The kettlebell is a very useful tool. The weight distribution is different than almost any other piece of training equipment and its versatility is equally as unique. Also, it’s mobile and doesn’t take up much space, which makes it great for those days you don’t have time for the gym. I don’t believe in being a single tool kind of person but having something that is convenient when there is no other option will increase your chances for success.
There are a couple of exercises that are more effective using a kettlebell than other pieces of equipment. We’ll take a look at 3 exercises specifically that take advantage of the shape and weight distribution of the kettlebell to help us get the most out of the movement.
Most people (especially those who have a few extra miles on their bodies) freak out when they hear the word squat. Squatting gets a bad rap, mostly because the majority of us don’t understand how to squat correctly. The goblet squat is the perfect remedy for bad squat form. We can thank the great Dan John for the goblet squat (as well as for a couple of great books he’s written, Never Let Go and Intervention). The reason the goblet squat is such a great teaching tool for the squat movement is because of the anterior placement of the weight, which forces your upper body to stay stable otherwise you fall forward, and the placement of the elbows inside the knees at the body of the movement. Having the elbows inside the knees helps you to understand squat depth, giving you a contact point to shoot for instead of simply saying “squat to parallel”.
A variation of the goblet squat is the offset squat. This variation is done with the kettlebell in the rack position on either arm. Having the kettlebell in the offset position adds an anti rotation quality to the movement. With the weight to one side, you have to actively resist the bodies temptation to sway to the other side, activating the obliques and hip rotators to help keep you stable.
Another great offset movement is the kettlebell single leg deadlift (or SLDL as it’s known at the gym). This is a one of the best exercises for overall posterior muscle development (pun intended). While your glutes and hamstrings are actively performing the exercise, your whole upper body has to stabilize the weight while trying to maintain a neutral spine. Your upper body and lower body function as a big “X”, which means as you use your right arm, your left oblique and left leg are countering the work and vice versa. Therefore, performing the SLDL with the weight in the opposite side of the working leg trains this action perfectly, a true functional exercise (unlike most “function” exercises that you see, like the single leg, single arm barbell overhead squat on a BOSU ball).
Perform 3 sets of 8-10 reps to get some good work out of these movements, and just like with any other free weight exercise, don’t start too heavy, although it’s much harder to get hurt performing exercises.