When you think about kettlebell exercises, you probably think first of Russian or American kettlebell swings — probably the most common and well-known exercises you’ll find in a workout program. But if all you’ve used kettlebells for is a one- or two-handed swing, you’re missing out on the benefits you can gain from less-dynamic kettlebell movements.
“Kettlebells have a unique structure that makes it possible to do a lot of special movements that dumbbells and barbells just aren’t built for,” says Raphael Konforti, Youfit Health Clubs’ National Director of Fitness. That said, he points out that the fluid, full-body swinging movements that made kettlebells so popular are tough to perform correctly right away, and may prevent you from incorporating kettlebells into your routine. “Luckily, there are ways to add kettlebells without having to master a swinging motion. In fact, by focusing more on controlled, full-body movements, you can build a strong foundation before progressing to more advanced swings.”
As long as you choose the correct kettlebell weight (generally speaking, you want to start with a lighter weight than you would when lifting dumbbells), you should have no problem executing the following swing-free moves.
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“The kettlebell windmill is one of the most underutilized core and total-body moves in the gym,” Konforti says. “It’s great because it trains rotation and torso stability in one move, making it a complete core exercise. And, having to keep one arm straight up throughout the exercise helps increase shoulder strength, training both shoulder mobility and rotator cuff stability.”
- Stand tall with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Lift a kettlebell overhead with your right arm, extending arm fully.
- Begin reaching your left arm toward the ground while maintaining the perpendicular position of your right arm with the ground.
- Keep your core engaged and twist your torso until it’s parallel to the floor.
- Reverse the motion until you return to the starting position, all the while keeping your right arm perpendicular to the ground.
- Complete eight repetitions before switching sides.
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Sumo Deadlift High Pull
Kettlebell deadlifts are a fairly popular option for targeting the hamstrings, glutes, and core, but Konforti points out that the sumo deadlift high pull takes a good exercise and makes it great. “Adding a high pull increases core activation, cardiovascular demand, and makes the move more power-oriented,” Konforti says. “By pulling the kettlebell explosively off the ground with your legs, you should hardly lift with your elbows to bring the kettlebell up. Training for explosiveness and power like this has great carryover to sports.”
- Stand tall with feet roughly shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and toes angled slightly outward.
- Place a kettlebell between your feet. Keeping core engaged, hinge from the hips, pressing glutes behind you until you can grasp the kettlebell handle in both hands.
- Explosively drive hips forward and extend knees as you return to standing, simultaneously pulling elbows up toward your ears, until hands are at shoulder-height.
- Lower the weight back to the ground and continue for 10 to 12 repetitions.