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3 Kettlebell Workouts for Athletes and Sports

By Greg Brookes
kettlebell workouts for athletes and sports

Using kettlebell workouts for athletes is an excellent choice.

Kettlebell training can improve strength and power through dynamic and explosive movements, aerobic and anaerobic thresholds can be stretched, and core strength developed.

For the athlete, kettlebell training will also improve single leg stabilisation, balance, mobility and proprioception.

Using kettlebells correctly can also help rectify muscle imbalances and improve full body movement integration which will ultimately lead to less sporting injuries.

Finally, athletes can also benefit from posterior chain development which is vital for most sporting activities along with improvements in grip strength.


Triplanar Movement for Athletes

Depending on your sport, athletes move in many different directions, so it is important not to limit your training to just one particular direction.

Triplanar movement involves 3 different types of direction: Sagittal (front and back), Frontal (side to side), and Transverse (rotational).

So when putting together a workout for your sport it is important to think about what movements are involved in your activity and then make sure you include those movements within your workout.

For example: tennis players shuffle side to side on the baseline, sprint quickly forwards into the net, shuffle backwards and rotate fully through shots.

Tennis players should therefore make sure that they include all 3 types of directional training listed above in their workout program.

I’ve included triplanar movements within each workout to show you how these are programmed.


Triphasic Training for Athletes

I was first introduced to Triphasic training by Cal Dietz’s book Triphasic Training.

All movement can be divided up into eccentric (lengthening of muscles), isometric (muscles contracting without movement) and concentric (shortening of muscles).

For example: lowering into a squat is the eccentric part, holding still at the bottom is isometric and pushing back to the top of the squat concentric.

Triphasic training involves training each part of the movement separately and each has it’s own specific advantage.

Eccentric training can decrease injury potential, improve your ability to absorb load and increase your concentric force potential.

Isometric training increases motor unit recruitment and can develop intramuscular tension.

Concentric training will help develop explosiveness and power which is ultimately assisted by stored energy from the eccentric and isometric phase.

Triphasic training would ultimately involve splitting out each phase and training them individually for a few weeks but for the workouts below I’ve included examples within each workout.


Mobility and Stability Training for Athletes

Athletes and those performing in sports require the ability to stabilise and generate power from one side of the body to the other.

For example, when running you transfer weight from one leg to the other while at the same time generating rotational forces through the core.

Soccer and rugby players have to stabilise with one leg while kicking with the other.

Not only is single arm and leg stabilisation important for athletes but single arm and leg mobility too.

Developing mobility in a joint and then strengthening that movement provides better force production as well as injury prevention.

These kettlebell workouts for athletes will offer single arm and leg conditioning while at the same time helping to improve joint mobility and strength.


1 Beginners Kettlebell Workout for Athletes

The first kettlebell workout for athletes focuses on movement stabilisation which will develop core strength and injury prevention.

Included within the workout are exercises for single leg and single arm strength and stability, upper body mobility, and both eccentric and isometric focused movement phases.

Most importantly this workout teaches you to connect your upper body with your lower body via your core sling systems. Developing your core sling system which connects the hip to the opposite shoulder is the key to generating efficient rotational power.

Kettlebell Workout for Athletes 1

  1. Single Leg Deadlift x 5 reps each side (5 second lower)
  2. Halo x 10 in each direction
  3. Goblet Squat x 10 reps (pause at the bottom for 3 seconds)
  4. Half Get Up x 3 reps each side (5 second lower)
  5. Rest 60 – 90 seconds and repeat for 3 total circuits

The format for this kettlebell workout for athletes is simple, complete each exercise one after the other taking as little rest as possible in between exercises.

Once you have completed the circuit take 60 – 90 seconds rest and then complete the circuit again. Work towards 3 total circuits.

Men should feel comfortable using a 12kg (25lbs), 16kg (35lbs) or 24kg kettlebell and women an 8kg or 12kg.

Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift

Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift

The kettlebell single leg deadlift exercise is the perfect kettlebell exercise for athletes and improving sports performance.

This single leg exercise improves stabilisation strength in the hips, leg, core and shoulder which is a prerequisite for preventing injury from most sports.

The single leg deadlift also develops strength in the glutes and hamstrings as well as the core muscles.

I recommend performing this exercise with a slow 5 second lower to really take advantage of the eccentric part of the lift.

As the hamstrings are the body’s natural brakes for athletes this is the perfect opportunity to prevent future injuries and improve  stopping speeds.

Finally the single leg deadlift helps integrate the shoulder with the opposite hip via the cores natural sling system. A well functioning cross body sling system will improve power in most sporting activities.

Want more? How to Master the Single Leg Deadlift

Watch a video of the Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift below:

Kettlebell Halo

kettlebell halo exercise

The kettlebell halo is an excellent upper body mobility exercise.

A lack of shoulder and upper back mobility is common amongst many athletes.

I like to use the halo to open up the back and really loosen the shoulder girdle.

Keep the kettlebell as close to the neck as possible and the chin and chest lifted.

Watch a video of the kettlebell halo below:

Kettlebell Goblet Squat

Kettlebell Goblet Squat Exercise

The kettlebell goblet squat is a powerful exercise for developing the hips, legs, glutes and core muscles.

The squat is one of our natural movement patterns and is used in most sports to some degree, sometimes referred to as triple extension.

For example any jumping sports will use a squatting movement to load, store and then take advantage of energy in the legs and hips.

There are many ways to perform the kettlebell squat but for beginners I like to extend the isometric phase at the bottom of the squat for 3 seconds.

Developing isometric strength is beneficial for many sports that find themselves in a stationary squat position, for example tennis players waiting to return a serve, soccer goal keepers defending a goal or rugby players in a scrum.

Holding the isometric phase of the kettlebell squat will also help improve motor unit recruitment and increase muscle fibre density.

For those already well conditioned in the kettlebell squat then 2 kettlebells can be used, one racked on each side.

An explosive concentric phase can also be used during this exercise by driving quickly from the bottom position and into a jump.

Want more? 7 Kettlebell Squat Variations

Watch a video of the kettlebell goblet squat below:

Kettlebell Half Turkish Get Up

Kettlebell Half Turkish Get Up Exercise

The kettlebell half turkish get up will strengthen the core muscles and improve shoulder stability.

The half turkish get up is the prerequisite to the full turkish get up that is used later on in the advanced workout.

As with the single leg deadlift the half turkish get up connects the hip to the opposite shoulder via the core sling system.

You will find that if you struggle with one side of the single leg deadlift then the same difficulties will be mirrored in this exercise too.

Movement during this exercise needs to be slow and controlled.

Focus should be placed on keeping both heels on the floor throughout.

You can strengthen your core muscle eccentrically by lowering yourself to the floor slowly for 5 seconds.

Developing your core muscles eccentrically will enable you to absorb more energy safely when performing sports.

Want more? See 7 Best Kettlebell Ab Exercises

Watch a video of the kettlebell half turkish get up below:


2 Intermediate Kettlebell Workout for Athletes

The second kettlebell workout for athletes helps develop power through the hips as well as working on mobility and stability of the body during movement.

There is also a much greater emphasis on rotational movement during this workout.

Kettlebell Workout for Athletes 2

  1. Two Handed Swing x 10 – 20 reps
  2. Windmill x 5 reps each side (5 second lower)
  3. Lunge with Rotation x 16 reps total alternating sides
  4. Farmers Carry x 30 seconds each side
  5. Rest 60 – 90 seconds and repeat for 3 circuits

As with workout 1 the format for this circuit is simple. Complete each exercise one after the other taking as little rest as possible in between exercises.

Once you have completed the circuit take a rest for 60 – 90 seconds before completing the circuit again for a total of 3 circuits.

Men should feel comfortable using a 12kg (25lbs), 16kg (35lbs) or 24kg kettlebell and women an 8kg, 12kg or 16kg.

For the farmers carry you may be able to use even heavier kettlebells.

Kettlebell Two Handed Swing

Kettlebell Swing Two Hands

The two handed kettlebell swing develops explosive power in the hips and teaches you to absorb, store and use energy efficiently.

As the kettlebell descends its weight increases due to momentum and gravity and requires the hamstrings and glutes to work hard to absorb the weight.

Developing the body’s ability to absorb weight effectively is one of the most important aspects of sports performance so translates perfectly.

Any jumping or explosive sports will also benefit from the kettlebell swing as it develops hip hinge coordination along with strengthening the posterior chain (muscles through the back of the body).

When performing the kettlebell swing focus on the hip drive part of the movement, push the hips backwards and then snap them forwards aggressively.

At the top of the swing actively brace the abs and stop the movement bolt upright, do not lean backwards, think about performing a standing plank.

Want more? Ultimate Guide to the Kettlebell Swing

Watch a video of the kettlebell two handed swing below:

Kettlebell Windmill

Kettlebell Windmill Exercise

The kettlebell windmill exercise will improve your shoulder stability, open up your hips and strengthen your core muscles.

You can think of the kettlebell windmill as a mobilising and strengthening exercise for the smaller muscles rather than a large power developing movement.

During the exercise you will open up the chest, shoulders, upper back and hips while at the same time stretching the hamstrings.

Developing better mobility is important for athletes and sport performance because it helps with injury prevention as well as increasing strength through a wider range.

You can take advantage of the eccentric phase of the exercise by lowering slowly to the floor for 5 seconds.

Maintain focus on the kettlebell during the exercise and keep most of your weight over your rear leg.

Want more? 4 Logical Progressions to the Kettlebell Windmill

Watch a video of the kettlebell windmill below:

Kettlebell Lunge with Rotation

Kettlebell Lunge with Rotation Exercise

The kettlebell lunge with rotation will develop both practical lunging strength along with improving core strength and mobility.

The lunge exercise is one of the most important movements for athletes and sports.

You will improve your legs, hips, glutes and core muscles by practicing this lunge variation.

At the bottom of the lunge movement there is an isometric hold as you have to rotate across the front knee with the kettlebell.

You only have to think about how a tennis player steps forwards and rotates during a shot to see how transferable this exercise is to sports.

As with all lunge exercises the depth of the lunge is important in order to fully activate the buttocks, try to drop the back knee as close to the floor as possible.

Practice this exercise by alternating legs and direction of the rotation during each repetition.

Want more? See 16 Kettlebell Lunge Variations

Watch the kettlebell lunge with rotation below:

Kettlebell Farmers Carry

Kettlebell Farmers Carry Exercise

The kettlebell farmers carry is an under-utilised exercise but is very transferable for athletes and sports.

The exercise involves holding a heavy kettlebell in one hand while walking for a certain distance or time.

As you walk your core muscles have to stabilise you in the frontal plane (side to side).

You can think of this exercise as a moving side plank.

You will develop good core strength and stabilisation by practicing this exercise along with excellent grip strength.

The kettlebell exercise can be made even more challenging by walking both up and down hills.

Try to keep the shoulders back and down throughout the entire exercise.


3 Advanced Kettlebell Workout for Athletes

Our final kettlebell workout for athletes adds further complexity to the movements.

The exercises are more challenging and require good coordination along with mobility, strength and balance.

I highly recommend that you master workouts 1 and 2 before attempting this workout.

Kettlebell Workout for Athletes 3

  1. Snatch x 10 reps each side
  2. Pistol Squats x 1 – 5 reps each side
  3. Turkish Get up x 1 – 3 reps each side
  4. Side Lunge x 8 reps each side
  5. Rest 60 seconds and repeat for 3 circuits

The format for this workout is the same as the previous two. Perform each exercise one after the other only taking a very short rest in between exercises if necessary.

Once you have completed the circuit rest for 60 – 90 seconds before repeating a further 2 times.

Men should use a 12kg (25lbs), 16kg (35lbs) or 24kg kettlebell and women an 8kg or 12kg.

Kettlebell Snatch

Kettlebell Snatch Exercise

The kettlebell snatch is an explosive exercise that will develop power from the hips and translate it throughout the rest of the body.

The kettlebell snatch has many of the same benefits as the kettlebell swing in that it develops the ability to absorb, store and transmit power from the hips.

The snatch also improves chest and upper back mobility as well as strengthening the shoulders through a wide range of positions.

Want more? Ultimate Guide to the Kettlebell Snatch

Watch a video of the kettlebell snatch below:

Kettlebell Pistol Squats

Kettlebell Pistol Squat Exercise

The kettlebell pistol squat is the ultimate single leg strength building exercise.

You will also develop good hip and leg stabilisation as well as core control and mobility through the hips.

To take advantage of all 3 movement phases during this exercise you can descend slowly to the bottom position, hold for 3 seconds before driving up as quickly as possible.

If you struggle with this exercise then you can work on just the eccentric phase by lowering slowly and then standing up with both feet.

Alternatively you can practice the exercise without a kettlebell and use a TRX or band attached in front of you to help lift you back up.

Watch a video of the kettlebell pistol squat below:

Kettlebell Turkish Get Ups

Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Exercise

The kettlebell turkish get up will develop all over stability and mobility which will help improve movement skills and prevent future injuries.

Following on from the half turkish get up, progress slowly through all the movements to the top position before slowly returning back to the floor.

The full turkish get up acts as an excellent assessment tool for highlighting any movement or stabilising deficiencies you may have.

Should you find any sections of the turkish get up challenging then these are the areas to focus on to help prevent injuries in the future.

Want more? Ultimate Guide to the Kettlebell Turkish Get Up

Watch a video of the kettlebell turkish get up below:

Kettlebell Side Lunge

Kettlebell Side Lunge Exercise

The kettlebell side lunge is an often neglected exercise but vital for so many athletes and sports.

During sports we don’t just move forwards and backwards we also move side to side and diagonally.

The side lunge strengthens the body in the frontal plane by improving leg, hip and core strength as well as mobility.

Practice the side lunge gradually, progressively dropping deeper and deeper into the exercise. Your ultimate goal is a 90 degree knee bend in the one knee and a straight leg in the other.

Keep your chest up and both heels on the floor throughout the entire exercise.

Watch a video of the kettlebell side lunge below:


Conclusion of Kettlebell Workouts for Athletes

Above I have outlined 3 kettlebell workouts for athletes and sports.

These workouts are meant as a guide only and illustrate how you can use kettlebells to strengthen the body in a specific way that has transferable benefits to athletes and sports.

Kettlebell training can develop strength and stability in all movement patterns, improve explosive power, and prevent future sporting injuries.

Kettlebells can also be used to develop the triphasic elements of movements namely, eccentric, isometric and concentric.

You can also use kettlebell training to develop movement skills in all directions, sagittal, frontal and transverse.

Ultimately each athlete and sport has different demands so it is worth analysing your chosen activity and then seeing how these workouts can better help you in achieving your goals.

Best of luck!

To see more posts about sports performance workouts and advice, go here.

Have you used any of these kettlebell workouts for athletes? Let me know more below:

10 best kettlebell workouts

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    1. Adrian Avatar
      Adrian

      Should we aim to increase weight first or should we prioritize mastering each of the three workouts at a specific weight before increasing weight?

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Always master the workout and movements first Adrian, they you can start slowly adding more weight or reducing the rest periods depending on your goals.

        1. Adrian Avatar
          Adrian

          Thank you!

    2. Ekaterina Tabakova Avatar

      Great intro, workouts and progressions, thank you, Greg!