How kettlebell training can help improve your strength, power, and athletic performance.
It’s acknowledged kettlebells are a great tool for increasing power, endurance, and work capacity, but there would seem to be two tiers of exercises with them. Popular, classic kettlebell exercises, like the snatch, clean, and jerk. And lesser known kettebell exercises that are equally adept at improving athletic performance. Here we’ll discuss both groups, as they will all help you add lean muscle mass and improve your power endurance as quickly as possible. Hope you’re ready, because here we go…
One Arm Swing
The one arm swing is a basic movement to help you develop the muscle memory needed to perform almost every other kettlebell exercise. To perform this movement, rock you body backwards and use your hips to let the bell float up toward your chest. Get in the habit of having a slight bend in your elbow as you swing the bell, as it will properly prepare you for the clean and the snatch moving forward. Typically kettlebell swings are done for repetitions anywhere from 10-25 reps each for 2-3 sets per arm.
Having mastered the swing, it’s time for the clean. At the top of the swing, relax your grip and let your hand punch through the bell as it slides gently over your wrist. If you over grip the bell it’ll crash down on your forearm. Think about moving your hand around the bell instead of moving the bell around your hand. Remember, if you master the swing first the clean will be easier to learn. Once the bell is in the rack position, keep you upper body relaxed and let the weight sink so you can try to let you elbow rest on your hip. Again 10-25 reps for 2-3 sets on each arm should do the trick.
Having learned the proper rack position in performing the clean, you’re now ready for the push press. The push press teaches how to transfer power from the leg to the upper body. While keeping your heels on the ground, dip your knees forward and drive with your legs to help get the bell moving. Once the bell is in the air, use your triceps to lock the bell out. Your legs are going to get the bell moving off of your shoulder, but rely on your upper body to lock out the bell overhead. Again, keep the sets and reps consistent using a high rep approach, and you’ll be good to go.
The jerk is a great move for total body power and power endurance. Start off just as you would a push press, but perform a second dip in order to drop under the weight. With lighter weight the second dip will be subtle, and heavier weight will require really getting underneath (the weight). If training for straight power, stay in the 4-6 rep range. If power endurance is what your sport requires, keep the reps high and the sets low.
The kettlebell snatch is a classic because it’s an explosive total body exercise that quickly elevates your heart rate. The hardest part about the snatch is dropping the weight back between your legs. You want to rotate your elbow toward the front of the room and only grip it when you need to. Most people grip it too hard, too soon, causing the grip to fatigue quickly and resulting in torn calluses. When first learning to snatch, do low volume while fresh (think reps of 4-6 max). Once you get the hang of it, work your way up to higher reps and lower sets. If you’re tearing up your hands feel free to try the half snatch instead which you’ll find below as it’s a great way to ease your way into the full snatch.
The long cycle is the clean and jerk combined. A great total body movement, it involves both the pushing and pulling muscles of the upper and lower body. If pressed for time, it’s a great metabolic workout that improves your power endurance like no other. High rep sets are tough here, so try to keep it in the 8-10 rep range for 2-3 sets.
The six popular, and lesser known, kettlebell exercises listed above will all increase your metabolic conditioning, power endurance, and athletic performance when done correctly. Learn them, master them, and you’ll burn fat, gain strength, and perform better when it’s game time.
To maximize your power endurance and strength using the exercises above, 1R would recommend the following supplements: