Before you begin your kettlebell workout it is important to perform some kettlebell warm up exercises.
Your kettlebell warm up exercises do not need to be complicated and understanding why you are performing specific movements will help you remember them.
Here is a 3 step process that you can follow:
STEP 1 – Full Body Joint Mobility
Good joint mobility will keep you young and nourish your body.
Keeping your joints mobile will ensure you are able to move without compensation, it will reduce the chance of you getting injured and will also help keep your joints healthy.
As you age your joint mobility gets more and more restricted often due to your lack of movement but also due to the kind of movements you perform each day.
Keeping an eye of your joint mobility and increasing the range in your joints that seem to be deteriorating will have a big impact on your health.
As you mobilise your joints you actively push and pull nutrients into your joints which helps to heal and nourish them.
It is best to take a systematic approach to your joint mobility starting at the top and working your way down to your ankles.
Pay particular attention to those areas that lack movement.
Here are the 8 areas you should focus on:
1. Neck Warm Up Exercises (cervical spine)
The neck and shoulder joints are connected so any issues you have with your neck will affect your shoulders and vice versa.
Keep the movements slow and controlled
Breath comfortably, don’t hold your breath and don’t over extend the movement.
Keep your shoulders down and back.
Here’s a list of the neck warm up exercises detailed in the video above:
- Ear to Shoulder
- Head Left to Right
- Head Forwards and Backwards
- 5 reps on each side is usually enough.
2. Shoulder Warm Up Exercises
Warming up the shoulders is very important before you start your kettlebell workouts.
Most kettlebell exercises will use your shoulders whether directly, for example the overhead press, or indirectly while being held performing an exercise.
Poor shoulder mobility will force your upper and lower back to over compensate often resulting in overuse and injury.
It is common to see people leaning backwards in order to hold the kettlebell straight overhead.
A lack of mobility in the overhead position is due to poor upper back and shoulder mobility and usually results in an overarch in the lower back.
If you get a sore lower back when pressing overhead this is probably due to a lack in upper body mobility.
Here’s a list of the shoulder warm up exercises detailed in the video above:
- Shoulder Circles Forwards and Backwards
- Shoulder Decreasing Circles
- Shoulder Overhead Lasso
- Shoulder Internal and External Rotations
- Shoulder Chest Hugs
- Shoulder Shrug Circles
- Shoulder Rotations, One Forwards and One Backwards
Spend a few minutes working through theses shoulder warm up exercises paying particular attention to the areas that feel restricted.
3. Upper Back Warm Up Exercises (thoracic spine)
There are a number of spinal joints that make up the upper back.
All of the vertebrae of the spine are stacked up on top of each other and rotate, flex forwards and backwards and also side to side.
The spine works as a complete unit so each segment gives a little movement but together the movement is much greater.
Most people have poor upper back mobility due to extensive periods of sitting and general lack of movement.
Poor upper back mobility will result in an overuse of the shoulders, neck and lower back due to movement compensations.
Try to focus on each segment of the upper back as you mobilise them.
Do not hold your breath, breathe slow and steady.
Here’s a list of the upper back warm up exercises detailed in the video above:
- Upper Back Rotations
- Upper Back Lateral Reach
- Upper Back Chest Openers
As this area is often restricted spend as much time as it takes to really loosen up the upper back.
I would also recommend spending extra time on this area during the day and also in the evenings.
4. Elbow Warm Up Exercises
The elbow joint is used a lot during kettlebell training so a quick elbow warm up is helpful.
As the elbow is a relatively simple joint there are only a few movements necessary.
Here’s a list of the elbow warm up exercises detailed in the video above:
- Elbow Flex and Extend
- Elbow Lassos
Limited mobility in the elbow can affect the movement in the shoulders and wrist due to compensations.
If you do not experience elbow mobility issues or your elbow joints are super flexible then you need only spend 30-60 seconds here.
5. Wrist Warm Up Exercises
As you can imagine kettlebell training works the wrist joint hard.
Limited movement in the wrist joint can be due to excessive flexion or extension based exercises.
Office workers may also experience wrist issues due to hours spent on a computer keyboard.
Here’s a list of the wrist warm up exercises detailed in the video above:
- Single Wrist Rotations, side to side, forwards and backwards
- Double Wrist Figure of 8’s
Work through the wrist warm up exercises pushing the joint a little harder towards areas of restriction.
6. Hip Warm Up Exercises
Tight hips can cause all sorts of issues during your kettlebell training.
A limited movement in the hips will cause excessive movement at the lower back usually resulting in back issues.
Similarly if you are not able to move well through your hips then you force excessive movement through your knees.
Bad knee joints is often a result of poor hip mobility.
Many of the hip warm up exercises are based on the simple hip hinge movement pattern that is used extensively within kettlebell training.
The kettlebell swing is the perfect example of an exercise that uses the hip hinge movement pattern.
The hip mobility warm up exercises here work both into the upper hips and also the lower hips.
Here’s a list of the hip warm up exercises detailed in the video above:
- Hip Circles and side to side
- Hips Backwards
- Hips Forwards
- Leg Circles
- Lateral Leg Swings
- Forward Leg Swings
Along with the upper back warm up this area is very important for general movement in daily life.
So if you feel your mobility is restricted in the hip area then work on these movement throughout the day too.
7. Knee Warm Up Exercises
A relatively simple joint but one that causes a lot of problems.
If you struggle with knee joint issues then you will need to look at your hip and ankle mobility to see if any compensations are being made.
I find many people struggle with knee pain due to a lack of strength in the legs and hips so this too should be another focus.
Deep bodyweight squats, mentioned later, will build up the legs and help protect against knee pain.
Here’s a list of the knee warm up exercises detailed in the video above:
- Knee Flex and Extend
- Knee Heel Flicks
- Deep Squats
- Leg Extension from Deep Squat
The deep squat exercise is an amazing exercise to not only strengthen the legs and hips but also pump nutrients into the ankles, knees, hips and lower back.
You can hold onto a chair, post or door frame if necessary to assist in the deep squat movement.
8. Ankle Warm Up Exercises
Ankle mobility is often overlooked but very important.
Mobile ankle joints will enable the knees to work as they should.
As many of us now don’t walk on uneven ground it is important to work through the ankle joint pushing into any restricted areas.
You want to keep the ankle joint nice and mobile so that any unexpected twists or turns can be catered for nice and easily.
Here’s a list of the ankle warm up exercises detailed in the video above:
- Ankle Warm Up Circles
- Ankle Inversion Warm Up
- Ankle Eversion Warm Up
- Ankle Extension Warm Up
- Ankle Flexion Warm Up
Spend time working on the areas that lack mobility and less time on those that are already mobile.
STEP 2 – Kettlebell Warm Up Exercises
Now that your joints are nice and mobile you can move onto more specific movement based warm up exercises.
It makes no sense to warm up with one movement and then perform another
For example, if you are going to be performing the Kettlebell Swing in your workout then you need warm up exercises based around the hip hinge and the kettlebell swing movement.
Let’s look at the 3 most common movement patterns that are used during kettlebell training and how to warm up for each of them.
Kettlebell Swing Warm Up Exercises
The kettlebell swing is based on the deadlift movement pattern and involves a creasing at the hips.
Exercises that use the deadlift movement pattern include:
- Kettlebell Swing
- Kettlebell Deadlift
- Kettlebell High Pulls
- Kettlebell Snatch
There are 2 warms ups that I recommend here:
1. Empty Swings
The first warm up exercise I recommend in preparation for the kettlebell swing is the empty handed swing.
The empty handed swing simply involves repeating the one handed swing movement but without a kettlebell in your hand.
Don’t forget to fully repeat the movement tightening the abs and buttocks at the top of the movement.
- 10 reps on each side is about right
2. Hip Bridge
The second swing preparation exercise is the basic hip bridge which helps to activate the buttocks.
Remember to push from the heels and squeeze the Glutes nice and tight at the top.
Do not overextend from the lower back, you should finish in a nice straight line as you can see below.
- 5 – 10 reps is all you need to do
Kettlebell Squat Warm Up Exercises
One of our most important movement patterns is the squat.
The squat uses most muscles in the body and is a multi-joint movement.
Examples of the kettlebell squat exercise include:
- Kettlebell Goblet Squats
- Kettlebell Racked Squats
- Deck Squats
Choose just one of the squat warm ups below:
1. Bodyweight Squats
Nice and simple, just practice the bodyweight squat.
Remember to keep your chest nice and high and drop down nice and deep.
Shallow squats will not condition your buttocks so get down as deep as possible.
- 5 – 10 repetitions is all you need
2. Yoga Squats
If you are very comfortable with the standard bodyweight squat then I recommend progressing to the yoga squat.
The yoga squat will work nicely into the upper back as well as the hips and legs.
- Again 5 – 10 repetitions should do the trick
You don’t need to do both of the squat warm up exercises above, just choose one.
Kettlebell Lunge Warm Up Exercises
The lunge pattern requires good single leg strength as well as hip mobility.
Examples of kettlebell lunges include:
- Kettlebell Racked Lunge
- Kettlebell Side Lunge
- Kettlebell Double Lunge
I recommend that you use both of the these lunge warm up exercises:
1. Bodyweight Alternating Reverse Lunges
Practice the forward or reverse lunge exercise but without using a kettlebell.
Focus on using perfect technique and getting your back knee down to the floor.
Keep your chest up and core tight.
- 10 Alternating repetitions is enough
2. Hip Openers
A great warm up exercise to gradually open up the hips.
Use your breathing to help gain extra depth to the movement.
Breathe out as you drop your hips.
- Work up to 20 alternating repetitions
STEP 3 – General Kettlebell Warm Up Exercises
You should now how performed a full body mobility routine, focusing on the areas that are most restricted.
Plus, thought about what exercises you are performing in your workout and used a few movement specific warm up exercises.
Next you can move onto a final general kettlebell warm up that uses the kettlebell.
1. Kettlebell Slingshot Warm Up Exercise
I like to start all kettlebell workouts with the kettlebell slingshot.
The kettlebell slingshot is a steady exercise that will switch on your muscles and prime you ready for more intense kettlebell exercises.
The kettlebell slingshot a great kettlebell warm up exercise for the shoulders, arms and grip
It also focuses the mind as you start to pass a weight from one hand to the other around your back.
- 10 – 20 repetitions each way is all you need
2. Kettlebell Halo Warm Up Exercise
Next it’s onto the Halo, a great movement for strengthening and increasing shoulder mobility.
By taking the kettlebell around the head you warm up the whole of the upper back as well as the shoulders.
Keep the kettlebell nice and close to the body throughout the whole movement.
- Try 5 – 10 repetitions in each direction
3. Kettlebell Good Morning Warm Up Exercise
Now get your hips moving and increase your buttock activation with the kettlebell good morning exercise.
The kettlebell good morning also helps to mobilise your hamstrings.
Keep your back nice and flat as if performing a kettlebell swing or deadlift movement.
Don’t forget to breathe out on the way down and keep your abs nice and tight.
- Try beginning with just 10 nice and steady repetitions.
4. Other Kettlebell Warm Up Exercises
You should be feeling nice and warm now and even have a little sweat going on.
If you have heavy overhead pushing or pulling in your workout I would also recommend that you replicate that exercise but with a lighter kettlebell first.
So perhaps a few lighter kettlebell clean and presses would be a good kettlebell warm up exercise.
Conclusion to Kettlebell Warm Up Exercises
The kettlebell warm up is a chance to improve your joint mobility as well as replicate the same movement patterns you will be using during your workout.
Start by moving through your joints starting at the neck and working down.
Spend time working on those areas that lack mobility and less time on those that are already mobile.
Balance the body
Next, you move on to more specific warm up exercises that focus on the movement patterns used within your workout.
If you are going to be performing the kettlebell swing then warm up the swing movement pattern.
Finally, finish by introducing the kettlebell and performing some general kettlebell warm up exercises.
Your whole warm up should take no longer than 10-15 minutes and is a good time to work on your weaknesses and assess how you are feeling that particular day.
Sometimes you can use a good warm up for a nice and easy workout on its own.
Overall…take your time, listen to your body and never skip your warm up!
To see more posts about prehab/rehab workouts, go here.
Leave me a comment below, and let me know if you have tried any of these exercises. How did you find them?