Monday, February 10, 2014

19 Reasons Plus One Why the Kettlebell is King

The Kettlebell is indeed king when it comes to versatility and scalability in equipment.  We love it so much that we've named it one of the top six pieces in our Gym Owners Buyer's Guide.  And whether you're a full fledged CrossFit® Affiliate or a Garage Gym athlete, the kettlebell will deliver a great workout time and time again.  And with these 19 different exercises you could program differently every day of the week for nearly a month.  That's one handy piece of equipment that won't leave you bored.
Gear Up with Hammerhead

  • The Kettlebell Swing - performed either two-handed or one-handed the swing is a great exercise to develop hip drive.  There are variations of the swing based upon the weight of the kettlebell being used.  The Short Swing is one where the heavy kettlebell is driven just to chin height. With moderate weight kettlebells you can perform a full swing to vertical, hold there for 1-2 seconds then recycle.  With a lightweight kettlebell, speed can be the focus not only in driving the kettlebell up, but also in pulling it down for quick, explosive reps.
  • The Kettlebell Clean - Taken from the ground to the front rack position in one quick movement, the hip is again dominant in this movement.  Either single kettlebell or double kettlebell cleans can be done.
  • Deadlift - At the beginning of every kettlebell movement is the deadlift.  Moving the weight from the ground to the hip safely is important and from the top of the deadlift position, the Figure Eight can be performed [see below]
  • The Snatch - Moving the kettlebell from the ground or from the bottom of a kettlebell swing through the front rack position and into a fully extended vertical position in one fluid movement.  This move proves to be one of the most challenging.
  • The Kettlebell Halo - While holding the kettlebell handle with both hands near where the handle meets the bell, move the kettlebell clockwise from the front rack position under the chin, around the head following your jaw line, then behind the head, and returning to just under the chin.  Keep the head as stationary as possible and move the weight rather than your head.  After moving the kettlebell clockwise, reverse directions.  It's best to use lightweight here until the movement is comfortable.
  • Pressing the Kettlebell - The kettlebell is one of the best tools to isolate and strengthen the shoulder for pressing movements.  From the front rack position, extend the kettlebell to overhead and return.  Do not bounce or lift heels off the ground.  To best isolate the lower body from this kettlebell movement, either sit on the floor with legs out in front straddle or sit on a flat bench.
  • Goblet Squat - This movement is performed with both hands on the kettlebell and elbows down at the sides.  Keep the kettlebell 'locked' in place as you lower and raise your body in the squat.
  • Overhead Squat - Another variation on the squat that is very challenging is the Overhead Kettlebell squat in which the kettlebell is held overhead with a straight arm as the body lowers into the squat and raises up again.  The double kettlebell Overhead Squat is very challenging exercise.  Make sure you've got the single arm mastered first.
  • Turkish Get Up - One of our all-time favorites, the Turkish Get Up requires quite a bit of practice to execute correctly.   The movement begins on your back, moves through arm-supported one leg kneel, deep lunge position, to standing, then returning to the deep lunge, the one-arm supported one leg kneel then finishing agin on the back.  All the while the kettlebell is kept overhead with eyes fixed on it always.
  • Farmers Carry - simple, yet effective, the Farmers Carry with one or two kettlebells builds great endurance and grip strength.  Carrying the kettlebell like you would a pail of water, move from point A to point B and back as quickly as possible.  For really heavy loads, even holding heavy kettlebells for time in any position is an excellent exercise.
  • Figure Eight - From the top of the single arm deadlift position, the kettlebell is passed between the legs and caught by your other hand.  Instead of immediately passing back through the legs again, the kettlebell now swings around the hip [right arm-right hip, left arm-left hip] to the front of the body as you stand fully upright.  While half-squatting, grab the kettlebell while it swings back between the legs with the opposite hand.  While standing, the opposite hand now swings the kettlebell around the hip to the front of the body, ready to be caught again on the swing back between the legs.  The path of the kettlebell forms a figure eight and thus the name.  If this exercise proves a little too daunting at first, simply forego the pass between the legs and pass instead in front and behind.
  • Kettlebell High Pull - with both hands gripping the kettlebell on the top part of the handle, move the kettlebell from the ground to just under the chin.  Keep the hips lower than the knees as you move from the ground to standing and back.
  • Russian Twists - From the top of the sit up position, place a moderate to lightweight kettlebell next to your hip.  Grab with both hands and move the kettlebell from one side to the next, touching the ground only briefly.  To enhance the difficulty, keep the feet up off the ground the entire time.  To lessen the difficulty, keep the legs flat on the ground and extended in a vee.
  • The Liberty Sit Up - From the bottom of the sit up position, grab a lightweight kettlebell and hold overhead with one arm.  While keeping the kettlebell directly overhead the entire movement, raise to an upright sit up position and return.
  • Weighted Sit Ups - While holding the kettlebell with both hands in the Goblet Squat position, move throughout the sit up position.
  • Weighted Pull Ups and Dips - Kettlebells are also very handy to add weight to pull-ups and dips.  Pair them with a hefty resistance band.  Loop the band throughout the kettlebell handle, attach with a lark's head knot and either step into the resistance band so it rides on your hips or shoulders.
  • The Kettlebell Windmill - done with either one or two kettlebells, one kettlebell is held overhead and the other at the hip.  While keeping the overhead arm locked and upright, move the opposite arm slowly and deliberately down the same side leg [left arm-left leg] all the while keeping your eyes fixed on the kettlebell which is overhead.
  • Kettlebell Lunges - With the Kettlebell overhead, in the Goblet Squat hold or Farmer Carry hold, move from standing to the deep knee lunge.  Make sure the front knee does not track over the toes nor should it sway inward.
  • Kettlebell Front Squats - From either the front rack position with one or two kettlebells or from the Goblet Squat hold start from standing and move to a full squat position with hips always ending lower than the knees before returning to the start position.
And even though these 19 exercises are reason enough the kettlebell deserves it's place among your tools, the "Plus One" for us is it's portability.  Whether you're vacationing or taking a business trip, throwing a kettlebell in the car for the ride is a great idea.  **I buckle it in to keep it from turning into a cannon ball :)  And even if you only bring one kettlebell along, run through 3 sets of 10-15 reps of a bunch of these movements and do your best to keep moving during the entire set.  You'll be gasping for air before long.

Have another great use for the kettlebell you'd like to tell us about?  Chime in!