How to Train With Kettlebells

eirik garnas kettlebell snatchAlthough I’m a big fan of basing resistance training around the major compound movements, such as the press, squat, deadlift, pull-up, dip, and bench-press, I also see the benefits of using kettlebells, dumbells, TRX’s, and other types of equipment as long as it’s used for the right purposes. While you can get strong and muscular from excusively training with kettlebells, barbell training is generally more effective for strength and hypertrophy. However, kettlebell training provides other benefits and can also be a valuable tool for spicing up your workouts. In the videos below I go through several different variations of three primary kettlebell exercises; the swing, clean and jerk (I’m doing a variation of the jerk movement in this video), and snatch. I want to emphasise that my technique differs somewhat from what you’ve might have seen elsewhere – as I’ve found that this way of doing things is what works best for me! As kettlebell training can be quite technical, it’s a good idea to get an experienced coach to teach you proper form.

What I use kettlebells for:

  • Teaching clients the hip hinge pattern
  • Teaching clients explosiveness
  • Circuit training and crossfit type workouts
  • Warm-up before strength training (The swing and explosive kettlebell sumo deadlift)

Key points

  • Drive with the hips (Learn the hip hinge)
  • Begin with the basic swing and then move on to the clean+jerk and the snatch
  • Think explosiveness
  • Maintain a neutral spine

The Swing

  • Proper starting weight for females is 15-25 lbs and males 25-35 lbs.
  • Finish the movement by squeezing the glutes.
  • The biggest mistake people make is to perform the kettlebell swing like a squat – The swing should look like an explosive hip hinge!
  • While some people perform the swing with their backs almost parallel to the floor in the bottom position of the exercise, others prefer a more upright back position. The important factor is to drive with the hips while keeping a neutral spine.
  • Begin with two arms and one kettlebell and then try the other variations if you want to mix things up.

The Clean and Jerk (variation)

  • Proper starting weight for females is 15-20 lbs and males 25-25 lbs.
  • In the video below I show a variation of the jerk movement which I sometimes do instead of the standard technique.
  • Use the hips to drive the kettlebell into the clean position.
  • In the clean position, thrust you hips forwards so the kettlebell is supported by the entire body.
  • If you’re new to kettlebell training, it will take some time to “find” a comfortable spot on the upper chest, and you’ll probably get a little bruised the first couple of sessions.
  • Begin with one kettebell and slowly progress until you’re comfortable using two kettlebells and both arms.

The Snatch

  • Proper starting weight for females is 15-20 lbs and males 25-25 lbs.
  • The snatch is initiated as a kettlebell swing. However, in the snatch you unlock the elbows in order to finish the movement with a small push.
  • Begin with one kettebell and slowly progress until you’re comfortable using two kettlebells and both arms.

Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    Great videos – I appreciate the multiple angles/variations – and thank you for including the KB weight recommendations (it’s helpful and you confirmed my suspicion that I do in fact need to go heavier). I’ve been strength training (barbell, dumbbell, body weight) for a LONG time but brand new to KBs.

    • Happy to hear that you found the videos helpful. One quick note: My technique and take on kettlebell training have changed somewhat since I made this post and these videos. Might have to do an updated post 😉

      Kettlebell training is certainly a great addition to regular strengt training. If I were you, I would start with the swing (make sure you’re hip hinging properly), and then move on to more advanced KB exercises. That’s how I first got started with KBs.

      How’s your summer Jennifer?

      • Jennifer says:

        Hi Eirik, the swing is a perfect exercise. For now I will stick with the double-arm swing since the powerful motion is still new to me.
        The Summer is going great! A little too busy but I guess we only live once and if you do it right once is enough (or so I’ve heard!) 🙂
        I hope you are having a great Summer as well!

Trackbacks

  1. […] your glutes, as many of the major hip dominant exercises, such as the box squat, deadlift, and swing, are based on this movement pattern. I’ve found that the pull through (with a band) is a […]

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