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.
When you go back to “traditional” weight training, don't be surprised if you destroy your old performances—and have to buy bigger shirts. According to research by Brad Schoenberg, PhD, there are three basic ways to stimulate muscle growth:
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.
That may not sound like enough variety to grow on, but all major movement patterns are covered by these exercises: Military Press : Upper body pressing and pulling (due to the clean that accompanies the press) Front Squat : Lower body pushing and upper body pulling (you'll need to clean again!)
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.
If you're at all unsure or uncertain about your capability, drop back to swinging one kettle bell. More important than which variety you choose is that you focus on making each rep as explosive as possible, like I explained in my article Kettle bell Explosion: Harness the Power of the Kettle bell Swing.”
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. When used correctly, kettle bells are extremely effective training tools for providing total-body strength and conditioning.
As with any technical movement, lift, or skill, proper coaching is required to maximize the benefits. It's a two-for-one exercise, meaning you're able to combine strength training and cardiovascular conditioning into one efficient movement.
Though it looks easy to perform, the swing can take a significant amount of time, practice, and coaching to perfect. Unfortunately, this exercise is often performed incorrectly, which will limit your results as well as any further progressions that are based on this basic movement.
The kettle bell goblet squat isn't just a leg exercise; it's another total-body juggernaut that offers more mobility—the ability to move easily so you can safely train with heavier loads—and improved conditioning. It teaches you to move fluidly, and when you add the external load (a kettle bell) it requires strength, mobility, and skilled movement.
It's a powerful full-body exercise that requires attention to detail and a respect for human movement. For strong, resilient shoulders, improved hip and trunk strength, and enhanced mobility, the Turkish get-up is essential.
Once you can do the first three exercises—and have demonstrated appropriate shoulder mobility and stability—the kettle bell press is another exceptional movement to learn. The unique shape of a kettle bell and offset handle allow you to press in the natural plane of motion relative to your shoulder joint.
You just feel like you have more power to press efficiently with a kettle bell, mostly because of the more natural plane of motion. Similar to the kettle bell swing, the clean is another explosive exercise for total-body strength and conditioning.
The difference here is that the kettle bell finishes in the rack position as opposed to being projected horizontally away from your body. The kettle bell snatch is physically demanding and technical, but offers outstanding total-body strength and conditioning benefits.
It can help transcend athletic performance to new levels, build explosive strength, and forge strong, powerful shoulders. The snatch requires proper technique, explosive hip power, and athleticism.
This exercise should not be attempted until the kettle bell swing hip-hinge pattern and explosive hip drive are established. Though watching videos is helpful, the best way to learn how to correctly do these challenging movements is to work with a certified kettle bell instructor.
Kettle bells, which look like cannonballs with handles, have become a popular strength training alternative to traditional barbells, dumbbells, and resistance machines. Kettle bell exercises often involve several muscle groups at once, making them a highly effective way to give your arms, legs, and abs a great workout in a short amount of time.
Kettle bells can be used for a variety of exercises that improve both your strength and cardiovascular fitness. Russian strongmen in the 1700s developed kettle bells as implements to build strength and endurance.
You’ve probably seen depictions of bare-chested carnival strongmen hoisting them over their heads. Using lighter kettle bells at first allows you to focus on using the proper form and technique for the different exercises.
You can always increase the weight once you’re comfortable with the correct form for each exercise. Fitness experts suggest using kettle bells with the following weights if you’re at an intermediate to advanced level with your strength training:
Aim to add more reps each week, then work toward adding more sets as you build strength. Push your hips backward, and bend your knees to reach the kettle bell handles.
Firmly grip the kettle bells, keeping your arms and back straight. This is an excellent exercise to boost both your muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness.
While your shoulders and arms will do a lot of the work, most of the effort should come from the hips and legs. Engage your abdominal muscles and set your shoulders back.
Exhale as you make an explosive upward movement to swing the kettle bell out in front of you. Squats are an excellent lower-body exercise that work your quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, as well as your abdominal muscles.
Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed out slightly. Using your leg muscles, with your upper body still, straighten up to your starting position.
With both hands around the handle, hold the kettle bell close to your chest. Alternatively, you can hold a kettle bell by the handle in one or both hands, with your arms at your sides.
Slowly step forward with your left leg, bending your knee while keeping your right foot in place. Make sure your left knee doesn’t extend over your toes.
A great exercise for working your abs and obliques (the muscles on the sides of your abdomen that run from your hips to your ribs), the Russian twist can also be done with a weighted medicine ball or barbell plate. When using a kettle bell, be sure to keep a firm grip so that you don’t drop it on your lap.
Holding the kettle bell handle with both hands, lean back so that your torso is at about a 45-degree angle to the floor. With your heels a few inches above the floor, rotate your torso from right to left, swinging the kettle bell slightly across your body.
When you’ve completed your repetitions, return to your starting position. When your chest is even with the kettle bell handles, exhale and push your body back up to its starting position.
While exhaling, push the kettle bell upward so that your arm is almost straight. There are many benefits to working out with kettle bells, for both men and women, across all age groups.
According to a 2019 study, a kettle bell workout is a highly effective way to improve your strength, aerobic power, and overall physical fitness. Compared to resistance circuit-based training, the same study found that a regular kettle bell workout is just as effective at improving cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength.
A 2013 study reported that participants who completed an 8-week kettle bell training session saw noticeable improvements in their aerobic capacity. Kettle bell exercises have the ability to restore muscle mass and improve grip strength in older adults, according to a 2018 study.
According to Harvard Health, kettle bell exercises can also help improve your posture and balance. You typically use your core muscles more with kettle bell exercises than with dumbbells or barbells.
If possible, ask a certified personal trainer at your local gym or fitness center to show you the proper form for kettle bell exercises. Stop immediately if you feel sudden or sharp pain.
A little mild soreness after a workout is normal, but you shouldn’t feel sudden, sharp pain while working out. Kettle bells can take a little getting used to, but working out with them is a highly effective way of improving your muscle strength and cardio fitness.