How to Add Kettlebells to Your Training Program, Part 1

By Mike Mahler

As kettlebell training becomes more popular, trainees are getting confused about how to effectively add kettlebell training to their regimens. Some people might enjoy kettlebell-only or kettlebell-focused programs, while others won't want to quit their current program but instead enhance them by introducing kettlebell movements. Kettlebells are excellent weight training tools and also useful for work capacity and structural integrity. In this article, I'll cover using kettlebells as weight-training tools, along with other training tools for size and strength training--which is the way to go to for fat loss. In Part 2, the focus will be on how to add kettlebell training in timed sets for structural integrity, work capacity, and muscular endurance.

When using kettlebells for weight-training, for a comprehensive and balanced program, you must cover the following five categories:

1. Upper Body Press

2. Upper Body Pull

3. Lower Body Press

4. Lower Body Pull

5. Core

Upper Body Press Exercises

Barbell Military Press

Barbell Incline Press

Barbell Bench Press

Handstand Push-Up

Push-Up

Barbell Push-Press

Lifeline TNT Cable Military Press

Lifeline Power Push-up

Upper Body Kettlebell Press Exercises

Double KB Military Press

One-Arm KB Military Press

Alternating KB Military Press

KB Clean and Military Press

KB Push-Press

One-Arm KB Floor Press

Double KB Floor Press

Upper Body Pull Exercises

Pull-Up

Chin-Up

Barbell Bent-Over Row

Upper Body Kettlebell Pull Exercises

One-Arm KB Bent-Over Row

Alternating KB Bent-Over Row

Double KB Bent-over Row

Renegade Row

Alternating Renegade Row

Lower Body Press

Barbell Squat

Barbell Front Squat

Hack Squat

Elevated Trapbar Deadlift (stand on a solid box or barbell plate to increase the range of motion)

Box Squat

Hindu Squat

One-Legged Squat

Lifeline Portable Power Jumper Squat

Lower Body Kettlebell Press

One-Arm KB Front Squat

Double KB Front Squat

KB Suitcase Squat

KB Suitcase Lunge

Lower Body Pull

Barbell Deadlift

Trapbar Deadlift

Barbell Clean

Barbell Snatch

Lower Body Kettlebell Pull Exercises

One-Arm KB Swing

Double KB Swing

Double KB Clean

One-Arm KB Snatch

Double KB Snatch

Core Exercises

Ab Wheel Roll-Out (kneeling and standing)

Hanging Leg Raise

Slow and Controlled Sit-Up/Side Bend

Reverse Sit-Up

Core Kettlebell Exercises

KB Windmill

KB Turkish Get-Up

KB Side Bend

KB Guard Sit-Up

KB Pass Between the Feet

Once you've constructed your training program to cover these five areas, it's easy to see where kettlebell movements can fit in. Below are two examples of size and strength programs which effectively combine kettlebells with barbell work and body weight training. To cover all the bases, the programs additionally contain a conditioning element. These are not bulking programs wherein the goal is to add as much actual weight as possible, since such programs can end up adding more fat than muscle, which most trainees are trying to avoid! Rather, the objective of these programs is to gradually add solid muscle--gaining five pounds of solid muscle will have a more profound effect on your physique than adding fifteen pounds of mostly fat.

Sample Program "A"

Monday

A1) Lifeline TNT Cable Military Press 3x5

rest: 60-seconds

A2) Weighted Chin-Up 3x5

load: your 8 rep max

rest: 60-seconds

Do A1 and A2 in alternating fashion, i.e., do a set of A1, rest for a minute, then do a set of A2. Continue until all sets have been completed.

Kettlebell Windmill 2x5 each side

B1) Elevated Trapbar Deadlift 5x5

load: your 7-9 rep max

rest: 60-seconds

B2) Double KB Swing 5x5

*swing to chest level

load: your 8-10 rep max

rest: 60-seconds

Do B1 and B2 in alternating fashion, i.e., do a set of B1, rest for a minute, then do a set of B2. Continue until all sets have been completed.

Tuesday

Circuit Training

Double Kettlebell Clean and Push Press 1x10

One-arm Kettlebell Bent-over Row 1x10 each side

Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up 1x5 each side

Double Kettlebell Clean and Front Squat 1x6 (clean before each squat)

One-arm Kettlebell Swing 1x15 each side

Take 30-second breaks between each exercise and 60-second breaks at the end of each round. Do five rounds total.

Thursday

A1) Barbell Clean and Military Press 5x3

load: your 4-6 rep max

rest: 60-seconds

A-2) Weighted Pull-Up 5x3

load: your 5 rep max

rest: 60-seconds

Do A1 and A2 in alternating fashion, i.e., do a set of A1, rest for a minute, then do a set of A2. Continue until all sets have been completed.

Hanging Leg Raise 3x5 each side

load: your 7 rep max

B-1) Double KB Front Squat 5x5

load: your 7-9 rep max

rest: 60-seconds

B-2) Double KB Swing 5x5

*swing to chest level

load: 7-8 rep max

rest: 60-seconds

Do B1 and B2 in alternating fashion, i.e., do a set of B1, rest for a minute, then do a set of B-2. Continue until all sets have been completed.

Friday

Circuit Training

Double KB Clean and Jerk 1x10

Lifeline Power Push-Up 2 Push-Up 1x10

Renegade Row 1x10 each side

Lifeline Power Wheel Roll-Out 1x5

Lifeline Portable Power Jumper Squat 1x10

One-Arm KB Snatch 1x12 each side

Take 30-second breaks in between each exercise and 60-second breaks at the end of each round. Do five rounds.

Sample Program "B"

Monday:

A1) Double KB Clean and Military Press 5x5

load: your 7-9 rep max

rest: 60-seconds

A2) Weighted Pull-Up 5x5

load: your 8 rep max

rest: 60-seconds

Do A1 and A2 in alternating fashion, i.e., do a set of A1, rest for a minute, then do a set of A2. Continue until all sets have been completed.

Lifeline Power Wheel AB Roll-Out 2x10 (from knees or standing, depending on your strength)

B1) Barbell Squat 5x5

load: your 7-9 rep max

rest: 60-seconds

B2) Double KB Swing 5x5

*swing to chest level

load: your 8-10 rep max

rest: 60-seconds

Do B1 and B2 in alternating fashion, i.e., do a set of B1, rest for a minute, then do a set of B2. Continue until all sets have been completed.

Tuesday

Circuit Training

KB One-Arm Clean and Push-Press 1x10

Alternating Renegade Row 1x10

Hindu Squat 1x25

One-Arm Kettlebell Snatch 1x10 each side

Slow and Controlled Sit-Up 1x10 (4 seconds up/4 seconds down)

Take 30-second breaks in between each exercise and 60-second breaks at the end of each round. Do 5 rounds total.

Thursday

A1) Barbell Incline Press 5x5

load: your 7-9 rep max

rest: 60-seconds

A2) Weighted Chin-up 5x5

load: your 8 rep max

rest: 60-seconds

Do A1 and A2 in alternating fashion, i.e., do a set of A1, rest for a minute, then do a set of A2. Continue until all sets have been completed.

KB Turkish Get-Up 3x5 each side

load: a weight you can take to 7 reps

B1) Elevated Trapbar Deadlift 5x5

load: your 7-9 rep max

rest: 60-seconds

B2) Double KB Clean 5x5

load: your 7-8 rep max

rest: 60-seconds

Do B1 and B2 in alternating fashion, i.e., do a set of B1, rest for a minute, then do a set of B2. Continue until all sets have been completed.

Friday

Circuit Training

Explosive Push-Up 1x10 (launching off the floor as high as possible each rep)

Double KB Bent-Over Row 1x10

Double KB Suitcase Squat 1x12

One-Arm KB Swing 1x12 each side

Hanging Leg Raise 1x10

Take 30-second breaks in between each exercise and 60-second breaks at the end of each round. Do five rounds.

Off days, do light exercise, such as walking, swimming, joint mobility training, yoga, tai-chi and chi-kung. These types of exercise help with soreness and workout recovery. If you find that four days is too much training, move Tuesday’s workout to Wednesday and Thursday’s workout to Friday (cutting out the Friday circuit training workout) for three training days. If you're under excess stress or for whatever reason experiencing poor recovery, reduce training to two days only. For example, do Monday’s workout, then do Tuesday’s workout on Thursday, cutting out all other training. For active recovery on off days, do the suggested light exercises.

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