Borrowing from Weightlifting by Chris Lancaster

A Few New Ones For the Max Kettlebell Enthusiast: Borrowing From Weightlifting

I just finished reading a few chapters of Arthur Drechsler’s The Weightlifting Encyclopedia, with hopes that it might spark a few new training ideas for kettlebells.

The good news is that, yes, it certainly did. However, the bad news is that since the Max kettlebell is our tool of choice, not all of the (barbell) ideas are applicable. Clearly, competitive weightlifters train for a max, and select assistance work like a surgeon does an instrument from a nearby tray. Everything is done to a precision. We’re talking calculators and plenty of chalk here, not to mention upwards of 12-15 workouts per week.

While not all of the information is applicable to kettlebells, I was able to discover a few new exercises to try. Here they are:

1.Snatch pulls

NOTE that this one can be done from the floor, or from the hang, or boxes of various heights. Basically, this is a snatch without the final phase. Begin by taking the bell from between the legs, and explosively snap the hips forward, and pull it up with a bent arm to upper chest/chin height. With the body supported on the balls of the feet and toes, try to pause at this extended point before lowering.

Benefits? 1)less stress on the nervous system compared to full snatch; 2)less strain on the body; 3)less strain on the arms and shoulders since the weight is not lifted overhead; 4)the lift is less complex; 5)fatigue is less of a factor, therefore higher reps are possible; 6)greater concentration on simply exploding, so this drill functions as a teaching tool potentially.

2.Clean deadlifts

NOTE that snatch deadlifts are also possible. For the clean variation, simply deadlift a kettlebell to the waist, pause ever so slightly, then clean it. Drechsler suggests that since the low back becomes easily fatigued, a limited number of sets and reps should be used here to lower the risk of injury.

3.Halting snatches

NOTE that a halt can be used on cleans, deadlifts, and jerks. For the snatch, use a single kettlebell, and begin by pulling it up from between the legs, and halt or pause it just below the knee for 2 to 6 seconds. Feel free to experiment here, and try different halt positions. Maintain correct position and concentration during the halt. Do not relax the back, and do not shift the body.

Benefits? 1)variety in training; 2)builds pulling strength; 3)strengthens a given range.

DO BE CAREFUL when doing high reps here, since fatigue may lead to sloppy halt technique, and therefore, injury.

4.Step ups

While holding a pair of bells at the sides, or on the chest following a double clean, or even (gulp!!) overhead, simply step up by pushing off the back foot to an elevated surface. For variety, I do these while walking up a flight of stairs.

5.Overhead squats

With a single bell locked out overhead, and with eyes glued to that bell at all times, squat down deep while leaning away slightly from the bell on the way down. Think of pushing up on the bell during the squat to improve balance. Pause at the bottom. If this is easy, use two bells.

Benefits? 1)builds balance; 2)conditions the arms and shoulders, not to mention the legs of course!; 3)develops a strong waist

Sample workouts:

A)Warm-up: Two arm squat pulls, 10, x2
Clean deadlifts, 5R/5L, x2
Overhead squat (one bell), 5R/5L, x2
Two arm squat pulls, 10, x10, 60s rest pds

B)Warm-up: two arm swings, 10, x2
Halting snatches 5R/5L, x2
Snatch pulls, 10R/10L, x2
*Step ups (done with bells at sides), 25 reps, x2
Jump rope, 500 reps, stop and do 25 burpees at every 100 reps

*Try to get more fancy here if fatigue is not a factor. Personally, if I were doing these while walking up a flight of stairs, I would skip the snatch pulls.

For additional material, please consult Drechsler, The Weightlifting Encyclopedia. It is a treasure chest of information.

About Dave Bellomo

Dave Bellomo has worked in a variety of positions in the fitness management field including: corporate wellness, personal training, and program design for amateur and professional athletes. Bellomo has written numerous articles on fitness and strength training and has produced several videos as well as the book, Kettlebell Training for Athletes (McGraw-Hill, 2010). He continues to consult with high-level athletes such as mixed martial artists, strongman competitors, and elite military and law enforcement professionals such as members of Homeland Security and US Special Operations. Bellomo is available for seminars and can be contacted through his website,
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