Unlocking the Kettlebell

By Steven Gillespie, Regional Fitness Manager at Fitness First Middle East 

Kettlebells have been in the fitness industry for many years now and have become popular with: mixed-martial-arts training, general fitness and also XFit.  To the untrained eye, kettlebells can come across as quite a limited piece of kit as many people only use it for kettlebell swings and clean and press. However the kettlebell is one of the most useful and versatile pieces of equipment that you can find in a gym.  If you were to ask me to select for you a single piece of apparatus for training your full body then I would go no further than the kettlebell as it can be used for countless movement variations and drills.

Some of my favourite kettlebell exercises are the most traditional, and for the purposes of improving general fitness and full body training I have selected three movements in a programmed sequence that will improve your cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and endurance and also improve your body composition.

Advanced Kettlebell Programme: Repeat Sequence 6 to 8 times (1,2,3 then 1,2,3 – so on and so forth until you complete 6 to 8 rotations)

Warm Up: Single arm & rep of ‘Turkish Get Up’ for 8 Minutes progressively increasing the weights every 2 minutes as follows: 6kg / 8kg / 10kg / 12kg.

Reps & Weights: Each movement requires 6 reps to be carried out with a weight you can comfortably maintain the technique. However it’s important to push yourself in each round. I chose 8 kilo’s each side for starters then progress to heavier weights after three or four attempts.

Work to Rest:  After completing a set of an exercise give yourself 2 minutes to recover.

Tempo: Explosive on all concentric phases, and then slow and controlled on eccentric phases i.e. fast as possible up on the push jerk to the straight arm standing phase, then slow and controlled back down to the floor (About a 3-second count).

Movement 1 – Power Snatch using two kettlebells

Start with two kb’s on the floor in front of you, squat down and grab the handles then pull them up with an upward squat movement into the top of an upright row position whilst pushing upwards on your toes. With continuous movement and flow, whip the kettlebells over the wrists and catch them in a overhead snatch. Meanwhile, your legs will have quickly jumped from a side-by-side position to split-jerk position. You will have landed and caught the kb’s overhead at the same time. Once completed, stand with legs side by side and then reverse a clean movement back down to the floor and start the movement again. This movement will develop the whole body systemically and also improve power, lower and upper limb muscular strength and endurance in addition to balance and coordination.

Movement 2 – Push Jerk using two kettlebells

Clean two kettlebells to a racked position in front of your chest, then squat down partially preparing to aggressively push the kettlebells up to just about head height with your thrust.  Once at head height you must squat down quickly and lock your arms underneath the two kettlebells. This movement is not a ‘thruster’, in actual fact you will use the legs to partially thrust the kettlebells up to head height but then you will duck underneath technically and catch the kettlebells in a straight arm/vertical position. Once you have caught the kb’s, stand upright and then reverse clean the kb’s to the floor and start again.  This movement will develop the whole body systemically, improve power and also improve lower and upper limb muscular strength and endurance.

Movement 3 – Alternating Split Power Snatch

This movement requires both arms to complete a movement to count as one rep, therefore this will be slightly longer than the two previous exercises. Start by cleaning one kettlebell to overhead position, the other one will hang downwards. From this first lunge, you will then start to do an alternating leg lunge jump whilst at the same time alternating the arms in a snatch movement.  This whole movement works like a Swiss clock, and must be timed perfectly for the arms and legs not to collide.  Completing 6 reps will be challenging at first. However, if you master this movement, it’s a very good exercise for training the whole body systemically and will improve coordination, balance and lower and upper limb muscular strength and endurance.

Overview:

Once you have completed 6 to 8 rounds of this circuit, you should feel relatively depleted systemically and you should be sweating if done correctly as it involves the whole body training as one integrated unit. If you find that you can complete the circuit easily with two 8kg kb’s then progress up to two 10kg’s and then work through again.  Continue progressively for 6 weeks, three to four times a week using this same programme and you should see improvements in body composition, power and muscular strength and endurance (Providing of course that you are following a healthy diet).