Home Posts tagged "Kettlebell Exercise"

Exercise of the Week: Half-Kneeling Kettlebell Windmill

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida coach Derek Kambour.

At Cressey Sports Performance, we utilize several kettlebell windmill variations. A while back, Eric covered the regular standing version HERE. Today, I’d like to cover the half kneeling position, as I think there are some technical elements that should be highlighted in order to get the most out of this exercise.

Often, you’ll see this activity performed similar to the downward portion of a Turkish Get-Up, where the individual is in a half kneeling position, with the back hip in an externally rotated position, and then they will hinge back into that hip as they reach towards the ground, all while holding weight in an overhead position. While there is nothing wrong with this execution – especially if the goal is to challenge the individual’s ability to stabilize load in an overhead position while improving the ability to hinge – I do believe there are some ways we can coach this activity in a specific manner to get more out of it. I originally saw the execution of this exercise from Dr. Pat Davidson, so all credit goes to him for showing how to get more from this activity. This is an awesome transverse plane core exercise that helps individuals learn how to load their hip in the frontal plane. If you are an athlete trying to improve your ability to get in and out of a cut, or a pitcher looking to improve back hip loading or accepting force on the front hip, this could be a great exercise to include. Below is a demonstration that gives you a general understanding as to how we coach this exercise.

When performed in this manner, folks are getting a lot more than just overhead stability benefits. Here are some of the key components of this exercise explained further:

1. Setting up in a solid half-kneeling position is going to be essential when executing this variation. To ensure that the individual is in a good position, we like to have the individual drive the back foot into a wall, especially for those who have never performed this exercise before. The wall allows the individual to feel their hamstring and glute to gain better control of their pelvis on the down side hip. The wall is not always needed, but it can certainly help. The front foot should also be pressed into the ground as well.

2. Once set up in this half kneeling position, the KB can be pressed overhead. It is important to note, this exercise does not need to be loaded very heavy at first. We often start folks with a 15-25lb. kettlebell and they are absolutely smoked by the time they are done with their set. Sometimes, I will have the person I am working with perform this with no load, as it allows them to focus on the more important aspects of the exercise.

3. Before the individual reaches for the ground, they should be shifting into the front hip. Many times, when someone goes to perform this hip shift action, they will lose control of their pelvis and go into an anteriorly oriented position. Be sure that you, or the individual you are coaching, executes the shift while maintaining a subtle tuck of the pelvis.

4. As the individual begins to rotate and reach for the ground, it is important to keep both arms long. While they are slowly reaching towards the ground with the bottom arm/hand, they should be trying to maintain that hip shift without any movement of the front femur. The most common movement fault seen with this exercise is the inability to maintain control the front leg as the hips shift laterally towards the front side. The front leg should not move front to back or side to side, and it may be beneficial to think about pushing the knee in towards the midline. If done correctly, they should feel their adductors working significantly.

5. Most of the time, I will instruct the individual to reach down until the palm of their hand touches the ground, and that is as far as I will have them go. Some individuals are pretty mobile and can get their forearm all the way down to the ground. I’m fine with this as long as everything else checks out and they are feeling the desired musculature.

6. To get even more out of this activity, we can add a respiratory component to challenge this position further. Once the hand reaches the ground, the individual should get a full exhale out, and closing the side of the ribcage that is down. After a full exhale out and maintaining that bottom position, the individual can then inhale into the side of the ribcage that is up (trying to get air into the upper chest wall). After they have achieved maximal expansion in this area, they can exhale out again as they come back up into the starting position.

We will typically have our athletes perform this exercise for 2-4 sets of 6-8 reps per side as an accessory exercise towards the end of the session, or as part of their movement prep before their strength training. Once they’re proficient with it, we might load it up more and use it as part of a first pairing on an upper body training session (similar to how we program Turkish Get-ups). Give it a shot!

About the Author

​Derek Kambour serves as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. Prior to joining the staff, Derek completed an internship at CSP-FL in the fall of 2018. Prior to joining the CSP-FL team, Derek coached a variety of athletes and clientele at performance facilities in New Jersey. He graduated from Montclair St. University with a degree in Exercise Science and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the NSCA. Derek is also a competitive powerlifter. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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The Best of 2019: Guest Posts

I've already highlighted the top articles and videos I put out at EricCressey.com in 2019, so now it's time for the top guest posts of the year. Here goes…

1. The Biggest Mistake in Program Design - Kevin Neeld, Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, reminds us to make sure that our programs evolve as our knowledge and experience in the field accumulate.

2. 5 Non-Traditional Exercises for Catchers - CSP-Florida Director of Performance Tim Geromini works with all our catchers in Florida, and he's devised some creative ways to help them feel, move, and play better. This article includes a few of them.

3. 10 Reasons We Use Wall Slides - Wall slide variations are a mainstay in all of our upper body training and rehabilitation programs. Eric Schoenberg, who serves as the physical therapist at our Palm Beach Gardens, FL location, shares why that's the case.

4. 5 Great Kettlebell Exercises for Baseball Players - Dan Swinscoe is a great physical therapist in the Seattle area, and in this article, he shares some of the KB variations he likes to use with his baseball players.

5. Exercise of the Week: Side Bridge with Top Leg March - CSP-Massachusetts coach Cole Russo shared this great lateral core stability progression. We're using it a lot this offseason.

I'll be back soon with the top strength and conditioning features from 2019.

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5 Great Kettlebell Exercises for Baseball Players

Today's guest post comes from Seattle-based physical therapist, Dan Swinscoe. Enjoy! -EC

Kettlebells have come a long way since they were used as weights on scales in the open air markets of eastern Europe about two hundred years ago. For exercise purposes, they’ve been called everything from an ancient Russian tool against weakness to a cannonball with a handle. One thing is for sure, though: since Pavel Tsatsouline introduced them to the US about 20 years ago, they have become staples in most gyms and rehab centers, including my own.

Physical therapist Gray Cook once said, “Dumbbells will make you strong, but kettlebells will make you efficient.” It’s the shape that makes them great. Because of the offset handle, when gravity acts upon the bell, you are forced to control it in two planes of motion, not just one (as with a barbell or dumbbell). It’s for this reason that they are one of my favorite tools to rehabilitate and train baseball players.

Which exercises will be the best for you depends on your individual needs – which are determined by a good assessment. However, my list below should have you pretty well covered – even if many good exercises didn’t make the list. In particular, I’m leaving out the single arm and double arm swing on purpose because they are so well known. I think they are awesome and I recommend them, but with this article I am hoping to bring some lesser known but invaluable kettlebell exercises to light. The KB snatch is also a great and popular exercise, but I don’t teach it to my pitchers.

Based on research from OnBase University, no matter how they throw or what pitch they’re throwing, pitchers have to do five things well to be successful. They need to 1) control their upright posture, 2) stride 85% of their height, 3) interact with the ground, 4) control their core, and 5) control their arm. Not every pitch is perfect and no pitcher is perfect, but the more we improve those five things, the better the performance and the more protected they are against injury.

Because injuries to pitchers are more common than to position players, I am biasing my list to what pitchers need most. Here are my top five kettlebell exercises to help the pitcher.

1. Pivot Lunge/Pivot Clean.

This is a great drill for training leg strength and control over momentum (as needed for pitching). We speak in terms of the lead leg, but we have athletes go both directions. Master the skill with the pivot lunge before progressing to the pivot clean. Once the athlete knows how to do both, we usually program it so that they combine them in one set. As an example, for a set of 10, the first five reps are pivot lunges and the next five reps are pivot cleans – and then switch sides. This is a unique advantage to the kettlebell. Lunges are okay with a dumbbell, but once you begin cleaning, the KB is distinctly better.

Trains: stride, upright posture, ground interaction, core control, arm control):

2. Turkish Get-up with Screwdriver

This exercise has a lot going on. To help simplify things, we first teach them separately. When we isolate the screwdriver, we teach it first supine (face up), then progress to side-lying, and then into the side plank position. Each version is slightly more challenging than the previous one because each version adds another body segment to have to control. The TGU and the screwdriver each have value on their own. We will combine them once the fundamentals are mastered and the athlete has demonstrated the ability to handle the complexity of this challenge. More than anything else, this exercise trains the player to improve rotator cuff control of the ball on the socket. However, it also demands scapular control and challenges the cross body patterning connecting that shoulder to the opposite hip via the core. Oblique abdominals and serratus anterior are huge with this drill. Once the movement is mastered, the load can be progressively increased so strength can be gained.

Trains: upright posture, stride, interaction with ground, core control, arm control)

3. Offset Kettlebell Front Squat

With this exercise, we get a nice challenge to scapular stability on the side holding the kettlebell, especially as the bell gets heavy. However, the real benefit of this squat version is how we also get contralateral stability challenges in the frontal plane for both the core and hips (in addition to the usual sagittal plane challenges with other squats). I especially like this style of squat because the challenge is very high with weight that seems small compared to barbell squat variations. This way, I get high muscle stress with low joint stress. For this reason, it’s my #1 squat choice for players when training in season.

Trains: upright posture, interaction with ground, core control, arm control


 

4. Dynamic Rows

This exercise has the athlete in a hinge position, which challenges the posterior chain. However, while maintaining that hinge, rotation of the torso is accelerated and decelerated bilaterally. The dynamic nature is an additional challenge from standard rowing exercises. It also forces the rotator cuff and scapula stabilizers to work and work quickly.

Trains: upright posture, core control, arm control

5. Open Half-Kneeling Hip Mobility

Improving stride length is something a lot of pitchers need to do. Improving this mobility so that it sticks can sometimes be a challenge. I think the reason this drill works so well is because of the load of the kettlebell. The weight of the bell assist the player into “depth,” and because he’s doing this actively, the weight seems to give the nervous system more to feel. The gains seem to stick. Players also seem to universally like how it feels to them. Any exercise that is liked gets done more often. This one feels good.

Trains: upright posture, stride

I hope you find these kettlebell exercises useful. If this is your first exposure to kettlebell training I would recommend you seek professional coaching when you are able. Keep in mind some of these exercises take time to master. But like other investments they are worth the payout in the end.

A special thanks to Cardinals pitcher Ian Oxnevad (@ioxnevad) and University of Washington commit Cole Fontenelle (@cole.fontanelle) for their modeling services.

About the Author

Dan Swinscoe, MPT, CSCS is a physical therapist in Issaquah, WA. He practices at Peak Sports and Spine Physical Therapy and teaches his own class, Kettlebells for Clinicians. You can follow him on Instagram (@danswinscoe) and email him at baseballrehab@gmail.com.

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Exercise of the Week: Standing 1-arm Cable Row with Offset Kettlebell Hold

If you're looking for a quick and easy way to expand your rowing exercise selection, definitely try the standing 1-arm cable row with offset kettlebell hold.

Holding a kettlebell in the racked position on the non-working arm not only adds a core control element, but also facilitates thoracic (upper back) rotation away from the rowing arm. We know that left thoracic rotation works hand-in-hand with right serratus anterior recruitment (and vice versa), so this is an awesome progression we like to use with our throwing athletes. You could progress this particular version by adding a bit more upper back rotation to the left on the eccentric (lowering) portion of each rep.

Also, just a friendly reminder that tonight is the end of the $30 off sale on The High Performance Handbook. The discount is automatically applied at checkout; you can learn more at www.HighPerformanceHandbook.com.

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We’re using more Kettlebell Windmills. Here’s why.

We've started using kettlebell windmills a lot more with our athletes this year. I think they slide in nicely (similar to Turkish Get-ups) as a first exercise on upper body days, even if they are more of a full-body exercise.

Generally speaking, I think we underappreciate how solid motion (or resistance to it) in the frontal plane really matters for folks from all walks of life. If you haven't read it already, check out my recent blog, Assessments You Might Be Overlooking: Installment 6, where I discuss the importance of assessing lateral flexion.

To me, the kettlebell windmill is the perfect exercise for teaching athletes how to groove proper core positioning as they load into the hip in multiple planes of motion. My most common cue to athletes with this exercise is, "Load into the hip hinge; don't just side bend."

As you'll see in this picture below, it's possible to get the motion in the wrong places. This would qualify as a side bend - and you can easily appreciate that not all motion is good motion.

We'll perform this exercise both "regular" and with a bottoms-up approach. I think it's best positioned early in the training session for 2-8 reps per set. Make sure athletes have adequate hip mobility and entry-level core control before jumping right to it. I actually like it as a subtle regression from Turkish Get-ups, especially in uncoordinated individuals and those who may lack a bit of shoulder mobility.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 8/9/18

I hope you're having a good week. I was off the grid for a few days for a mini family vacation in Maine, so this post is a few days late. However, as you can see, the scenery was well worth it!

The Ideal Business Formula - I was fortunate to get an advanced copy of this book by Pat Rigsby, and it was outstanding. I highly recommend any business owners out there check it out.

The Underrated Value of Mediocrity - This was a quick read from Tony Gentilcore, but the message is important and enduring.

This surgeon wants to offer cheap MRIs. A state law is getting in his way. - This article was an interesting look at the rising costs of diagnostic imaging - and how one surgeon is challenging existing laws in order to make these tests more affordable.

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

 

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Should We Really Contraindicate ALL Overhead Lifting?

At a seminar a few weeks ago, a college pitching coach said to me, "Well, I know that you don't like overhead lifting for pitchers, so what do you do instead?"

It's something that's falsely been attributed to me in the past, so let me go on the record by saying that I don't think all overhead lifting is created equal. Rather, I think there is a continuum we have to appreciate as we select exercises for our clients and athletes.

At the most aggressive end of the spectrum, we have overhead pressing with a barbell or dumbbells. They allow a lifter to take on the most load, and in the case of the barbell, they have the least freedom of movement (especially if we're talking about a Smith machine press). Moreover, they generally lead to the most significant compensatory movement, particularly at the lower back. I don't love these for baseball players, but don't have any problems with using them in healthy lifters from other walks of life.

However, in these more at-risk populations, we have some options as more shoulder friendly exercises that can deliver a great training effect. The bottoms-up kettlebell military press delivers a slightly different training effect more safely because more of the work is devoted to joint stability. And, I've found that the bottoms-up set-up helps the lifter to engage serratus anterior more to get the scapula "around" the rib cage.

Landmine presses are another good alternative, as I see them as a hybrid of horizontal and vertical pressing. The torso angle and "lean" into the bar help to optimize scapular upward rotation with less competing directly against gravity.

Bottoms-up carries and waiter's walks are also good options for driving overhead patterning without beating up on the joint. We use them all the time.

Regressing even further, something like a yoga push-up is technically an overhead lift because of the finish position.

So, the take-home message is that I'm not against overhead lifting; in fact, we do it all the time on a number of fronts. Moreover, these examples don't even take into account things like TRX Ys, pull-ups, and overhead medicine ball throw/stomp variations - all of which we incorporate on a daily basis with our athletes and general population clients. Not all overhead work is created equal!

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10 Ways to Remain Athletic as You Age

Back in my early-to-mid-20s, my focus shifted into powerlifting and away from a "traditional" athletic career. While I got a ton stronger, I can't say that I felt any more athletic. In hindsight, I realize that it was because I trained strength at the exclusion of many other important athletic qualities. Since then, I've gone out of my way to include things that I know keep me athletic, and as a result, at age 36, I feel really good about taking on anything life throws my way. With that in mind, I thought I'd pull together some recommendations for those looking to remain athletic as they age.

1. Stay on top of your soft tissue work and mobility drills.

Without a doubt, the most common reason folks feel unathletic is that they aren't able to get into the positions/postures they want. As I've written in the past, it's much easier to do a little work to preserve mobility than it is to lose it and have to work to get it back. Some foam rolling and five minutes of mobility work per day goes a long way in keeping you athletic.

2. Do a small amount of pre-training plyos.

I think it's important to preserve the ability to effectively use the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). That's not to say that every gym goer needs to be doing crazy depth jumps and sprinting full-tilt, though. A better bet for many folks who worry about tweaking an Achilles, patellar tendon, or hamstrings is to implement some low-level plyometric work: side shuffles, skipping, carioca, and backpedaling. Here's a slightly more advanced progression we use in The High Performance Handbook program:

The best bet is to include these drills right after the warm-up and before starting up with lifting.

3. Emphasize full-body exercises that teach transfer of force from the lower body to the upper body.

I love cable lift variations to accomplish this task in core exercises, but push presses, landmine presses, and rotational rows are also great options.

4. Emphasize ground-to-standing transitions.

Turkish Get-ups are the most well-known example of this challenge, but don't forget this gem:

5. Get strong in single-leg.

Squats and deadlifts will get you strong, no doubt, but don't forget that a big chunk of athletics at all levels takes place in single-leg stance. Lunges, 1-leg RDLs, step-ups, and split squats all deserve a place in just about everyone's training programs.

6. Use core exercises that force you to resist both extension and rotation.

Efficient movement is all about moving in the right places. The lower back isn't really the place to move, though; you should prioritize movement at the hips and upper back. With that in mind, your core work should be focused on resisting both extension (too much lower back arching) and rotation. Here are a few favorites:

7. Train outside the sagittal plane.

It's important to master the sagittal (straight ahead) plane first with your training programs, but once you get proficient there, it's useful to progress to a bit of strength work in the frontal place. I love lateral lunge variations for this reason.

8. Chuck medicine balls!

I'm a huge fan of medicine ball drills with our athletes, but a lot of people might not know that I absolutely love them for our "general population" clients as well. I speak to why in this article: Medicine Ball Workouts: Not Just for Athletes. Twice a week, try adding in four sets at the end of your warm-up and prior to lifting. Do two sets of overhead stomps and two sets of a rotational drill, starting with these two variations in month 1:

In month 2, try these two:

Trust me; you'll be hooked by the "8-week Magic Mark."

9. Be fast on your concentric.

If you want to stay fast, you need to keep a fast element in your strength training program. This can obviously entail including things like Olympic lifts, jump squats, and kettlebell swings. Taking it a step further, though, you can always just make a dedicated effort to always accelerate the bar with good speed on the concentric (lifting) portion of the movement. 

10. Play.

In a given week, on top of my normal lifting, I might catch bullpens, sprint or condition with my athletes, play beach volleyball, or run a few football receiving routes at the facility. The old adage, "Variety is the spice of life" applies to fitness and athleticism, too. Don't be afraid to have some fun.

The longer you've been training, the more you realize that your strength and conditioning programs have to be versatile enough to preserve your athleticism and functional capacity while still keeping training fun. If you're looking for a flexible program that's proven effective across several populations, I'd encourage you to check out my flagship resource, The High Performance Handbook.

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5 Strength and Conditioning Exercises that Overdeliver

One of the most popular features of The High Performance Handbook is the extensive online video database it includes. With that in mind, I thought I'd highlight a few of my favorite exercises that are included in the program. I like these, in particular, because they're "anti-isolation" exercises. In other words, they deliver multiple training effects to give gym-goers more efficient training outcomes. Keep in mind that just because I don't include classic compound lifts like squats and deadlifts in this discussion doesn't mean that they aren't absolutely fantastic; I just want to give you a little exposure to some different drills in this post.

1. Kettlebell Crosswalk

Because of the asymmetrical loading, you get some great rotary stability work at the core - on top of the anterior core stability work you get from holding a weight overhead while resisting too much arching of your lower back. You get some outstanding shoulder mobility and stability benefits, as getting the top arm up requires a lot of scapular upward rotation and rotator cuff activation. Finally, an overlooked benefit is the opportunity to reaffirm good neck positioning. A lot of athletes will want to shoot into forward head posture, but if you pack the neck correctly, you'll be able to avoid this.

2. Positional Breathing

I use a wide variety of positional breathing drills as part of The High Performance Handbook program, so this is really more of a "category" than a specific exercise. When you put athletes (especially those with more "extended postures) into a more flexion biased position and encourage them to full exhale, you are effectively training both mobility and stability simultaneously. When you exhale, many of the muscles of inhalation - scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, lats, pec minor (not surprisingly all muscles that have chronic tissue density in many individuals) - all are forced to relax. Concurrently, the rectus abdominus and external obliques fire to get air out - and in the process, establish better anterior core stability.

Here are a few examples:

3. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge to 1-leg RDL

Whenever I put this in an athlete's program, I go out of my way to warn them that they'll be pretty sore in the days that follow. Lunging and 1-leg RDLs constitute different kinds of single-leg work with different training effects, but when you combine them, you can get the best of both worlds.

This can also be done with one dumbbell at a time. As athletes get more proficient with the drill, I look for more "fluid" transitions, as opposed to a lot of stop-and-go movements.

4. 1-arm KB Turkish Get-up

This one is just too obvious. To do a good get-up, you need everything from a hip hinge, to anterior core control, to shoulder mobility, to single-leg stability.  

 

Not bad for a crafty lefty. #CSPfamily #100lb

A video posted by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

If you're looking for a great coaching resource on Turkish Get-up Technique, check out 6 Common Turkish Get-up Technique Mistakes.

5. Combination Mobility Exercises

Let's face it: nobody really enjoys mobility warm-ups. Fortunately, for those of you who dread these drills and prefer to get to the lifting as quickly as possible, there are some combination drills that speed up the process a bit. Check out these two examples from the program:

Wrap-up

If you're looking to learn more about how all these different pieces fit with an overall strength and conditioning program "puzzle," then I'd encourage you to check out my most popular resource, The High Performance Handbook. It offers programs versatile enough to accommodate a wide variety of training goals.  

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Exercise of the Week: 1-arm TRX Row with Offset Kettlebell Hold

We're long overdue for a new installment of my "Exercise of the Week" series, so here's one of my all-time favorite drills. The 1-arm TRX Row with Offset Kettlebell Hold affords all the shoulder health and postural benefits of horizontal pulling, but also trains thoracic (upper back) rotation, and both anterior and rotary core stability. In other words, it delivers some fantastic bang for your training buck. Check it out!

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