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Variants of the kettlebell include bags filled with sand, water, or steel shot. The kettlebell allows for swing movements and release moves with added safety and added grip, wrist, arm and core strengthening. The unique shape of the kettlebell provides the “unstable force” for handling – key for the effectiveness of the kettlebell exercises. By their nature, typical kettlebell exercises build strength and endurance, particularly in the lower back, legs, and shoulders, and increase grip strength. When training with high repetitions, kettlebell progression should start out slowly to build muscle endurance, support the joints and prevent injury.
Like movements performed with any exercise tool, they can be dangerous to those who have back or shoulder problems, or a weak core, when performed without proper education and progression. However, if done properly, they are very beneficial to health. They can offer improved mobility, range of motion, agility, cardio vascular endurance, mental toughness and increased strength. This is a list of common kettlebell exercises, most of which are uniquely suited to the kettlebell for some reason, rather than just acting as a weight that could be replaced with any other kind of weight.
Conventional swing: The kettlebell is swung from just below the groin to somewhere between the upper abdomen and shoulders, with arms straight or slightly bent, the degree of flexion depends on the trajectory of the kettlebell. High pull: A swing variation where the kettlebell is thrusted a little higher than the Russian swing, and at the apex the bell is pulled in towards the shoulder, and then pushed out again and back down into the swing. Sometimes the “high pull” instead refers to a deadlift that continues into a pull straight up to shoulder level. Swing clean: The kettlebell is held in the rack position, dropped into the back-swing behind the knees, and then back up in to the rack via the up-swing.
This is the most common clean, hence, it’s referred to as ‘clean’ rather than ‘swing clean’. Dead clean: The kettlebell is pulled up dead from the ground, straight into rack position. Snatch: The kettlebell is held in one hand, lowered to behind the knees via hip hinge, swung to an overhead position and held stable, before repeating the movement. The lunge snatch lowers into a lunge while the bell goes to the overhead position.
The tree press, a press standing on one leg, performs a similar function. Other variations include the walking press, taking a step forward with each press, perhaps alternating hands, and the seated press, where the trainee sits on the ground with straight legs while pressing overhead. Floor press: A press performed lying on the ground. As a strict press, but with a single dip of the hips to provide assistance.
Thruster: A rack squat with a press at the top using momentum from the squat. Squat: The basic squat is performed holding one or more kettlebells in the rack position, or a single a bell in the goblet position, which can help develop hip mobility by using the elbows to push the knees out at the bottom of the squat. Overhead squat: A squat with the kettlebell held overhead, requiring good hip and shoulder mobility. Pistol squat: A single-leg squat with one leg held straight in front parallel to the ground, holding the bell in the goblet or rack position.