Your Guide to The Basic Kettlebell Exercises

The exercises listed are only the basic exercises and are performed with a Kettlebell. There are huge varieties of kettlebell exercises that range from easy and practical through to some that are party stunts!

As you progress through Complete Strength training, you may want to add new exercises to your program depending on what your goals are.

For a beginner, however the following exercises are all you need to develop an extremely high level of fitness.
Enjoy!
Aaron Ellis

The Swing

The swing is the foundation of effective kettlebell training. It teaches many of the important skills used in subsequent drills and delivers a surprising conditioning effect. The key to the swing is to learn to cycle between relatively high tension and relaxation. This cycle is important in all of the ballistic kettlebell drills.

Although apparently easy, the kettlebell swing takes some time to master. Practice it carefully so that you get the full benefit out of your training.

Performing the swing

1. Take a stance that allows you to reach both arms between the knees. Slightly wider than shoulder width is a good place to start.
2. Place the kettlebell just behind the heels between your legs
3. Keep a straight back look forward at all times; do not allow the back to round at any time during the swing.
4. Squat down by pushing the hips back and reach for the handle of the kettlebell.
5. Grasp the handle and initiate the swing by pushing the hips forward and up. The power comes through the heels using the leg muscles.
6. Push the hips through at the top and lock out the knees.
7. The arms should be relaxed, do not try to muscle the weight up with the arms.
8. As the knees lock and hip snaps, tense your butt hard, and imagine pulling your kneecaps up to the groin.
9. At the same time exhale (the kettlebell will continue swinging high) drop your rib cage an inch or so with a sharp exhale. This will brace the midsection and protect your back.
10. As the kettlebell reaches the top position, allow it to almost freefall, absorb the momentum by squatting back, and down.
11. Breathe in with a short sharp sniff at the bottom of the swing
Repeat steps 5-9 repeat for reps

Tips for performing the swing

• The swing is a dynamic movement and it is important to develop a rhythm or you will quickly tire.
• It is important to push the hips through and squeeze the glutes at the top of the swing
• Keep the weight on the heels
• Maintain intra-abdominal pressure to keep your back safe
• If you have problems with the range of motion, stretch the quads, hamstrings and hip flexors

Turkish Getup (TGU)

While the swing teaches the important tension-relaxation, cycle important for all of the ballistic drills. The Turkish Getup (TGU) teaches the high-tension techniques employed in the kettlebell strength grind drills.

The TGU will teach you about abdominal pressurization and the effects of total body tension on resistance exercises.

In the TGU, you start lying on the ground with a kettlebell locked out overhead and proceed to stand up with the kettlebell overhead before reversing the movement.

Performing the Turkish Getup

1. Lie on the ground with a single kettlebell near your right shoulder.
2. Use two hands to position the kettlebell locked out over your shoulder.
3. Keep the left leg straight and bend the right leg so that the right heel is next to your left knee and a little out to the right
4. Place the left handout at a 45-degree angle from your torso, palm down.
5. Initiate the movement by bracing the abs and pushing the right heel into the ground.
6. Roll up and over to the left until you are supported by the palm of the left hand, your left butt cheek and your right foot.
7. Bend the left leg and tuck it into your butt while pushing off the left hand and stepping out slightly with the right leg until you are in a lunge position.
8. Brace the glutes and abs and stand up until you are standing with feet shoulder width apart and the kettlebell locked out overhead.
9. To reverse the movement reach back with the left toe and find the ground behind you.
10. Perform the negative of the lunge and then reach back with the left hand until you touch the ground about a foot from your butt.
11. Roll back until you are resting on your left butt cheek and then switch legs so that you have your left leg out in front of you.
12. Use your abs to lower yourself back to the ground.
13. Repeat for 1-5 reps then change hands.

Tips for Performing the Turkish Getup

• At all times “punch” up toward the sky with the hand holding the kettlebell and keep the arm straight. Lock your arm by tensing your triceps muscle. If the arm gets loose, push the kettlebell away and try again.
• Never take your eyes of the weight you are lifting. By looking at the weight your body will stay under it and have more stability.
• Brace the abs and squeeze the glutes for stability.
• The TGU can take a long time to perform even a single rep, if you need to breathe in the middle of the rep make sure you are in a stable position.

The Clean

The clean is an abbreviated swing with a dip and catch at the top to bring the kettlebell into the rack position on the chest.

The clean serves two functions in kettlebell workouts. It is an excellent conditioning exercise in its own right and used to get the kettlebell in position to perform a number of other exercises.

When doing the clean, try to absorb the impact of the kettlebell as gently as possible absorbing the weight with a slight bend in the knees and hips. With a light kettlebell, it is easy to muscle the weight up to the chest but with a heavier bell, this method will quickly fail.

Performing the Clean

1. Start in the same position as the swing.
2. Swing the kettlebell forward as if doing a full swing but use less power.
3. Keep the elbow slightly bent and closer to the ribs as the kettlebell comes up to waist height.
4. Pull the kettlebell into the shoulder and allow it to roll around the wrist until it rests on the forearm and bicep.
5. As the kettlebell, lands on the forearm allow the knees to dip and absorb the shock by bracing the abs and glutes.
6. To reverse the movement push the hips back slightly and push the hand forward.
7. Allow the kettlebell to descend quickly and then catch it at the bottom of the movement by bending the knees.
8. You can do the clean for a number of reps by allowing it to swing back between the legs slightly and then repeating 2-7

Tips for Performing the Clean

• A good rack position on the arm is important; the arm should rest on the ribs with the hips pushed slightly forward.
• Try to use the minimum effort necessary to get the weight up.
• At all times the hand should remain near the centre line of the body, do not take the hand out to the shoulder.
• Breathe in at the bottom of the back swing and allow some air to be “knocked out” as you absorb the shock at the top.
• The clean is not a swing, upright row or bicep curl; it is a little bit of all three.

The Snatch

The snatch is a key conditioning lift for CompleteStrength kettlebell lifters. The snatch develops outstanding cardio endurance, a strong grip and back and explosive power for running, jumping and fighting. When used for high reps the snatch is also an excellent toughening exercise for building will power and pain tolerance.

The snatch is a combination of the swing with an overhead clean and the Turkish getup punch up at the end. It is important to be confident in these drills before tackling the snatch.

Performing the Snatch

1. All the points on body alignment and leg drive from the swing apply minus the requirement to keep the arm straight.
2. As the kettlebell reaches the middle of the torso bend the arm, back in toward the ribs then punch the hand through toward the sky.
3. Attempt to synchronise the movement of the hand so that when the kettlebell is at full lock out overhead the bell rests on the back of the arm and does not bang on the wrist.
4. An alternate method is to roll the wrist around the kettlebell as it travels to the full lockout position.
5. To reverse the movement unlock the hips and push the hand forward, the kettlebell should follow a path directly down the centre of the body.
6. Allow the kettlebell to descend and absorb the force by sitting back into the bottom position of the swing.
7. Breathe in at the bottom of the back swing as the kettlebell locks out.
8. Repeat 1-7 for reps.

Tips for Performing the Snatch

• When performing the snatch it is important to get into a rhythm
• If the kettlebell flips over and hits your wrist you may need to punch through with more force and speed or you may be keeping your arm too straight during the initial swing
• The momentum required for the weight to reach the overhead position comes primarily from the legs; the arm simply guides the kettlebell into position and stabilizes it at the top.

Military Press

The military press is an excellent upper body developer that extends far beyond the obvious recruitment of the shoulders. A properly performed press with a heavy kettlebell recruits the lats, chest, core and legs and teaches the importance of tension and proper breathing for slower lifts.

Work the military press with overhand chin-ups and one-arm pushups and you will have all the upper body strength you need for anything short of wrestling a bear!

Performing the Military Press

1. Clean the kettlebell into the rack position and maintain tension in the glutes (butt) and abs. It is acceptable to push the hips out toward the working side slightly to support the weight.
2. Take a breath in and pressurize the abs and stomach maximally.
3. Flex the lat and pecs and start to push the kettlebell up and slightly out to the side.
4. As the kettlebell passes your head start to push your chest slightly forward and lock the kettlebell out directly over the shoulder.
5. You should feel as if you are pushing yourself away from the weight, do not allow the shoulder and bicep to hunch up toward the ear.
6. At the lockout position, the kettlebell should be slightly behind your ears and you should feel like you are leaning into the weight slightly.
7. When lowering the weight do not simply allow it to fall onto the chest, actively lower the weight with your lat – note this will feel very strange at first.
8. Hold your breath during the press and exhale ¼ at the top if you like. Breathe in at the bottom position before you begin the press.

 

Tips for performing the Military Press

• Tension, tension and more TENSION are the keys to a strong press, you can’t achieve this if your legs are loose or your abs relaxed.
• Grip the ground with your toes, squeeze your glutes and abs, hold your breath and pressurize, make a fist with your free hand – they all help to generate maximal tension in the working muscles.
• An effective way of generating tension is to “wind up” by cleaning the weight before each press and pressing without relaxing in the rack.
• Do you want to make your presses harder? Try them holding the kettlebell with the bottom up or press from the bottom of the front squat position!

Windmill

The windmill is an example of a kettlebell drill that combines both strength and flexibility development. The windmill works the core, shoulder stabilizers and glutes.

Performing the Windmill

1. Clean a kettlebell with your right arm and press it out overhead.
2. Angle the right foot at 45 degrees from your body, pointing out to the left.
3. Angle the left foot out almost to 90 degrees.
4. Squeeze the glutes and abs.
5. Keep your weight mostly on the right heel and begin to fold the hips over to the left and slightly forward, push the hips in the opposite direction. Look up toward the kettlebell and keep the chest open and facing forward.
6. Lower until you feel the stretch in the right hamstring, butt and outer thigh.
7. Straighten up by using your glutes and abs.
8. Hold your breath throughout the movement and breathe at the top.

Tips for Performing the Windmill

• Before attempting the full windmill, practice by holding the kettlebell in the bottom hand
• It is important not to lean forward too much as this may hurt your back
• Keep the leg under the kettlebell (when overhead) straight and if necessary bend the other leg
• Experiment with foot angle and leg spread until you find a comfortable position.

Front Squat

If you want powerful legs for running, kicking or wrestling you need to squat. Traditional barbell squats are an excellent exercise but they require racks, plates and bars that are bulky and expensive.

Kettlebell front squats are an excellent alternative and functional as the weight is in front of you exactly where it would be if you were pushing on an opponent or lifting a heavy box.

Performing the Front Squat

1. Clean two Kettlebells to the chest.
2. Take a shoulder width or slightly wider stance.
3. Begin to descend by pushing your hips back, keep a flat back with your chest up, breathe in on the way down.
4. Keeping looking up or forward at all times, never down!
5. Go as deep as you feel comfortable, until you rest on your calves if possible and pause at the bottom.
6. Pressurize your abs and stomach and squeeze your glutes hard as you come up.

Tips for Performing the Front Squat

• Experiment with your stance before attempting the squat with weights.
• If you have trouble going to full depth work on stretching your hamstrings and lower back.
• As you descend into the squat you will feel your elbows coming forward, press the Kettlebells back into your shoulders for stability.