Kettlebells are a great tool to develop total-body strength, aerobic fitness and create a metabolic environment conducive to improved athletic performance – when they are used correctly. If you’re looking to incorporate kettlebells into your training, here are eight of the most effective exercises to start with.
EXERCISE #1: THE SWING
How To: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and in alignment with your knees. Hinge forward with the hips into a semi squat position, keeping the back straight and hold the kettlebell with both hands between your legs. Hike the kettlebell behind you and then extend your knees, thrusting the hips forward and swinging the kettlebell to chest level. Keep the arms straight with a slight bend in the elbow and the shoulders down and back around the ribs as you swing. Allow gravity to swing the kettlebell back between the legs, to gain acceleration and work the hip flexibility. Remember to relax the arms and let the hips and legs do the work and keep the movement fluid.
Benefits: It’s the foundation of all exercises in kettlebell training, teaching all the key principles and motions. It utilizes the muscles of the posterior chain such as hamstrings, glutes and low back, which are crucial for a large number of sports (sprinting, jumping) and also functionally works the abs and core.
Variations: You can also do this movement using one hand or alternate single arm swings, in which you pass the kettlebell from one hand to the other at the top of the movement.
EXERCISE #2: THE CLEAN
How To: Start the same way as the swing but grab the kettlebell with one hand. Back swing the kettlebell between your legs. As you propel upwards, initiate a forceful hip drive, shrug your shoulder and rotate it to bring your elbow underneath, so the bell is sitting in a racked position, which is a triangle formed by the forearm and bicep. At the rack position your hand should be in the middle of the breast bone and below the chin, with the forearm tight against your rib. Lock the legs at the top of the motion to decrease quadricep fatigue.
Benefits: The clean is a great strength and endurance functional movement works hip extension and it teaches how to produce and reduce force.
EXERCISE #3: THE PRESS
How To: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and “Clean” the kettlebell to rack position. Powerfully press it over you shoulder, rotating the palm to face front. The elbow should be locked and close to the ear, with the bicep behind it.
Benefits: Great for strength and conditioning of the upper body and core.
EXERCISE #4: THE SNATCH
How To: Start with your feet shoulder width apart. Hinge forward with the hips and grab the kettlebell with one hand. Now forcefully pull it off the floor by extending your knees and hips, keeping it close to your legs and in a pendulum movement continue propelling it upwards and locking it overhead. On the upswing, let the kettlebell roll around the forearm to minimize impact. To bring it back down, simply reverse the movement.
Benefits: A full-body exercise that develops strength, explosive power and endurance.
EXERCISE #5: THE WINDMILL
How To: Stand with the feet shoulder width apart and clean and press a kettlebell overhead with either hand, keeping your eyes on the bell. Slowly hinge sideways at the hips, keeping the arm vertical. Touch the opposite hand to the floor with your arm at a 90-degree angle to your torso and return to start. Remember to keep the top arm vertical throughout the movement.
Benefits: A great core strength exercise that also improves balance and flexibility.
EXERCISE #6: THE TURKISH GETUP
How To: Start on the floor, lying down and face up, holding the kettlebell with your right hand directly above your shoulder. Keep your elbow locked, wrist straight, eyes on the bell. Bend your right knee, right foot flat on the floor and left arm extended flat on the ground. Prop up to the left elbow to sit up and tilt your hips up, so you’re supported on both feet and left hand. Swing your left leg under your body, gently put the left knee on the floor to prop your self up to a full stand.
Benefits: Full body conditioning exercise that builds core strength, shoulder and hip stability and mobility and increases muscular stamina while burning lots of calories.
EXERCISE #7: SQUAT HIGH PULL
How To: Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, kettlebell on the floor between your feet, toes pointed forward. Reach back from your hips, squat down and pick up the kettlebell with one hand. Push through your heels and explode to a standing position, pulling the kettlebell up the front of your torso until it is just above shoulder level, bringing the elbow higher than the shoulder. Squat down, lowering the kettlebell down between the legs again and repeat.
Benefits: Full body conditioning. Works the legs, glutes and upper body.
EXERCISE #8: LATERAL BELL FIGURE 8
How To: Stand with your legs together, toes pointed forward, holding the kettlebell with the left hand. Step sideways with your right foot, sinking into the right hip as low as you can while maintaining a straight back from head to tail, and pass the KB from under the right leg to the right hand. Repeat on the other side, moving as fast as you can, while maintaining perfect form.
Benefits: Works the legs, glutes and core and also works the coordination.
Angie Lee is a personal trainer and group fitness instructor for Equinox Fitness and Reebok SCNY and has also been featured in Fitness RX For Women. Be sure to visit her website, http://www.angieleefit.com