Originating in Russia, kettlebells have a long and interesting history thanks to their unique design. Because of this, there are a variety of effective kettlebell exercises that have lost in favor to more traditional movements.
Unlike normal dumbbells, the handle of the kettlebell allows it to be clutched and maintained at different angles. This means that you can swing, clean, and press it with ease. It also allows for you to transition between movements more simply, allowing for more Olympic lifts and a diverse range of training. Because of this, you can train the lower and upper body altogether, but in this article, we’re going to go over some upper body exercises, and more specifically, shoulder movements.
The shoulders are an incredibly important part of our upper body in terms of not just aesthetics, but strength and health. Without healthy shoulder joints, then you won’t be able to complete any pressing or pulling movements safely, and the kettlebell’s really design lends itself to improving the shoulders.
Today, we’re going to go over 4 movements that have fallen out of general knowledge but still are effective for building muscle, power, size, and strength.
1. Balancing Overhead Press
First up we have the balancing overhead press. Now, this is possibly the most dangerous of the four movements and therefore, the one that requires the most practice.
The benefits of this overhead press is that it helps you to develop balance and co-ordination in your shoulders and arms. You also have the added motivation that if it falls, then it could crush one of your toes! As well as this, it helps to build strength in your wrists, as you have to grab the weight face up with the handle.
To practice this overhead press variation, hold the weight by the handle with the weight facing up. This requires a lot of wrist strength, so make sure to start off with a light weight to begin with before progressing slowly. Lift up another weight with your other arm and place it the other way round on top of the other weight. Engage your glutes and core to keep your back stable, lean back slightly, and then press the weights overhead.
2. Double Kettlebell Overhead Press
Kettlebells don’t often come in heavy weights. The heaviest that most gyms have is around 40-50lbs. Yet, learning how to combine weights together means that you always have a stimulus you can work with. This also helps to develop wrist and shoulder strength whilst improving your balance and co-ordination.
Grab both weights by the handle with one weight resting on top of the other. The bottom weight should be resting against the back of your forearm. Press upwards through the base of your palm and hold the weight overhead. Next, squat down and grab a weight in your other arms, raise it up to your shoulders, and then press this overhead.
3. Kettlebell Muscle Snatch
The regular snatch hits every muscle of the body, but also requires a large amount of technique and training. On the other hand, the muscle snatch simply focuses on getting the weight from the floor overhead in one clean motion. The reason that it’s called the muscle snatch is because it requires less power and speed, and more muscle and strength. You’re essentially ‘muscling’ the weight up opposed to worrying about any specific technique.
Because this movement requires your entire body and a good base of starting strength, practice the movement with a light weight to start off with, focusing on progressing safely opposed to quickly.
Start with the weight on the floor between your legs and grab the handle from the top. Next lift the weight in front of your body in one smooth motion until it’s overhead. Place the weight back against the floor and then repeat on the other side.
4. Kettlebell Arnold Press
Lastly, we have the kettlebell Arnold press. The Arnold press is a tried and true movement for building the shoulders created by the most famous bodybuilder of all time. The issue with the normal overhead press is that it overly hits the front delts, an area that’s already heavily trained in all pressing movements. By starting with the weight towards the inside of your body, you then have to rotate it outwards, hitting the lateral delts on the way through. This area of the shoulders helps to build upper body width and size, balancing out your look and making you look bigger all over.
Start by holding two weights together towards the inside of your body. Grasp the weights by the handle and make the handles touch at shoulder height. The weights should be resting against the back of your forearms as well as the front of your shoulders. Next, externally rotate your shoulders, bringing the weight outwards before pressing upwards. Hold the weight above your head for a second before returning to shoulder height.