24 unconventional kettlebell exercises you didn’t know—until now!
When I say 24 unconventional kettlebell exercises, I mean it, you’re not going to find an awesome list like this anywhere else. I won’t bore you any longer with fluff and I’ll get straight to the unconventional exercises:
- 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 Waiters Windmill
- Kettlebell 90/90 Windmill
- Kettlebell Overhead Hindu Squat
- Kettlebell Jefferson Curl
- Kettlebell Curtsy Lunge Deadlift
- Kettlebell Spiral Press
- Kettlebell Tripod Row
- Kettlebell Biceps Curl
- Kettlebell Overhead Deadlift
- Kettlebell Alternating Open Palm Clean
- Kettlebell Gorilla Cleans
- Kettlebell Rotational Pivot Swing
- Kettlebell Swing Squat Style
- Kettlebell Slasher
- Kettlebell T.Fleur Lift
- Kettlebell Rolling Get-up
- Kettlebell Circular Pass Clean
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.
1) Lateral Split Snatch
[Levi] 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 had the pleasure of spending a week with Steve in Spain, hosting him at my home, shooting video footage, and doing crazy stuff in remote places. 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.
2) Kettlebell Flip-Catch-Squat
[Steve] 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.
3) Alternating Snatch Clean
[Rik] I like the 2 hands, alternate snatch – clean combo, tricky at first, but great for conditioning.
The exercise in question starts at 1 minute and 40 seconds into the video. You can check out Rik Brown, AKA Mr. Maceman online at Instagram or www.mrmaceman.com.
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
4) Kneeling Bent Press
[Kelly] 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.
Download the free cavemantraining grip pdf to learn more about kettlebell grips. Check out these 14 squat variations, as one of them covers the noob grip.
5) Kettlebell Noob Squat
[Taco] 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 it, follow the above links to puzzle together all the info you need on this one.
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,
6) 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 of, 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.
7) Open Palm Kettlebell Snatch
[Valery]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 a lighter kettlebell and move up. Always keep your 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 a free Cavemantraining community member, you’ll get access to even more awesome unconventional fitness content related to kettlebells, bodyweight training, strength training, mobility training, and much more.
8) Kettlebell Waiters Windmill
This variation of the Kettlebell Windmill requires more stability and is great to work on the wrist joint. The wrists are a joint often overlooked in training. To get the kettlebell overhead into a Waiters Grip it needs to be snatched or cleaned with a Waiters Clean or Waiters Snatch.
9) Kettlebell 90/90 Windmill
The kettlebell 90/90 (ninety ninety) Windmill is designed as part of our CAVEMANROM suite of exercises to increase ROM under load. The 90/90 Windmill is a great exercise to work on hip strength and flexibility but also the core and some other benefits from the windmill transfer.
10) Kettlebell Overhead Hindu Squat
Like most kettlebell exercises on this page, the Overhead Hindu Squat is an advanced exercise and is only to be done after you’ve mastered the Hindu squat with no added weight. The Hindu squat is great for stabilization in the hips, ankles, and feet but also strength.
11) Kettlebell Jefferson Curl
We’re always taught not to lift with our back/spine, and in general, this is true, depending on what exercise you are doing and what weight you’re lifting one should not lift with the back/spine. This wonderful exercise is designed to lift with the back, the thoracic spine, it’s great to increase flexibility and strength. I highly recommend looking into this exercise and start with no weight, slowly increase the weight over time, but not go to the extreme when it comes to weight.
12) Kettlebell Curtsy Lunge Deadlift
The Curtsy Lunge Deadlift is another exercise from our CAVEMANROM suite of exercises. This exercise combines the awesome Curtsy lunge with a deadlift, lifting dead weight with the Curtsy. The Curtsy on its own is great for the ankles and hips, adding some weight to it will increase strength. The same progression applies, master the exercise without weight and work on range progressively.
13) Kettlebell Spiral Press
This exercise was created for our book Master The Kettlebell Press. It’s a great exercise to train spinal rotation, thoracic mobility, and it’s cool to do. It’s fully covered here.
14) Tripod Row
The kettlebell Tripod Row is a row variation that I came up with while playing with the kettlebell in different positions and used for one of our weekly online kettlebell workouts. You’ll have three points of contact (support) for this row, you can also call it a Runners Lunge Row as the position you’ll be rowing from is a Runners Lunge.
15) Kettlebell Biceps Curl
I’m cheating a little with this one as the video contains 20+ exercise variations, but that’s because it’s safe to say that any Kettlebell Biceps Curl is unconventional, it’s something you will hardly see done.
16) 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 2 minutes and 5 seconds in.
17) 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 triceps and lats.
18) Kettlebell Gorilla Cleans
The Gorilla clean is such a great cardio blast but is still not getting as much coverage as it deserves.
19) 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.
20) Kettlebell Swing Squat Style
I’m including this because it’s such a controversial topic, squatting and swinging. The video is long, but once you’ve watched this, I guarantee that you’ll be including this awesome variation of the kettlebell swing in your training.
21) Kettlebell Slasher
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.
22) T.Fleur Lift
This is a combination of some of the best unconventional exercises. It starts with a low windmill deadlift, which on its own is already an unconventional exercise, the lift continues with a side curl, and the top of the list is a rotational press.
23) Kettlebell Rolling Get-up
All I can say is, don’t do it, don’t attempt this one. Great flexibility is 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.
24) Circular Pass Clean
The Circular Pass Clean is a great exercise to include in kettlebell flows to work the core. If you thought there was nothing interesting or to learn about the kettlebell clean, think again, check out Master The Kettlebell Clean.
Do yourself a favor, learn the basics with our online kettlebell course, and get more advanced by buying our kettlebell books.