Kettlebell Flash Cards
HARDSTYLE SWING 101
The Hardstyle Swing is an expression of power in the horizontal plane.
Here’s a snapshot of the apex
A few points to keep in mind here:
- The Kettlebell floats to approximately chest-height from hip power. Much higher would include using the arms and shoulders to facilitate further vertical movement.
- The arm stays long and straight - like a wrecking ball chain. Again, this serves to reduce unnecessary shoulder involvement.
- Engaged lats serve as the anchors to the arms. By keeping the “armpits tight,” we help stabilize the torso, control the arc of the swing, and can even add an “over speed eccentric” - creating a faster backswing by adding to the downward pull of gravity.
TURKISH GET UP
TALL SIT POSITION
This is the last step in the grounded sequence of the TGU. Getting sloppy here will only make the following steps more difficult!
Even though you’re in a seated posture, you still have the responsibility to stay focused and engaged.
Let’s take a look at what’s going on from the ground up:
- The foot on the KB side is planted, knee approximately tracking middle toe
- The opposite leg is out at around 45 degrees from the hip. The chest should face the same general direction.
- Your loaded arm is vertical to the ground. Grip, triceps, and lat engaged!
- The posted arm is generating equal and opposite force. Keep the shoulder tucked back and splay the fingers to grip the ground!
- Zen face.
- Eyes on the bell.
From here, you’re ready to rock the transition with grace and strength!
The Single-Leg Deadlift
This deadlift variation works all the same muscles as the traditional lift with an added balance and stability challenge!
While the basic principles still apply, the single leg version of the deadlift requires extra attention in some key areas...
- The non-working leg roughly follows the angle of the spine. The back heel reaches long to create an active counter balance.
- The loaded side knee is bent to approximately the same degree as seen in a standard deadlift.
- The kettlebell is positioned near the planted foot so that the working arm is vertical when lifting - keep the lats engaged and don’t let the bell float out forwards!
- Keep the shoulders and hips squared to prevent twisting and falling out to the side.
- The floating foot may return to the ground during lockout.
Keep in mind that this lift is still very much dependent on muscular control thru the hinge! Resist the urge to “drinky bird” the deadlift by simply tipping forward and back.
For an added bonus - try super slow reps or pause in the middle ranges to test your stability!
The Renegade Row
This lift combines the upper back work of horizontal rowing with the core work of balanced planking.
First, a word of caution. There’s always a risk of the Kettlebell tipping when used as a prop. Mind your balance and the bell size!
*You may use a heavier bell to stabilize the straight arm against while using a lighter bell to row.
- Begin by grasping the handles with a neutral grip (parallel with the torso).
- Plant the feet out wide for a stable base.
- Now we “zip up” the body for a secure plank - push the heels back, squeeze the quads, glutes, abs, and lats.
- Simultaneously row your working weight as you isometrically “push” into the other.
- Keep the hips and shoulders as square as possible!
- Experiment with gripping dead center or more towards the thumb or pinky side of the handle.
Consider these “anti-rotation” core lifts for total body strength and resilience!
The Kettlebell Windmill
The Windmill is a fantastic “in-between” lift for developing strength and mobility in novel planes of motion!
The Windmill doesn’t include a side bend of the spine and is more than a simple core move. Instead, the training focus is on the hip, lat, and shoulder. Let’s take a closer look...
- The feet are approximately hip width with the toes pointing away from the loaded side. This allows the diagonal hip hinge to occur.
- The rear leg and hip take on the majority of the bodyweight while the front leg acts like a kickstand.
- The loaded-side hip hinges back as the torso rotates towards the loaded leg.
- Only go to the depth that allows for the most hip hinge/stretch without bending the spine!
- Keep the lat engaged at all times, forming a shelf for the arm. Think of the triceps and lats forming a single strong “L” shaped muscle at the bottom.
Windmills are great when paired with get-ups for extra shoulder work or with squats and deadlifts to keep the hips loose but strong.
👉 Some of the biggest benefits of the mighty kettle are thanks to its shape & offset center-of-gravity. This also means you have to be diligent in how you actually hold the thing!
😃The "Bruce Lee" Position ✊
In martial arts, the concept of "no wrist" means that a straight line is maintained from elbows to knuckles during a punch 🤜
This is the optimal way to transmit force while minimizing wrist damage.
✅ Hold the kettlebell deep into the base of the palm, allowing the knuckles to point vertical. You may have to maneuver the bell with your free hand to find the sweet spot.
😒The "Broken" Wrist Position 💁♂
❌ When held shallow in the base of the fingers, the kettlebell pulls the hand backwards, creating a broken wrist angle.
❌ This puts extreme stress on the wrist, not to mention the back of the arm, especially if a kettlebell is pressed from this position.
💪With a neutral wrist, you'll be safer and stronger in the rack position and at all of your favorite overhead KB lifts like Get Ups, arm bars, presses, snatches, and windmills!
📍The Kettlebell Squeeze Curl📍
You say you want *one* move for anaconda arms, delts ‘o doom and pecs that cash checks?
Look no further than this “crush” lift!
👉 Grab a light Kettlebell by the sides, handle facing down.
👉 With straight arms, hold it out just in front of the hips (watch your feet!).
👉 Crush the bell!
👉 Maintain the vice grip and slowly curl the arms up.
👉 Keeping the hands open forces more of a squeeze from the chest!
👉 Slowly lower to a full elbow lockout and repeat!
Try this curl as an upper body accessory lift - 3 x 3-5 with a slow tempo.
HEAVY KETTLEBELL SWINGS
DO'S & DON'TS
When the kettles get heavy, there are two common places where the body compensates and loses position - the hips and neck.
Focusing on strong posture will help you transfer your power more efficiently!
Let’s take a look at where things break down:
- When swinging heavy, it’s natural to put extra “umph” in the hips, but not at the expense of a neutral lockout!
❌ Hips too far forward and soft knees/abs create a potentially hazardous lean-back!
✅ Stand upright with the quads, glutes, and abs engaged for a neutral hip and spine lockout!
During high intensity training, our necks and shoulders will often jump in the mix with excess tension.
❌ The chin will jut forward as a reaction to the lean-back or from over-aggressive technique.
✅ Keep the cervical spine neutral. Think “high crown.”
Keep these cues in mind during your next heavy swing session and enjoy the float!
BOTTOMS UP PRESS
This press variation will humble even the toughest of boulder shoulders!
The balance components of the BU press make this a smart move for training shoulder stability and overhead mechanics.
Keep these things in mind to get the most out of this tricky press:
- Start with a firm foundation - Root the feet and squeeze the glutes!
- Take deep diaphragmatic breaths and brace your core. Aim for the corset effect - a feeling of circumferential compression around the belly, sides, and low back.
- Keep the opposite arm and shoulder stiff by making a fist. This tension combines with your core and foundation to boost strength on the working side - a process known as irradiation.
Keep your eyes on the bell. Many folks gain a performance edge by looking at the weight as during a 1-arm press. It also helps the bell from meeting your noggin in the worst kind of way.
Add Bottoms-Up presses to your upper body training and enjoy stronger, more resilient shoulders!
The Kettlebell Deadlift
The deadlift is a foundational exercise that strengthens the posterior chain and ingrains the hip hinge pattern.
A sound deadlift is a stepping stone to ballistic hip movements like swings, but is also a valuable lift to train for total body strength and resiliency. The Kettlebell deadlift is often more friendly to the beginner than the barbell version because of the centralized nature of the weight directly under the handle!
Let’s get to it:
- Stand over the kettle so the handle is in line somewhere between heel and mid-foot.
- Push the hips back as far as possible without losing your footing. Bend the knees as deep as necessary to grasp the handle.*Mobility or injury history may dictate that the bell be raised in order to deadlift without compensations (like low back rounding).
- With a tight grip, inhale through the nose and brace the abs.
- Squeeze the glutes and stand up! The arms remain long and straight.
- Take a shallow breath at the top and return the bell where you found it by hinging at the hips.
Deadlifts can be performed with 2 bells inside or outside the legs (suitcase style) as well as from a deficit (lifter stands on elevated surface.
Even seasoned lifters should work the details of the deadlift regularly!
The Double Rack Position
When the Kettlebell isn’t moving, we typically have it in one of two positions - the press or the rack.
The rack is the end point of the clean, the start of the press, and is held thru the front squat. How you handle the bells here can make or break your practice...
Here are some cues for a secured “hardstyle” rack:
- The thumbs are at or just below the collarbones.
- The wrists are straight or slightly “goosenecked.”
- The forearms are approximately vertical.
- The lats and abs are engaged, elbows pointing to hip bones.
From here, strict military presses find a strong base and squats double for effective core training.
📍The Hollow Body Kettlebell Pull-Over📍
The “hollow” position is a fundamental core bracing strategy from gymnastics.
Here, we throw a Kettlebell pull-over in the mix to double the fun and train shoulder mobility and strength too!
👉 Start on you back, a light kettle behind you (watch your head!).
👉 Achieve the hollow hold by bracing the abs hard, pushing the low back through the floor. The legs are up at an angle that allows for maximum core contraction and minimal pull on the low back.
👉 With straight arms, grab the Kettlebell by the horns and “swim” it up and forward. Stop when the arms achieve vertical and slowly reverse.
👉 Start by lowering to a 45 degree angle and if your mobility allows, work all the way back to the ground!
Maintain a strong core brace throughout and breath steadily through the nose!
Start with sets of 3-5 at a slow tempo for a dynamite drill that is sure to up your total body strength!
📍The Single-Leg Belly Hinge📍
Dan John gave us a great way to train the hip hinge with the “Bulgarian Goat Bag Swing.”
The idea is to work the hinge/deadlift/swing movement while gently pushing a Kettlebell right into the stomach so as to place the load close to your center of gravity.
We’re taking the same idea and applying it to the single leg deadlift!
Start with a light bell and hold it by the base of the horns, fingers cradling the underside belly of the weight.
📍The Kettlebell “Sled Push”📍
We know Kettlebell lifts like swings and snatches are great for cardio conditioning.... but what if your hands are shot and you want to push your legs and lungs to the next level?
Enter the poor man’s sled push.
The idea here is stupid-simple:
Put a heavy kettlebell on the floor and push it across with straight arms.
This works great on turf and carpet, but you might need a couple of sliders for hard surfaces.
I started to use the KB push as a finisher when I trained in a corporate gym that had lots of space but no prowler!
Try it “down and back” with long, slow steps, breathing through the nose as much as possible!