[Video] Getting Started With the Kettlebell
Before we go into detail discussing advanced kettlebell moves, let’s first look at how you can add a kettlebell into your current routine.
Right now, you probably train in either a home gym or a gym with paid membership. Or perhaps you’re just setting up your gym for the first time?
Either way, you can very quickly and simply improve the quality of your set-up by adding in a kettlebell (or a few!). Let’s take a look at how to incorporate a kettlebell into your workout with basic exercises.
Kettlebell Movements for Leg Training
If you’re currently working out from a home gym, then you probably have a few dumbbells and you probably have a pull up bar. This is absolutely fine for training the vast majority of your body but it sure does make it a little bit difficult to train your legs. Sure, you can use dumbbells to perform some squats and lunges but it’s awkward at the best of times.
To train legs normally in the gym, you might use a barbell and a squat rack. You would then lie the bar across your shoulders and squat down to the ground. This is a great exercise because it combines lots of muscles in unison and because it allows you to add a lot more weight to your movements.
Unfortunately though, most of us don’t have the space for a squat rack or the finances to afford a barbell, a squat rack and several hundred kilograms worth of weight! Thus we are left with dumbbell lunges.
But by simply introducing a kettlebell into your home routine, you open up a ton of new possibilities and specifically when it comes to training the legs. One example is the goblet squat. This is a squat performed using any heavy weight that can be held in two hands – in this case you grab the kettlebell and hold it against your chest and then perform the squat. If you have a kettlebell that is very heavy (they can go above 50kg), then this is actually quite a challenging move. Plus, the increased control you get over the weight (due to the better grip), means that you can perform more elaborate moves.
Likewise, you can also use the kettlebell for clean and press moves – with either one or both hands. Here, you are squatting down to the weight, grabbing it off the floor and then pressing it overhead.
Later, we’ll look at the kettlebell swing and how this move can be used to train the legs and core and give you the perfect buttocks!
Here are some basic and easy moves you can perform with the kettlebell to target your legs:
- Goblet squats/Front squats – As mentioned, here you will simply hold the weight in front of you and then perform regular squats. This moves the direction of the resistance forward slightly, challenging the muscles in the fronts of the legs more and ultimately making it a more difficult movement for those who are already used to regularly squats. This will train the legs, the core and the back
Click here to see a video demonstration of the Goblet Squat Kettlebell Movement
- Deadlifts – While the kettlebell is something of a hugely popular ‘fad’ in fitness right now, so too is the deadlift. The deadlift has always been a popular move and is inarguably a great one but it has recently become overwhelmingly popular for all the reasons that the kettlebell itself has. Deadlifts are another exercise that are hard to perform without a barbell but it is possible using a deadlift – you just have to lie it on the floor in front of you, squat down and then stand up holding it (using correct form of course – back straight and legs shoulders’ width apart).
- Straight legged deadlift – This is a variation on the deadlift that even more ideally suited to the kettlebell and that is particularly useful for strengthening the lower back muscles, called the ‘erector spinae’. Here, you simply perform the same deadlift movement described above, except that you will be keeping your legs straight (no prizes if you guessed that). Simply pivot at the waist, grab the kettlebell and then lift it straight up.
- Clean and press – The one armed clean and press is a particularly effective move when performed with a kettlebell. With it on the ground, simply squat down to grab it and then stand up, curl it up to your shoulder and then press it above your hand (it should dangle from your hand as you do this. This movement is excellent because it trains almost the entire body combining a curling movement, a squatting movement and a pressing movement. What’s more, is that it challenges you to lift a heavy weight on just one side of your body, which in turn means you need engage the smaller stabilizing muscles even more – particularly the obliques that are located on either side of your abdominal muscles.
- Squat press – Hold the kettlebell from either side, either by cupping the underside of the kettlebell on either side, or by holding onto the handle from both sides. Now squat and lower the kettlebell, then stand up and press the kettlebell over your head. Essentially, you are combining a simple squat with a simple shoulder press and this is a fantastic way to train the entire body.
- Lunge press – Stand holding the kettlebell in one hand and then lunge forward, while pressing the weight above you in one hand. You can perform this either by keeping your arm extended the entire time, or by pressing it up each time you lunge forward.
Kettlebells for Everything Else
What makes the kettlebell such an ideal piece of training equipment is that its unique shape lends it to just about every other type of exercise too. You can use this to train pulling movements such as curls, rows and even lateral raises. At the same time though, you can also use it to perform presses (simply holding the kettlebell from underneath with two hands, or grasping onto the handle from either side) or for the vast range of other pulling movements you can use it like a dumbbell.
This means that you can perform:
- Kettlebell curls – Simply hold the handle in one hand using an underhand grip and then lift it up and through the arch movement of a curl. This will train the biceps.
- Kettlebell hammer curl – This is a more difficult variation that moves the centre of gravity considerably to make a more difficult movement. Just hold the handle so that the body of the kettlebell is pointing out sideways and curl in front of your body. This means you’re using a neutral grip and it will really challenge the forearms to keep the kettlebell steady in that position. This will train the biceps as well as the forearms.
- Chest press – Lie on the ground or on a bench and hold the kettlebell in two hands over the center of your sternum. Lower and then press upward. This way, you can perform what is essentially a bench press, except that you are bringing the arms closer together and thereby making it into more of tricep-centric movement. This will train the pecs, the serratus muscles, the triceps and the shoulders
- Shoulder press – You can perform this either by holding the kettlebell from either side and pressing upwards, or by holding the kettlebell underneath and doing the same. This will train the shoulders and pecs.
- One armed shoulder press – Simply hold the kettlebell in one hand by the handle (so it is hanging by the side of your arm) and press above yourself on just the one side. You can do this either sitting down or standing up. This will train the shoulders.
- Kettlebell lateral raise – Take a lighter kettlebell in one hand and then raise your arm out to the side, keeping your elbow straight and pivoting at the shoulder. This will train the outer shoulder – the medial deltoid head (the shoulder muscle has three ‘muscle heads’ that can be targeted individually).
- Kettlebell upward raises – This is the same movement as before, except now you will be raising the kettlebell directly up in front of you and lowering it, again keeping straight arms. This works the anterior deltoid – the front muscle head on the shoulder.
- Kettlebell reverse flyes – Now you’re going to take two kettlebells, one in each hand and then lean slightly forward with them hanging in front of you, arms bent. Now, keeping your arms in that position, raise the kettlebells up behind you like you’re a chicken flapping its wings. This will train the rear deltoids and should look like the opposite to a fly in terms of the motion.
- Kettlebell flyes – Yes, we can also perform regular flyes. Simply lie on a bench and hold a kettlebell in each hand, stretched out above you. Now lower the kettlebells out to the sides and then pull them back up into the middle. This will train the pectoral muscles.
- Kettlebell row – To perform a row, kneel down on a bench and place one hand in front of your knee so that your back is parallel with the ground and with the bench itself. Now grasp the kettlebell in just one hand and raise your arm up directly in order to use your lat muscles. If you don’t have a bench, then you can perform the same movement by placing one hand against a wall, or by leaning forward and placing a hand on your own upper leg. This will train the lats.
- Kettlebell upward row – The upward row will likewise work your lats but also your traps and your biceps among other things. To perform this movement, simply grasp the weight in both hands at the handle and then pull it directly up in front of you while you are standing upright. You should find that you are able to bring the kettlebell up nearly to the point of your chin.
- Kettlebell shrugs – Holding two kettlebells that are as heavy as you can find and letting them hang down by either side, you are now going to shrug as though you don’t know the answer to a question. This will train your traps, which are the muscles on either side of your neck. These don’t get much training in regular routines and the amazing thing is that they can therefore be used to very quickly add a lot of size.
- Tricep kickback – This movement trains the triceps. Get into the same position that you did for the bent over row and then bring your arm up so that your elbow is bent at a right angle and the kettlebell is pointing at the floor. Now simply straighten your arm, so that the kettlebell ends up pointing backward.
- Tricep pull over – The pullover is a move that trains the lats. Lie flat on a bench, holding the handle of the kettlebell in both hands and with your head right near the end. Now, with your arms straight and above you, let them start to lean back until they are pointing behind you at the far wall and the kettlebell is hanging below your leg. Engage the lats by tensing and then straighten them gradually to bring your arms back to the starting point
- Kettlebell skull crushes – This is another move for the triceps that is similar to the pullover. The difference is that you are bending the arms at the elbows instead, allowing the kettlebell to dangle just over your face (hence the name) and then straightening them again. Don’t let go! This will train the triceps.
- Kettlebell crunches – These are regular crunches but the difference is that you will be grasping the kettlebell to your chest, thereby enabling you to add extra resistance that will train your rectus abdominis (the front sheet of muscle on your stomach). As you can probably guess, this same logic can be applied to practically any regular exercise for the abs including sit ups, twisting crunches, v-sit ups etc
- Kettlebell pass – If you have ever used a medicine ball then this one will be familiar. Here, you will simply sit on the floor with the kettlebell behind your back. Twist to pick it up and then place it in the middle behind you and then twist back the other way to pick it up again. These moves allow you to train the obliques, which run down the abs on either side and are responsible for allowing your torso to generate torque.
- Kettlebell Russian twist – This move involves sitting on your buttocks but with your legs raised off of the ground. Now, while holding the kettlebell in both hands in front of you, twist on the spot.
- Weighted tricep dips – Find a raised surface such as a bench or even a sofa or a step. Place your hands on it so that you are resting your weight on your palms. Now dip your body down until your buttocks touch the floor and raise back up. The difference? You’re going to place a kettlebell on your lamp for added resistance!
- Kettlebell tricep extension – This is much like a skull crusher but the difference is that you’re standing up. Simply hold the kettlebell in both hands and hang it behind your head, so that your arms are bent back over your face. Now straight your arms to raise the kettlebell while avoiding hitting the weight into the back of your head…
- More kettlebell movements can be found here.
As you can see then, the kettlebell is an incredibly versatile tool simply as something that can replace your dumbbells and your barbells. If you’re looking for a cheap and easy home gym solution that won’t take up much space but also won’t limit what you can do, then look no further than getting yourself a set of kettlebells.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of the regular exercises that can be performed with kettlebells either. Suffice to say that kettlebells truly allow you to train the entire body and can be an entire gym solution on their own.
But that’s not really what’s exciting about a kettlebell…
What’s exciting about the kettlebell are all the functional training possibilities that we discussed in the last chapter. For that, you’re going to need some more exciting movements that are entirely exclusive to the kettlebell.
And as it just so happens, you’ll be able to find those in the next chapter of this book!
- Why Functional Strength and Mobility Are So Important
- Getting Started With the Kettlebell
- Unique Kettlebell Exercises for Developing True Functional Strength
- How the Kettlebell Can Train Your Brain
- Eating Right While Training With Kettlebells
- Three Kettlebell Programs for Different Goals