The Five Best Kettlebell Exercises to Master (For Fitness Enthusiasts & Coaches)
Updated: Apr 21
When it comes to training these days many of us want to jump right in to the cool stuff we see on the socials. For example...instead of learning to properly deadlift or swing, we go right for the snatch.
And this goes for coaches too...sometimes we skip the necessary steps to build a strong foundation for a client.
You may think the basics are bor-ing. But if you will take the time to master the basics, you'll have a strong-as-hell foundation that will allow you to continue getting stronger and do the cool stuff without much interruption due to injury or fatigue...for years to come. Skip it and you may find yourself in and out of movement, constantly fighting injury.
Coaches...skip the basics with your clients and you'll have a hard time helping them stay consistent.
Here's my list of the top five kettlebell exercises for fitness enthusiasts and coaches to master! You'll find the skills gained through mastering these movements will prove to be valuable all across your training and/or coaching!
If you can't perform a great goblet squat, why in the world would you ever put a barbell on your back?
There's one key thing I want you to take away: Drop it like a squat is incorrect. You should never drop into a squat.
Tips for the Goblet Squat
As you start the descent, push the knees apart and pull (yes, pull -- don't drop) yourself to the bottom without tucking or tilting the pelvis.
Move the hips down and slightly back while keeping your weight over the center of the foot.
Once you have reached the bottom, pause briefly and do not lose your brace.
Your hips and head should come up at the same time (do not allow your hips to pop up first).
As you stand tall, pull the kneecaps up...do not push the hips forward at the top.
How low should you go? Your depth should be determined by proper low back position.
Single Arm Press
The single arm press is a foundation for so many other movements: double bell press, barbell press, get-up, snatch, push press, jerk and windmill.
Important things to remember when pressing...
Get tight! You cannot shoot a cannon from canoe. (Thank you StrongFirst!)
Before you begin the press, make sure you have the bell in the proper rack position. Drop the arm to ribs. (No chicken wings.) Touch collarbone with thumb. Fist below chin.
Use your lats to press...do not just shoot the shoulder up.
Your forearm should be vertical and make sure you lockout at the top.
The deadlift is the foundation for so many cool kettlebell exercises: the swing, clean and snatch! It's worth the time to get right or these other movements will get sloppy over time and you'll have a hard time correcting them.
The kettlebell deadlift is also a great starting point before moving to a barbell deadlift.
KB Deadlift Tips
When finding your bottom position, keep the hips above your knees and below your shoulders. Play around with foot placement and angles. The bell should sit between your feet, close to your heels.
Break the handle of the bell to engage lats. Drive your feet through the floor as you move up.
It's important to keep the legs and glutes engaged as you move the weight up. Pull kneecaps up at the top for a tall standing plank, versus a hip thrust at the top.
Push the hips back to lower the bell back by your heels. (I'm personally not a huge fan of picking something up and then dropping it. Lowering the weight back down builds a ton of strength. In my gyms, if you pick it up you better be able to put it back down.)
The kettlebell swing is a fantastic conditioning movement that is often performed incorrectly and with poor form because many coaches do not know the details of the movement. Before I earned my first StrongFirst certification I did not know all the details of this movement. When I came back from that weekend, the swings changed in my gym...along with lots of other movements. (Hey, sometimes you don't know what you don't know.)
Some key points when swinging...
Your set-up should look like your kettlebell deadlift, except the bell is about a foot in front of you instead of by your heels.
Think of moving forward and back. Push hips back.
Keep your bell close on the backswing. Aim into the small triangle above your knees, upper arms against ribs, and forearms against inner thighs.
At the top, pull up knee caps and squeeze glutes. Do not hip thrust. Stay engaged through entire movement.
Do not push the hips back into the backswing until forearms hit stomach. In other words, wait for the bell to fall. Timing is everything here.
Movements within a movement (core roll, leg sweep, lunge, overhead hold), along with strength, mobility and stability. It doesn't get much better than the get-up for an all-in-one movement. Sometimes it depends on the client, but I typically prefer to teach the get-up in steps.
Some common issues I see with the get-up: not locking the arm out, a loose body, not using the glutes, and going way too fast.
I typically coach to the elbow, then hand, then add in the sweep. This is where some clients get stuck so I don't add anything else until they get the sweep. Then it's usually easier to move all the way up and back down from there.
Roll to Press (Pack shoulder, Neutral wrist)
To elbow (Drive through hips and heel)
To hand (Lift fingers up and rotate shoulder instead of moving hand)
Sweep (Think about sitting cross-legged)
Windshield Wiper or move front leg
Get-Down the same way you got up. Some tips...
Remember to push hips back after the windshield wiper.
Sit tall after leg sweep, don’t slide into home.
Kettlebell Enthusiasts: Join me for a workshop this summer!
Coaches: If you are interested in learning the details of the kettlebell while earning CECs, then join me for an upcoming workshop. Get more info here.
Black Dog Fitness is recognized by the American Council on Exercise, National Strength and Conditioning Association, National Academy of Sports Medicine, and Athletics and Fitness Association of America as an Approved Continuing Education Provider.