The benchmark movement in kettlebell training, the kettlebell swing builds strength and explosive power through the entire posterior chain, as well as the shoulders and core. The kettlebell swing can be performed by a complete novice, or loaded up and performed by an elite strongman.
Make sure you brace your midline (core and back) when picking up the kettlebell. The movement begins in a standing position, with knees slightly bent, feet just outside hip width and the kettlebell held between the legs (overhand grip). With straight arms, hinge over, pushing your bum back, then, extend your hips (squeeze your bum!) to drive the kettlebell forward. Bring the kettlebell back down by hinging over and letting momentum take the kettlebell through your legs. Again, extend your hips and raise the kettlebell up to eye height with straight arms.
*The kettlebell swing combines strength, power and cardiovascular training, however changes to reps and loading can change the stimulus dramatically. For a strength and power focus, choose a heavier weight with lower reps and really focus on an explosive hip extension. For a cardio focus, try lighter weight for higher reps, or combine kettlebell swings with another movement (such as rowing or burpees).
A staple in strongman training, the seemingly basic farmer’s carry is a must have in your training regime. Although it appears to be a grip exercise, the farmer’s carry also targets the obliques, upper back, and is a great way to strengthen the entire midline.
Ensuring you brace your midline (core and back) when picking up the kettlebell. The movement is performed by carrying the kettlebell by your side with arms fully extended and the shoulders set down and back. Try and keep your body as straight as possible, not letting the kettlebell pull your body to one side - This is very important as the anti-rotation will be working your obliques. Perform a 10-20m walk, then change hands and repeat.
*This can also be performed with two Kettlebells simultaneously. Using one kettlebell will put more emphasis on the obliques and midline.
A great exercise for building strong shoulders, the Arnold press targets the entire shoulder musculature, with all three muscles of the deltoid being worked.
The movement can be performed from a seated or standing position. Holding the kettlebell under your chin (palm facing your body), begin the movement by extending your arms out slightly, rotating the kettlebell outwards (so palms are now facing away from you) and pressing up. Press up until you reach full extension of the arms. With control, bring the kettlebell back down the same way, and repeat. Try and make the rotation and press one smooth movement.
*This can also be performed with two Kettlebells simultaneously.
*Performing this movement standing will engage more upper back muscles and require more core stability.
*If you are a beginner, try doing a regular kettlebell press until you build the strength and confidence needed for this variation. A kettlebell press is performed the same way; however, the kettlebell will sit on your shoulder to begin, with the palms already facing forward (no rotation).
A staple in most CrossFit and HIIT style workouts, the kettlebell thruster is a whole-body exercise that builds strength and power whilst also working muscular endurance and cardio. Combining the squat and press, the kettlebell thruster primarily targets the quads, glutes and shoulders.
The movement begins standing with the kettlebells in the front rack position (Kettlebells resting on shoulders with a neutral grip). Keeping the chest up, squat down as low as you can whilst keeping a neutral spine. As you stand up, keep your chest up and extend your hips at the top. Once you reach full extension of your legs, press the kettlebells overhead. Remember to breathe in and brace your core before you squat, breathing out on the way up. Control the kettlebells back to your shoulder and repeat. This should be completed in one smooth motion.
*If you are a beginner, start slow and controlled. As you progress, you can start to go faster, incorporating thrusters into your workouts and intervals.
If you are wanting to build stable, bulletproof shoulders, the Turkish Get Up (TGU) should be at the top of your list. This full body exercise targets the entire shoulder girdle, with all major muscles and stabilizers working to perform this movement.
The movement begins lying on your back in a slight starfish position (All limbs should be 45o off your spine). With your right arm, extend/press the kettlebell up and bring your right heel close to your bum. From there, drive your right heel into the ground and press up onto your left elbow. Push your left hand on the floor to sit upright. Bring your left leg under your right leg and behind you until your left hand, left knee, and left foot are in a straight line. Extend your chest and rotate your hips so you are in a lunge position. Stand up. During the entire movement, ensure your shoulder is stacked (stable) and you are pressing up into the kettlebell the whole time. With control, complete those steps in reverse to come back down. Swap hands and repeat.
*The TGU requires high level shoulder stability and coordination, and should only be performed by advanced individuals or with guidance from a personal trainer.
*Kettlebell overhead holds can help build the overhead stability required for this movement.
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