As I explained in my article Grind to Grow: Try Your Squats and Presses with Kettle bells,” part of the reason the kettle bell triggers newfound strength and muscle growth is because of its offset shape. It forces the body to stabilize its joints differently from barbells, dumbbells, and other traditional bodybuilding equipment.
This forces your muscles to contract differently than normal, and increases the demand placed upon them. Look no further than the extra depth that every lifter instantly discovers when they front squat with a pair of kettle bells in the rack position, versus a barbell across the back.
With this new and increased range of motion comes increased muscular growth in your legs, and strength in your entire torso, from the inside out, including the all-important core musculature. Best of all, the kettle bell lends itself to a simple, but very challenging programming.
This 12-week program requires only two kettle bells and time for three workouts a week. But after one time through it, you'll find yourself more muscular in all the areas that matter: shoulders, upper back, upper chest, arms, legs, and posterior chain.
Mechanical Tension: Lifting heavier weights for lower reps, similar to the way powerlifters train; think multiple sets of 2-5 reps. Muscular Damage: Lifting moderate weights for medium to higher reps, similar to the way bodybuilders train; think multiple sets of 8-20 reps. Metabolic Stress: Doing either high reps or complexes where you don't set the weight down, producing intense burning and the release of metabolites like lactate.
Swing (single or double kettle bell): Lower body pulling Start the program with a pair of matching kettle bells you can press approximately 4-6 times.
Your goal is to do as many sets of each exercise, with perfect form, as you can in that time. Then, when you're ready, clean the kettle bells back into the rack position and perform a set of front squats.
Your goal is to do as many sets of swings as you can, with perfect form, in that time. To start this phase, determine your rep max (RM) with both the military press and the front squat using your two trusty kettle bells.
Always round down the number of reps if you hit a decimal point in your math. Your goal is to do as many sets of each exercise, with perfect form, as you can in that time.
Clean the kettle bells to the rack position, then perform a set of military presses. Clean the kettle bells back into the rack position, and perform a set of front squats.
Do an RM test with your pair of kettle bells for the swing. If not, use these weeks to keep practicing with the one-handed swing, trying to build up to 20 reps per hand, each at chest height.
Your goal is to do as many sets of swings as you can, with perfect form, in that time. Once again, find your RM for the military press and the front squat.
There's one big difference in these workouts: You'll clean the kettle bells to the rack position and perform a set of military presses, followed immediately by one set of front squats. When your rest time is over, clean the kettle bells back into the rack position and repeat.
This slight variation may not seem like much, but it increases the time under tension you experience and triggers metabolic stress. *Your RM will drop due to fatigue as the sets progress.
By this point, you should be able to comfortably swing a pair of kettle bells. Do an RM test with your pair of kettle bells for the swing.
If not, keep on practicing with the one-handed swing, working up to 20 reps per hand, each at chest height. The amount of tension running through and across your abs will already be severe, especially combining the military presses and front squats in the same day.
However, if you can't live without ab training, I recommend you do hanging variations, like hanging leg raises, to decompress your spine from all the loading. Since this is a strength and muscle program, you need to eat a lot.
A tried-and-true starting point is to multiply your body weight (in pounds) by 15-20 for total calories. In my book, you can't beat the time-tested 30/40/30 split of protein/carbohydrates/fat when growth is the goal.
If you start putting on fatter than you'd like, cut back. Otherwise, your assignment is simple: Eat, sleep, lift, and grow.
The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. We've all turned up to the gym, short on time and motivation, only to find every piece of equipment we need for our workout isn't free.
Faced with this scenario, you have two options: ditch the workout and go home or find a piece of versatile equipment that is underused and undervalued by most of the gym-going community. Packing the same weighty punch as dumbbells, kettle bells are likely to be found in a dusty corner of the gym.
Much like the humble rowing machine and versa climber, most gym bros steer clear of the cast-iron 'bells, helping you get an effective, time-efficient workout in, without having to worry about your kit getting pinched. This and the growing popularity of sports such as CrossFit and Strongman have helped drive kettlebelltraining and workouts into the mainstream.
“Kettle bells give you the opportunity to move athletically with additional resistance from a variety of angles and more challenging positions,” explains Jon Lewis, a personal trainer with fitness outlet Industrial Strength. Not only that, but exercises such as kettle bell swings can help increase your heart rate, burn extra fat and tone muscle, but where they really come into their own is in building strength throughout your posterior chain.
As these are your body’s biggest muscles, you’ll also torch calories,” says Rob Blair, PT at The Commando Temple. Additionally, kettle bells are an incredibly useful tool for those looking to build their base of strength and mobility, so if you're struggling with your barbell back squat, for example, utilizing the kettle bell goblet squat is a good way of practicing proper form with a safer exercise that can then be upgraded as your strength increases.
Well-suited for swings, presses and carries, kettle bells also lend themselves to more dynamic movements, where a dumbbell or barbell may be more difficult to use. Usually, kettle bell workouts are built on a high-rep range, meaning that several muscles are worked at once and, if kept at a consistent pace, can offer similar aerobic benefits to HIIT training.
Similarly, by performing kettle bell circuits three times a week, you’ll pump up your VO2 max by 6 per cent in just under a month, according to the NSA’s Sac Report. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research also found that kettlebelltraining contributes to a healthier lower back, owing to the loading and movement patterns.
Stand with feet set wider than shoulder-width and bend your knees to grab the kettle bell with both hands. Drive your hips, keep your back flat swing the weight up to shoulder height.
Initiated by a powerful hip thrust from your hamstring and glutes, opting for heavier weights (once the move is mastered, of course) for up to 90 seconds a set will vastly improve your anaerobic fitness, accelerating your heart-rate and ignite a fat-burn that the bench press can only dream of. Instead, by combining a front squat with an overhead press, you're transforming a drab move into a compound, multi-joint exercise that demands full-body power.
In one swift movement, slightly jump off the ground and raise your arms to extend above your head. Land softly on your feet with your knees bent as though you're doing a squat and extend your arms straight above you shoulder-width apart.
Instead, the kettle bell clean and press offers the opportunity to increase grip strength, become stronger in overhead movements (your shoulder press will thank you) and will help you learn the lesson of maintaining a rigid core during all lifts. Plus, the researchers found that participants performing the kettle bell snatch usually maintained 86 to 99 per cent of their maximum heart rate, making it an essential move for easy weightless.
Drive through the heel and bring yourself back up to standing position, without letting your leg touch the floor. Functional and an easy gym brag, the kettle bell pistol squat is the king of mobility moves.
Stand with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, clasping a kettle bell in each hand in front of your chest with palms facing each other. Bend your knees and lower yourself into a squat, keeping the kettle bells in the same position and ensuring you don't round your back by tensing your glutes throughout.
Keep your arms strong and walk short, quick steps as fast as possible. Ideal for building grip and plugging onto the end of a tough workout, farmer's walks also pack heavy-duty muscle onto your upper-back while fighting lower-back pain and being a useful conditioning tool and fat-loss.
Drive your hips, keep your back flat swing the weight up to shoulder height. Increase the demand you place on the shoulder stabilizing muscles by doing kettle bell swings with one arm.
Sign up to the Men's Health newsletter and kick start your home body plan. Make positive steps to become healthier and mentally strong with all the best fitness, muscle-building and nutrition advice delivered to your inbox.
For effective home workouts, uplifting stories, easy recipes and advice you can trust, subscribe to Men's Health UK. This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses.