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Four Kettlebell Moves for a Bigger Powerlifting Total

March 11, 2009 04:27 PM

Powerlifters are a resourceful group; we'll do damn near anything to add pounds to our lifts and grow our total. Go to any powerlifting gym today and you'll likely see lifters using bands, chains, dragging sleds, and other various tools to help them move progressively bigger iron!

Unfortunately, too many people view Kettlebells solely as a conditioning tool. In fact, the following moves can help you get stronger, improve mobility, and take your powerlifting total to the next level…

Renegade Rows

Talk to any good powerlifter and they'll tell you that there's nothing isolative in powerlifting. Even the bench press which tests upper body strength is built upon a strong set-up and a solid foundation in the upper back, core and legs.

Renegade rows teach you total body tension and force the body to work as a seamlessly integrated unit. Trust me when I say this, though: Start lighter than you think!

Grab two Kettlebells of equal weight and place them on the ground in front of you. You're going to set-up in a position similar to a push-up, with the exception that your hands will be holding on to the Kettlebells versus resting on the floor. Press up so that your body is in a straight line; your torso, hips, and thighs should be nice and straight.

Focus on locking down the core and opposite side of the body, and then row one kettlebell towards the bottom of your ribcage. The goal should not only be to get the weight up, but to minimize movement throughout the rest of your body. Stay tight!


While swings are a great conditioning tool, they also offer multiple benefits to the aspiring powerlifter:
  • They mimic good spinal alignment for the squat and deadlift
  • They develop active flexibility in the glutes/hamstrings
  • They develop glute strength which is critical for locking out big pulls
To begin grab a single kettlebell with both hands, and the feet just outside of shoulder width. To keep the knees happy, make sure that the feet, knees and hips are in a straight line relative to each other.

Begin by allowing the kettlebell to swing back in between the legs; in this position, it's critical to maintain your lumbar arch and keep your chest out. While some prefer to keep the head up, I prefer a neutral neck position (chin tucked) with the eyes looking slightly upwards. It may feel awkward at first, but it will come. Sit back until you get a stretch in the hamstrings, and then reverse the movement by snapping the hips forward. Squeeze the glutes at the top, and then allow momentum to bring the kettlebell back behind the body.

Tricep Extensions

While I'm generally not a huge fan of isolation work, the triceps are a muscle group that absolutely must be developed if you want a strong bench. Most lifters are limited by the weight they can lock out, so tricep extensions may be just the exercise you need.

Plus, they're good enough for Louie Simmons and his crew of powerlifters at Westside. If they're good enough for Louie, they're good enough for you!

Grab a pair of Kettlebells and lay back on a bench with the arms extended overhead. Breaking only at the elbows, allow the Kettlebells to fall just alongside your face/head. Flex the triceps to return the Kettlebells back to the starting position.


Windmills may actually be my favorite kettlebell exercise of all time. Like swings, they train multiple qualities. Firstly, they work to improve hip mobility, which is important for achieving depth in the squat, as well as getting into the proper starting position for the deadlift. Along those same lines, they are excellent for teaching isometric strength in the core and lumbar stabilizers; the low back position is locked in throughout, while moving the hips through a nice range of motion. All in all, a great exercise.

Take a kettlebell in one hand and extend it overhead; once locked in, the shoulder and elbow should stay in this position throughout. If the kettlebell is in your right hand, both feet should be rotated to the left.

From the starting position, take a deep breath, set the core, and think about pushing your right hip out to the side. The right knee is allowed to bend subtly, but try and keep the left knee straight throughout. As you push through the hip, allow your opposite arm to hang in front of your legs. In the bottom position, you should form a straight line between your right arm (which is holding the kettlebell), and your left arm which is hanging down towards the ground.


Powerlifting is a sport that's beautiful in its simplicity — get stronger, lift heavier weights, and you're improving. Use the exercises I've described in this article to take your technique (and your total) to new found heights!

Author Bio

Mike Robertson, M.S., C.S.C.S., U.S.AW., has helped clients and athlete from all walks of life achieve their strength, physique and performance related goals. Mike received his Masters Degree in Sports Biomechanics from the world-renowned Human Performance Lab at Ball State University.

Mike is the president of Robertson Training Systems, and the co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training in Indianapolis, Indiana.