2 Kettlebell Strength Moves You've Never Tried Before

2 Kettlebell Strength Moves You’ve Never Tried Before

Written by
August 7, 2014
Updated April 12, 2018

It was a few years back when Mark de Grasse stopped by the Wolf Fitness Systems studio for a quick photo and video shoot in preparation for Jim Romig’s Steel club Conditioning for MMA article.This visit sparked a great relationship with Onnit Academy and also inspired me to create the Evolution Kettlebell Groundwork system. It all started with a short conversation after Mark finished up the shoot with Jim, and I asked him, “Since you are up this way and we are all here, would you want to get more content to take home?”

I was stoked when he said yes but had no idea what to do. I asked him,“What do your readers want to see?” He responded by explaining that people dig seeing people move heavy shit and/or something they haven’t seen before. I opted for the second route and came up with some of the kettlebell drills that inspired me to develop the EKG system.

The First Evolution of Kettlebell Workouts

Experiencing the pressure to create unique drills and combinations on the spot was a great catalyst for creating the initial concept behind EKG. The idea was simple enough: utilize low basin transitional movements found in the Circular Strength Training system and integrate the kettlebell into the movement sequence.

I was even taking dares from Jim on which movements to use as a platform which certainly afforded me a few unexpected challenges.

The end result was an exploration of movements that I really enjoyed while also acknowledging that many people would not be able to access due to restricted mobility, flexibility, or strength. This left me thinking about how someone who had not developed the specific physical attributes I had in my personal practice could have access to these movements in a safe and progressive approach.

This resulted in breaking down the system into many movement patterns and transitions to train individually, first purely bodyweight and then progressively adding load and/or movement sophistication.

The programs that originally comprised the EKG system were driven off of a focus on mobilized strength and metabolic conditioning for a powerful one-two punch!

The Next Evolution of Kettlebell Workouts

It is always a good idea to build more around a good idea and the response from the original EKG DVD has been great, so why not build a more comprehensive system?

The addition of skill-specific mobility drills and decompressions to keep your body in balance was always part of the plan, but now we will be adding a strength component that will satisfy those of you that get the itch to move progressively larger kettlebells on a regular basis!

You will get wicked strong and make fast gains using our self-limiting exercise selections and simple cues to success. Just remember to start slow and listen to your body; if something does not feel right it is likely a structural issue that may require you to step back in to building your foundational drills without external loads before moving the kettlebells.

The strength program in this issue is just a taste of what is to come in the Strength Section of the EKG Home Study Course.

Strength Training Movement #1: Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift

John Wolf Performs the Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift
The variation of the Single Leg Deadlift that we use in the EKG system emphasizes stability by methodically taking the slack out of the body entering into the loaded position. There should be no excessive arching in the lumbar spine. The rear leg is straight and reaching back as far as possible while driving through the heel. The hips are squared off and the planted foot is pointing straight ahead.

As you find the position, you will sink the hips back and down as you maintain spinal alignment lifting through the crown to avoid lifting your chin.

This alignment on the Single Leg Deadlift will be challenging at first but will assure a strong platform to pull from, as this is the next step in the drill. The goal is to maintain your base position as you draw your elbows up and in as high as you can before slowly returning the kettlebells back to the pre-row position and standing tall, extending the hips fully for one rep.

Mobility Preparation: Bodyweight Shinbox Switches to reduce tightness in hip rotation and allow for the hips to square more easily.

Strength Training Test Movement #2: Kettlebell Tripod Clean & Press

John Wolf performs the Kettlebell Tripod Clean & Press

To do the Tripod Clean safely it is important to focus on stabilizing the shoulder of the planted hand. The fingers should be pointing away from your toes and the shoulder should be firmly depressed away from the ear before lifting the hips to prep for the tripod clean.

The feet should be shoulder width apart with toes facing as close to straight away from your upper body as possible. Lift the hips with an exhale and test the structural integrity of the planted arm and shoulder through the full range of motion.

After prepping your position, allow your hips to turn slightly towards the kettlebell located just outside and below the hip on the side of the base hand. Grasp the kettlebell and pre-swing underneath your hip as you press firmly into the ground with the hand, and drive off the same side foot to clean the kettlebell up into a racked position.

To initiate the Tripod Press, make sure to have your hips fully extended and continue pressing down into the ground with the shoulders away from the ears.

Align your wrist over your pressing elbow and drive the kettlebell up toward a vertical alignment from the planted hand while adjusting for the offset load of the kettlebell. The ideal alignment will be hips horizontal and shoulders stacked one on top of the other.

Mobility Preparation: Band Shoulder Dislocates to prep the shoulders to find the ideal active position.

Be Realistic with Your Strength Training Loads

Exploring strength in these untrained positions is a form of self-limiting exercise. This means that you will need to practice a state of mindfulness while practicing the movements.The focus should be on alignment, balance, and control. Do not be attached to the size of the kettlebells when you start as you will be focusing on strengthening the weak links in your structure.

If you have a weak link in your posterior chain then the Single Leg Deadlift-Row complex will show you where that is. There is no need to use bigger weights until you improve the quality of your movement by exerting concentrated effort and avoiding accelerating through the ranges.

Do you have shoulder instability? The Tripod Clean & Press will demonstrate this in a way that most drills just won’t. A huge part of being able to benefit from this drill is determined by your positioning. Make sure to solidify your shoulder pack and externally rotate from the shoulder girdle, not just the hand. By doing this you will be addressing what is likely a chronic postural issue while building a platform for some sick strength work.

Start Slow, Then Compress Your Rest Cycles within Your Kettlebell Workouts

I am going to recommend super setting these two drills for maximal strength gains and for an onslaught on your nervous system! The only caveat to this is that I recommend being realistic about how much you should ask of your body in performing the drills.

If you have not trained the movements before, I recommend taking up to 2-minutes of rest between supersets to assure that you have enough energy to focus on the technique rather than just approximating the skill and counting a half-assed rep.

Give this a go by completing up to 8 supersets of the drills at 5 reps per side of each drill with 1-2 minutes of rest between supersets. The goal from there will be to gradually compress the rest time to increase the intensity of the workout.

From 2 minutes to 90 seconds to 60 seconds to 30 seconds. Do this with any given weight before stepping up to the next…HAVE FUN!

John Wolf
John Wolf is Onnit's Chief Fitness Officer, and an expert in unconventional training methods such as kettlebell, steel club, and suspension training. With 15-plus years of experience in the fitness industry, he has worked with rehab clients and athletes of all levels. He moves like Spider Man and can deadlift more than 500 pounds any day of the week.
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