9 Kettlebell Exercises to Build Strength and Conditioning for CrossFit Athletes

Want better mobility, a more powerful engine, increased grip strength and enhanced full body and core strength? Then add kettlebell exercises into your training.

Kettlebell Exercises are mainstream now, but Kettlebells are originally from Russian farmers, to test their strength but are now used is most gyms to built strength and stamina.

Most kettlebell exercises force ma large number of muscles to be utilised because the weight is distributed on the outside. It is not even like with dumbbells or barbells. Many of these kettlebell exercises are unilateral, and that builds better core strength because the whole body has to support the imbalance.

Often in CrossFit, kettlebells are measured in Poods. That is and old Russian measure system. One pood equals, about 16 kg/36 lb.

I, personally, am really fond of kettlebells. My gym career is largely based on them. There are innumerable ways to utilize the kettlebells. You don’t need a gym, just some space and one or two kettlebells and get a tough workout. Here are some of my favorite kettlebell movements.                    

1. Renegade Row

Renegade rows engage your shoulders and the whole core.


  • Start in a plank position on two kettlebells.
  • Do a push up while holding the handlebars of the kettlebells.
  • When you are in the plank again, shift your weight on either side. push that hand down
  • Lift up the kettlebell that is on the other side and lift it up to your chest, like a row
  • Put the kettlebell down and do the same for the other side, with a push up in between.

There are two different types of renegade rows. If you want to increase your strength chose a heavier kettlebells. If you on the other hand want to get more balanced take the lighter kettlebells. It is really hard to balance the whole body on one small kettlebell while lifting the other arm.

Good workout for rene rows is to have many weights set up and begin by trying to lift your medium weight 10 times (5 times each arm). Then start going heavier each round, do three or four, or until you cannot lift the kettlebells any more. Then work your way down again until you cannot balance on the smallest kettlebell.

The width between your legs makes all the difference. The wider the space between then the more balance you have. The narrower the more core stabilization you need. With the smaller kettlebell rene rows, start with legs apart and work your way to getting your feet closer together.

If you are a beginner, you can skip the push ups in between to spare your shoulders.

2. Man Maker

Many CrossFitters know the exercise Man Maker and it is similar but only using kettlebells. It is a rather complex exercise consisting of 4 movements. push ups, rene rows, cleans and thrusters.

  • The same start as with the rene row, in a plank/push up position with two kettlebells under your arms. Shoulders should be right over the kettlebells, it makes the movement easier.
  • The same movement do the push up and then lift one kettlebell up to your body. Put it back down and repeat for the other side.
  • Jump with your leg towards the kettlebell, while still holding onto them.
  • With a straight back, clean the kettlebells up to front rack position.
  • Perform a thruster, squat down and as you stand up, use the hips to get the kettlebells over your head.
  • Go the same way back and put the kettlebells on the floor, don’t drop them.
  • Jump your legs back into plank and then you have done one Man Maker.

Tip: you can do a squat clean, so you only have to stand up once, instead of twice.

You must hold the kettlebell the whole time, never let go of the handlebar. This will get all the body pumping and it is crucial to keep the tension the whole time.

If you are a beginner, you can again skip the push ups, and also skip the thruster. Just do the row and clean, with the burpee jump.

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