Strength and conditioning: 004 Kettlebell Exercises Part 2

Introduction to the exercises

Kettlebells (KB) are versatile strength training tools.

With KBs you can improve the strength of almost any muscle group of the body.

KBs will challenge your technique and movement coordination.

They teach you that true strength comes not only from the size of your muscles but from how well you can control them.

And finally, any exercise with KBs has many variations - you can easily individualise them to address any areas that you want to improve. For me, kettlebells have always been one of the most useful strength tools to complement my running training.

Some advice before you start:

- Start with simple exercises before progressing to more advanced ones. Pick a few exercises from the list to make a set - you don’t need to do them all in the same session.

- Start from a KB weight that doesn’t compromise your movement and technique. Quality > Quantity!

- Complete KB exercises in a slow, controlled fashion.

- Useful KB weights to have at home: 8kg, 10kg, 12kg, 16kg (or 20kg if you are particularly strong).

- A single KB is great but having two of the same weight can open much more exercise possibilities.

Disclaimer / This exercise routine is not designed as an injury rehab routine, but rather a supplementary session to improve muscle strength and coordination. You should not experience any discomfort or pain doing these exercises. Please avoid doing them if you are currently injured or unwell. Prioritise correct exercise technique over speed.

Side Swing Catch

Hold a KB in one hand at your side. Swing it forward and across your opposite chest, catching and pushing it back with your free hand. This movement will try to unbalance you, so try to keep your tight posture and balance. Complete this exercise as a smooth continuous movement, using the momentum of the KB. 

Complete 2 sets, approx. 6-10 reps each side

KB Lunge and Pass Under

Hold a KB in one hand to start. Lunge forward, pass KB to your opposite hand between your legs, and stand up. Try to maintain balance and control throughout the exercise. Heavier KBs will make this task even harder.

Complete 2-3 sets, approx. 6-8 steps forward

The American KB swing

Hold a KB in both hands. Swing it back between your legs while hinging forward and bending your knees lightly. Then “throw” and accelerate the KB in front of your body while straightening up in your waist. Bring KB all the way above your head. When KB is above your head, it will push you backwards; make sure that you “fight” this by  tightening your core, upper body muscles. This exercise shouldn’t stress your lower back - when swinging upwards you should feel the power coming from your glutes and core. 

Complete 2-3 sets, 8-12 reps

KB Ribbons

Hold the KB by the handle with both hands. Bring the KB to one side of your body closer to your hips while bending forward and lightly bending your knees. Then, while straightening your body bring KB across to the opposite side shoulder and around your head. Keep your core tight. The challenge here is to maintain stable posture without too much rotation or bending from side-to-side. 

Complete 2 sets,  5-8 reps each side

Single Leg Bent Over Rows

Shift your weight to one leg and bend forward at your hips, keeping your back straight, while holding a KG in the opposite hand. Try to keep your shoulders level, even if the weight of the KB is pulling one shoulder downward. Pull the KB towards your chest while maintaining overall balance and keeping your core tight. Try not to lose balance. 

Complete 2 sets, approx. 6-10 reps each side

KB Snatch

Hold a KB in one hand. Swing it back between your legs while hinging forward and bending your knees lightly. Then “throw” and accelerate the KB upwards while straightening up in your waist. Allow momentum to carry the KB above your head. Your arms and hands should be relaxed while the KB is travelling upwards. It is only at the end of the move that your hands fix the KB in the overhead lock-out position.

Complete 2-3 sets, 6-10 reps each side

KB Sumo Deadlift

You can use one or two KBs for this exercise. Make your stance a bit wider and hold a KB in each hand and in a low squat position. Engage your glutes and core and stand up straight, pause and repeat again. Look straight ahead when you do the exercise. For this exercise you might want to use your heavier KBs. 

Complete 2-3 sets, 6-10 reps or until you fatigue

KB Renegrade Rows

You will need 2 KBs for this exercise. Place them on the ground shoulder distance apart. Move into a plank position with your feet a bit wider while holding a KB with each hand. Pull KB to your chest, alternating between sides. The challenge is to maintain stable body position without rotating too much from side to side. For that you will need to keep your core as tight as you can. Try with lighter KBs to start. 

Complete 2-3 sets, approx. 4-8 reps each side

KB Clean & Press

Hold a KB in one hand. Swing it back between your legs while hinging forward. Then, drive KB up and catch it in front of your chest. From this position, a light dip through your knees and push KB above your head straightening your body. Try with a lighter KB to start. 

Complete 2-3 sets, approx. 6-8 reps each side

Side-to-side KB swing

Hold a KB in both hands. Gain initial momentum by swinging the KB gently from side-to-side. When the KB is crossing your body’s midline, rotate with your upper body as well. Ideally, you want the KB to travel in a straight trajectory along your body. Also note that with each swing one foot is rotating as well. Timing and anticipation is very important for this exercise. Practice movement without any weight first before using KB.

Complete 2-3 sets, 8-10 swings

KB Squat & Press

Make your stance a bit wider. Hold a KB with both hands, its base up and close to your chest. Squat down. Engage your glutes and gain momentum on the way up to standing and push the KB above your head. Slowly lower it down to the front of your chest, and repeat.

Complete 2-3 sets, approx. 6-10 reps

Farmer’s Carry

Grab two KBs, holding one in each hand. Walk ~20 metres forward, turn around and walk back. Try to maintain steady and controlled posture when you walk. For this you will have to tighten your core and keep your belly “tucked in”. Lock your arms straight. You can challenge yourself with heavier KBs for this exercise. 

Complete 2 sets, walk until you fatigue.