What you didn’t see is the tens and hundreds of repetitions that didn’t look picture perfect, the mistakes, the falls and the sweat that never made the final choice for the glossy pages. It doesn’t take long from first picking up a kettlebell to realise that they aren’t your standard training aide. They can be awkward and difficult to handle. The uniqueness of a kettlebell is that the weight is positioned under the handle rather than at either side like a dumbbell. Coupled with a thicker handle, it is their hard-to-handle qualities which make them such good training tools. The gravitational forces differ because of where the weight is positioned which can completely change the dynamics of an exercise.
Instinctively, when using a kettlebell, I find I have an immediate desire to start swinging it and ultimately to launch it. These are in fact genuine kettlebell exercises, albeit a little difficult to replicate in the studio environment. If you can find yourself a safe large open space outdoors in which to train, try experimenting with kettlebell swings. To make them a little bit tougher, add flips and rotations to the kettlebell when switching arms at the top of the swing. This is not just a fancy display of skill but a good way of creating the need to snap the hips forwards when swinging even harder to get more ‘air time’ when swinging. First try spinning the kettlebell through 180 degrees when switching arms. Try it in both directions. If you feel confident, try a full 360 degree spin between switching arms and if you really want to push your luck and test your hip snap, try flipping the kettlebell both forwards and backwards between swings. Exercise extreme caution when performing these drills; floors can be damaged, toes can be bruised, egos can be smashed!
RENEGADE ROWS & PRESS-UPS
There are ways of adapting existing exercises or joining multiple exercises together. Anyone who has attempted a renegade row will understand how well they lend themselves to kettlebell push-ups. For an added challenge, incorporate the two exercises and perform one renegade row between each kettlebell press. This is a great conditioning exercise for the upper body and can help to improve shoulder stability which could lead to a bigger bench.
Often there are some exercises that can be too challenging and so easier versions of the same exercises can be performed to make them more achievable. That said, making an exercise harder can be fun too. Like the overhead press, the side press can easily be mastered (albeit depending on flexibility!). To develop the side press further, attempt a windmill. Starting in the catch position, press the kettlebell directly upwards and maintain an extended arm throughout the exercise. With your legs at a suitable distance apart to suit both hip and shoulder flexibility, turn your feet away from the extended arm, reach down to the floor and touch your toes on the opposite side of the body to the extended arm. Keep your legs straight (but not necessarily locked) and your chest out throughout this movement. The windmill can be incredibly difficult so you are well advised to progress slowly to reaching the rock bottom position. As a final challenge, when at the bottom position of the windmill, perform another side press and then return to the standing position of the windmill.
BOTTOMS UP PRESS
The temptation with extended duration-exercises/workouts is to simply go through the motions. This not going to cut it with kettlebells and sloppy form will lead to at best, poor gains. Maintain correct form throughout the workout and ensure correct breathing techniques are used. A good way, though admittedly not an obvious way, of ensuring you make things as strict as possible is to make the movement more complex. The tougher a movement is the less weight you will be able to use and so you are able to maintain better form. A good way to ensure you aren’t just throwing the weights around without due care is to change the orientation of the kettlebell. By turning the kettlebell upside down, an overhead press becomes an immensely more difficult bottoms-up press.
SOTS DOUBLE PRESS, SOTS BOTTOMS-UP DOUBLE PRESS
You can turn a simple press into a more difficult press in so many ways. Take for example, the Sots press: if pressing kettlebells whilst standing up wasn’t hard enough, try squatting down and doing it. Perform a power clean with two equally weighted kettlebells and hold them at shoulder height in the catch position. Next, squat down into the bottom position of the front squat. From here, maintaining a good lifting posture and a solid torso, press both kettlebells directly upwards in one smooth action. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions and return to the standing position with the kettlebells at shoulder height before lowering them to the floor. Don’t forget you can always go that extra yard and perform a bottoms-up press.
FIGURE OF 8
As you will have seen in workout three – training for weight loss and fat burning – there are ways of remaining active when recovering from a set. Swinging the kettlebell around the body with the slingshot or circulating the kettlebell around your head are good ways to just keep moving. Another exercise to add to the list of active recovery exercises is the figure of 8.
Smoothly pass the kettlebell between your legs in a figure of 8 motion. You will need to pay particular attention to keeping your arms straight/locked to avoid undue tension on the arm flexors (biceps) and remember to maintain a good lifting position: legs bent, spine neutral and in line and your chest up. Don’t forget you can switch direction when it feels appropriate.
SQUAT DOWN, SIT UP, BUTT ACTIVATION AND STAND UP
This article is titled Advanced Kettlebell Techniques and so we thought we would end the four-part series with perhaps the most elaborate kettlebell exercise we have come across to date; I don’t even know what to refer to this exercise as! But don’t for one moment think that this exercise doesn’t have its merits just because it is seemingly anonymous: it will have you gasping for breath after just a few repetitions. As for general athleticism and all-over body coordination, try it and see for yourself. You really need to experiment with what weight you can manage with this exercise, more so than any other exercise. Too much and you won’t be achieving the right movements; too little and you might well crash and burn into the mat. The exercise needs to be a completely smooth and continuous movement but we have endeavoured to break it up into phases where possible.
Grasping the kettlebell in both hands at chest level, descend to the rock-bottom front squat position. Your legs will need to be wide enough to accommodate your actually being able to lower yourself onto your buttocks without using your hands. (Repeatedly getting this first part of the movement wrong can result in bruising – you have been warned!) In a controlled manner, lower your torso to the floor as though completing a sit-up. Continuing the movement beyond a normal sit-up, move the kettlebell from your chest to an overhead position. Once the kettlebell is behind your head, reverse this action in a smooth continuous movement. Naturally you will use some of the rocking momentum from pulling the kettlebell from overhead to chest level to aid you moving onto your feet from the sit-up position. From here you simply stand up but you may need to extend your arms slightly, moving the kettlebell forwards and away from the body thereby moving your centre of gravity over your feet to allow the squat ascent. Phew. Nothing left but to try it!
That concludes this four-part series of articles on training with kettlebells. We here at KettlebellTrainer.co.uk wouldn’t be appearing in Muscle & Fitness if we didn’t seriously believe that kettlebells are a viable training tool that should and can be used by all. Feel free to contact us if you ever need any support and good luck with your training efforts. Stay strong.