Kettlebell pull exercises can be a great addition to any training program, they are excellent at developing both back strength and core stability. These variations will be perfect for you to add some variety to your home / in the gym training. Let’s have a look at the 6 kettlebell pull exercises you can use.
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The benefits of using kettlebells for resistance training are many, from improving strength(1) of the muscles to reducing musculoskeletal pain (2). It’s clear that all types of movement have benefits on the body’s physiology and training with kettlebells is no different. We all know that kettlebell swings are one of the most popular exercises and the benefits have been espoused by trainers like Pavel Tsatsouline , but what other kettlebell exercises are beneficial?
Today we are going to look at a specific movement pattern, the horizontal pulling movement pattern and look at how kettlebells can be used to perform this movement pattern. If you’re interested in other horizontal pulling exercises other than just the kettlebell have a look at our 72 horizontal pull exercises library.
These exercises can be used in either a full body resistance training plan or an upper / lower split training plan. Either way they will be very effective at developing the back in terms of both strength and muscular growth. Pick two of the exercises below and incorporate them into your weekly training for between 3-5 sets each.
For strength adaptations use a heavier load with lower reps (4-8) and for muscular growth use a high rep range of 10-15 (reach near failure each set). An issue with a lot of these kettlebell pull variations is they require a lot of core stability, which makes them great for functional training, but the core will likely be the limiting factor, meaning a barbell bent over row would be much more effective for maximal strength / hypertrophy gains. This doesn’t mean they are not effective variations its just something to take into consideration if you do have a barbell you could use that exercise as your bench mark pulling exercise.
Horizontal pulling exercises with kettlebells are a great way to prepare yourself to lift your body weight in the pull up movement. Pull ups are often one of the most sought after goals for beginners entering the world of fitness, making this information vital for those who have this as a goal. The pull up requires a lot of bodyweight strength and finding regressions of the pull up can be frustrating. Adding kettlebell pull exercises can be a great way to help you on your road to your first pull up.
As a lot of the exercises listed above require a lot of core stabilisation while performing them, especially the unilateral exercises, you will be progressing the core musculature in conjunction with the upper-back muscles. Beginners can especially benefit from using kettlebell pull variations to improve their core strength, this is seen in the rows variations that require a great deal of lumbar stabilisation like the alternating gorilla row.
Most horizontal pulling is either done with a barbell or dumbbell so adding a kettlebell variation into the mix can just add variety into your workout routine. Improving your overall fitness and health should be fun and enjoyable, adding in more variety can help people become more and more consistent, which opens up the opportunity to get more and more results from your physical training. One of the main goals of this site is to help people find variety in their exercise routines for all movement patterns including the press and rows. Training with kettlebells opens up much more variety than your typical barbell and dumbbell work.
Athletes and Crossfitters need to be very strong, but they also need to be strong and hold difficult positions under fatigue. This makes kettlebell pull exercises very applicable to their training as they often require difficult positions to be held for a long duration of time while executing a strength movement with a large amount of weight. Take the alternating gorilla row, this requires a difficult position to be maintained throughout the entire movement. This style of challenge is much more applicable to Crossfit or game sports than it is to bodybuilding.
Bodybuilders should avoid adding the majority of the exercises into their training routine. This is because often times with these pull variations the limiting factor is the core musculature, bodybuilders who need to perform a high number of repetitions to create as much fatigue as possible do not want to be limited by the core musculature.
Using supersets can be a great way to train your upper body with kettlebells like the one sampled above. Also using tri-sets can be a really fun and time efficient way to work through a kettlebell upper body workout as you can get through a large variety of movement patterns within a short period of time. Have a look at this sample upper-body tri-set with a kettlebell you could add to your next upper-body workout.
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Kettlebell pulls work the muscles of the upper back including, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, posterior deltoids and trapezius. They also work the lower back muscles that stabilise the spine. I especially like the 1-arm kettlebell low row and it doesn’t require to much core stabilisation due to the bench being used as a stabiliser.
It’s neither, it’s a dynamic full body movement that requires a variety of muscles groups but if it had to be put into a movement category the closest would probably be the hinge movement patterns. For more break down on exercises and there movement categories check out the rest of the site, we have compiled lists of hundreds of pull, press, squat, hinge, carry variations that you can use in your training. This information will help you move forward one step at a time.
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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.