6 Killer Kettlebell Warm-Ups for Team Sports Training

Dumbbells offer unique benefits to your team's warm-up.

Kettlebells exploded on the strength and conditioning scene over 20 years ago and they remain very popular with strength and power athletes. Kettlebells are an incredibly versatile tool, allowing you to perform everything from traditional barbell/dumbbell exercises to specialized kettlebell movements. Heavier kettlebells can be used to enhance your strength, muscle mass and power work.

Kettlebells also have benefits that many people don't often think about. First, their design makes them very shoulder-friendly, which is important for a lot of athletes. Second, they develop the muscles of the core and thoracic spine. Third, they can be lifted rhythmically, which makes them ideal for conditioning. Finally, they develop mobility and athleticism due to the physical skill that many kettlebell-based exercises require.

But here's the challenge with kettlebells—they are not the most accessible strength and conditioning tool for coaches who are coaching in a team setting. There are a few things that are important to realize about coaching in a team sport setting. First, unless you are working with professional or Olympic athletes, your time with the athletes is rigidly limited. Second, you are often working with large groups of athletes at one time (often anywhere between 20-100). Third, you don't have unlimited access to equipment, even if you are at a big division I school.

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Kettlebells exploded on the strength and conditioning scene over 20 years ago and they remain very popular with strength and power athletes. Kettlebells are an incredibly versatile tool, allowing you to perform everything from traditional barbell/dumbbell exercises to specialized kettlebell movements. Heavier kettlebells can be used to enhance your strength, muscle mass and power work.

Kettlebells also have benefits that many people don't often think about. First, their design makes them very shoulder-friendly, which is important for a lot of athletes. Second, they develop the muscles of the core and thoracic spine. Third, they can be lifted rhythmically, which makes them ideal for conditioning. Finally, they develop mobility and athleticism due to the physical skill that many kettlebell-based exercises require.

But here's the challenge with kettlebells—they are not the most accessible strength and conditioning tool for coaches who are coaching in a team setting. There are a few things that are important to realize about coaching in a team sport setting. First, unless you are working with professional or Olympic athletes, your time with the athletes is rigidly limited. Second, you are often working with large groups of athletes at one time (often anywhere between 20-100). Third, you don't have unlimited access to equipment, even if you are at a big division I school.

What does this have to do with kettlebells? The challenge with kettlebells is that to use them for strength, hypertrophy, or power, then you need a lot of them because, just like barbells and dumbbells, you need a variety of weights to challenge your athletes. When 20-100 athletes are training at one time, this is difficult to do unless you have an unlimited budget and unlimited space.

To me, when strength training athletes, barbells are still king. They allow for the most weight to be lifted, which is important when we are talking about the ability to exert force against the ground, implements and opponents. This load is also important for anatomical adaptations that can protect athletes against injuries.

But kettlebells have a great supplementary role. However, in a team setting, they need to be utilized in a way that's accessible. They also need to be utilized in a way that doesn't detract from the other exercises athletes need to be doing. Remember, a strength and conditioning coach oversees the weight room, speed/agility training, plyometrics and metabolic conditioning.

The way to solve this is to use kettlebells as part of the warm-up. The kettlebell makes an excellent general warm-up exercise. It elevates the heart rate, gets blood pumping to the muscles and joints that will be exercised, allows for some work to be done by the muscles and joints that will be used, and increases mental focus. It also allows for extra benefits like mobility and athleticism. This can all be done without a huge equipment investment.

The rest of this article is going to show you some warm-up circuits you can do using kettlebells. These are going to be divided into beginner (early high school), intermediate (late high school/early college) and advanced (late college) athletes.

Beginner Athletes

For these circuits, you need a kettlebell for every 4-5 athletes that will be training at one time. I recommend starting with 10-, 20- and 30-pound kettlebells for females, and 20-, 30-, and 40-pound kettlebells for males. The idea is for each of these circuits to be a general warm-up with a total body focus. These would be good to use before strength training, conditioning, speed training, or plyometrics.

Circuit 1 (perform each exercise for 30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times):

  1. Jump Rope
  2. Two-Handed Kettlebell Swings
  3. Lunges
  4. Inchworms
  5. Bear Crawls
  6. Push-ups
  7. Plank
  8. Reverse Crunches

Circuit 2 (perform each exercise for 30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times):

  1. Jump Rope
  2. Two-Handed Kettlebell Swings
  3. Goblet Squats
  4. Reverse Lunges
  5. One-Legged Hip Hinges (each leg)
  6. Medicine Ball Chest Pass

Intermediate Athletes

You still need a kettlebell for every 4-5 athletes that will be training at one time. I recommend starting with 15-, 25-, and 35-pound kettlebells for females, and 20-, 35-, and 50-pound kettlebells for males.

Circuit 1:

  1. Jump Rope
  2. Two-Handed Kettlebell Swings
  3. Lunges (kettlebell held overhead, do 30 seconds on each side)
  4. One-Legged Hip Hinges (each leg, bodyweight only)
  5. Push-Ups
  6. Bear Crawls
  7. Heavy Rope Slams
  8. Plank

Circuit 2:

  1. Jump Rope
  2. One-Handed Kettlebell Swings (do 30 seconds with each hand)
  3. Kettlebell Deadlifts
  4. Inchworms
  5. Sled Push
  6. Sled Pull
  7. Plank

Advanced Athletes

You still need a kettlebell for every 4-5 athletes that will be training at one time. I recommend starting with 20-, 35-, and 50-pounders for females, and 30-, 45-, and 60-pounders for males.

Circuit 1:

  1. Jump Rope
  2. One-Handed Kettlebell Swings + Kettlebell Cleans (30 second swing, 30 seconds clean, train each hand)
  3. One-Legged Hip Hinges (each leg, bodyweight only)
  4. Kettlebell Windmills (30 seconds on each side)
  5. Bear Crawls

Circuit 2:

  1. Jump Rope
  2. One-Handed Kettlebell Swings + Kettlebell Snatches (30 seconds swing, 30 seconds snatch, train each hand)
  3. Kettlebell Get-Ups (30 seconds each hand)
  4. Lunges
  5. Inchworms

 Photo Credit: oatwa/iStock, Photology1971/iStock, FatCamera/iStock

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Topics: WARM-UP | KETTLEBELL EXERCISES | COACH | STRENGTH COACH | KETTLEBELL | KETTLEBELL WORKOUT | KETTLEBELL TRAINING | SPORTS TEAMS | PERFORMANCE COACH | KETTLEBELL SWING | HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS | FITNESS COACH | COLLEGE SPORTS