A good strength and conditioning program should focus primarily on full body exercises that help target weaknesses in strength and mobility while increasing power and athletic conditioning to help us with both sports and everyday life movements.
Most of the time training should be skill building based where the movements are basic and deliberately done; on occasion there is also a time to challenge oneself in the gym. You can do this by adding more weight and going for a personal record, pushing yourself through a conditioning circuit and trying exercises that are downright unbearable.
In this article and video, I give you some of my favorite tough kettlebell exercises that will challenge you in new ways. Now the goal is to perform them with good form and these exercises do not need huge weight to be effective. Add one exercise to try each week or throw one into a circuit and get ready for that feeling of accomplishment.
Double Kettlebell Thruster:
A Thurster in the strength and conditioning world is simply a squat to overhead press. I like this movement not only because it is a full body movement, but it also teaches your body to transfer energy from your legs, through the core and ultimately the upper body as so much of life’s movement is the ability to transfer power in this manner. The double kettlebell version is as tough as you can get, adding a core stability challenge with the two independent weights, which is quite different that the single kettlebell version.
To perform the double kettlebell thruster, rack two kettlebells up by the chest. Start with the squat, keep your chest up, eyes forward and break at the hips and sit into the squat.
When you get a stretch in the hips and leg muscles, squeeze your leg muscles, drive your feet through the floor and stand up strong until the hips are underneath you. As the energy from the squat makes its way upward through the hips and core, use it to use your lats to press the kettlebells strongly overhead. Bring the kettlebells back to the rack position and begin your next repetition.
Another full-body favorite, the Kettlebell Burpee, focuses on leg strength, conditioning and complete body movement. Life involves legs and they need to be strong and able to work repeatedly.
To perform the kettlebell burpee: set two kettlebells just outside your feet. Grab the handles and shoot both legs back behind you and end up in a low push up position.
Perform your push up and at the top pull your feet back together between the kettlebells; you should now be in a deadlift position.
Deadlift the kettlebells up then set them down and repeat the sprawl.
Kettlebell Figure 8 Swings:
Kettlebell swings are great for power transfer and conditioning. This variation is perfect for athletic performance because the way the kettlebell moves mimics the hip rotational transfer of power needed for rotational strength and power production.
To perform this swing, you need to be proficient with the 1-arm kettlebell swing. I like to hold the handle offset so there is room to grasp the handle on the transfer through in the backswing.
Swing it through the legs in a backswing and with the free hand grab it behind the legs and swing it around and back (like and uppercut) in front of the body making sure you use your hips and fully extend them.
At the top of the swing [you can stop it with the free hand and] direct it into the backswing and repeat with the other hand.
I realize that some of these exercises are dynamic in nature and may be hard to grasp through descriptions and still photos, so I made a quick video describing everything above.
Remember the beauty of these movements is that they challenge us to better ourselves and are easily added in conjunction with all your other training.