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Is Kettlebell Good For Strength Training

author
Ava Flores
• Monday, 30 November, 2020
• 26 min read

Tour any modern gym and you're bound to stumble upon a section littered with kettle bells. People may also refer to the weight of a kettle bell in “goods,” which is an old Russian unit of measurement.

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Contents

It is unclear as to when kettle bells officially became a recognized tool for strength and conditioning, however it's estimated their history dates back over 300 years. Known as a “girl” in Russia, kettle bells were originally used to help balance scales while weighing crops.

The man most notable for Westernizing the kettle bell is Pavel Tsatsouline, chairman of Strongest Inc. and former PT drill instructor for Smetana. Tsatsouline's authored several books that outline simple but effective kettlebelltraining programs.

Entire workouts can be executed with nothing more than a single kettle bell, whether the aim is strength, hypertrophy, power or endurance. A kettle bell is relatively small (though I dare not say it's “light,” as that all depends on the weight you select) and relatively affordable in comparison to most other gym equipment.

Compared to training with machines or even dumbbells, the kettle bell provides variability and offsets the load so that no one rep is ever truly the same. Kettle bell exercises can at times be the biggest bang for your fitness buck, targeting numerous muscle groups and moving you through multiple planes of motion.

As Tsatouline writes in his book Simple & Sinister, “the kettle bell is an ancient Russian weapon against weakness.” Every piece of equipment brings something unique to the table, and every person is different, so it's foolish to speak in definitive.

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Barbells make it easy for a newbie to load a movement heavier than they can handle in a fixed position. A perfect example is that of a Barbell Bench Press, where the hands are pronated and the shoulders are inherently placed in an internally rotated position.

Kettle bells are a great option to keep an individual's load lower while growing their movement competency. It targets the posterior chain and teaches individuals how to hip hinge properly with some force.

This exercise involves holding the kettle bell with both hands (although single-arm and double-bell variations do exist) and using the hip hinge to forcefully drive it out in front of yourself. Your gripping muscles may eventually burn if the set is long or enough or the weight's heavy enough, but your arms and shoulders should essentially contribute no power to the movement.

Once the Kettle bell Swing is mastered, it is an excellent addition to any program or a convenient stand-alone option for a conditioning day. However, that simple act requires a lot of technique, shoulder stability, core strength, hip mobility and focus to execute effectively.

There are also many scenarios where replacing a classic barbell or dumbbell exercise with a kettle bell version can make sense. It might seem like an insignificant swap, but kettle bells naturally lead to better scapular position, making the move more effective and reducing wear and tear on your body.

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Undoubtedly the kettle bell is an extraordinary tool with a long history of producing excellent results. Treadmills and elliptical machines were no longer clothes drying racks and guest rooms were filled with weights, yoga mats or the latest fitness infomercial sensation.

According to the NPD Group, a consumer data company, there was a 130% increase in fitness equipment sales and all of its categories in March alone. While their appeal may have faded here, Russians fully embraced kettle bells because they offered an effective workout in a small space.

Some people credit the resurgence to Belarusian Pavel Tsatsouline, a former trainer of Soviet Special Forces soldiers and subject-matter expert to the U.S. Marine Corps, Secret Service and the Navy SEALs. But it’s also been noted that a number of ex-Soviet kettle bell athletes who fled to the U.S. after the fall of the Berlin Wall were instrumental in putting this form of training on the radar again.

We’ll explore this strength conditioning option and get the basics from physical therapist Tyler Hewitt. If you’re not a creature of habit and you really enjoy mixing things up when you work out, kettlebelltraining can offer a number of benefits.

“Kettle bells give people more variety in their workouts and offer different variations of body mechanics that allow muscle groups that haven’t been previously targeted to be isolated and challenged,” says Hewitt. The International Sports Sciences Association says that a good amount of kettle bell exercises engage the entire body through multi-joint, functional movements.

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(Source: redefiningstrength.com)

Hewitt recommends having a safe non-slip surface such as a yoga mat for any sort of dynamic movement during training. If you work out regularly, Hewitt says that trying a basic kettle bell workout at home shouldn’t be a problem.

“If you are used to working out and are aware of proper mechanics, I recommend starting at home with lighter kettle bells. According to Hewitt, many people make the mistake of starting their training without learning the proper form for exercises, or they don’t pick the right size kettle bells.

It’s always a good idea to master the form and mechanics of each exercise in your set rather than jumping into them with too much weight.” If you’re working out at home and want to incorporate kettlebelltraining into your routine, don’t start by grabbing a kettle bell and swinging away.

You can break a kettle bell workout down into basic movements such as shoulder presses, bicep curls, dead lifts and more. On the other hand, a beginner would benefit from working with a trainer to understand the exercises and develop proper mechanics.

But even if you are experienced, there’s nothing wrong with having a trainer critique your form to help ensure that you’re doing things the right way so you don’t injure yourself down the road.” Hewitt adds that osteoporosis patients might be able to try kettle bell workouts with certain modifications added to prevent fractures.

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“It’s OK for people with arthritis in their back or knees to try kettlebelltraining as long as they have the proper form and mechanics down. If you’re not sure if you should try kettlebelltraining, it’s a good idea to see a medical professional or certified trainer first before beginning this workout.

Today, they have become a very popular and trusted part of many fitness regimes, with participants claiming that kettle bells improve endurance and strength, whilst at the same time, burning calories. They are advertised as offering a great way to stay in shape, whilst being fun at the same time, compared to ‘normal’ workouts.

Read on for the top benefits of why training with kettle bells is good for you, based on reputable scientific studies. People spend a lot of time using different forms of exercise to reach their goals, such as losing fat, building muscle or working to improve or maintain fitness levels.

This was confirmed by a study directly comparing the two-handed kettle bell swing with modern intensity treadmill walking (Thomas et al. 2014). Whilst the movements involved in kettlebelltraining act as a cardio exercise, the fact that a weight is being lifted at the same time, also works your muscles.

Studies have found that this form of exercise improves power, endurance (Pinocchio, 2010) and maximum strength (Lake and Lauder, 2012). Another advantage of working and strengthening your muscles is that it increases your metabolism, meaning you can burn fat all day after your workout.

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This combination of cardio and strength training, allows you to get the best of both worlds and reap the benefits that both offer in one challenging kettle bell workout. Another specific benefit of kettle bell movements is that these can work all of your major muscle groups at once and can achieve remarkable results in less time.

The high number of calories that can be burned with this training is accredited to it being a total body movement exercise (Forward, 2010). In this way, it is hailed as being superior to other kinds of weight training, due to forcing your body to work as a unit with every swing or lift.

As kettlebelltraining involves a lot of movement, it is important to perform the exercises correctly, ensuring your back is straight, shoulders are relaxed and head is in a neutral position. Osteoarthritis is the most common kind of arthritis, which is caused by the breakdown of cartilage that the body eventually cannot repair, often in older age.

A study found that joints subjected to heavy impact are relatively free of osteoarthritis in older age (Verkhoshansky and Sight, 1998). Thus, the ballistic exercises using a kettle bell, such as the swing, snatch, jerk and clean, appear to be highly beneficial and strength your joints, promoting protection against osteoarthritis in older age.

Having high blood pressure can increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as suffering from a heart attack or a stroke. Making lifestyle changes, such as incorporating regular exercise into your routine along with a healthy diet, can keep your heart and arteries in good condition and reduce blood pressure and its associated risks.

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With it being both a cardio and strength workout, it can assist in the control of and help to prevent high blood pressure, and therefore reduce the dangers to your health. Whilst it does promote a healthy lifestyle, if you do have high blood pressure, always ask for advice from your doctor first before you start any new physical regime.

There has been an increase in the number of adults developing Type 2 Diabetes, due to living an unhealthy lifestyle and being overweight. Whilst there is no cure for Type 2 Diabetes, blood glucose levels can be managed to minimize the risk of health problems that can develop.

In particular, a recent study found that kettlebelltraining could improve glucose clearance in young, sedentary males (Greenwald, 2014). In conclusion, training with kettle bells is advantageous not only in meeting individual fitness goals but also in protecting against medical conditions.

They sit flat on the floor (no rolling around) and the compact design means no wasted space. Likewise, dumbbells are a great training tool, but you’ll need a lot of them to get a decent full-body workout.

Armed with some savvy training knowledge (you will be by the end of this article), you’ll be able to get a great total-body workout with only 1-3 kettle bells, no matter your strength level. As a fitness coach, my goal is to get new clients feeling comfortable and confident while lifting weights and learning basic movement patterns.

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Because the bell’s center of mass is directly under your grip, dead lifts fly up naturally without much cueing. But no matter your goal, or where you’re starting from, kettlebelltraining can transform your body and performance in ways you never thought possible.

Losing body fat and maintaining a lean physique comes down to controlling calories through nutrition and training. Kettlebelltraining offers many powerful ways to rev your metabolism and burn a mountain of calories in very little time.

The kettle bell swing is a hip hinge dominant movement, like a dead lift or box jump. This means each and every rep engages the posterior chain muscles of the hamstrings, glutes, back, and lats (plus lots of cores if you do them right).

As mentioned above, kettle bells are a great way for beginners to learn the fine art of strength training. The foundational kettle bell lifts cover all the major movement patterns while developing athleticism and a strong mind-muscle connection.

This “what the hell” effect takes place when, after using kettle bells for a while, new reserves of strength and skill suddenly appear to demolish stubborn old personal records. For example, a long-distance trail runner might flounder after a couple laps in the pool… and a swimmer might find cycling tortuous.

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No matter your sex or fitness level, nearly every bell size has great value and there’s plenty of overlap in the recommendations anyway. These are your “bread ‘n butter” weights that will serve you well in both lower and upper body training for life.

Finally, the extra 12 kg will give you a great pair for double kettle bell workouts. We follow the same line of reasoning for the fellas, with an assumption of more general upper body strength.

We start with 12 kg as even the brawniest of dudes will get good use from one for mobility-oriented lifts like arm bars and windmills as well as advanced get-up and bottoms-up press work. From here, I like to recommend a pair of 20 kg (44 lb) kettle bells as this seems to be a sweet spot for double bell complexes.

Kettle bells, which look like cannonballs with handles, have become a popular strength training alternative to traditional barbells, dumbbells, and resistance machines. Kettle bell exercises often involve several muscle groups at once, making them a highly effective way to give your arms, legs, and abs a great workout in a short amount of time.

Kettle bells can be used for a variety of exercises that improve both your strength and cardiovascular fitness. Russian strongmen in the 1700s developed kettle bells as implements to build strength and endurance.

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(Source: www.onnit.com)

Using lighter kettle bells at first allows you to focus on using the proper form and technique for the different exercises. You can always increase the weight once you’re comfortable with the correct form for each exercise.

Fitness experts suggest using kettle bells with the following weights if you’re at an intermediate to advanced level with your strength training : Aim to add more reps each week, then work toward adding more sets as you build strength.

Push your hips backward, and bend your knees to reach the kettle bell handles. Firmly grip the kettle bells, keeping your arms and back straight.

This is an excellent exercise to boost both your muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness. While your shoulders and arms will do a lot of the work, most of the effort should come from the hips and legs.

Exhale as you make an explosive upward movement to swing the kettle bell out in front of you. Squats are an excellent lower-body exercise that work your quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, as well as your abdominal muscles.

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Using your leg muscles, with your upper body still, straighten up to your starting position. Alternatively, you can hold a kettle bell by the handle in one or both hands, with your arms at your sides.

Slowly step forward with your left leg, bending your knee while keeping your right foot in place. Make sure your left knee doesn’t extend over your toes.

A great exercise for working your abs and obliques (the muscles on the sides of your abdomen that run from your hips to your ribs), the Russian twist can also be done with a weighted medicine ball or barbell plate. When using a kettle bell, be sure to keep a firm grip so that you don’t drop it on your lap.

Sit with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor. Holding the kettle bell handle with both hands, lean back so that your torso is at about a 45-degree angle to the floor.

With your heels a few inches above the floor, rotate your torso from right to left, swinging the kettle bell slightly across your body. When you’ve completed your repetitions, return to your starting position.

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Push ups target your chest, triceps, and core muscles. When your chest is even with the kettle bell handles, exhale and push your body back up to its starting position.

Hold a kettle bell by the handle so that it rests against the outside part of your shoulder. While exhaling, push the kettle bell upward so that your arm is almost straight.

There are many benefits to working out with kettle bells, for both men and women, across all age groups. According to a 2019 study, a kettle bell workout is a highly effective way to improve your strength, aerobic power, and overall physical fitness.

Compared to resistance circuit-based training, the same study found that a regular kettle bell workout is just as effective at improving cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength. A 2013 study reported that participants who completed an 8-week kettle bell training session saw noticeable improvements in their aerobic capacity.

Kettle bell exercises have the ability to restore muscle mass and improve grip strength in older adults, according to a 2018 study. According to Harvard Health, kettle bell exercises can also help improve your posture and balance.

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You typically use your core muscles more with kettle bell exercises than with dumbbells or barbells. If possible, ask a certified personal trainer at your local gym or fitness center to show you the proper form for kettle bell exercises.

Kettle bells tend to swing, so get used to the feel and movement in your hands before using one. A little mild soreness after a workout is normal, but you shouldn’t feel sudden, sharp pain while working out.

Kettle bells can take a little getting used to, but working out with them is a highly effective way of improving your muscle strength and cardio fitness. The key is to start slow and, if possible, with the help of a certified personal trainer.

Today I’d like to help answer a question I’ve been getting asked a lot recently, Are Kettle bell Workouts Cardio or Strength ? All activities that keep the heart rate elevated and make you breathe hard for long periods of time.

Strength based exercise involves developing the muscular system so you can jump higher, run faster, punch harder, lift heavier etc. However, if you use a challenging weight and put together a selection of kettle bell exercises into a circuit then you will raise your heart rate and keep it elevated for a long period of time.

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Kettle bell workouts are inherently strength based because you are lifting a weight that challenges the muscular system. As most kettle bell exercises involve the use of hundreds of muscles at a time they require a great deal of energy produced by the heart and lungs.

If programmed in a circuit format kettle bell workouts can promote both strength and cardio gains at the same time. It is time to train like a man again (especially if you are a woman) and get back in touch with visceral impulse that has been locked away for years.

Two kettle bells are all that you need to increase muscular endurance, lose fat and build size and strength. Kettle bells do not take up much space so you can train in your apartment, backyard, garage or go outside and get some fresh air.

If you are a woman that wants to lose weight and tighten up your glutes, quads, abs, and arms, apply a steady diet of kettlebelltraining ballistic work with some low rep kettlebelltrainingstrength work and you are all set. Kettle bell handles are much thicker than dumbbells and will give you a vice grip in no time.

For combat athletes and anyone else that likes it tough, the ballistic shock of kettle bells teaches you how to absorb shock efficiently which is critical for combat sports such as: wrestling, MMA, football, and hockey. The above reasons are why MMA fighters such as Frank Shamrock, BJ Penn and Fedora enhance their workouts with kettle bells.

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Also, it is why top strength coaches such as Ethan Reeve and Louie Simmons recommend kettlebelltraining to their athletes. Members of the entertainment world such as Chris Pontus of MTV's Jackass and Wildly and Harley Flanagan, founder of the legendary NYC hardcore band “The Romans” have attended my kettle bell workshops and are ecstatic about Kettlebelltraining.

Both Chris and Harley talk to everyone they know about the benefits of kettlebelltraining and you will as well after you attend one of my seminars. Continue to go back and forth until you have done three sets of 20 reps. Now if you thought that was hard, imagine making that exercise several times harder with a kettle bell.

No doubt about it, high rep kettlebelltraining is an aerobic workout and great alternative to stepping classes, spinning classes, and anything else that strips you of our manhood and makes you feel like a jack CSS. A balanced kettlebelltraining program combined with a solid worth ethic and healthy nutrition plan is a sure-fire recipe for success.

In addition to being lean and strong, my body has learned how to work as one unit. My muscular endurance and mental toughness have improved tremendously.

In order to keep training interesting, you have to keep it fun and kettle bells are a great fit. You can benefit from kettle bell focused programs or you can incorporate kettlebelltraining into your current regimen.

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Yes however pushing yourself away from the table more often and cutting crispy crème out of your diet is even more effective. Do not kid yourself into thinking that you train like a professional athlete unless you are one.

Kettlebelltraining can be an effective way to promote a normal healthy metabolism. However, anyone that tells you that you can lose fat with kettlebelltraining and a crappy diet is doing you a disservice.

That said, nothing takes the place of progressive weight training with barbells. A combination approach utilizing kettle bells and barbells is an effective way to go.

Finally, if your testosterone and growth hormone levels are low then forget about putting on muscle. Women for example love kettlebelltraining as it helps them tone up and lose fat without over developing muscles.

Truth be told, building muscle is not easy for men and especially women so that should be the least of your worries. That said, kettlebelltraining is popular with members of the armed services, Secret Service, law enforcement community, and anyone else that wants functional strength that carries over to real world activities such as sitting on the coach and using the remote control ;-) Just kidding.

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Only the smart ones ;-) Yes I work with women all the time at my workshops, and they love kettlebelltraining. Swings and 1-legged dead lifts tighten up the glutes and hamstrings and the windmill is great for the midsection.

Women tend to believe the illusion that they will turn into “Arnold” just be looking at weights. Fortunately, top kettle bell instructors such as Lisa Shaffer and Lauren Brooks of are perfect examples of the benefits of kettlebelltraining for women.

Check out their sites today and get over the irrational fear once and for all that you will turn into “The Hulk” with weight training. Working out with traditional weights has always kept me really strong but about 6 months ago, I started noticing that I was having trouble picking up my muscular 5-year-old (he was about 70 pounds) who also lifts traditional weights as well as kettle bells.

Many celebrities such as Chris Pontus (Movie Jackass) the band “Born” and Harley Flanagan of “The Romans” are also enjoying the benefits of kettlebelltraining. Kettle bells are a natural fit for athletes and this trend will continue.

No doubt their stamps of approval carry a lot of weight as both are highly respected members of the martial arts community. Nope but watching TV and eating junk food is.

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When you are ready to take charge of your health think about getting some kettle bells and actually using them. Having worked for a major fitness club chain in the past, I can tell you first hand that the main goal of a fitness club is to make money and keep liability costs low.

While machines are not as effective as free weights, they are much easier to use and require minimal instruction. Now there is nothing wrong with making money as that is an important goal for every business.

Regardless, few gyms realize that they could make more money by providing exceptional offerings to their clients. Unfortunately, the clients gyms prefer are the ones who sign up for a year and never show up.

No doubt a more progressive gym could make a lot of money with kettle bell classes. Finally, the last thing a fitness club wants you to know is that you can get in great shape at home with a few kettle bells.

Thus, it's better to convince the client that he she needs expensive equipment to achieve his or her goals. Personally, you are better off in smaller gyms which focus more time on their clients.

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The best ones are made by Lifeline USA, Dragon door, Adler and Ironwood. Also, the light bells for the ladies have thin handles which most women do not care for.

The price is not cheap either but given the fact that you can potentially replace your gym membership with a few bells, it is not a big deal. The Adler kettle bells have a nice base which is great for anyone that uses smaller bells for exercises such as the Renegade Row.

Most likely you will be happy with the Adler bells and my friend Lisa Shaffer is a strong advocate of them and sells them on her site. I respect her opinion and her approval carries a lot of weight.

Also do not expect to switch from one weight to another easily with the uskettlebell model. As much as I like the uskettlebell model, I prefer the real thing and will continue to stick with solid non-adjustable kettle bells.

If you are looking to gain strength then Kettle bells can be a great tool to help you achieve your goal. The truth is you can build strength with any type of added resistance, whether that is Dumbbells, Barbells or Power bags.

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During the Squat the Kettle bell can be placed in the rack position nicely resting against the upper arm and forearm and enable much larger weight to be held against the body. Efficiency of movement means recruiting more motor units which in turn will activate more muscle fibers for greater contractile strength.

With practice, you can educate your body to recruit the maximum amount of motor units during each lift and therefore increase your strength. In fact when most people begin resistance training (lifting weights) it is this efficiency of movement or motor unit recruitment that gives the impression of gaining muscle.

The beginner weight lifter becomes more skillful at lifting over time and this helps improve their strength much more than muscle development. However, there does come a time when efficiency and motor recruitment are maxed out and additional muscle mass is the only way to develop further strength.

I’ve noticed this principle of strength as a skill rather than being related directly to muscle mass many times when training clients and educating personal trainers. If you started training at your max lift of 7 reps x 3 sets it would leave you beaten up and tired for days.

Also remember that more practice time means more development of skill and improved motor unit recruitment. The double kettle bell clean and press or long cycle is possibly the best full body strength training exercise.

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The kettle bell double racked squat exercise will heavily strengthen the legs, buttocks, hips, core and back. You can use the double clean exercise in order to get into the top position ready to begin your set.

You can build a lot of strength with the double kettle bell swing but I would recommend slightly higher reps for this exercise. Extra caution needs to be taken when swinging heavy kettle bells due to the dynamic nature of the exercise.

I really like this exercise because when loaded up nice and heavy it really challenges the core sling system that runs from the hip across to the opposite shoulder. The Central Nervous System (CNS) will fatigue heavily if you push yourself too hard and although you may feel physically ready to exercise again, mentally you will not have recovered.

Again, another reason why training at 50% of your max is so important, you can lift more often without totally fatiguing your central nervous system. For strength building workouts rest periods should be extended to 2.5 – 3 minutes per set.

Double Kettle bell Clean and Press x 5 reps Rest 3 minutes Repeat x 3 sets All efforts should be placed on lifting heavy at 50% of your max and then taking nice long rests between sets.

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What many believe to be initial physical strength gains through muscle are actually an increase in motor unit recruitment. More frequent strength training practice means more training volume and more exposure to improvement of motor unit recruitment.

Use large full body kettle bell exercises for your training to develop more useful strength. When used correctly, kettle bells are extremely effective training tools for providing total-body strength and conditioning.

As with any technical movement, lift, or skill, proper coaching is required to maximize the benefits. It's a two-for-one exercise, meaning you're able to combine strength training and cardiovascular conditioning into one efficient movement.

Though it looks easy to perform, the swing can take a significant amount of time, practice, and coaching to perfect. Unfortunately, this exercise is often performed incorrectly, which will limit your results as well as any further progressions that are based on this basic movement.

It's a powerful full-body exercise that requires attention to detail and a respect for human movement. For strong, resilient shoulders, improved hip and trunk strength, and enhanced mobility, the Turkish get-up is essential.

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You just feel like you have more power to press efficiently with a kettle bell, mostly because of the more natural plane of motion. Similar to the kettle bell swing, the clean is another explosive exercise for total-body strength and conditioning.

The difference here is that the kettle bell finishes in the rack position as opposed to being projected horizontally away from your body. The kettle bell snatch is physically demanding and technical, but offers outstanding total-body strength and conditioning benefits.

It can help transcend athletic performance to new levels, build explosive strength, and forge strong, powerful shoulders. The snatch requires proper technique, explosive hip power, and athleticism.

This exercise should not be attempted until the kettle bell swing hip-hinge pattern and explosive hip drive are established. Though watching videos is helpful, the best way to learn how to correctly do these challenging movements is to work with a certified kettle bell instructor.

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06: Competition Kettlebell For Get Ups
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Sources
1 www.menshealth.com - https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a28439541/kettlebell-swing-form/
2 www.stack.com - https://www.stack.com/a/proper-kettlebell-swing-form-a-step-by-step-guide
3 www.onnit.com - https://www.onnit.com/academy/5-key-points-to-performing-the-kettlebell-swing-with-proper-form/
4 livehealthy.chron.com - https://livehealthy.chron.com/correct-form-kettlebell-swings-2991.html