The kettlebell is a staple piece of equipment in nearly every gym across the world. The versatility and effectiveness of kettlebell exercises make them easy to incorporate into programming for every type of client and athlete.
The most commonly used kettlebell moves—the Swing, Squat, Snatch, Get-Up and Press—can pay huge dividends in mobility, strength, power and endurance. But today I am going to introduce you to three kettlebell exercises you may never have seen.
Kettlebell Arm Bar
The shoulder is—or has the potential to be—the most mobile joint in the body. That mobility is awesome when used correctly, but it can also leave the shoulder vulnerable to injury. Shoulder injuries lead to loss of function, which leads to further injury and ultimately to an athlete being unable to get the full benefit out of certain exercises.
The Kettlebell Arm Bar is a great way to strengthen the tiny stabilizing muscles in and around the shoulder girdle to provide some protection for the joint. In doing so, it allows you to stretch the front side of the area, including your pecs, which most people desperately need. If you have shoulders that roll forward, this may be the cure for you.
This exercise allows you to increase your thoracic mobility. Your T-spine is meant to move. It's built for rotation, flexion and extension. When it cannot perform those basic functions, your lumbar spine—which is built to be stable—has to step in. See the issue there? This drill gives you back your upper back functionality so your lower back doesn't have to take the beating.
Here's how to perform the Kettlebell Arm Bar:
- Lie on your right side with your knees bent close to 90 degrees and the kettlebell in front of you at chest level.
- Grab the kettlebell with two hands and roll your body to the left. You should now be on your back with the kettlebell in both hands, resting on your chest. Your legs can be bent or straight.
- Press the kettlebell straight up with two hands, then release your left hand to your side, about 30 to 60 degrees away from your body. Retract your scapula in this position.
- Lift your right leg up and over to the left side of your body. Try to keep your right arm stable and in the same place throughout the movement.
- Your right knee should now be on the ground, bent nearly 90 degrees and on the left side of your body. Raise your left arm overhead and rest your head in a neutral position on that arm.
- Inhale a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth as you drive your hips deeper into the ground and try to lengthen your right arm as much as you can. Perform 3-5 breaths on this side, then switch sides and repeat.
Here is a short demo of the Kettlebell Arm Bar:
- Roll/cradle the kettlebell into the starting position.
- Keep your arm always perpendicular to the ground, knuckles to the ceiling.
- Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth, driving your hips to the ground with each exhale.
- Do 2-3 sets of 3-5 breaths per side.
Kettlebell Butt Walks
Kettlebell Butt Walks look and sound funny, but they are no joke. I have a history of lower-back injury and dysfunction, so whenever I see exercises that address these issues I am always down to try them out. I stole these from Donnie Thompson, but you may have seen them used in martial arts training as well.
The beauty of Kettlebell Butt Walks is that there's no right or wrong way to perform them. Some variations emphasize glute involvement; others incorporate the QL muscle in the low back; and some variations even work the hips and hamstrings.
I play around with different styles to activate and strengthen all of those areas under a light load with this serious bang-for-your-buck exercise.
To perform these, simply sit on your butt and "walk" forward, backward, sideways and rotationally. To engage your hamstrings, slightly bend your knees and dig your heels into the ground. To activate more QL, sit up nice and tall while you "walk." To engage more hips, walk backwards and focus on your motion at the pelvis. And, of course, the glutes are firing in all variations of the exercise.
These are great, low-impact and highly scalable. Use them to wake up your posterior chain and hopefully alleviate any lower back pain. At the very least, try to hit these for about 50-100 total "steps" per day—forward, backwards, side-to-side and rotating. All it took was one try and I saw the value. Low risk, low demand, high reward. Try 'em!
Kettlebell Chaos Carries
Last but not least, my favorite on this list—something I have talked about before. Kettlebell Chaos Carries are an awesome loaded carry variation using kettlebells, bands and Fat Gripz.
It is no secret that loaded carries are essential. Literally everyone should perform loaded carries, in my opinion.
Here is how easy it is to gain whole-body strength, core stability, improved endurance capacity, enhanced grip strength and pain-free results:
- Step 1: Safely pick up an object.
- Step 2: Walk somewhere
- Step 3: Safely put down the object.
- Step 4: Repeat.
In this version, you connect a kettlebell to a mini-band, then connect the band to Fat Gripz. Follow the same protocol as standard carries, but really focus on being rigid. The kettlebell hanging from the band is unstable and will try to pull you in different directions the entire time. Your job is to make sure you stay on a straight path with tall posture, a braced core and a strong grip on the Fat Gripz.
Give these a try and let me know what you think!
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock