T Nation

Kettlebell Training

Hi ct,

I am soon to be moving and will briefly (6 weeks) only have access to kettlebells to train with. I will still be able to train 4/5 x week but this will be limited to just kettlebells. What is your view of kettlebell training and do you have any suggestions as to how to structure my training with them?

Could i possibly use kettlebell training to actually improve my other lifts when I return to them in 6 weeks rather than focusing on getting better at kettlebells?

Many thanks

Hull I would like to hear CT’s views on this as well.I had a time in my training when all I did was kettle bell circuits.My work capacity was through the roof when I was doing them and It was a good change from what I was doing at that time.

I got strong using K-bells but that strength did not carry over to my main lifts.I just got better at K-bells if that makes any sense.I do still use them In the same way now (complex-circuits)from time to time,and just view them as another tool in the toolbox.

[quote]Hull2012 wrote:
Hi ct,

I am soon to be moving and will briefly (6 weeks) only have access to kettlebells to train with. I will still be able to train 4/5 x week but this will be limited to just kettlebells. What is your view of kettlebell training and do you have any suggestions as to how to structure my training with them?

Could i possibly use kettlebell training to actually improve my other lifts when I return to them in 6 weeks rather than focusing on getting better at kettlebells?

Many thanks[/quote]

I’ve done quite a bit of KB work and I’m including it in my training right now.

Can they improve your big lifts? Potentially yes, but from experience they only do so if you can also practice the regular barbell lifts. Otherwise KB cannot provide enough overload to really gain strength that will be transferred to the heavier barbell lifts. The exception being the military press and maybe bench press which can be improved by doing KB work only.

KB swings can improve the olympic lifts and high pulls by improving the quality and the speed of the hip hinge, especially if you have access to really heavy KBs (100lbs for example, which we have in Colorado).

KB press are a good exercise to improve military press strength. And it’s an exercise in which you can create an overload: you need to be a strong presser to be able to do a two-hands KB press (one KB in each hand) with the heavier “standard” KB (32kg/70lbs).

And by becoming good at KB pressing you can improve the bench press by extension. KB floor press/bench press can also be good, but I would do them with a slower eccentric since the weight might be light.

Thanks ct,

Do you have any thoughts on which exercises are best to begin with and then progress I.e single arm overhead to double arm overhead?

Also, from a physique standpoint, can you build a strong, athletic look optimally by only using kettlebells but just tailoring your approach?

[quote]Hull2012 wrote:
Thanks ct,

Do you have any thoughts on which exercises are best to begin with and then progress I.e single arm overhead to double arm overhead?

Also, from a physique standpoint, can you build a strong, athletic look optimally by only using kettlebells but just tailoring your approach? [/quote]

For overhead work the progression would be:

  1. Single arm KB press
  2. Alternating KB press (one KB in each hand, press one after the other) holding the “non-pressing KB” down
  3. Alternating KB press holding the “non-pressing KB” extended (finished press position)
  4. Double KB press
  5. Single arm KB Savickas press (press while on your knees)
  6. Alternating KB Savickas press “NP KB” down
  7. Alternating KB Savickas press “NP KB” extended
  8. Double KB Savickas press
  9. Single-arm KB Sots press (press from the full squat position)
  10. Alternating KB Sots press (down)
  11. Alternating KB Sots press (extended)
  12. Double KB Sots press

For your second question… I do not have “one” approach. So you can’t tailor “my” approach. And certainly I would not apply what I do with barbell with KBs. But you can build a good physique with only KBs for sure.

That overhead press progression alone can make you build massive shoulders… I mean, if you can reach step 12 with the 32kg KBs you are a beast! I would say that doing a double KB Sots press with 32kg KBs would be equivalent to doing a strict standing military press with about 245-255lbs.

For chest the various variations of the KB bench press can be used: single arm on a bench, single arm floor press, single arm incline press, single arm decline press, double bench, double floor, double incline, double decline, alternating bench press, alternating floor press, alternating incline press, alternating decline press. While the 32kg KBs are not that much of an overload, because of the offset center of mass I would estimate that a bench press with both KBs is roughly equivalent to bench pressing 195-215lbs… obviously if you can bench press 275-315+ for reps, it wont give you much of an overload, but if you can get 6-12 reps with 215lbs or less, you can train for size with the KB bench press.

I really like KB swings… even though they have to be done for higher reps, I find them great to build the posterior chain, traps and delts. I personally do 15-20 KB swings between every set of strength work right now.

For legs the best option would be single leg work since they are easier to overload holding 1 or 2 kettlebells. So split squats, Bulgarian split squats, lunges, walking lunges, backward lunges are good options. The KB front squat can also be quite challenging and if done after your single leg work, you can probably overload your legs with it.

For back you can do KB rows (but you’ll probably need higher reps because of the weight), but really, I’d go with chin-ups and pull-ups. You can also do KB high pulls (single arm or double). You can do shrugs too, but since the KBs are fairly “light” I suggest holding each repetition for 3 seconds in the peak contracted position, which is better for traps anyway.

Since the KBs might be light for high pulls you could superset shrugs followed by high pulls.

You can easily hit biceps since curls with the KBs work great, even better than DBs from my experience.

Then you have the cleans and snatches which will give you that athletic look.

So yeah, you can make it work.

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:
For legs the best option would be single leg work since they are easier to overload holding 1 or 2 kettlebells. So split squats, Bulgarian split squats, lunges, walking lunges, backward lunges are good options. The KB front squat can also be quite challenging and if done after your single leg work, you can probably overload your legs with it.
[/quote]

CT, do you have an opinion on pistol squats? Thank you.

My sister is recovering from knee issues following pistol squats so I would say be careful if you are going to do them.

Great stuff CT.

[quote]jtbrown0511 wrote:
My sister is recovering from knee issues following pistol squats so I would say be careful if you are going to do them.[/quote]

I’ve seen that quite a bit (I’m working with a lot of Crossfit people). I know that I personally cannot do pistols without pain and I’m built to squat. It looks cool, but I see no reason to do it if your goal is simply to build muscle and strength.

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:

[quote]jtbrown0511 wrote:
My sister is recovering from knee issues following pistol squats so I would say be careful if you are going to do them.[/quote]

I’ve seen that quite a bit (I’m working with a lot of Crossfit people). I know that I personally cannot do pistols without pain and I’m built to squat. It looks cool, but I see no reason to do it if your goal is simply to build muscle and strength.[/quote]

That was my statement back to her. It may look cool but it serves no other purpose.

CT, can I use swings for cardio? Now I use 24 kg kettlebell and doing as much as possible in 10 minutes. I started from 60 swings and now I easily get done 130 reps. I feel that my endurance has increased. I can run a lot longer and faster, but I’m doing only swings.
What else method can be used in swings to increase endurance?

P.S. I’m using google translate, so I hope I wrote understandable.

[quote]vardas11 wrote:
CT, can I use swings for cardio? Now I use 24 kg kettlebell and doing as much as possible in 10 minutes. I started from 60 swings and now I easily get done 130 reps. I feel that my endurance has increased. I can run a lot longer and faster, but I’m doing only swings.
What else method can be used in swings to increase endurance?

P.S. I’m using google translate, so I hope I wrote understandable.
[/quote]

KB swings have been shown to potentially be as effective as regular cardio to improve endurance. I’m not an expert on KB work though, it’s a tool I use but it’s not my area of expertise so I cannot really recommend any specific workout to improve endurance with them.

What day would you do cleans and snatches if doing a push/pull/leg split?

[quote]amilo123 wrote:
What day would you do cleans and snatches if doing a push/pull/leg split?[/quote]

Pull and/or legs