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.
Even a small increase in your RM numbers means an increase in strength, so I'd like you to test at the very end of the program as well, after taking a week off. 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.
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. Goal Build Strength and Conditioning
Skill level Duration Days per week Type Goal Build Strength and Conditioning
Skill level Duration Days per week Type Of course, simple doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with easy.
Benching 500 pounds is a simple concept. So is running a marathon.
But accomplishing either is also extraordinarily difficult. Likewise, just because Pavel Tsatsouline’s five-week training program requires only two exercises a day using a single kettle bell doesn’t mean you won’t be cursing him every step of the way.
There’s a lot of work here, but if you stick with it you’ll come out a stronger and leaner man on the other side. Tsatsouline, the author of Kettle bell : Simple & Sinister, is a former Soviet special forces instructor and currently a subject-matter expert to elite U.S. military and law enforcement special ops units.
He cites Russian professor Victor Stoyanov’s research with Russian national sports teams as inspiration for designing the plan you see here. “When the Russians measured wrestlers’ blood right after competition, they discovered the losers were more acidic than the winners,” says Tsatsouline.
“Instead of focusing on training to tolerate acidity better, Stoyanov decided to avoid acidity altogether and developed a methodology for growing mitochondria, aerobic power plants in the muscle cells, in fast-twitch muscle fibers.” This method trains you to minimize the formation of lactic acid and dispose of it easily.
Tsatsouline says you need a high workload (you’ll be lifting six days a week) paired with long rest periods. As for the fact that this plan incorporates only a kettle bell and a pull up bar, Tsatsouline is steadfast in his belief that no training implement can rival the kettle bell.
If barbells and dumbbells make up the majority of your training, you’re about to get a serious shock to your system. Try the following for five weeks, and watch your strength soar.
Kettle bell Swings Whenever you see swings in this program, you’ll be doing seven reps per minute for the prescribed number of sets. Seven swings will take about 10 seconds; rest for the remainder of the time.
Kettle bell Presses and Pull ups Set a timer to beep every 8min. When it beeps, start your press set.
Clean a 6-8RM kettle bell once and press it 5 times with your left. Drop, switch hands, clean with your right, and do your 5 presses.
Without setting the kettle bell down, keep switching hands and counting down the reps: 5-4-3-2-1. Walk around for a couple of minutes, and do the pull ups in the same descending rep ladder of 5-4-3-2-1.
When the timer beeps, hit your presses again. Goal Build Strength and Conditioning
Skill level Duration Days per week Type Kettle bell Goblet Squat: Focus on sitting back with your hips and opening your knees to achieve depth.
Russian Kettle bell Swing: Stand behind the kettle bell with feet slightly wider than shoulder width and slightly turned out. Sit back and grip the handle with both hands.
Keep your lower back arched and “hike” the kettle bell back between your legs. Explosively snap your hips open.
Let the kettle bell float momentarily at chest level before smoothly guiding it back for another rep. Single-Arm KB Press Tense your body, crush the handle of the bell, and drive it straight up to a full lockout.
Weighted Pull up Hang a kettle bell or weight plate from a dip belt and get to work. On every day but the final day of the program, your pull up “sets” will be long, descending ladders.
(See workout boxes.) See how many reps you can do for each exercise (except the goblet squat) using the same weight you've been using throughout the plan.
Do any conditioning workout you’ve done in the past such as a CrossFit Won or an uphill run. You’ll be impressed with the results. This kettle bell workout plan will increase your strength and cardiovascular endurance without the typical work to ratio seen in high intensity interval training.
Workout Routines Who say lifting weights doesn’t burn fat? This 4-week program composed entirely of supersets will turn your love hand...
Read article Workout Routines Massaging yogis was always great for anatomy exploration, but some of my clients were everyday bodybuilders, forever chasing the Hollywood superhero body.
Massaging through gym rats’ chronically tight and tense muscles was a workout in itself. Arguably, the reason why many needed to see me in the first place was due to poor training habits (coupled with too much time spent in a chair).
They’ll also use external apparatus to stabilize movements for the sake of muscle isolation and “extra focus on the muscle fibers.” These training habits eventually rewire the nervous system to forget how to activate the stabilizers it was born with and effectively make the everyday bodybuilder prone to injury and, in the long run, substantially less capable at life. Training for functional mass involves protocols that build nice big Hollywood muscles while also making the body more useful at real life tasks and less prone to back, shoulder and knee injuries.
Their muscles are rock hard when activated, but unlike powerlifters and bodybuilders, they have the ability to switch off when not in use and are not short and chronically tight. If the goal is functional mass, arguably the best training modality would be Olympic lifting with a mix of calisthenics.
O-lifting is a long and highly rewarding path, for those who possess the movement ability. However, it’s not accessible to the vast majority of everyday people, because we just don’t move well enough.
I encourage anyone to start their O-lifting journey if they can pass my simple litmus test: being able to hold a naked (20 kg) Olympic bar overhead while sitting in the deep squat for two minutes. Golden Rules and Essential Considerations for Designing Functional Mass Programs
Stand, kneel, lunge, hang, loco mote or sit or lay on the floor Never use a bench, chair, pad, fixed resistance machine or anything to help stabilize movement or isolate target muscle groups.
Smashing the muscle fibers to destruction, so they’ll grow back bigger and stronger is absolutely achievable using the stabilizers you were born with. I think that avoiding the use of external apparatus for help with stability is the most important rule that should be applied to all training, no matter the goal.
Forget back ‘n’ biceps, shoulders ‘n’ triceps or chest ‘n’ abs. Replace it with squat ‘n’ pull, hinge ‘n’ push, loco mote ‘n’ resist rotation, say.
Don’t go the gym and further train yourself to flex into the shape of a cashew nut (biceps, chest and superficial abs). It promotes feelings of depression and weakness and arguably brings you closer to the grave.
The glutes and lats are the biggest muscles in the body for good reason—they extend. Be more superhero and train extension, with dead lifts, pull-ups, push-ups×, squats, cleans, military press* and loaded carries.
*A skilled practitioner presses from their lats while radiating tension throughout the midsection with their glutes. When I’m programming for my remote clients, any given functional mass session only lasts 40-55 minutes.
Given that the first 15-20 minutes of that is spent on joint mobility, this leaves a short window for the main workout component. Ballistics involve kettebells being swung through two-planes of motion (swings, cleans and snatches).
For goals such as losing weight or improving conditioning, ballistics should outweigh grinds. Since the golden years of bodybuilding in the ‘70s, it’s been known that the more time the muscles spend under tension, the better for hypertrophy.
I served in the Royal Marines Commandos with a dude who had a better body than Captain America. He only ever did thousands of really light reps and isometric holds with resistance bands and baby dumbbells.
We may have admired his physical appearance, but we relished in the fact that he was weak and sub-par as an operational Commando. His dead lift was pathetic, he couldn’t outrun a hedgehog, let alone run a heavy backpack over a mountain, he often had lower back pain, and he couldn’t reach his magazine pouches because his big, useless muscles were in the way.
Through my years of training I know that loaded jump squats are a very reliable ingredient for developing legs like tree trunks. But crippling injuries also usually come as a complimentary extra for those who can’t deep squat slowly without load.
If someone can sit in a deep squat position for over 4 minutes, they qualify for adding load. Then after some months, adding explosive speed will induce miracle muscle growth.
This is an age-old ingredient for muscle mass because it optimizes hormone release and facilitates the highest possible volume. Strength is tension… How much full body tension you’re able to produce reflects your ability to apply force.
More relaxed, loose muscles = better blood flow, faster recovery, less chronic tension and related injuries. But if the goal is looking like a Marvel superhero in the shorter term, without breaking the first two (and most important) of these golden rules, training to failure in some lifts for 2-3 months won’t do any harm.
But if you want to put on some muscle mass in a short space of time without cocking up your hormone balance by taking vitamin-S (anabolic steroids), train to failure and grow some sarcoplasmic muscle mass. A great way to deplete the glycogen stores within the muscles and leave your arms or legs feeling like they might drop off.
Many uneducated or inexperienced trainers think it’s their mission to create delayed onset muscle soreness (Does) for their paying clients after every session. Regular, weekly Does creates excessive muscle toxicity, which has a plethora of negative side effects and cripples good movement.
Soles Does in unavoidable for people who’ve been wearing foot coffins (shoes) all their lives and want to learn to run properly. Does in all major muscle groups is expected for the first couple of weeks of any good hypertrophy program.
Do you wake up naturally and feel like moving first thing in the morning most days of the week? If all the muscle chasers I know put half the energy and discipline into planning and executing their rest as they do their workouts, they would be bigger.
Intermittent fasting has endless health and body composition benefits. Muscles grow when your metabolism isn’t busy digesting food
Eat a large portion of complex carbs (yams, quinoa, rice, buckwheat) with most meals, particularly after training Leafy and colorful veggies should take up most of your plate for most meals—you need the nutrients for growth.
Avoid processed crap, cook for yourself, prep meals, plan shopping Every session should begin with 20 minutes of joint mobility and muscle activation, relative to your individual movement needs and injury history.
All programs should contain all human movement patterns and should obviously be suitable for the person it’s written for. If you disqualify, there are literally thousands of other effective functional mass programs that are suitable for you.
Ability to walk for 30 seconds holding two snatch-weight kettle bells overhead (the amount you want to snatch with) 2-4 conventional barbell dead lifts, 2-4 offset kettle bell military press, shake it off
8-10 offset kettle bell military press, 3-5 explosive chin-ups (ruminated grip), shake it off 1st bleep: Heavy KB, non-dominant arm military press to failure
2nd bleep: Heavy KB, dominant arm military press, match reps 4th bleep: Medium KB, dominant arm military press, match reps
6th bleep: Light KB, dominant arm military press, match reps Just wanted to take some time and recommend Geoff Expert's KettlebellMuscle program to anyone who is pressed for time and wants “one-stop shopping” cardio, strength and explosiveness training. I'm a police captain without an abundance of time and discovered kettle bells a few years ago as I was looking to save my knees from running and other forms of traditional cardio.
After completing the Etc Top I needed a change and did Km. The scale showed a slight increase, my legs and upper shoulders were thicker.
(I could strictly press a beast and started with double 24s) The results after twelve weeks...... I was able to do reps with the beast! Founder and Chairman Master Certified Instructor
Then took on a different program for 12 weeks, and now am I coming back to Km again for another round. But by the 4th round I'm pretty spent, and if I can muscle my way through it at all, my form is turning to crap.
So in that case, am I better off (a) dropping back a weight for that last set and maintaining form (sort of like a drop set; it's still pretty darn tough at this point in the workout), or (b) muscling through it in less than pretty fashion, or (c) not doing that last set at all? But I wanted some advice from the experts, especially whether (a) is effective or not, or if it's best to stop when the form really breaks down from exhaustion.
Level 7 Valued Member Elite Certified Instructor Ken — here's what I would do:Take the total volume and do as many sets as you need to with the larger weights using your best form.
Great stuff, as always. I was not thinking about it in terms of hitting total volume of reps with the new weight level; for some reason, that approach was never on my radar. Geoff could Your advise me which size of KB should I use.
20 kg for Km or 24 kg as You wrote for decrease number of reps in series but witch proper volume? I added one round per workout and reduced the rest times using the 20s.
It is a KILLER program and it will definitely make you super strong and muscular! How long lasting are the mass gains from a program like this if a person goes back to a less intense program but still challenges their abilities using a weight appropriate for the new strength?
Did double front squats on variety days. It is an awesome program. People who believe that such a short workout isn't effective quickly change their minds after three rounds of complex kettle bell complex!
Soaring heart rate, shaky limbs and I guess what can be described as systemic exhaustion. Sorry to beat a dead horse but I love the program.
I'm curious, for those who have done Km (or Geoff, or anyone else working double snatches), was there a point at which you brought the KB's back to the rack between snatches? Pavel says in Return of the Kettle bell to rack them between snatches so you don't face plant or hurt your back.
Level 7 Valued Member Elite Certified Instructor Question for Geoff, How much tension (volume) do you suggest for the squats and presses?
I know it is a mass building program but with complexes and chains I would be some fat loss is happening too.