If you think kettlebells are just for swinging, think again.
Kettlebells are one of the most versatile tools available to athletes today. They’re well suited to a wide range of fitness applications: strength training, conditioning, and working to increase explosiveness, power and mobility.
In fact, many traditional barbell lifts can be turned into an effective kettlebell movement. Here are some examples, along with a couple of kettlebell moves you can incorporate with them:
The Double Front Squat is one of the best core and leg strengtheners out there. Your shoulders get a fantastic workout too, since holding the kettlebells in place is taxing on your shoulders, upper back, arms, and core.
If you want to tax the core even more, use uneven weights. For example, use a 70-lb. kettlebell in the right hand and a 53-lb. kettlebell in the left. That 17-lb. difference engages more of your body, forcing the core muscles to stabilize the midline throughout the range of motion.
Another benefit of this lower body training is that it also aids in upper body development – thanks to the increased release of growth hormone that occurs when large muscle groups are worked. Moving more weight and putting more stress on the body (specifically the hamstrings, quads and glutes) requires more growth hormone to help the muscles recover, and the entire body benefits from this increased hormone production.
- Floor Press*
A floor press combines a shoulder and chest workout with core engagement. This is a particularly good option for anyone with shoulder issues since the floor prevents the elbows from going deep enough to strain the rotator cuff (as can often occur with the bench press).
When the kettlebells are fully raised, a twist of the wrist will also engage the abs.
- Bent-Over Row
This upper-body pulling movement is an excellent way to build strength in the back and biceps. It is important to work those “pulling” muscles because they complement the muscles used for pressing. The better you become at pulling, the stronger your pressing will be, and vice versa. This creates a necessary balance in the upper body, and greater overall strength.
- Double Swing
For power, explosiveness, flexibility and cardio, it’s hard to beat a double kettlebell swing. This move hits the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings, strengthening the entire posterior chain. It’s a great progression for increasing strength and power.
- Clean & Press / Snatch*
These moves engage nearly every muscle in the body, generating full body tension and increasing upper and lower body strength and power. They are some of the best strength exercises available to use with kettlebells, and they yield phenomenal results. Performing these moves with kettlebells also eliminates the risk of wrist pain that barbells can cause (from the wrist turning over).
To see some of these kettlebell exercises demonstrated, check out our Workout of the Month.
* These exercises require heavier kettlebells than the row or swing.