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
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
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.
Exercise 4: Elbow Extension
20-40 seconds per arm.
Exercise 5: Elbow Extension
20-40 seconds per arm. Use gym equipment or furniture as a prop.
Exercise 6: Shoulder Circles
Do this for 20-30 seconds, keeping your arms straight to prepare the shoulders for special flexibility exercises.
Exercises 7 and 8: Reach Back
Do each exercise for 20-30 seconds per arm to improve your shoulder flexion and extension.
Exercise 9: Regression of Exercise 8
Use a belt or a stick if you cannot interlock your fingers behind your back.
Exercise 10: Pushdown
Perform for 40-60 seconds for the shoulders and the thoracic spine. Use gym equipment or furniture.
Exercise 11: Extension With a Partner
Do 2-4 sets of 10-20 seconds each, with 5-10 seconds of rest between sets.
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.
Exercise 13: External Shoulder Rotation
Do for 20-40 seconds per arm.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A more challenging bilateral version of the last stretch. The same instructions apply.
Do for 1-3 minutes to improve your spine extension.
Exercise 21: Thoracic Flexion
Do for 1-5 minutes.
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.
Do 2-4 sets of 10-30 seconds each, with 5-10 second rest intervals between them. This is a full body extension exercise.
Exercise 24: Hanging Bridge
Another stretch for upper back extension and shoulder flexion. Do for 30-90 seconds.
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:
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.