Why Kettlebells?

Many men resist change.  Others become so preoccupied with being on the cutting edge of every fitness craze, they end up wasting a lot of time on fitness fads that don’t help them meet their goals.

Kettlebell exercises can fall into both camps, but they can also be effectively implemented into a training routine to optimize adaptions, and help men meet their goals.  I’ve had a 98 year old man doing kettlebell exercises to help improve balance.

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We also use kettlebells in the strength and conditioning program for the collegiate men’s lacrosse team that I am involved with.  Kettlebells are versatile and can help men from any background meet goals for improving core stability, ballistic power, dynamic agility and overall strength.

Here is a list of the 8 most effective kettlebell exercises for men:

  1. 1. Swing

Tutorial:

Start off with your feet shoulder width apart and the kettlebell about two feet in front of you.

Grab the kettlebell with both hands by the horns and let it swing like a pendulum backwards between your legs like an American football “hike”.

Forcefully drive your hips forward as you stand tall, swinging the kettlebell in front of you.  (TIP: Don’t use your arms; let your hips transfer the force from your posterior chain muscles through your forearms.

Also, clench your abs tight once you stand tall, and exhale forcefully).  Retrace the arc of the kettlebell on the way back down to prepare you for the next swing.

Rationale:

Men, here is a kettlebell exercise that will improve the power generated from the hips, meaning improved running economy, or improved jumping ability.

If you progress to the point where you can do a high enough volume, the kettlebell swing can even be used for low impact cardio (http://watchfit.com/exercise/low-impact-cardio-workout-for-active-rest-day/).

8 most effective kettlebell exercises for men2

  1. 2. Clean and push press

Tutorial:

Start off the same way as the kettlebell swing, but only use one hand at a time.

The “hike” is the same, but for the clean you will pull your elbow back (like you are starting a lawn mower) as you push your hips forward.  As you stand tall you will snap your elbow to your side and catch the kettlebell in the racked position.

For the push press, simply bend at the knees and explosively extend your knees as you press the kettlebell straight up overhead.

Depending on your sets x reps, make sure to periodically rotate the kettlebell between your right and left hands.

Rationale:

This one is an effective two-for-one exercise that provides an effective full body kettlebell workout, great for developing explosive power from the hips, as well as enhancing the musculature around the shoulder for improved stability and strength.

  1. 3. Snatch

Tutorial:

The snatch is another advanced variation of the swing, or the clean.

Follow the same steps listed for the clean, except don’t snap your elbow to your side.  Instead, after you pull your elbow up and back, punch your fist towards the ceiling.  (TIP: the idea is to have a smooth transition so the kettlebell doesn’t slam against your wrist.

The kettlebell snatch is a complex exercise that requires a lot of technique training, so don’t be afraid to start light to make sure your form is impeccable, before progressing to higher weights).

The snatch ends with the weight straight up overhead, with the kettlebell resting on the back side of your forearm.  Don’t rely on your dominant side; be sure to switch which hand the kettlebell is in.

Rationale:

In addition to the benefits of hip extension power, the snatch has the ability to train the musculature of the upper back for a rock solid physique, to balance out all the bench pressing that men like to do.

  1. 4. Windmill

Tutorial:

Start off in the finishing position for the snatch, with the kettlebell overhead.

Bend at the waist and reach towards the ground with the hand not holding the kettlebell.

Keep your knees and your elbows straight.  You will have to rotate at your waist to enable you to reach the ground, but if you still can’t touch the ground, go as far down as you can and consider adding some hamstring stretches to your routine.

Once you touch the ground, stand back up to your starting position.  Be sure to switch the kettlebell back and forth between right and left hands.

Rationale:

An effective core exercise for shredded abs and obliques (the so-called “love handles”).  The windmill also helps with static hamstring strength, which is useful for improving your deadlift.

  1. 5. Turkish get-up (TGU)

Tutorial:

The TGU is a complex, full-body exercise, which can best be explained by a popular proponent of kettlebells, Gray Cook. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vWKMuDH528).

Make sure you switch hands to get reps in on both sides.

Rationale:

The TGU is a catch-all exercise able to help develop body awareness, functional movement patterns and total body strength.

The proprioceptive strength developed by the TGU has substantial cross-over implications for any other strength requirements men may face.

  1. 6. Goblet squat

Tutorial:

Grasp the horns of the kettlebell, with the bell facing up and resting against your sternum.

Keep your torso vertical and squat down, with your chest parallel to your shins.

Go as deep as you can, but make sure to keep a flat back.

Rationale:

Loading the squat movement pattern on the front side, engages the core to develop killer abs during a kettlebell exercise also targeting the legs.

Men can use this exercise to increase leg strength, which has performance benefits of increased power and speed.

  1. 7. Lunge

Tutorial:

Start off standing with a kettlebell in one hand.  Step forward with the opposite leg and lower yourself down until both knees are at about a 90° angle.

Pass the kettlebell under your front leg to the other hand and stand back up.

Repeat with the opposite leg.

Rationale:

This one is especially useful for men who do running of any kind.

The split stance used in the lunge is similar to the mechanics of running and can effectively improve your individual leg strength.

  1. 8. Single leg bent over row

Tutorial:  

Stand with a kettlebell right next to your foot, on the outside.

Pick the opposite foot off the ground, and slightly bend your kettlebell-side knee and hip so you can pivot at the waist and pick up the kettlebell.

Keep your back flat, and eyes focused on the ground 10-15 feet in front of you.

Pull the kettlebell up and back, like you are trying to put it in your pocket.

Be sure to repeat using both left and right sides.

Rationale:

Here is another effective kettlebell exercise for men who are runners.

The single leg stance provides dynamic ankle stability, while developing strength in the back, which is important for posture and running economy.

Men who aren’t runners can benefit from this unilateral upper body strength exercise too.

The bent over row helps develop the musculature of the arms and back.

When integrated into your workout program, these 8 kettlebell exercises are effective for improving total body strength.

Whether you are looking for new exercises to add some spice to your current routine, or you are trying to tighten up your weak spots, kettlebells can be implemented and help you to reach your goals.

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