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How Can Kettlebells Fit into a Powerlifting and Bodybuilding Program?

How Kettlebells Can Fit Into Any Powerlifting or Bodybuilding Workout

Written by
February 23, 2016
Updated February 20, 2019
Category: Fitness

It’s a steel ball with a handle. It’s heavy. It’s balanced. Its purpose is to make you stronger. How could it not fit into any type of strength program? The easiest way to break this down will be by movement and then purpose. So, without any further ado…

Kettlebells for Squats & Deadlifts

How Can Kettlebells Fit into a Powerlifting and Bodybuilding Program?

Four exercises – Band-resisted kettlebell swings, double kettlebell swings into an overhead snatch, single leg Russian deadlifts, farmer’s walks/suitcase carry.

Band-Resisted Kettlebell Swings

For assistance work following a squat or deadlift, one of my favorite exercises are band-resisted kettlebell swings. I’ll take a 50-100lb kettlebell and a medium to heavy resistance band.

With the band around my waist at a tension that is almost pulling me over backward, I’ll do anywhere from 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps depending on the kettlebell and band I’m using. Lighter resistance/higher reps and visa versa.

These will kill your glutes and hamstrings and get your heart rate up in a hurry.

Double Kettlebell Swing into an Overhead Snatch

Another assistance exercise that my good friend, Donnie Thompson, uses religiously is the double kettlebell swing into an overhead snatch.

This exercise works on firing the hips and absorbing the force of the kettlebell overhead to make your core work harder under a load.

He does these between sets of squats (remember the pre-fatigue we talked about in the previous article? It’s a similar principle here to raise your General Physical Preparedness “GPP”).

This guy was the first to total 3000lbs in powerlifting (in gear) with a 1250 pound squat, so I’ll take his word for it that they work.

Single Leg RDLs

A third assistance exercise with kettlebells would be the unilateral or single leg RDL (Romanian Deadlift). Take the kettlebell in your right hand, stand on your left foot, kick your right leg back while reaching the kettlebell down toward the ground to counterbalance yourself, touch the floor, return to the start. Do 10 and switch legs.

These will work the hell out of your hamstrings too, not to mention your balance.

Farmer’s Walks

Finally, if you’re feeling like a barbarian, grab two 100 pound kettlebells and do farmer’s walks. Or even just grab one and stabilize yourself, staying as upright as possible, and do suitcase carries.

Both will crush your soul and make you feel like you’ve never done any type of training in your life. But man, they will make you stronger.

Kettlebells for the Bench Press

How Can Kettlebells Fit into a Powerlifting and Bodybuilding Program?

Hanging Kettlebell Bench

To set up the hanging kettlebell bench, grab mini bands (light resistance bands) and loop them through the kettlebell and hang them over the bar. Obviously you want an equal amount of length on either side and the kettlebells should be hanging at all points during the exercise.

Grab the bar and bench away, but BE CAREFUL! Those suckers will swing all over the place.

So use caution and a spotter. And retract your shoulder blades as hard as possible to keep your shoulders in a stable position. Keep these light with 10-20 rep sets.

Kettlebell Skull Crushers

Well it’s just a bad ass skull crusher with a new toy. It’s usually a little easier on the wrists than a straight bar.

Bottom’s Up Kettlebell Presses

Grab the kettlebell and put it in the racked position except with the bottom of the kettlebell facing up. And then do a single arm overhead press. Start light because these will test your stabilizer muscles, too. And don’t hit yourself in the head.

The kettlebell is a versatile piece of equipment. What I have listed here are just a few ways that I use this tool.

There are millions of variations that you can use to varying degrees in your training, but never let the opportunity to get bigger/faster/stronger go by the wayside because you’re unfamiliar with a piece of equipment.

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How Kettlebells Can Fit into Any Powerlifting or Bodybuilding Workout
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Pittsburgh native Casey Williams previously played football at Division 1-FCS Bucknell University where he was nominated the 2010 NSCA All-American Strength and Conditioning Athlete of the Year. He's relatively young in the powerlifting world, but has seen his share of success. In 2010 Casey set the all-time world record drug tested squat and total in the 220lb weight class. He holds multiple federation records, both junior and open divisions. His lifts in 2015 were an 810 squat, 540 bench, and 738 deadlift for a 2088 total, good enough for #2 in the world in the 242lb weight class.
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