So if you want to be doing your big lower body lifts with proper form (and massive weights), glute strength is definitely a focus you need to have. No, but really, kettle bells provide a unique opportunity to bring variety to your training patterns, shocking your body — in a low- to no-impact, joint-healthy way — into untapped potentials for muscular and cardiovascular development.
Whether you’re interested in busting through plateaus, strengthening underutilized muscles, or improving your conditioning so you can last longer in your heavy training sessions, kettle bells are the way to go. With the ballistic nature of so many kettle bell movements, combined with the odd shape that will fire your stabilizer muscles like little else, kettle bells will allow you to refine the kind of explosive strength you’ll need to lock out your dead lift and come out of the hole in your squat.
The proper form for hip extension (and subsequent massive glute strength) is key for swings, which are a staple of most kettle bell workouts, including the ones below. The three choices below all emphasize a different goal, but all will also build powerful glutes that can help unstick your toughest dead lifting and squat plateaus.
Kettle bell Swing Proper Hip Extension Don’t be misled by the conditioning emphasis here: rest assured that these momentum-based moves will recruit a massive amount of muscular activation in your glutes, hamstrings, and core — all essential for developing well-balanced strength and endurance exactly where you want it. Keep your elbows soft but not bent, select a moderate weight for which you can confidently do 15 reps, and breathe.
You’ve only got thirty seconds per side here, but you want to focus on quality rather than rep quantity. Keep your shoulder packed at all times, and make eye contact with the bell, always.
And when you’re lifting the bell straight above you so you can prepare to transition into kneeling — here’s one place (other than the lunges) where your glutes really come into play — squeeze your glutes so that your extended foot doesn’t leave the ground as you’re getting up. Making sure your extended foot stays grounded is tough because it requires a lot of core and — you guessed it — glute strength.
So keeping your form super strict here will be wonderful for your glutes (and the rest of your body, too). They’re the same as a regular kettle bell swing, except you will finish each rep by letting the bell come to a full (“dead”) stop on the ground in front of you.
To be clear: set up with the bell a foot or two in front of you, hinge to grasp it, use your hips to swing it back behind you between your legs, use your hip snap to bring the bell up to chest level, let it swing back down between your legs, and then, instead of bringing it up again, let it go from between your legs to the ground in front of you. This dead stop will kill the momentum between each swing, requiring you to recruit even more energy to blast off each time.
To avoid the infamous forearm flop, make sure your motion is… well… clean. Keep your arm locked close to your rib cage throughout the motion, so that when you thread your hand up and through so that the bell transitions to resting on your forearm in rack position, it won’t leave you with bruises.
Remember that the momentum should come from your initial pull, rather than extra yanking on the way up. Keep two kettle bells in rack position — make sure you can comfortably complete 15 overhead press reps with the weights you choose — and sink into a front squat, using your momentum on the way up to thrust the bells up into an overhead press.
If you want an extra challenge, move directly into your swings with the bells still in your hands. Rotate your wrists so your palms are facing each other, widen your stance, and get into your double bell swings.
Make sure you’re breathing and pressing down into your toes so that your feet stay stable and balanced throughout the movement. Working unilateral moves will help even those imbalances out (and give you stronger glutes overall, so really, everybody wins).
In fact, many people should probably avoid that with this move (unless you have absurdly flexible hamstrings, all the more power to you). Feel free to stop descending when the bell dips below your knee, and keep it slow and steady as you’re standing back up.
Your stabilizer muscles and glutes won’t like you very much, but they will definitely benefit from the extra time under tension and strict attention to form. Either way, hitting below parallel will challenge the heck out of your glutes (not to mention your core), which is exactly what you’re looking for.
And sit into the side lunge with your knee thigh comfortably hitting parallel (or below) to the ground. If you’re looking for to use a variety of kettle bell training styles, want to improve your work capacity while strength training, or just generally subscribe to the idea that “both is good,” you might want to try a hybrid workout that combines conditioning and lifting.
Make sure your form stays excellent throughout, and that momentum from your swings don’t translate into your slower, steadier lifts. Make sure you take the time to set up this lift, finding your proper footing before you dive in.
Exhale with each hip snap, keeping your core tight throughout (and again, just say no to hyper extension). Nina Take/Shutterstock Using kettle bells to make your glutes that much more powerful is a great way to add variety to your training.
Adding these kettle bell accessory movements to your regularly scheduled programming will add an element of power and instability (in the positive, muscle-building sense) that will translate into improved squat and dead numbers. When I originally started my gym, my main clientele was interested in fat loss.
I was lucky enough to have a friend that was ROC certified come show me a few things; needless to say, I was very humbled. If you are a strength athlete, then you should never abandon the basic barbell lifts, because nothing will get you stronger.
For the Strongman athlete, kettle bells are a great accessory after your main lifts. They are also great as “finishers” if you are in need of improving your conditioning, or dropping some extra pounds to make a lower weight class.
One thing about kettle bells that makes most people shy away from them, however, is that the technique is very difficult. If you are interested in adding kettle bells to your training program, I suggest you work with someone that has a lot of experience with them.
The kettle bell starts in the rack position where it rests on your chest, with your elbow pointing straight down. As with any kind of strict press, tighten your glutes, core, and quads to avoid using any leg drive.
This is a great accessory lift for the circus dumbbell clean and press. In this case, the balance of the one-arm strict press with a kettle bell will greatly improve the stability and lockout of the circus dumbbell.
Keep the elbow tucked in on these, and really focus on squeezing the bell through the movement. Most people walking into a gym for the first time are not ready to have a bar on their back.
For those who are experienced, try goblet squats as a warm-up before barbell lifts to loosen the hips to achieve proper depth. With the kettle bells racked in front, you will be able to stay upright to break parallel with ease.
Swings can be great as a warm-up, when going heavy for accessory work, and when doing higher reps for conditioning. However, if you are a CrossFit competitor, by all means keep training the American swing; I will get into snatches later in the article.
Start the kettle bell out in front of you as I do in the video, and hike it back like a football. Explosively reverse the movement by pushing the weight off and standing up tall.
If you compete in the sports of Strongman and powerlifting, then these are the exercises you need: ab wheel rollouts, body saws, and weighted planks. Anti-rotation is critical if you want to move fast with a heavy yoke, or farmer handles.
I know many of you out there who compete travel (when you can) to Strongman gyms, and may not have access to kegs to throw, or perhaps the weather does not cooperate that day. At my first keg toss, with a couple of practice throws, I was able to finish the event with the fastest time — I attribute that all to being strong at the snatch.
Similar to the swing, it’s all in the hips (Happy Gilmore), so do not squat as the kettle bell comes through your legs. Squatting is a very common mistake here; you want to use your most powerful muscles, which are your hamstrings and glutes.
If you are a coach working with clients mainly interested in fat loss, I highly recommend that you learn how to perform and teach kettle bells. Perfect these moves first, focus on your main lifts (squat, bench, dead, events, etc.
1) Dead lift 4 × 2, 5th set max reps at 80% 2) Stone series 3 × 5 3) Double kettle bell snatch 3 × 10 or heavy kettle bell swing 3 × 20 4) Glute ham raise 3 × 10 5a) Reverse hyper 3 × 15 5b) Hanging leg raises 3 × 15 For assistance work following a squat or dead lift, one of my favorite exercises are band-resisted kettle bell swings.
These will kill your glutes and hamstrings and get your heart rate up in a hurry. Another assistance exercise that my good friend, Donnie Thompson, uses religiously is the double kettle bell swing into an overhead snatch.
He does these between sets of squats (remember the PRE- fatigue we talked about in the previous article? It’s a similar principle here to raise your General Physical Preparedness “GPP”).
This guy was the first to total 3000lbs in powerlifting (in gear) with a 1250 pound squat, so I’ll take his word for it that they work. A third assistance exercise with kettle bells would be the unilateral or single leg DL (Romanian Dead lift).
Take the kettle bell in your right hand, stand on your left foot, kick your right leg back while reaching the kettle bell down toward the ground to counterbalance yourself, touch the floor, return to the start. Finally, if you’re feeling like a barbarian, grab two 100 pound kettle bells and do farmer’s walks.
Both will crush your soul and make you feel like you’ve never done any type of training in your life. To set up the hanging kettle bell bench, grab mini bands (light resistance bands) and loop them through the kettle bell and hang them over the bar.
Obviously you want an equal amount of length on either side and the kettle bells should be hanging at all points during the exercise. There are millions of variations that you can use to varying degrees in your training, but never let the opportunity to get bigger/faster/stronger go by the wayside because you’re unfamiliar with a piece of equipment.
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