I’ve written pretty extensively over the last 4 to 6 months about the benefits of bodyweight training. In fact, I just finished up about 4 months of almost exclusively bodyweight training – centered around pull-up varations, pistols, and parallel dips.
I’ve gotta tell you, I haven’t felt this good in a long, long time.
I can basically roll out of bed and do a pistol on each leg. I believe this is an important litmus test – as the Pistol is a key indicator of your “reflexive stability.”
And that was something I couldn’t do before I focused on bodyweight training.
Bodyweight Exercise #1: The Pistol
For that reason alone the Pistol is my #1 bodyweight exercise you should look to incorporate into your kettlebell training.
It’s a key indicator to your overall health and performance.
I don’t care how strong you are with a bar or pair of kettlebells, if you can’t do a bodyweight Pistol – without counterbalance – you’ve got some work to do. In the long run, you’ll be stronger.
And as an addendum, you might be wondering just how strong you can get by doing bodyweight Pistols. I recently just put a pair of 24kg kettlebells in the rack and did a Pistol on each leg. (It was a 9 out of 10 on the RPE scale.) So really, the sky’s the limit.
I’ve written at length about the Pistol – click here to check the ol’ archives.
Bodyweight Exercise #2: The Chin Up
Not the Pull Up, the Chin Up. It’s performed with your palms facing you.
And there are several good reasons for this.
1. Most people type or write all day.
This places a long duration load on their shoulders, internally rotating them. The lowly Chin reverses that loading and aligns the wrists and elbows.
2. Loaded stretching and combination cinching of the front of the body.
This is actually pretty cool when you think about it. The front of the body becomes short and tight from sitting all day long. You can very easily stretch it out and then load it by doing Chins. You can also decompress the spine and increase your spine health. Once you can get strong enough you can add weight to your Chins. This will make the front of your body contract in a healthy way, unlike sitting.
Here’s an interesting side note:
We in the fitness industry say that loading the posterior chain is good for countering sitting. I agree to some extent.
But I also disagree.
You have to address the abs too. And not just all the trendy counter-rotational stuff that’s being popularized. You actually have to get some trunk flexion and rotation in there too. (If you don’t believe me, go back and study your child development…)
So the Chin Up is a way to help get this done.
3. Functional Antagonistic Balance (FAB?)
I can’t remember where I first learned this – probably Gary Gray or Vern Gambetta about 15 years ago. However, I forgot all about it until Jedd Johnson of the Diesel Crew reminded me about this in one of his bending DVDs.
Essentially, it’s performing the opposite movements to your main sporting and/or exercise/training movements.
The Chin Up is a great FAB exercise for pretty much all kettlebell training. Here’s why:
KBs. v. .Chins
– palms pronated – palms supinated
– feet loaded – feet unloaded
– spine loaded – spine unloaded
– posterior chain emphasis – anterior chain emphasis
– extension dominant – flexion dominant
– lower body intensive – upper body intensive
And of course there’s my current favorite version of the Chin – a Chin with an “L-Seat.”
This is where you raise your legs so they’re parallel with the floor and then hold them there throughout your set. Great stretch on the lats, great load on the abs.
How To Incorporate Chins And Pistols Into Your Kettlebell Workouts
There really is no right way. But here are some simple ideas.
1. Work the Pistol and its variations before all ballistics work.
Treat it like practice and you’ll actually open up your hips and make your Swings, Snatches, and Cleans that much better.
2. Work the Pistol in combination with the Get Up.
Do a set of GUs, then work Pistol variations. Go back and forth between them. Each will make the other better.
3. Do a set of Chins after all upper body kettlebell work, like Presses.
This is a great pairing for double kettlebell work.
4. Do a set of Chins after all ballistics work.
Again, another great pairing with exercises like the Double Swing or Double Front Squat.
There are some ideas to get you started.
Feel free to leave your comments below.