Kettlebell Performance Circuit
Once seen as the secret workout tool of Russia, kettlebells are nothing new these days. Walk into any gym and you can find a variety of kettlebells stacked up against a wall or on a kettlebell rack. Kettlebells have caught on and for good reason. There aren’t very many pieces of workout equipment available that can combine cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training together the way kettlebells do.
Kettlebell training is practical and beneficial for all. From the elite athlete looking for an edge for competition to the sedentary person looking to improve general health and fitness. Everyone can benefit. Kettlebell training gets back to basic training that requires functional, whole body fitness.
Below is a performance circuit you can use to improve your stamina, strength and mobility in as little as 20 minutes. Complete each exercise for the given number of reps per round for 5 rounds. Or to push your training further complete as many rounds as you can within 20 minutes.
The Kettlebell Exercises
Kettlebell Swing Step – 30 swings
The Benefits: Kettlebell Swing Step delivers all the benefits of a regular Kettlebell swing such as improved strength throughout the posterior chain, helping to regain and strengthen posture as well as reduce the chance of injury and strengthen the cardiovascular system in the process. Adding the lateral step to the kettlebell swing improves your balance, foot movement and timing as well as lateral movement.
Performing The Kettlebell Swing with Step
- Stand over the kettlebell with feet hip-width apart and the kettlebell in the middle of your feet.
- Squatting down, grip the kettlebell with palms facing you and thumbs wrapped loosely around the handle.
- Stand tall, still gripping the kettlebell. Keep your arms long and loose while retracting your shoulders blades and engaging your core. Soften your knees, shift your body weight into your heels and lower your rear end back and down toward the wall behind you. At this point, you should be ready to spring and swing the kettlebell forward and up.
- It’s go time. Driving through your heel, explode through the hips to send the kettlebell swinging upward from your quads. We’re aiming for chest height, with your arms extended. Achieving this finish position requires you to snap your hips through, contracting your core while squeezing your butt cheeks. As the kettlebell explodes up, take a step in with one leg. Alternate which leg takes a step in with each swing.
- As the kettlebell begins to descend, take a lateral step so, you feet are shoulder width apart again and you are back into the starting position. As the kettlebell descends, let the weight do the work as you get your body ready for the next rep. Shift your weight back into your heels while hinging at the hips and loading both the hamstrings and glutes. Receive the weight allowing the kettlebell to ride back between your legs.
- As it makes the transition from backwards to forward, drive through the heel and hips to keep the swings going.
Kettlebell Snatch – 8 reps per hand
The Benefits: The kettlebell snatch is a full-body, power exercise. Its focus is to work the hamstrings, quads, back and shoulders in an explosive movement building strength and explosive power. So, you will perform this exercise by moving quickly and explosively. Although the snatch is primarily considered a strength exercise, you can put in a good cardio workout too.
Performing The Kettlebell Snatch
- To start stand shoulder width apart and place a kettlebell between your feet. Bend your knees and push your butt back to lower yourself into the starting position and grab the kettlebell with one hand.
- Looking straight ahead, pull the kettlebell off the floor from a slight squat position, swing the kettlebell back between your legs.
- Immediately reverse the direction of the swing from backwards to forward and drive through with your hips and knees to thrust the kettlebell forward and upward. As the kettlebell rises to your shoulder rotate your hand and punch your fist and kettlebell straight up, using momentum to receive the weight locked out overhead.
Kettlebell Thruster – 12 reps
The Benefits: Kettlebell thrusters combine a front squat with an overhead press, giving new meaning to the concept of the compound, multi-joint exercise. Depending how you work it, the kettlebell thruster can train your cardiovascular system by lightening up the weight and doing higher reps at timed intervals for a great HIIT workout or bump up the weight with lower reps for a head-to-toe strength and power training session.
Thrusters can be performed using a variety of set and repetition schemes to target different elements of your physical fitness. High-rep, light-weight sets of thrusters are metabolically demanding and can dramatically elevate your heart rate and improve your cardiovascular fitness. Low-rep, heavy-weight sets will develop muscular strength and power. Performing thrusters with an unstable object -- such as a water-filled barrel or sandbag -- improves your core strength, whereas using dumbbells or kettlebells improves your balance.
Performing The Kettlebell Thruster
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your lower back tightly arched, and one kettlebell in each hand in military press position with your hands no wider than the outsides of your shoulders. If you choose to use one kettlebell (as pictured above), hold the kettlebell with both hands at chest level.
- Keeping your head and chest held high, push your hips back and descend into a below-parallel squat.
- From the bottom position, explode back to the start position as hard as you can, using your momentum to simultaneously press the kettlebell(s) over your head.
- Finish in a standing position, with the kettlebell(s) over your head. At the top of the position, rotate your torso to either the left or right. Then rotate your torso forward again and smoothly lower them and descend into another squat in one continuous motion.
Kettlebell Deadlift – 14 deadlifts
The Benefits: Kettlebell Deadlift works a lot of different muscles at the same time. Deadlifts work your calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, arms, core, back, trapezius and shoulders. As you might assume, you burn a lot of calories doing deadlifts because they work so many muscles and helps you to lift more weight in real life situations. For example, lifting a heavy box off the floor. Deadlifts improve your posture since they strengthen your entire core and back muscles, and can help prevent back injury if performed correctly. Deadlifts can also improve your cardio by raising your heart rate and improving your ability to transport and use oxygen during exercise.
Performing The Kettlebell Deadlift:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart parallel to the kettlebell.
- Squat down, sticking your butt back and bending your knees, gripping the handle of the kettlebell, so that your forearms are on the inside of your thighs.
- Tighten your core, stick out your butt, puff out your chest and keep your back straight throughout the entire movement. Do not arch your back here, because it puts unnecessary stress on it and can cause injury.
- Hold the kettlebell with an overhand grip (palms facing in). Drive your heels into the ground and, using your legs and glutes, straighten your legs and stand up as you exhale (you’ll inhale on the way back down). At the top of the move, you’ll squeeze your shoulder blades together and squeeze your glutes together, holding that position for 1 second. But be sure not to arch your back.
- Slowly return the weight to the ground by bending at the knees and simultaneously leaning your torso forward. Keep your back straight during the descent.
- Rest the weight on the ground for 1 second before you start the next lift. Adjust your grip if necessary.
Kettlebell Halo Towel Swing – 30 rotations
The Benefits: Kettlebell Halo Towel Swings focus on overall strength, shoulder mobility and grip strength. This exercise moves your shoulders through a wide range of motion to help open up and keep your shoulders mobility while forcing you to keep the rest of your body tense by engaging your core and legs. When the Halo is performed correctly, it will work shoulder and core strength, which is ideal for fighters, CrossFit athletes, swimmers and more. The grip strength is especially beneficial to Jiu-Jitsu fighters. Perform the Kettlebell Halo Towel Swing with light weight for a pre-training warm-up or as part of a finisher to wrap-up your workout. Or grab a heavier kettlebell for added mobility and strength work. Be careful not go too heavy too fast. Don’t be fooled by the look of this exercise, it can definitely add a completely different dimension to your workout.
Performing The Kettlebell Halo Towel Swing
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart parallel to the kettlebell, with your towel looped through the kettlebell handle and each end of the towel brought together and gripped tightly in your hands.
- Start by swinging the kettlebell down low. Once you have enough momentum extend the movement so your arms make a circle around your body and with your hands over your head. Keep your core activated at all times.
Kettlebell Gladiator Press – 5 per side
The Benefits: The Gladiator Press is great for building core strength and upper body strength. It is often used for exactly that, to build abs and upper body strength. Think of the gladiator press as a combination of a Side Plank and a The Get Up. It does involve a bit of coordination and of course strength, so make sure you start light and scale your weight accordingly.
Performing The Kettlebell Gladiator Press
- With a kettlebell on the floor, kneel down and place one hand on the floor then grasp the kettlebell with the opposite hand.
- Set both feet back behind you and suspend your body weight by positioning your feet with the foot of the lower leg behind the foot of the lower leg (e.g. if you’re pressing with the right arm, the left leg will be the lower leg).
- Assume the side plank position while holding up a kettlebell in one hand up by the shoulder while balancing your weight up on the opposite extended arm with a hand on the floor. (Start position)
- Begin Press motion by extending your arm as you exhale and push the kettlebell upward.
- Once kettlebell is held up at the fully extended position, reverse the motion as you inhale and return the kettlebell back down to the shoulder while maintaining the side plank position.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps.
- Repeat steps 2 thru 6 on the opposite side.
To get started, perform each exercise for the given number of reps per round for a total of five rounds. Once, you've gotten the hang of each exercise, take your workout further by performing as many rounds as you can in 20 minutes.
- Kettlebell Swing Step – 30 swings
- Kettlebell Snatch – 8 reps per hand
- Kettlebell Thruster – 12 reps
- Kettlebell Halo Towel Swing – 30 rotations
- Kettlebell Gladiator Press – 5 per side