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Kettlebells are known as a Russian phenomenon, since being imported to the West by Pavel Tsatsouline in the 90s. But kettlebells or something like them were used in all sorts of other places, including China and Japan, for hundreds of years before that. For this article, I've asked ancient masters and leafed through secret scrolls (well alright, I asked my friends and checked out YouTube) to bring you the best of the so-old-it's-new, off-the-beaten-track kettlebell exercises.
If you've been using kettlebells for a while, you'll know the basics - clean, press, snatch, Turkish get-up, and of course the swing. And you can get strong and lean with just those.
Without further ado, then, let's get into the exercises.
The 2-hands anyhow is a classic strongman lift. Traditionally it was done with a barbell and a kettlebell, which had to be lifted, as the name suggests, anyhow. The only caveat to that was that to count, both loads had to end up overhead. You can replicate the effect with two kettlebells. Here's how to do it:
Why Do It? The 2-hands anyhow is a great way to build the kind of strength you need to muscle a couch ups flight of stairs. Because you're requiring one side of your body to express power while the other handles stability, it's a way of combining a truly functional single-sided training with the metabolic demands of bilateral lifting. No, it's probably not going to become your number one kettlebell lift, unless your name's Arthur Saxon, but it's a fun and effective variation that might click with you.
The swing is a foundational kettlebell move: everything you do with your kettlebell comes from the swing (well, most of it, anyway). The diagonal swing is a twist on a classic, kind of like the Rum Old Fashioned of kettlebells. It lets you use hip hinge and hip rotation to move the bell, meaning it's good for boxers, golfers and anyone else whose sport requires them to twist. So everyone then.
Stand in your normal stance with your kettlebell beside your left leg. Hold the bell in your right hand. Hinge up as normal and instead of pulling the bell to eye level directly in front of you, pull it to eye level or slightly above out fully to your right.
Your diagonal swing should end with the bell at arm's length and at eye height, right out to the side. Just like with a regular swim,g pull the bell back down to where it began and repeat. When you do these, remember to let your feet turn too. The easiest way to get this right is to imagine a line drawn through your left foot that runs from the centre of your heel to the gap between your first and second toes. That line should pretty much always face the kettlebell until you get it down below your hips again.
Why Do It? First, because it's fun! But second because it lets you build some rotation into your kettlebell workouts, with some more intense upper back pulling, and some alternating foot loading. Finally, diagonal swings are great preparation for more complex kettlebell moves.