Posts Tagged ‘kettlebells’

This exercise is a step up from the swing. It can be an exercise by itself and it is also a very good drill to practice a part of the classic Long Cycle (AKA Clean and Jerk)

Most people learn quickly by watching. So here is a short video of the exercise. You may get by after simply watching the video. Or you may need to read a bit more about the details. But what you can never do is to get better at the movement without practicing it repeatedly- over and over…again and again.

You can also hear the exhalation. When you feel confident in the exercise you can copy how I breath. Or simply exhale rhythmically. It follows that you inhale automatically if you exhale hard. What you should not do is hold your breath.

If you think you need more tips on how to do the exercise, read on. It may be boring since it has some technical terms but some people understand and improve skills better of they have a deeper understanding on how the things are done.

The movement is not slow, so you may need to re-read the description below a few more times to relate to the movement.

Breakdown of the movement


From the initial starting position, apply enough force to swing the kettlebell (or kb) backwards. This is part is called the “Backswing”. It will then come to a stop and at that time, the forearm of the holding hand is pushing against the hip. Backswing ends when you push the forearm forward with the hip to propel the kb forward.


With your application of force to push with your hip, the kb will change direction and will swing forward. This part may be called the “Acceleration phase”. The kb swings forward at a fast motion. Some textbooks describe ballistic training which involves movements like throwing.

The speed described by the books starts at around 1.7 m/s. I measured the speed of the kb in Snatch (which has the acceleration phase) with a linear position transducer and the sensor says the highest velocity in the whole movement cycle is around 2m/s to almost 3m/s. Sometimes even higher. Speed is reduced slightly when heavier kb is used.

I mentioned this to show the potential of kb exercises especially those with a swing component, to enhance explosive power.

Acceleration Pull:

As the kb moves forward, it follows a curved path as it rises since it is held by the hand. Approximately -45 to -30 degrees before the arm assumes a horizontal position (0 degrees), pull with just enough force. The pull starts from the ground with the foot of your kb side giving a quick push, then your torso twists s little, the scapula of the holding arm starts to pull back.


The shoulders move up and back, and then the elbow bends. The hand relaxes to allow the handles to rotate and the hand to reinserts deeper into the handle. The ball of the bell then rests on a triangular “rack” formed by the volar part of the forearm, the biceps, and the pectoralis major (chest). This is also known as “Rack” position since the kb is racked or resting.

The movement from the starting position to the racked position is called “Clean”. Most likely this name is taken from the “Clean” in weightlifting since they are quite similar.


From the racked position, slightly twist the torso and push forward with the shoulder to drop the kb. The hand and forearm will guide the trajectory of the kb.

As the kb is dropping, the hand is slightly relaxed to position from being deeply inserted into a cyclindrical grip with the fingers wrapped around the handle. Most lifters practice having the middle finger be aligned with the middle of the handle. This prevents extra wriggle at the backswing since the weight will be balanced.

As the kb drops and follows a curved path backwards, the backswing of the next cycle has started.

The big secret:

Keep repeating as many reps as required! While focusing on only 1 aspect among the phases described. Keep practicing until you feel more competent at that area. Then practice some more to make it more reflex like. Then focus on another aspect and repeat the process. Then practice your improved version. Repeat and try to polish your technique. As you keep practicing, your fitness also improves which helps a lot in proper execution.

You can move up in kettlebell weight as your technique improves. Generally, it is prudent to practice with “lighter” loads if you are not so familiar with the movement. As you practice, you naturally get better. Strength is also improved and it is but natural to challenge yourself to the next level by lifting higher loads.

These are not the only factors but when you follow them, they help a lot.

And if you want to move to another level, seek professional services of qualified and experienced coaches. It does make a world of difference as long as you know what you want and want it bad enough.

Comment below if you have questions or reactions.

Once in a while, after training for some time, you may feel like not training. It does happen. People may get bored, or may not be challenged.

It may be a sign that your training has been too monotonous in terms of the stimulus it provides you. Maybe you are not lifting heavy enough. Or maybe you are looking to spice things up a little bit, so you can re-focus and get back to training.

If you are training pressing movements and you feel you need a slightly different challenge, try doing the See saw Bottoms-up press. You need a pair of kettlebells that is not too heavy, nor too light. For a 65-70kg man of who has been lifting weights for a year or more, a pair of around 8 to 14kg kettlebells may work.

It is a given that you should know how to press. And another skill requirement is that you can clean 2 kettlebells at the same time. If you can do that try cleaning two kettlebells at the same time but instead of holding them at the usual kettlebell rack position, let their bottom point up- hence bottoms-up, and hold them almost in the rack position. If you cannot do that yet, then practice, practice, and practice. As always, better to start with a relatively lighter load first.

If you are finally able to simultaneously clean a pair of kettlebells in the bottoms-up position, then it is time to press both at the same time. Follow the bells with your eyes. It would help a lot. Practice, practice, practice…

If you are finally able to simultaneously overhead press a pair of kb while holding them bottoms-up, then you can press one at a time, on an alternating fashion. Then finally the alternating see-saw movement.

There you go. This exercise takes time to learn and execute if you are still improving on your strength department. It needs some strength, and of course skill. But if you are strong enough, you would be able to do it quite quickly. It is good to practice this once in a while to make training more interesting. Enjoy training!

Most resistance training equipment can be used outdoors. But some still require a solid and stable ground (like Olympic Barbells). Advantages of kettlebells over other resistance training equipement is that it requires very minimal maintenance cost. It can be used at the beach and would have minimal damage (a very thin rust) if not wiped clean after getting wet with sea water. You can practice juggling with it too. Here is a sample workout when you want to have fun at the beach.


Here is another routine which you can build upon. You can copy it as it is or modify the repetitions of each exercise. Three tips are given at the end of the video. Try it and don’t forget to comment!

Here is a quick warm-up routine for your kettlebell training. Some would want to add some more calisthenics and stretches which is great.

The nice thing about kettlebells is that they are very versatile. You can train your whole body almost anywhere. Sometimes I do it outdoors. It adds to the fun. Here is a routine which is quick but offers enough challenge. You can add reps per exercise or do more than one set. Enjoy! And don’t forget to leave your comments.

The Bottoms up grip is applicable to the kettlebell. As its name implies – you hold the kettlebell with its bottom side facing up. This makes it more challenging. You need to be able to balance it and then have a firm and strong grip to be able to maintain the aligned position. You have to keep your eyes on the kettlebell so that you can react on time when it sways.

You can use either the cast-iron type or the competition grade kettlebells. The heavier the kettlebell, the more challenging it is. For the cast-iron type, difficulty also increases with the increase in grip thickness.

How to do it:

  1. Be good in the Turkish Get-up first. (How to do the Turkish Get Up)
  2. Be good in Bottoms-up press.
  3. Combine these two skills and you get the Bottoms-up Turkish Get-Up (TGU)!


This exercise is done for the same reason why you do the TGU and the Bottoms-up press, but of course with the combined challenge. The main objective of the exercise is to practice a deliberate asymmetric movement that helps you control torso, hip, shoulder, and elbow stability. Hip and shoulder mobility also benefits from this exercise.

The end result will be better core or torso as well as shoulder stability which is essential to health and well-being. Needless to say, athletes rely on strong and healthy torso and joints for better performance.

Grip strength and endurance may also be enhanced depending on the relative weight of the kettlebell in relation to your gripping abilities.

When to do it:

Know when not to do it first: when you are really exhausted or when you are not able to use your upper limbs well for any reason. Concentration is important so do not use free weights when you are drunk or in a similar state of mind. It may sound like plain common sense and it really is. But there are a lot of posts on social media about people getting hurt in the gym simply because of lack of common sense. So do not enter the gym when you are sick or drunk.

Depending on your training program for the day, do it after your main lifts. Or if you are doing mainly core or torso or midsection exercises, whichever terminology you prefer, you better do it first or early in your training program for that day. Obviously, it demands that your mind is fresh, your muscles should not be fatigued, and that you can react on time. Especially when you lose control and the kettlebell falls down while your other arm is on the ground supporting your weight! It is better to do it on your non-dominant side first. That way, your concentration is still fresh and you are not that tired.

As a Strength Coach, I would use it to illustrate the advantage of having sufficient strength, mobility, stability, as well as focus. Some athletes are inspired by the desire to do the exercise. It inspires them to build a good foundation with their lifting skills and abilities so that they can attempt these type of lifts successfully.  They understand that developing good strength, stability and mobility is important. So they train well with the fundamental lifts like squats, presses, and some calisthenics.

On the other hand, some athletes always think of “fancy” training, or some exercise which does not bore them. I get tired convincing them that the fundamental exercises like squats, deadlifts and presses will be in their training program most of the time in the year. And if they still insist that they are already very good and want something fancy to show off, I let them do exercises like these. If they cannot do it, we regress to Bottoms-up press. If they still cannot do it, regress further to the press. Then hopefully by then, it would have dawned on them that they still have lots of work to do. 

If you can do it, congratulations! You earned it. But still, it will not take the place of your main lifts. It is just like dessert. It is not your meal. It is done to complement training but it is not the main bulk of training. Train Better! Live Better!

09Jan2015 014The sporting world is getting more and more competitive, one evidence is the emergence of specialised coaches like Strength and Conditioning Coaches. Training methodologies too are becoming more and more results oriented and it makes sense that a lot are patterned after training methodologies from sports that train with weights. These “weight training” sports embody the result of their particular training methods.

Weightlifters are known for their explosive power, bodybuilders for their muscular development, and powerlifters for their strength. Explosive power is very vital for a lot of sports events like 100 meter sprints, boxing, swimming, and any other sport that demands explosive power. That is why the Olympic lifts and their variants are used to train athletes by their Strength and Conditioning Coaches. Moving up in a weight category is better attained by increasing muscle mass rather than by increasing fat mass, and when you think of muscle mass, the bodybuilding routines come to mind.

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Now, kettlebells and Kettlebell Sport are becoming popular. Is there something that Kettlebell Training will offer to athletes of other sports? Or is athletic training already well covered by the lifts and exercises using barbells and dumbells?

Related: Strength Training for Endurance Athletes, is it worth it?

Related: Will Endurance Training help in the performance of strength and power athletes?

A quick look in Kettlebell Sport:


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Kettlebell sport demands the following fitness components: a good strength foundation, muscular endurance, cardiorespiratory endurance, some degree of flexibility, and a good deal of mobility. In competition, an athlete has to perform as many good repetitions as possible in the long cycle event or in the biathlon. Time limit is 10 minutes. Load lifted for men can be a pair of the following kettlebells: 16kg, 20kg, 24kg, & 32kg. For women it would be 12kg, 16kg, and 20kg. There may be some other kettlebell weights used and some other lifting events. Good kettlebell athletes are able to perform good technique from the first repetition until the last moment of the 10 minute time limit. The winner is the athlete who is able to do the most number of good repetitions within his/her weight class and KB category. What is good about Kettlebell Sports is that there is also an international ranking system.

The basic (anatomical and physiologic) requirements:

A good technique in the jerk and in the snatch requires good flexibility of the shoulder girdle as well as sufficient stability to hold the kettlebell in a stable position for a moment before starting the next repetition. valstrengthtraining.comThe torso should also be able “yield” enough when needed but should not “collapse” as the lifter holds the bells overhead or in the rack position. The hips, knees, and ankles move in a coordinated manner. The elbows should be able to be “locked” straight when the bells are in the overhead position. Try holding both arms overhead, elbows straight and touch your ears with your biceps. It is easier said than done. Now, try it with a pair of kettlebells. Now you can feel your torso musculature, (commonly referred to as “core”), work to be able to support the shoulder girdles, so that they in turn can support the arms in a straight position overhead while supporting a kettlebell with each hand.



Sergey RachinskiyTo be able to lift two pieces of kettlebells or to snatch one overhead requires some strength. Two 24kg kettlebells is only 48kg right? Not that heavy as compared to what a regular gym rat would deadlift or press, but try jerking it overhead in good form for at least 5 minutes. Then you get to understand why strength development is important in kettlebell sport. Good Kettlebell Sport Athletes do 10 minutes, to be followed by snatching one Kettlebell for a total of 10 minutes in the biathlon. Then you get to realize that a good strength foundation enhances endurance.



Kettlebell Sport is an endurance sport and it is cyclic in nature. The key is to be able to sustain the movement (repetitions) as much as possible for ten minutes. The limiting factor is the time, but do as many good repetitions as possible, as opposed to some sports wherein distance is covered in the shortest possible time. Since the kettlebells are lifted overhead and it is not that light, expect the blood lactate levels to increase. Good Kettlebell athletes then should have the ability to tolerate high blood lactate levels or be able to do the lifts without increasing lactate levels to a relatively high level. A strong cardio-respiratory system supports the sustained effort of the muscolo-skeletal system.

Sufficient flexibility, mobility, and stability are important in kettlebell lifting. These qualities are enhanced through kettlebell training.

Somebody training with Olympic Weightlifting has the required strength, flexibility, mobility, and stability but probably not the endurance of a kettlebell athlete. A middle distance runner may be able to tolerate the high blood lactate levels when needed, but probably does not have the required mobility. In short, training for Kettlebell Sport provides a unique combination of fitness and performance related components which may not be developed by any single training method aside from kettlebell training itself. This is then a good window of opportunity. It creates another training option.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA knowledgeable Strength and Conditioning Coach would be able to train athletes of other sports using kettlebell lifts so as to make them better at what they do. Since kettlebells can be used unilaterally, the torso musculature receives a very good stimulus to be stronger and be more stable. It also creates tension in the sagittal axis which may not be emphasized in bilateral symmetrical lifts. Another big factor in the effectivity of any training system is the knowledge and skills of the coach in implementing the training program. A basic qualification is that these coaches should be recognized by leading international bodies. And what is more important is that they have actual coaching experience, and not just any so-so coaching.

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Kettlebells provide a very good training tool and methodology for the athletic and the general population. Its effectivity also depends on how well the coach works with a particular individual. And the best way how to find out is to actually try it for yourself and find someone who knows how to teach you. Use it to Train Better, Live Better!

Your comments would be highly appreciated. Leave them below!

In order for a training regimen to work, it has to be executed on a regular basis and depending on Olythe goal, the different training variables should be varied to cause the wanted adaptations to happen. Many people who start a training program for the purpose of improving health would quit after only a few sessions. One reason may be expectations are high but effort given is low. And some individuals may think that a training program has to be complicated and sophisticated in order to work. A complicated routine may be perceived as doing a lot of work but in reality, the work done may be actually low since the load is low due to inability to adapt, or the total repetition is also low, due to constantly changing routine and exercise. It does not help doing a complicated routine if it cannot be sustained. One of the things which is not usually discussed in the reference books is that the training program that works is the one which  is simple and straightforward.


valstrengthtyraining.kbStrength coaches come from different backgrounds and the ones who can successfully train athletes have had their share of trial and error too. There are textbook references but they may not be pertaining to the exact condition and situation that we encounter. When I was younger, I was initially mentored by bodybuilders. The training program that I used to pattern my own training was that of bodybuilders. Then as I got to know some other mentors, as I read different books and articles, attended workshops & symposiums, and as I interact with different coaches, I got to understand some other methods & techniques. I started trying out different training programs on myself and those that worked were used with the athletes that I work with. As the years went by, there are more and more “re-discoveries”, fads, and trends. With all these training methods, it can be really confusing.


Having the opportunity to work with the top athletes in the Philippines and in another country in many different sports and from age 14 to 54, I have utilized a variety of training programs. And I have noticed a pattern manifest itself. I see it more often, now that I am aware of it. The training program that creates results is actually the simpler one. It is not the overly complicated routine. The complicated routine may work for a short while but things always change and situations change. When many factors which are beyond the control of the Strength Coach changes, it becomes difficult to implement the complicated routine. But most of the time, the “simpler” routine can still be implemented. Since it is quite simple, it can be flexible and modified to fit a situation, to lead to the training goal.


People normally expect quick results, and that it is easy to get bored doing the same routine over and over again. They might view a simple routine as boring, and not “state-of-the art”. But take a look at the trends, it is coming full circle. Early Strength Training programs emphasized compound lifts using simple barbells or just plain heavy stuff like logs and stones. As long as you lift well, train well consistently, and have a good recovery, good results follow. Then machines became quite popular.  Many other “ground breaking” and “state of the art” equipment were invented. They are really useful, but it does not mean that they are always superior to simpler equipment. It just depends on the situation and the goals. The more type of equipment, the more choices. And more choices sometimes creates confusion. In the Philippines, there may not be so much equipment to work with, but there is plenty of heart. I was lucky to have worked with athletes who want to become better. I consider myself lucky to have started working with a modest amount of equipment. Some equipment were even broken. That made me more creative on how to design a training program for a team with limited equipment and the athletes did improve. When I coached in another country, the situation is different. There are a lot of equipment, so much variety. It provides a different opportunity to learn. It is logistically easier and it allows us to work with a lot of different teams with different requirements. But if you were to make a record which equipment which most, if not all of us Strength Coaches in the institute where I work prefer to use- it would be the freeweights, more specifically the barbells. We have different backgrounds- some are locals, some are from parts of Europe, some are from South East Asia like me. But most if not all of us still would utilize freeweights. Irregardless of our background, and of our past experiences, it shows that we use the one which works. We use freeweights like barbells, most especially the Olympic barbells. I also see the big contribution of Kettlebell training especially in strength-endurance. The Olympic Barbell and Kettlebells are deceptively simple. But even in their simplicity, there are so many complex movements that can be done. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that Olympic barbells or the Kettlebells are the ultimate training equipment. It just depends on the training goal and the situation. I also personally like using bodyweight exercises for endurance and conditioning. The above equipment, including bodyweight exercises, demands that the user utilize almost all of the major joints and muscle groups in a coordinated and skillful way.


Think about it, you can utilize simple equipment, a simple routine, and produce outstanding results.


Here is an example of a part of a particular training program that I implement for a certain training phase:


Day 1:  Day 2:

Deadlift x 5s x 5r

Front Squat x 5s x 5r

Bench Press   x 5s x 5r

Pull ups 4s x 10r

2 arm swing    x 3s x 20r

Day 2:

Cleans 5s x 5r

Parallel Back Squat x 4s x 5r

Barbell Shoulder Press x 5s x 5r

Turkish Get up x 3s x 3r/3r

The first set is a warm up set. It can be made into an ascending pyramid (increasing weight per set) or just straight sets (same load). For this training, you only need a barbell, a bench press, and a kettlebell. It requires 24 to 48 hours recovery in between Strength training days. Boring? Well, an experienced lifter may not be so bored. With the right intensity, it is challenging. Depending on the athletes mobility and stability, it may take time to be able to do full range of motion. This training program is usually for those who have been training consistently for a few months and shows good mobility with sufficient strength. It can be for new athletes IF they have the required ability to execute the exercise in the required range of motion while still being able to stabilize their body with the load and it depends on their movement aptitude. Most new trainees may not yet exhibit those qualities. So if you look at it, it may seem so simple, yet it is for more “advanced” trainees.

If you want a dynamic warm-up that stretches your hip as well as strengthens your torso, click here.


No overly complicated stuff. Straight to the point. Simple. Efficient. Useful.