T Nation

Kettlebells for Building Muscle


Hello all, I’m brand new to the T-Nation forums! I’ve been an avid reader of numerous posts for a fair few years, I’ve only just decided to start giving my input and thoughts on here, please bare with me as I’m still getting used to the whole page.

About me, I’m 24 years old, 5ft 8 around 210 lbs with a miserable 20% body fat (I’m out of shape since I’ve not trained for 8 weeks or so with an injury) I’ve been an avid weightlifter since the age of 15 in my dads gym, I’ve competed in both bodybuilding (1st ever show) and powerlifting for GPC multiple times since 16 or so and have a good grasp on training philosophy, methods and nutrition. (Well I used to until I moved into my new house lol! Too many things going on and the wedding) , i work full time in a warehouse and it’s fairly taxing all day on my feet. The past few months I have been at home with a injured pec from powerlifting, it’s finally healed slightly and I’m returning to work and training again.

However my issues are; I’ve completely lost interest in powerlifting , bodybuilding it feels tiresome and boring. (Here me out) and my shoulder/pec is buggered.

I love the sense of a challenge, and I love a workout that gets my heart pumping and leaving me drained yet the sense of accomplishment. Which I just seemed to have lost with the above mentioned.

So I’ve recently been exploring into and training with kettlebells, reading Pavel Tsatsoulines books, And learning new ways to train with a injured pec keeping me entertained and challenged.

My post is really to get advice on my program I’ve developed for bodybuilding using kettlebells! Here it goes…

A) The Swing 3x20
B) Strict Military Press 3x12
C) Floor Pullovers 3x15
D) Wrestlers Bridge Press 3x12
E) Bent over Row 3x15
F) Stiff legged Deadlift 3x12
G) Zercher Squat 3x15
H) Turkish Getups 3x5 per arm

My reasonings for this, I wanted the program to have;

  • Hip hinge (the swing and SLDL)

  • Squat (Zercher Squat)

  • Vertical and horizontal press (military pressing and bridge press)

  • Vertical and horizontal pull (pullover and the row)

  • Total body Core (Turkish Getups)

I’d just like some feedback, or if anyone else trains with just kettlebells what you do.

Also sorry if the post is badly done or later out it is my first one.




If you don’t get many replys here you could try on dragondoor or some other kettlebell orientated forum


Hard to give a yay or nay on this. Start a training log in the training log subforum here, run your program for a minimum of 12 weeks, post before and after pictures, and you can prove it’s efficacy yourself.


Up to you. I have a kettlebell but only use it for overhead presses and one arm bench. I prefer sandbags, cables and barbells.


What’s your actual goal? If you want to build muscle, the principles are standard even if you’re limiting the equipment used.

Also, do you have a full set of kettlebells with plenty of different weights, are you working with just a couple of individual bells, or what? That’s going to influence programming in a big way.

Pavel is the man when it comes to KB work, obviously, and he has a ton of content out there. His Simple and Sinister stuff is based off of just swings and get-ups, and it can be a solid session on its own, but it’s nothing close to what I’d call “bodybuilding”.

The routine you laid out hits a whole lot of stuff in one session, probably too much at once. Try paring down to 3-4 exercises per session, max. Like just “squat variation, hinge exercise, upper body pull, upper body press” each time. That’ll still hit the entire body and allow better focus. You can even start sessions with a “total body lift” like TGUs, clean and press, or snatch w/ overhead squat/lunge. And look into bottoms-up work to help with shoulder stability.

Not sure why you’re sticking with 12-15 reps for everything, and I think you’ll be too fatigued for the get-ups last in the workout. Also, I have no idea how you’d “Zercher squat” with kettlebells.


This is fun to imagine though.


The Gorilla kettlebells look cool but if strength is your goal other heavier objects are better. What’s the heaviest kb? 40kgs or something. I’ve got 2 sandbags 45kgs each. Can do a lot. Plus can add weight when reqd. Adjustable dumbells can be used for most kb exercises. Apart from looking cool the kb is overrated imo


I’m picturing super-skinny forearms put through the handle-holes.

Nope. A well-outfitted gym (or an optimistic home gym’er) can have crazy-heavy KBs.

Fixed weight implements, whether it’s a kettlebell, sealed sandbag, medicine ball, or fixed barbell, will always be less versatile than adjustable weight implements and will require more specific programming, but every tool has its own pros and cons.

While DBs are definitely interchangeable with KBs for the majority exercises with no significant difference, there are certain movements where the KB has clear benefits - like bottoms-up lifting and anything where the offset-center of gravity increases shoulder stability requirements (like most presses, get-ups, etc.).

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Functionally that certainly beats what I was thinking, which was bearhugging a pile of KBs and hoping for the best.


Some big ass kbs there. Expensive to buy and not all gyms are going to have that range. I picked up some canvas bags for free to stuff inside a 100 litre duffle bag for $15 and the sand was free. Much cheaper and if I drop it it’s not breaking stuff.


Threadjack, but is there anyone that makes them heavier ?


203 is the biggest I’ve seen/used. Powerlifting/strongman gym I used to lift at in Va Beach had one. First time I tried swings with it I damn near face planted on the back swing. It was doable though, just had to sit back a lot harder with that one.


I assumed he meant goblet squats instead of actual squats. Maybe stick a broom handle through a few kettlebells or some chain and use that as a zercher squat some how


Yes, and? That’s why I asked what he had available. I simply answering your question about the heaviest kettlebell available.

Sandbags also takes up much more space and requires time and energy to assemble initially. And they’re more limited, exercise-wise, especially when it comes to single-arm exercises. Every movement will also have an increased grip and core requirement, which isn’t always a benefit when it comes to focusing on specific body parts.

Lastly, breaking stuff when dropping a weight is a lame and unnecessary worry. It’d be like worrying about spilling dozens of pounds of sand when putting together your bag-in-a-bag. Kind of a silly thing to bring up because it’s not a very likely occurrence.

So, again, every tool has its own pros and cons. The dude asked about kettlebells because that’s what he’s gotten into recently.


A few companies other than Rogue have 200-pounders, but I haven’t seen heavier. Some companies also make a Hungarian Core Blaster (also pretty easy to make on your own after a trip to Home Depot) and it can be loaded crazy-heavy, but that’s pretty much only used for two-arm swings.

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I’ve a couple of KB’s, 44lbs and 18lbs. I use the the 44lbs for single and double handed swings and let me tell you 100 swings and I’m smoked. The TGU’s are very hard too. Those and just balancing a KB upside down by the handle whilst lying flat with my arm vertical is great for stability in the shoulder. All in all I like them for a bit of variety. I get being a bit bored OP and wanting to try something different. Give it a go if it keeps you enjoying training. Whatever gets you moving.


I’m 5500 swings into the 10,000 swing workout with a 50 lb KB. Time went from 48 minutes down to 24 minutes. By the last cluster every time I hinge my hips back a stream of sweat falls off my chin. The conditioning aspect is ridiculous.


Depends how much money you want to spend. My gym cost nothing with smart buying and selling. Some people spend thousands.