Taming The Bulldogs Part 2: The Ultimate Program For Serious Kettlebell Strength

Read part 1 at: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/mahler84.htm

By Mike Mahler

Last time, I revealed some tips and programs to work up to mastering one-arm work with an 88lb kettlebell. Otherwise known as the “bulldog.” This time around I am going to discuss how to work up to using two 88lb kettlebells. Why bother? Well heavy training is how your increase Testosterone. Thus to incorporate some T workouts into your kettlebell program, you need to play with some real weights. 53lb bells and below while great for work capacity are not going to cut it. 70lb bells are okay if you are under 185. However, if you're over 185 then get a pair of 88s now and get to work. If your goals are to get as strong and muscular as possible with kettlebell training, you need to be able to play with the big bells. As effective as one-arm work is with one 88lb bell, it is not nearly as effective as double kettlebell work with two bulldogs. Your body has to work against twice as much weight and your hard work will be rewarded with massive gains in size and strength. This program is also effective for working up to the 105lb bells. Lets get started.

PHASE 1

Much of strength training is confidence so in phase one we are going to focus on some exercises that are not technically demanding or super difficult. Once you get used to playing around with the 88s, you will have more confidence which is the foundation for increases in strength.

The Exercises:

  • Bulldog deadlift with hip snap: The first exercise that will build your confidence and give you a feel for double bulldog work is the Bulldog deadlift. Place two kettlebells between your feet. Sit back as if you are trying to sit in a chair behind you. Look forward and grab the bells. Crush grip the handles as hard as possible. Breathe in and standup. As you get close to the lock out, speed up the movement and drive forward with your hips as fast as possible as if you are trying to do a kettlebell swing.
  • Alternating clean: This is a great exercise that I picked up from top strength coach Steve Maxwell.Grab two kettlebells as if you are going to do a double clean. Instead of cleaning both, clean one while holding on to the other. Take the racked bell back to the floor with the other bell and on the next rep, clean the other kettlebell. Go back and forth for several reps.
  • Alternating Floor Press: This is a great exercise for building up your stronger body and for working on weak links. You are going to get in a floor press position with both bells positioned as if you were going to do a double floor press. Instead of pressing both at the same time, press one to lockout and as you lower the locked out bell, immediately press the other one. The tricky part with this exercise is actually getting the bells in place. If you have a workout partner. Have him or hand you the bells. If not, place two bells on the floor shoulder width apart and lie between the two bells. Use two arms to get the bell on your weaker side in place. Using the bell in your weaker side as an anchor, pull the bell next to your stronger side and position it into place. This takes a little bit of practice and effort, but that is something that you will have to deal with if you want to play with the bulldogs.
  • Alternating Bent Over Row: This is another great exercise that I picked up from Steve Maxwell and a great exercise for breaking into double rows with the bulldogs. Get in the starting position of a deadlift and grab two kettlebells with a hammer grip. Pull one to your stomach while you hold on to the other. As you lower one bell, immediately pull the other.

In order to work the core adequately, we will keep some one-arm staples in your program such as the Windmill and Turkish get-up.

The above exercises are on my size and strength DVD, available at Kettlebell Training DVD's

SAMPLE PROGRAM

Monday and Friday

  • Alternating Floor Press 3x5 l,r
  • Alternating Bent Over Row 3x5 l,r
  • One-arm Windmill 2x5 l,r
  • Bulldog Deadlift 5x5

Take two-minute breaks in between each set and a one-minute break in between each exercise.

Wednesday

  • Alternating Floor Press 3x5 l,r
  • Alternating Bent Over Row 5x5 l,r
  • TGU 1x3-5 l,r
  • Alternating clean 3x5 l,r

Take two-minute breaks in between each set and a one-minute break in between each exercise.

PHASE 2

Now that you have a good base, lets take the intensity up a notch with some harder exercises.

The Exercises

  • Double Floor Press: Pressing two kettlebells at the same time is much harder than doing an alternating press. This exercise will build up your triceps, front delts, and pecs. Moreover it will give you a feel for handling the bulldogs for pressing which will help with eventually military pressing the bulldogs. Again, the tricky part with this exercise is actually getting the bells in place. If you have a workout partner, have him or her hand you the bells. If not, place two bells on the floor shoulder width apart and lie between the two bells. Use two arms to get the bell on your weaker side in place. Using the bell in your weaker side as an anchor, pull the bell next to your stronger side and position it into place.
  • Double Bent over row: Just as the double floor press is more difficult than the alternating floor press, the double bent over row is much harder than the alternating bent over row. Why? With the alternating bent over row, you are pulling 88lbs one arm at a time. With the double bent over row, you are pulling 176lbs. In the beginning, feel free to use a little but of momentum to get the bells in motion. However, the endgame is to get to the point in which you are doing rows in strict form with no momentum. Flex let your lats as hard as you can before you pull the bells for more power.
  • Double Clean: Cleaning two bulldogs is no joke and it takes strength and coordination. It is the beginning in the series of ballistic exercises that you can do with two bulldogs. First comes the clean, then the snatch, and for the few and proud the double bulldog snatch. Make sure that you get a good pre-swing to get the bells in motion. Start with the bells in front of you, grab the handles, and swing them back between your legs as fast as possible. Reverse the motion quickly and drive the bells to the rack.
  • Suitcase Squat: Grab two bulldogs and hold them in suitcase fashion. Look forward and squat down until the bells touch the floor. Reverse the direction and stand up. To make the exercise more difficult, try standing on a stair stepper or a box to increase the range of motion. This is a solid basic exercise that will work your legs and build up your confidence for eventually doing front squats with the bulldogs.

To keep the core and shoulder strong, keep the TGU and Windmill in your regimen.

SAMPLE PROGRAM

Monday and Friday

  • A-1: Double Floor Press 3x5
  • A-2: Double Bent Over Row 3x5

Do A-1 and A-2 back to back. In other words, do one set of A-1, wait a minute and then do a set of A-2 and a wait a minute. Keep going back and forth until you have completed three sets of five on each exercise.

  • B-1: Suitcase squat 3x5
  • B-2: Double Clean 3x5

Do B-1 and B-2 back to back. In other words, do one set of B-1, wait a minute and then do a set of B-2 and a wait a minute. Keep going back and forth until you have completed three sets on each exercise.

Wait a minute and then do

  • TGU 2x5 l,r

Wednesday

  • A-1: Double Floor Press 2x3
  • A-2: Double Bent Over Row 2x3

Do A-1 and A-2 back to back. In other words, do one set of A-1, wait a minute and then do a set of A-2 and a wait a minute. Keep going back and forth until you have completed two sets of five on each exercise.

  • B-1: Suitcase squat 2x3
  • B-2: Double Clean 2x3

Do B-1 and B-2 back to back. In other words, do one set of B-1, wait a minute and then do a set of B-2 and a wait a minute. Keep going back and forth until you have completed two sets on each exercise.

Wait a minute and then do

  • One-arm Windmill 2x5 l,r

PHASE 3

Now that you have completes phases 1 and 2 successfully you are well on your way to bulldog mastery. Time to take the next step and incorporate some more difficult drills.

The Exercises

  • Double Swing (knee level): The double kettlebell swing is one of the best exercises that you can do with kettlebells for explosive strength and hamstring development. It is much easier to learn than the double snatch and has most of the benefits without the long learning curve. If strong explosive hamstrings are what you want, then the double swing will always remain in integral part of your arsenal. Your long run goal is to be able to swing two bulldogs to head level. However, that is no easy task and takes some time to work up to. Start off with the double swing to knee level and work up from there. Place two bulldogs in front of you. Grab the handles firmly and swing them back between your legs. Reverse the direction quickly and drive through with your help taking the bells to knee level. Focus on doing the move with maximum power from the hamstrings. The upper body is just going along for the ride.
  • Double Clean with isometric hold: Now that you can floor press the bulldogs, it is time to take it up to the next level and work on double military presses. However, the gap between double floor presses and double military presses is large and will not be that seamless. We need some intermediary exercises and that is where the double clean and isometric hold comes into play. You are going to do everything that you would normally do to press two kettlebells, except press the bells. Clean two bulldogs to the rack and instead of attempting to press the bulldogs, hold them in place while you flex your entire body. Flex your legs, stomach, lats, arms, chest, and crush the handles as hard as possible. Do this for five seconds, and then lower the bells back to the starting position and do another clean. Once the bells are back in the rack position, repeat the isometric drill again. Keep going until you have completed five isometric holds. As an alternative, clean the bells and practice power breathing with the bells in the rack position. This will assist you in developing the necessary tightness and confidence to eventually press the bells.
  • Double Clean and isometric squat: This exercise works on the same principles as the double clean and isometric hold. Of course, now we are going to apply the technique to the bottom position of the front squat. Clean two kettlebells to the rack position and hold your elbows out to build a shelf. Lower yourself under control until you are in the bottom position of a squat. Hold that position and get as tight as possible. Do everything that you would normally do to stand up, except stand up. Practice getting tight and building comfort in the bottom position of the squat. Flex your hamstrings, stomach, and glutes as hard as possible for five seconds. Then let the bells go to the floor, clean them again and do another rep. Proceed until you have done five reps.

In order to keep your upper body strong, we are going to keep the Double Floor Press, Bent-over Row, and Suitcase squat in the program to supplement the isometric work. In addition, we will keep the one-arm windmill and TGU in the program to keep the core and shoulders strong.

Sample Workout

Monday

  • Double Clean and Isometric Squat 2x5
  • Double Swing 2x5
  • Double Clean and Isometric Hold 2x5
  • Double Bent-over Row 2x5
  • One-arm Windmill 1x5 l,r

Wednesday

  • Double Floor Press 2x5
  • Alternating Bent-over Row 2x5
  • Double Clean 2x5

Friday

  • Double Clean and Isometric Squat 2x5
  • Double Swing 2x5
  • Double Clean and Isometric Hold 2x5
  • Double Bent-over Row 2x5
  • TGU 1x5 l,r

Take two-minute breaks in between each set and one-minute breaks between each exercise. Do the exercises one at a time rather than in antagonistic fashion.

PHASE 4

Now that you have built up some confidence and experience with Double 88lb bell work, it is time to do some overhead pressing and step things up a notch.

The Exercises

  • See-saw Press: Clean two kettlebells. Press one and lean in the opposite direction as if you are doing a side press. Lower the bell rapidly and press the other one immediately. Continue untill all reps are completed.
  • Alternating Renegade Row: Pull one bell in as you press the other into the floor forcefully. Lower the bell and pull the other one in. Continue until all reps are completed.
  • Double Front Squat: Clean two bells, hold them up high to take the stress off of the shoulders. Squat all the way down and breathe in. Hold your breath and stand up.
  • Double Swing: Take a wide enough stance to swing to bells between your feet. Swing the bells to chest level or below using rapid hip power and hamstrings.
  • Double Windmill: Have one bell overhead and one below on the inside of the leg that is not below the bell that is locked out. Breathe in as you shift your weight to pick up the bell below. Hold your breathe to stand up and breathe out at the top.

SAMPLE WORKOUT

Monday and Friday

  • A-1: See-saw Press 3x3 (each side)
  • A-2: Alternating Renegade Row 3x3 (each side)

Do A-1 and A-2 back to back. In other words, do one set of A-1, wait a minute and then do a set of A-2 and a wait a minute. Keep going back and forth until you have down three sets of three on each exercise.

Wait a minute and then do

  • Double Windmill 2x5 l,r (one-minute breaks in between each set)
  • B-1: Double Front Squat 3x5
  • B-2: Double Swing 3x5

Do B-1 and B-2 back to back. In other words, do one set of B-1, wait a minute and then do a set of B-2 and a wait a minute. Keep going back and forth until you have down three sets of five on each exercise.

Wednesday

  • A-1: Double Floor Press 3x5
  • A-2: Double Bent-over Row 3x5

Do A-1 and A-2 back to back. In other words, do one set of A-1, wait a minute and then do a set of A-2 and a wait a minute. Keep going back and forth until you have down three sets of three on each exercise.

Wait a minute and then do

  • TGU 2x5 l,r (one-minute breaks in between each set)
  • B-1: Suitcase Squat 3x5
  • B-2: Double Clean 3x5

Do B-1 and B-2 back to back. In other words, do one set of B-1, wait a minute and then do a set of B-2 and a wait a minute. Keep going back and forth until you have down three sets of five on each exercise.

PHASE 5

You have come a long way and now it is time for the cream of the crop double kettlebell exercises. The exercises separate the men from the boys so it is time to step up and see what you are made of.

The Exercises

  • Clean and Military Press: Clean two kettlebells pause for a second, look up slightly and press immediately. The faster you make the transition between the clean and the press the easier the press will be. Thus, to make it harder hold the clean for a few seconds.
  • Double Bent Over Row With A Hold: Pull the bells to your stomach and hold the top position for two seconds. Contract the lats for two seconds. You should have lats by now!
  • Double Front Squat With A Pause: Clean two bells, hold them up high to take the stress off of the shoulders. Squat all the way down and breathe in. Pause at the bottom for two seconds and hold the tension. Continue to hold your breath and stand up.
  • Double Swing: Take a wide enough stance to swing to bells between your feet. Swing the bells to chest level on every rep. Breathe out as you swing the bells up and in as the fall between your feet. Do swing the bells too low as you will lose control if you do. Hold them as high as possible but not too high as you do not want to hurt anything valuable.
  • Double Windmill: Have one bell overhead and one below on the inside of the leg that is not below the bell that is locked out. Breathe in as you shift your weight to pick up the bell below. Hold your breathe to stand up and breathe out at the top.

SAMPLE WORKOUT

Monday and Friday

  • A-1: Double Clean and Press 3x1-3
  • A-2: Double Bent-over Row 3x3

Do A-1 and A-2 back to back. In other words, do one set of A-1, wait a minute and then do a set of A-2 and a wait a minute. Keep going back and forth until you have down three sets of three on each exercise.

Wait a minute and then do

  • Double Windmill 2x5 l,r (one-minute breaks in between each set)
  • B-1: Double Front Squat 3x5
  • B-2: Double Swing 3x5

Do B-1 and B-2 back to back. In other words, do one set of B-1, wait a minute and then do a set of B-2 and a wait a minute. Keep going back and forth until you have down three sets of five on each exercise.

Wednesday

  • A-1: Double Floor Press (arms held close to the body to focus on the triceps) 3x5
  • A-2: Renegade Row 3x5

Do A-1 and A-2 back to back. In other words, do one set of A-1, wait a minute and then do a set of A-2 and a wait a minute. Keep going back and forth until you have down three sets of three on each exercise.

Wait a minute and then do

  • TGU 2x5 l,r (one-minute breaks in between each set)
  • B-1: Suitcase Squat 3x6
  • B-2: Double Clean 3x6

Do B-1 and B-2 back to back. In other words, do one set of B-1, wait a minute and then do a set of B-2 and a wait a minute. Keep going back and forth until you have down three sets of five on each exercise.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How long should I stay at each phase?

A: This will vary with each individual. Basically stay with one phase until it becomes easy. In other words, stay with one phase until you can do the workout with minimal effort. This may be as short as four weeks or as long as twelve weeks or more. Work smart, work hard, and have a long-term vision.

Q: What do I do if one phase is easy but the next one is too difficult?

A: Stay with the easier phase a little longer or do some mixing and matching. Follow the principles and add some exercises from the harder phase to the easier phase.

Q: How long should I take off between each session?

A: Take at least one day off between each session, or just place a full body kettlebell workout with a lighter kettlebell in between each session. For example, do a “Bulldog” workout on Monday, a workout with a 70lb kettlebell on Wednesday, and then another “Bulldog” workout on Friday.

Q: What about cardio?

A: Do One-arm Swings for 5x10-20 l,r two times per week for active recovery and for cardio. If you want to step up cardio further for a nice GH release, do two 20 minute HOC (high octane cardio) workouts.

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