Kettlebell Overhead Squat Benefits:
1) You can increase your strength and power with kettlebell overhead squats.
2) You can improve your balance and coordination while performing kettlebell overhead squats.
3) You can learn how to perform kettlebell overhead squat properly.
4) You will be able to do more reps with less rest time than other exercises like dumbell presses or barbell curls.
5) You will be able to complete more sets with less rest time than other exercises like barbell bench presses or dumbell rows.
6) You will be able to complete more repetitions with less rest time than other exercises like incline flyes or machine leg raises.
7) You will be able to complete more sets with less rest time than other exercises like weighted dips or machine calf raises.
How To Perform Kettlebell Overhead Squat Properly?
The first thing you need to understand is that there are two types of kettlebell overhead squats: front and back. They both have their own advantages and disadvantages. They also both have their own unique way of being performed. The weight of the kettlebell will be different for each type of squat.
The first type is the back squat. You start with the kettlebell in the back squat position.
This means it will be resting on your upper trapezius muscles located between your neck and shoulders. At this point, you will bend your knees and hips and lower your body until the thighs are just parallel to the ground. It is very important to keep the back as straight as possible during this motion. Exhale as you lower your body and inhale as you come back up. It is also important to remember not to lock your knees when you are coming back up. You should squeeze your glutes as you stand back up and not push off with your feet.
The second type is the front overhead squat (fOS). This motion is very similar to the front squat, but instead of resting the weight on your upper trapezius muscles, you will rest it just in front of them.
This can be a very difficult movement for people with long arms. The other thing you have to be careful about is your grip. Ideally, you want to hold the kettlebell in the center with your thumbs wrapped around the handle and the weight resting on the base of your palm. You do not want to hold the weight at the very top where your fingers are wrapped around it or the weight will be in danger of falling out of your hands.
Go through the same motions as you did with the back squat and remember to keep that back straight while squeezing your glutes at the top of the motion. You can alternate between front and back squats every other day to give your legs a break from all the bending and straightening.
The next step is to learn how to perform the kettlebell overhead squat.
How To Grade Your Kettlebell Overhead Squat:
There are three different types of kettlebell overhead squats that are used to grade your performance. They are the Russian, American and European style.
You can tell which style you are performing by the way the weight is resting in your hands.
The Russian style is the hardest to master because the weight is resting far forward on the hand. This requires you to lean way forward which adds an element of stretching in addition to the squatting motion.
The American version of the overhead squat is easier since the weight is resting toward the back of your hands. The lowest part of the bell will rest at the base of your thumb and forefinger.
The easiest of all three styles is the European style. It still uses a forward lean, but not as much as the Russian version.
The bell will rest at the base of your palm directly under your thumb and forefinger.
The Overhead Kettlebell Squat Progression
Backward Lean: Start out by leaning way back. You can use a wall or another person if you need to so you do not fall over.
You just need to get your legs bent enough where you are at an angle. It is very important to keep your weight on the heels of your feet rather than the toes. Hold that position and bend your knees until they are just past parallel to the floor. Come back up and repeat.
Forward Lean: After you have mastered leaning way back, put a little weight on the heels of your feet and start to move the weight foward. Continue to use the wall or other person to keep from falling over until you can stand by yourself.
Bend your knees until they are just past parallel to the floor and come back up.
Stand Up With The Weight: Now that you can get into the bottom of the squat by yourself, you need to learn how to stand back up with the weight, without assistance. Start by getting into the position described in the last step and then Stand UP!
Do not try to jump up though, just strain to pull your body up from the floor with your knees still bent. The bell should come up with you a little bit and then fall into position.
Do Not Let Go: Once the bell is in position, do not try to let go of it with your hand or you will have to start all over again. Just carefully release the tension on your knees so they are no longer bent and stand all the way up.
Add A Bounce: After you can do the last step without falling over, add a little bounce at the bottom of the squat. As soon as your knees bend to an angle where they are just past parallel to the floor, quickly snap your knees forward and lift with your legs.
The bell should come up to your chest as you stand back up.
Add Forward Lean: Now that you can squat and bounce out of the bottom of the squat, it is time to put it all together. Get into the backward lean position again and squat down with a bounce at the bottom.
As soon as your knees are bent past parallel, snap your knees forward and strain to come up. Lean way forward as you come up so the bell lands in the correct position in your hand (wrists straight and arms locked). You may need to turn your hand slightly so the bell ends up in the right spot.
Stand and Hold: After you can do the last step correctly, you are ready to put it all together. Get into a backward lean position and squat down with a bounce at the bottom.
As soon as your knees are bent past parallel, snap your knees forward and strain to come up while leaning way forward.
Throwing The Bell: After you can do the last step correctly, you are ready to start throwing the bell back between your legs on the squat. Get into a backwards lean position and squat down with a bounce at the bottom.
As soon as your knees are bent past parallel, throw the bell back between your legs and strain to come up while leaning way forward. The bell should land in the correct position in your hand (wrists straight and arms locked). Stand all the way up and hold that position for a second before starting the next repetition. Practice this step until you can do it smoothly.
After you can do it smoothly with one hand, alternate hands each repetition. Do not try to throw the bell back with both hands at the same time.
At first you may only be able to do a few reps of this before your form fails and the bell falls to the floor. That is fine, as long as you are getting stronger each week you are making progress.
Now that you can throw the bell back between your legs, you can start adding a second bounce at the bottom of the squat. Go back to the last step where you were just bouncing out of the bottom of the squat and only doing one hand lift at a time.
Once you can do it smoothly with one hand, start adding the second bounce (bounce…bounce…stand)
This is not really one step but a description of what you need to do to get ready for the next steps. In each squat down, throw the bell back and then do a second bounce at the bottom.
Once you are strong enough, you can start throwing the bell back between your legs on the second bounce from bottom position. You may need to adjust how far back you lean depending on how heavy the bell is. The heavier it is, the farther back you will have to lean.
When you are ready to add the lift part of the one hand snatch, start at the bottom position and throw the bell up slightly after the second bounce. Catch it and lock your arm straight then stand.
This is just like the last step except you are throwing it up instead of to the side. It is important to not release the bell on the way up or you will not be able to do as many repetitions.
Continue doing each part of the one hand snatch until you can do both the throw and lift smoothly.
Once you have learned one hand, you can practice with the other and then both together.
You will eventually need to get a lighter bell. It will be too difficult to learn with a heavy bell.
If there are no lighter bells available, you can do some exercises with what you have learned.
One handed push-ups onto a book to start.
See how far you can jump with the bell in your hand.
Practice throwing the bell back between your legs and catch it behind you.
The list goes on and on, be creative.
A one handed push up with a bell in the hand.
The one arm push up is one of the most impressive things that you can do. It requires great strength in your chest, shoulders and arm.
You will start with a heavy bell and work your way down to a manageable weight as you progress.
You will need either two workout partners or some kind of equipment to put the bell on so that you can put your wrist through it while your arm is in the proper position.
With your arm straight up over your head, have a partner put the bell just above your wrist.
From here, you can either bend your knees and let the bell fall or you can do what I do which is jump up as high as you can while your partner quickly releases the bell.
It is important to have a very controlled decent with the bell. It should take between one and two seconds to get down.
Release your arm very slowly.
This is not going to be easy. Take a long time to get used to the motion and do not try to rush it or any injury could occur.
You can also do this with one leg on a bench. This makes it a little harder because it is putting more of a twist in your body and you cannot bounce as high but it is an option if you think you are ready for it.
I have never been able to find a partner tall enough to make this possible so I have never been able to do it.
Watch your technique before you try it as it can be dangerous. Make sure you do not allow the bell to come down quickly or twist your wrist.
Practice with a very light bell until you are comfortable with it then move up gradually in poundages.
If you do it right, people watching will think you are doing the most difficult exercise in the world. Which in a sense you are, one arm push-ups are very hard.
My one arm push-ups with 100 pounds.
Here I am using a heavier bell for my one arm push-ups. This is around the heavy bell I usually use when doing this exercise.
This is more than most people can do with two arms and legs so you can imagine how much work your chest, shoulders and triceps get from this movement.
You can also use a light bell and do many more repetitions. This will actually work your muscles harder if that is what you are looking for.
It will also help you develop better control of the bell as you will need it for the next exercises.
I like to do at least fifty push-ups with each hand before I move on to the next exercise.
If you want to see an example of the one arm push-ups, google “Flex Magazine” and “Frank Medrano”. He is a Chinese man that can do more one arm push-ups with one hand than I can with two.
Think about that for a second.
One last thing: make sure you switch hands every once in awhile.
You would not want to develop a muscular imbalance.
A two handed floor press with a heavy bell.
You will need a heavier bell for this one also. You will either need two workout partners or some kind of equipment to put the bell at your chest when you are in the floor press position.
Floor presses are a great movement for working your entire shoulder girdle and front deltoids.
Have a partner put the bell at your chest.
From there, sit back on your legs and slowly press the bell upwards.
Make sure you fully extend your arms at the top of each rep and do not twist or bend your wrists. This is very important.
You do not want to get a nasty wrist injury that could potentially keep you from doing anything else for quite awhile.
Try for 5 to 10 reps with an appropriate weight before moving on to another exercise.
This is another exercise you can put a lot of weight on and go for reps or you can use a lighter bell and go for perfection of form.
I personally like to do both to keep things interesting.
As with most of the other exercises, make sure you switch arms every five or ten reps.
A close grip floor press with a light bell.
The close grip floor press is basically the same thing as the floor press except you will be using a close grip. This puts more focus on your triceps and a smaller part of your chest.
You will again have to use a lighter bell than you would for a normal bench press but you may need assistance from workout partners to put the bell at your chest if it is too heavy.
From there, just perform the exercise in the same fashion and make sure you follow all safety guidelines.
I like to do these after normal floor presses just to give my arms a little bit of a break.
A two handed clean and press with a heavy bell.
For this exercise, you will need at least one workout partner to put the bell up for you but other than that it is performed in the same way as the clean and press you probably already know how to do.
Since this movement puts your body into an upside down V position, it works wonders for your core.
As with all the other exercises you should do at least five to ten reps or until failure with each arm before switching.
This is another exercise that can be performed both ways to keep things interesting.
One arm floor presses are a great way to finish off your tricep development.
You will again need help from a workout partner to get the weight at your chest in an appropriate fashion. Sitting too far back will be too easy and make it difficult to focus on the triceps.
Sitting up too close will be too hard and put more strain on the shoulders.
Make sure to either put a thick mat or a couple of towels down so the bar doesn’t dig into the floor when you press it.
When performing one arm presses it is important to keep your eye on the bell at all times and keep good form. Letting the bell swing around can cause stress on your joints and potentially cause an injury.
Once again these can be done for lower reps to build strength or higher reps to build mass. It is up to you.
To finish off this workout, do one arm at a time and starting with your weaker arm first. Work your way up to both arms as strong as the first.
The stronger side will only get a bit stronger but it never hurts to give it an extra boost every now and then.
A close grip incline press with a heavy bell.
This is another exercise that has a very similar motion to the close grip incline bench press but instead of putting your arms down by your side, you will be bring them up at a forty-five degree angle so that the bells end up in line with your shoulders.
In order to use enough weight it will probably be necessary to have your workout partner help you get the weight into position. It can be a little difficult to balance a heavy bell by yourself.
With your partner’s help, sit up nice and high on the bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Hold the bell with an overhand grip and perform the exercise in the same fashion as you would a normal incline press.
Make sure to put enough effort into it that you feel it working the next day.
Sources & references used in this article:
Kettlebells: Strength Training for Power & Grace by S KAISER
Kettlebell conditioning by S Vatel, VD Gray – 2005 – books.google.com
Kettlebell training by P Collins – 2011 – books.google.com
From Russia with Tough Love: Pavel’s Kettlebell Workout for a Femme Fatale by S Cotter – 2013 – books.google.com
Lesson Planning for Middle School Physical Education: Meeting the National Standards & Grade-Level Outcomes by P Tsatsouline – 2002 – books.google.com