best kettlebell exercises for strength

The Best Kettlebell Exercises for Strength

The quest for strength is the ultimate goal for everyone.  All of us want to be as strong as possible and to make that cool picture post on social media that gets everyone talking. Here are the best kettlebell exercises for strength.

Each individual athlete has various strength goals such as a gymnast being able to hold the iron cross for certain amount of time, a powerlifter being able to break their overall lifting total, or a parent being able to carry their kids for miles.  With every purpose and skill attainment, there is a strength goal to be achieved.

The kettlebell is a tool that can help individuals achieve their strength goals and push beyond expectations.

Whenever picking movements that enhance strength, select lifts that will create loads of tension and stimulate the most muscles in the body. In order to stimulate each muscle group, the four main movements that we want to focus on is the push, pull, squat, and hinge.  Here are the top kettlebell strength exercises for each of those movements.  For each movement, there are one and two kettlebell variations.

Push – One Arm Clean and Press/Double Clean and Press


There are few things more impressive than picking up a heavy object off floor and lifting it over your head.  Every muscle from head to toe gets involved in this exercise which makes it such an awesome strength building movement.

Sig Klein created a challenge back in the 1930’s with the clean and press.  The challenge was to see how many people could clean and press two 75lb dumbbells for 12 consecutive reps without putting the weights on the ground.  Sig was able to do this easily at a bodyweight of around 150lbs.

Give this challenge a try with a weight that is challenging for you and then advance from there.  Perform this challenge with just one bell if that’s all you have or can handle and then work up from there.

Start incorporating this movement into your routine and witness first hand the benefits your body will get from the clean and press.

Pull – Renegade Rows/KB Rows


This is another movement that involves every muscle in the body with a huge emphasis on the core muscles.  The renegade row consists of doing a one arm plank while doing a pulling motion with the free arm.

The goal is to do this without twisting hips.

If you are not strong enough to hold the plank position, build up to the renegade row with the kettlebell row.  When performing pulling motions, it is always better to use high reps as we need a lot of pulling to reverse the bad posture of driving, sitting, and being on the computer and phone creates.

Squat – Goblet Squat/Double Front Squat


The best strength building exercise by far is the squat.  As you gain strength in the squat, you will get stronger in all of the other lifts.  The squat not only has tremendous strength benefits but also has great mobility benefits.

Being able to squat all the way down past parallel (ass to grass) with a straight back and upright chest requires a lot of mobility and flexibility.

For the kettlebell, the best squat exercises are the goblet squat and the double front squat.  Both of these movements force you to hold the weight and maintain an upright position, engaging multiple muscle groups.

Dr. John Rusin created an excellent challenge for the goblet squat.  The challenge requires a person to be able to do 25 consecutive reps with 50% of your bodyweight.  Give a try and see if you can pass this challenge!

Hinge – One Leg RDL’s/Double One Leg Deadlift


The deadlift is an exceptional lift when it comes to establishing max tension and developing maximum strength.  Due to the sub maximal weights of the kettlebell, I find it better to focus on one legged deadlifts.

The one legged deadlift requires a great deal of strength, balance and athleticism.

When done right this movement will create the same amount of tension threshold as if you were performing a heavy deadlift with the barbell.  Athletes remain in constant motion requiring individual muscle flexion/extension and load bearing on one leg or in a split stance.

Every athlete should consider incorporating the one leg deadlift into their training.  As you gain strength in this lift and you will notice that you are able to jump higher and run faster.

If you are doing this for the first time, start with one bell in the upright position and focus on being able to control the weight all the down to the floor.  After a while you will be able to progress to pulling from the floor with two kettlebells.

So there you have it– four lifts with the kettlebell that will make you stronger all over. Nothing fancy, just the basics. As a mentor once told me: “focus on the basics and everything else becomes easier.”

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Rock Cox

Rock Cox is the owner and coach at Rockfit located in the South Suburbs of Chicago. He has certifications with NASM, IKFF, KETACADEMY, USAW, and FMS. Sports and fitness have always been a passion of his since he was young. He was a 3 sport athlete in high school (football, wrestling, and track) and a 2 sport athlete in college (football and wrestling). During his college years he spent a lot of time training with power lifting legend Ernie Frantz – a memorable and valuable experience. At the end of his college career he started playing rugby and still does play a game here and there. He also coaches youth rugby. He regularly competes in Kettlebell Sport competitions and once lifted kettlebells for 12 hours straight setting a record for lifting a total of 110,720kg over his head. WEBSITE: www.RockFit.co

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