By Brandon Richey
Kettlebell training is no doubt one of the most versatile means of training that you can employ to achieve a tremendous level of fitness.
In fact, if you’re proficient with your kettlebell lifting technique you can build a super strong and super fit body that could do well in most any functionally demanding environment whether you’re competing in martial arts, having to navigate a demanding obstacle course, or simply trying to be the strongest and most well rounded physical specimen you can be.
In today’s article I want to cover 3 must-have kettlebell exercises to help you achieve a high level of functional conditioning.
The goal of these exercises are to make you strong, mobile, and better conditioned for some of the most demanding physical scenarios. I once had a friend say to me “I can either choose to sit at a desk, or kick in doors.” Well these are functional strength movements to help you kick in doors!
The Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing is definitely a must have for helping you to build a significant level of functional conditioning.
To be more specific when I talk about the kettlebell swing I’m talking about what some would define as the hardstyle swing, or the more athletically compact swing.
In other words, this version of swing only involves swinging the kettlebell from between the legs up to about chest level.
As a coach, I don’t personally program any swing that goes above the head.
Done properly, this version of the kettlebell swing can produce a significant level of strength, anaerobic work capacity, and help you to build a tremendously powerful posterior chain (muscles of the back side of your body). The posterior muscles are what we call Go muscles and this is what you need in order to be functionally conditioned for life, sport, and even combat.
To execute the kettlebell swing start by standing with your feet hip, or shoulder width apart. Hinge back at the hips and reach forward to grab the handle of the kettlebell in front of you.
Next, brace your stomach and hike or throw the kettlebell back right between your legs with the tops of your wrist firmly touching the inside of your groin on each side. As soon as the bell is here immediately perform double extension of your knees and hips to create momentum to swing the kettlebell out in front of your body just shy of chest level.
Once the kettlebell has reached chest height simply hinge the hips back to swing the bell back between your legs again with your forearms tight to your groin.
Pay close attention to:
- Maintaining a neutral spine (not rounding your back) when you hinge your hips
- Gripping the handle of the bell firmly by rotating your hands forward on the handle so that your knuckles point to the sphere of the kettlebell to crank in your grip.
- Stand straight at the top of the swing locking out your hips and knees, but not hyperextending your spine.
Keeping a proper swing by slightly bending your knees and NOT allowing the bell to swing below your knees. The kettlebell should stay above the knees at all times.
The Kettlebell Snatch
The next evolution is to progress from the swing in order to help you build up a significant level of functional conditioning. This can be done with the kettlebell snatch.
Like the swing, this lift involves you driving the kettlebell up from a swing technique with one arm in order to finish with the bell in the overhead position.
This lift once again is tremendous for helping you to build anaerobic work capacity, an ironclad set of shoulders, and a crushing level of grip strength. When it comes to hardening your body and mind the kettlebell snatch will also meet that need as well.
The snatch is particularly useful for preparing you for building up a physical nature that is fit for punishing competition and training like you would find in a combat, or fight conditioning scenario as well. In short it will harden you making you more resistant to injury.
Begin the kettlebell snatch the same way as you began the kettlebell swing except grab the bell handle with one hand. Once you hinge back your hips while also bending at your knees swing hike the bell between your legs with your forearm firmly placed into your groin.
From here double extend at the hips and knees while pulling the loaded hand with the bell up your body keeping it in close proximity to your torso. Allow the kettlebell to roll around your wrist as you ascend it overhead to the locked out position. The kettlebell should roll around your wrist in a corkscrew motion in until it’s fully overhead.
Pay close attention to:
- Gripping the kettlebell by grabbing towards the opposite side of the handle of the hand you’re gripping with the bell. In other words, if you’re gripping the bell with your right hand grip towards the left side of the handle.
- Keeping the kettlebell close to your body as you ascend up out of the hip hinge.
- Keeping your shoulder packed by making sure not to elevate your shoulder girdle with the loaded arm.
- Allowing the kettlebell to settle into the overhead position without rushing to drop it into the next repetition.
(Note: This movement can be performed without weight until you’re technique is worthy of loading with a kettlebell).
One of the most valuable movements you can do in terms of function and for building your body up to perform with stability and agility is the Turkish get-up.
This movement is huge for conditioning your body for being able to get up and to get down on the ground.
This very act is at the center of everything you’re designed to do. You must be capable of bending, pressing, lunging, and rolling up off the ground in order to activate nearly every muscle in your body to some capacity.
The TGU is tremendous for training all of these elements to help you achieve a high level of functional fitness. It’s a different type of conditioning because it involves putting your body through a longer performing movement while your body is constantly bearing a constant level of tension. This time under tension (TUT) is what builds significant strength.
For the sake of this explanation let’s assume you’re lifting with your right arm. Begin the TGU lying on the ground in the cradle position.
From here grip the bell and roll over onto your back pressing the bell with your arm perpendicular to the ground. Make sure your right leg is bent with your foot wider than the width of your hip. Keep your left leg straight.
Next, roll up onto your elbow and then up onto your hand while keeping the bell and your loaded arm perpendicular to the ground the entire time. Once on your hand use your right leg to lift your hips off of the ground.
From here slide and scoop your left leg underneath your body placing your left knee directly on the ground beneath your hip. Now you can lift the hand on the ground up off the ground. From here simply windshield wiper your left leg over to line yourself up into a straight lunge and stand up.
Once you have stood up simply reverse course and perform every step exactly in reverse until you’re back in the lying cradle position. Once here transition the kettlebell to the opposite hand and perform the same series of steps on the opposite arm.
Pay close attention to:
- Keeping every bend of your joints at 90 degree angles
- Keeping your loaded arm perpendicular to the ground throughout the entire movement
- Keeping focus of every step involved with the movement
- Not rushing through the steps, but taking the time to execute each step properly along the way
If you’re looking to enhance your functional conditioning for sport, combat, and life then there’s no better way to do it than leveraging the power of the kettlebell and these movements. The swings, snatches, and get ups are powerful movements that I guarantee will transform the way you move, train, and develop your body.
Are you currently using swings, snatches, and get ups in your strength and conditioning program?
What functional conditioning are you currently using in your training?
If you need help with your functional conditioning and total program then make sure to visit me at my website, Brandon Richey Fitness.
Do you currently use kettlebells in your strength and conditioning program?
Are you familiar with how utilize kettlebells for functional conditioning?
Is your kettlebell lifting technique on point?
What kettlebell movements would you rank the highest in terms of building functional conditioning?
Let us know in the comments!
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