T Nation

Kettlebell Training Thread


#1

I know we have a good community of people who lift primarily with kettlebells, or at least incorporate them heavily in their training.

We have a lot of good chat going on in our training logs, and I pick up a lot of good information from ActivitiesGuy and jblues, but it's easy to miss stuff and I thought it would be a good idea to make a thread where we can discuss kettlebell training in general: which exercises have worked well for us and which haven't, routines, rep and set schemes, complexes, kettlebell sport and goals.


#2

Personally my favourite exercises are:

Goblet squats - this makes my hips feel healthy, as well as being my favourite quad movement
Two-Handed Swing - I feel this also helps hip health and is great for power output and hamstring strength
One-Handed Swing - this is great for grip and lower back/core
Clean - as with the one-handed swing
Kettlebell Row - my favourite upper body exercise

In terms of routines I have done both Dan John’s 10,000 swing routine and Pavel’s Simple and Sinister. I have also played around with Pavel’s Rite of Passage but never for any length of time. I have learned a lot from all 3, and especially enjoyed simple and sinister, but I have always returned to simple whole body sessions or push/pull or upper/lower splits

In terms of goals for the short term I am focused on a challenge I have with ActivitiesGuy - max clean and presses with the 40kg/88lber in 5min.

Anyway, I’d be really interested to hear everyone else’s thoughts on kettlebell training. What has worked well for you guys?


#3

I have a fifty pounder that I use strictly for conditioning work. In addition to what you’ve already covered, I have begun using some snatches and clean+press with each rep starting on the floor. That really fires up my engine. That’s really all I’m going for with the kettlebell, as I will typically have just gotten done with some heavy barbell work for strength prior to breaking the 'bell out.

I will also come in and swing it around on non-lifting days, get the heart rate up and then go hit the sauna.

I have also taken it car camping and given the early-morning beach goers a sight to behold. Side-note: The beach is a great place to literally throw the kettlebell and see what happens when you let it fly after a vigorous swing. Watching a 50 pound chunk of metal arc through the air and make a sand crater with a very satisfying thump is very appealing to my lizard brain. The splash and kerplunk you get when tossing it into the water is equally amusing.

An MMA guy trains at my gym and his eyes lit up when I told him he could use my fifty pounder that I keep behind the desk. He’s incredibly well-conditioned and quite strong for his size, which I’d put at around 175 and 5’10". He was doing rounded-back two hand swings with a LOT of knee bend, nearly brushing the bell against the floor at the bottom. He’d swing the bell as high as he could, making it a very long, very explosive movement. I asked him about his technique and he felt the exaggerated range of motion and explosiveness of the movement was helpful for MMA grappling. I had never seen anyone do it like that before, but he does a lot of wacky stuff that seems to work for him.


#4

Thanks for acknowledgement Furo!

Currently own: (1) 35#, (2) 55#, (1) 80# - possibly 2 by Summer

KB Programs: Enter the Kettlebell, 10,000 KB Swing Challenge, Simple & Sinister
Accomplished the RKC 100 Snatches with 55# in 5 mins (not RKC certified, did it for fun)

Here is a list of my favorite kettlebell movements:
1 Arm Snatches: For time
Double Snatches: For reps
Double Clean & Press: For reps
Double Jerks and Long Cycle (Clean & Jerk): For time (eventually)
2 Hand Swings: For time
1 Hand Swings: For reps
Get Ups: For reps - haven’t done these in a while due to recovery

Right now as I am running 5/3/1 for strength work and have been pushing it pretty hard this year, I haven’t focused much on time. Adding doubles work about 3-4 weeks ago has changed my training a lot with kettlebells. I am using only 10 reps most of the time just so I can hammer technique down before I use them as timed sets. There is a good chance that some Kettlebell Competitions will be coming to my area in the southeast region of the USA and am strongly considering entering the biathlon (1 Arm Snatches & Jerks). If by chance I enter a competition my training will consist of all timed sets and use the 2 day a week Template from 5/3/1 to maintain my strength levels as my focus would be purely on kettlebell technique and conditioning. It would probably be helpful if I dropped down from my current weight of 225 to around 200-205 if the competition comes in October like it did last year. That way I could be a little lighter and could hopefully help with the endurance needed for a competition like this.


#5

Cool stuff Furo. I do love the kettlebells. I’ve used them for quite a few years now, and I’d say they comprise about 80 percent of my training (the rest being deadlifts and squat variations with a barbell, pull ups, and lots of walking).

Favorite exercises:

clean and press
get ups
swings, both one and two handed, though I mostly do one handed
snatches
goblet squats

I’ve made a few of my own programs, but most of the time I tend to follow Pavel’s stuff. Simple and Sinister is good for super minimalism. And my hips and shoulders have never felt as good as when I was doing that 4-5 days a week for a few months. I’ve also done the ROP quite a bit. It’s definitely one of my favorites, and it is the program I’m doing right now (with get ups and zercher squats on the variety days and pull ups superseted with the clean and press).

Like jblues, I’ve hit the 100 snatches in 5 minutes with a 24kg (though I guess he wins, cuz his bell is about 2 pounds heavier:). One of my big goals is to get the much harder snatch standard of 200 in 10 minutes. Maybe this will be the year I really try to tackle that one.


#6

[quote]booksbikesbeer wrote:

Like jblues, I’ve hit the 100 snatches in 5 minutes with a 24kg (though I guess he wins, cuz his bell is about 2 pounds heavier:). One of my big goals is to get the much harder snatch standard of 200 in 10 minutes. Maybe this will be the year I really try to tackle that one.[/quote]

Chuckled a bit after the 2 pounds heavier remark! The 200 in 10 minutes you mentioned will be my goal later this year as well whether I compete or not. Before I tackle that challenge I will have to buy a gallon of Neosporin for all of ripped skin that will be on my hands afterwards. I was REALLY gassed after the 100 snatches in 5 minutes, going double that I may just quit working out all together and say it was a good run!


#7

I love this idea!

Currently own: 5 bells

12, 16, 20, 24, 40 (kg)
26, 35, 44, 53, 88 (lb)

PLUS, at my GF’s place (we are long-distance, so keeping a set at each prevents us from needing to cart them back and forth)

20, 25, 35, 45, 62 (lb)

KB Programs: Nothing formal, just my own daily workouts

Here is a list of my favorite kettlebell movements:

1 Arm Clean-N-Press (from the floor): the best Primal I’m-a-man-lifting-a-big-heavy-thing movement.

1 Arm Snatches: a perfect KB snatch is like the perfect golf shot, effortless. Best movement to crank high reps and get your HR up.

2 Arm Swings: constant tension required on these, perfect simple-but-effective for teaching the hip hinge, and possibly holding the advantage of not requiring the same “impact” or “landing” that the above movements require

Goblet Squat: as furo said, great for mobility, leg strength, etc. For those that do not have access to barbells and are just seeking “poor man’s” leg strength, some high rep Goblet Squats ought to do the trick.

Favorite Workouts: usually some spin-off similar to Dan John’s 10000 Swing workouts. Basically, trying to accumulate a high-volume of one movement (swings or snatches) mixed with a lower volume of a strength movement. My log has a few examples. One recent favorite has been:

10 Swings / 1 Goblet Squat
15 Swings / 2 Goblet Squats
20 Swings / 3 Goblet Squats
25 Swings / 4 Goblet Squats
30 Swings

One trip through that circuit totals 100 swings and 10 squats. Doing that with progressively heavier bells is a real killer, in a good way. You can also toss in some heavy clean-and-presses in between rounds.

KB Goals:

  1. The aforementioned challenge with furo of Clean and Pressing the 40 kg / 88-pound bell for reps in 5 minutes
  2. Pass the RKC challenge of 100 snatches in 5 minutes with the 24 kg / 53-pound bell by the end of the year

I would like to do that (the 100 snatches in 5 minutes) in a KB competition. jblues and I have traded a few posts about KB sport competitions that we have found in the United States (sorry, furo!)


#8

twojarslave: It sounds like a really good idea to use clean and presses and snatches in your warm-up, I haven’t heard of that before. I also really like to use light kettlebells on my “off” days to get the blood flowing well. Haha the beach stuff does sound fun, I’ll have to try that some time.

jblues: Awesome stuff, I’d love to hear more about your doubles training. I don’t have any doubles, how do you find it compares to training with a single kettlebell? Snatches and cleans with two kettlebells seem like they’d be incredible for both strength and conditioning. I really don’t know much about kettlebell sport, how exactly does it work? What are the different types? It sounds brutal.

booksbikesbeer: Your RoP routine sounds great, my problem has always been with patience on that routine. I can never stick with it for very long doing those endless press ladders :P. How did you go about training for the 100 swings in 5min? And jblues how did you train for it? It sounds insanely tough.


#9

ActivitiesGuy: I’d noticed you were structuring a lot of your sessions like that, I really like the idea of doing a heavier version of the 10,000 swings routine. You guys all mentioning these snatch challenges has really got me interested. A quick search has shown there is a Scottish kettlebell sport organisation so I will check that out.


#10

furo: the KB sport stuff that I have seen (disclaimer, I’m a noob when it comes to the sport) generally is based on reps in a time window, like the number of snatches in 5 minutes or 10 minutes, depending on the organization. The one I’ve been checking out practically lets you design your own - pick the weight (16, 20, 24, 28, 32 kg) and the time (5 or 10 minutes) and hack away at it; they’ve got some kind of scoring table that lets you progress through “ranks” of some sort.

RE the workout, I also liked the idea of doing “a bunch” of swings without worrying about hitting the 10000 mark. The little layout that I have made up allows a bit more strength emphasis while still keeping the cardio benefits of “a bunch of swings” in between.


#11

[quote]furo wrote:
twojarslave: It sounds like a really good idea to use clean and presses and snatches in your warm-up, I haven’t heard of that before. I also really like to use light kettlebells on my “off” days to get the blood flowing well. Haha the beach stuff does sound fun, I’ll have to try that some time.

[/quote]

Just to clarify, I don’t use KB as a warm-up. I warm up for barbell work with lighter barbell work. By “firing up the engine” I meant get my heart rate up!


#12

[quote]twojarslave wrote:
Just to clarify, I don’t use KB as a warm-up. I warm up for barbell work with lighter barbell work. By “firing up the engine” I meant get my heart rate up!
[/quote]

Yes I meant it as part of a general warm-up rather than specific work :).


#13

[quote]twojarslave wrote:
I have also taken it car camping and given the early-morning beach goers a sight to behold.
[/quote]

Also a big fan of this, really one of the reasons I’ve become KB-dominant in training. I love the convenience and go-anywhere nature of them. Hell, my avatar pic was taken on a beach vacation in the front yard of the house we rented. Anyplace we drive, a KB can come along for the ride…

I also, laughably, have purchased a “junky” 30 pound KB on craigslist that I, believe it or not, plan to take on the next trip where I have to fly. For one, I want to see if they’ll let me take it (from what I can tell, it should fly as checked baggage; it will be under the weight limit and as far as I’m concerned, it’s no different than a bowling ball. If it’s confiscated, well, it’s only the 30 bucks paid to a random guy on Craigslist down the drain) and for two, I’m sure I can get a decent workout just by cranking a few hundred snatches with the 30 each morning.


#14

Thanks ActivitiesGuy, it sounds like a great sport :). I like the flexibility of the competition and it sounds like it would make good athletes. I hear a lot about how tough it is on your hands, what do you guys do about that?


#15

Yeah I also love the convenience - I took my 28kg with me on my recent road trip around Germany, Czech Republic and Austria :), and in 2013 I took the 28kg and 10kg Lyon.


#16

While I wouldn’t quite call this ‘training’, I do think kettlebell windmills and kettlebell halos are very good for shoulder health and mobility. Both of those, along with “around the world” (pass the bell around the torso) and “figure 8s” (through the legs) are really good for torso stability.


#17

[quote]furo wrote:

jblues: Awesome stuff, I’d love to hear more about your doubles training. I don’t have any doubles, how do you find it compares to training with a single kettlebell? Snatches and cleans with two kettlebells seem like they’d be incredible for both strength and conditioning. I really don’t know much about kettlebell sport, how exactly does it work? What are the different types? It sounds brutal.
[/quote]

Since switching to doubles training it has made my upper back a lot stronger and more stable when doing heavier barbell work. Snatching with a single bell to me you can get away with a little more as far as technique because you literally have more room to swing the bell. In a single snatch when I’m swinging it back down I come more at a diagonal angle to the point where if I’m not careful I will forearm myself in the nuts. Hard to explain without a visual!!

With doubles I have to keep my arms more in a straight line and closer to my body. Mike Mahler has an excellent video on YouTube about this. It is also very self correcting when your technique is off because it will throw you forward or backward if you get careless. With double cleans I feel my technique is much better with doubles than singles. Probably because I am not thinking about it as much. When I get tired things get a little erratic and have to correct myself but overall I am very comfortable with double cleans.

In regards to competition the fed I have my eye on only has the 10 minute option for long cycle and biathlon. My plan would be to compete in the 24kg Kettlebell class for the biathlon. After doing Long Cycle today (Clean & Jerks) I can tell I have a ways to go as far as endurance but right now I am trying to hammer down my Jerk technique before I get serious about timed sets. Competing seems VERY intimidating right now to me but it’s also giving me motivation to actually train and not just workout.


#18

[quote]furo wrote:

booksbikesbeer: Your RoP routine sounds great, my problem has always been with patience on that routine. I can never stick with it for very long doing those endless press ladders :P. How did you go about training for the 100 swings in 5min? And jblues how did you train for it? It sounds insanely tough.

[/quote]

I do think sticking with the ROP for at least 12 weeks is a good way to really see some results. I have experienced that itch to move onto other things, but barring injury, I’ve always managed to go at least that long when I run the program. I guess part of it is just that I love climbing those ladders; I find it to be a very motivating set up. And like Activitiesguy said, the clean and press is a super awesome, primal move. I am always coming back to it.

I did my 5 minute snatch session as a personal test after following a Dan John 40 day workout. 5 days a week I did the following:

get ups and goblet squats to warm up
deadlift
barbell overhead press
weighted pullups
snatches with the 24kg, 20 to 50 each session, keeping it easy
weighted carries

I think the combo of snatch technique practice with deadlifts and weighted carries really came together to help me get the 100 in 5 minutes. This was 2 years ago, though. Or maybe 3 years. I was still getting a lot of nice, newbie gains.

And I have also thought a little bit about kettlebell sport, but I’m not sure if I want to get that specialized. The techniques really change when you can’t put the bells down for the whole set (or with snatches you only get one hand switch). But maybe someday I’ll try it.


#19

[quote]furo wrote:
And jblues how did you train for it? It sounds insanely tough.

[/quote]

Missed this part yesterday. I trained for the Snatch test using timed sets that were determined by the roll of a pair of dice. Whatever I rolled (say a 12) that means on 1 day it would be 12 minutes of snatches and another day would be 12 minutes of 2 hand swings. Whenever I rolled a number above 7 I wasn’t going balls to wall. Just keeping a steady pace and switching hands or sitting the bell down as necessary. 6 minutes and below it was time to haul tail! My plan for the 5 minute test was to go 25, 15, 10 with each hand and I always started with my left hand because I knew it would tire out before my right hand. I seriously wanted to quit after doing 25 with each hand but it’s refreshing knowing you got the hard part out of the way and you try to fill in the blanks the best you can. The randomness of the dice rolling gave me hard weeks and easy weeks. Luckily I never rolled say a 12 and 11 in back to back weeks. It seemed like I would roll a 12 one week and get a 4 the next week.

As a side not I was doing 5/3/1 2 Days a week The entire Summer so I could focus on completing this challenge and become better at using Kettlebells for different goals. Waiters walks with the 55 and get ups helped a lot in keeping my shoulders healthy and stable during high rep snatches and also heavy barbell pressing. My hips and hamstrings became a lot stronger and really helped my deadlift a lot as far as mobility and being able to lock out stronger.


#20

LoRez: I tried out the around the world exercise today and really liked it, thanks :slight_smile:

jblues: Thanks a lot for the explanation! I think if I were to get another kettlebell it would be another 28kg so I could do doubles with that. I can see how it would really hit your upper back. The competition sounds really good, I totally get what you mean about wanting a goal to train for rather than just working out. It all sounds great man, I look forward to following your progress. In terms of information on training for kettlebell sport, are there any other books or sites you could recommend? I don’t know if you’d be able to post them on here. The only stuff I’m really familiar with is Pavel’s stuff which seems to be the other side of the kettlebell spectrum (correct me if I’m wrong!). I really like the dice idea with training, I’ll have to give that a go :).

booksbikesbeer: That looks like a really nice routine, where did you find it? I’m most of the way through Dan John’s Never Let Go book at the moment, I really like his stuff (although the book is pretty repetitive!). How long would each session take you?