Erik’s Beginner’s Guide to Kettlebells Part 4: Less-Basic Exercises

This part collects helpful videos for slightly more advanced exercises.

  • Part 1 is a short rant on why kettlebells are efficient training tools, especially for busy people.
  • Part 2 has my thoughts on picking a starting weight and recommendations for buying kettlebells.
  • Part 3 collects a list of helpful videos for basic exercises.
  • Part 4 has a list of helpful videos for slightly more advanced exercises. 
  • Part 5 includes a few resources for training routines and quick recommendations for protecting your arms and hands.

As a disclaimer, I am not a doctor, trainer, fitness expert, or person of any particular talent. I’m just a dude trying to stay healthy. If you have concerns about injury or safety, consult an expert. A real expert; not your school mate who suddenly put on a bunch of muscle and now posts workout pictures to Facebook. 

Respect the Kettlebell. Respect Yourself

Once you’ve nailed the very basic exercises in Part 3 and have learned how challenging a kettlebell exercise can be, you should try the more advanced exercises below.

The next set of exercises are still within the realm of basics, but they can each result in some sort of bruising or concussive injury if you’re not careful. So before you put a kettlebell over your head or try to swing it around your arms, I want you to take a moment to remember something important: when you put something heavy in your hands, the only thing keeping you from severe injury is restraint over your own stupidity.

If putting a kettlebell overhead feels unstable or whacky, put it back down and then don’t try to pick it back up. If you lose control of the kettlebell, let it hit the floor. Floors can’t get concussions, but you sure can. 

Maybe you’re the type who likes to go “110%.” You think you’re Neo in The Matrix and you can make nature succumb to your will. If Yoda asked you to pul an X-Wing from a swamp using the Force, you’d have no problem doing so. That’s cool. But pretend that isn’t the case when you’re training.

Seriously, respect the kettlebell. It isn’t an enemy to vanquish with your unlimited motivation and will-power. It’s a giant hunk of metal that obeys all the normal laws of physics. And when you’re tired or have sloppy form, physics will definitely win out over your motivation. So respect your physical limits as well.

Rack Position

The rack position isn’t an exercise, but is an important position in various kettlebell exercises, including the end of the clean and the beginning of the press. Learning how the rack position looks and feels will help you avoid bruising your arms when you move to heavier weight.

Clean

Much like the clean in olympic lifting, the clean is a pull taking the kettlebell from the floor up to your chest (to the rack position). The clean is not only a good exercise, requiring quick, punchy movement from your hips, it's the easiest way to get the kettlebell up for presses. Unfortunately, you can easily bruise your arms if you’re not doing cleans properly. Make sure to keep your grip loose and pivot the kettlebell around your arm rather than flipping it over. The video below is a quick intro on the clean, but if you have the time, strength boss, Steve Cotter, has a thorough explanation of clean form and variations.

Press

The press (or strict press, or military press) is a basic “grind” exercises. Swings are quick and punchy, but the press requires slow and constant work. I have pretty bad shoulder mechanics from hanging out on a computer all day, but the press has slowly helped me improve my ability to reach straight overhead. The video below has quite a bit of detail on the press and interesting variations on the press once you’ve nailed the basic idea.

Snatch

The snatch is a slightly more technical exercise, but is worth practicing for how much of a challenge it offers and for how badass it feels when you properly execute it. The snatch starts similarly to a clean, but instead of racking the kettlebell, you punch it overhead. Proper execution requires enough of an explosion from your hips to push the kettlebell overhead and requires a lot of work from the rest of your body to do so stably and safely. Just like the clean, you can easily bang up your arm, so keep a lose grip and bring the kettlebell around your arm rather than over your arm. Below is a quick intro to the snatch, but if you want a more thorough rundown, Steve Cotter has a helpful video on how to avoid bruising your arms

Turkish Get-Up

The turkish get-up is a simple exercise. 1) Start on your back with the kettlebell at your chest. 2) Press the kettlebell  3) Stand up, maintaining the kettlebell overhead the entire exercise. The turkish get-up will put your shoulders through every position of hell, so it’s great for building shoulder strength and stability.

As intimidating as it looks, the get-up can be broken down into a few stages. Each stage can be done in isolation, so you can practice your weakest spots. With enough reps, the turkish get-up provides for a workout all on its own. Below is a quick run through of the turkish get-up, but if you want a more detailed explanation, here’s another thorough explanation from Steve Cotter.

Check Yourself

After you’ve gotten familiar with some of the basic exercises, you probably want to move into finding or creating training routines and programs. I’ve collected a few resources in Part 5, along with a couple of tips for protecting your arms and hands.