Kettlebell Swing: Hardstyle vs Girevoy

Girevoy Swing (left) and Hardstyle Swing (right)

Q: Can you please clarify the different benefits that accrue from the hardstyle and soft style swings. Which would be better as an exercise? 

A:

Prefer to watch this answer as a video? Go HERE

Hardstyle Swing

Hardstyle swing has a movement pattern almost identical to the deadlift, with a slight emphasis on the glutes and hamstrings. Its benefits are similar to those of the deadlift plus it also has a power component and an anaerobic conditioning component. 

So just like the deadlift, the swing strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, back, lats and abdominals, but unlike the deadlift, it also strengthens the heart and lungs and improves cardiovascular conditioning.

Additionally, in the one arm hardstyle swing, the abdominals, lats, and mid-back have to work especially hard to prevent torso rotation and keep the shoulder back and down, both of which help maximize power output.  

Because of all these strength and power benefits, hardstyle swings are used to improve vertical and horizontal jump, running speed, pull-up strength, as well as posture, grip strength, and overall conditioning. 

HardStyle swings, therefore, are best for someone who is after general physical preparedness which transfers to life and a wide variety of sports. It also suits someone who wants the biggest bang for their time buck in terms of training effect per minute spent. 

Hardstyle swing can be done two-handed, one-armed, alternating, or with double kettlebells, and is most effective when performed in explosive sets of 10-20 reps. The most popular format is 10 sets of 10 reps, on the minute for 10 minutes.

Girevoy Swing

Girevoy swing movement is more flowing, has a double knee bend, and is less explosive than hardstyle swing. The swing is generally performed with one arm or double kettlebells, with the thumb pointing back for snatch assistance or forward for clean assistance. Sometimes a torso rotation is used to add to the momentum of the swing. 

The double knee bend prolongs the arm-to-torso connection and momentarily relaxes the hamstrings on the backswing.

Girevoy swing is more about energy saving and riding the momentum rather than maximum explosiveness, as well as hanging on to the kettlebell for as long as possible. 

In order to understand the benefits of Girevoy swing, one needs to understand the objectives of Girevoy Sport, which is an extreme power endurance sport. Girevoy swing is used primarily as an assistance exercise for the Snatch and the Clean portion of the Long Cycle, to improve technique and fortify grip endurance.

A crucial component of GS is that you are only allowed to switch hands once throughout the entire 10-minute set. This means 5 minutes of lifting on one arm without putting the KB down, then switching straight to the other arm for another 5 minutes.  This means that grip fatigue is the biggest determining factor in the success of your Girevoy set. If your grip goes during a 10-minute set of Snatch or Long Cycle then you’re pretty much done, no matter how strong, powerful, and fit you are. 

So, Girevoy swing does three things: a) it increases extreme grip endurance, b) it teaches how to ride the momentum and save energy, and c) it teaches you to move in a way that spares the grip. 

For GPP, posterior chain strength, and power development, Girevoy Swing is a less optimal method, and it doesn’t transfer well into other activities and sports. However, it is a great supplemental exercise for Girevoy sport or pleasure. 

Girevoy swings are most effective when done for higher reps, such as 40,60 or even 80 reps per arm, as an assistance lift to Girevoy Snatch or Clean, with emphasis on practicing the flowing non-jarring movement, sparing the grip and hanging onto the KB for as long as possible. 

Since some people like the flowing feel of the Girevoy style, alternating arm swing can also be used for light endurance training by swinging non-stop for 2-5 minutes at a time. 

Summary

if the goal is General Physical Preparedness for sports and life in the shortest time, HardStyle swings do the best job. 

If the goal is Girevoy sport performance, grip endurance, or enjoyment of the flowing style, then high-rep Girevoy swings are best. Do them for sets of 40-80 reps per side.

If you decide to use both styles interchangeably, make sure that you learn the proper technique.  The correct technique delivers all the benefits of the swing and prevents injuries. 

Prefer to watch this answer as a video? Go HERE

Q: What Pace Makes Sense for a 10 min set of Girevoy Jerk?

Q: What Pace Makes Sense for a 10 min set of Girevoy Jerk? (A question by Andi Baumann)

A. Hi Andi,


Great question!

How many reps of Jerk one should aim for in a minute during a 10 min Girevoy Competition set?


You should be in the approximate range of 90-180 reps total. Under 90 is too heavy, over 180 is too light. That’s a very wide range, meaning you might be going 9RPM or 18 RPM, but your individual number depends on how efficiently you can fixate the Kettlebells and whether you can do that for 10 min consistently.

Fixation

Just getting the KBs overhead isn’t enough in Girevoy sport. What really matters is what’s called ‘Fixation’, or bringing the KBs and the body to a complete stop with elbows and knees locked out, which is when the rep is counted.


The second part of jerk fixation is in the rack. Yes, the rack has to be fixated too, with Kettlebells and body at momentary complete stop and knees locked out.

So, the rep only counts when there’s a fixation in the rack followed by a fixation overhead. Doing more reps faster but without proper fixation will just waste reps. How many reps can you fixate in a minute, every minute for 10 minutes? That’s due to individual skill.

So, in competition, we go as fast as we can efficiently fixate for 10 minutes.


Thus, there’s no definitive answer of ‘one best pace’ for everyone. Someone who’s really efficient at fixation will be able to hammer out more qualifying reps in a minute and keep it up longer. Someone who takes longer to fixate will do fewer reps.


But the worst situation is when a person is trying to go faster but isn’t fixating their reps property, therefore they’re just wasting energy but aren’t getting any points. Painful, painful stuff.

So, go at a pace they allows you to complete 90-180 reps in 10 minutes, and that where you can fixate every rep.


Thank you for the question!

Kat T

Leaning Back in Kettlebell Jerk

Q: I’ve sometimes seen people bend back as they do their jerks. Should you ever bend backwards as you do these movements? (Finney Raju)

A: Hi Finney,

Great question!

The thoracic extension can indeed happen when you drive the Kettlebell off the rack, it’s more commonly used in Girevoy sport because Girevoy athletes develop great thoracic mobility as part of their extensive training (thoracic mobility is necessary both for Girevoy rack position, the overhead lockout and for the drive). When we extend through the thoracic spine, we do not lose the abdominal tension necessary to keep lumbar spine stable.

However, in people who lack thoracic mobility and lumbar stability (which is many sedentary people), such an extension will instead occur at the lumbar spine. It is often paired with a relaxation of the abdominals, which puts a lot of pressure on the lumbar disks.


That’s why excessive spinal extension is not encouraged in HardStyle, which is the style of training of an average person wanting to get fit. Most regular people simply don’t have the mobility or the muscular control to execute thoracic extension under load without compromising their lower back.


However, if one has good thoracic mobility and core control, then some extension can be helpful in KB jerk and Push Press.

So the answer is:


It depends:
1. Do you have the thoracic mobility?
2. Do you have the abdominal control to maintain tension through the arch?
If ‘yes’ on both counts, a slight lean back in the jerk and push press is okay.

Watch me answer this question live HERE

How to OWN your Kettlebell for better TGU

Q: I have an imbalance in TGU. My right side is far behind technique wise. Strange, because my stronger arm is the right arm. The initial roll to elbow is tough. I CAN do the Get Up with 32kg on both sides but it looks and feels bad. Probably have to stick with 24kg for awhile. Please comment. Kirill

A: Hi Kirill

1. Left/right imbalance is pretty common as most humans have a preferred side, especially for the upper body. The key is to minimize it, rather than to eliminate it completely.

There are many potential reasons why your TGU feels less stable with the KB in your stronger, right, arm. One of them is that TGU is a full-body exercise, and while your stronger arm might be holding a KB, the other side is doing a whole lot of work too. So, you might be strong on the right arm for kettlebell holding, but you might be weak or tight, or both, on the left side, for supporting the body, along with the Kettlebell, as it moves through the steps on the TGU. The supporting side has to be very strong in the TGU, arguably doing more work than the kettlebell side.


2. You are correct, you are better off training with 24kg.

Build until you can easily and with excellent technique TGU 24kg 10 times in 10 min, Simple & Sinister style. Start every set with your weaker side (kettlebell in the right arm, in your case) and never do more on your stronger side. You can also narrow down the particular steps of the TGU that are the most challenging (for example, transition, or the overhead lunge), and drill them separately. You can temporarily do an extra set on your weaker side, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that for too long.

Once you can easily TGU 24kg 10 times in 10 minutes, double the reps, i.e. perform 2 reps in a row with 24kg on the same arm. Build until you can do that for 3 sets on each side, alternating sides, with excellent form and no more than 60s rest been sets.

Then move on to reverse TGU with 24kg. Keep practicing until you can Reverse TGU 10 times (5 each side, changing arms with each rep) without putting the KB down.

Only after that try a 28kg or 32kg. I promise, it’ll feel so much easier once you have properly owned the 24kg.

PS to achieve the best results, we don’t need to train with our max weights, in fact it’s counter productive because it impedes recovery. For example, I can TGU a 32kg pretty easily on any given day, however I actually NEVER train the TGU with 32kg. The most I’ll ever use in training is 28kg and even that, rarely. Mostly it’s 24kg. Don’t underestimate the power of truly owning a kettlebell.

Here is a YouTube video that outlines the TGU weight progression.

All the best in your TGU training! 🙌

Bent Elbow At Top of Swing

During the swing, the elbows are relaxed. Thus they might bend passively at the top.

Q:
Why do your elbows look bent at the top of the swing? Shouldn’t they be straight?


A:
No. The elbows shouldn’t be actively straightened during swings. Neither should they be actively bent.


The elbows should be RELAXED during swings.


My elbows might seem bent at the top of the swing because they’re actually relaxed, and since the KB is floating weightless and doesn’t pull my arm forward, the elbow isn’t locked out. It’s passively slightly bent because there’s no pressure on it to fully straighten.


Taming the arc of the KB means I can relax my grip at the top of the swing, and let go of the handle momentarily, while the KB just stays in the air waiting for me, not moving, not flying forward.


This relaxation of the grip allows me to rest my forearm at the top of every single rep, which saves forearm strength for when it matters aka at the bottom of the swing when the kettlebell is actually pulling on the arm. At that time the elbow will passively straighten, without my doing anything.


This ability to rest my grip at the top of every single rep allows me to swing a heavy kettlebell such as a 32kg, one handed, while being a small 55kg female with tiny hands. This technique will allow you to swing even better if you’re bigger than me or have larger hands.


If my elbow was completely straight, I’d know that Kettlebell’s arc hasn’t been tamed, which means the kettlebell is still pulling on my arm at the top of the swing. This necessitates me gripping the handle throughout the entire swing, not able to rest the forearm. This will exhaust my grip and I won’t be able to swing a heavy kettlebell efficiently.


So, the passive bending of the elbow is a side-effect of the relaxation of the arm and a successful taming of the KB’s arc so it’s floating weightless. This allows you to relax the grip at the top, and thus swing a heavy kettlebell efficiently.


NOTE: at the bottom of the swing, the Kettlebell pulls down on the arm, so the elbow naturally straightens. Because it’s still relaxed. There’s no tensing of the elbow during the swing at all. Bending the elbow at the bottom of the swing increases the risk off tendon damage.

Do You Use Tabata?

Q: Hi Kat. Do you ever incorporate Tabata into your Kettlebell training? I’ve recently added KB swings with this protocol. Great for increasing VO2 max .

Andy

A: Hi Andy,


I have used Tabata before. Mainly because I had to, back in the CrossFit days, and also because I didn’t know any better as a trainer. I don’t use it now, and especially not with kettlebells.

Tabata, when done correctly, is very high intensity protocol (170% of VO2 Max intensity for 20 seconds, times 8!), majority of movements people use for Tabata (swings, burpees, squats etc) are not appropriate as they don’t generate enough intensity.

Tabata also allows very little recovery after all that intensity, its work:rest ratio being 1:0.5 which makes it extremely fatigue-inducing. As a comparison, a regular interval training work:rest ratio is 1:3 or 1:2, at most 1:1, with intensity dropping as rest decreases. Sprint training, which is very high intensity, has at the very least 1:5 work:rest ratio, often more.

This combination of high intensity and little recovery lead to a rapid accumulation of fatigue and lactic acid, which together interfere greatly with the quality of movement. This, when combined with complex movements can lead to injury or the formation of dysfunctional movement habits. You can often witness this deterioration among people who do bootcamp and Crossfit, where Tabata features a lot.

Since kettlebells involve complex motor skills, and I value quality of movement very highly, I don’t use Tabata with kettlebells.

Instead, to improve one’s conditioning, I recommend:

– running, 20-30 minutes 1-3 times per week is enough

– sprints (with 1:5 or more work:rest ratio), or hill sprints which are safer on the knees and better for glute strength, once every 7-10 days

– hiking, once or twice per week for a couple of hours, preferably with a backpack and on hilly terrain.

– kettlebell EMOMs and complexes, 1-3 times per week

– regular interval training (1:1 to 1:2 work:rest ratio).

Those options are just as good at increasing VO2 max while maintaining technique integrity, are less risky, less exhausting and more sustainable in the long run.

My personal preference is that I’m not into high intensity training in general, as I don’t like to suffer 🤪 However, I know many people who do and while I would still recommend the alternative methods above, the Tabata protocol might be useful for the more… erm … masochistic individuals, in small doses.

So, for that, I would recommend using simple cyclical ‘cardio’ exercises like jump rope, stationary bike, rower etc so as to avoid the fallout from technique breakdown and achieve necessary intensity.


I hope this helps!

Can I turn out my toes in kettlebell swing?

Question:

‘When we adopt a squat stance, we can play around with the width of our stance and turnout of our feet, depending on individual hip structure and the upright torso requirement (Goblet, Front or Overhead Squats have different requirements when it comes to upright torso position, thus the stance for them will be different).

I wanted to know if similar principles of foot angles and width may be applied to hip hinge as well. I ask this because I have seen many people swinging with their toes turned out and a wide stance. ‘

Answer:


Hinging is a different movement pattern from squatting. Hinging is horizonal and squatting is vertical, so there are different rules. Hip hinge is related to gait (walking, running, bounding, long jump) rather than squat. In those movements, powerful hip extension is a primary mover, while a squat is a knee-extension dominant movement and is far less powerful.

While turning the toes out when squatting might be okay, though should still be minimized if possible, turning the toes out when walking, running, bounding, jumping or pure hip hinging is a dysfunctional motor pattern that leads to drastic reduction in the power production, can lead to joint issues and lack of athletic ability.

When performing loaded hinging movements such as deadlifts, swings, cleans and snatches, toe turnout should be minimal in order to maximize glute activation and torque.

The most powerful stance width for hip extension is with legs vertical aka feet directly under hips.

Naturally, when we swing a kettlebell between our legs, we might have to stand wider than with feet hip width apart (though we should make every effort to stand as narrow as we can possibly get away with, without taking out our kneecaps or compromising the quality of the hinge). The wider the stance, the more the toes will have to turn out. So, there could be a little toe turn out, depending on your height and leg length. For example, I’m a short person 5’1 (155cm) and to pass a 24kg kettlebell between my short little legs, I have to stand wider than a 6ft (185cm) man would have to do. So my toes might turn out a tiny bit, while his won’t.


This turnout, along with deviation from vertical legs, will reduce hip power production. But we should make it as minimal as possible by standing as narrow as possible and keeping the toes as parallel as possible.

In sumo Deadlifts and double KB movements, a wide stance might force more toe turnout, which will reduce power production. Such is the trade-off for picking up large things, but even there we should aim to stand as narrow and as parallel as we can get away with. No movement should cause joint pain.

Those wide-stance movements are also much less horizontal (hinge) and more vertical (squat) for that reason. Since the hinge pattern is impaired by the wide stance and toe turnout, the body needs to generate power through another pattern – the squat. So, a movement like a double KB clean would be more of a hinge-squat than a pure hinge. 

This is totally normal, because in nature there are very few pure movement patterns, we always combine them depending on what needs to be done. Still, it’s important to know how you can optimize each pattern so that you can make a decision with your eyes wide open when the time comes for throwing heavy things around.

Conclusion:

In general, any degree of deviation from vertical legs and parallel feet in a pure hinge movement pattern will lead to a reduction in power and less glute activation. However, if the nature of the load dictates a wider stance (eg double Kettlebell lifts), some hip power might have to be compromised and other movement patterns engaged to complete the task.

Thank you to Deepak for a great question!

What Kettlebellers Can Learn from Bodybuilders and Old School Russians

Hardstyle kettlebell training is notorious for its goals of strength and power, short training sessions, using compound lifts, practicing the same movements over and over again, and using low rep ranges: 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps being the standard format. 


Bodybuilding is notorious for its goal of muscle hypertrophy, ultra-long training sessions, employing both compound and isolation movements, using variations of exercises, and going across rep ranges including using high-rep sets to induce pump.


And interestingly enough, those who do bodybuilding, aside from issues with steroid abuse and spending inordinate lengths of time at the gym, have remarkably healthy joints. 
Having done bodybuilding training before, I can attest that this is probably due to their good technique, muscle awareness and relatively high-rep sets. 


I think that if hardstyle Kettlebellers want to keep their joints healthy, they would be wise to take a leaf out of a bodybuilder’s book and vary both our rep ranges and exercises just a little bit more. 


I’m not suggesting going full CrossFit with insane exercise variability, or going full Girevoy Sport with extreme high rep range. Those are sports, and sports are always extreme. 


Here’s what I mean:


First, maximal strength isn’t everything. Most of life’s activities don’t require maximal strength feats, instead they require a repetitive and sustained moderate effort. Think hunting and gathering, DIY house renovations, gardening, hiking, chasing after toddlers, playing social sports, cleaning etc. Our bodies must have capacity to keep going over the longer haul. And pure low-rep strength training doesn’t deliver in that regard as much as you might think. 


Yes, the skill transfer of maximal strength is huge, but the cost of maximal strength *training* is also huge. And you don’t need to engage in maximal strength training in order to get very strong, you just need to train consistently for a very long time. I’m a living testament to that, as well as my family.


Second, our ligaments and tendons don’t recover as fast as muscles during strength training, because they don’t have as much blood supply due to their structure and lack of capillarization. Constantly working on strength and in low rep ranges (even with varying weights) will increase muscle tensile strength, but since the ligaments aren’t catching up as quickly, they get strained by being pulled on with the ever stronger muscles. 


Higher rep training with moderate weights pushes more blood and nutrients into the tissues, and pumps toxic byproducts out faster. High lactate is not the problem if you don’t go crazy on volume and allow your body to recover with proper rest. That’s why a physiotherapist will give you endurance and hypertrophy training in order to strengthen your rehabilitating tendon or ligament. They will never give you 3-5 reps of high load, unless they’re trying to keep you coming for longer.


Third, kettlebells actually lend themselves to a progression from low rep training to high rep training. Back in the day of Russian kettlebell fitness, one would start with a kettlebell that feels moderately heavy (we could only have 16kg and above back then), and uses it for whatever lifts one can do with it (sometimes all you can do its just deadlift and carry it, which is fine). As you become stronger overtime, your Kettlebell feels lighter, and you add more exercises such as cleans, squats, and eventually jerks, snatches and strict press. Then, instead of purchasing a heavier kettlebell right away, a Russian would ‘milk’ the current kettlebell for all it’s got. They would do higher and higher reps with it, building endurance, tissue resilience and capacity. ‘Owning the Kettlebell’ in other words. Then, once it’s got so light that one can lift it overhead for 5-10 minutes non-stop, one goes and buys a bigger one. 


Nowadays, we don’t need to be so limited, but there’s a benefit to both exercise variability and to building high reps before you upgrade to a heavier bell. 


This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do pure strength training. 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps definitely has its place and I recommend doing it regularly if your goal is strength gains. 


However, if you aren’t in a hurry then you might choose a more moderate rep range, such as 3 sets of 8-12 reps. The risk to benefit ratio of constant heavy lifting is pretty high and isn’t the magic bullet it is sold to be over the long haul.


Having compared how my body feels and performs on heavy lifting and on moderate lifting, I would take moderate any day. And I have achieved feats of strength *without* heavy lifting, but instead but doing moderate reps with moderate weights for over 20 years. No joint injuries either. 


My mom is in her 60s, and she’s doing 16kg get ups and jumping lunges like a pro, no joint issues. And she has never pushed for heavy weights. 
My father is in his 60s and he can perform 25 pullups unbroken, he has never pushed for heavy lifting. 
Both of them have exercised their entire lives. 


Heavy lifting with low reps sells because, just like an extreme diet, it promises to deliver fast results. And just like an extreme diet, it does deliver, but with side effects of unpleasant long-term consequences – joint problems, lack of motor control, a fried central nervous system, a lack of capacity in higher rep ranges, and a higher risk of injury. 


Also, few people know that one can get the same strength-building effects with higher reps (8-12) when applied consistently over time. The key word here is *over time* and in our instant gratification culture, many people forget the value of consistently doing something relatively easy for a long time. Instead, we fall for the bootcamp mentality of ‘strength gains in 6 weeks’. And we pay the price. 

So, if you are playing the long game, I recommend going like the bodybuilders and old school Russians, and doing higher reps with moderate weights more often and focus on consistency over time. 


Example of rep range variability over a month:

Week 1: 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps

Week 2: 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps

Week 3: 2-3 sets of 15 reps

Week 4: active recovery, yoga, swimming, hiking etc

Kettlebells vs Bodybuilding

(Thank you to Francheska for the great question)

Can I keep the muscles that I built through bodybuilding style training when I move to solely kettlebells and bodyweight training?


Short answer: no

Long answer:
Kettlebell training and bodybuilding training have very different objectives.


Bodybuilding is first and foremost about the appearance and aesthetic proportionality of the muscles. The strength, mobility and endurance that might come with that is incidental – function follows form.


In bodybuilding, you look at your body, and, with an ideal or ‘better’ look in mind, you do exercises that increase the size of this or that muscle, so your body looks closer to that ideal.

Bodybuilding has visual trends the same way that beauty industry has trends. Smaller waist or thicker waist, bulging shoulders or pumped chest, more size in legs or arms, slim look or pumped up look – glance through bodybuilding history and you’ll see the different trends. 

Kettlebell is a functional training tool that is first and foremost about improving basic athleticism of the body and real life movement quality (strength, endurance, mobility). The look, lean muscle, fat loss etc that come with kettlebell training are incidental – form follows function. 


In kettlebell training, you move your body and based on the movement objective (say, a kettlebell snatch for 10 reps each side, every minute on the minute, for 5 minutes), your body develops attributes – muscle strength/size in glutes, hamstrings, back, shoulders, triceps – IN PROPORTION to what the task requires. 


In bodybuilding, the size of your biceps can be functionally disproportional to the size of your lats, but visually appealing for the fashion of the day. 


In kettlebell training, the size of your biceps will be exactly what it needs to be to allow you to perform swings, cleans, pullups and rows with an appropriate weight using good form. When you do compound training based on fundamental human movement patterns (squat, hinge, lunge, push, pull, carry), the muscles develop in the proportions they are used for functional movement. Which is often not the way they are developed for the preferred look with bodybuilding. 

Both disciplines provide a measure of strength, mobility, endurance, appearance,  muscularity and ‘the look’. Both, when done in moderation, improve your life. 


But their focus is different, so you simply need to decide what’s more important to you and go from there. 

Remember, you don’t have to choose strictly one or the other. It isn’t a cookie cutter prescription. You can – and I would say, must – create a mix that is unique to you, your life and your preferences. 

How to Kettlebell Train Outside in the Winter

There is always temptation to spend the entire winter training indoors, but such a temptation is a false friend. Being outside in winter is even more important than it is in summer.

In general, outdoor training boosts energy, allows us to reconnect with nature and escape the electronic and concrete jungle, improves creativity and induces calm. But winter outdoor training has its own advantages.

First, According to Harvard Medical School’s research, training in the colder temperatures may improve endurance and workout efficiency because the heart doesn’t have to work as hard, you don’t have to produce as much sweat and expend as much energy for cooling the body down.

Second, studies have shown that exercising in cold weather helps transform the dead-weight white fat around the belly and thigh area into more efficient calorie-burning brown fat. (see article HERE) So, training in the cold helps you shrink your waistline.

And third, winter outdoor training exposes the body to sunlight. Getting some sunlight regularly is crucial for healthy bones, a robust immune system, and mental wellbeing. Winter exposure to sunlight not only helps you avoid the SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder, but also helps prevent many forms of cancer including colon, breast, prostate, and melanoma (see article HERE).

To kettlebell train safely and effectively in cold weather, here are some tips based both on personal outdoor training experience and on coaching outdoor kettlebell classes all year round.

  1. Warm up thoroughly

Cold muscles, ligaments and tendons are at much greater risk of injury and strain, so warming up is crucial in all weathers. However, in the cold, the warm up needs to be more thorough.

Start with 3-5 minutes of general aerobic movement (jogging, walking up and down stairs, stepping on a park bench, doing jumping jacks or jump rope).

Then warm up each major joint, using large movements to keep the body temperature up, and do not stop moving. It takes less time to cool down in the cold, so standing around motionless for too long is not the best.

All around, your winter warm-up will take you 10-15 minutes.

Here is an example of a 15 min warm-up from our outdoors kettlebell classes:

  • Aerobic warm up: 3 minutes.
    • Stair climbing, first taking one, then two steps at a time x 3 minutes.
    • Alternative: bench step ups x 30 seconds per leg
  • Dynamic Mobility: 10 minutes:
    • Arm Circles, Hip circles x 30 seconds
    • Side-to-Side Bends x 30 seconds
    • Forward and Back Bends x 30 seconds
    • Dive Dog x 30 seconds
    • Glute Bridge x 30 seconds
    • Down Dog w Spider Lunge x 30 seconds
    • Single Leg RDL x 30 seconds each side
    • Slingshot x 30 seconds, changing directions half way
    • Back pass to High Five x 30 seconds
    • Figure 8 to High Five x 30 seconds
    • Halo x 30 seconds
    • Prying Goblet Squat x 30 seconds
    • Frog Blossom x 60 seconds
    • Dowel Dislocates, Reverse Dislocates x 30 seconds each
    • Turkish Get Up x 1 each side or Windmill x 5 each side

2. Cool Down.

Just as warming up is important, so it cooling down. It helps keep our heart in good shape, helps the body eliminate exercise by-products and reduce stiffness and muscle soreness. So, it is best to taper intensity down in the final 5-10 minutes of training.

In outdoor classes, cooldown is performing some bodyweight drills such as ab rollouts, static holds such as planks, parallel bar supports, and static stretches.

3. Wear DRY clothing

I love wearing cotton. It’s soft and comfortable. In perfect weather conditions. But cotton is the absolute enemy when training in hot or cold weather. Cotton holds onto sweat and stays wet and soggy, and wet fabric next to your skin will drain body heat. Instead, use synthetic fibers (polypropylene, polyester, nylon) which are designed to dry fast and wick moisture away from your skin.

3. Wear Layers

When you start training, you will be cold, so you need to wear an outer layer of clothing while warming up. After warming up, you might want to gradually take off some layers, so as to avoid sweating through your clothing and enable efficient cooling of the body.

Here’s how to layer up for kettlebell workouts in winter:

First, put on a thin base layer made of dry fabrics (see above). Second, wear a middle layer – a hoodie, a merino top or a polar fleece zip-up, and finally wear an outer shell that is windproof, water-resistant (if you’re planning to train in the rain) and breathable.

4. Cover your extremities

When you are cold, your body pulls heat away from the extremities – fingers, ears, nose and toes – which can lead to those body parts feeling the chill and distracting you from training.

For kettlebell training, our hands must be warm and nimble. You cannot afford to have frozen fumbling fingers when you need to re-grip a kettlebell in the air when switching hands. Therefore, I recommend wearing gloves while warming up in really cold weather, and even during the workout if necessary. Cold weather can mean anything from +12 of Auckland, New Zealand to -25 of Russia. So, be sensible, dress to your climate. Remember, Kettlebells were invented in Russia, where 6 months out of the year there’s snow on the ground. Russians wear gloves when warming up outdoors in winter.

Training in cotton gloves is actually part of Girevoy Sport preparation. It is done specifically to improve grip strength. But if you would rather not have too much difficulty gripping the kettlebell, you can buy gloves that have leather inserts on the palms, which will help with the grip. Such gloves are available from any outdoor / hiking sports store such as Kathmandu, Bivouac, Mountain Designs, MacPac etc. If you’re planning to sweat in your gloves, it is helpful to wear glove liners made of moisture-wicking material under your thicker gloves.

Gloves for kettlebell training in winter

When it’s very cold or windy, cold ears or wind whistling in the ear canal can be very distracting. So, either wear a warm beany, or if you don’t like your hair to be flattened by hats, then you can wear a polar fleece neck gaiter, which covers your ears but leaves the top of your head free.

Neck Gaiter covers your ears but leaves your hair free.

Extremely cold air or wind can impair breathing, because our air passages narrow in the cold. If you struggle to breathe in the cold air, you can pull a light head tube up over your nose in the matter of a ski mask. This will trap warm air near your mouth so that you can keep breathing freely.

Covering your mouth and nose can help you prevent frostbite in extremely cold weather.

Finally, keeping the feet warm is important because frozen feet aren’t good for balance and stability. However, kettlebell training is best done with minimalist footwear or barefoot. What to do in winter? Choose quality winter shoes.

When selecting cold weather training footwear, pay attention to these 2 things:

  1. Flat soles with zero drop from heel to toe. This will ensure your ankles are positioned at a natural angle. If possible, the soles should be flexible too. Nowadays, there are some excellent winter hiking or trail running shoes with flat and flexible soles.
  2. Wide toe box. This simply means that your toes should be able to spread inside the shoe. Too many shoes have narrow toe boxes which mummify your toes, squeezing them together and preventing your foot from doing its job of balancing and sending information about the terrain to your brain. Narrow shoes are for fashion, never for training. When choosing your cold weather shoes, spread your toes like a frog inside the shoe, if you cannot do it, keep looking.
Look for hiking boots that have zero drop from heel to toe and a wide toe box. These Merrell hiking boots have both of those qualities, plus being waterproof and warm.

5. Stay Hydrated

You are more likely to get dehydrated in winter because cold weather kills the desire to drink water. However, being hydrated is essential for regulating body temperature. Dehydration impairs your body both from cooling itself down and warming itself up. So, it is wise to sip water before, during and after training.