24 unconventional kettlebell exercises you didn’t know —until now!
Twenty four super unconventional kettlebell exercises you probably didn’t know of, and more than likely should be introducing to your training program and kettlebell workouts. Not only do we have plenty of unconventional favorites from Cavemantraining, but several awesome kettlebell pro’s have submitted their favorite unconventional kettlebell exercise, people like Steve Cotter, Rik Brown, Levi Markwardt, Kelly Manzone, Taco Fleur, and Joe Daniels.
When we say 24 unconventional kettlebell exercises, we mean it, you’re not going to find a list like this elsewhere. Each exercise has a like button under it, go on, show us your favorite and like plus share to cast your vote.
I won’t bore you any longer with fluff and get straight to it.
- Kettlebell Lateral Split Snatch
- Kettlebell Flip-Catch-Squat
- Kettlebell Alternating Snatch Clean
- Kettlebell Kneeling Bent Press
- Kettlebell Noob Squat
- Kettlebell Half Crush Press
- Kettlebell Open Palm Kettlebell Snatch
- Kettlebell Fireman’s Squat
- Kettlebell Open Palm Squat
- Kettlebell Bottoms-up Squat
- Kettlebell Crush Grip Front-squat
- Kettlebell Standing Pull-over
- Kettlebell Spiral Press
- Kettlebell Spartan Side Press
- Kettlebell Spiral Raise
- Kettlebell Overhead Deadlift
- Kettlebell Alternating Open Palm Clean
- Kettlebell Bent Press Deadlift
- Kettlebell Rotational Pivot Swing
- Kettlebell Double-arm Swing Squat Style
- Kettlebell Slasher
- Kettlebell Alternating Gorilla Clean and Press
- Kettlebell Rolling Get-up
- Kettlebell Diagonal Swing Catch And Pivot
When I asked Levi Markwardt for his favorite unconventional kettlebell exercise, he showed me the following video, and I have to say, I’ve not seen this before. Looks complicated and difficult to master, exactly how we like it. Levi added the following notes for you, so you can have a go at this yourself.
Lateral Split Snatch
The lateral split snatch is a very complex variation of the snatch and will help improve athleticism, rotational strength, balance, overhead stability, and muscular endurance. however, there are a few things to consider before jumping (literally) into it.
First – be proficient in the regular snatch and overhead lunging. it also helps to be familiar with the getup and windmill considering overhead stability while rotating.
Second – begin with lateral swings – the first part of the movement but it stops with your arm extending away from your body laterally – similar to your standard swing but to the side. bell remains in front of the legs.
Third – transition to the lateral snatch. as a snatch is basically a swing that ends up overhead – same with the lateral variation. it may help to step with loaded side leg and slightly open hips as you receive the bell overhead – facing the same direction you’re stepping.
Fourth – add a lunge as you snatch – a stepping lunge. not a drop or jump
Fifth – what you see in the vid
I like Steve and had the pleasure of spending a week with him in Spain, hosting him at my home, shooting video footage, doing crazy stuff and partaking in his awesome certification. Steve is down to earth, and I like that in a person. When I asked the grand kettlebell master himself for his favorite unconventional kettlebell exercise he provided me with the following.
Train coordination, grip strength and conditioning together with the Kettlebell Flip-Catch-Squat.
Here are some helpful tips to get you going:
- train on a surface that won’t get damaged if you drop the bell (outside or on a rubber floor)
- stay relaxed and keep breathing (don’t hold your breath)
- start with a basic 2 hand swing; at top of the swing, quickly flick your wrists back toward yourself, to flip the bottom of the KB upwards; let the KB flip around 1 rotation, and catch with both hands open at chest level.
- make sure to keep your arms close against your body
- as you catch the KB, drop directly down into a full squat; stand up and pop the KB directly up, let it fall and then catch with both hands at the handle; repeat these 2 movements continuously.
Our Caveman Athlete Of The Month February, Rik Brown, a man of few words, provided us with the following unconventional kettlebell exercise. I have huge respect for people who stay active, Rik is 58 as of this writing, and that’s not something to sneeze at. I have the same mission as Rik, the older, the stronger. Kudos to Rik.
Alternating Snatch Clean
I like the 2 hands, alternate snatch – clean combo, tricky at first, but great for conditioning.
Our very first Caveman Athlete Of The Month, Kelly Manzone, queen of movement, provided us with this awesome version of the Bent Press, the kneeling bent press. I have a lot of respect for Kelly as she just smashes it, she’s got an awesome body which she worked hard for. This lady can move. And for those of you who go “Caveman? She’s a woman!”, let’s not go there, Cavemantraining is not just for men, it’s for humans, I just don’t want to create another branch called Cavewoman nor create separation, and Cavehuman just doesn’t sound right, so let’s just flow with it, ok? There is no prejudice, sexism or racism on Cavemantraining unless you start looking for it, in which case you’re the culprit. If you’re training like one should be training, if you’re a nice person, then welcome to the club. Now without further ado … the
Kneeling Bent Press
One of my favorite KB lifts is the Bent Press…Performing this exercise improves overall strength. The movement requires a degree of hip and spine mobility, shoulder and spine stability, along with core strength and stability. One can press more weight in a bent press than in a standard overhead press. This is because the position requires you to press from your lat shelf while moving under the weight, rather than pressing from the shoulder upward…I occasionally take it to a kneeling position when I want to focus more on my shoulder, spine and core stability and strength. Most of the time, I like pairing the kneeling bent press with armbar. I also tend to use a lighter bell in this kneeling position, than in the standing position, as there is less stability from the legs while performing the exercise. Typically recommend 5 slow controlled reps on each side.
That’s me. This is currently one of my favorite unconventional exercises, as no one is gripping kettlebells like this, it’s frowned upon, it’s not normal, it’s not how kettlebell training works! Well, that’s exactly how I like it, going against the grain, doing things unconventionally.
I used to be a noob myself, I still don’t pretend like I know everything, because I don’t, and I never will, I’ll always keep learning. Shout out to the person who told me a long time ago that I could be someone special one day, you know who you are, the first name starts with an S and last name with an R.
Kettlebell Noob Squat
You should really try this one out, if you get the grip right, understand why you want to employ this grip and squat like this, you’ll open up a whole new world for yourself. I’ve written enough about this one, so no need to repeat, follow the above links to puzzle together all the info you need on this one. Or add and ask me on facebook.
This awesome press was used by Joe Daniels during his prep for bodybuilding comps, this press is also covered in our book Master The Kettlebell Press. Joe is another one of those freaks who just picks up and presses a 48kg kettlebell or more like it’s nothing, I’m still struggling with 32kg! I always like to blame that on my height, but maybe I’m just a pussy.
Kettlebell Half Crush Press
This press is performed with an open hand horn grip (crushing), crush grip or goblet grip (crushing), it’s named half crush grip as the press is only half and not a full overhead lock-out, and you’ll be crushing the bell to not only hold the bell but also to add the pectorals to the muscle groups worked.
This lady is another kettlebell success story of perseverance and determination, being world champion kettlebell lifting is something most can only dream off, and Valerie has achieved it. Following is the exercise Valerie was kind enough to share with us, she made this video especially for this article so make sure you check it out.
Open Palm Kettlebell Snatch
The open palm kettlebell snatch is performed by performing a kettlebell backswing up into the general manner of Snatch, except in this drill, on the way to the top you release grip to allow the kettlebell to land face up onto open palm into lockout catch. Upon release into the drop the kettlebell will be in free fall out of palm as it passes below the waist with absorption of fall bending upon re-grip onto handle and through backswing. Repeat.
Best to perform outside on grass or sand. If indoors may be performed above a mat. Begin with lighter kettlebell and move up. Always keep eyes on the kettlebell.
The rest of the unconventional kettlebell exercises are provided by Cavemantraining.
If you enjoy this type of content, let me assure you that if you register today as free Cavemantraining community member, you’ll get access to even more awesome unconventional fitness content related to kettlebell, crossfit, bodyweight training, strength training, mace training and much more.
Kettlebell Fireman’s Squat
How often do you see a back squat in kettlebell training? Not often at all. How often do you see it done with two kettlebells? … Exactly. To be honest, doing this with one light 8kg kettlebell, you might as well not be doing it, so get those heavy mothers up over your head and on your back. That’s, once you’ve made sure you got good squat technique down and don’t have any other squatting issues that should take priority.
More details covered right here in the article “14 Kettlebell Squat Variations”.
Kettlebell Open Palm Squat
I came up with this drill to improve racking mobility in CrossFit. There are many advantages to using this drill as opposed to a barbell, even though this is to improve barbell racking mobility. Read part of the info which is covered in the article “Improve CrossFit Barbell Racking Mobility”. If you’re into CrossFit, make sure you check out our Kettlebells in CrossFit Project.
Kettlebell Bottoms-up Squat
We’ve covered the bottoms-up press in our book Master The Kettlebell Press, but squatting bottoms-up is just as awesome, not only does it look like the bomb, you are the bomb if you can do this. Requires a lot of stability and control of the movement and kettlebell. While talking about these two, how about combining them together, bottoms-up squat and press with two kettlebells! More details here.
Kettlebell Crush Grip Front-squat
Joe Daniels gave me the inspiration to turn his half crush press into an isometric exercise for the pecs and delts, and make it more complex by adding a squat to it.
Kettlebell Standing Pull-over
While looking for exercises to increase thoracic mobility, shoulder ROM, tricep and lat flexibility, I came up with the kettlebell standing pull-over, which can easily be confused with a kettlebell halo, but it’s not, far from it. Described in detail here “Kettlebell Standing Pull-over: for mobility”.
Kettlebell Spiral Press
This one was created for our book, but also to work on more spinal rotation, thoracic mobility and at the same time, it’s cool to do. It’s fully covered here.
Spartan Side Press
This is one of the most challenging presses for stability. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything public on this, it’s covered in the videos that can be purchased with our book, other than that I have an old video which I’m not proud of, but it gives you an idea what position you’re in for the press, you can view that here.
The action starts at 7 minutes and 12 seconds in.
Once you’re in that position, you pull your elbow down, keep the forearm vertical and press. Toughest stability press you can do, well, I tell a lie, change to bottoms-up grip with this and you seriously got the toughest stability press you can ever do.
Kettlebell Spiral Raise
This one is along the lines of the spiral press, except that this one is a raise and you’re using two hands to hold the kettlebell. You can see the full details in the video below.
Kettlebell Overhead Deadlift
I can already imagine what you might be thinking right now “how can you deadlift overhead?”. Well, you got two arms right!? Exactly. One arm is holding a kettlebell overhead and the other deadlifts (squat style) the kettlebell from the ground. You need good thoracic mobility, shoulder range of motion, shoulder stability and strength, and good core strength to pull this one off. It’s a really tough one. Don’t attempt this if you’re lacking anything in the areas mentioned, also don’t forget good squat technique and mobility.
The action starts at 3 minutes and 5 seconds in. You can also see it in the Bison Workout at 1 minute and 22 seconds in, below.
Kettlebell Alternating Open Palm Clean
This on its own is just so cool, it can also be used for party tricks, not recommended if you’ve been having a few. Also, watch the floor, do it on a surface where you can drop your kettlebells without causing any damage. You can see me perform this in the earlier video for crossfit racking mobility as the warm-up.
You can just keep throwing it back and forth if you’re not doing this to increase mobility. I hold the open palm clean for a bit to let it pull the arm back and down, so I get a good stretch in the tri’s and lats.
Bent Press Deadlift
We’ve already covered the bent press with Kelly Manzone, but try this awesome exercise while deadlifting a weight with the other arm. Don’t try this unless you have already mastered the bent press, it’s seriously taxing to the core and can be dangerous if you do this unconditioned or with heavy weights.
The action starts 1 minute and 37 seconds in.
Rotational Pivot Swing
Here is a version of the double-arm swing which includes rotation. It’s perfectly safe if you do it right and understand where the rotation is supposed to happen, not in your lumbar! Don’t attempt this if you can’t even do the swing right, first focus on swinging properly.
Double-arm Swing Squat Style
I’m including this because it’s such a controversial topic, squatting and swinging. I made a few videos about it, tried to be funny, but I’ve realized by now that I’m not funny and my sarcasm also doesn’t come across, so I’ve given up on that…. not. Do you remember years ago when kettlebell trainers were like “drive with the hips”? Well, that conventional hip hinge style swing you were doing while they said “drive with the hips” wasn’t really driving with the hips, the hips weren’t really pushing the kettlebell forward, it was more of a drive the feet into the ground squeeze your glutes kinda thing. This one here is really driving with the hips, you’re pushing your hips forward while remaining connected for as long as possible. Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean. This comes from kettlebell sport, but they don’t use the double-arm swing in it, but you can do whatever you want, so include it if it suits what you’re doing and what you need to work on.
This is an old one, I posted a video about this a couple of years ago. It’s such an awesome move, it feels powerful, you just want more, you don’t want to stop once you start! This move includes rotation which is something a lot of people lack in their day to day life and/or training.
The action starts 1 minute in. Another video can be seen below.
Alternating Gorilla Clean and Press
This is really called an alternating hang clean, but Gorilla clean sounds so much more interesting and powerful, so let’s go with that. Add a press to the move and you’ll look like the king of the jungle. This move is fun, it’s explosive, it requires coordination and much more.
Kettlebell Rolling Get-up
All I can say is, don’t do it, don’t attempt this one. Great flexibility required, and you need to know how to roll, so for all you BJJ friends out there, give this a go, start with a light weight, play with it. But stay safe.
Remember, I call this kettlebell play.
Diagonal Swing Catch And Pivot
A great move to include for fighter training, or just when you want to look like you’re a fighter who’s training. ✌✌✌
The action starts 1 minute and 30 seconds in.
UNCONVENTIONAL BONUS EXERCISES
This is what I call the Matrix as you’ll be looking like Neo in the Matrix when he’s dodging bullets. It might look like it’s just a bunch of bull, why would you even do such a move, does it do anything at all? All I can say is, try it without a kettlebell first, see how it challenges your quads, abs and just about every muscle you have at the front, you’ll need to contract and tense to be able to pull this off. Also great to improve your limbo moves at parties. I haven’t been doing a lot of this move myself lately, but now that I’ve been reminded. Let’s do it.
The action starts 1 minute and 58 seconds in. See video below of what you can do once you master this move!
Terrance is an East London based Level 3 qualified Personal trainer and RKC certified kettlebell instructor.
Arm Bar Into Turkish Get-up
This move is basically a combination of the arm bar and the TGU.
It’s pretty vital that you’re pretty competent in both moves.
The idea is to ladder the combined moves 1+1 left and right respectively right up to 5+5. The benefits from this are that it will greatly adapt the body to time spent under tension whilst ironing out any creases you may have in the moves. It’s a drill the can literally hit the whole body with great effect if time is something you do not have much of.
All you need is a little space and 1 bell.
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PS. yes, you got an eye for detail, these are not all exercises, but some are exercise combo’s, i.e. several exercises put together. They’re still unconventional, and that’s all that matters. Now go and explore.