Awhile ago I wrote an article about kettlebell training, since then I’ve spent hundreds of hours using them as part of my own training and with clients of every type imaginable. It’s not the only thing you’ll ever need in the gym, but it sure does come in handy a lot.
The last time I talked about kettlebell training, I gave a brief history of the tool, and laid out a few kettlebell exclusive workouts, but outside of when I’m training at my apartment and only have kettlebells, I never do a workout using only them. More often I’ll use them as part of supersets with more traditional barbell lifts, and as metabolic finishers at the end of my workouts. No matter if your goal is to hit a higher total in powerlifting, cut some fat before summer gets here, or just round the bases a little quicker in that summer softball beer league that is coming up, adding some kettlebell work to your already solid program might be that little bit extra you need.
For example, here are a couple different clients, they all have very different programs, but they all use kettlebells in some aspect of their training.
Client A: 30 year old female, goal is to lose 15 pounds.
Although she is already in pretty good shape, pays attention to her diet, and does plenty of cardio and bodyweight exercises, any kind of exercise with added resistance is new to her. An easy way to transition her into using free-weights was using kettlebells as part of her bodyweight circuits. We can still do the workout in the “functional” training area, but by having her do presses and rows with the lighter kettlebells, and swings with the heavier, I’m slowing getting her ready to move over to the barbells and dumbbells eventually. Sure we’ll still do plenty of bodyweight and circuit work, but once she meets the squat rack, I think she’ll get hooked.
Client B: 48 year old male, wants to cut fat, become more athletic
Guys already strong as hell, and has massive triceps that most the guys I know in their twenties don’t even come close to, but all his life he’s only known one style of lifting, which is traditional bodybuilding, five days a week. It’s been great for adding muscle, but now he’s starting grind himself down, and is looking for a way to trim up, keep his muscle, and be able to move around a bit more fluidly.
We’ve transitioned him to a upper/lower split, and while we still focus on traditional bodybuilding exercises during the first half of the workout, the last half is spent on a more metabolic and conditioning style of training, with sprints, KB swings, and four to five exercise circuits consisting of things like farmers carries, waiters walks, suitcase carries, along with plenty of bodyweight movements.
Client C: 24 year old male, training for first powerlifting meet
Though strength was ok starting out, he had two glaring issues that needed to be addressed.
- He was about 20 pounds overweight.
- His hips were so damn tight that he needed 185 pounds on the bar just to squat to depth
We addressed both of these issues with kettlebell swings. After his two lower body sessions, as well as two other days during the week, he would do 100 swings with the 55lb bell. It didn’t matter what the set/rep scheme looked like, he just had to get the reps done. The swings, along with a bit of extra conditioning work knocked fat off him, and loosened up his hips so he can now knock out bodyweight squats to depth all day long if called upon.
A happy coincidence is that all the swings actually improved the issues that he had with his rotator cuff thanks to 4 years of benching with absolute shit form back when he started lifting.
Client D: 24 old female, wants to add muscle, increase speed for her sport.
She’s incredibly intimidated by the weight room, she’s so petite that she has to buy children’s jeans, and just flat out wouldn’t fit in most of the resistance machines at the gym so I figured I would give her a shot at using the kettlebell one day. She wants to add muscle, and as a lifelong distance runner has very little muscle on her legs, so we’re using KB swings to add muscle there. She also loves clean and presses with the KB, and wants to move up to doing them with a barbell when she builds her strength to that point.
She’ll also push the sled for 10 trips with damn near no rest, and bodyweight exercises on both ends, and never complain a bit.
So yeah, I’d say she’s kind of a badass little Frisbee golfer….
It’s not the “end all be all” of exercise
Dumbbells still work for strength, traditional cardio still work for fat loss, they’ve been around forever, and they’ll keep being around for a reason, they work. That doesn’t mean occasionally it isn’t fun to try something else though.
There’s a concept called the Law of the Instrument which most people know by the old saying that “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. It basically means that if you’re hyper-focused on your tool, then you think its the answer for all problems.
A lot of guys who start using kettlebells end up being that kettlebell guy at the gym, because it’s the only piece of equipment they use. This is clearly an ass backwards way to think.
Just use the right tool for the job.
(Note: Do you use a kettlebell in your workouts? Let us know what your favorite exercise is over in our forums here.)