10 Killer Kettlebell Exercises

Discover 10 killer kettlebell exercise that will revolutionise your training sessions

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the kettlebell is one of the best exercise tools for developing whole-body, all-round fitness. In another Hungry4Fitness article – Advanced Kettlebell Techniques – I discuss at length the health and fitness benefits you can expect if you make kettlebell training a permanent addition to your exercise regime.



However, in order to avoid coming across as repetitive, I won’t go into detail but instead advise the interested reader either to follow the above link or see below the brief encapsulation of those benefits in the Quick FAQ.



One point I will heap emphasis on, though, is the imperative of participating in regular kettlebell training. Of course, as with anything that confers either health or fitness benefits, or both, we must make it a recurring, habitual feature of our routine.



The occasional kettlebell session is about as useful as the occasional branch of broccoli. In order to get those health benefits from either you’ve got to make them a prominent part of your diet.



So, with that said, find at least one weekly training session where you could include kettlebells or, better still, convert it into a kettlebell only session. By implementing this advice, if it could be called that, the sooner you will be enjoying the superior physicality kettlebell training can confer.


Quick FAQ


Why is kettlebell training so effective?

When swinging, pressing or pulling a kettlebell, whatever your preference (personally mine’s all three), you are engaging in one of – if not the – most effective forms of training. Bold statement I know – made bolder still by that italicised the. However, I feel I can confidently support my statement on a sound justification. Here goes – in a nutshell:



Because traditional kettlebell exercises (and I’m not talking about those pathetic Western adaptations: no Russian would be seen dead ‘curling’ a KB – to be caught committing such a heinous crime would land you a 6 to 10 stretch in the gulag!) . . . but because traditional kettlebell exercises stimulate both the muscular and cardiovascular systems whole-body fitness is promoted. Few if any other modalities of exercise offer such a broad spectrum of physical improvement.


Benefits of kettlebell training?

The benefits of kettlebell training are many and varied. Instead of waffling on about them in one almighty paragraph I’ve encapsulated the benefits in a simple list. Behold!


- Superior muscular endurance
- Improved cardiovascular performance
- Enhanced proprioceptive sensitivity
- Improved coordination
- Cast iron core strength
- Gorilla-like grip
- Augmented mental toughness
- And palms as rough as tree bark (though some won’t see this as a benefit)


How to begin kettlebell training?

Simple: start with a nice light bell and firstly focus on a couple of core movements – such as the swing and single arm clean. Once you’ve mastered these movements, and you can swing and clean like a seasoned Girevoy competitor, consider expanding on your parochial repertoire of exercises and increase the weight. Also, ensure that you are incorporating kettlebells into your training regime at least twice a week. The longer you leave it between sessions the slower your progress will be – obviously. Remember: the royal road to superior proficiency is heavily soiled with sweat (tears and blood).


Does kettlebell training build muscle?

Yes . . . and no. That contradiction needs clarifying. Regular kettlebell training will build muscle in a person who is under trained – but that’s not saying much, even one of Joe Wicks’ home workouts would marginally increase the muscle mass of a couch addict. However, kettlebell training doesn’t build muscle the way strength training would. But then the kettlebell is not a muscle-building tool. It’s a training tool designed to develop superior muscular endurance and stamina. And in that it excels.



Also, the way in which kettlebells are used (should be used) is not conducive to building muscle. You see, the objective of traditional kettlebell training is about the number of repetitions an athlete can perform in a certain duration of time – usually 10 minutes – which is muscular endurance training. And muscular endurance training doesn’t build muscle. It increases the fibril density and definition of the muscle but not its size. To develop mass the weights must be heavy, the number of repetitions performed low and the rest periods long. Kettlebell training is almost completely the opposite.


On with the show

Ok then, now we’ve covered the theoretical side of kettlebell training let’s get practical! Following this sentence you will discover 10 killer kettlebell exercises that, once you have mastered the techniques, will help you advance your physicality, burn fat and sculpt a lean defined physique . . . so what are you waiting for . . .


The 10 killer KB exercise include

1: The Swing
2: Under the leg pass
3: Goblet Squat
4: Single arm clean & press
5: Single arm Jerk!
6: Single arm pulls
7: Turkish Get-up
8: Squat to Press
9: Snatch!
10: The Long Cycle!


Killer Kettlebell Exercise #1: The Kettlebell Swing

Muscles worked: all of them! Honestly, the kettlebell swing is such an effective whole-body exercise that no muscles escapes unscathed from this wrecking ball of a movement. But from the ashes superior physicality will emerge like a fiery phoenix!


In his ok book The Russian Kettlebell Challenge (see end of article) Pavel Tsatsouline cites a 1920s weightlifting champion as having said that the swing: ‘brings into action and develops practically every group of muscles on the back of your body and legs, and a good many others besides . . . If you have time on your schedule for only one back exercise, make it this one . . .’



Tsatsouline himself likens the swing to a physical altercation with a Russian bear because, after a good hundred reps, your muscles feel as though they’ve been torn to shreds (that’s a good thing by the way).



If you decide to become a regular swinger you’ll develop superior grip, core and pelvic thrusting strength whilst enhancing your physical functionality – for few exercises force you to fight to maintain correct posture and foot positioning.



Amazing really how such a simple exercise can bring about so many benefits.


Teaching Points

As exercise names go the kettlebell swing couldn’t be less ambiguous if it tried. After taking the kettlebell from the floor with both hands we initiate the movement with a short backwards pull then thrust forwards through the hips propelling that gravity-loving lump of pig iron level with our shoulders.



Congratulations! You are now a certified swinger!



But wait, don’t go anywhere yet. If you’ve never swung before ensure to familiarise yourself with the detailed list of teaching points below. Though an indubitably simple exercise there’s a number of technical considerations that, well, you ought to consider.



  1. Centre your mass over a kettlebell the weight of which is commensurate with your current strength and ability. In short, don’t go heavy – keep it light to begin with!

  2. Bending at the knee whilst ensuring to keep the back ironing-board straight grasp the bell with both hands.

  3. Firing through the quads squat into the standing position.

  4. Before initiating the movement organise your feet – they should be just over shoulder width apart – fix your eyes on an indefinite point in the distance and prepare your mind for the exercise. I call this bit the calm before the storm!

  5. With knees still slightly bent rotate slightly at the hips so as to create space to pull the bell back between your pins.

  6. On receiving the kettlebell in your groin fire through with the gluteal muscles and, with arms straight, propel the KB forward. Instead of trying to get the KB all the way up in the first swing I find it best to elevate it in stages. Usually after the third swing I’m in full flight – so to speak.

  7. Once the kettlebell has reached the desired height – roughly level with your chin – arrest the movement and allow gravity to do its thing. Ensure to control the kettlebell during its descent.

  8. Again receive the KB in the groin harnessing the kinetic energy generated.

  9. Use that energy (and a bit of your own) to complete the next repetition.

  10. Now you are swinging!


Methods of Modification

Modifications abound! But I’ll be quick – promise. Once you mastered the standard swing – described above and displayed in the video tutorial below – try single arm swings. Also, you can swing the bell all the way up so that it is directly above your head, pausing for a mo before allowing it to drop (I call this the big dipper). And then there’s the option of fastening a resistance band to the kettlebell for added resistance. By tethering the KB to an RB resistance increases throughout the range of movement eventually peaking at maximal contraction – where it’s most effective. I’ll sum by saying: when you get your confidence with this exercise just play about with it – though best to do this outside.


Dos

  • Keep control throughout the exercise

  • Relax during the movement – you shouldn’t strike the appearance of a soldier on parade

  • Make sure that your feet are evenly spaced and planted firmly before attempting the swing

  • Fix your eyes on a point roughly head height

  • Ensure the arms are slightly bent throughout

  • Keep your core tight whilst swinging

  • Squeeze your bum cheeks together at precisely the moment when the KB reaches the top position


Don’ts

  • Do not bend or round your back – keep it straight or slightly concaved

  • Do not at any point lock the legs out

  • Do not over-rotate or ‘collapse’ at the hips during the downward phase. The kettlebell should not pull you down so that your torso becomes parallel with the floor. This is a common mistake which places a lot of stress on the lumbar region of the spine.



Killer KB Exercise #2: Under the leg pass (ULP)

Muscles worked: mainly lower back (erector spinae) quadriceps and core stabilisers. But also this exercise is a terrific brain stimulator – for if you ‘switch off’ when ULPing you’ll careen the bell into your shin or ankle which hurts like a bitch.


The ULP is a touch more technical than the swing. With this exercise we pass the kettlebell through and around the legs tracing out as we do so a figure of eight pattern. When performing the ULP you kind of take on the appearance of a stationary basketball player as she dribbles the ball between her legs. But instead of bouncing a soft ball you’re circulating a steel bell, and instead of playing a sissy sport you’re subjecting yourself to a singularly sadomasochistic exercise, and . . . wait, actually the ULP’s nothing at all like playing basketball!



Scratch out the above and proceed on with the tutorial.



Prior to performing this exercise there are a couple of technical points that you ought to consider. As per normal those points are presented below:


Teaching Points

  1. Position yourself directly over the bell.

  2. Your feet should be spaced a little over shoulder width.

  3. Bending at the knee grasp the bell with one hand – I find it best to hold the nook of the handle as this creates more space for when swopping hands.

  4. Keeping the back straight perform a partial squat.

  5. At this point the KB should be suspended majestically between your legs and you should strike the appearance of Burden’s ass: confused as whether or not to squat up or down.

  6. Now ‘feed’ the bell back behind either the left or right leg – your choice – ensuring to have the receiving hand open ready and waiting.

  7. The pass should take place when the KB is almost directly in line with your Achilles.

  8. Once safely in the receiving hand, in one seamless movement follow an elliptical path and orbit the bell back round the opposite leg.

  9. Mirror what you’ve done but on the opposite side.

  10. Now just keep tracing those infinity signs until you get bored or keel over from malnutrition (to conclude Burden’s paradox).


Methods of Modification

There’s a couple of modifications you can use to spice up this movement. For example, after passing the bell though the legs a set number of times you can close them and begin circumnavigating your torso. Once you’ve completed, say, ten clockwise rotations, you would stop the bell with your free hand and proceed in the opposite direction. From here – we’re still going around the torso by the way – attempt to squat down: Yes! whilst whirring the KB. Isn’t that a bit dangerous? Perhaps. Using the bell as a counter weight the idea is to see how low you can go.


Dos

  • Keep control throughout the exercise

  • Engage the core muscles

  • Relax during the movement

  • Make sure that your feet are evenly spaced and planted firmly before attempting the UPL

  • Ensure the arms are slightly bent throughout


Don’ts

  • Do not bend or round your back – keep it straight or slightly concaved

  • Do not stiffen up in the knees – keep em flexed or, as they say in the business, ‘soft’





Killer Kettlebell Exercise #3: Goblet Squat

Muscles worked: primarily those of the quadriceps, the glutes and core stabilisers. But, if you hold the bell by the handle in the bottom-up position, your forearms, biceps and anterior deltoids will receive a ruddy good isometric thrashing as well.


When performing this exercise there’s a couple of ways to hold the kettlebell. 1) The thumbs are threaded through the handle and the hands are positioned such that it appears as though you are praying to Girevoy Gods. Personally I believe this to be the inferior position of the two as it engages fewer muscles.



The following position is best: 2) Grasping the handle and in one smooth movement we hoist the kettlebell from the floor upending it. In the initiation position there should be a 90° angle at the elbow joint and the bottom of the bell should be pointing skywards. From here we perform a squat ensuring to observe correct training principals – outline in more detail below:


Teaching Points

  1. Centre your mass over the KB.

  2. Bending at the knee – ensuring all the time to keep that back straight! – grasp the handle in either one of the positions described above.

  3. Assuming that you took my advice and adopted the second hand position, take the strain and pull the bell back between your legs.

  4. In one smooth movement swing it forward upending it as you do so.

  5. The bell should come to a halt almost directly in front of your solar plexus.

  6. In this position there should be a 90°angle at your elbow, the upside down bell poised at your front, arms slightly splayed, eyes fixed forward, knees slightly bent, feet a little over shoulder width.

  7. Brill! Now you’re ready to execute a goblet squat.

  8. Under control perform a perfect squat only stopping when a 90°angle forms at the back of the knees.

  9. From here fire through the quads and stand up.


Methods of Modification

The best modification – in my humble opinion – is to transform the goblet squat into a quasi thrusta. Here’s how you do that. On reaching Teaching Point 9 simply carry the upward squatting momentum into an over-head press. That’s right, just push the bell all the way up to the sky stopping only when you run out of arm extension. To complete the movement lower the bell back down so that you are back at Teaching Point 6. Of course, if you are performing multiple repetitions, you would not stop but sink straight into the next squat. (For a full outline of this exercises see Killer Kettlebell Exercise #8 Squat Press (aka quasi thruster).)


Dos

  • Organise your feet in the desired position prior to picking up the bell

  • Keep that back straight throughout every stage of the exercise

  • Breathe methodically – I only mention this because I have the awful habit of holding my breath when goblet squatting

  • Look forward whilst you squat

  • Keep the core muscles engaged throughout

  • Smoothly down . . . smoothly up


Don’ts

  • Do not lock the legs at the top position

  • Do not bounce out of the squat position

  • Do not allow you heels to lift off the floor

  • Do not lean forward – you should be able to see the ends of your trainers during every phase of the squat



Killer Kettlebell Exercise #4: The Single Arm Clean & Press

Muscles worked: (it’d be far easier to identify the muscles not worked; they are those of the mandible – though I’m not entirely confident in that assessment; after twenty continuous clean and presses with a 32kg KB you’ll be gritting them teeth together pretty hard).


This is the first of the full range of movement KB exercises which sees the trainer cycle the bell from the lowest to the uppermost position. The initial phase of the movement is kettlebell training’s answer to the Olympic ‘clean’ where with one smooth crisp pull the bell is brought into the nook of the arm. From here we execute a perfect jerk pausing momentarily in the top most position before retracing our steps.



The single arm clean & press is the ultimate full-body exercise and after you master the technical application and get a spot of practice under your belt you’ll be able to perform alternating arm cycles until the Cossacks come home.


Teaching Points

  1. Position yourself directly over the kettlebell with a nice wide stance – about one and a bit shoulder width should do it.

  2. Bending at the knee and keeping the back perfectly straight grasp the kettlebell.

  3. To initiate the movement ensure first that there is no slack in the arm by applying a bit of resistance – a common mistake is to ‘snatch’ the bell from the floor. Don’t do this.

  4. Smoothly pull the bell back and as you bring it forwards generate momentum by firing through the quads and glutes. Remember: you are not swinging the kettlebell out and pulling it into the nook of the arm. It should not drop into position with a thud. As you drive the kettlebell forward guide it up whilst allowing it naturally to rotate into position. This should be performed smooth and sleek. No thudding or dropping or slapping.

  5. Once the kettlebell is in the halfway position you may momentarily pause for thought.

  6. To complete the rep perform a jerk (see teaching points below). Again pause before retracing your steps. Congratulations! You have completed the first phase of the clean & press. To conclude the movement:

  7. Allow the KB to obey the law of gravitation guiding it into the nook of the arm as it drops.

  8. Now this next technique might be a touch controversial but I’m going to describe the technique as I perform it and have seen it performed by a number of KB masters – Ivan Denisov (link) being the most notable.

  9. When the KB drops from the top position back to the nook of the arm you are to absorb the shock by bending the knees whilst deflecting the KB with your arm allowing it to carry on falling to the bottom position. Why do this?

Because a) it saps energy to arrest the kettlebell’s momentum at this point and it wastes more energy to ‘pop’ it back out of the nook of the arm to initiate the final stage of the exercise; b) the natural rest point is in the nook of the arm on the way up and when the bell is in the uppermost position.


Methods of Modification

We’ve been through this. Perfection can’t be modified!


Dos

  • Keep control throughout the exercise

  • Relax during the movement

  • Make sure that your feet are evenly spaced and planted firmly before attempting the exercise

Don’ts

  • Do not bend or round your back – keep it straight or slightly concaved.

  • Do not at any point lock the legs out



Killer Kettlebell Exercise #5: The Jerk!

Muscles worked: primarily those of the shoulder but also the core, quads and calves.


The jerk – which can be performed either as a single or double arm movement – is one of the Titans of kettlebell exercises. It stands proud atop the craggy snow-capped peaks of Mt. Olympus alongside the likes of the ‘snatch’ the ‘swing’ and the dreaded ‘long cycle’.



Why is it that the jerk holds such a lofty place of prominence? Well for starters it’s simply an awesome exercise and it feels great to perform. Seriously, I could jerk off all day and not get bored. Yeah I’d get hellish hand cramps and some nasty sores but I’d still be loving the feel of the movement.



Furthermore, the jerk is a 24-carat gold full-body exercise and though the range of movement is comparatively constricted few muscles can sit back and relax when punching that bell above your head. Don’t believe me? Come back with your incredulity after completing a continuous 10 minute cycle with a 24kg bell.



But first you’ve got to master the movement. Read on . . .


Teaching Points

  1. To get the kettlebell into position you’ll need to follow steps 1 through to 5 of the previous tutorial – Killer Kettlebell Exercise #4: Clean and Press.

  2. Once in position and before initiating the movement organise your feet so that you make a solid base or platform from which to lift. I form a narrow stance and I hold my unencumbered arm out for balance.

  3. Firstly dipping at the knee then firing through the quadriceps we use the body to put some energy into the kettlebell.

  4. As it begins its vertical trajectory we help it on its way with a push of the arm.

  5. When the kettlebell has cleared the head we again dip at the knee and effectively drop or fall underneath the bell locking the arm out as we do so. At this point the kettlebell should be stationary, your arm straight and knees partially bent.

  6. Now stand up. Congratulations! You have completed the first phase of the jerk.

  7. To conclude the movement allow the kettlebell to fall – literally – from the sky. Using your arm to guide the trajectory catch – literally – the kettlebell in the nook of the arm.



Remember: as the bell falls into the fold of your arm you should dip at the knee so as to expel the shock of the impact; it also helps to exhale sharply.


Methods of Modification

Some exercise don’t need modifying – the jerk is one such exercise. Why? Well it’s perfect just the way it is and any attempt to ‘enhance’ it would be no less sacrilegious as trying to improve a piece of Renaissance art.


Dos

  • Centre your mass over the kettlebell

  • Organise your body into a comfortable and stable position before initiating the squat

  • Feet over shoulder-width apart

  • Back straight

  • Look forward whilst you squat

  • Keep the core muscles engaged throughout


Don’ts

  • Do not round the back

  • Do not lock out the arm at the top position



Killer Kettlebell Exercise #6: Single Arm Pulls

Muscles worked: the single arm pull primarily targets the transverse abdominus and gluteus maximus; but also, thanks to the ‘pull’, forearms, biceps, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids and teres major and minor are all stimulated. Amazing the difference a little pull can make.


From a technique standpoint this exercise shares many similarities with the single arm swing. This has something to do with the fact that it is a modification of the aforementioned exercise. But by bolting that pull on the end of the swing a myriad other muscles are mobilised making this one dynamic, fully functional movement.


Teaching Points

  1. Centre yourself directly over a kettlebell ensuring that your feet are spaced a little over shoulder width.

  2. Keeping the back straight and bending at the knees grasp the bell with one hand and stand up.

  3. At this point the bell should be poised between your legs, your arm pulled taught against your torso and groin and your spare arm held out at your side for balance.

  4. To facilitate the initial phase of the movement firstly we want to generate momentum. Do this by pulling the bell back and then fire through the glutes and transverse abdominus – basically you are rigorously thrusting your bell forward into the vacant space at your front.

  5. As the kettlebell follows a parabolic trajectory cut short the curvature by pulling it into the chest the moment it meets the apex.

  6. The instant your hand touches your chest force the kettlebell down to begin the next repetition.

  7. Repeat!

Dos

  • Keep your knees nice and bent throughout

  • Keep your spare arm out at your side to aid balance

  • Fix your eyes on an indefinite point to your front


Don’ts

  • Do not round your back

  • Do not place the hand of your spare arm on your hip or quad – follow the dictates of Do two

  • Do not perform an up-right row – there must be a distinguishable ‘swing’ prior to the ‘pull’. By denigrating this movement to an ‘up-right row’ you will rob it of the dynamic quality that makes it such a good exercise.


Note: the video demonstrates the double arm pull. When performing the single-arm variation, as described above, the technique remains, more or less, the same.




Killer Kettlebell Exercise #7: Turkish Get-up

Muscles worked: Posterior muscles: gluteus maximus; biceps femoris; semitendinosus; Semimembranosus. Anterior muscles: Rectus femoris; Sartorius; Tensor fascia latae; Iliopsoas; Pectineus; Lateral muscles; Gluteus medius and minimus; Tensor fascia latae; Piriformis; Medial muscles; Adductor magnus; Adductor longus; Adductor gracilis; Adductor brevis; Pectineus. Knee Extensors: rectus femoris; vastus lateralis; vastus medialis; vastus intermedius. Flexors: biceps femoris; semitendinosus; semimembranosus; gastrocnemius; popliteus. Ankle and foot: Triceps surae; gastrocnemius; soleus; tibialis posterior; flexor digitorum longus; flexor hallucis longus; peroneus longus and brevis; tibialis anterior; extensor hallucis longus; extensor digitorum longus. Anterior muscles of the trunk: Scalenes (anterior and middle); Sternocleidomastoid; Intercostals (external and internal); Diaphragm. Abdominals: Rectus Abdominis; External Oblique; Internal Oblique. Transversus Abdominus. Posterior muscles of the trunk Extensors/Ipsilateral Rotators: Erector spinae (sacrospinalis); spinalis; longissimus; iliocostalis; Splenius Capitis et cervicis. Extensors/Contralateral Rotators (transverso-spinalis muscles): Semispinalis; Multifidus; Rotatores; Quadratus Lumborum. Muscles of the shoulder complex: Muscles from axial skeleton to scapula and clavicle: Serratus anterior; Trapezius; Rhomboideus major and minor; Pectoralis minor; Levator scapulae. Muscles from scapula and clavicle to humerus: Deltoid; Rotator cuff; supraspinatus; infraspinatus; teres minor; subscapularis; Teres major; Coracobrachialis; Biceps brachii (long head); Triceps brachii (long head). Muscles from axial skeleton to humerus: Latissimus dorsi; Pectoralis major. Muscles of the elbow and radioulnar joints: Elbow flexors; biceps brachii; brachialis; brachioradialis; pronator teres; Elbow extensors; triceps brachii; anconeus. Radioulnar supinators: biceps brachii; supinator; abductor pollicis longus; extensor pollicis brevis; extensor indicis proprius. Radioulnar pronators: pronator teres; pronator quadratus; flexor carpi radialis (muscles of the hand and wrist not listed) (Health science Centre – Oklahoma University – 2020).



In short, all muscles are worked when Turkish Get Upping!



I hope you’re impressed with that super-duper lo-ng list of muscles, I spent ages formatting that gargantuan paragraph. The attempted effect, of course, is to illustrate, somewhat satirically, just how much of a beast of an exercise the Turkish Get Up is.



Seriously, if you were to gather together all of the great whole-body exercises – deadlift, snatch, squat, clean & press – the Turkish Get Up would out-beast the lot of 'em.



For this exercise requires not only strength but superior body control and the unflinching concentration of a Zen Buddhist. Why? Well whilst Turkish Get Upping you must keep the kettlebell suspended directly above your head whilst carefully manoeuvring your body into the supine position. Then, when you’re lying perfectly flat on your back, with your arm still straight and the kettlebell poised precariously over your face, you are to stand up again!



Whoever conceived of this damnable exercise is probably in hell right now torturing Satan.


Teaching Points

Just quickly before the teaching points, the traditional way of performing this exercise is to start off on the floor. Personally, I think that’s pathetic. Who wants to begin an exercise on their back! Not me that’s for certain. There’s only two things I like doing on my back, one of those things is sleeping. . . . No, instead start standing up and, to get the bell into position, perform a snatch (see Killer Kettlebell Exercise #9: Single Arm Snatch!). Once you’ve hoisted that bell high above your head only then should you begin your descent into hell.



  1. So, assuming that you’ve successfully snatched the bell aloft, take a couple of deep breaths and compose the inner sanctum of your mind.

  2. Keep the unencumbered arm out at your side for balance.

  3. Slowly and under control – ensuring all the while to keep that arm as horizontal as a flag pole – settle the kettlebell-side knee down on the floor.

  4. Once the kettlebell-side knee has safely touched down lean back slightly and place the hand of the balancing arm on the floor.

  5. At this stage of the Turkish Get Up you should be striking a singularly strange pose: a quasi-lunge where it looks as though you’ve all of a sudden lost balance.

  6. Simultaneously collapse the supporting arm so that you are now leaning on your forearm, not your hand, and straighten the leg of the same side. You should now be adopting a pose similar to Adam, in the central piece of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Mural. But instead of lazily reaching out to receive the divine spark from the Big Man you are holding high that bell!

  7. To complete the movement straighten out the other leg and lie down completely flat on the floor. Of course still keeping the KB supporting arm straight.

  8. Now Get Up in exactly the same way you got down.


Tip! Throughout the movement keep your eyes riveted to the bottom of your bell. No upskirting though! By doing this you’ll find it much easier to maintain balance.


Methods of Modification

Wash your mouth out!


Dos

  • Keep your eyes fixed to the kettlebell – this really does help improve balance. Don’t believe me? Try a Get Up whilst looking anywhere but the bell. Though if you are stupid enough to take up this challenge I advise that you wear a crash helmet.

  • Ensure that you perform this exercise on a soft surface – such as a Yoga mat.

  • Start off with a light weight – or no weight at all.


Don’ts

  • Do not go heavy on your first Get Up. Chances are you’ll wind up concussed.

  • Do not wear restrictive or tight-fitting clothing.



Killer Kettlebell Exercise #8: Squat Press (aka quasi thruster)

Muscles worked: primarily the quadriceps, glutes, transverse abdominus and deltoids. The scope of myofascial stimulation doesn’t stop there though. If you possess the physicality to squat press for 60 continuous seconds (or more!) your cardiovascular system will fire up like a well stoked furnace and your ticker will outpace that of a horny rabbit’s.


This is one of those exercises that I love and hate with equal vehemence. Let me just clarify that contradiction.



I love the way the squat press promotes physiological participation; a mere ten reps with a moderate weighted bell will have me grimacing as though I’m receiving a good torturing by the Inquisition. And after a couple of sets it feels as though every myofibril has been recruited in the fray. Also, because such a vast array of muscles is required to perform this movement, most notably the quadriceps and transverse abdominus, you’ll experience a nasty cardio burn – which will nicely compliment the conflagration of your corporality.



But I hate how it hurts – Oh! how it hurts! The worst bit is when, after pressing the bell high above your head, you begin your descent into the next rep. There’s a point where you are required to arrest the bell at your front prior to dipping into the squat. In order to do so you must contract your transverse abdominus which feels as though you’re being squeezed by a belligerent giant.



All I’m going to say is, don’t squat press the morning after eating a curry.


Teaching Points

  1. Ok, to cut down on the verbiage, refer to the teaching points for the Goblet Squat. Transition through teaching points 1 to 9.

  2. On completion of the 9th teaching point proceed to press or ‘thrust’ the bell up high above your head.

  3. As soon as the arms are at full extension – of course there should still be a slight kink at the elbow: never lock a weight bearing joint – lower the bell under control ensuring to arrest it the moment it comes level with your solar plexus.

  4. Use the downward momentum generated by gravity’s amorous attraction to all things steel and spherical (especially) and sink smoothly into the next squat.


Methods of Modification

?


Dos

  • Keep breathing throughout the exercise. A bit of an obvious Do I know but for some strange reason the squat press, of all KB exercises, is the biggest bugger for inducing asphyxiation. I’m terrible for this: whenever I perform this exercise I hold my breath and consequently blow up like a puffer fish – whilst turning as red as a tomato. Not a pretty sight.

  • Apply even force through both legs and arms when executing the movement. Be mindful not to rely on your dominant side. Focus on achieving perfect symmetry. It helps to use a mirror.


Don’ts

  • Do not allow you back to bend and bow.

  • Do not lock out at the knee or elbow.

  • Do not bounce out of the squat – not unless, that is, you value the structural integrity of your knee joint.

  • Do not eat a vindaloo within 24 hours of performing this exercise. Failure to heed this advice will likely result in involuntary defecation. You’ve been warned!


Killer Kettlebell Exercise #9: Snatch!

Muscles worked: snatching stimulates the transverse abdominus, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, teres major (and minor), deltoids, biceps brachi and muscles of the forearm.


It’s not up for debate: the snatch is a stellar exercise and a pillar of the kettlebell tradition. Pavel Tsatsouline calls it the ‘Tsar of kettlebell lifts’ and says that the snatch ‘will quickly humble even studly powerlifters,’ (The Russian Kettlebell Challenge – p. 64).



But what attributes make this exercise such a stud?



Well, it’s to do with the forces generated when propelling that obstinate brute above your head. If you can stretch your mind back to those hazy days when you intermittently lapsed in and out of conscious whilst some overzealous science teacher prattled on about Newtonian physics, you may well be able to recall that bit about how, when a mass object is subject to acceleratory forces, its weight increases. This relationship is expressed through the algebraic formula F=ma: force equals mass multiplied by acceleration. Remember?



No, me neither. But basically when you swing, say, a 24kg KB, the forces generated are representative of a weight 3+ times greater.



In addition to this complicated attribute, the snatch is an inimitable whole-body exercise that builds superior glute, grip and transverse abdominus strength. Moreover, few resistance exercise stimulate the cardiovascular system quite like snatching.


Teaching Points

  1. Centre your mass over a kettlebell ensuring to adopt a stance slightly over shoulder width.

  2. Keeping your back straight squat down and grasp the bell . . . then squat back up again.

  3. Initiate the movement by pulling the bell back between your legs.

  4. Once you feel the bell push you back, your arm taught against your torso, fire through the glutes and core whilst simultaneously pulling with the back muscles.

  5. If you’ve put enough ‘umph’ into the bell it should sail up smooth and sweet.

  6. As it carries on ascending higher and higher the bell should, just before reaching the top position, swivel round coming to rest on the back of your wrist. This positional transition ought to take place with the mechanical precision of Swiss watch. Basically what I’m trying to say is the bell shouldn’t ‘flop’ over the hand slapping against the back of the wrist. But you’ll soon know if you’re not doing it right because the following day your wrist will be bruised and sore.


Remember: you are not ‘lifting’ with your arms, but rather propelling the bell with your hips.


Methods of Modification

Don’t make me come over there!


Dos

  • Select a weight commensurate with your current ability.

  • Keep that back nice and straight.

  • Adopt a stance slightly over shoulder width: you do not want that bell thwacking into your knee cap as it does the big dipper!

  • Hold your unencumbered arm out to aid balance.


Don’ts

  • Do not snatch near your ma’s finest China.

  • Do not allow the bell to pull you down so that your torso becomes parallel with the floor. Actually, performed properly, the snatch is quite a compact movement. The common mistake is to overemphasise the rotation at the hips as the bell bowls through the legs; when performed incorrectly as has just been described you’ll see a 90° angle form at the quads and abdominals. Yes an angle should form but nowhere near 90°. I would say 45° at most.

  • Do not ‘swing’ the kettlebell out as you would a swing. Instead, after you’ve propelled it forward with the strong muscles of your glutes and transverse abdominus, pull it up. Comparative to the swing when snatching the bell should remain relatively close to your body. Just watch the video – wherein you’ll receive a demonstration from Ivan Denisov, perhaps the greatest KB lifter of all time!



Killer Kettlebell Exercise #10: The Long Cycle

Muscles worked: See Turkish Get Up!


Ladies and gentlemen may I introduce to you the ultimate Kettlebell exercise. Drum roll please. . . . Welcome on to the stage the one, the only . . . The Long Cycle!



Yes this exercise does deserve an ostentatious introduction. It is that good. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it is the single best exercise you can do. Let me explain why.



Firstly, then, The Long Cycle is one of the few kettlebell exercise where we would use two bells simultaneously. Trust me when I say, performing such a complex and dynamic movement with two bells requires significant skill, coordination and body control. This is the only kettlebell exercise that has left a hematoma on the side of my face.



Furthermore, whilst we’re on the subject of glorifying this singularly glorious exercise, The Long Cycle is the best whole-body strength builder and if you are sadomasochistic enough to perform this exercise on a regular basis, you will reap the reward of augmented pulling and pressing power.



Last but by no means least, I would stake a week’s wage on the supposition that few – if any – exercises burn fat and sculpt a lean defined physique like The Long Cycle does and can. I’ve heard it said that after 50 good reps the body burns the blob for hours. So if you’re looking to trim the fat whilst forging cast iron musculature make The Long Cycle your exercise of choice.



I’ll shut up now.


Teaching Points

  1. Straddle a twin pair of kettlebells. Your stance should be about 1.5 shoulder widths – the widest stance you’ll adopt of any KB exercise for the fact that you must accommodate two bells swinging between your legs.

  2. Bending at the knee and keeping that back nice and straight grasp the bells.

  3. Before initiating the movement organise the bells so that, when gripping them, your hands mirror each other.

  4. Take the strain then pull the bells back through your legs.

  5. Fire through the hips propelling them forward.

  6. If you’ve put sufficient ‘umph’ into the bells they should fly up enabling you to catch them in the nook of the arm.

  7. Prior to performing the press – or ‘jerk’ – we pause momentarily.

  8. Taking a shallow dip at the knee we put some momentum into the kettlebells by contracting the quadriceps.

  9. As the bells are in flight we again take another shallow dip at the knee whilst simultaneously straightening out the arms.

  10. To conclude the upwards phase of the movement stand up. Again pause momentarily.

  11. Now, at this point you should be standing nice and tall, arms out stretched, eyes trained on the bottoms of bells. In one continuous movement allow the bells to fall into the nook of the arm. But do not stop them there! Simply deflect them so that they continue falling arresting them only at the bottom most position. The bells should swing between your legs and then straight up into the nook of the arm.


Dos

  • Take a nice wide stance and ensure that your feet are firmly planted.

  • Practice with a very light pair of KBs.

  • Keep that back straight throughout.

  • Maintain control of the KBs during the movement.


Don’ts

  • Do not attempt to conduct the lift with your arms. They serve merely as guides. The Long Cycle is all quadriceps, transverse abdominus and back strength.



To Conclude

And there we have it, 10 Killer Kettlebell Exercises for you to master. My advice on how best to approach them is, if you’ve never touched a kettlebell in your life, start off with the Swing and Goblet Squat. These are two of the simplest exercises thus they are not only easier to master but they pose less of a threat to your physical wellbeing. The same cannot be said of the Turkish Get Up and Long Cycle, both of which could cause serious injury if performed incorrectly.



Also, don’t forget what was said in the introduction – viz. if you truly want to master the art of kettlebell lifting and get your hands on those coveted health and fitness benefits, you are going to have to find a place of permanence in your weekly exercise regime for at least one kettlebell session. That’s at an absolute minimum.



Ok then, I think we’re done here. Go forth and get lifting!


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Kettlebell Training Books


The Russian Kettlebell Challenge: Xtreme Fitness for Hard Living Comrades

Both the Soviet Special Forces and numerous world-champion Soviet Olympic athletes used the ancient Russian Kettlebell as their secret weapon for extreme fitness. Thanks to the kettlebell's astonishing ability to turbo charge physical performance, these Soviet supermen creamed their opponents time-and-time-again, with inhuman displays of raw power and explosive strength. Now, former Spetznaz trainer, international fitness author and nationally ranked kettlebell lifter, Pavel Tsatsouline, delivers this secret Soviet weapon into your hands.



Kettlebell Simple & Sinister: Revised and Updated (2nd Edition)

This is Kettlebell Simple & Sinister: Revised & Updated Edition or simply S&S 2.0. Learn how to use the extreme hand-held gym from the man who started the kettlebell revolution.

Simple & Sinister will physically prepare you for almost anything life could throw at you, from carrying a piano upstairs or holding your own in a street fight. • Simple & Sinister will forge a fighter's physique because the form must follow the function. • Simple & Sinister will give you the strength, the stamina, and the suppleness to play any sport recreationally and play it well. • If you are a serious athlete, Simple & Sinister will serve as a perfect foundation for your sport-specific training. • If you are a serious lifter, Simple & Sinister will build your strength, rather than interfere with it



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Blog Author

Adam Priest is a former Royal Marines Commando, professional personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.