Fun With Kettlebells

The purpose of this article is to share a few insights to make some of the basic exercises more fun and challenging.

The Two Arm Swing: The two-arm swing is a simple and foundational exercise that can be mastered quickly. Because of it’s simplicity, many people get bored with it or forget it when they start practicing the more exciting C&Js, Snatches, Two Hands Anyhow, etc. You can bring the fun back to this exercise and build up the shock absorbing qualities of your joints by simply flipping and catching KB on the top part of the swing. (See photos) Obviously, it is best to practice this skill in the great outdoors on a surface that won’t damage your KB or be damaged when you drop your KB. Timing is everything. Explode into your swing, release the handle at chest/neck height, catch it, lower it and do it again. To prevent injury, I encourage you to let your KB drop anytime you feel the KB getting ahead of you, forcing your body to over extend or become out of alignment. Don’t let the kettlebell throw you around. Control it. Vary the amount of flips you do during a given set. You can start by flipping and catching it on every fifth swing, then on every other swing, or even on every consecutive swing. Once you get your timing down or the novelty has worn off, move on to the One Arm Swing version.


The One Arm Swing: It is common practice to see people switch hand to the other by either placing the KB on the ground or clumsily switch hands in motion at the bottom part of the swing. To make a seamless transition from one hand to the other try switching hands on the top part of the swing. As the KB rises up to your line of sight, let go of it with one hand, and grab it with the other. Keep your eyes focused on the handle. Once you get the knack of switching hands at eye level the next step is flipping/juggling it. Oddly enough, the procedure is the same as in the two-arm version except your releasing with one hand and catching it with the other. Grip it hard when you catch it and stay tight. Don’t sacrifice form. Let the KB drop if you’re off balance or out of alignment.


The Two Hands Anyhow/Gladiator Combo: This is a very technical and challenging lift, not suited for the beginner. When you add the “two hands anyhow” and the “Gladiator” together, then break them down into their basic elements, what you really have is five separate exercises seamlessly flowing one into the other (i.e. Bent Press, Curl, Wind Mill, Military Press, Gladiator). If you aren’t familiar with these exercises, I strongly suggest 1) Review and study Pavel’s Russian Kettlebell Challenge and Steve Maxwell’s Cruel and Unusual Kettlebell Exercises for Real Men videos. 2) Practice and master the Bent Press or Side Press, Wind Mill, Military Press, and Gladiator individually for a number of weeks before attempting the following exercise. Utilize the building block approach to your training. The goal is to train, not to maim yourself in the process.

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder width a part. Take two KBs and place them next to the instep of each foot. This will make them easier to find later when you are under stress.
  2. With your right hand, grab the KB next to your right foot and clean it to your right shoulder. Now, perform the Bent Press or Side Press.
  3. When you reach the bottom position, lower your left and find the handle of the KB that is waiting patiently by your left foot. This can be tricky because you must keep your eyes fixed on the KB overhead. Now curl this weight to your chest, contract your right ‘butt muscle’ and stand up (Wind Mill). It is critical to keep abs fully pressurized with air.
  4. Once upright, strictly Press the weight overhead. You have now successfully placed both KB’s over your head. You’re halfway home.
  5. While keeping the right KB overhead lower the left KB to your chest, reverse the curl, and place it once more next to the instep of your left foot. When the KB touches the floor, let go of the handle and place your hand, palm down, on the top radius of the KB. (See Photo)
  6. Keeping your eyes fixed on the right KB, cautiously move into the “Gladiator”. Raising the leg is optional. Hold the Gladiator for 5-10 seconds. To finish, slowly place your right foot in front of your left leg, then stand up, leaving the left KB on the ground. Now, slowly lower the right KB from over head to the ground. Take a few deep sighs of relief and repeat whole routine again with the other hand.