Most of you have performed kettlebell circuits before, putting together basic kettlebell lifts and moving from one to the next for a certain number of reps and rounds.
But have you done a Kettlebell Skill circuit before? Get ready for a new way to challenge your body and mind by adding athletic components of coordination and balance to the strength, endurance and power that kettlebells are widely known and loved for.
In this kettlebell skill circuit you’ll take movement challenge to the next level, while still sticking with fundamental movements.
First, Master the Basic Movements
This kettlebell skill circuit has four techniques, and each of these techniques are compound movements which consist of two or more lifts strung together. In total there are twelve individual exercises contained with the four techniques.
Before you go to the Skill Circuit, make sure you can comfortably perform each of these twelve exercises with good control
[Why? Here are 5 ways kettlebell exercises can improve your barbell lifts.]
2 Hand Swings
The most fundamental of all kettlebell exercises. Sit back with your hips, chest up, back flat. Grab the handle with 2 hands and swing back through the legs to load the hips, then rapidly extend your knees, hips and torso to project the kettlebell forward and up.
Hand flip, goblet catch, squat and press (thruster)
2 Hand Flip and Goblet Catch
As the swing reaches solar plexus level, release the handle and flip both hands back towards you to make the kettlebell rotate a full circle. Open your hands to form a Goblet position and, with your arms against your body, catch the kettlebell so the bottom sits in your open palms.
Holding the kettlebell in the Goblet position, squat all the way down so that your hips drop below your knees.
Drive up rapidly through your feet and and legs to extend your whole body upwards. Make sure to fully extend your elbows at the top of the Press. The Squat and Press done together forms the Thruster.
Drop and Catch into Backswing
Following the Press, lower the kettlebell straight down to the chest. Now release the kettlebell by moving your hands away from each other, letting the bell drop straight down with the handle remaining up. Catch the bell with your fingers at waist level and let it swing back behind you.
A snatch-windmill complex
The Snatch starts like a one-hand Swing. When it gets to waist level, rapidly pull back with your same side hips and shoulders to keep the kettlebell close to your body as it moves up. As bell reaches head level, release your grip and insert your hand deep into the handle. Finish the Snatch by locking your your elbow and fixate (stop) the bell overhead. Lower with a backswing and repeat.
The high Windmill starts with Kettlebell fixated in the Overhead position. Point your feet 45 degrees in the opposite direction (feet point to Left when KB is in Right hand overhead). Eyes on the bell, chest and upper body rotate up toward the sky. Lower down by pushing your outer hip (the hip that is under the bell) to the side, while keeping your weight centered over your support (rear leg).
[The windmill is one of the best kettlebell movements for core strength – read the rest!]
1 leg deadlift, bent row, front kick, pistol squat (left leg)
1 Leg Deadlift
Balance on 1 leg, with the other leg pushing back to serve as counterbalance. Lower down under control by pushing your butt back and hinging at the waist. Your support leg can be fully locked out at the knee, or keep knee slightly bent. Grab the kettlebell with both hands and lift up by pulling from the hamstrings and glutes of the support leg. Your support leg is fully extended in top position. Lower back down under control and repeat.
1 Leg Bent Row
Balance on 1 leg and fold forward like doing a 1 Leg DL. From this folded position, grab the KB with both hands and pull to the chest, slight pause, then slowly lower back to floor under control.
At the top of the 1 Leg DL, swing your rear leg forward into a front kick, aiming with the heel of your foot
Using the kettlebell as a counterbalance held in front of you, stand on 1 leg and sit back with your hips as if sitting onto a chair, free leg out in front. Work to the depth that allows you to to maintain balance. If necessary, put a box behind you to touch your hips to. Use gradually shorter box as you become more confident with the movement.
[Learn more: 4 Benefits of the Pistol Squat]
Bring the KB into an Overhead Lockout position. Eyes on the bell, inhale and squat all the way down to bring hips lower than knees, feet flat, and exhale as your drive up to fully standing. The opposite hand counterbalances.
Dynamic snatch squat, the fourth technique in the circuit
Now Challenge the Skills
We all love kettlebell training because it is such a dynamic way to add strength, stamina and cardiovascular endurance to movement in multiple planes. When looked at in the context of your entire life, an overriding objective of all exercise should be to move better and to feel better.
Challenging the movement and not just the muscles is the way to increase your movement skill alongside getting in better shape. It’s time to get more athletic with your kettlebell training and a Kettlebell Skill Circuit is a great way to do so.
The Kettlebell Skill Circuit
There are 4 techniques in this Kettlebell Skill Circuit. Perform one after the next with no rest in between to complete each circuit:
• 2 Hand Flip & Goblet Catch, Thruster x 5
• Snatch-Windmill complex x 5 each side
• 1 Leg DL, Bent Row, Front Kick, Pistol x 5 each leg
• Dynamic Snatch Squat x 10 each arm
These movements are moderately or highly anaerobic throughout the circuit with no steady-state movements interspersed, so you will get your rest by taking one minute recovery after each circuit and aim to complete 3 circuits; 15 minutes to complete 3 rounds of the circuit is a great score, and remember your good ethics for lifting – no partial reps to go faster and anytime you lose balance that rep does not count.
Now, don’t be discouraged if you struggle at first with any of the techniques. Set improvement as your goal and work towards gradually more controlled form. You can always reduce the reps in a set and even take short breaks between exercises if you need to recover. Like any circuit, this isn’t law and you can and should modify it to challenge you in a way that builds you up, rather than tears you down.
[Want something simpler? Here’s an 18-minute kettlebell circuit for fat loss.]
What’s the Kettlebell Skill Circuit Good For?
This circuit is a high skill workout aimed to make you a better mover. The concentration and coordination involved in the balancing, changes of direction and transitions from one move to the next challenge you to expand your movement curriculum, and being a better mover transfers into all aspect of life.
When to Go Heavier
Do yourself a solid and train the skill as a priority over the speed. When you can go fast with excellent form, you “own” the movement and you can try with a heavier load. A far-too-common training mistake is to rush through circuits to be FIRST, long-term health be damned. Don’t be THAT gal or guy and instead, be the one who can train for the rest of your life because you put the time and effort into doing your movements well, and not just fast and heavy.
Remember that the long-term value of this or any circuit is not how hard you struggle now, it is in how much better your movement skill increases and allows you to be more efficient in how you use your body for training, sports, and life.