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Kettlebell Training Exercises That Build Incredible Strength

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Equipped with these kettlebell training exercises, you’ll be able to build lasting strength and near-limitless muscle endurance. In addition to forging superior physical functionality, kettlebell exercises are highly effective at ‘strengthening the connective tissues, especially in the back.’


In fact, according to Pavel Tsatsouline, ‘many bad backs have been fixed with this deceptively crude looking took, including the broken back of the man who would become one of the world’s strongest,’ (The Russian Kettlebell Challenge).


Kettlebell exercises like the long cycle and snatch pull can enhance athletic ability while promoting ‘all-round fitness.’ Tsatsouline tells us that these types of exercises deliver ‘strength, explosiveness, flexibility, endurance, and fat loss.’


As well as helping you develop a body that is robust and ‘building best-at-show muscles,’ the kettlebell training exercises below can be used to create workouts. Once you’ve mastered the key techniques, you could target specific muscle groups with the exercises or bundle them into a circuit.


Kettlebell training exercises fitness book.

How to use these kettlebell training exercises

Before integrating the exercises into your routine, it’s important to master the key techniques first. The best way to do this is:


  • Treat yourself to a competition kettlebell. (Not sure what weight bell to choose?)

  • Use one of the following methods to assess your technique: a mirror, a recording device, or the eyes of a trainer who knows how to lift kettlebells correctly.

  • For those exercises that transition through distinct phases – the clean and long cycle – break the exercise down and practice each phase separately.


Once you can perform an exercise proficiently, start to include it in your workouts and training sessions. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to expand your workout. Instead, you could replace existing exercises with one from the list. For example, swap barbell squats for kettlebell front squats.



Kettlebell training exercises quick finder

Kettlebell training exercises #1: Front squat

Kettlebell training exercises #2: Double Kettlebell Sumo Squat

Kettlebell training exercises #3: Double Kettlebell Deadlift

Kettlebell training exercises #4: Double Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell training exercises #5: Kettlebell Single Arm Row

Kettlebell training exercises #6: Double Kettlebell Snatch Pull

Kettlebell training exercises #7: Double Kettlebell Clean

Kettlebell training exercises #8: Double Kettlebell Jerk

Kettlebell training exercises #9: Kettlebell Long Cycle


 

Kettlebell training exercises #1: Front squat

Kettlebell training exercises #1: front squat.

Purpose of exercise: To build strength in the lower body and improve flexibility in the legs.

Muscles targeted: Quadriceps, glutes, core, deltoids, upper chest and biceps.

Components of fitness engaged: Strength, muscle endurance, flexibility.


Performing the front squat with kettlebells is considerably more challenging than with an Olympic barbell. The reason: you can’t rest the kettlebells on your shoulders thus using your skeletal system to support the load. During the kettlebell front squat, you must physically hold the weights in place. This quirk of the exercise broadens the range of muscles engaged.


K-bell front squat key techniques

  • If like me you lack flexibility in the Achilles tendons, you will probably need to use heel spacers. Elevating the heel can enable you to access a deeper range of motion.

  • To get the bells into position perform a clean.

  • Before front squatting, organise your feet and ensure that you have formed a stable base from which to lift.

  • Keeping the back straight and the trunk upright, squat down until you reach 90 degrees (you can go lower).

  • Pause momentarily before powering out of the squat.

  • Focus on firing evenly through both quads.

 

 

Kettlebell training exercises #2: Sumo squat

Kettlebell exercise #2: sumo squat.

Purpose of exercise: To build strength in lower body muscles.

Muscles targeted: Quadriceps, glutes, lower and upper back.

Components of fitness engaged: Strength and muscle endurance.


The double kettlebell sumo squat is a terrific quad and glute developer. As well as engaging the legs, sumo squatting also involves the traps, deltoids, and many muscles of the arm. Also, because it requires more control to squat twin bells, this exercise also stimulates a whole host of synergists.


K-bell sumo squat key techniques

  • Centre your mass directly over two kettlebells and adopt a sumo squat stance: about one and a half shoulder-widths.

  • Maintaining correct postural alignment – a straight back and eyes fixed forward – squat down and grasp the bells.

  • From this position, tighten up the core and take up the strain before standing up. A mistake many lifters make when performing such exercises is to snatch the load from off the floor.

  • Focus on flexing and extending at the knees as opposed to hinging at the hips. Ideally, the angle at the hips should remain the same during the execution of the exercise.

 


 

Kettlebell training exercises #3: Deadlift

K-bell training exercise #3: deadlift.

Purpose of exercise: Strengthen the posterior chain.

Muscles targeted: Hamstrings, quads, glutes, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, deltoids, forearms.

Components of fitness engaged: Strength, muscle endurance, coordination.


Deadlifting with two bells requires more control and coordination than the single-bell variation. Because the bells move about a bit throughout the movement, you must keep your core engaged to control and stabilise your position.


Double K-bell deadlift key techniques

  • Stand directly over two kettlebells and adopt a sumo squat stance.

  • Squat down and grasp the bells.

  • From this position, tighten up the core before standing up.

  • Focus on hinging more at the hips as opposed to the legs. This will shift emphasis from the quads to the lower back.

  • Remember to breathe throughout the exercise.


 

Kettlebell training exercises #4: Double swing

Kettlebell training exercises #4: swing.

Purpose of exercise: Strengthen the posterior chain and core.

Muscles targeted: Hamstrings, quads, glutes, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, deltoids, forearms – and the many muscles of the core.

Components of fitness engaged: Strength, muscle endurance, coordination, balance.


The double kettlebell swing is a great extension exercise for those who have mastered the single-bell variation. Swinging two bells is much harder though. If you can comfortably swing a 24kg KB, you might want to use 16 kg for the double. A great way to advance this exercise, once you’ve mastered the basic techniques, is to throw in a snatch pull (see kettlebell training exercises #6).


K-bell double swing key techniques

  • Stand directly over two kettlebells and adopt a sumo squat stance.

  • Squat down and grasp the bells.

  • From this position, tighten up the core before pulling them back between your legs.

  • When your arms pull into your groin, thrust the hips forward propelling the bells level with the shoulders.

  • Allow gravity to take over at this point using shoulder and core strength to guide the bells.


 

Kettlebell training exercises #5: Single arm row

Kettlebell training exercises #5: single arm row.

Purpose of exercise: Activate the upper links of the posterior chain.

Muscles targeted: Latissimus dorsi, trapezius, posterior deltoid, muscles of the forearm.

Components of fitness engaged: Strength, muscle endurance.


Performing the kettlebell single-arm row in the high plank position is not only more challenging but it engages a broader range of muscles. This is because you are unable to generate momentum as you can do when supported by a stable object, such as a training bench.


K-bell single arm row key techniques

  • Two kettlebells are positioned on a training mat.

  • You are in a press-up position but supporting your upper body on the kettlebell handles.

  • Your feet are spaced wide so that your body forms a triangle. This stabilises your position and provides an anchor point: you’ll inevitably dig the opposite foot of the pulling arm into the floor.

  • Before executing the exercise, shift your body weight slightly over to the opposite side of the lifting arm.

  • Smoothly row the kettlebell to the outside of your chest.

  • Return and repeat. 


 

Kettlebell training exercises #6: Snatch pull

Kettlebell exercise #6: snatch pull.

Purpose of exercise: Develop explosive strength in the upper links of the posterior chain.

Muscles targeted: Hamstrings, quads, glutes, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, deltoids, forearms – and the many muscles of the core.

Components of fitness engaged: Strength, power, muscle endurance, coordination, balance.


The snatch pull develops explosive power in the posterior chain. In addition, controlling the bells requires considerable core engagement. Also, if you perform snatch pulls in volume (15-plus-reps), this exercise also stimulates the aerobic energy system.


K-bell snatch pull key techniques

  • Stand directly over two kettlebells and adopt a sumo squat stance.

  • Squat down and grasp the bells.

  • From this position, tighten up the core before pulling them back between your legs.

  • When your arms pull into your groin, thrust the hips forward propelling the bells level with the shoulders.

  • When the kettlebells are about level with your chest, sharply pull them to your body before thrusting them back out again.

  • Allow gravity to take over at this point using shoulder and core strength to guide the bells.


 

Kettlebell training exercises #7: Clean

Kettlebell training exercises #7: Clean

Purpose of exercise: Strengthen the posterior chain and core.

Muscles targeted: Hamstrings, quads, glutes, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, deltoids, forearms – and the many muscles of the core.

Components of fitness engaged: Strength, muscle endurance, coordination, balance.


The clean is a complex multi-joint exercise that promotes a broad range of fitness attributes. From the top, cleans develop strength in all the muscles of the posterior chain. To control the kettlebells through the range of motion involves many synergists and deep stabiliser muscles. If the exercise is performed regularly, it can promote the components of fitness listed above.


Kettlebell clean technique overview

  • Stand directly over two kettlebells and adopt a double-wide stance.

  • Keeping the back straight, squat down and grasp the bells.

  • From this position, tighten up the core before pulling them back between your legs.

  • When your arms pull into your groin, thrust the hips forward propelling the bells up and into the front rack position.

  • Pause momentarily before popping the bells out of the nook of the arm.

  • Allow gravity to do the work until you are required to arrest the bells at the lowest position.

  • Use this momentum to assist the next lift.


 

Kettlebell training exercises #8: Two-arm jerk

Kettlebell training exercises #8: jerk.

Purpose of exercise: Strengthen the upper body.

Muscles targeted: Primarily the deltoids and upper chest. However, jerking also involves the quads.

Components of fitness engaged: Strength, muscle endurance, coordination, balance.


Performing the jerk with two kettlebells is a lot more challenging than the single-arm variation. And not just because the weight doubles! Steering two bells simultaneously requires control, coordination, and cognitive engagement. When jerking with a pair of bells, woe betide the girevik that lapses into a daydream!


K-bell jerk key techniques

  • Clean the kettlebells into position.

  • In the start position, the arms are resting against the torso and the kettlebells are cradled in the nook of the elbow.

  • To initiate the exercise, take a shallow dip at the knee.

  • Fire through the quads to get momentum in the kettlebells.

  • Use shoulder strength to assist the trajectory of the bells.

  • When the bells pass your face, take a second dip at the knees.

  • Snap the arms straight and stand up.

  • Remember, do not lock out at the elbow joint. 


 

Kettlebell training exercises #9: Long cycle

Kettlebell training exercises #9: long cycle.

Purpose of exercise: To turn you into a physical beast!

Muscles targeted: It’s easier to list those muscles that the long cycle does not target. Those muscles include:

Components of fitness engaged: Strength, power, muscle endurance, coordination, balance.


The long cycle is the undisputed king of kettlebell exercises. When performing this monstrous exercise, you transition through a complete range of movement. Consequently, the long cycle engages all the major muscle groups including a vast array of synergists and deep stabilisers. Also, if you perform the long cycle in volume (10-plus-reps) it stimulates the cardiovascular system.


Long cycle key techniques

  • Stand directly over two kettlebells and adopt a double-wide stance.

  • Keeping the back straight, squat down and grasp the bells.

  • From this position, tighten up the core before pulling them back between your legs.

  • When your arms pull into your groin, thrust the hips forward propelling the bells up and into the front rack position. This first part of the long cycle is a full clean.

  • This is the first of two natural pause points in the exercise.

  • To execute the second part of the exercise, take a short dip at the knee and fire through the quads.

  • Fire through the quads to get momentum in the kettlebells.

  • Use shoulder strength to assist the trajectory of the bells.

  • When the bells pass your face, take a second dip at the knees.

  • Snap the arms straight and stand up.

  • Remember, do not lock out at the elbow joint. 

  • This is the second natural pause point.

  • In one smooth and controlled movement, you are going to retrace your steps through the exercise until you are back in the front rack position.

  • Now repeat.

 

 

To conclude

Once you master these functional kettlebell training exercises, you'll be eager to put them into practice. The best way to develop confidence and skill in any discipline is to integrate it into your routine. This can be achieved by substituting exercises in your current workouts for those above. Another way is to set aside a kettlebell-only training day where you only practice new exercises. (Get started with these seven Kettlebell WODs >)


Of interest: How to Start Kettlebell Training at Home

Alternatively, you could embark on this 6-Week Kettlebell Training Programme. As well as providing you with weeks of workouts, which have been designed to develop whole-body physical functionality, you'll be afforded innumerable opportunities to develop your kettlebell-handling skills.


My last suggestion for you is to get a copy of Atomic Kettlebells. In addition to equipping you with all the tools you need to start kettlebell training, Atomic Kettlebells also features over 75 workouts.


 

About Adam Priest –

A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and fitness coach. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam at info@hungry4fitness.co.uk.

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