Best Kettlebell Exercises for Rehab & Performance

 

The use of kettlebell training has grown in popularity over the years and rightfully so.  The kettlebell is a unique piece of equipment found in many fitness gyms, Crossfit boxes, and now, rehabilitation facilities.  One key difference between the kettlebell, and the more traditional barbell or dumbbell, is the kettlebell is essentially “off-balanced,” because the mass of the kettlebell is not evenly distributed around its handle.  This unique feature of the kettlebell makes it a great compliment to traditional barbell or dumbbell training and gives it a plethora of applications in a rehabilitation setting when used appropriately.  Check out this collection of kettlebell exercises by some of the top licensed professionals and up-and-coming students in the rehab professions!

 

1. Reverse Lunge to Bottoms-Up Press

A stable body is a strong body, and the reverse lunge to bottoms up press is all about building stability. By integrating the swing and bottoms up position we put a huge demand on the shoulder to stabilize before creating tension to press overhead. As well, the lower body has to resist the motion of the swing to keep your trunk stable for the press

Sam Spinelli, Physical Therapy Student

Turn sound on! Reverse lunge to bottoms up press – part of the KB series with @primephysiofitness A stable body is a strong body, and the reverse lunge to bottoms up press is all about building stability. By integrating the swing and bottoms up position we put a huge demand on the shoulder to stabilize before creating tension to press overhead. As well, the lower body has to resist the motion of the swing to keep your trunk stable for the press. Give it a shot and tag me and @primephysiofitness and let us know how it goes! #strengththerapist #clinicalathlete #thestrengththerapist #dpt #dptstudent #therapy #physio #trainingisrehab #mobility #clinicalathlete #weightlifting #powerlifting #prehab #rehab #stretching #movement #PT #health #exercise #frc #functionalrangeconditioning

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2.  Turkish Get-Up

The most common way I use the Turkish Get Up in practice is by isolating out pieces of it. For example, the initial get up is a great shoulder stability exercise as the arm position transitions to overhead. Flip the kettlebell upside for increased stability challenge. The initial rise is also a crunch of sorts, great for wrestlers, fighters or ground based athletes.

The sweep through and then rise to half kneeling is an incredible side bending or lateral flexion exercise that can be very effective for some one-sided preference low back pain. This is also a half kneeling bent press variation which I use in isolation. And then the overhead lunge is one of the best mobility/stability movements in all the land.

Lastly, and most importantly, this exercise demands laser focus and creates mindfulness with movement. It’s much more engaging than just going through the motion for 3 sets of 10 repetitions. There is huge value here.

Teddy Willsey, Physical Therapist

https://www.instagram.com/p/BPNgix7gX3x/?taken-by=strengthcoachtherapy

 

3. Single Leg Deadlift

The single leg deadlift has some distinct benefits for the rehab population, such as the increased balance demand, which requires that the patient attend more closely to the muscles controlling knee, ankle, and foot position. This can be eventually progressed by simply increasing the load, or by using an offset load to challenge more rotary stability.

Some cues that may help include reaching as far back as you can with the non-planted leg, keeping the toes pointed towards the ground, and keeping the hands level with each other. Emphasis should be placed on the idea that there is no right or wrong way to lift a weight, but when some movements are more sensitive than others, having the option to deadlift is not a bad idea.

Cameron Yuen, Physical Therapy Student

 

4. Kettlebell Deadlift & Elevated Deadlift

I will have clients start either from the floor (first portion of the video) or from an elevated position (second portion of the video), depending on their current range of motion and movement capability.

In terms of proper set-up and execution of this exercise, be sure to watch the video. The most important aspect to focus on here is to avoid excessively extending at the top portion of the lift. Instead, I want you to squeeze your glutes together and make them become one. This will help to protect your spine, build a strong posterior chain, and create foundational strength in your deadlift.

Matthew Ibrahim, Manual Therapist & Strength Coach

Today's Topic: KB Deadlift Day 8 of #30DaysOfLowBackAndHipHealth Most clients, especially at the novice level, begin here at the KB Deadlift to learn how to properly hip hinge. It serves as a great teaching tool in terms of understanding where your hips should be, how to position your torso, and how to leverage your body. This is a great exercise option for clients prior to implementing the Trap Bar and Barbell Deadlift variations. I will have clients start either from the floor (first portion of the video) or from an elevated position (second portion of the video), depending on their current range of motion and movement capability. In terms of proper set up and execution of this exercise, be sure to watch the video. The most important aspect to focus on here is to avoid excessively extending at the top portion of the lift. Instead, I want you to squeeze your glutes together and make them become one. This will help to protect your spine, build a strong posterior chain, and create foundational strength in your deadlift. To learn more about lower back and hip health, check out our upcoming Hip Hinge 101 Workshops! ________________________________________________________ #movementresilience #movement #performance #fitness #fit #workout #health #training #strong #exercise #strength #sports #wellness #athlete #athletes #recovery #flexibility #mobility #strengthtraining #stretching #crossfit #weightlifting #powerlifting #core #spine #lowback #deadlift

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5. Kettlebell Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is a beloved squat variation for many, and for good reason. Let’s first be clear that this is not a basic or first step type exercise to learn the squat for some as it is loaded. The goblet variation, when appropriate, is great for working on getting the torso more vertical with the squatting movement (be mindful of the role that anthropometrics can play). Holding the KB in front of you places your center of mass more anteriorly (forward) allowing you to stay balanced while remaining upright.
So many great attributes to this exercise makes it a great choice for both rehab and performance when used appropriately. But that my friends, is the key to each and every exercise. Be wise in your programming.

Adam Schwerdt, Physical Therapist

KB goblet squat: Collaborating with @primephysiofitness along with a number of other great physical therapists and students for his kettle bell series. Thanks for reaching out to me and valuing my opinion on the matter! The goblet squat is a beloved squat variation for many, and for good reason. Let's first be clear that this is not a basic or first step type exercise to learn the squat for some as it is loaded. The goblet variation when appropriate is great for working on getting the torso more vertical with the squatting movement (be mindful of the role that anthropometrics can play). Holding the KB in front of you places your center of mass more anteriorly (forward) allowing you to stay balanced while remaining upright. This great work of physics also requires: -more dorsiflexion at the ankle so that you don't fall backwards -engagement from the upper back making this a nice one for those stuck at the desk all day -a lot of recruitment from the core So many great attributes to this exercise makes it a great choice for rehab and performance alike, when used appropriately. But that my friends, is the key to each and every exercise. Be wise in your programming. @bjj.physio @basicmvmtpt @simplestrengthphysio @strengthcoachtherapy @thestrengththerapist @drben_cscs @dr.njbuonforte @themovementdr #runsmart #dynamic #warmup #cooldown #runstrong #physicaltherapy #injury #prevention #fitness #workout #strengthandconditioning #movementismedicine #track #running #drills #speed #crosscountry #igdaily #instadaily #DPT #SPT #stability #mobility #crossfit #athlete #kettlebell ———————————- #Like it? #Repost. Don't understand? Contact me and #learn to #runmental

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6. Scaption Waiter Carry

Nothing says “functional strength” like carrying heavy things. When we introduce perturbations and unilateral loading strategies, we are left with a tremendously effective training stimulus.
Enter the Scaption Waiter Carry (at 90 degrees elevation).  This variation for me has tons of application for the clinical or “rehab” side of things.  Performing the carry in scaption (roughly 30-45 degrees from the midline) puts the shoulder in its most orthopedically friendly slot, and reinforces optimal patterning for pushing/pulling/pressing. In a rehab setting, lots of folks cannot attain full overhead shoulder position, so performing this at 90 degrees allows for well-executed reps. This friendly carry variation begins to build shoulder strength and tissue capacity and be an entry point for more advanced loading strategies.
Zak Gabor, Physical Therapist

https://www.instagram.com/p/BPQI4G2BvrS/?taken-by=simplestrengthphysioBo

 

7. Kettlebell Swing

This is one of my favorite exercise for both building strength and for rehabilitation.  This is a great exercise to build overall strength and will also help improve your hip hinging ability if done correctly.  I use this exercise to teach patients how to properly hip hinge and engage their glute musculature.  Make sure that the power is generated from the hips and do not over extend the back.

Jordan Cardoza, Physical Therapist

 

8. Split Stance Iso Hold + Bottoms Up Press

The split squat isometric stance with bottoms up Kettlebell overhead press is a challenging exercise that engages the entire body: stability, balance, and control. The unilateral loading of the KB distributes the center of mass to one side – engaging more of the opposite side lateral core. There are a variety of progressions that could be done PRIOR to jumping right into the exercise shown – so, as always, progress/perform as appropriate/needed.

Nick Buonforte, Physical Therapist

https://www.instagram.com/p/BPOGwLVBV3r/

 

9. Bottoms Up Overhead Carry + Suitcase Carry

This is my favorite shoulder stability warm up. The overhead stability required to keep the kettlebell in full flexion is difficult by itself.  When you add in the opposite Farmer’s Carry requires an increased anti-rotational (and side bending) resistance from the torso which creates a co-contraction of the obliques to prevent side bending in either direction. This movement can also improve balance and coordination when handling overhead objects when you add in walking.

CJ DePalma, Physical Therapist

Episode 43: KB Series with @primephysiofitness: Waiter Carry / Farmer's Carry ⠀ This is my favorite shoulder stability warm up. The overhead stability required to keep the bell in full flexion is difficult by itself, when you add in the opposite Farmer's Carry requires an increased anti rotational (and side bending) resistance from our torso which creates a co contraction of the obliques to prevent side bending in either direction. This movement can also improve balance and coordination when handling overhead objects when you add in walking. ⠀ If you are have difficulty with these movements or have any questions, comments or concerns please feel free to comment below or contact me via the information in my bio! ⠀ #themovementdr #outworkeveryone #clinicalathlete @clinicalathlete #movementmotivation #physicaltherapy #rehab #stretch #crossfit #cppensacolaadventure #injuryprevention #fitness #exercise #mobility #stability #mobility #improvethemove #strength #health #dynamic #dynamicstability #stability #PTwholifts #evidencebased #makocrossfit #DPT #shoulder #health #movementismedicine #motivation #wellness

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10.  Step-Back Lunge + Alternating Carry

This exercise is all inclusive! This reverse lunge has several components that challenges strength, stability, and balance. The unilateral demand makes this exercise great for improving asymmetrical imbalances that are hidden with exercises performed using bilateral support.  Give it a try!

Leon Knight, Physical Therapist

https://www.instagram.com/p/BPGWWLaD_-b/?taken-by=theperformancedoc

 

11.  Pullover Progressions

This exercise can help many populations in the rehab and strength setting. For strength coaches, this can go in the warm-up or during the strength program as a filler exercise. This exercise teaches the client how to keep their pelvis and rib cage aligned which teaches proper overhead mechanics as well as challenging the anterior core to resist excessive extension.

For rehabilitation, this applies to getting someone to relearn and own the patterns of a squat as well as reaching overhead. Many times patients come to us with hip and shoulder pains that can be traced back to the pelvis. Many times patients lack the requisite ability to control the pelvis through a full ROM. With the breath sequencing, we maintain abs and a centered pelvis and thorax. This helps better place the person to be in a position to squat and reach overhead more effectively.

Erik Krueger, Physical Therapy Student

Kettlebell Pullover Progressions: [ [ These are two exercises I have been playing with to help add to the KB series with @primephysiofitness This will be a great collaboration that includes many great people! [ [ With these two variations we are aiming to create anterior core stability, while promoting Scapular Protraction, Scapular Upward Rotation, and Scapular Posterior Tilt as we transition from pressing out in front of us to slowly reaching overhead. [ [ Benefits: 1. Better pelvic and thorax positioning through actively contracted abdominals (achieved with breathing sequence). [ [ 2. With this position we then get a scapula that can move smoothly and efficiently on the thorax to help the person get overhead in a more biomechanically efficient way. [ [ 3. The progression is a nice transition from the supine KB Pullover because we have decreased the amount of sensory input that the person can feel from the ground due to them getting off of their back. [ [ Progression Example: 1. Supine Hook Lying KB Pullover 2. Supine 3 month position kb Pullover 3. KB squat with heartbeat to Pullover [ [ 2-4 sets with 3-6 breaths in the warm up or as filler between exercises can be a good starting point @primephysiofitness @clinicalathlete @thestrengththerapist

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12. Kettlebell Windmill

The kettlebell windmill is a great movement that requires a lot of mobility and stability throughout the body. When done correctly it lines up well with and re-enforces the joint by joint approach (mobility in the hips, t-spine, and with HG movement and stability in the lumbar spine and shoulder). You can pick up a lot about your or your client’s overall movement and side to side differences with this one. Different regressions/progressions and cues as well.

Ben Fan, Physical Therapist

KB Windmill Here's my contribution to a KB Collaboration Series with @primephysiofitness and other PT's, strength coaches, and PT students. The kettlebell windmill is a great movement that requires a lot of mobility and stability throughout the body. When done correctly it lines up well with and re-enforces the joint by joint approach (mobility in the hips, t-spine, and with HG movement and stability in the lumbar spine and shoulder). You can pick up a lot about your or your client's overall movement and side to side differences with this one. Different regressions/progressions and cues as well. @clinicalathlete #clinicalathlete #jointbyjoint #mobility #stability #kettlebells #windmill #strengthandconditioning #physicaltherapy #sportsrehab #shoulderrehab #shoulderstability #overheadathlete #volleyball #volleyballtraining

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13. Front Rack Split Squats

The split squat is a great alternative to loading the squat position and to strengthen the hip, leg, and core musculature.  The offset weight of kettlebells in this variation also challenges the front rack position and stability demands of the shoulder in a different manner than a straight barbell.  Use the offset weight in the kettlebell to challenge your body in a different way and compliment your barbell training.

Jason LePage, Physical Therapy Student

KB Series Part 1- Front Rack KB Split Squats – Over the next week or so, I will be highlighting some various uses for kettlebells and their implications for training. I will also be teaming up with a huge lineup of PTs and rehab pros and they will be demoing their favorite KB exercises and how they utilize it in clinical practice! Keep an eye on this series and the blog post that will follow, it will unfold to be a great one! – Splits squats are a great accessory training tool to complement the barbell squat that further challenges the core and hip stabilizers. Using the KBs in the front rack position also works to strengthen the front rack position, improve shoulder stability, and strength the thoracic extensors (to name a few training implications). They are also useful for identifying and improving any side-to-side differences you may have. Give them a go! #PrimePhysioFitness #DPT #dptstudent #physicaltheapy #physio #rehab #frontsquat – @clinicalathlete @strengthcoachtherapy @thestrengththerapist

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