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The Total Kettlebell Workout: Trade Secrets of a Personal Trainer

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The ultimate 'one stop' guide to training with kettlebells. Practical and easily accessible, The Total Kettlebell Training Workout is perfect for the fitness enthusiast or fitness professional who wants to lightly improve their knowledge and heavily improve the range of exercises they can use in their training. Tried and tested exercises are accompanied by clear photos and illustrations presented in a modern and logical way.

The Total Kettlebell Workout is brimming with ideas for using this piece of fitness equipment not just in the gym, but at home too. Packed with clear and easy to use exercises, this how-to reference book also provides adaptations of basic and advanced exercises making it ideal for anyone who wants to get the most out of their fitness gear.

- Each exercise idea is organised by fitness level and includes follow-up and extension ideas.

- Written in a jargon-free and concise style, this book is light on the science and background, heavy on practicality.
Year:
2013
Publisher:
Bloomsbury Sport
Language:
english
Pages:
162
ISBN 10:
1408832577
ISBN 13:
9781408832578
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PDF, 4.86 MB
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the total
KETTLEBELL

Discover the trade secrets of the personal trainer and save yourself
time and money with this new series of essential handbooks.
Kettlebells are one of the most popular pieces of fitness equipment and this book
is a one-stop shop for training with them. A complete reference guide, it will show
you how to get the most out of your gear, whatever your level of fitness. Accessible
and practical, The Total Kettlebell Workout is packed with a wide range of tried-andtested exercises, each accompanied by easy-to-follow photos and illustrations.
Contains:
• All you need to know to build a structured exercise plan
• Tailored sessions to help meet individual targets
• Useful analysis for working out your level of strength, mobility
and flexibility
• A ‘trade secret’ with each exercise, helping you get the most out of
the move
• Organised by fitness level, the workout plans also include ideas for
developing and extending exercises to take into account increasing
strength and endurance.

Steve Barrett is a well-respected fitness industry expert, personal trainer, presenter
and leading fitness brand consultant. He has worked in the industry for over 20
years and is the author of The Total Gym Ball Workout, The Total Dumbbell Workout
and The Total Suspended Bodyweight Training Workout.

www.bloomsbury.com £14.99

steve barrett

Clear, concise and jargon free, The Total Kettlebell Workout is light on theory,
heavy on practicality. Whether you want to take it to the gym or use it at home, this
indispensable handbook is perfect for both the fitness enthusiast and the fitness
professional.

the total KETTLEBELL WORKOUT

workout

‘one-stop
guides to training…
a great incentive to
push your sessions
that bit further’
Metro

the total
Kettlebell
workout
steve
barrett

Trade secrets of a personal trainer
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the
total
kettlebell workout
TRADE SECRETS OF A PERSONAL TRAINER

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Note
While every effort has been ma; de to ensure that the content of this book is as technically
accurate and as sound as possible, neither the author nor the publishers can accept
responsibility for any injury or loss sustained as a result of the use of this material.
This electronic edition published in 2015 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
50 Bedford Square
London WC1B 3DP
www.bloomsbury.com
First edition 2013
Copyright © 2013 Steve Barrett
ISBN (print): 978-1-4088-3257-8
ISBN (ePub): 978-1-4081-9373-0
ISBN (ePdf): 978-1-4081-9374-7
All rights reserved. You may not copy, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise
make available this publication (or any part of it) in any form, or by any means
(including without limitation electronic, digital, optical, mechanical, photocopying,
printing, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable
to criminal prosecution and civil claims
for damages.
Steve Barrett has asserted his rights under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act,
1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Acknowledgements
Cover photograph © Esc Creative LLP www.esccreative.com
Inside photographs © Esc Creative LLP for exercise photos;
all filler images © Shutterstock
Illustrations by David Gardner
Commissioning Editor: Charlotte Croft
Editor: Sarah Cole
Cover and textual designer: James Watson

Bloomsbury is a trademark of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

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the
total
kettlebell workout
Trade secrets of a personal trainer

Steve Barrett

LON DON • N E W DE L H I • N E W YOR K • SY DN EY

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disclaimer and advisory

Before attempting any form of exercise, especially that which involves lifting
weights, always ensure you have a safe working environment. Ensure that the floor
surface you are on is non-slip and do not stand on any rugs or mats that could
move when you exercise. Also, clear your exercise space of items that could cause
you harm if you collided with them; this includes furniture, pets and children. Pay
particular attention to the amount of clearance you have above your head and
remember that for some of the exercise moves you will be raising your hands and
the weights above head height, so keep away from doorways and light fittings.
The information, workouts, health related information and activities described
in this publication are practiced and developed by the author and should be used
as an adjunct to your understanding of health and fitness and, in particular,
strength training. While physical exercise is widely acknowledged as being
beneficial to a participant’s health and well-being, the activities and methods
outlined in this book may not be appropriate for everyone. It is fitness industry
procedure to recommend all individuals, especially those suffering from disease
or illness, to consult their doctor for advice on their suitability to follow specific
types of activity. This advice also applies to any person who has experienced soft
tissue or skeletal injuries in the past, those who have recently received any type
of medical treatment or are taking medication and women who are, or think they
may be, pregnant.
The author has personally researched and tried all of the exercises, methods
and advice given in this book on himself and with many training clients. However,
this does not mean these activities are universally appropriate and neither he nor
the publishers are, therefore, liable or responsible for any injury, distress or harm
that you consider may have resulted from following the information contained in
this publication.

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contents
Disclaimer and advisory

4

1 the basics of exercising with kettlebells
The S.A.F.E. trainer system (Simple, Achievable, Functional, Exercise)
How to use this book
FAQs
Find your starting point
Assess, don’t guess
Isolation vs integration
Learn it, then work it
First you need stability
Add some strength
Power and speed come with practice

6
11
17
21
23
30
33
35
38
39

2 the portfolio of moves
Which moves should I do?
Dynamic warm-up moves
Kettlebell moves

41
50
56

3 training with kettlebells
How to use the kettlebell training sessions
The workouts
And finally…
Fitness glossary
About the author
Index

116
122
138
140
156
157

5

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1

the basics
of exercising
with kettlebells

the S.A.F.E. trainer system

(Simple, Achievable, Functional Exercise)

We need to exercise our bodies in a way that is achievable,
effective and, most of all, sustainable so that the method
becomes part of our lifestyle, rather than an inconvenience.
In a perfect world everyone would be able to lift their own bodyweight above
their head, have ideal body-fat levels and be able to run a four-minute mile. Any
one of these goals is achievable if you are highly motivated and have very few
other commitments in your life, but the reality is that most people are so far off
this state of perfection that the biggest challenge is either starting an exercise
programme, or staying committed and engaged with a method of training for
long enough to see any kind of improvement.
Exercise is in many ways a perfect product, because it has very few negative
side effects, it is cheap to do and highly versatile. But so many high profile,
quick-fix programmes and products make exercise sound easy, as though it is a
magic wand that once waved will bring near instant results. And with the fitness

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the basics of exercising with kettlebells

industry constantly driven by innovation in products and methods, the diverse
and sometimes bewildering amount of advice available makes it all too easy to
be overwhelmed. The truth is that many training programmes and methods will
theoretically work, but the level of commitment needed is so high that when you
add in work and family responsibilities, stress and other demands upon time,
most of us simply cannot stick to a plan.
I also find that those programmes which seem too good to be true usually
have a series of components that are not explicit in the headline, but are required
to achieve the spectacular results they boast about. So you sign up to a workout
programme claiming: ‘Instant fat loss – ultra 60 second workout!’ only to find
that to achieve the promised weight loss you have to go on an impossible
500-calories-a-day diet. These methods also assume that everybody is fairly
perfect already; by this I mean they don’t have any injuries, they are strong,
mobile and flexible and have a cardiovascular system that will soak up anaerobic
training from day one. If these people are out there, I don’t see them walking up
and down the average high street. There is a real need to approach fitness in a
more down to earth, less sensationalist way. We need to exercise our bodies in a

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the total kettlebell workout

way that is achievable, effective and, most of all, sustainable so that the method
becomes part of our lifestyle, rather than an inconvenience.
My S.A.F.E. trainer system (Simple, Achievable, Functional Exercise) is all of
these things. It is based on 20 years of personal training experience, including
many thousands of hours of coaching, lifting, running, jumping and stretching
with people from all walks of life, from the average man or woman to elite
athletes. My system respects the natural way that the body adapts to activity and
creates a perfect physiological learning curve.
All S.A.F.E. trainer system moves develop stability, strength or power. If you’re
not familiar with these essential components of human performance, I am sure
that you will recognise the saying: ‘You have to walk before you can run’. This
is the epitome of my approach, because when a client says they want to run or
jump, the first thing I have to establish as a personal trainer is that they are at
least already at the walking stage. I consider stability to be the walking phase
of human movement, as it teaches you the correct muscle recruitment patterns;
strength the running phase, as it trains the body to do these moves against a
greater force (resistance); and power the jumping phase, since it teaches you to
add speed and dynamics to the movement.
So, where do kettlebells fit in? Well, at this stage of most books you will be
under no illusion that the author is fanatical about this form of training and that
he or she believes that their methods are the solution to everybody’s health and
fitness problems. In many cases I would agree because any kind of exercise is
better than no exercise, however, simply grabbing a kettlebell and swinging it
around like you have seen the guys do at the gym is a fast track route to an injury.
Therefore, with this product more than any other I find myself asking if a client
is really ready. In my opinion, kettlebells are not suitable for ‘absolute’ beginners
to exercise. I know the purist will wave testimonials featuring success stories,
but for every one of those there will be a forgotten individual who did too much
too soon and sustained an injury to their back or shoulder. Even those of us who
do move our bodies frequently need to consider some pre-conditioning before
grabbing a kettlebell because a good level of cardiovascular fitness and strength
will not automatically predispose you to be ready for the advanced challenges
that kettlebells can inflict upon the body.
Why not? Inertia! Depending upon the length of your limbs, when a kettlebell
is swung through an arc the mass is multiplied by between three and four times
the weight of the kettlebell so the 16kg weight that you grabbed for your first
session feels more like 64kg at the top of the movement! Is this a problem? Well
it shouldn’t be and probably won’t be for most experienced strength athletes (like
the ones you normally see in kettlebell books) unlike the people who are ‘work

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in progress’ that personal trainers normally deal with. Kettlebells have gone
from being a niche product used by hardcore ‘strong man’ athletes to being a
mainstream fitness product that can be purchased in supermarkets alongside
much ‘softer’ fitness products like mats, skipping ropes and ridiculously small
dumbbells. And that is where the problems begin – despite being the epitome
of simplicity, a kettlebell has more potential to hurt you than any other fitness
product, yet I still see personal trainers getting de-conditioned, immobile clients
to swing the weights around in the gym with techniques that leave a lot to be
desired.
Interestingly, kettlebells have become accepted as a part of the mainstream
fitness industry in a way that doesn’t compare to any other method of exercise –
in my 20 plus years as part of the fitness industry whenever a new type of exercise
is launched there is always a scientific study that can be quoted or scored to
validate the methods used. However, with kettlebells it is very hard to find any
conclusive independent research (by which I mean research not carried out by
training companies or equipment manufacturers) that gives clear, subjective
advice as to how, when and what an individual should do with a kettlebell.
There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, there is no commercial motivation to
conduct research into training methods which are already commercially available.
Secondly, any studies that were conducted would be very subjective because
with kettlebell movements the individual user gets a unique experience based on
their anatomical characteristics (height and length of limbs). So, unless the study
included hundreds or thousands of individuals through a wide spectrum of body
shapes, the information would be extremely subjective – basically, a 140cm tall
person swinging a 16kg weight will get a completely different sensation and set
of forces than a 165cm tall person swinging the same 16kg weight.
Many of the exercises performed with kettlebells were originally conceived
to strengthen individuals who had reached a point in their training where the
only challenge was to keep adding more and more weight to barbells, and while
there is nothing wrong with that ultimately they would become a different kind
of athlete. This book focuses on all the positive reasons for using kettlebells and
aims to help you enhance the results you get from the time you spend doing
strength and conditioning training but I also aim to add some structure to the
use of kettlebells which extends beyond the usual approach to using them which
seems to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
When you get to the portfolio of exercises (see page 41) demonstrating the
actual exercises (or ‘moves’ as I like to call them) you will find that, rather than
just being a list of exercises with kettlebells, I have focused on the moves that
really work and you may be surprised by the order in which I present them. Most

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books seem to ignore the fact that the first time you swing a kettlebell is often
the first time that ligaments and tendons have experienced such forces, so I don’t
start with the classic swing moves as my intention is to break you in more gently
and to give the body an opportunity to ‘pre’-condition itself before being exposed
to the exercises which play with the effects of inertia. My moves can be done
with either a single weight or preferably a selection of kettlebells ranging from
8kg up to 32kg. There are hundreds of moves that can be done with a kettlebell,
but many of them are very similar to each other, often ineffective or sometimes
potentially dangerous. This book is all about combining skills and methods to
create safe and effective fitness ideas to help you get the most out of the time you
invest in exercise.
You’ll find that the majority of the exercises progress through three stages; I
don’t like to refer to these as easy, medium and advanced because in reality some
of the changes are very subtle while on others you would really notice if you were
to try all three versions back to back. Instead, the following three levels closely
mirror the systematic approach athletes use in the weight training room and on
the training field:
1 each move can be progressed or regressed by changing body position;
2 resistance is applied to the move;
3 the speed at which the move is performed is increased;
– or in fact a combination of all three.
Remember, if you’re moving, you’re improving.

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the basics of exercising with kettlebells

how to use this book
To help you make sense of each kettlebell activity and how it
relates to my S.A.F.E. training system, each move is classified by
its respective outcome, whether that is an increase in stability,
strength or power, rather than the more subjective easy,
medium and hard.
Training with kettlebells is an efficient use of your time. Clearly, the amount of time
you spend active will dictate the outcomes, however, of all the pieces of fitness
equipment available, kettlebells have the ability to be unintentionally ‘traumatic’
to the muscle, ligaments and tendons. So there is a fine balance between doing
too much too soon and not giving the body long enough to recover between
sessions. Therefore, greater results are likely if you also aim for quality rather than
sheer quantity.
When I started to think about writing this book, the first thing I had to
come to terms with is that there are many other books available that set out
to teach you how to use kettlebells, with many of them written by very good
trainers who have a fanatical approach to their use. Likewise, in my everyday
life as a personal trainer I know that my clients have access to information not
only from myself, but from a wide range of sources such as the web, books and
no doubt other personal trainers they come across in the gym, therefore it may
turn out that my approach differs from others and in particular that I have a
more cautious approach to using kettlebells than them. That’s fine with me as I
would rather have a client who needed to work for a few more weeks or months to
reach their goals rather than one who becomes injured because they were given
ambitious advice.
As I have worked with many of my clients now for over a decade, clearly they
find my approach productive and a worthwhile investment. With this in mind,
my aim is to condense 25 years’ experience of training my own body and, more
importantly, 20 years’ experience as a personal trainer and many thousands of
hours of training the bodies of other people into this book.
Don’t worry: this isn’t an autobiography in which I wax lyrical about the
celebrities and Premier League footballers I’ve trained. Yes, I have trained those
types of people, but to me every client has the same goal for every training
session: they want to get maximum results from the time they are prepared to
invest in exercise. Every exercise I select for their session, therefore, has to have

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earned its place in the programme and every teaching point that I provide needs
to be worthwhile and have a positive outcome. In essence, my teaching style
could almost be described as minimalist. Now that the fitness industry enters
its fourth decade, many of you will have accumulated a level of knowledge and
information equal to some fitness professionals in the industry, so I don’t go in
for trying to show you how clever I am when all that is required are clear and
concise instructions.
I learned this lesson many years ago when I was hired as personal trainer
to a professor of medicine. There was absolutely nothing I could say about the
function of the body that she didn’t already know, but what I could do was assess
her current level of ability and take her on the shortest, safest and most effective
route to an improved level of fitness. Seventeen years on I am still finding new
ways to help her enjoy and benefit from the time we spend training together.
The thought process and methods I use are based on my belief that every­
body feels better when they build activity into their lives, but not everybody
has the moti­vation and time to create the type of bodies we see on the covers
of fitness magazines. When training my clients, I am ultimately judged on the
results I deliver. These results can present themselves in many ways, for example,
in the mirror or on the weighing scales, but I also aim to help my clients make
sense of what we are doing together. I find when talking about any activity it is
best to focus on the outcomes rather than use subjective classifications, such
as beginner/advanced, easy/hard. Therefore, to help you make sense of each
activity you’ll be doing with the kettlebell, and how it relates to my S.A.F.E. training
system, each move is classified by its respective outcome, whether that be an
increase in stability, strength or power, rather than the more subjective easy,
medium and hard.

every body is different
Just to be clear, any attempt to classify physical activity has to respect the fact
that each human body responds to physical demands differently – there isn’t
an exact point where one move stops being beneficial for stability and switches
over to being purely for strength. The transition is far more subtle and means
that no matter which version of a move you are doing, you will never be wasting
your time.

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the basics of exercising with kettlebells

don’t skip the moves
Human nature might lead you to think that the way to achieve the quickest results
would be to skip the ‘easy’ stability and strength moves and start on day one with
the power versions. Overcoming this instinct is fundamental for banishing the
‘old school approach’ of beating up the body every training session, rather than
using your training time wisely. My approach is about quality and not quantity.
For a personal trainer to take this approach it requires true confidence and belief
in the system, as some clients (particularly men) feel that they should be ‘working
hard’ every session. This, I feel, is a situation unique to fitness training. In no
other sport or activity would you set out to teach the body to cope with a new
skill or level of intensity by starting with the high intensity or fastest version. For
example, if you are learning to play golf, you don’t start by trying to hit the ball a
long way – rather you start by simply trying to make contact and hit it in the right
direction. Or how about tennis? When learning to serve, if all you do is hit the
ball as hard as you can, it is unlikely that any shot will ever stay within the lines
of the court and therefore count. I know this from personal experience as after
many years fearlessly riding mountain bikes I have just taken up road racing and
adapting my upright off-road skill to the very different requirements of adopting
an aerodynamic position on a road bike. It required me to start slowly with the
basics and progressively add speed when my skills had developed enough to be
instinctive rather than challenged. In all cases, quality and the development of
skill is the key to success rather than hoping that beating yourself up will turn
out OK.

mixing it up
The sudden popularity of kettlebell usage has required experienced personal
trainers to yet again think about human movement in a completely new way,
especially when associated with the most overused word in the world of fitness
– ‘functional’. This description is often being used to describe exercise that has
a direct relationship with the way we move in everyday life or during sporting
activities. However, the types of challenges and forces that kettlebells inflict upon
our bodies actually don’t occur that often in everyday life. Therefore, you could
question if kettlebells should be described as functional when, in fact, they are
extreme, rather than everyday.
In just one decade the trend has gone from doing much of our strength
training on machines that moved in straight lines to trying to incorporate the
body’s three planes of motion (sagittal, frontal and transverse) into all our
conditioning exercises by using both improved weight machines and of course
the huge selection of functional training products now available: sagittal involves

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movements from left to right of the body’s centre line; frontal (coronal) involves
movements which are forward and backward from the centre line and transverse
which are movements that involve rotation. The reality is these planes of motion
never occur independently of each other so the best way to ensure you are
working through all three planes is to create exercises that incorporate bending
and twisting rather than to look at joint movements in isolation.
Before the fitness industry started to think with a ‘functional’ mindset, it wasn’t
unusual to discourage any type of twisting during a workout; the introduction of

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the basics of exercising with kettlebells

functional training equipment and in particular the popularity of the extremely
dynamic kettlebell activities has evoked a completely different approach where we
now actively look for ways to incorporate all the planes of motion into everything
we do. The multi-plane moves don’t altogether replace isolation moves that still
have an important role to play (particularly if you are trying to overload and bulk
up individual muscles). These isolation moves are generally good for overloading
and challenging an individual muscle to adapt and react to the challenges of
exercise, but working muscles one at a time leaves you with a body full of great
individual muscle when what you actually need are muscles that work as a
team and in conjunction with other muscles that surround them. For example,
despite most of the classic free weight exercises being integrated movements
(i.e. they work more than one set of muscles at a time), the vast majority of free
weight moves involve no rotation of the spine (through the transverse plane) and
therefore don’t train the body for the reality of every day, where we constantly
rotate at the same time as bending, pushing or pulling against external forces.
Working muscles one at a time is not what a kettlebell session sets out to do; if
that was the case, you would be better off using dumbbells and barbells.
Even when we do aim to target smaller groups of muscles rather than the body
as a whole, the dynamic action of the unique swinging kettlebell moves enables
them to be ‘functional’ rather than isolated, because in addition to the muscles
being intentionally targeted, the moves have the additional benefit of directing
force through the spine and lumbopelvic region and therefore activating the core
stabilisers in a way that wouldn’t occur if the same muscles were worked minus
the build up of kinetic energy that the swing generates.
I can honestly say that until the late 1990s not a second thought was given to
the muscles that we now refer to as ‘core stabilisers’. There still seems to be a lack
of understanding of how we can train the various components that go to create
stabilisation of the spine and pelvis (muscle, ligaments, tendons and fascia). To
put it simply, core stabilisation is a reaction that occurs when the body senses a
need to maintain a position or to reposition itself urgently – the key word in there
is ‘reaction’. The core isn’t permanently switched on but it is permanently primed
and ready for action so next time you hear an exercise teacher tell you to ‘switch
on your core’, you’ll know they are wasting their breath unless there is some kind
of physical challenge to make the body spring into action.

the workouts
In the final section of the book you will find a series of workouts. They are designed
to be realistic sessions that you can do on any day of the week, without the need
for ‘rest’ days or anything more than a reasonable amount of space.

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All the workouts are sequential, so in theory you could start with 15 minutes
of stability moves and do every workout until you reach 30 minutes of power
moves. This is, of course, the theory; in reality you will naturally find the right start
point depending on how you do with the assessment (see ‘Assess, don’t guess’ on
page 23) and how much time you have available on a given day. Continue using
that particular workout until you feel ready to move on. I would advise everybody
to start with the stability sessions, then move onto strength and then finally power,
but I also accept that some people will find that the stability and strength moves
don’t challenge them enough so they will dive into the power phase. Please bear
in mind that, if this is how you plan on approaching the exercises in this book, you
might be missing out on a valuable learning curve that the body would benefit
from.

a resource for life
My aim is for this book to be an ongoing reference point, and I suggest reading
the entire contents and then dipping into the specific areas that interest you,
such as the training programmes or fitness glossary. I guarantee you’ll discover
nuggets of information that perhaps you knew a little about, but had never fully
understood because they had been explained in such a way that left you confused.
If fitness training is an important part of your life, or even your career, then I know
this book will be a long-term resource and will help you get the most from the time
you spend using your equipment.

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the basics of exercising with kettlebells

FAQs
When learning to train with kettlebells, there are a handful of
important questions that you should ask before attempting to
lift the weights. Find the answers here.

?

These are the most common questions that fitness trainers are asked in relation
to exercising with a kettlebells.

Surely a weight is a weight so what’s the difference in lifting
a 12kg dumbbell and a 12kg kettlebell?

Yes, as far as gravity is concerned 12kg is 12kg when it is being dropped, but in
a piece of fitness equipment the way that the weight (mass) is distributed makes
a huge difference. In a dumbbell the weight is split between the two ends of the
handle and is inline and close to the grip (handle), but in a kettlebell the mass is
all in the ball section of the product. How far away from the handle this mass is
positioned depends upon the specific design of the kettlebell. So, to put it simply,
the further you move the weight away from the handle, the greater the effect you
will experience when you swing the kettlebell.

Does the design of the kettlebell affect its performance?

Yes, as with all items of fitness equipment, you get what you pay for. The very
cheapest weights can have handles that are at best uncomfortable to use and at
worst potentially dangerous. When cheap raw materials are used (called pig iron),
the horns of the handles have to be made extra thick and short to stop them from
snapping when dropped. The shortness of the horns means that when you hold
the kettlebell in the ‘rack’ position (resting on the back of your forearm) it is close
to the wrist joint and therefore exerts unfavourable pressure on the joint and hits it
directly when the weight is spun in the hand. A good quality, well-designed weight
will have a distance of at least 5cm between the handle and the ball section of the
kettlebell. Most gyms will be equipped with cast iron or steel kettlebells ranging
from 8 to 32kg. If the kettlebells all vary in size, then they are ‘classic’ kettlebells
but if they are all the same size irrespective of what weight they are, then they
are probably what’s classed as being ‘competition’ or ‘pro grade’. This means
that no matter what weight you are lifting, the dimensions of the weights are all
the same. This is important to people who enter lifting competitions because they
can develop their technique using the standard shape and not have to re-learn

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or change their methods as they progress to heavier weights. To help you identify
the different weights competition kettlebells are colour coded: 8kg = Pink, 12kg
= Blue, 16kg = Yellow, 20kg = Purple, 24kg = Green, 28kg = Orange and 32kg =
Red. The pro grade kettlebells also have slimmer smoother handles which help to
minimise fatigue in your grip when performing high repetition sets.

Do I need a pair of the same weight kettlebells to use this
book or can I do the exercises with just one kettlebell?
From experience I know that many people only buy single kettlebells rather than
pairs so I have selected the exercises so that you can perform them one side at a
time. Physically lifting two weights is harder than lifting just one simply because
of the cumulative weight but with kettlebell training the overriding influence is
the speed at which you swing the kettlebell rather than aiming to lift bigger and
bigger weights.

What weight kettlebells should I buy?
You may be surprised how quickly you progress up the weight range. In my
experience women, who often start with less than 8kg, very quickly realise that
they can use heavier weights up to 16kg once they have become accustomed
to the techniques. For men, 12kg is a common starting point which quickly

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progresses to weights in the 16–24kg range. There are also adjustable kettlebells
available which let you change the weight. Due to the way these are designed,
the key point to remember is to ensure that the removable discs are fitted firmly
together otherwise they will rattle when in use.

Does using a kettlebell create better results than using
dumbbells and, if so, why?
Yes and no. A kettlebell can be used for many exercises usually performed with
a dumbbell – moves such as bicep curls, shoulder press, squats and lunges rely
on the addition of a dead weight to enhance their effectiveness or challenge of
the movement. The unique characteristics of a kettlebell don’t really come in to
force, however, until there is speed or more specifically inertia included in the
movement of the weight. The displaced mass of the kettlebell (i.e. the weight set
away from the handle) causes reaction in the body that adds to the exercise by
increasing muscle action, the amount of muscles actively recruited and exertion
levels.

?

I have seen people doing kettlebell training with bare feet –
why is this?

It’s not just during kettlebell training that this is happening, many people are
forgoing shoes during activities like running, pilates and yoga. The reason for this
is a feeling that wearing training shoes de-activates or de-sensitises the muscles
in the feet and the lower leg. Personally I agree with a lot of the studies on this,
however, in reality unless you are an athlete who is looking for 1–5% improvement
then the effects will be negligible.

What is ‘core training’?

This subject can get very confusing so I thought it might help if I gave you my oneline description of what I think core training is.
Core training is: ‘Exercise that develops strength and endurance for all muscles
that protect the spine from damage and that function to produce dynamic
movements’.
Or, the even shorter version: ‘Exercise that makes you better at dealing with
forces applied to the lumbopelvic region’.
As core training has evolved from physical therapy, where the main aim is to
fix problems rather than achieve traditional fitness or cosmetic outcomes, there
is a tendency to medicalise the subject. However, since my aim is to increase
fitness rather than rehabilitation I approach core training with the same attitude
as I do all of my training: you need to walk before you can run. Therefore, if I find

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that a person is having issues with their balance, stability and overall quality
of movement, I start right from the beginning using the ball to re-train them
to use (help activate) muscles and maintain postures at the lowest of intensity
before moving on to what they would consider to be a ‘workout’. But unlike many
personal trainers who seem to revel in finding things wrong with their clients, I
do not believe that everybody is bound to be broken in some way if they have
not previously done ‘core training’. Therefore, if you are healthy and injury free
working the core does not need to feel like a visit to the doctor; it can and should
be challenging and progressive but, above all, simple.

What are the core muscles?
The lumbopelvic region consists of the deep torso muscles, transversus abdominis,
multifidus, internal obliques and the layers of muscle and fascia that make up
the pelvic floor. These are key to the active support of the lumbar spine, but
unfortunately they are also the most vulnerable to injury if neglected. Using any
kind of functional training equipment or methods to encourage the recruitment of
these muscles is productive because the muscle activity is involuntary so, rather
than having to tell the body to do something, it simply gets on with the work
that is required. In fact, these muscles are recruited a split second before any
movements of the limbs, which suggests that they actually anticipate the force
that will soon be going through the lumbar spine. Kettlebell training is perhaps
the most aggressive method of challenging the core muscles but also one of the
most effective.

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find your starting point
Before starting any exercise programme, test your body against
the fitness checklist: mobility, flexibility, muscle recruitment and
strength.
Before you think about doing any new type of exercise you need to establish
what your starting point is, i.e. your current level of fitness, mobility, flexibility
and strength. This is particularly important with kettlebells due to the dynamic
nature of the activity. Every first consultation with a new personal training client
revolves around the wish list of goals they hope to achieve. This list inevitably
combines realistic goals with entirely unrealistic aims. Invariably people focus
on their ‘wants’ rather than their ‘needs’ when goal-setting, and there is a big
difference between the two mindsets. While ‘wanting’ could be considered
a positive attitude, it will never overcome the need to slowly expose the body
to processes that will change its characteristics and ability. Men in particular
want to dive in at the most advanced stage of training, but it makes no sense to
overload a muscle if your quality of movement is lacking.

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realistic goal-setting

The secret of realistic goal-setting is understanding the difference between
these two words:
Want (v) ‘A desired outcome’
Need (n) ‘Circumstances requiring some course of action’
By identifying your needs, your goals may not sound so spectacular but you are
more likely to achieve better and longer term results, and your progress through
the fitness process will be considerably more productive. Therefore, rather than
thinking about the ultimate outcome, think instead of resolutions to the ‘issues’.

fitness checklist
The checklist you need to put your body through before you start swinging a
kettlebell around is very simple and logical. Our ability to lift or move weight (by
which I mean bodyweight as well as external loads) relies on a combi­nation of:
l
l
l
l

Mobility
Flexibility
Muscle recruitment
Strength

If any of these vital components are neglected, it will have a knock-on effect
on your progress. For example, while you may have the raw strength in your
quadriceps to squat with a heavy weight, if you do not have a full range of motion
in the ankle joints and sufficient flexibility in the calf muscles, then your squat will
inevitably be of poor quality. Likewise, in gyms it is common to see men who have
overtrained their chest muscles to such an extent that they can no longer achieve
scapular retraction (they are round shouldered and therefore demonstrate poor
technique in moves that require them to raise their arms above their heads).
This type of checklist is traditionally the most overlooked component of strength
training and, while testing weight, body-fat levels and cardiac performance is
now a regular occurrence in the fitness industry, the introduction of screening for
quality of movement has taken a much longer time to become a priority, despite
a self-administered assessment being as simple as looking in the mirror.

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assess, don’t guess
There is no better summary of the importance of our ability to
move freely than in one of my favourite sayings: ‘Use it or lose
it’. This says it all – if you don’t use the body to perform physical
tasks it will more likely deteriorate than just stay the same.
It may be no coincidence that assessing movement quality has grown in
importance for athletes and fitness enthusiasts at the same pace as the popularity
of functional training – rightly so, because if you don’t assess yourself, then how
can you know what areas of functionality you need to work on most? Before
functional training became a key component of progressive fitness programmes
all progression related to increasing duration and intensity and resistance,
whereas, now the quality of movement has become of equal importance.
Today, the assessment of ‘functional movement’, or biomechanical screening,
is its own specialised industry within the world of fitness. Those working in
orthopaedics and conventional medical rehabilitation have always followed
some form of standardised assessment where they test the function of the nerves,
muscles and bones before forming an opinion of a patient’s condition. Becoming
a trained practitioner takes many years of study and practice. Not only must
a practitioner gain knowledge of a wide spectrum of potential conditions, but
just as importantly they must understand when and how to treat their patient,
or when they need to refer them to other colleagues in the medical profession.
Having been subjected to and taught many different approaches to movement
screening, in my mind, the challenge isn’t establishing there is something ‘wrong’,
but knowing what to do to rectify the issue.

mobility and flexibility
The most common problem limiting quality of movement in the average person
is a lack of mobility and flexibility, which can be provisionally tested using the
standing twist and the overhead squat assessment (see pages 25–26).
To understand why mobility is key to human movement, think how, as babies,
we start to move independently. We are born with mobility and flexibility then we
progressively develop stability, balance and then increasing levels of strength. As
we get older we may experience injuries, periods of inactivity and, to some extent,
stress, which all contribute towards a progressive reduction of mobility. There
is no better summary of the importance of mobility than in one of my favourite

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sayings: ‘Use it or lose it’. If you sit for extended periods or fail to move through
the three planes of motion (see page 150), then you invariably become restricted
in your motion. With this in mind, I hope you can see that lifting weights without
first addressing mobility issues is like trying to build the walls of a house before
you have completed the foundations.
The following two mobility tests challenge the entire length of the kinetic chain
(actions and reactions to forces that occur in the bones, muscles and nerves
whenever dynamic motion or force is required from the body) and help to reveal if
you are ready to move beyond bodyweight moves to begin adding the additional
loads such as kettlebells. This test focuses on the key areas of the shoulders,
the mid-thoracic spine, the pelvis, the knees, ankles and feet. Any limitation of
mobility, flexibility or strength in these areas will show up as either an inability to
move smoothly through the exercise or an inability to hold the body in the desired
position.

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Test 1 standing twist

This is the less dramatic of the two mobility tests and serves to highlight if you
have any pain that only presents when you move through the outer regions of
your range of movement, and also if you have a similar range of motion between
rotations on the left and right sides of your body.
l Stand with your feet beneath your hips.
l Raise your arms to chest height then rotate as far as you can to the right,
noting how far you can twist.
l Repeat the movement to the left.
l Perform the movement slowly so that no ‘extra twist’ is achieved using speed
and momentum.
You are trying to identify any pain and/or restriction of movement. If you find
either, it might be the case that this reduces after a warm-up or a few additional
repetitions of this particular movement. If you continue to experience pain, you
should consider having it assessed by a physiotherapist or sports therapist.

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Test 2 overhead squat (OHS)

I’ve used the OHS test over 5000 times as part of my S.A.F.E. approach to exercise
and I have found it to be the quickest and easiest way of looking at basic joint
and muscle function without getting drawn into speculative diagnosis of what
is and isn’t working properly. If you can perform this move without any pain or
restriction, you will find most of the moves in this book achievable. There is no pass
or fail; rather you will fall into one of two categories: ‘good’ or ‘could do better’. If
you cannot achieve any of the key requirements of the OHS move, then it is your
body’s way of flagging up that you are tight and/or weak in that particular area.
This, in turn, could mean you have an imbalance, pain or an untreated injury,
which may not prevent you from exercising, but which you should probably get
checked out by a physiotherapist or sports therapist.
Perform this exercise barefoot and in front of a full-length mirror so that you
can gain maximum information from the observation of your whole body. Also
refer to Table 1 for a list of key body regions to observe during this test. (This move
also doubles up as a brilliant warm-up for many types of exercise including lifting
weights.)
l Stand with feet pointing straight ahead and at hip width.
l Have your hands in the ‘thumbs-up position’ and raise your arms above your
head, keeping them straight, into the top of a ‘Y’ position (with your body being
the bottom of the ‘Y’). Your arms are in the correct position when they are back
far enough to disappear from your peripheral vision.

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l The squat down is slow and deep, so take a slow count of six to get down by
bending your knees. The reason we go slowly is so you do not allow gravity to
take over and merely slump down. Also, by going slowly you get a chance to
see and feel how everything is moving through the six key areas.
The magic of this move is that you will be able to see and feel where your problem
spots are and, even better, the test becomes the solution, because simply
performing it regularly helps with your quality of movement. Stretch out any area
that feels tight and aim to work any area that feels weak.
Table 1 Key body regions to observe in the overhead squat
Body region

Good position

Bad position

Neck

Shoulders

Mid-thoracic spine

Hips

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Body region

Good position

Bad position

Knees

Ankles and feet

As you perform the OHS you are looking for control and symmetry throughout
and certain key indicators that all is well:
l Neck: You keep good control over your head movements and are able to
maintain the arm lift without pain in the neck.
l Shoulders: In the start position and throughout the move you are aiming to
have both arms lifted above the head and retracted enough so that they are
outside your peripheral vision (especially when you are in the deep part of
the squat). In addition to observing the shoulders, look up at your arms to the
hands – throughout the OHS you should aim to have your thumbs pointing
behind you.
l Mid-thoracic spine: There is no instruction to keep your back straight,
so in this area of the body you are looking for ‘flow’ rather than clunking
movements.
l Hips: Imagine a straight line drawn directly down the centre of your body.
Around the hips you are looking to see if you shift your weight habitually to one
side, rather than keeping it evenly spread between both sides.
l Knees: The most common observation is the knees touching during the
OHS, suggesting a weakness in the glutes. Less common is the knees parting,
showing weakness in the inner thigh. Good technique is when your knees move
forwards as you bend the legs. Note that clicking and crunching noises don’t
always suggest a problem unless they are accompanied by pain.
l Ankles and feet: The most obvious issue is the heels lifting from the floor,
suggesting short achilles and calf muscles. Less obvious are the flattening of the

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foot arches that cause the feet to roll inward (overpronation) or the foot rolling
outward (underpronation). Ideally, the foot should be in a neutral position.
If, when you do the OHS in front of the mirror, you observe any of these signals
with your kinetic chain (the actions and reactions to forces that occur in the bones,
muscles and nerves whenever dynamic motion or force is required from the body),
it really isn’t the end of the world. In fact, most people find that they are tight in
some areas (if not all of them) when they first try this test. The absolutely fantastic
news is that if you do spot any issues, performing the OHS as an exercise, rather
than merely a test, will improve your movement pattern, joint range and muscle
actions over time.

overhead squat: the results
My rule is that if you cannot perform a perfect OHS, with none of the key
warning signs listed above, then you are not ready to perform the power moves
in the exercise portfolio. So use the OHS as a guide to whether your body is as
ready as your mind is to start doing the toughest, most challenging exercises.
If you find by doing the OHS that your body is not ready, don’t think of it as a
setback, but rather as a blessing: you are following a training method that is in
tune with how the body works, rather than one that merely sets out to punish it.

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isolation vs integration
While intensity can be great, when you isolate your muscles you
do not get the highly beneficial activity created by the rest of
the kinetic chain. I am certainly not saying isolation moves are
unproductive, but with the biggest obstacle to exercise being a
lack of time, integration work is going to have an instant usable
impact on the entire body.
All movements that we do in training or everyday life can be classified as either
isolation or integration moves. The vast majority of isolation moves have been
created/invented to work specific muscles on their own, with the primary intention
of fatiguing that muscle by working it in isolation, usually moving only one joint of
the skeleton. Integration, or compound, moves are less of an invention and more
of an adaptation of movement patterns that we perform in everyday life. They are
designed to work groups of muscles across multiple joints all at the same time.
In real life we never isolate. Even when only a few joints are moving there is a
massive number of muscles bracing throughout the body to let the prime muscles
do their job. As you go about an average day I doubt you give a second thought
to how you are moving. If you take the time to watch the world go by for a few
hours, you will notice that human motion consists of just a few combinations of
movements that, together, create the millions of potential moves we (hopefully)
achieve every day. Everything, and I mean everything, we do boils down to the
following key movements:
l
l
l
l
l
l
l
l
l

Push
Pull
Twist
Squat
Lunge
Bend
Walk
Run
Jump

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a

b

c

d

e

f

g

h

i

Figure 1 The nine basic human movement patterns: (a) push, (b) pull,
(c) twist, (d) squat, (e) lunge, (f) bend, (g) walk, (h) run and (i) jump

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All of these movements are integrated. I am certainly not the first person to
make this observation, but it constantly amazes me how my industry manages
to complicate exercise. With this in mind, I am not a huge fan of old-fashioned
machines that isolate small areas of muscle to work them apparently more
intensely. While intensity can be great, when you isolate you do not get the highly
beneficial activity created by the rest of the kinetic chain. I am certainly not saying
isolation moves are unproductive, but with the biggest obstacle to exercise being
a lack of time, integration work is going to have an instant usable impact on the
entire body.
We would rarely incorporate isolation moves into a workout with a kettlebell as
this defeats the object of having a product which challenges the body as a whole.
Even when a move is targeted towards smaller muscle groups such as the pecs
or the triceps, it would still be considered to be an integration (compound) move
because, the displaced mass of a kettlebell means that even a ‘simple’ exercise
like a bicep curl directs force through the lumbopelvic region, which therefore also
activates the core stabilisers. Consequently, the majority of the moves in this book
are integrated, designed to achieve maximum results in the most economical
amount of time.

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learn it, then work it
As we have discovered, you must walk before you can run in
any exercise method, and the body works best if you learn the
activity prior to engaging in exercise, so that you will positively
soak up the benefits.
Resistance training (using either bodyweight or free weights, or both) is very
natural with hardly any complex skills required to achieve results. However, that
is not to say you can’t get it wrong. In fact, re-building the confidence of people
who have tried weight training and then failed or injured themselves has featured
frequently in my working life. Because of this, I use the phrase ‘learn it, then work
it’ to encourage people to take time to ‘imprint’ good-quality movement patterns
upon their bodies.

how to ‘learn it, then work it’
How do you know what ‘good quality’ moves look like? Simply put, the move
should look smooth and controlled and should not create pain in your joints.
Aim to perform the concentric and eccentric phases (the lift and lower phases)
at the same speed – lift for two counts and lower for two counts. When power
and speed become more of an objective for you, aim to lift for one count and
lower for two counts.
You can perform moves at slower speeds, but that then moves away from
how we move/function in day-to-day life; rarely do we do any movement in
slow motion just for the sake of it. It is really only beneficial to perform slow or
super slow (quarter-speed) moves if you are training for specific sport activities,
so as to prolong the time each muscle is under tension (known as ‘time under
tension’). Therefore, move at a natural speed: athletes and sports people
train at ‘real time’ once they have learned the required movement pattern, so
without even knowing it they are ‘learning it, then working it’.

The beauty of grounding your workout in the ‘learn it, then work it’ approach is
that by keeping the approach simple, achievable and functional you won’t get tied
up with methods that either do not work, or have ridiculous expectations of how
much time you are going to dedicate to your fitness regime. As a personal trainer,

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it can be hard to exercise in a gymnasium without wanting to question what many
people are (or think they are) doing. So often I see people doing difficult versions
of exercises that are clearly beyond their level of ability – presumably because
they think difficult/advanced must equal quicker results. The obvious signs are
that they can’t control the weights or their body seems overpowered by the
movements it is being asked to do. ‘Learn it, then work it’ relates to most physical
tasks in life, but especially sport; for example, if you have tennis lessons, the first
thing you would learn would be to make contact with the ball slowly rather than
starting with the fastest, hardest movements. So simply switch off your instincts
to ‘work hard’ until you are satisfied that you can move and maintain quality and
control throughout the repetition.
As you get more adventurous and diverse with your exercise remember that all
your goals are achievable: if you’re moving, you’re improving.

‘learn it, then work it’ in sport

Practising movements in resistance training is paralleled in all performancebased sports. Athletes routinely perform low intensity ‘drills’, which echo the
moves they need to make in their sport. For example, during almost every track
session, sprinters practise knee lifts, heel flicks and other bounding exercises
to improve their quality of movement and condition their muscles in a highly
functional manner.

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first you need stability
Stability is the first key ingredient to ensure safe and effective
exercise; the basic building block for everything that follows in
this book.
To perform exercise safely and effectively, we first have to ensure our body is stable.
The essence of stability is the ability to control and transfer force throughout the
body. All human movement is, in fact, a chain of events involving the brain, the
nervous system, muscles, fascia, ligaments and tendons. So, while a simple move
like a bicep curl may appear to involve only activity from the shoulder down to
the hand, in reality there is a chain of events that occur to ensure that the right
amount of force is applied and that the two ends of the bicep are tethered to a
stable base.
In essence, wherever there is visible movement in the body, there are always
invisible reactions occurring within the kinetic chain to facilitate this movement.
The engine room of all this activity is in the deep muscles of the trunk,
specifically:
l
l
l
l

transversus abdominus (TA);
multifidi (MF);
internal obliques;
five layers of muscle and fascia that make up the pelvic floor.

Multifidus

Transverse
abdominals
Internal oblique

Muscles of the
pelvic floor
Figure 2 The deep muscles of the trunk are crucial for stability

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These muscles work as a team and their simultaneous contraction is known as
‘co-contraction’. This complex muscle activity produces intra-abdominal pressure
(IAP) and it is the creation of this pressure that stabilises the lumbar spine. The
misconception that the transversus abdominus looks like a ‘belt’ around the torso
no doubt led fitness instructors to continually advise clients to pull their stomach
in (hollow the abdominal muscles), thinking that this would amplify the stability
of the spine. However, it is not simply the recruitment of these muscles that instils
strength and stability, but, more importantly, when they are recruited. In effect,
they should have been advising clients to ‘switch on’ (brace their core).

remember: don’t hollow your abs
Pulling in, or hollowing, the abs actually makes you less able to stabilise. If you
imagine a tree that is perfectly vertical, but then you chop in or hollow out one
side, the structure of the tree becomes less stable. I have two ways of coaching
the correct technique to avoid hollowing the abs, depending on the client:
1 Switch on your abs as if you were going to get punched in the stomach, or
2 Engage the abs in the same way as if you were about to be tickled.
Both methods achieve the desired outcome – with only a few of my male clients
insisting that I really do hit them!

Stability is, therefore, a goal in everything that we do. However, we shouldn’t
have to undertake yet more training just to achieve core stability; rather, we
should ensure that the everyday movements we make encourage the muscles
deep inside the trunk to work correctly during dynamic movements, and that
the stabilisation is instinctive, as opposed to something that we have to remind
ourselves to do every time. For instance, if you drop an egg in the kitchen and very
quickly squat and make a grab to catch it, you don’t stop to think or choreograph
the movement. Your body will have fired off a co-contraction which enabled you
to grab the egg before it hit the ground (or, at least, make a good attempt). When
I use this analogy to explain the concept of stability to my clients, they often get
a twinkle in their eye, for if this process is instinctive, why should they continue to
train? The reality, however, is that you still have to exercise that instinct to keep the
system working properly: ‘use it, or lose it’.

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In the workout sessions later in this book, you will find that almost all the
moves are classified as being good for stability. Since stability is the first stage of
development, you might assume the strength and power moves that follow are
more productive because they are more ‘intense’. While this is true, that intensity
will only be constructive if the body has the ability to control and direct all that
extra force, which can only be learned through the stability moves.

the development of core stability in the fitness industry
During the 1990s, there were only three components of fitness that personal
trainers focused on with the average client (by ‘average’ I mean a person
looking for fitness gains rather than to compete in sport). Cardio was the route
to cardiovascular efficiency and was the most obvious tool for weight loss;
strength training isolated the larger muscle groups and gymnasiums were filled
with straight line machines; and we only worked on flexibility because we knew
we had to, but the chosen method was predominantly the least productive type
of stretching, i.e. static.
Then, it seems almost from nowhere, there was a new ingredient to every
workout: core stability. New equipment such as Swiss balls and modern
versions of wobble boards, such as the Reebok Core Board® and the BOSU®
(Both Sides Up), increased the wave of enthusiasm for this type of training as,
of course, did the new popularity for the more physical versions of yoga and
Pilates.
In retrospect, we in the fitness industry could have thought to ourselves that
we had been doing everything wrong up to that point. However, the reality
is that rather than being ‘wrong’ we were just learning as we went along.
In fact, many of the methods that suddenly became mainstream had been
used in sports training for years before, but without the ‘label’ of core stability,
and rather than treating them as an individual component, we trained them
instinctively as part of our dynamic strength moves using bodyweight or free
weights.

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add some strength
The second key ingredient. There are several types of strength
that you can gain performing these exercises with kettlebells
(dynamic and static).
When trying to establish a client’s fitness objectives, ‘I want to improve my
strength’ is often the only information given to a personal trainer. This seemingly
simple request requires much more detail if you are going to achieve the outcome
that is really desired.
The one-line definition of strength is: ‘An ability to exert a physical force against
resistance’. However, this catch-all is not specific enough when you are dealing
with strength. In fact, there are three main types of strength:
1 Strength endurance: Achieved when you aim to exert force many times in
close succession.
2 Elastic strength: Achieved when you make fast contractions to change
position.
3 Maximum strength: Our ability over a single repetition to generate our
greatest amount of force.
Each of these specific types of strength can be achieved using resistance, either
as individual components or (preferably) as part of an integrated approach.
Unless you are an athlete training for an event that requires a disproportionate
amount of either endurance, elastic or maximum strength, then the integration of
functional training methods will create a body that is more designed to cope with
day-to-day life and amateur sports. While strength is an adaptation that the body
willingly accepts, the reality is that changes take time, so treat strength gains as
something that happens over weeks, months and years rather than mere days.

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the basics of exercising with kettlebells

power and speed come with
practice
The development of power in muscles is a rapid process and
is also considerably practical, usable and functional for those
men and women who have reached a point in their training
where they don’t need to be any ‘stronger’, but they want to
make more of the strength they have.
Power is a measure of how much energy is created, the amount of force applied
and the velocity at which it is applied. It is the ability to exert an explosive
burst of movement. In everyday life it presents as bounding up stairs three at
a time or pushing a heavy weight above your head. The development of power
is not only a more rapid process than developing maximal strength, but is also
considerably more practical, usable and functional for those men and women
who have reached a point in their training where they have no desire to be any
‘stronger’, but they do want to make more of the strength they have. That is the
point at which you stop thinking about increasing the amount of resistance you
work against and start thinking about how to inject speed into the activity you are
doing with the kettlebell and increasing the number of exercises that specifically
include the swinging motion.
Let’s make this simple. If you have two men of the same height, weight and
with the same body fat levels and you challenge them to compete against each
other in an explosive activity that they have both trained in, such as a 20m sprint,
then, apart from potential differences in reaction times, the man who wins that
race will be the one who has a greater ability to utilise his strength and convert
that strength into forward motion. This ability to use strength for explosive activity
is power. The perfect exercise to generate this type of outcome would be the squat
against a wall with a jump as this move trains you to generate an explosive force
that propels the body quickly.
When you get to the exercises in the portfolio classified as power moves, you
will see that they are, in fact progressions of the skills that you will have already
developed during your stability and strength sessions, but performed at speed.
In this respect, it becomes easier to understand why I advise not to skip a stage
when learning movement patterns (‘learn it, then work it’).

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the total kettlebell workout

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power and agility

Think of power as a very close relation of agility; you don’t learn agility by
overloading and working while fatigued – rather you develop it by achieving
quality over quantity. In fact, introducing yourself to the pursuit of power can
mean performing the moves without any weights and simply performing the
movements fast with just bodyweight as the resistance. Why? Because athletic
power is actually a finely tuned combination of speed and strength.

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2

the portfolio
of moves

which moves should I do?
This section contains a portfolio of moves that I have selected from those I use
every day with my personal training clients and are based on the principles I
explained in the first part of this book. The only moves that have made it into this
book are those that deserve to be here – every one of these moves is tried and
tested to ensure it gets results; in fact, I have spent hundreds of hours using them
myself and thousands of hours teaching them to my personal training clients,
who over the years have included men and women from 16 to 86 years old, from
size zero through to 280lbs. These clients have, justifiably, only been interested in
the moves that work – and those are what you have here in this portfolio.
It is not an exhaustive list of moves, simply because many extra moves that
could have been included use the kettlebell simply as a ‘prop’ rather than a tool,
or they are really just subtle adaptations of those already included here. For
instance, changes to foot position and the amount of bend that you have in your
arms and legs will encourage the body to recruit slightly different muscles, but
I would class these as adaptations rather than unique moves. I’ve also excluded

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any moves which use the kettlebell as a balance tool on the floor, because for this
to be safe your kettlebell has to have a smooth base which isn’t always the case.

presentation of the moves
I wanted to show the moves as a complete portfolio, rather than simply wrapping
them up into workouts, because you are then able to see how the stability, strength
and power versions relate to each other. Understanding these progressions
is something I encourage in my clients because they need to know that subtle
changes can make all the difference between a good use of time and a waste of
it. By thinking this way you can very quickly learn all the moves because, in the
majority of cases, the main movement pattern stays the same throughout the
stability, strength and power progressions, with only a slight change to the length
of levers (arm/foot positions), range of motion or the speed.

exercises to avoid
I’ve included a section for reference of exercises that I don’t recommend.
Some of these are exercises I have seen being performed in gyms around the
world that I think are simply dangerous – for example, a kettlebell hanging
from the foot. Others either achieve very little or when deconstructed can be
performed quicker and more effectively by doing other moves included in the
exercise programs – the Turkish Get Up, for example, is really just a selection
of exercises strung together rather than being just one move. Multiple moves
are great but stringing moves together is merging into choreography rather
than training. I’ve tried to explain why I’m not a fan of these moves and, to
keep things positive, I’ve also included a suitable replacement move for each
of these exercises.

The third part of this book then goes on to present a selection of training sessions,
designed for a range of levels, and following my method of progressing through
stability, strength and power exercises, no doubt some people will jump straight
to the training sessions. However I find understanding the ‘why’ as well as
knowing the ‘how’ generates better outcomes for most people, so refer back to
the portfolio of moves if you want the detailed description of how to perform the
exercise. I have also provided you with a post-workout stretch session suitable for
all types of resistance training (see pages 118–121). Please remember that you
should always warm up before embarking on any type of exercise.

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the portfolio of moves

every muscle plays a part
I purposefully haven’t included diagrams of the muscles that are targeted by
each move as hopefully by now you understand that, used correctly, every
muscle plays a role in every move.

I have written the descriptions as if I am talking to you as a client – the key
information for each explanation includes:
l the correct body position at the start and end of the move;
l the movement that you are looking to create.
When I work with my PT clients I avoid over-coaching the movement as my goal
is to see them move in a lovely ‘fluid’ way, where the whole movement blends
together.

reps
This is a ‘learn it’ section rather than ‘work it’. Therefore, for the vast majority
of the moves I don’t talk about how many repetitions you should do of each –
that information is included in the workout section in the third part of the book.
How many repetitions you perform should relate to your objectives; almost all the
moves can be used to improve stability, strength and power (at the same time),
and the speed and resistance at which you perform it will dictate the outcome.
For example, a slow squat performed with a light weight will provide stability
benefits. Exactly the same move performed with a heavier weight will increase
strength, and the same move at speed will develop power.
In the workout section I have opted to set time challenges rather than state how
many reps I want simply because I wanted to vary the challenges and improve
the outcomes for all users. With kettlebells the activity (time under tension) is
continuous rather than ‘stop start’, so when it comes to just counting repetitions
taller people are at a disadvantage, therefore, aiming to perform the moves for a
total number of seconds rather than reps works best.

weight
As speed and resistance are both subjective (one person’s ‘light’ is another
person’s ‘heavy’), it is simply not possible to predict how strong you are without
seeing you actually work out. Choosing the correct weight is a matter of common
sense and experience, so without being in the same room as you and looking at

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how you move and your physical characteristics it is hard to say exactly how much
you should be lifting. My advice is always this: start with a weight that you can
control but is challenging. As you fatigue, lifting the weights will get harder and
the last two repetitions of the set should be tough to do.

!

tricks of the trade
For each exercise, I have included a ‘tricks of the trade’ box which
contains a nugget of information that I use to help my clients get the
most out of each exercises. This might be a physical trick or a coping
strategy that helps them get the best out of the move.

key to exercises
As you move through the exercises, you will notice that each is identified by the
following key words. A quick glance will tell you which element the move focuses
on, what type of move it is and whether you need any additional equipment to
perform it.

stability
Every move in this portfolio is a stability-enhancing exercise. Yes, that includes
the strength and power versions. Stability is, essentially, a reaction within the
kinetic chain in which the body says to itself: ‘Switch on the muscles around the
lumbopelvic region, because this movement is looking for an anchor point to
latch on to’. On this basis, you still improve stability when you are doing the non‘swinging’ moves based on the fact that we perform all the moves in positions
that I’ve selected to specifically promote the need to activate stabilisation, rather
than avoid it.

strength
We could get all deep and meaningful about biomechanics here, but to qualify as
a strength move, the exercise needs to be making you move a force through space
using muscle contractions. Therefore, anything that only involves momentum is
a waste of time because you are just going along for the ride and not actively
contracting your muscles. However, don’t confuse speed with momentum – speed
is good, especially when mixed with strength, because that combination develops
the highly desirable power.

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the portfolio of moves

power
Every time you read the word ‘power’ you need to think of speed, and vice versa.
The maths and physics required to understand how we measure power are
enough to make you glaze over, and in reality you are much better off measuring
your power ability by doing a simple time-trial sprint, or timing yourself over a set
number of repetitions, rather than trying to calculate exactly how much power
you are exerting for a specific exercise.
If you want more power, you need to move fast, but you need to be able to
maintain speed while pushing or pulling a weight (that weight could be an object
or your own body). For example, you might have a guy who can skip across a shot
put circle faster than the other guy when not holding and throwing the shot, but
he is only speedy. The guy who can move fast and launch the shot (using strength)
is the one with all the power.

technique and ‘grips’ for safety and effectiveness
grip
When holding a kettlebell with one
hand, your grip is integral to you being
able to move the kettlebell safely and
comfortably. The size of the handle on
your kettlebells will vary depending
upon their weight and design, however,
your hand position is the same no
matter what size they are – a good
over-grip position has your hand positioned so that your thumb and index finger
are towards the corner of where the handle meets the horns. You aren’t trying
to ‘crush’ the handle so while I wouldn’t describe the grip as being ‘relaxed’, you
should be able to let the handle rotate in your hand when you swing, clean or
snatch.

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rack
For many kettlebell exercises the weight is positioned on the back of the arm.
When the weight is positioned on there it is referred to as being in the ‘rack’
position. When you start using kettlebells getting from a swing into the rack
position can be a shock as you have to develop and learn the ability to absorb
(decelerate) the kettlebell as it comes to rest on
your forearm. The most common mistake people
make is having their wrist extended rather than in
the neutral position – the extended wrist position is
uncomfortable especially when the weight ‘hits’ the
back of your wrist and it actually makes the kettlebell
feel heavier. If you avoid the extended position, the
kettlebell comes to rest on the back of the forearm
less aggressively.

the Swing, Clean and Snatch
These are key movement patterns that are integrated into many of the
classic kettlebell exercises so, along with good grip technique, learning and
understanding these moves early on will help you to perform them better when
they become part of your workout!

swing
The grip for the swing is also an over-grip. The first time you pick up a kettlebell,
the temptation is to swing the kettlebell through your legs and hope for the best.
This could either lead to at worst an injury or at least you scaring yourself! The
better method is to be realistic about how much swing you can or should do
first time. The best way I find to get clients ready to go for a full swing is to first
practise with a ‘restricted swing’ – meaning that rather than dealing with the
entire swing motion you only perform the bottom and middle part of the swing:
l Begin with the kettlebell hanging in front of you, bend your legs and start the
weight swinging (the first swing just gets the weight moving).
l Keep your upper arm snug against your body rather than letting it be lifted
up in front by the momentum of the kettlebell and hinge at the waist so the
kettlebell goes through your legs. At this point the thumb on your gripping
hand should be pointing upwards.

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l Now drive the kettlebell forwards and up by using your legs and hips. When the
kettlebell reaches shoulder height let it fall back through the legs and repeat.
With the kettlebell fixed in this restricted position the effort required is less than
with a full swing and this means you can get used to the sensation of the swing
rather than being overawed by the full blown swing.

clean
When lifting weights the ‘clean’ is what we call the technique for getting the weight
from waist height up to chest/shoulder height. With barbells and dumbbells the
weight travels up vertically, but with a kettlebell we need to incorporate some
swing due the majority of the weight being offset from the handle.
The technique for the kettlebell swing is very different from the clean that you
perform with a barbell. When using the kettlebell, the most important difference
is that you keep your arms in tight to your torso. When working with clients I will
sometimes use a band to hold their arms in to encourage them to get it right, but
when working on your own just try to keep your triceps touching the sides of your
ribs as much as possible.
l Start with a swing action driving back with your hips and legs. As the weight
reaches chest height, allow the handle to slide in your hand so the ball of
the kettlebell swings over the hand and comes to a rest on the back of your
forearm.
l In this rack position, hold the weight in close to your body.
l Punch the weight away from you to start the swing action again and repeat.

snatch
The snatch is effectively a combination of a swing and clean combined into one
smooth movement. The grip is a standard relaxed over-grip – this is important
because you don’t want to restrict the handle’s ability to rotate in your hand.
When performing a snatch it is a good idea to perform a couple of reps of the
swing before you extend all the way through to have the kettlebell finishing above
your head. You are trying to create enough energy from the swing to enable the
kettlebell to swing all the way above you and gently come to a rest on the back
of your forearm. The mistake many people make is to try to ‘flick’ the weight over
at the top of the movement – this suggests they didn’t generate enough force in
the swing or that they performed the swing with a very bent arm which forces
them to push up at the end of the swing rather than letting the kettlebell come to
a controlled rest.

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stretches
pre-exertion warm-up stretches
In previous decades we would stretch as part of our warm-up, but static stretching
before exertion is now considered counter-productive as it inhibits some of your
potential strength. It’s very logical if you think about it, as stretching relaxes both
mind and muscle! This is another example of how methods change throughout
the years – it doesn’t mean that we were wrong, just that our understanding of
the body continues to evolve.

post-exertion stretches
Post exercise I have two different modes when I stretch:
1 If I am actively trying to increase my flexibility (stretch mode), I am going to
take the position to the point of discomfort, hold it then keep going a little
further. When the muscle relaxes, release the stretch for a moment then go
back in to the stretch position again – the minimum time you should spend
doing this is 30 seconds per stretch. There’s no upper limit on how long you
can stretch for, although it is essential that you do all the stretches equally
rather than just focusing on the ones you enjoy or find easy.
2 When I am chilled out (relax mode), I just get into positions that are comfortable
and enjoy the moment.

Modified hurdle stretch

Hip stretch

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the portfolio of moves

Inner thigh

Back extension

Down dog

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dynamic warm-up moves
exercise 1 roll ups and downs
l

prepares body
a

b

At first glance this exercise looks like you simply bend down and touch your toes,
but the goal is mobilisation rather than flexibility. In fact if you can’t touch your
toes, you should forget all about swinging kettlebells around until you can. Using
kettlebells are dynamic so ‘body awareness’ is very important – this move helps
you to ‘zone in’ on the way your back moves.
l Keeping your hands close to your body, roll down towards the floor.
l Breathe out slowly as you lower.
l When/if your hands reach the floor, bend the knees, straighten again and
stand up slowly.

!

tricks of the trade

As you bend forward, let your weight shift to the front of your feet and
then as you stand up, shift the pressure back on to your heels and
gently lift your head up at the top of the move. Shifting the weight will
help to enhance your balance ready for the workout moves.

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exercise 2 deep squat
l

prepares body
a

b

This movement is in reality much more of an essential move than an optional
one. You can probably do this move already, however, it might require some time
to perfect it because many misguided fitness instructors used to forbid clients to
squat past 90 degrees at the knee. If it is ‘too hard’, try lying on your back and
pulling both knees in to your chest – you’ll prove to yourself that your hips and
knees can flex enough – then stand up and do it properly.
l Stand with your feet at hip width apart. Looking ahead (not at the floor), squat
down keeping your heels down.
l When you reach the lowest point, stand up with the emphasis on your glutes
and hamstrings.

!

tricks of the trade

If depth is a problem, practise the move sliding up and down a wall with
the aim of keeping your heels down.

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exercise 3 hip hinges
l

prepares body
a

b

I can remember the first time I tried to do this move, it seemed so at odds with
everything I had been doing previously. The aim is to ‘brace’ your torso by using
your abdominal wall, but at the same time you will be going through a movement
pattern that demands that you stabilise your pelvis while flexing – which makes
this move fantastic and functional.
l Squeeze your shoulder blades together and bend forward.
l The temptation is to ‘bow’ from the waist but this movement initiates from the
hips.
l Aim to create a 90 degree angle between your legs and back, then stand up
slowly.

!

tricks of the trade

Controlling your breathing is a key part of this move: breathe out slowly
on the way down and in on the way up.

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the portfolio of moves

exercise 4 heel reaches
l

prepares body
a

b

This move mixes things up. When we warm up the reality is it’s the movement
patterns that we avoid during our everyday life that we need to work on rather
than simply repeating stuff that we are already good at. So the subtle difference
between touching the toes and touching the heels is actually worlds apart, making
the latter a fantastic exercise.
l Stand with your feet a little wider that your shoulders.
l Reach down the back of your leg with one hand, leaning down towards the foot
on that side.
l Push back up and immediately repeat on the other side.

!

tricks of the trade

Start with small movements and build up the range of motion. You’ll
soon find you are reaching deeper.

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exercise 5 dynamic shoulder swings
l

prepares body
a

b

Apart from a direct impact (hit) on a muscle, the deceleration phase of dynamic
movements is when all the soft tissue is most vulnerable to injury. By adding
a kettlebell the acceleration and deceleration forces can be multiplied by three
to four times so this move should be considered an essential warm-up for all
kettlebell users.
l Place your feet closely together.
l Lift both arms in front of you and circle them backwards.
l Aim to feel the activity in the upper back and chest as well as the arm/shoulder
joint.

!

tricks of the trade

Do more of these than you think you need to and make the circles big
and slow rather than going fast. Also, remember to go in both directions
to let the entire shoulder girdle warm up.

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the portfolio of moves
training with kettlebells

exercise 6 hip thrusters
l

prepares body
a

b

The number one ‘school boy’ error when doing kettlebell swings is lifting with the
arms rather than getting the drive from the legs and hips. Following my mantra
‘learn it, then work it’, practising this move is therefore a ‘must’. Yes, you might
feel a bit stupid doing it in the gym, but that’s better than getting injured!
l This move enhances muscle memory.
l Roll your shoulders forwards, with your arms in front.
l Drive the hips forwards and simultaneously swing your arms backwards then
repeat the combination.

!

tricks of the trade

Nobody looks cool doing these so just get them done and remember
that warming up helps improve your performance later on.

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kettlebell moves
A few points to remember before beginning these exercises:
l Unless noted otherwise the start position for each move is feet hip width apart,
shoulders pulled back and ribs lifted.
l A ‘split stance’ is an alternative foot position in which one foot is placed
forward and the other to the rear, both at hip width apart.
l The grip on the majority of exercises is an ‘over-grip’ with the thumb and
forefinger in the corner of the handle rather than in the centre.
l The ‘rack position’ is when the kettlebell is held on the back of the forearm.
l ‘Bottoms up’ refers to when the kettlebell is held upside down.
l Any move that is performed with one hand should always be repeated using
the other hand.

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stability
exercise 7 one arm row
l

stability
a

b

There is a definite crossover between some dumbbell exercises and what can
be achieved using kettlebells. Though we predominately use kettlebells at speed
and with a swing, it shouldn’t mean we neglect the fact that they are equally
challenging when used vertically rather than through an arc. In addition, the
reality is that in the ‘stability phase’ many new users benefit more from static
stability to help them become more aware of their body in motion.
l Stand with a split stance and bend forwards from the hips. The kettlebell is next
to the front foot.
l Lift the kettlebell up to chest height and lower under control.
l Aim to have movement in the shoulder and upper back rather than just the
arm.

!

tricks of the trade

You can rest your spare hand on your knee as shown but only lightly.
Gripping the leg or pushing with that arm might seem like it’s helping
you balance but it will turn off some of the beneficial stability demands.
For an increased challenge keep the hand off the leg throughout.

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exercise 8 front squat
l

stability
a

b

Are all squats equal? No, especially when performed holding a kettlebell, as
very subtle changes to where and how you hold it will affect the sensation and
outcomes of the squat. For example, if you hold the kettlebell away from the body,
you will activate more muscle in you back and, by holding it upside down by the
horns, the arms and shoulders become more engaged.
l Hold the kettlebell between hip and shoulder height (the higher you hold it the
harder the exercise).
l If you opt for hip height as shown in the picture, the kettlebell will almost touch
the floor when squatting, but if you opt to hold it at chest height then it stays
there through the whole movement.

!

tricks of the trade

As you squat down, round your shoulders forward and as you stand up
squeeze your shoulder blades together – it feels great and is good for
your posture.

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exercise 9 upright row
l

stability
a

b

As a rule one arm exercises will be tougher than two so with this move you might
find that a lighter kettlebell doesn’t feel very challenging. However, this movement
pattern is a good one to include in most programmes because it encourages
scapular retraction (pulling your shoulders back), which is always a good thing.
l Stand in a regular feet apart position but with the feet turned out slightly.
l Holding the kettlebell with both hands, start with it at the waist, then lift the
weight up to chest height.
l In the upper position the elbows are raised higher than the weight. Lower and
repeat.

!

tricks of the trade

Be very critical of this simple move – it’s easy to let the elbows creep
forwards so aim to keep them out of your eye line.

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exercise 10 outside foot pick-up
l

stability
a

b

A very wise man once said: ‘If you can’t explain something simply, then you
don’t understand it well enough yourself.’ Functional training presents so many
personal trainers with this exact problem. When I ask personal trainers ‘what is
functional training?’, they often ramble on about ‘deep muscle’, and ‘picking up
heavy bags’. However, I simply explain it as skills and movements that relate to
how you aim to move in everyday life. Well, here you have the perfect exercise to
demonstrate that – actions speak louder than words!
l Holding the kettlebell in one hand, stand with the feet hip width apart.
l Squat down as low as you can – but ensure the depth comes from bending the
legs not from a forward bow.
l When you have stood up fully, add a side bend away from the hand with the
weight in it.

!

tricks of the trade

Make sure you squat down low on every repetition – not just the first
three when you are thinking about good technique.

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exercise 11 straight leg dead lift
l

stability
a

b

This is an exercise that everyone should do. With every repetition, the hamstrings,
glutes and lower back muscles are worked in a way that not only challenges them
but also helps protect them from sustaining injury in the future.
l If you have two matching kettlebells, hold one in each hand; if not, do half the
reps with the weight in one hand then swap.
l Bend forward from the waist rather than the legs and spine.
l When you reach the limit of your hamstring flexibility, pause for a second then
stand up.

!

tricks of the trade

Controlling your breathing is a key part of this move: breathe out slowly
on the way down and in on the way up. Also try and focus on a fixed
point as this will help you balance.

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exercise 12 hip hinge with kettlebell
l

stability
a

b

Visually this is similar to the dead lift, however the feet are closer together in
this version. Standing with the feet overly wide is an annoying habit you see
happening in many gyms, so, to counteract the effects of the wide stance (glute
activation rather than inner thigh), the hip hinge should be performed with the
feet set close together.
l Start with your feet close together and legs straight.
l Brace the abdominals (this means clench but don’t suck in).
l Bend forward from the hips and avoid rounding the shoulders to help you get
extra depth as this is counter-productive.

!

tricks of the trade
Controlling your breathing is a key part of this move because the slow
breath out turns your lungs into a solid stabilising unit inside of your
torso. Breathe out slowly on the way down and in on the way up.

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exercise 13 windmill dead lift
l

stability
a

b

I’m sure that when the phrase ‘core training’ started to be used in the fitness
industry in the late 1990s devotees of kettlebell training must have looked at
the techniques and thought ‘we have been doing that stuff for years’ – it’s true.
However, in main stream fitness this was really the first time that we started to
appreciate the need to move through all three planes of motion.
This move integrates two previous no-nos in that it includes rotation and
forward flexion with straight legs.
l Practise this move without a weight first to establish your range of motion.
l Stand with your feet at 90 degrees to each other. If you are holding the kettlebell
in your right hand, you need to bend your right leg as you lower the kettlebell
towards the floor. Your left leg needs to stay straight (but not locked) as you
bend up and down.
l Throughout the up and down phase of the move, keep looking up at the raised
arm.

!

tricks of the trade
Most people are better at this move on one side, so make sure you
practise on your ‘bad’ side without the weight until your range of motion
is matched on both sides.

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exercise 14 one handed floor press (mid
section of a Turkish get up)
l

stability
a

b

Not all functional exercises can be directly related back to an everyday movement
and this is one of them. By combining bodyweight challenges and the use of
external forces (the kettlebell), however, we can create (invent) movements that
because of their ‘ingredients’ work the body efficiently and effectively.
l Sit with one leg bent and the other (top leg) straight.
l Hold the kettlebell in the rack position above you.
l With your bodyweight on the grounded hand and straight leg, lift the torso up
as high as you can while keeping the kettlebell still. Lower the hip and repeat.

!

tricks of the trade

Almost everybody can drive their hips up higher than they think they
can, so don’t only think about the kettlebell as your body weight is just
as important.

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exercise 15 single leg side squat,
kettlebell at chest
l

stability
a

b

When is one leg better than two? When the goal is all-round core muscle activation
rather than lifting the biggest weights. As soon as you stand on one foot, the body
throws more nerve stimulation and lateral forces at the working muscles than it
does when the load is divided between both feet/legs, making this move an ‘A-list
celebrity’ in the world of leg exercises.
l Holding the kettlebell by the horns and at chest height, stand on one foot.
l Bend the supporting leg and glide the free leg out to the side.
l Focus on keeping the weighted leg in line with your hip and foot.

!

tricks of the trade

This is the king of ‘butt cheek’ exercises. Facing a mirror, watch yourself
during the move to ensure that the working leg (knee) tracks straight
ahead on every repetition.

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exercise 16 side bends, arms above head
l

stability
a

b

In previous books I have included a section on exercises that are a waste of your
time. Side bends holding dumbbells was one of those exercises, based on the fact
that unless the weights are seriously heavy the