The origins of the Anyhow exercise go way back to the days of Arthur Saxon. The Anyhow exercise is a traditional strongman lifting feat with the goal being to lift as much weight overhead as possible in any way possible. Most commonly we see that a weight is brought overhead through a bent press in one hand, and then lifting/curling another weight from the ground with the other hand.
The two hands refer to lifting two weights. The most common version of the Two Hands Anyhow had lifters Bent Press a barbell with the strong arm and then lift a smaller weight with the other arm, usually a Kettlebell as that was easier to lift from the ground. The world record for the two hands anyhow in this style is 448 lbs by Arthur Saxon who used a 336 lb barbell and a 112 lb kettlebell.
With two kettlebells you can perform the Two-Hands Anyhow Windmill, Two-Hands Anyhow Squat, and the Two-Hands Anyhow Bent Press.
If someone assisted or you get really crafty, then it’s possible to also do a two hands anyhow Znamensky lift.
And there is the rather unknown, Two-Hands Anyhow Reverse Lunge, and Two-Hands Anyhow Cossack Squat which I have both attempted.
There are several other variations, but in the end, there really is no one specific exercise as it’s all about lifting two weights overhead anyhow you can. For example, with the Kettlebell Windmill, the weight is usually curled from the ground, but I have also performed an anyhow and first lifted the weight and then curled it from a standing position. You can see this in the following exercise which I shamelessly dubbed the T.Fleur Lift.
A common mistake, that even I made, was to bring the overhead weight down and then lift the other overhead, rather than getting both overhead which is really the objective of the Two Hands Anyhow exercise.
The other mistake is that officially it should be two different implements, i.e. barbell and kettlebell, or dumbbell and kettlebell, or barbell and dumbbell. This is if we want to perform the exercise as per the rules.
Here are the rules of the United States All-Round Weightlifting Association:
Any combination of bars, dumbbells, or kettlebells may be used for this lift. The implements used may be of different weights. However, two implements must be used. The lift begins at the lifter’s discretion. Both implements must be lifted from the platform to an overhead position in which both arms are straight and the elbows locked. Any method may be used to lift the implements overhead, such as a press, push or jerk. The first implement may be lifted using both hands and then placed in one hand. The bar may be upended on the platform during the lift. The lifter may take more than one attempt at lifting the implements overhead. One implement may be taken to the shoulder or be overhead while the second implement is picked up. The implements may be lifted at the same time. The implements may go overhead separately or together. The implements may be lowered during the lift. There is no time limit on the lift. When both implements are motionless at arms’ length overhead, the body upright, the feet parallel and in line with the torso, and both arms are straight, an official will give a command to lower the implements. The lift ends when both implements are returned to the platform under control by the lifter.
Not everything has to be done by the rules, if we get a benefit from a certain exercise then that’s more important than following the rules. If we have fun performing a certain exercise then that’s even more important and beneficial than anything else.
The benefits of the Anyhow exercise as it’s commonly performed are tremendous core strength, shoulder stability, arm strength, and more. Of course, without careful progression, this all leads to injury.
Stabilizing a heavy weight overhead while the spine is rotated and the hips are flexing to reach a weight on the ground requires tremendous core work and flexibility. To then curl or lift a weight from the ground in that position requires unconventional strength. All these are great benefits but, again, require great and careful progression.
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Kettlebell Two-Hands Exercise Variations
If we’re just talking kettlebells and not the official exercise, then snatching two kettlebells from the ground to overhead would technically be a Two-Hands Anyhow. However, it’s much nicer and more fun to bring one kettlebell overhead any way you want:
- Snatch; or
- Clean and jerk; or
- Clean and push press; or
- Clean and strict press; or
- Clean and bent press
- Windmill and curl to overhead press; or
- Overhead squat and curl to overhead press; or
- Bent press and curl to overhead press; or
- Reverse lunge and curl to overhead press; or
- Cossack squat and curl to overhead press