The Case for Kettlebells in CrossFit

In 2017 we saw CrossFit program all dumbbells and no barbells for the very first time. Coach Glassman explained the theory in a comparison between rings and parallel bars.

“The unwieldiness of two things brings all of the wonderful neurological dynamics that translate to increased strength that I get looking at the difference between the parallel bars and the rings. The independent axis of the rings makes the ring man a stronger parallel bar guy than the parallel guy is.”
~Greg Glassman

The same discussion can & should be had about Kettlebells. As CrossFitters, from casual to competitive, we benefit from learning to move our bodies around the odd mass of the Kettlebell, and what we learn translates directly to barbells, pull-up bars, and nearly every other movement we practice & hone in CrossFit.

The Kettlebell Swing is the most fundamental movement we do with Kettlebells, and all other lifts build from knowing & practicing the Swing well.

Thrusters, Deadlifts, Loaded Carries, Walking OH Lunge, all of these movements take on a different feel when performed with Kettlebells. Additionally, all of these movements have appeared in the Games 6 times in 11 years. This list represents a good case for learning & practicing our movements with Kettlebells.

2009Event 7
8-min. AMRAP of:
4 Handstand Push-ups
8 Kettlebell Swings (32/24 kg)
12 GHD Sit-ups

2010Event “Pyramid Double Helen”
For time (22-min. cap):
Run 1,200 meters
63 kettlebell swings (1.5 pood)
36 pull-ups
Run 800 meters
42 kettlebell swings
24 pull-ups
Run 400 meters
21 kettlebell swings
12 pull-ups

2013The Cinco 1
For time:
Three rounds of:
5 Deadlifts (405 / 265 lbs)
5 weighted One-legged squats, left leg (53 / 35 lb KB)
5 weighted One-legged squats, right leg (53 / 35 lb KB)
80’ Handstand walk

2014Event “The Beach”
For time:
Swim 250 yards
50 kettlebell thrusters  (35 / 24 lb.)
30 burpees
Swim 500 yards
30 burpees
50 kettlebell thrusters  (35 / 24 lb.)
Swim 250 yards

2015Event 13 Pedal to the Metal 2
For time:
12 parallette handstand push-ups
24-calorie row
16-calorie bike
8 kettlebell deadlifts (203 / 124 lb.)

2017The Fibonacci Final
For time:
5-8-13 reps of:
Parallette handstand push-ups
203-lb. kettlebell deadlifts
Then, lunge 89 ft. with 2 53-lb. kettlebells overhead

For time:
3-5-8 reps of:
Handstand push-ups
5-8-13 reps of:
124-lb. kettlebell deadlifts
Then, 35-lb. KB OH lunge 89 ft. to finish line

There are many movements that have not appeared in the Games, but give us a lot of benefit to practice. The Kettlebell Snatch comes to mind. It is a highly technical move, and anyone who wants to improve must practice it consistently to ingrain all the movement patterns. All too often, we are able to hide our break in speed behind the barbell. Try this test with a Kettlebell:

Record yourself doing a Kettlebell Snatch with your right arm, then with your left. When you watch the replay, notice the speed. Is your speed the same, or pretty close, on both sides? Many of us will move much faster when Snatching the Kettlebell on our strong side, and slower on our other.

With the barbell, our two sides balance out, and our overall Snatch happens on the average of our two sides, give or take.

The point is, learning & practicing movements with the Kettlebell can help us find & improve imbalances in our form & speed. Start with the Swing and build from there. Even the American Swing, as commonly practiced & programmed by CrossFitters can benefit by learning & practicing the *Russian Swing.

(*One is NOT a half Range of Motion of the other; if anything, the CrossFit, or American Swing can be considered an “Extended Range of Motion” movement. The Russian Swing is full Range of Motion.)

If you’re interested in learning more about how the Kettlebell can enhance your CrossFit experience, join us at Strongside in Woodstock, on Saturday, December 2, at 10:30 am to learn how to build a solid foundation on the Kettlebell Swing. We will be covering both the Russian and the American style Swings, as well as Single Arm varieties of the Swing. The cost is $10 and is open to ALL ability levels, from beginner to advanced.


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