Exercise of the Week: Kettlebell Pullover - Indianapolis Fitness And Sports Training

Exercise of the Week: Kettlebell Pullover

written by Zach Moore

It has been a little while since we had an exercise of the week so today we are going to discuss a popular exercise at IFAST – the kettlebell (KB) pullover.  We utilize this exercise a lot because it is a great tool to challenge someone’s core musculature as well as their breathing mechanics.  And, who doesn’t need to work on these two areas? 🙂

How to Perform:

Lie on your back with your knees and hips bent at 90 degrees.  Next, grab a KB with both arms and hold it straight above your head.  Next, lock in your abs by crushing your low back toward the floor and simply lower the kettlebell behind you – going as far as you can without losing your low back position.

We will typically hold the KB overhead for 3-5 breaths and repeat that for 3-5 reps total.

To perform the exercise correctly you must keep your “ribs down”, your “zipper pulled up”, and your low back crushed to the floor.

We also look for a good breathing pattern when the KB is overhead, which means you should be pushing your air as low into your stomach as possible on your inhalation (you should also feel your back being pushed into the floor as your breathe in), and fully exhaling.  Many times I will have clients hold the exhalation for 1-2 seconds because it is really important to breathe all of your air out.

She needs to breathe out and get her ribs down, which will help flatten her low back.
She needs to breathe out and get her ribs down, which will help flatten her low back.

The reason this exercise is challenging is for two reasons.  First, any time we try to raise our arms overhead we often arch our back.  This could be due to a poor movement pattern and/or due to stiff/short lats.  Second, it can be challenging, initially, to take a breath without arching the low/mid back and keeping the ribs down.  Therefore, this exercise strengthens and teaches you to use your abs, which keep your ribs down, to battle these two challenges of pulling the ribs up.

If you find the exercise is too easy you can make it more challenging by placing the feet flat on the floor.  If that is also easy then try reaching each leg out as in THIS VIDEO when the KB is overhead.  This will challenge your ability to keep your ribs down even more.

So if you are looking for a great exercise to challenge your abs and/or breathing give this exercise a shot.

Have a good week!



Zach Moore

  1. Hi,

    Just wonder what is this with LB flatten against floor?
    If the person will flatten LB he/she will change natural curve of the spine, or am I missing something here?


    • Hi Robert –

      Thank you for the comment and the question. Zach is out of town this week, but I’ll let him know of your question so he can get it answered for you.

      Yours in fitness,

    • Hi Robert,

      That is a good question. And yes, you are correct it is taking them out of their neutral curve slightly, but we are still keeping them out of excessive flexion (and their spine is not loaded). We are trying to cue a slight posterior tilt through faciliation of the obliques. We do not want to see a lot of rectus (6-pack) activity with this. It should not look as if someone is trying to crunch. They are just trying to actively pull the front of their zipper up while also driving their ribs down. The main goal is to get their diaphragm aligned with their pelvic floor.

      Let me know if you have additional questions.


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