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5 Kettlebell Drills To Add Real Function To Your Fitness

In the 17 years since I received my first kettlebell certification, I have seen some interesting evolutions in kettlebell training. When I attended that first kettlebell certfification, probably at least 70 percent of us had never touched a kettlebell before. We went through a wide variety of different drills back then, and I was amazed by the incredible versatility and effectiveness of such a simple instrument.

In actually teaching at this kettlebell certification I’m not sure what is more shocking, my hair or the outfit?!

When you do anything new, you can learn a lot of lessons not just as a student, but also as a teacher. I saw that many students needed to slow down, focus, and be more thoughtful about their movement. I realized they would reap greater benefit from skilled practice of a few exercises, rather than just learning a large number of exercises.

Most kettlebell programs place heavy emphasis on:

Goblet squat
Turkish get up
Front squat
Clean and press

Reducing the number of drills was a smart move. I see students now emerging with greater skills than I possessed after attending my first course. However, the downside is that people think the value of kettlebells lies in only a small number of exercises. Some or many of these exercises are well beyond someone starting a fitness program, or even in learning kettlebells.


The truth is, there are so many kettlebell and DVRT drills that can allow you to excel at these 6 movements. That is why I wanted to outline drills that often get overlooked in the qualities they build not just for kettlebells, but in improving functional strength overall. You will find that these drills also give you information and feedback upon what we need to work upon to raise our performance and injury resilience.

Renegade Rows

Renegade rows expose weaknesses in stability and strength like few other drills. Any exercise that can make you feel absolutely spent after just five reps must be doing a lot to your body.

Renegade rows are an amazing plank, work cross patterns, stabilize the shoulder, self-correct bracing, teach how to pack the shoulder, and develop force through the whole body. See, I told you they achieve a lot. You need to make them a constant in your strength training practice, not a drill that makes the occasional cameo.

Of course renegade rows are pretty advanced for many, that is why we can help build that progression with our plank lateral drags and bird dog progressions. Why not kettlebell bird dog rows from a bench? Drills like renegade rows give us the answer. That is we can’t push into the ground with our hands or feet in the bench bird dog like we cue heavily in the renegade row.

It is tempting for some to say, heck I’ll just keep my kettlebell out and use it for all these drills. Well, the problem is if you use a saw as a hammer, it doesn’t give you the results you want. As DVRT Master, Ara Keshishian, shows it isn’t the same at all. Friction, dimension, are just some of the variables that people tend to overlook.

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Ultimate Sandbag Lateral Drag VS Kettlebell Lateral Drag. . This is about which is one is more effective, and you get more from it. The answer is Ultimate Sandbag. . Why? It’s because the design of the bag, load distribution and handle puts your arm in a right posit for maximum lat engagement. Your lats will still get engaged with Kettlebell, but not at a maximum level. More lat engagement more stable hip better outcome. This is again about the right tool for the right exercise. You don’t use a hammer to cut a tree. @ultimatesandbag @joshhenkindvrt @jessicabento_mpt @perform_better @chevychaseccfitness #dvrt #ultimatesandbag #sandbagguy #dvrthero #kettlebell #kettlebellworkout #kettlebells #kettlebellhero #fit #dna #fitdna #theabsology #fitnesscoach #functionaltraining #functionalfitness #functionalworkout #sandbagworkout #corestrength #coreworkout #corestrength #strength #strengthtraining #fitspo #strength #strong #iwill

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Single Leg Deadlifts

Single leg deadlifts are good accessory work for swings. They require lower leg, pelvis, and core stability in an unstable load pattern. All these qualities are essential for optimal performance in the swing. We can hide compensations in these three areas during a regular swing, but they become highly exposed during the single leg deadlift.

If for no other reason, you should do single leg deadlifts because they don’t lie about your movement. People think of them as only a “stability” exercise, but stability and strength are interrelated. How much strength do you think you can demonstrate if your stability is terrible?

These types of kettlebell progressions help make great drills like single deadlifts something we can achieve far more effectively. 

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I’ve discussed some of the limitations of using Landmine exercises for upper body based drills, now physical therapist @jessbento_physiotherapist does a probably better job breaking down how there are issues to consider for lower body too! See why the Landmine may not be the best tool for drills like single leg deadlifts! ________ I believe what keeps me excited about what we do with #DVRT is that we aren’t afraid to ask questions. If there is ONE question that every coach or therapist should ask is, “am I picking the BEST solutions for the goal?” Some may think we automatically default to using the Ultimate Sandbag for everything, but that isn’t true. Just like we like to think about if exercises that are commonly prescribed are as good as we may think. @Joshhenkindvrt and I thought using landmine exercises as an example could really help! ➡️Check out WAY more in the great post Josh wrote in today’s blog…LINK in my BIO! ______ While we reserve the idea of something being “wrong” for those drills that have a high risk of injury, we just look at what happens during a movement like landmine single leg deadlift and feel like explaining the shortcomings can help people to better solutions! ______ What’s the “issue” we see with a single leg deadlift with a landmine? The issue really stems from the same thing that makes so many people like it. Which is that the landmine stabilizes the lifter and movement so we actually do build the motor control to move our own bodies through space. Having something else artificially balance us doesn’t teach our body how to control the movement, therefore, the transfer tends to be very poor. ______ Instead, we should use progressions that help us build up to that level of stability and strength. People tend to underrate single leg deadlifts because the load is typically lower, but we also can’t see all the work our body is performing to RESIST unwanted movement. Therefore, there is A LOT more going on. Using strategies in our system of manipulating plane of motion and holding position along with using feedback strategies like the @perform_better XL mini band, kettlebells (yes, they are important feedback tools)

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Physical Therapist, Jessica Bento, shows how we combine kettlebells and Ultimate Sandbags to build more success in the single leg deadlift. We don’t recommend the landmine because it creates artificial support that doesn’t allow our body to learn how to control its own body. That is why smarter progressions as we showed above create better success.

Heavy Single Arm Squats

Heavy can be a relative term. I define heavy as a weight that you could do five, maybe six, but not seven repetitions in a row.

Why heavy single arm front squats as opposed to doing doubles? Because they train both strength and stability. Spinal expert Dr. Stuart McGill speaks at great lengths about the value of learning to resist movement as much as producing it. Few drills allow us to do both under an appreciable load like single arm front squats do.

If done correctly, you are not just squatting up and down, but resisting rotation. Watch the pelvis, feet, and torso when performing heavy single arm front squats. Often you will feel or see a weird “wiggle” or even the complete inability to resist these forces. That means your body has more strength “leakages” than you may have thought. Oh, and these single kettlebell squats will drive up your squat numbers, too.

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It is the number 1 reason to focus on movement and not exercises. It’s been funny to watch some attach the #kettlebell goblet squat because the limiting factor is the arms. These people jump to kettlebell #squats can’t make you strong because you can’t load them enough, that’s silly! ——————- 💡 By changing how we use the load we can still load the squat a lot but even more importantly keep the integration of the core and mobility of the hips. The goblet squat wasn’t meant to be a world record squat, but to de the foundation for other squats! A great example is moving to double kettlebell squats which overload the squat more! Then we can progressively move to off-set kettlebell squats which use different weights to challenge the ability to resist motion. How we take a sagittal plane exercise and make it more multi-planar and challenging the #glutes and core to higher levels! —————- 💡 Don’t get stuck on exercises you will be prone to bad advice and missing the benefits of thinking much bigger!

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If you already do get ups, you might not see the need for windmills, but there are differences. The most obvious is range of motion. The standing position in the windmill allows us to get far deeper into our lateral system. This not only serves as an important dynamic stretch, but also lights up one of the most important muscle groups in our body, the obliques. Weak or dormant obliques can wreak havoc in your movement and decrease your ability to develop full-body strength.

Windmills are sly in that they teach us how to perform a hip hinge in something other than the sagittal plane. The sagittal what? We have three planes of motion, and in movement outside of the gym we regularly use all three. Unfortunately, most gym-based functional fitness programs only work the sagittal plane, which means they aren’t all that functional. Performing windmills is a simple way to work the hip hinge in a different plane of motion.

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If you would have asked me over 15 years ago when I became a physical therapist the best way to help make shoulders strong and healthy I would have probably have given you some very classic band external rotation exercises, wall slides, exercises that really focused on trying to isolate the shoulder. That is one of the biggest differences for me today as a therapist, I look at the body as a whole and how we are connected, realizing the area we experience issues may NOT be the area that caused it! _____________ I think the kettlebell windmill is a great example of how these concepts fit together as most generally look at the windmill as a “shoulder stability” exercise. They see the kettlebell overhead and think THAT is how we are helping the shoulder. While that does play a role, the BIGGER concepts are what is happening at the core and hip. ____________ Both @joshhenkindvrt and I look at the windmill more of a lateral hip hinge than dominant shoulder exercise. When you think about what is actually moving during the drill it is the hip and core that dictate the exercise, not so much the shoulder. Heck, you don’t even have to hold a weight overhead to do the windmill and it is often better NOT to as I show in one of our Ultimate Sandbag progressions. The connection of the hips and core do more for what happens than the shoulder itself! __________ That is what inspired today’s post about understanding more about the windmill and what we are truly trying to accomplish and the progressions we can use. I hope you will start your Monday off right by ➡️checking out today’s blog post where we discuss these ideas. Go to my BIO for the full article 🔗

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Alternating Presses and Rows

Athletes are often shocked at how much their trunk gets torched during these motions. These drills are great for those who want to improve their pressing, squatting, and deadlifting numbers.

Cross-patterning exercises like dead bugs and crawling are great for the nervous system and teaching the body real-life movement. One of the simplest ways of applying these same concepts to strength work is by integrating alternating arm movements into presses and rows at different positions. These exercises also show areas in which people are compensating and losing the tension that helps them develop great strength.

Find out way more about how a more thorough system of kettlebell training can help you solve so many fitness goals and provide a great training experience. Save 30% on ALL our DVRT Online Education like our Progressive Kettlebell Movement Certification (PKM) HERE with code “dvrt30”