Kettlebell Squats

We are excited to work with Dough Fioranelli, owner of Rise Above Performance Training on a super informative series about hardstyle kettlebell movements. There are essentially two different schools of thought in kettlebell training and both are great, we have covered a number of Kettlebell Sport type movements and will be working to bring you more of the hardstyle movements which most people are familiar with. In Part 2 of the series, Doug goes through the Kettlebell Squat designed to improve your overall lift and performance. Doug created and awesome video demonstration and explanation of all the movements which you can watch below!

By Doug Fioranelli

In the first article and video of the Hardstyle Series for Kettlebell Kings I broke down all the essential kettlebell deadlift movement nuances and their progressions.  The deadlift is the foundation where the hip hinge pattern is established.  This hip hinge pattern is essential to build a strong posterior chain and to learn how to move the body properly when we get to the hardstyle swing.

However, before we get to the swing, which will come in the next instalment, let’s strengthen up those legs and core a bit more by learning how to properly squat with the kettlebell. 

PROPER SET UP AND PATTERNING:

The hardstyle squat is a great option for most trainees.  Like in the deadlift, I believe the set-up is much easier to achieve than with a traditional barbell because the kettlebell weight is compact and stays right in front of the body.  Not only will the trainee have an easier time balancing their body throughout the movement with the weight so close to the center of their body, the weight also is not placed on the back, like a traditional barbell squat.  The barbell back squat compresses the spine; and for young trainees or people with back problems due to weak hips and core muscles and/or legitimate disc issues or stenosis of the low back, this is not the squat variation for them.     

The hardstyle kettlebell squat is a great way to get most people to squat comfortably, increase their hip and core strength and progress towards the barbell versions down the road. 

Unlike the kettlebell deadlift, the squat consists of starting with an eccentric (downward, weight moving with gravity) motion towards a bottom depth, followed by a concentric (upward, weight moving against gravity) motion back towards the starting position.  Because of this movement pattern it makes it slightly more challenging than a deadlift where the main focus is the set up followed by a concentric movement. 

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Our goal is to have a nice Kettlebell Goblet Squat which is the squat Dan John coined years ago providing a wonderful visualization of where the bell is placed.  Like holding a goblet in front of your body, this is the hardstyle squat staple and should be performed the following way:    

  • Properly deadlift the kettlebell upward towards your chest sliding your hands into the goblet position.
  • Grab the handle, low and on the side so the outside of the palm on the pinky end is touching the bell.
  • Have the bell handle up high, just under your chin, and connect your biceps to the side of your body and have your forearms follow the line of your ribcage going upward.  This will also slightly retract your shoulder blades to keep your chest up (not rounded) during the movement.
  • Anchor your feet firmly into the ground in a slightly wider than shoulder width position, tighten your core and push your hips back slightly during the descent.
  • At the bottom of the squat (ideally with the thighs parallel to the floor) stay tight and push the floor away through the middle of your feet and squeeze your glutes until your hips get underneath you and you are back at the starting position.
  • You want to think solely about the hips doing the work and moving the body in a fairly straight line upward.  Do not kick the knees back first and then extend your low back to stand up straight; your hips and knees should finish around the same time.  Also during the movement, you want to maintain proper knee-with-shoelaces alignment.  Do not let the knees cave inward.

Whether you of your client cannot achieve a proper Goblet Squat yet or you can do them well and looking for a new hardstyle progression, I have you covered; just remember the basic set up and execution is always the same.

 

BOX SQUAT

We have all seen those baby pictures where the child is playing in the dirt or picking up an object in a deep squat position.  We all have the potential ability to do that, however we tend to lose that as we age and by adding environmental factors, like sitting in chairs all day, our squat form has become compromised.

Sometimes we just need to remind our bodies how to squat and the box squat is a great way to do so.  Find a box that, when seated, the hips are close to parallel to the floor.  I like to position the box so one edge is in-between the client’s legs so they sit only slightly back rather than sitting far back which can cause rounding of the upper back and the chest to drop. 

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Initially, have the client extend their arms out in front without any weight and lightly sit onto the box without relaxing; I like to say, “Sit about 10% of your weight on the box.”  After they get the hang of the technique, work on the concentric pattern. 

Once the trainee becomes proficient you can add the goblet box squat variation and then eventually take the box away entirely.   

ELEVATED HEELS SQUAT

Squatting requires much more ankle mobility than a deadlift due to the movement of dropping rather than hinging of the hips.  In the squat if one cannot reach a parallel position without the heels coming off the ground, it is a good idea to put some small weight plates under the heel to work the patterning of the squat; along with adding some ankle mobility drills you will be off the training wheels in no time. 

SINGLE KETTLEBELL FRONT SQUAT

After the Goblet Squat is achieved and mastered you can tackle this unique variation using only one kettlebell in the racked position.

I really enjoy this variation because you cannot replicate it with a barbell and a dumbbell is too difficult to position properly.  This version provides a safe squat progression that challenges the pattern and core stability.

To find your rack position first try with no weight; connect your bicep and elbow to the side of your body and then bring your hand towards your heart like during the “Pledge of Allegiance” where the forearm follows the ribcage upward.  Play around with the position so it feels comfortable, it will be slightly different for each individual and women will tend to have their arm towards the outside of their body more.

Then use both arms to curl the weight up into the rack position.  Make the weight a part of your body, where you are not struggling to hold it up.  When you are ready start squatting and resist the urge for the weight to shift you forward or to the side.  Finish a couple of reps and don’t forget to work the other side.

As a side note; the rack position is also the top of the clean movement which we will get to in the future.  If you do not know the clean movement now, make sure you are safe getting the kettlebells into the racked position either by using two hands or having them on a box to start.

DOUBLE KETTLEBELL FRONT SQUAT

Using two kettlebells for a squat is much more advanced and it is where you can really start to replicate a heavy barbell squat and move some serious weight.  The double kettlebell front squat finds us with two bells in the rack position.  With the kettlebells so close to our bodies and with the weight being so compact breathing is much more labored and the core engagement during this exercise is highly involved; without this core engagement, the weights could pull your forward and round your back during the movement. 

Make sure to stay tight and grip the heck out of the handle while you are moving to create tension and keep your body in proper alignment.  Also take your breaths at the top, between reps, to get your air.

There you have it, the Hardstyle Kettlebell Deadlift.  Please check out the video below for all the complete details discussed above.

Doug’s Bio:

Doug Fioranelli is the owner of Rise Above Performance Training® where he uses personal, progressive programming to increase his athletes’ performance and reduce their risk for injury.  Since 2001, he has assisted many people with their strength training, conditioning and athletic rehabilitation including; adult clients, police, fire, military professionals, and athletes from middle school to the Professional level.

Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at his website and receive two free eBooks and browse through numerous training articles and videos.

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DOUG’S BIO:

Doug Fioranelli is the owner of Rise Above Performance Training® where he uses personal, progressive programming to increase his athletes’ performance and reduce their risk for injury.  Since 2001, he has assisted many people with their strength training, conditioning and athletic rehabilitation including; adult clients, police, fire, military professionals, and athletes from middle school to the Professional level.

Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at his website and receive two free eBooks and browse through numerous training articles and videos.

Get Social:

Website
YouTube
Instagram