Kettlebell Strength Circuit
Article by Jeff Martone
Kettlebells are the ultimate free weight. Used properly, they simultaneously build both strength and flexibility. The following kettlebell strength circuit is just one example of a time efficient but effective total-body routine. Perform each exercise for 3 to 5 repetitions, under high tension and perfect form. Don’t sacrifice form for more reps. Finish one exercise, then immediately move to the next one. Repeat the entire circuit for 3 to 5 sets. Total time invested—15 minutes or less.
Starting Phase: Using two hands and proper form, deadlift the kettlebell then set the weight in the “rack” position. The “rack” position is the starting and finishing position for your military press. Your hand should be below chin level, elbows/triceps resting on your rib cage. Now, place your heels together as if you’re standing at attention.
Action Phase: Press the kettlebell overhead, with your knees straight and with a minimal back bend. Concentrate on using your lats, biceps, and grip. Be sure your elbow is straight at the top, pause motionless, and then repeat for desired reps.
Focus Point: Muscle recruitment and total-body tension are the keys to good form and safe strength training. Press your heels together and contract your inner thighs, quads, glutes, and abs. As you press, simultaneously death-grip the kettlebell and make a tight fist with the non-working hand.
Benefit: Improves posture, muscle balance, strength, and flexibility of the shoulders.
One-Leg Box Squat
Starting Phase: Begin by sitting on a tall box or stable chair. Place your right foot firmly on the ground, heel directly under the knee. Extend your left leg in front, parallel to the floor.
Action Phase: Lean forward, bend at the hips, and drive off the heel of your right foot until you are in the standing position. Without lowering your left leg, slowly and with control sit back and down. Repeat the drill on the same leg for 3 to 5 reps or alternate legs each rep for 6 to 10 reps.
Focus point: It is important not to allow your knee to move in front of your toes. If you are having problems with balance, try holding a light dumbbell (i.e., 10 to 15 pounds in front of you as a counterbalance).
Benefit: Improves intramuscular coordination, balance, lower body strength, and endurance.
Starting Phase: Assume the push-up position on the handles of a pair of kettlebells placed about shoulder-width apart on a level surface.
Action Phase: Tighten your glutes and abs, and “death-grip” the handles. Push your left hand hard into the ground, while pulling the weight to your rib cage with your right hand. Lower the weight with control and repeat the drill on the other side. You may alternate hands with each rep or do all the reps on one side then the other.
Focus Point: Keep your entire body rigid and the elbow of the stabilizing arm straight. In the beginning, you may need to move your feet farther apart for more stability. For variation, add a push-up between each row.
Benefit: Simultaneously strengthens all the muscles of the upper body: back, chest, shoulders, triceps, and core.
Kettlebell Cardio and Fat Loss Circuit
High-repetition kettlebell lifts are a highly effective and time-efficient form of cardiovascular conditioning. The following kettlebell cardio and fat loss circuit is just one routine of many found on the Busy Woman’s Workout Series. The key to success is to perfect practice. Don’t sacrifice form for reps or time. Perform each exercise for one minute, rest for 30 seconds, then move on to the next one. Repeat the entire circuit for 3 to 5 sets. Total time invested—12 to 20 minutes.
Starting Phase: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, straddling one kettlebell.Using good “dead-lifting” form, grasp the kettlebell handle with both hands then stand up.
Action Phase: Fixing your gaze straight ahead, sit back (not down) by folding at the hips and keeping your weight on your heels. Simultaneously push the kettlebell back between your legs. Once at the bottom position, quickly reverse the motion by driving your heels firmly into the ground and powerfully extending your hips. This hip action is identical to the standing vertical jump, except your feet do not leave the ground. It is the hip action (not your deltoids) that will ultimately power the kettlebell to chest height.
Focus Point: Be sure to keep your back and arms straight and your shoulders relaxed. Inhale through your nose as you descend and exhale through clenched teeth as you ascend.
Benefit: Increases aerobic/anaerobic capacity and BMR, and strengthens and tones the entire posterior chain of muscles (back, glutes, hamstrings, and thighs).
Starting Phase: Take a shoulder-width stance and deadlift the kettlebell with both hands. Keep your chest open, eyes fixed straight ahead, and knees slightly flexed.
Action Phase: Release one hand and move the kettlebell rearward in a circular motion around the body (i.e., hips and back). As the kettlebell moves in a clockwise, or counterclockwise, fashion, change hands at the back of the body and again in the front.
Focus Point: Keep the abdominals and lats contracted, head up, shoulders down, and chest open. Your feet should be planted firmly on the ground, slightly shifting your weight from one foot to the other.
Benefit: Dynamically strengthens your grip and midsection while maintaining an elevated heart rate.
Starting Phase: Hold the ball of the kettlebell in the palm of your hand with the handle pointing down and your fingers extended. Keep the kettlebell close to your chest. Your arm position should be similar to a boxer protecting himself from body punches (i.e., hands close to chin, elbows in contact with the rib cage.)
Action Phase: Using hip drive, generate power from your legs to quickly and explosively “pop” the kettlebell up and over to the other hand. The kettlebell should follow a short arch, keeping it inside the width of your shoulders.
Focus Point: The muscles of the legs, hips, and abs (not the arms) move the kettlebell. Keep your glutes and abs tight. Elbows must stay in contact with the body, as if squeezing a tennis ball under each armpit. Finally, be sure to exhale a little air upon every catch.
Benefit: Improves hand-eye coordination, and strengthens/conditions the muscles of the hand, core, and upper body. Teaches the ability to absorb impact and conditons the cardiovascular system.