The most UNDERRATED exercise: The Kettlebell Halo

Waterloo rehab personal trainer

Ever since watching Pavel in the Enter the Kettlebell DVD perform the kettlebell halo, I knew something was up. While the swing and the get-up took center stage, I couldn’t get over this move.

Though he was using it was a warm-up, and “secretively” as a screen to identify and clear through movement dysfunction, I saw how simple it was to teach the beginner client or athlete with movement dysfunction. Today, it’s one of my go-to exercises.

The halo is the kettlebell’s answer to Indian club swinging and the Chop & Lift (which requires a cable or band system).

Dr. Phillip Snell in a Half kneeling position (doing a chop). Better than a Bosu ball

What really put me on the tipping point to using the kettlebell halos was seeing it featured in the self-limiting exercises in Gray Cook’s Movement book and performing it from the tall and half-kneeling developmental positions.

The halo in these positions set the upright posture and require better core and hip stability due to the smaller base. You’ve got to do all this in the presence of the upper limb movement and weight shifting around the head.

These two positions take out possible compensations in the ankles, feet, knees and force the hip and core to do their job: stabilize. This helps clear most movement dysfunctions and asymmetries like single leg stance and lunging movement patterns. You’ll find that what may seem easy standing up, is quite different once you drop to your knees.

Also notice the thoracic spine extension required to perform this move. A sloppy torso can no longer compensate in this position and demands a rigid core with adequate shoulder mobility to tightly whirl the weight around the head. Get the body as tall as possible and remind the halo-er to keep their head still.

Here I demonstrate the kettlebell halo, first in tall-kneeling , then in half kneeling. I put in a bad rep on purpose – look how easy it is to spot:

(the fall, NOT on purpose, LOL)

If you can do it perfectly from tall kneeling, you generally don’t need to be doing it as an “exercise” from standing, but perhaps a set for warm-up or in combination with other moves in a circuit or complex (which the move lends well to).

The halo is traditionally done with a kettlebell, but can also be performed using a weight plate.

Do the move:

  • Hold the kettlebell by the horns with bottoms up.
  • Lift your left hand to the right side of your head, then to the back of your head so that the kettlebell is bottoms down. Let the right hand follow “naturally”.
  • Continue the move to return to the initial bottoms-up position in front of the head.

Perform reps all in one direction before switching to the other. 8-10 reps in each direction works well.

Once you are comfortable with the move, drop down to half kneeling. Attain the 90 degrees of hip and knee flexion and line up your front foot with your rear thigh so that it’s like they’re on rail road tracks.


  • Bobbing or excessive head movement. Move the kettlebell around your head, NOT your head around the kettlebell.
  • Stay tall! Look for any forward head posture to keep the chin-in (packed).

Halos are a great way to get extra work done on dysfunctional movement patterns by including in a  superset. Consider using the halo when you don’t have a cable system for Chops & Lifts and when military presses out of ability.

How do you incorporate halos into your workouts? Comment below:



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6 responses to “The most UNDERRATED exercise: The Kettlebell Halo

  1. AJOliva

    Yup, the halo is a fantastic move especially for movement prep. I use it with my private clients and classes in conjuction with arm bars for the upper body. They definitely dont get enought attention. Great post!

  2. Kiti Adderley

    Thanks for sharing! Gonna get me a Kettlebell on Monday!

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