What Is A Kettlebell Complex

Christina Perez
• Tuesday, 13 October, 2020
• 13 min read

A kettlebellcomplex is a series of kettle bell exercises strung together intelligently, so they can be performed from one into the other without rest or having to stop in between. The benefits of a kettlebellcomplex are that you’re usually working the full-body in a very dynamic way with compound exercises.

complex kettlebell workouts short
(Source: kettlebellsworkouts.com)


Dead lift, hang clean, swing clean, swing, half snatch, press, return to the ground and repeat. Originally designed like a barbell complex by Sealant, modified and translated to kettle bells by Caveman training.

By Matthew Brandon Garner, a member of our Caveman Inner Circle. This is a great combo that one of our members suggested including in one of our weekly workouts.

This is a beast of a combo as it’s one explosive movement after the other, you’re pulling the kettle bells up, squatting, and then thrusting them up with the power of your legs. This complex is great to work on the hips, leg strength, core, and shoulders.

To move fluidly, effectively, and safely one needs to understand and have mastered the kettle bell fundamentals. Caveman training has created two kettle bell workout books that contain kettle bell complexes in full-blown workouts, available for direct download on our site and as paperback or Kindle on Amazon.

Complex : A series of compound exercises performed sequentially with the same weight (kettle bell) and without rest. Each time the sequence is performed is considered one repetition.

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(Source: www.onnit.com)

I first learned about complexes as a greenhorn college strength & conditioning coach in 1997 at Rutgers University. Someone had left a Muscle & Fitness magazine on my desk and I perused it during one of my breaks between teams.

In it, I found an article by Romanian Strength Coach Emeritus, Ivan “Steve” Favored on barbell complexes. This opened a whole new world to me and I immediately tried Favored Barbell Complex #1 with several of the guys on the wrestling team.

This was a game changing paradigm and the premise of my book, Kettle bell Muscle, published in January 2010. When structured properly, and especially when using a pair of kettle bells, complexes can help stimulate lean muscle tissue growth.

However, because the loads are relatively light they do so primarily through the factor of Metabolic Stress, which increases a number chemical and hormonal responses within the body to produce muscle. Metabolic stress manifests as a result of exercise that relies on anaerobic glycolysis for ATP production, which results in the subsequent buildup of metabolites such as lactate, hydrogen ion, inorganic phosphate, creatine, and others (169,178).

Muscle ischemia also has been shown to produce substantial metabolic stress, and potentially produces an additive hypertrophic effect when combined with glycolysis training (136,182). The stress-induced mechanisms theorized to mediate the hypertrophic response include alterations in hormonal milieu, cell swelling, free-radical production, and increased activity of growth-oriented transcription factors (50,51,171).

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(Source: eatprayliftblog.wordpress.com)

This makes taking a full deep breath hard. These muscles strain to expand fully, and are therefore trained to get stronger in order for you to get as much air in your lungs a possible so you can keep working without passing out.

As a unique side benefit, this will also make your abs stronger. One of the ways to build grip strength is to hold an object for time.

If you’re doing several sets of ballistic exercises in a row in your complex, like Swings, then Cleans, then Snatches, then your grip is going to be taxed Big Time. There comes a time in every complex, where you’re huffing and puffing, muscles burning, when you question whether you quit or keep going.

This is very simple way to build mental toughness. The quickest workout in my book Kettle bell Muscle is a 3-exercise complex.

Now of course, each kettlebellcomplex workout will vary based upon the number of exercises included, the sets, and the reps, along with the rest periods, but I think you can see, there’s absolutely zero reason you couldn’t get in fantastic shape using nothing but kettle bell complexes 3 times a week for 15 to 20 minutes. According to Coach Favored, and I’ve found this to be true over the last 20+ years, your complexes should be built off your weakest exercise.

wod crossfit clean push complex hang press jerk workout wods barbell split wodwell workouts load max routines sets prison
(Source: crossfitplateau.ca)

And where you choose to place that exercise, makes it more or less difficult to perform, due to fatigue. Running through these 3 kettle bell complexes at various times in your training, in that order, will make your pressing musculature, and therefore your kettle bell press, much stronger, without having to use heavier bells.

This sounds counterintuitive, in the face of the heavy fatigue created by your complex. However, this is something I learned from my first Olympic lifting coach, Mark Cohen, back in 1995.

I had a nasty habit of pulling with my arms instead of extending my hips. It was in Hungary back in 2009 at the ROC kettle bell certification that I put this to the test.

This is a more esoteric reason that’s very similar to the “mental toughness” aspect of training. This is a time to work on centering yourself by staying at the moment and focusing on your breath.

For most people, the upper body pressing muscles are the weakest link in the complex. If not, don’t include the kettle bell front squat.

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(Source: www.bodybuilding.com)

You can use more total weight and create a greater stimulus for change. If you’re using a 24 kg for your single kettlebellcomplex and you do 100 reps total, that’s 2400 kg lifted on that day.

By contrast, if you use a pair of 16 kg kettle bells for the same complex, and you do 100 reps, you’ve just lifted 3200 kg – Plus, double kettle bell complexes are harder and more challenging.

They double down on the 10 reasons to use kettle bell complexes making them seem more like 20. … and sometimes I’ll even throw in the ever brutal, Double Kettle bell Jerk, which I do not recommend for beginners.

Below are 10 video examples of double kettlebellcomplex workouts. I primarily use these double kettle bell complexes for fat loss or conditioning.

If you don’t know how to perform the double kettle bell jerk (or any jerk), simply substitute it with the double kettle bell push press. Almost the same, just requires less coordination and won’t jack your heart rate up as high.

kettlebell reasons pain
(Source: www.onnit.com)

It’s designed primarily for fat loss AND building lean muscle. Today’s complex will put the hurt on your anterior chain if you get the kettle bell size right.

This is a great kettlebellcomplex that will demand your attention leaving no muscle unused when done for maximum rounds and minimal rest: Abs, legs, hips, upper back, shoulders, arms and hands. It’s a great kettle bell workout for stimulate fat loss because the front squat restricts the movement of your rib cage, preventing you from taking a full breath.

(Make sure you’re using a 10 rep max for your double kettle bell snatch.) If you’d like a free double kettlebellcomplex workout program where the exercises, sets, reps, and rest periods are all spelled out for you, day-by-day, then download your free copy of “THE WOLF by clicking the image below.

Today I’d like to introduce you to 4 highly effective KettlebellComplex workouts that get a huge amount of muscle and cardio excitement in just one fluid movement. I’ve included 4 kettlebellcomplex workouts so you can gradually progress from the easiest one to the more challenging one as your skills and strength develop.

Kettlebellcomplex workouts are more effective when they are limited to certain flowing exercises and the patterns are kept simple. If you want to get the most out of your kettlebellcomplex workouts then I suggest you use large multi-jointed movements that target as many muscles as possible.

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(Source: www.latimes.com)

The kettle bell should travel up in a straight line and stay nice and close to the body. At the top of the Clean the arm is wrapped around the kettle bell to avoid banging the wrist.

It is very important that the rear knee touches or gets very close to the floor in order to activate the buttock muscles. Bracing the core and abs will help to stabilize the movement.

If you find that the reverse lunge causes you knee issues then you may be lacking strength in the legs to perform the exercise. I would therefore recommend that first you practice without a kettle bell and if that doesn’t help use the squat exercise instead.

Once you are comfortable with the Level 1 complex you can start adding in a third exercise. Not only is the kettle bell reverse lunge and press a full body exercise but it’s very cardiovascular too.

Use the same technique for the reverse lunge but then as you return to the top position use your momentum to drive the kettle bell overhead. It is possible to separate the overhead press from the reverse lunge but you will find by combining the two movements the exercise flows better.

landmine row muscle fitness training form
(Source: www.muscleandfitness.com)

Now let’s add-in a fourth kettle bell exercise to really increase the demands on the body: You may find it helpful to repeat each part of the exercise to yourself as you perform it e.g. Clean, then Squat and into Press, then back to the racked position.

Take your time and make sure that each section of the 3 exercises is performed perfectly. There is a tendency with Complex movements to rush through them and neglect good form.

Complexes are neurologically exhausting so don’t overdo them… 1 – 3 sets is enough. Kettlebellcomplex workouts are a great way to get lots of muscle activation and variety in a short amount of time.

Before embarking on a kettlebellcomplex workout you should first master each of the individual exercises involved. Don’t rush through the movements and make sure your form is spot on for every repetition even when you start to fatigue.

If you’re reading this article, then you enjoy training with kettle bells for a variety of reasons and you take your health and fitness seriously. One of the reasons I love kettle bells is because of efficiency, both from a time and total body conditioning perspective.

robert timms physique classic body workout fitness upper ifbb muscle ian competitor spanier muscleandfitness iffb
(Source: www.muscleandfitness.com)

I love how I can work my entire body in well under an hour (45-minutes or less in most of the workouts) while still putting in a lot of quality reps. A kettlebellcomplex is a series of exercises strung together without having to set the bell down and rest.

For example, a classic complex I use and that I program for clients consists of cleans, presses, and front squats. A kettle bell chain is also a series of exercises strung together without having to set the bell down and rest.

I find chains to be a bit more engaging mentally as I have to constantly switch exercises and pay attention to what comes next. I tend to program 5 basic kettle bell exercises for my clients in the chains and complexes they perform.

Clean Presses Front squats 1-Arm swings Racked carries Note : The views/opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and don’t necessarily align with those of Caveman training.

When he’s not telling his dogs to stop chasing squirrels, Ryan enjoys teaching others how to train with kettle bells. If you have questions regarding kettle bells, then don’t hesitate to reach out to Ryan.

mark wahlberg working
(Source: www.muscleandfitness.com)

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1 www.gearpatrol.com - https://www.gearpatrol.com/fitness/a710658/kettlebell-shortage-solutions/
2 musclerig.com - https://musclerig.com/kettlebell-alternatives
3 www.phillyvoice.com - https://www.phillyvoice.com/dumbbell-kettlebell-alternatives-at-home-workouts-covid-19/
4 darkironfitness.com - https://darkironfitness.com/what-to-use-instead-of-kettlebells/
5 kettlebelltrainingworkouts.wordpress.com - https://kettlebelltrainingworkouts.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/kettlebell-exercise-alternatives/
6 livehealthy.chron.com - https://livehealthy.chron.com/substitute-kettlebell-swings-4352.html