Flexibility Exercises for Kettlebell Training and Kettlebell Sport

Flexibility is one of the five main physical qualities. High level of special flexibility enables freedom, quickness, and economy of movement. Although this article is dedicated to developing flexibility specifically for Girevoy Sport (GS), I believe it will benefit anyone who trains with kettlebells for any reasons.

Exercise 1: Kettlebell Rack Carry

Kettlebell flexibility exercisesThis exercise improves hip extension and thoracic flexion; promotes elasticity of the quads, traps, and rhomboids; and teaches you to breathe under load.

Clean one or two kettlebells heavier than the one(s) you jerk in training or competition. Now walk, but do not limit yourself to going forward. Go back and forth, left and right. Lean to the left and then to the right. Do partial squats and shallow lunges. Turn around the vertical axis. Try to lower your elbows all the way to the pelvic ridge.

Do this exercise at the end of your jerk or clean-and-jerk training session. Do one set. Start with one minute and build up to five minutes.

Exercise 2: Kettlebell Overhead Carry

Kettlebell flexibility exercisesThis exercise develops special flexibility of the thoracic spine and shoulders and teaches you to breathe correctly while supporting kettlebells overhead.

As with the rack carry, do not limit yourself to walking but make the same additional movements. Use lighter kettlebells, though—lighter than your competition size. Do your best to point your elbows forward and your thumbs back (see the photo at the very beginning of the article).

Do overhead carries after the main part of a jerk or snatch training session. Do one set of 30 to 90 seconds.

Exercise 3: Elbow Circles

Do this for 20-30 seconds to prepare the elbows for special flexibility exercises.

Kettlebell flexibility exercises

Exercise 4: Elbow Extension

20-40 seconds per arm.

Kettlebell flexibility exercises

Exercise 5: Elbow Extension

20-40 seconds per arm. Use gym equipment or furniture as a prop.

 Kettlebell flexibility exercises

Exercise 6: Shoulder Circles

Do this for 20-30 seconds, keeping your arms straight to prepare the shoulders for special flexibility exercises.

Kettlebell flexibility exercises

Exercises 7 and 8: Reach Back

Do each exercise for 20-30 seconds per arm to improve your shoulder flexion and extension.

Kettlebell flexibility exercises

Exercise 9: Regression of Exercise 8

Use a belt or a stick if you cannot interlock your fingers behind your back.

Exercises for kettlebell flexibility

Exercise 10: Pushdown

Perform for 40-60 seconds for the shoulders and the thoracic spine. Use gym equipment or furniture.

Kettlebell flexibility exercises

Exercise 11: Extension With a Partner

Do 2-4 sets of 10-20 seconds each, with 5-10 seconds of rest between sets.

Kettlebell flexibility exercises

Exercise 12: Extension With a Partner

Perform from 30 seconds to infinity—as long as your grip holds. Use gymnastic rings or a pull-up bar.

Kettlebell flexibility exercises

Exercise 13: External Shoulder Rotation

Do for 20-40 seconds per arm.

Kettlebell flexibility exercises

Exercise 14: External Shoulder Rotation

Do for 20-40 seconds per arm. Do not flex the elbow of the stretched arm more than ninety degrees.

Kettlebell flexibility exercises

Exercise 15: Hip Extension From Seiza

Sit on your heels and perform 20-40 reps, maximally extending your hips and back. This exercise will prepare you for more intense hip and spine extension stretches.

Kettlebell flexibility exercises

Exercise 16: Hip Flexor and Knee Extensor Stretch

Push your pelvis forward as much as you can and bring your heel as close to your glute as possible. Perform for 60-90 seconds per side.

To make the stretch easier, use a belt. To make it harder, elevate the knee of the stretched leg above the foot of the support leg.

Kettlebell flexibility exercises

Exercise 17: Lay Back

This exercise improves hip extension and stretches the quads. Do 2-4 sets of 15-20 seconds each, resting for 5-10 seconds between sets. Use a belt if necessary.

hip-flexor-knee-extensor-stretchExercise 18: Hip and Quad Stretch

Perform for 60-90 seconds per side. Very carefully lie back and make sure your knees are ready for this stretch. The propped-up version is easier.

Kettlebell flexibility trainingExercise 19: Hip and Quad Stretch

A more challenging bilateral version of the last stretch. The same instructions apply.

Kettlebell flexibility trainingExercise 20: Spine Extension

Do for 1-3 minutes to improve your spine extension.

Kettlebell flexibility training

Exercise 21: Thoracic Flexion

Do for 1-5 minutes.

Kettlebell flexibility training

Exercise 22: Rhomboid and Lower Trap Stretch

Interlock your hands and relax for 1-3 minutes. Focus the stretch on the mid and upper back, not the lower back. This one is not for the flexion intolerant.

Kettlebell flexibility trainingExercise 23: Bridge

Do 2-4 sets of 10-30 seconds each, with 5-10 second rest intervals between them. This is a full body extension exercise.

Kettlebell flexibility training

Exercise 24: Hanging Bridge

Another stretch for upper back extension and shoulder flexion. Do for 30-90 seconds.

Kettlebell flexibility training

Advice on Implementing These Stretches

In summary, exercises number one and two are the top two special stretches for a girevik. However, they compress the spine, which is why the rest of the exercises are unloaded.

If you need to improve your flexibility, perform the complex of exercises selected from three through 24 in each training session during the general warm-up and in the very end after cardio. Here are two sample complexes of stretches:

Kettlebell flexibility trainingIf you have no problems with flexibility it is enough to perform a stretch complex once or twice a week.

The above exercises will improve your performance in kettlebell lifting and reduce the odds of injury in training, competition, and everyday life. Moreover, once you get into the habit of performing them, you will start enjoying them.

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Sergey Rudnev
Sergey is a five-time Champion of Russia in Biathlon/Long Cycle, five-time Russian Cup Winner in Biathlon/Long Cycle, and five-time World Champion in Biathlon/Long Cycle. He is a Master of Sport International Class ranked athlete in Girevoy sport. He has prepared over 200 Candidate Master of Sport athletes, 44 Master of Sport athletes, 10 Master of Sport International Class athletes, and one honored master of sport athlete. He is the assistant professor in the Department of Physical Education and Sport, specializing in Kettlebell Sport.

7 thoughts on “Flexibility Exercises for Kettlebell Training and Kettlebell Sport

  • I love coach Rudnev!! I’m certified through IKSFA and learning from him was amazing!! He’s extremely knowledgable about many things and these exercises are perfect for all lifters! Kettlebell sport is so much fun I prefer it to fitness style and so do most of my clients.

    • Do they still do IKSFA certifications? If so how do i go about contacting IKSFA??? Any advice is appreciated thank you

  • Practice (vinyasa) yoga and you will cover almost all of the above and more and develop more strength. Good to see the constant reminder of creating enough flexibility too.

    • Hi Marilyn!

      I am a yoga teacher and a kettlebell lifter. My experience through 10+ years of yoga practice, especially Ashtanga, that shoulder extension is often overlooked hence it requires special attention even from yoga practitioners. I try to incorporate many shoulder opening asanas int my teaching and practice.

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