We turned to the pros to learn how to easily and correctly use kettlebells for optimal strength training.
It’s an age-old debate in the fitness world: dumbbells or kettlebells. Truly, there’s room in the metaphorical sandbox for both, but many gym goers — especially those just getting started with weight training — often shy away from kettlebells, probably because technique is everything. when handling them.
The thing is, bells are a great way to build full-body strength, improve mobility, train for speed, and increase your cardio endurance. Basically, training with kettlebells is like having an entire gym in your hands, says Jon Lyons, co-founder of Strength Haüs, WE/FIT director at City Fitness.
That’s why we asked Lyons, KG Strong founder Katie Gould, and BPM Fitness founder Shoshana Katz, who are all certified in kettlebell training and instruction, for their tips on incorporating the equipment. in any workout routine. Below, find 12 exercises from these kettlebell whisperers that will get you swinging, squatting, lifting weights and more with kettlebells, regardless of your fitness level.
Katz says that’s the stuff you need to make sure you’re doing really well before swinging a kettlebell. That’s because the deadlift is the “gateway to a lot of really cool kettlebell moves,” she says. Here is his breakdown of the exercise:
- Stand over the bell, making sure the handle or “horn” of the bell is aligned with the bony parts of your ankles.
- Reach your hips back and let your knees loosen, creating a position where your knees are bent, but your hips are slightly higher than your knees and your shoulders are higher than your hips – think of a “V” lateral or to a packman. Sometimes, depending on your height, you will need to elevate the bell on a yoga block. You basically want to avoid letting your hips drop to knee level and your shoulders drop to hip level.
- Grab the bell and try to crush the handle, squeezing your armpits tight. Take a deep breath to make sure your abs are engaged.
- Push into the floor, thrust your hips into the floor and stand up straight as you exhale. Your final position should resemble a standing plank.
Deadlift with crutch
This is another type of deadlift to do with a kettlebell, and a good starting point for single-leg work, says Gould. Start with the kettlebell next to the arch of your working leg. Step your supporting leg back a foot or two and lift your heel off the floor. Pull your hips back until you’re in your deepest hinge, stretching your butt and hamstrings. Grasp the bell with the opposite hand, squeeze your armpit, and squeeze your core. Pull your hips up to stand. “This is an awesome exercise for strengthening your glutes, legs, and back,” says Gould.
Single leg deadlift
If you have the crutch down and want to challenge yourself even more, go for a single-leg deadlift. Lyons says to hold the bell to one side, like a suitcase. Keeping your shoulder bent (imagine you’re holding a stack of $100 bills in your armpit), hinge at the hips, keeping your back as flat as possible. You’ll feel your hamstrings pulling and that’s when you’ll know how to get up. Lyons says the biggest mistakes he sees making with this exercise are: (1) they keep their standing leg stiff (“Bend it as much as you need!”, he points out.) and (2 ) they don’t keep their core engaged, causing their backs to bend like a fishing rod.
The three pros say the goblet squat is another fundamental kettlebell exercise. To execute, Katz says to put the bell at chest height, being careful to avoid letting the bell rest on your chest. (“It can cause you to put unnecessary strain on your back,” she says.) Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart, but not necessarily as wide as your shoulders. The key is to find a position where your knees are in line with your toes. She says your feet can also be turned, your hips can drop slightly below 90 degrees and your chest can stay upright – something she says can be hard to maintain, but gets easier over time.
Inhale and pull down into your squat, avoiding the tendency to drop or fall into it. Pause for a moment before exhaling, thinking of “tearing up the floor” as you stand up, continuing to align your knees with your toes. Stand straight at the top, remembering not to let the bell rest on your chest, and repeat.
“There are so many nuances in swing,” Lyons says. “I’ve done five-hour seminars on this movement alone, but it’s really great so we’ll include it.” Let’s go then !
Lyons says to step back from your kettlebell and get into a deadlift position. Reach for the bell, and without losing your deadlift position, tilt it and pull it towards you by the horn until you feel solid and balanced. From there, keeping your gaze soft on the “coastal” or “horizon”, walk behind you like a soccer ball. When you feel your forearms touching your crotch and your hamstrings firing, quickly stand up — “like faster than faster,” he says. Let the bell float at chest height. As he begins to descend, stay focused and, at the very last second, land your backswing. You will again feel your hamstrings firing, which will signal you to smash your head and get back up. “Let the bell float. Live in the float. Don’t fight the float. Do not attempt to “lift” the bell. Your butt, quadriceps, and core should do all the work. Your hands are just there to guide you,” Lyons reminds us.
If you’re new to cleanses, Lyons suggests opting for a goblet cleanse first, to get a feel for the movement. It says to start in your deadlift position (so instead of sitting “sit up” like a squat, you push your butt “back” like you’re closing a door). From there, zip the bell up like a jacket by standing up explosively. The bell will end up in the same goblet position as your goblet squat. Let the bell drop to the start, catching the deadlift position.
Traditional cleansing is a bit more nuanced, Lyons says. Start with one hand on the bell in a deadlift position, without squeezing too hard. “You’re basically going to row the bell and at the same time get up as quickly as possible,” he says. The bell will eventually slide into the rack position (this is where you hold the top handle of the bell with the ball of the bell on the outside of the forearm weighted toward the floor – wrists should be neutral and elbows should be pointing straight down to the floor. See video below). If it bumps your wrist, you’re probably pulling the bell too hard, not slapping your butt/quads/core hard enough, grabbing the bell too hard, or letting it pull too far away from your body. “Remember: get up and ‘zip up your jacket’,” he says.
Katz says the farmer’s carry can help strengthen your core, grip and back. Step One: Find two medium sized bells and place them by your side. Step Two: As you pick them up, think back to your deadlift. Rock your hips back, grab the bells, smash the handles, and sink into the floor. Step Three: Stand up straight, don’t let the bells rest on your legs. They can touch the side, but you don’t want your legs to absorb the weight. Shift the tension from your neck and shoulders to your hips, squeezing your glutes and pushing into the floor with your feet. To add challenge, you can incorporate a walk or walk. Fourth step: place the kettlebells by articulating them at your waist.
“The push press is a great shoulder strengthener and a good alternative for people who struggle with the military press because it incorporates the lower body,” says Gould. You’ll want to start with a kettlebell in the rack position. Bend your knees and pull your hips towards the floor. Next, press your feet hard into the ground, extend your hips, and drive the bell overhead. Releasing the tension in the arm and hips, sink the knees and return the bell to the starting position.
To do this, Gould advises placing a kettlebell on the floor, then settling on a table with the bell at chest level. Tighten your core and pull your knees an inch off the ground. Without moving your hips or rounding your back, place the opposite hand below your center to grab the handle of the bell and slide it to the other side of your body. Alternate pulling the bell from side to side for 10 reps. This exercise promotes core stability, thoracic spine mobility and shoulder strength, she says.
Reverse goblet lunge
Start in the goblet position. Step one leg back, keeping your torso straight, core engaged, and knees close to 90 degrees. Come back up. That’s it! If you can’t get down to the ground, Lyons says that’s okay — go as far as you can. If you can further down to the ground, he says to do it with control. You want to avoid bouncing your knee off the floor.
Rack breathing can work to strengthen your core and back muscles, and help improve your squat and press, says Gould. Start by standing against a wall with two kettlebells in the rack position. Lengthen your spine from head to tail and tighten your core. Keep your weight centered on your feet, your knees soft and your pelvis neutral to promote deeper core engagement and fuller breathing. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds, but don’t forget to breathe!