The kettlebell, or ‘girya’, is my native strength training implement. Years ago, everybody here in Ukraine knew what kettlebell is (now it is rare to find a person who can differentiate a kettlebell from a dumbbell). A lot of men trained with kettlebells, and it was not only a matter of strength, but a matter of respect too. The man who could lift a 32 kg kettlebell overhead was highly respected in society. Every man sought this status. Every man sought strength. It is a big shame that such a great implement is forgotten nowadays in favor of fancy machines and other ‘toning up’ devices.
So What Is the Kettlebell?
The kettlebell is a cast iron weight that looks like a cannonball with a handle. This implement is very old and was used by Ukrainians and Russians for ages. Ivan Piddubny, Pyotr Kryloff, Moor Znamensky, and Arthur Saxon are famous old-time kettlebell users. However, there were lots of others.
Just look at these men, and you will understand the potential of the kettlebell.
What Is the Uniqueness?
So why not to use dumbbells? It is the same thing, right? Actually, no. The uniqueness of kettlebell is in its construction. You will notice right from the first time that kettlebells feel much heavier than dumbbells. Why? Because of the offset center of mass. This opens new horizons for using these implements. For example, presses will have much longer range of motion, and there will be an additional resistance at the top due to this offset center of gravity. Also, kettlebells provide a huge variety of exercises and grant you much more place for improvisation. Tired of conventional lifts? Try Swings, Snatches, Bottom-Up Cleans and Presses, Kettlebell Juggling, Kettlebell Throwing etc.
Unilateral or Bilateral?
Another great thing about kettlebells is that you can use either one arm, or both during the training. Either way has pros and cons. Generally, unilateral work is better for learning basic skills and bringing up the lagging side, and bilateral work is better for overall hypertrophy and strength development because of an increased workload.
Read this article for more information.
The Space Issue
Kettlebells require very little space, and you are able to train with them literally anywhere. I, personally, work with them in my apartment, and nobody is complaining. Be careful though not to break something or someone.
Where to Get Kettlebells?
Here in Ukraine, people meaninglessly throw away kettlebells, or they can use them in housekeeping. You will rarely find someone using kettlebells for training. It is a paradox, I know, but it is rough reality in our country. I am very lucky to get my kettlebells almost for nothing, but what to do if you are not so lucky? For example, you can buy kettlebells here and finally start training.
Basic Kettlebell Exercises
I divided them into groups:
1. Upper Body Push
Kettlebell One-Arm Military Press
Clean the kettlebell. Keep your lower back arched during the clean. Press it overhead until your elbow is locked.
Kettlebell Double Military Press
Clean two kettlebells. Keep your lower back arched during the clean. Press them overhead until your elbows are locked.
Kettlebell Double Floor Press
Lie down on the floor. Grab the kettlebells. Press.
Kettlebell Side Press
Clean the kettlebell. Keep your lower back arched during the clean. Lean to the side and press the bell until your elbow is locked.
2. Upper Body Pull
Kettlebell One-Arm Bent-Over Row
Grab the kettlebell. Bend over. Keep your lower back arched. Row.
Kettlebell Double Bent-Over Row
Grab two kettlebells. Bend over. Keep your lower back arched. Row.
Kettlebell Alternating Renegade Row
Get into the push-up position on two kettlebells. Row one to your waistline while pressing the other. Keep the shoulders parallel to the ground. Prepare for the VERY sore midsection the next day.
3. Lower Body Push
Kettlebell Double Front Squat
Clean two kettlebells. Keep your lower back arched during the clean. Squat as low as possible. Keep your weight on the heels, not the toes.
Kettlebell Double Lunge
Clean two kettlebells. Keep your lower back arched during the clean. Take a step forward and squat down.
Kettlebell One-Arm Overhead Squat
Snatch or clean and press the kettlebell overhead. Squat as low as possible. Keep your weight on the heels, not the toes.
4. Lower Body Pull
Kettlebell Double Swing
Grab two kettlebells. Swing them between your legs. Flex the hips forcefully while reversing the movement of the bells. Keep your lower back arched throughout the move.
Kettlebell One-Arm Snatch
Grab the kettlebell. Swing it between your legs. Flex the hips and pull the kettlebell forcefully while reversing its movement. Finish with your arm straight with the kettlebell overhead. Keep your lower back arched throughout the move.
Kettlebell One-Arm Windmill
Snatch or clean and press the kettlebell overhead. Stand with your feet pointing 45 degrees to the opposite side of the working arm. Arch your back. Lean forward and down while twisting your torso until you touch the floor.
Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up
Lie down on the floor. Press one bell. Stand up with the bell pressed. Now reverse the movement and get down on the floor. That is one rep.
NOTE: this is just a description of exercises, not an actual instruction. You should consult a professional for proper technique.
Example Kettlebell Routine
Here is an example kettlebell-only full-body routine:
A) Double Military Press – 3 x 5
B) Double Bent-Over Row – 3 x 6
C) Double Front Squat – 3 x 6
A) Double Floor Press – 3 x 8
B) Double Swing – 3 x 8
C) Turkish Get-Up – 3 x 5 (per side)
A) One-Arm Snatch – 3 x 12
B) Double Lunge – 3 x 12
C) One-Arm Windmill – 3 x 12 (per side)
Saturday & Sunday
NOTE: this routine is presented here only for example purposes. It may or may not work for you depending on your individual capabilities and conditions.
The greatest thing about the kettlebells is that they never lie. You cannot decrease the weight just a little bit. You cannot train not recovered. You are on your own. You have to be honest with yourself or the kettlebell will force you to be such. Egos are out. True rough strength is in. You have to be serious about strength to master the kettlebell. And be ready to reap the benefits.
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Do you have any additional thoughts? Let’s chat in comments.
Are you tired of lack of results? Strength training seems like the rocket science to you? Do you want to get strong, build muscle, lose fat and get awesome finally? Let the professional do all the dirty work for you.