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Fitness Education

How to Do a Kettlebell Row

It’s Coach Bott here again with another ‘how-to’ exercise installment for Bells of Steel.  And today, I am here to lead you through an exercise called The Kettlebell Row.  I have two levels of this exercise.  One for those who want to focus on their back and biceps and one for those who want to challenge their core while working on their back muscles.

The KB Row is a great functional exercise which has a host of variations depending on how challenged you would like to be. These two versions are not the only options out there.  Even changing your foot position from staggered to parallel will change the exercise slightly. As long as you have a ‘pull’ in your routine, feel free to mix it up.

The advantage of performing rows with a kettlebell is the handle and weight orientation allow for a much fuller range of motion than a traditional dumbbell.  The benefit of a greater range of motion is increased muscle fibre activity and thus more potential to get stronger and build your back and arm muscles.  

This article is a complete rundown of how to do a kettlebell row, what kind of kettlebell to use, benefits, and technique.

What is a Kettlebell Row and what are the benefits?

The Kettlebell Row is a horizontal pulling movement that is done in a bent-over position, either supported with a knee on a bench or unsupported in a hinge position. 

The row belongs in the pull pattern category and is essential to a balanced resistance training program, especially for those of us who are stooped over a computer all day.  Sitting postures weaken the back muscles, so making sure this is covered in the gym is key!  We don’t want to ‘live’ in our computer-work posture. The kettlebell row increases strength throughout the back, biceps, and shoulders. This exercise also improves stability in the core and lower back especially the plank version.

How heavy a kettlebell and what do I need?

Novices can start between 8kg and 12kg and more experienced strength trainees can try a 12kg-20kg bell.  If you do not have a competition-style kettlebell, you can also use a cast-iron kettlebell as shown in the images below.

Here's how to perform a Kettlebell Row

Exercise 1

Set-up

Stand in a staggered stance with your knees slightly bent, holding a kettlebell just above your front foot in your opposite arm. Lean forward with your back straight and head up. Rest your free arm on your front leg for stability.

KB row set-up
Execution

Pull the kettlebell to the side of your torso, making sure that your elbow is tucked close to your side. Your finish position should line your fist up with your rib cage. It is very important to pull through the entire range of motion. Pause briefly and lower the kettlebell to the starting position.

the kettlebell row

The Advanced Plank to One Arm Row

When performing the more advanced “Plank to Row” exercise (Exercise 2), the set-up requires a stool or BOS plyobox.  One hand is placed on the box directly under the shoulder.  The feet are held wide apart for stability and the body is held tight and rigid in a straight line.  No dropping through the hips or rotating is permitted, so you might want to go a bit lighter on this version.  The execution is the same as the staggered stance one arm row.

Exercise 2

Set-up
KB row - plank setup
Execution
KB row - plank execution

Coach Bott’s Kettlebell Row Technical Tips

At the top of the row, keep your shoulder down, away from your earlobes.  In other words, do not slouch or impersonate the hunchback of Notre Dame.

A full rep means you have brought the kettlebell handle all the way to your ribcage and can pause there for a count of “1”.

Do not lose your posture.  Keep a long spine with a broad chest.  Examine the images and try to imitate them. See how my head is in line with my body? Do not look up.

If you find you lose your posture, then do each rep, one at a time.  Reset your posture on each one, just like a basketball player would on a foul shot.  Breathe and take your time!

How many Coach?!

This is where discretion comes in, but I will give you some ideas.  If you are a novice/beginner, and new to exercise, then simply do 3-5 sets of 5 reps leaving one rep in the tank (do not train to failure). 

If you are more advanced and are ready for this to be a strength stimulus, then go ahead and try 6 sets of 6-8 reps, resting 2-3 minutes between sets.  You could superset it with another drill such as a press or a push-up working for the opposite muscle groups.

If you like torture, try this 5-minute row challenge I gave to my football players last summer.  Set your timer for 5 minutes. Pick a weight and perform as many rows as possible (exercise 1) on one arm, then switch to the other arm.  Rest is optional but the goal is to try and do as many reps as possible while switching hands when needed. All the reps are added up at the end. Record your score and compete against your friends.  I beat a few of my athletes and then once I told them what I did, they turned up the heat and dusted me.  LOL!

The Kettlebell Row Summary

So, there you have it. An excellent multi-joint, multi-muscle, portable exercise, using just one kettlebell of your strength level. You can perform this exercise with sets and reps, resting between or pairing it with push-ups. Or, you can find enlightenment with the 5-minute challenge.  Pick your goal and stick to it!

Happy lifting!

Bells of Steel USA Contact

Bells of Steel USA Showroom
6002 Corporate Way,
Indianapolis, IN 46278,
United States
Phone: 1 317-981-5586

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