It’s no secret that Kettlebell exercises are crucial to building strength and endurance. But add them to your pre-established CrossFit workout, and you’ll discover how they can push your everyday routine to the max. We checked in with Steve Cotter, president of the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation, for his favorite hardcore bell moves. Alone, these exercises might not seem like much, but when you supplement your normal workout, you’ll feel the burn—and see the results.
1. The Clean-and-Jerk
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Grip two Kettlebells resting on the floor. Bring the weights up 8-10 inches slowly and swing them through your legs, front to back to front, five times. Then clean (jerk upward using your shoulder muscles) as fast as possible up to your chest. In correct form, your arms should turn from a slightly inward position to a slightly outward position. Use your leg-strength to drive the bells overhead until your elbows are locked. Hold for one second. In one continuous flow, lower the Kettlebells back to your shoulders then back to the swing position. Repeat.
Suggested Reps: 10 sets of 10 reps with 30 seconds of rest between each set
Muscle Groups: calves, quads, traps, legs, shoulders, triceps, back, grip and core
Cotter’s Tip: Instead of aiming for speed with the clean-and-jerk, focus on technique and form. “Most people go too fast and aren’t maintaining proper form in the overhead position,” says Cotter. “They aren’t fully extending their arms and legs, and just throw them up and bring them down really fast.” Make sure your shoulders are relaxed for extra flexibility when the Kettlebells are overhead.
2. Repetition Snatches
Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and knees slightly bent. Grab a Kettlebell resting on the floor in front of you. Swing the Kettlebell back between your legs. Straighten your knees, using the inertia of the weight to pull your arm forward. As the arm beings to separate from the body, push the Kettlebell vertically as fast as you can. If you are snatching with your right hand, push forcefully through your left leg, pull back with right hip, and shrug with right trap muscle. As the weight heads upward, release the fingers and insert the palm deeply into the handle, then lock out your arm in a fully extended position. To drop, shift your weight to the opposite foot and lean your upper body back. Keep your hips and torso extended, let your triceps connect to your torso and finish with a downswing as you change grips.
Suggested Reps: 3 minutes with right arm, then 3 minutes with left arm
Muscle Groups: shoulders, hamstrings, glutes, triceps, grip and forearm strength
Cotter’s Tip: With the snatch, forearm and grip strength play a big part in how long you can perform this exercise. “Someone can be really fit and have great cardiovascular fitness, but if they don’t have that forearm endurance, they can’t hold onto a Kettlebell,” says Cotter.
3. Heavy Swings
Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold the Kettlebell with two hands, palms facing inward. Bend your knees to push your butt back slightly and hinge at the hips, and swing the Kettlebell in between your legs. Using your whole body force, thrust your hips forward while you swing the Kettlebell with both arms until it is parallel to the floor. Make sure you keep your arms in contact with your body at the start and end of the swing so that the entire body mass is behind the movement.
Suggested Reps: Start with 4 sets of 10 reps, working your way up to 10 sets of 10 reps with 30-60 seconds of rest in between
Muscle Groups: Glutes, hamstrings, lower back
Cotter’s Tip: If your quads are burning, you are doing it wrong. “Swings should be more of a hip-hinging motion, rather than a squat,” he says. Focus on your breathing during swings by taking two breaths for every rep. Exhale at the top of the swing and at the bottom. “Use a forceful exhale through the mouth and the inhale will be a reflex.”
4. Jump Squats
With the Kettlebell held behind your head and resting on your shoulder muscles, squat down so that your feet are hip width apart and your knees are parallel to the ground. Keep your butt back as if you are trying to sit in a chair. Push off using your leg muscles to extend through the squat and into a jump.
Suggested Reps: 15 to 20 jumps with a continuous cadence
Muscle Groups: quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes, as well as cardio work
Cotter’s Tip: A jump squat is a perfect workout finisher because it combines weight with cardio for one-last ultimate burn. “Hold the Kettlebell firmly across your upper back, and pinch your shoulder blades together to form a muscular shelf that protects the vertebra,” says Cotter. This will prevent the Kettlebell from whacking you as you jump.