Walk into a CrossFit gym and you'll see plenty of Olympic barbells and plates, pullup bars, rowing machines, medicine balls and a whole host of different-sized kettlebells. The kettlebell is a fundamental tool in CrossFit, with many workouts relying heavily on them. Even if you train at home and don't have access to all the other equipment CrossFit uses, you can still craft your own “CrossFit-esque” workouts using just your bell and your body weight.
Swings Up First
When getting started with kettlebells, most coaches advise learning the swing first, as it's the foundation to kettlebell programs. CrossFit workouts regularly include swings, though they're slightly different to a regular "Russian" swing. When doing normal swings, the kettlebell stops at around eye level, but with CrossFit workouts you perform an American swing, which involves lifting the kettlebell overhead. Jeff Martone, a CrossFit kettlebell course trainer, advises letting the bell float up and using your lat muscles to stop it from going to far overhead.
War of the WODS
WODS, or workouts of the day, are how CrossFitters plan their training. Each day a new workout is published on the CrossFit site, and competitors around the globe aim to set their best times on the given routine. Some of these workouts are so popular they become benchmark workouts and often make their way into CrossFit games competitions. One such benchmark workout is Helen, which involves a 400-meter sprint, 21 swings with a 24 kg kettlebell and 12 pull-ups, completed three times. Another similar kettlebell-only WOD is five rounds of four muscle-ups, eight kettlebell swings, 10 kettlebell presses with each arm and 12 knees to elbows. Alternatively, opt for the scarily named Zombie Complex. This involves kettlebell cleans, push presses, front squats, walkouts and lateral hops, interspersed with 200-meter sprints.
Just because a CrossFit workout calls for an exercise be performed with a barbell doesn't mean you absolutely have to do it that way. You can substitute barbell cleans with kettlebell cleans, using a pair of bells. The same goes for snatches, thrusters and high pulls too. This may even be a better option for beginners as barbell Olympic lifts are notoriously difficult to learn, and kettlebells are slightly easier to master.
Not Quite CrossFit
If you're not quite ready to throw yourself headfirst into a full CrossFit routine, kettlebell coach Steve Cotter recommends learning a few basic moves to add to your current training routine. These include kettlebell clean and jerks, snatches, swings with a heavy bell and jump squats. Group these together into a circuit format and time yourself to complete a certain number of rounds to give your workout a CrossFit feel.