Home / How To Master The Kettlebell High Pull – The Ultimate Cardio Exercise

How To Master The Kettlebell High Pull – The Ultimate Cardio Exercise

By Greg Brookes
Kettlebell High Pulls

The kettlebell high pull is a very cardiovascular exercise that builds on from the one handed kettlebell swing.

The kettlebell high pull is fast, very dynamic and can be tricky to master at first so look out!

Kettlebell High Pull Benefits

The kettlebell high pull exercise, like so many other kettlebell exercises, is a full body movement.

Like the one handed kettlebell swing the high pull works deep into the back of the body and so is excellent for improving posture.

One of the greatest benefits of the kettlebell high pull is the horizontal pulling action that activates the muscles in the upper back, an area that is often neglected.

Horizontal pulling exercises help to balance out all the sitting and rounded shoulders that so many of us suffer with in todays office based society.

The kettlebell high pull is slightly more technical than the one handed kettlebell swing and involves a pull and a push at the top of the swinging movement.

The additional pulling movement of the high pull makes the exercise even more dynamic than the kettlebell swing and far more cardiovascular.

To summarise the benefits of the kettlebell high pull:

  1. Full body conditioining exercise using over 600 muscles per movement
  2. Highly cardiovascular without the need to move your feet
  3. Great for improving posture due to the horizontal pulling action
  4. Excellent full body fat burner due to both cardio and muscle activation
  5. Fun transitional exercise to add into your kettlebell circuits

Muscles Worked During the Kettlebell High Pull

The kettlebell high pull exercise works practically every muscle in your body.

You achieve the benefits of the kettlebell swing but with the added bonus of the horizontal pulling movement and ramped up cardio.

Here’s a list of the main muscles groups used:

  • Trapezius muscles
  • Rhomboid muscles
  • Abdominal muscles
  • Gluteus muscles
  • Hamstring muscles

There is also a lot of stabilisation muscle activation involved in the movement too.

As the high pull is very dynamic the smaller muscles have to work hard to keep the joints in correct alignment.

How to Do Kettlebell High Pulls

The kettlebell high pull exercise is a progression on from the one handed swing.

If you struggle with the one handed kettlebell swing or cannot swing a kettlebell with one arm for 60 seconds then the high pull exercise is not for you just yet.

You will achieve more benefits by mastering the one handed swing first than trying to use the high pull exercise.

Related: Ultimate Guide to the Kettlebell Swing

Teaching Points For The High Pull

  • At the top of the one handed swing pull the kettlebell towards your shoulder
  • Keep your wrist straight and horizontal with a high elbow
  • Push the kettlebell back out again along the same path
  • The kettlebell drops back down and into the lower portion of the kettlebell swing
  • Repeat the movement and breathe rhythmically

Watch a video of the kettlebell high pull exercise below:

You will need to have good forearm and wrist strength along with control of the kettlebell.

Be aware that sweaty or greasy kettlebell handles may interfere with your grip and make this exercise really challenging.

Caution: the kettlebell does get very close to your face during every repetition so please be careful that you don’t lose control and have a good grip on the kettlebell at all times.

My advice, as with all kettlebell exercises, is to start off with a lighter kettlebell before increasing the load.

Related: Ultimate Guide to the Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell High Pulls Workout

kettlebell high pulls workout

The kettlebell high pull exercise lends itself beautifully to be used with other kettlebell workouts.

Here’s a simple kettlebell cardio workout that you can use to help improve your high pulls:

Workout 1

  1. One handed kettlebell swing (left) x 10 reps
  2. Kettlebell high pulls (left) x 10 reps
  3. One handed kettlebell swing (right) x 10 reps
  4. Kettlebell high pulls (right) x 10 reps
  5. Rest and repeat reducing the reps down by 1 each round

Try to work on smooth transitions from one exercise to the next without putting the kettlebell down.

If you find 10 repetitions too much then you can reduce it down to 5 reps.

You can also set an interval timer to beep every 30 seconds and use that as your signal to change exercise.

Technique and forearm endurance are often a determining factor on the length of a set of High Pulls.

Gradually build up the reps on each hand as your endurance increases.

Related: 4 Kettlebell Complex Workouts for those Short on Time

Kettlebell High Pulls Conclusion

The kettlebell high pull exercise is a highly effective full body movement.

You will need a good foundation in kettlebell swings before attempting this exercise because it is very technical.

Once mastered it adds a great variation to many kettlebell workouts and is excellent for improving cardio and full body conditioning.

Enjoy the kettlebell high pull and even more the great results that it can generate for you.

To see more posts about pull workouts, go here.

Have you mastered the kettlebell high pull? Let me know more below…

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    1. Thiago Avatar

      What about double kb high pull, is there some diference between single or double?

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Yes you can perform a double high pull but it is not easy as the kettlebells need to swing in between the legs. If you use just 1 kettlebell then you get more rotation and thus strengthen the core muscles in a different way. Personally I never use or teach the double high pull.

    2. Vedant Sinha Avatar
      Vedant Sinha

      What’s the consensus if any on a two handed high pull with heavier weight?

        1. Vedant Sinha Avatar
          Vedant Sinha

          Is it possible if I can email you what I have been doing because I am not doing the upright row and I have questions on whether it can be implemented because I have not found anything online of what I am doing

    3. Claudio Avatar

      Hi Greg,

      I follow you with great interest, but I must admit I am very cofused here.

      In most of the high pulls videos I find around, people start to pull their elbow up, at approx 45 degrees with horizon, as the bell past the knees.

      Your video is different.
      You pull horizontally and when the kb reaches the top.

      Are these 2 different variations of same exercise?

      Thanks a lot.

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Good to hear from you Claudio. My high pull variation works more into the mid-back rather than the upper back which is often overstressed in daily life and also abused in the gym.