It’s really important to 1) be aware of and 2) know exactly how to “scale” a kettlebell workout for different fitness levels. It gives you the ability to perform nearly ANY routine you find – no matter your ability and/or kettlebell training skill.
For example – in my kettlebell boot camp, I give folks an extreme version, a regular version and a beginner version of every exercise we do. So folks that have been training hard for months or years can pick the hardest version, intermediate-level folks can pick the medium-intensity version, and beginners can pick the “entry level” version.
So, I thought I’d put together a simple list of kettlebell exercise alternatives for all the basic kettlebell drills for your reference. Hope it helps -
Kettlebell Exercise Alternatives
1. Kettlebell Swing Alternatives
If you’re just getting started, out of shape, have injury issues, etc., you can do the sumo deadlift instead of the kettlebell swing. You’d then work to the 1/2 swing and finally the full swing.
I outline the full learning progression for the kettlebell swing – including how to do the sumo deadlift and 1/2 swing – in this post:
=== >> The HardStyle Swing
2. Turkish Get Up Alternatives
If you can’t do a full Turkish Get Up, start with the 1/2 TGU.
See a video on how to do it here:
=== >> The Turkish Get Up
3. Kettlebell Squat Alternatives
The squat is a movement that, IF done correctly, the vast majority of people CAN do.
It KILLS me when folks say “my doctor told me not to squat, I have bad knees!” … and then when I have them do a squat, their heels come up and their knees shoot out over their toes. Here, it’s not the movement itself, it’s HOW YOU’RE DOING IT.
You have to squat multiple times throughout the day – sitting in a chair, getting into your car, sitting on the toilet, etc. If you can do these things, you can squat!!
BUT – if you truly want to regress this exercise – do it without weight first. Try the box squat. Get a weight bench or other object of similar height. Stand about 12-18 inches in front of it. Sit your hips back on to it and tap it with your butt. It’ll teach you how to hinge at the hips, get into a proper squat position … and you’ll be squatting using your KB in no time.
4. Pressing Alternatives
If you can’t press overhead for whatever reason (injury, etc.), pressing in the horizontal plane can be a good work-around.
Check out this post on another one of my blogs on one of the best all-around pressing moves ever – the push up:
=== >> How to Do More Push Ups
5. Kettlebell Snatch Alternatives
If you can’t do a kettlebell snatch, substitute a one hand swing. Learn the swing PERFECTLY and get it down cold … then progress to the snatch.
6. Kettlebell Clean Alternatives
The squat clean is a great alternative if you can’t do the kettlebell clean. It’s a two-hand, simpler variation of the standard clean. Here’s how to do it:
=== >> The Kettlebell Squat Clean
7. Pull Up Alternatives
Though not a PURE kettlebell move, still a very important one.
Many kettlebell workouts call for pull ups. But a lot of folks can’t do them.
A great alternative for the pull up is the body row.
Learn 5 ways to do more pull ups here:
=== >> How to Do More Pull Ups
In summary, just because you can’t do a kettlebell exercise, it doesn’t mean you can’t do workout that includes it … you just need the right kettlebell exercise alternatives. Use this list next time you’re in a pinch, do what you can with what you got and keep training hard!
PS - If you liked this post, you’ll love this program – it starts from the very beginning, works you through many of the kettlebell exercise alternatives we covered here and puts you on the right track to long term kettlebell success:
=== >> Lifetime Kettlebell Fitness