Five Basic Kettlebell Movements

Burn Fat, Build Muscle, and Transform Your Body

Those of who pursue physical fitness as a lifestyle or career have no doubt heard of Russian kettlebells, as they are increasingly popular and can be incorporated into a workout routine.  Whether you are a gym rat, CrossFit junkie or stay-at-home mom, kettlebell exercises can help you burn fat, build muscle, increase stamina and flexibility, and transform your figure.

Kettlebells(40277)Credit: Photo courtesy of Steve Dinn via flickr

The Russian kettlebell is basically a cannonball with a handle that can be lifted, swung, carried, or tossed around.  They come in a wide variety of weights and can be purchased individually or as sets.  You can get a full body workout using a single kettlebell, or you can use two kettlebells simultaneously.  Regardless, proper technique is crucial for reaching your fitness goals and, most importantly, avoiding injury.

As far as weight goes, men shoud start with 15-35 pound bells, and women should start with 12-25 pound bells.  Always try to increase your weight over time.

Below are descriptions of the five most basic kettlebell exercises, in order from simplest to most complex.  Be sure to master these (in order) before moving on to more advanced techniques.

Two-Arm Kettlebell Swing

This is the most basic of kettlebell movements and serves as the foundation for any kettlebell training regimen.  Start in a squat position with the kettlebell slightly in front or behind your feet (for momentum).  Keeping your arms and core tight, back straight and head forward, grab the kettlebell with two hands and swing it back between your legs then out in front of your body, snapping your hips forward.  Build your arc until you are swinging the kettlebell to forehead level.

One-Arm Kettlebell Swing

This is similar to the Two-Arm Swing except – you guessed it – it only requires the use of one arm.  You can use your free arm for balance and stability.  Switch arms between sets or reps, depending on your preference and comfort level. 

One-Arm Kettlebell Clean

Similar to the swing, the kettlebell clean is the foundation for many other exercises, and it is important to master before attempting movements such as the snatch.  Beginning with a small swing to build momentum, pull the kettlebell close to your body – this is called “taming the arc” – then twist the bell around your forearm to end in the “rack” position with your forearm tucked into your ribs and the bell resting on your wrist at a slight angle.

One-Arm Kettlebell Press

The kettlebell press starts in the rack position, and the vest way to get in to the rack position is with clean.  If you want to try the press, you should first master the clean.  Alternatively, you can use two hands to get into the rack position, but this is not ideal.  From the rack position, squeeze the kettlebell tightly and punch straight up, keeping the movement as vertical as possible, until the arm is fully extended and the elbow is locked.

One-Arm Kettlebell Snatch

It is imperative that you master the swing before attempting the snatch.  Many people end up with sore wrists, bruised forearms or serious injuries because they don’t take the time to learn proper kettlebell technique.  Start off like you are performing a one-arm swing, but pull the kettlebell towards your body to tame the arc.  When the bell reaches shoulder height, open your hand and punch straight up above your shoulder.  The punch is hardest part to get right, and you may experience some pain if the kettlebell flips over your hand and crashes into your forearm.  Work with light weight while perfecting your technique to damaging your wrists and forearms.

If you are new to kettlebells, make it a goal to master these five exercises, in order, and you will be well on your way to total body transformation.