Kettlebell exercises for lineout lifters
Looking not unlike cannonballs with handles, kettlebells are a fun and training tool. They’ve been around for hundreds of years, and have been hovering in the background of fitness training since the early 20th century. In the last decade or so, kettlebells have really stormed to the forefront of fitness, often touted as the ultimate exercise tool for developing functional fitness and strength.
Kettlebells are great for ruggers because they tend to have a thicker than normal handle, meaning they will develop your all-important grip strength. Also, the offset load makes many traditional dumbbell and barbell exercises much more challenging.
You can use kettlebells instead of, or in conjunction, with regular free weights to improve strength and power for lineout lifting. You could simply use kettlebells for your normal strength and power workout, or build your workout around the following lineout-specific lifting exercises.
The exercises below are listed from easiest to hardest. Work down the list in order, only moving onto the next one when you are ready.
1. Kettlebell goblet squat
Lifting heavy objects overhead starts with a strong, stable base and that, ruggers, means squats. Barbell squats are great for developing maximal strength, but they lack one vital ingredient for lineout lifters: active arm involvement. It’s all well and good having super-strong legs, but if you can’t transfer that power from your lower body to your upper body, that strength is all-but redundant.
Front squats are a good option but as a) Tim asked for a kettlebell article and b) not all ruggers have the mobility and flexibility to do front squats, goblet squats are the exercise of choice.
Goblet squats not only strengthen your legs, they also work your anterior and posterior core, arms, upper back and shoulders. For those Props and Hookers reading, they’re a great way to strengthen your neck without doing a host of neck exercises. They also help to reinforce proper squat mechanics and are what fitness pros call a self-limiting exercise. This just means that, as you get tired, it’s all-but almost impossible to start grinding out reps with bad technique. Once mastered, make sure you treat goblet squats like any strength exercise – go heavy!
See how to do kettlebell goblet squats here:
2. Kettlebell thruster
Successful lineout lifting is the result of the coordinated use your arms and legs working in elegant harmony! You don’t lift with your legs, and you don’t lift with your arms. Instead, you use your entire body to hoist your teammate aloft.
Kettlebell thrusters, which are usually performed for high reps and used as a metabolic conditioning exercise, are also great for developing strength and power, especially if performed using heavy weights and low reps.
You initiate the lift with a powerful leg extension, transfer that force up through your tightly braced core, along your arms, and into the weights, using that momentum to help you drive it up and overhead. You should be able to thrust considerably more weight than you can press.
Don’t turn this into a push-press or a jerk, both of which involve relatively low amounts of lower body activity. Instead, squat deep and then explode out of the hole with maximal power. The increased range of motion will ensure your legs get a thorough workout as well as your upper body.
See how to do kettlebell thrusters here:
3. Double kettlebell clean and push press
The clean and press is arguably the most functional exercise for lineout lifters. It not only works all the muscles you’ll need to use when you lift, it also teaches proper lifting technique, developing intra-joint and intra-muscular coordination.
The main difference between a double kettlebell clean and press and a barbell clean and press is that you are going to have to work a lot harder to stabilize the objects you are lifting.
Your fellow rugby players are a (hopefully!) live and dynamic weight. In contrast, a barbell is completely inert. Doing your clean and push-press with two free-moving kettlebells will more closely replicate the demands of lifting your teammates.
If you are new to kettlebell training, learn and perfect this exercise using just one kettlebell. Then, once you have mastered the exercise, step up to two.
See this exercise in action here:
4. Kettlebell waiter’s walk
Once you have raised your teammate overhead, you need to be able to hold them stable – albeit for a very brief time. In addition, lifting and holding heavy and unstable weights overhead requires strong, stable shoulders, and a solid core. The kettlebell waiter’s walk will give you all these things, is a great anaerobic conditioning exercise, and will also make sure everyone stays out of your way when you are training.
With this exercise, using one arm emphasizes one side of your core at a time, whereas using both arms emphasizes shoulder and thoracic spine mobility, and shoulder stability. Try them both; the one that feels the hardest is the one you should do more often. The KWW is one of the best ab exercises in a rugger’s repertoire.
See the one-armed version here:
See the two-armed version here:
5. Kettlebell Turkish get up
The Turkish get up has very little to do with Turkey (the festive meat or the country) but is a very useful exercise for lineout lifters. Including this exercise in your workouts will enhance shoulder strength and stability, and also improve your balance, mobility, and coordination. It’s also an effective core exercise that places a surprising amount of stress on your cardiorespiratory system.
The biggest mistake most people make with this exercise is doing too many reps. Three to five reps per side is plenty and, if you can do more reps than this, you need to use a heavier kettlebell. Remember, we’re trying to prioritize strength for rugby, not “tone up”!
Once mastered, you should be able to use some impressive weights with this exercise. No kettlebell? No problem. Just use a (light) teammate!
Learn how to do the Turkish get up here:
6. Ruck Science killer kettlebell complex
(For more on complexes, check out this article on the bear complex)
Adding any of the above kettlebell exercises to your current strength training program will help you to become a better lineout lifter. But, if you need an all-in-one workout that is both effective and time efficient, try our killer kettlebell complex.
Place your kettlebells on the floor in front of you, roughly shoulder-width apart. Do one rep of each of the following exercises back to back to make a single, and hopefully smooth sequence.
Once you have done one rep, rest 60-90 seconds, and then do two reps of each exercise. Keep adding one rep per set up to five reps. If you still have energy left, reverse the process doing one less rep per set, until you get back to one.
|Hands on kettlebells push-up|
|Kettlebell renegade row|
|Kettlebell lunge through|
1. Hands on kettlebells push-up
Squat down and place your hands on the tops of the ‘bells. Walk your feet back. Keeping your core tight and legs straight, bend your arms, and lower your chest between your hands. Extend your arms and then move on to the next exercise. Grip the handles tightly to stop the weights from wobbling.
2. Kettlebell renegade row
Without breaking your push-up position, brace your core and bend one arm, rowing the weight up and into your ribs. Extend your arm and then row the other weight up and in. Set the weight down, maintaining that push-up position, move on to the next exercise. Keep your shoulders and hips squared throughout.
3. Kettlebell clean
With your hands till on the weights, jump your feet up to the kettlebells. Drop your hips. Lift your chest, and arch your lower back. Stand up explosively and clean the weights up to your shoulders. Catch the weights with a slight bend in your knees.
4. Kettlebell thruster
With the weights racked at shoulder-height, push your hips back and squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Stand up quickly, using this momentum to drive the weights up and overhead. Lower the weights back down to your shoulders.
5. Kettlebell push-press
With the weights racked at shoulder-height, bend your knees slightly and descend into a quarter-depth squat. Explosively extend your legs and use this momentum to drive the weights up and overhead. Keep the weights held overhead for your final exercise.
6. Kettlebell lunge through
With your kettlebells held overhead, lunge backward with your right leg. Immediately lunge all the way forward with the same leg. Lunge back one more time so your feet are together. Do the same thing leading with your left leg.
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