I’m going steal a Saturday Night Live line from Christopher Walken…. I have a fever and the only prescription is more kettle bell.

fever

Lately I have been getting my workouts in at home.  Unfortunately I don’t have the space or the money to put in a full gym in my apartment.  Even if I could, I don’t believe my neighbors down stairs would appreciate all that noise.

Enter the kettle bell.  I love kettle bells and now more than ever they have now become a staple of my training.  They are a great tool for building strength and power, joint stability, core stability, increase flexibility/mobility, muscular endurance, and cardio-vascular conditioning.  Kettle bells are also ideal for my small apartment because they don’t take up much space and are easy for me to transport so I can train my in-home clients.

Kettle bells offer many ways to add variety and difficulty to exercises that allow you to progressively overload your muscles and make progress in your training.  Changing weights is  one of the easiest ways to add variety.  I have 3 sets of kettle bells that allow me to train in different modalities.  I have a  pair of light bells (18lbs-35lbs) for stability and conditioning work.  A medium pair (44lbs) for hypertrophy (muscle growth) and conditioning and a really heavy pair (53lbs) for absolute strength work.  My variety of bells opens me up to perform exercises in a bunch of different ways and at different intensities.

Weight is not the only way to change difficulty of the exercises.  How you hold kettle bells and your stance can vary the difficulty and what you work as well. You can use a two-handed grip to get both sides working at once, do one-sided kettle bell exercises, or double kettlebell exercises.   You can even use different weights in each hand to really challenge your stability.

For instance let’s look at one of the most popular kettle bell exercises: the kettlebell swing.  There are a few ways you can perform a kettlebell swing.  The single bell double hand swing is the simplest because it works both sides of the body as one unit.  The single bell single side swing works each side independently but also adds in a rotational component that works the core and hips differently.   And finally we have the double kettlebell swing which allows you to work both sides at once, but still has each arm working independently of each other.  Notice the differences in the pictures below the single arm swing is on the left and the two-handed swing on the right.

If you were looking to add even more variety to your swings you can change-up the motion of the swing.  The most typical way to swing a kettle bell is between the legs of a sumo stance.  But you can also perform something called a skier’s swing which has you stand tall and swing the bells on the outside of your leg.  This variety of swing allows you to develop power and strength in different parts of your glutes and hamstrings.

swing-variations

How you hold the bell can also add even more variety to exercises.  When it comes to exercises in the rack position (squats, waiter’s carries, over head press) you can even change the difficulty by how the bottom part (the flat part/non handle) of the kettle bell faces.  You can perform a regular press by keeping the bottom of the kettlebell facing the floor.  But if you are looking to really develop strength in the wrist and shoulder try the bell in bottoms up position.  This will force you really activate all your muscles from your grip to your pecs to balance the bell and keep it from falling.  It is really challenging and forces you to slow down, but it will develop unquestionable strength.

bottoms-up
Single arm bottoms up kettle bell press

So for those of you keeping count at home that is 5 different types of swings, 6 types of over head press.  That’s 11 different exercises based off of two movements.  Talk about getting bang for your buck.  And we still haven’t even discussed all the variations of squats (stay tuned for a future post on my favorite kettle bell exercises).

This post has only scraped the tip of the iceberg when it comes to kettle bell training.  I just wanted to give you a little taste (ok maybe a 7/11 big gulp) of the versatility when it comes to kettlebell exercises. I want you to see how we can change the stimulus of the exercise by not only change the training stimulus by changing the weight,  but how changing grips and number of bells we use effect the training stimulus.  The versatility and convenience of kettlebells is what has allowed me to continue to develop my strength and power easily from home.  Give kettlebells a try,  who knows my fever might be contagious.

What are some ways you add variety to your kettlebell exercises.  Let us know in the comments section below!

snatch
Steve is a NASM CPT and CrossFit Level 1 fitness coach who has a passion for building strength. He views strength building as the ultimate tool for weight loss, performance training, and rehab/prehab for injuries. Steve is currently studying to become a Physical Therapist Assistant. Steve provides in-home personal training as well as on-line coaching. You contact Steve at sjgsports@gmail.com with any questions or comments you might have.
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