The kettlebell is an amazing tool for all athletes, regardless of sport. Whether you are a weightlifter, strongman, powerlifter, or fitness competitor, kettlebells should be a part of your regular training routine to improve unilateral stabilization, strength, power, and proprioception.
The “modern day kettlebell” can be traced back to the 1700’s in Russian (however, history shows that other similiar weights can be seen thousands of year ago). According to some, the kettlebell (aka Girya) was first used as counterweight for the measuremnt of…crops! Farmers would soon find themselves swinging, lifting, and competiing at local festivals, showing off their strengths.
Why the Kettlebell?
The kettlebell offers athletes a truly unique training modality to ballistically develop raw power, strength, and athletic movement. The ballistic nature of the movement allows for explosive movements at high velocities, developing greater abilities to recruit muscle fibers faster and ultimately produce more power.
Additionally, kettlebells can improve:
- Aerobic Capacity
- Core Stabilization
- Muscluar Endurance
All coaches and athletes should develop a deeper understainding of the core concepts of kettlebell training to maximize their fitness, performance, and injury resilisnce.
Below are 10 of the top kettlebell exercises to improve movement and posture, aerobic capacity, strength, power, and overall fitness and athleticism.
The Hardstyle Swing
The hardstyle swing is one of the most fundemental movements an athetle can do with a kettlebell. Unlike the more common smooth and less explosive “swing” variation, the hardstyle swing involves maximal hip extension and power production, which can drastically improve force production needed for jumping, running, and explosive lifting.
The single-arm swing has very similiar benefits to the standard two-arm swing, and then some. Due to the unilateral nature of this exercise, an athlete must learn to control and maintain a rigid spine under load, while also allowing for slight rotation during the swing. The single-arm swing is a challenging exercise for the back, grip, hips, and core that forces an athlete to stay in control of their hips and overall movement while in a “compromised” loaded position.
Double Kettlebell Clean & Jerk
This is a great exercise to train atheltes to stay connected evenly during the clean & jerk. The kettlebells act independent of one another, which will illuminate any structural imbalances and muscle weakness that may otherwise go unnoticed. Additionally, this can improve scapular stabilization and posture, both necessary for weightlifting and athletics.
Double Kettlebell Front Squat
The double front rack kettlebell squat is the gold-standard for kettlebell squatting. This exercise forces bracing, core and scapular stabilization, and a vertical torso; all of which is key for squatting. Unlike barbell movements, the kettlebells act independent of one another, further showing any descrepencies that may go unnoticed when training with a barbell.
Turkish Get Up
The Turkish Get Up is a staple core strength, hip and shoulder mobility, and overall athletic total body exercise for many athetles. This challenging movement requires the utmost ability to stabilize the spine, scapulae, and shoulder joints under load, while allowing movement and mobility in others (hips, knees, shoulders, etc).
Single Arm Snatch
The single-arm snatch can offer athletes many benefits, such as total body stabilization, unilateral movement training, strength, and a means for high-intensity total body aerobic training. The single-arm snatch variation is a fundemental power movement that requires a lifter to have sound hip and shoulder stabilization during an explosive hip and knee extension, similiar to movements in weightlifting and functional fitness competitions.
Similiar to the Turkish Get Up, the Windmill challenges multiplanar hip mobility, hamstring flexibility, and core/shoulder/scapular stabilization. This movement based exercise can be used to target the hips, core, shoulders, and upper back; making it a great option for athletes who find themselves always training in the same cardinal plane (squats, deadlifts, presses, pull ups, rows, running, rowing, etc).
This squat variation can be loaded unilaterally to further challenge core stabilization during a full range of motion at the hips, knees, and ankles. The Cossack squat can be a great way to bullet proof the lower body, and the addition of a kettlebell can increase the intensity on core and scapular stabilization.
The is a great way to increase shoulder stabilization throughout a full range of motion. while simotaneously challenging core stabilization with minimal lumbar extension. When performed correctly, this exercise can target core stabilization, shoulder mobilty, and scapular stabilization and control.
Coaches and athletes can build these ten exercises into warm-ups, assistance training, conditioning sets, and/or active recovery days to promote better movement, muscular balance and symmetry, and challenge strength, power, and conditioning capacities.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Featured Image: @mikejdewar on Instagram