Everyone can benefit from kettlebell exercises. Kettlebells have a unique shape which lets you blast your body in ways dumbbells can’t. You can pull, push, twist and swing kettlebells to get leaner, stronger and more powerful. Plus, kettlebells are easier on your wrists than dumbbells. Also, because of their offset weight, the gravitational pull of a kettlebell goes straight down, instead of from side-to-side with a dumbbell (which is shaped like a teeter-totter).
Here are nine kettlebell exercises anyone can master:
All those fancy exercises you see with kettlebells start with great deadlift mechanics. Done correctly, this adds muscle to your hips, glutes, back and hamstrings for more lower-body power and strength.
The move: Keep your kettlebell at a neutral weight right under your body, between your ankles. Crush your armpits to your sides and lift the kettlebell by pushing yourself through the ground, not by pulling yourself up.
The kettlebell swing develops tremendous power and strength in your hamstrings, glutes and core. But an added benefit of the swing — because it repeats so quickly — is it also improves your conditioning and ramps up your metabolism.
The Move: Start in a deadlift position with the kettlebell a few feet in front of you. Then, hike the kettlebell back between your legs like a center in football and explosively drive your hips forward. Imagine propelling the kettlebell to a target in front of you. Keep your arms relaxed.
The squat is often called the “king of exercises” and for good reason — it strengthens everything. Your lower body works like crazy, meanwhile, your core and upper body have to support and stabilize your torso. With kettlebells, you add an extra anterior core challenge to the squat, which helps build stronger abs and obliques. It also helps you stay more upright as you descend for optimal squatting technique.
The Move: Grab the end of one kettlebell in both hands and hold it by your chest with your elbows underneath. Stand shoulder-width apart with your toes turned slightly out. Start the movement by sitting backward and spreading your knees apart. Descend below parallel while keeping your lower back flat. At the bottom, drive through your heels and keep your knees apart.
The kettlebell snatch is a power exercise that swings the kettlebell to an overhead position and targets everything from your lower-body power to your upper traps. If you play a sport that requires explosiveness, adding a snatch to your training routine helps improve your fast-twitch muscle fibers and your ability to rapidly create force.
The Move: Start in a deadlift position with the kettlebell a few feet in front of you. Then, hike the kettlebell back between your legs like a center in football and explosively drive your hips forward like the swing (above). Swing the kettlebell up to an overhead position like with the push press as the grip changes. Don’t whip the kettlebell around your hand; whip your hand around the kettlebell. Drop the kettlebell back between your legs and repeat.
Unlike the snatch, the clean swings the kettlebell to the rack position — where your arm is tucked to your chest and the kettlebell rests on your shoulder. Because the kettlebell doesn’t have to travel as far as with a snatch, you can actually use more weight on a clean.
The Move: Start in a deadlift position with the kettlebell a few feet in front of you. Then, hike the kettlebell back between your legs like a center in football and explosively drive your hips forward. Swing the kettlebell up to the rack position. Avoid yanking the kettlebell, instead, as you swing up, keep your elbow jammed to your ribcage, keep it there, and spin your hand. Alternatively, try starting the kettlebell in the rack position. Then, swing it between your legs and return to the rack position. Repeat.
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6. TURKISH GET UP
This could be the best core exercise there is: It combines seven different exercises to systematically move you from supine (lying flat on your back) to standing while carrying a weight above your head throughout. Over time, you’ll improve your total-body stability, your movement patterns and your entire core strength (not just your six-pack, but also your obliques, transverse abdominis and fascial slings).
Start with no weight — make a fist and balance your shoe on top of your knuckles throughout. Then, progress to a kettlebell.
The Move: Lie on the ground with your right knee bent, right foot flat on the floor, right arm holding a weight (or shoe) above you, and left arm and left leg at your side. Drive through your right foot and roll onto your left elbow. Then, straighten your left arm. Squeeze your right glute and drive your hips straight up. Pull your left leg underneath and behind your body, resting on the knee and ball of the foot. Move your torso straight up, then lunge to a stand. Reverse the sequence to descend. Do all your reps on one side and repeat on the other. Keep your chest up and watch the weight the entire time.
7. PUSH PRESS
The push press sculpts lean shoulders, strong arms and a sturdy upper-back for more explosive upper-body power. It also increases your core stability and helps you generate force from the ground up, through your entire body and out through your arms.
The Move: Start with the kettlebells in the rack position — hold the kettlebells at your chest with the kettlebell on the outside of your arms and your hands underneath your chin. Keep your chest up, pull your shoulders back and crush your armpits. Keep your wrists straight.
Lower yourself into a partial squat and explode upward with your legs while driving your arms overhead. At the top, make sure your biceps are next to your ears and your wrists are flat, not bent backward. Carefully lower the kettlebells back to the rack position and repeat.
8. KNEELING HALOS
Instead of sit up and crunches, which twist and bend your spine, kneeling halos blast your core from different angles as you keep your spine neutral.
The Move: Get on both knees and hold one kettlebell in both hands with the large part over your hands. Keep your lower back neutral and make big circles around your head with the kettlebell. Do all your reps one way and then switch directions.
9. WAITER’S WALK
The waiter’s walk strengthens your core and improves your shoulder health. As you walk and stabilize a heavy weight overhead, you’ll activate your core as you work to stay upright and rigid. It also increases stability at the shoulder joint and girdle and teaches you how to “pack” your shoulder — drop your shoulder blade to activate your mid- and lower-traps — for strong and safe overhead positions.
The Move: Use a heavy kettlebell and hold it overhead. Keep your shoulder down and back and walk while keeping your hips and shoulders level. Keep your wrist as straight as you can.
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