Performance Enhancing Kettlebells by Lee Crase
In CrossFit, we’ve seen the Kettlebell as something to swing overhead and in some cases, pick up and carry to the other side of the room. We certainly get a lot of benefits from these two movements, but Kettlebells do have other purposes & benefits.
Kettlebells do make good standalone workouts. Nearly anything we do with bodyweight, barbells or dumbbells can be replicated, at least, and enhanced, at best, with Kettlebells.
We’ll go over the:
- Front Squat
- Bottom-Up Press
It is important to understand the why before we learn the how, but both should be covered before we begin.
The Front Squat has become a staple for learning the mechanics of a good Squat. It’s quick & easy. Grab the bell by the horns, pull it up to just below your chin, keep your elbows close and your shoulders pulled down & back, then pull your torso straight down & back by sitting towards your calves. Now use your elbows to push apart your knees, keeping your hips active. This is what the bottom of a Squat should feel like.
Front Squats can be done for practice or for reps. The only limit is what we’re willing to give in exchange for what we need.
The Snatch is an extension of the Single Arm Kettlebell Swing, which makes it an ideal exercise for any variety of benefits. Hip hinge, glute activation, and core stabilization all make for a phenomenally quick transition between mobility & stability. These translate into increased explosiveness and power in nearly all our CrossFit barbell work.
More specifically, the Kettlebell Snatch can be used as looking at the Barbell Snatch through a microscope. We can sometimes hide blemishes & faults behind a Barbell, but with a Kettlebell, those same flaws can be exposed, diagnosed and fixed.
With a bar, our stronger-side wants to compensate for our less-strong-side. With a Kettlebell, we find that our less-strong-side puts on the brakes while our stronger-side is flooring the gas. Practice Squat Snatches with a Kettlebell and do 2 reps on your less-strong-side for every 1 rep on your stronger-side. When our bodies are imbalanced, asymmetric exercise can be our greatest equalizer.
The speed of our Barbell Snatch is roughly the average between our stronger and less-strong sides. To improve our speed, and every other aspect of our Snatch, practice, refine & hone the movement with a Kettlebell.
Even the Overhead Swing, or American Swing, as practiced primarily & almost exclusively by CrossFit, has more diversity in functionality than we see at first glance. That shoulder mobility needed to lock the bell out overhead is similar to what we need for the Overhead Squat, as well as for our Handstands.
The Chest-level Swing, or Russian Swing, is a great tool for learning the mechanics of the Overhead Swing, particularly when overhead mobility isn’t quite what it needs to be. The ongoing debate between “American vs. Russian Swing” is secondary to knowing the benefits of & when to use each.
The Bottom-Up Press might well be the single greatest marvel of 21st century physical culture. Wrist & forearm strength, while often neglected or overlooked, is one of the best indicators of shoulder health. Every single lift or pull we do can be improved with healthy shoulders and strong wrists. If you can Strict Press significantly more than you can Bottom-Up Press, you’ve found your plateau, and you’ve found your path to keep climbing.
Learning to use Kettlebells helps in nearly every aspect of CrossFit. Some, we’ve covered here, but many more we haven’t. The best advice we can take from all this is to find a qualified Kettlebell trainer who is equally well-versed & practiced in CrossFit.
Kettlebells are also the most portable Strength & Mobility training devices we have in our arsenal. Carrying a Kettlebell with you is much more convenient than a barbell, and much more versatile than a dumbbell.
Always make sure you are medically sound to begin training in any exercise regimen, but beyond that, look for a good trainer who helps you understand the why as well as the how of movements & the importance of form.
Semper Fortis (Always Strong)
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Written by Lee Crase from CraseFit: www.facebook.com/CraseFit/