There is something to be said about simplicity of movement and reinforcing the fundamental patterns of our kettlebell lifting.
I’ve taken two basic exercises and by using two kettlebells and focusing on the correct alignment and movement, I have turned them into simple and effective exercises for all populations—including your brand new clients, older clients and those recovering from certain injuries.
Double Kettlebell Deadlift Drag
The first drill is a double kettlebell deadlift drag. Normally we do this exercise with one heavy kettlebell. By using two medium to heavy kettlebells (heavy enough to complete the movement correctly with each arm), you open up the upper body kinetic chain. This will illuminate asymmetries from one side of the body to the other. It also allows you to strengthen the weaker side. Start with the same size kettlebell in each hand and then use a kettlebell one size larger on the weaker side.
For the purposes of this article and video, I will be using the same size kettlebell.
Get into the set up position. The kettlebells are approximately an arm’s length in front of you. Grab the kettlebells and pull yourself back toward your heels. You should feel as though you would fall back on your butt if you let go of the kettlebells. Lock your lats down into a packed position and maintain a long and neutral spine. SLOWLY drag the kettlebells back towards your heels with your elbows straight. Feel how the movement is initiated by the lats and the triceps. Do not let your hips drop below your knees, and do not let your spine flex at all!
The key is to not use any momentum. In fact, it is best if the floor you are using is sticky or rubber—the more resistance the floor offers the better.
If you feel most of the tension in the quads, then you are not getting your hips back far enough and are trying to hold your position with your quads instead of your glutes and hammies. The abs must be braced the entire time, and you should use a long firm exhale as you drag the kettlebells back. Release, step back, and re-set for the next rep.
I go the length of my gym, or at least 8-10 drags. Repeat for 1 or 2 more sets as desired. Remember, never let your back round into flexion at any time during this exercise!
Double Kettlebell Straight-Leg Deadlift
The double kettlebell straight-leg deadlift, is another simple but effective exercise to challenge the posterior chain. It is an excellent exercise for the hamstrings and glutes. And as in the deadlift drag above, it utilizes the lats.
There is an interesting difference between these two exercises. The deadlift drag uses the lats to do the work by pulling the kettlebells back toward the heels, while the hips and legs maintain stable strength. With the straight-leg deadlift, the lats are held stable while the hips and hammies initiate the movement through hinging. In other words, the movements and stabilization are reversed, but both are working the same muscles. Pretty cool huh!
Here’s how to do the double kettlebell straight-leg deadlift:
Pick up two moderately heavy kettlebells using good deadlift technique. Stand with your feet between hip and shoulder width apart. Keep your elbows straight and locked, and your lats retracted and contracted. Begin to send your hips back into a hinge. Keep your knees as straight as you can manage while maintaining a neutral spine at all times.
The amount of knee flexion and the depth of your torso forward relate to your hamstring flexibility. The more flexible you are, the straighter you can keep your knees and the lower you can fold forward without any flexion in your spine.
Inhale into your belly as your chest comes forward. Pause briefly at the bottom, keeping the glutes and hamstrings contracted. Tighten a little more and then exhale as you come back up to the starting position.
You will feel a deep stretch/contraction from your glutes down through your hamstrings. This exercise can be considered a loaded stretch for the glutes and hamstrings. It is a very powerful hamstring developer.
As usual, there should be NO flexion in the spine. Start with a limited range of motion until you can use the full range of motion with a neutral spine. You can adjust the amount of knee flexion as well—just don’t allow yourself to turn it into a regular deadlift, you’ll be cheating yourself out of the main benefit of this exercise.
As I mentioned above, the lats, back and core are working very hard to stabilize during this exercise, so they are benefiting too!
Start with 3 sets of 8 moving slow and controlled.
Andrea Du Cane is a Master RKC Kettlebell Instructor, CK-FMS, CICS, and RIST, ZHealth certified, she has a BA in Psychology from the University of Minnesota and is also a Pilates instructor. She is the author of several books and dvds including The Ageless Body, The Kettlebell Boomer, and The Kettlebell Goddess Workout. She has over twenty years of aerobics, weight training and fitness experience, with an additional background in… Read more here.