What is Kettlebell Training Good For?

What is Kettlebell Training Good For?


Is there more to kettlebell training than the kettlebell swing?


When should kettlebell training be avoided?

Never. Kettlebell training should never be avoided. Ok, there may be a circumstance or two where it should be avoided if someone is high risk for a cardiac event, or if someone simply can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

I’ve often been met with resistance to kettlebell training from people with back pain or knee pain, as they tend to think all people do is swing with kettlebells, which even when those are done correctly, are probably one of the safest back and knee exercises.

Otherwise, the other 98% of the time, people should never have to avoid kettlebell training because the very nature of kettlebell training is so diverse. From very simply to very complex, kettlebell training and it’s movements can be intelligently applied to nearly all demographics. Geriatric (older humans) folks as well as young bodies in physical education class can all learn how to use these old school looking tools to help them develop a well-rounded movement competency.  

Is Kettlebell training good for sports?

Let’s look at several sports to see where kettlebell training could be a superior training modality than traditional barbell training. As I’ve stated before in other articles, kettlebell training is like grabbing the best of both worlds in barbell training and dumbbell training. There simply isn’t an exercise than you can do with barbells or dumbbells that you can’t do with kettlebells, and in many cases, it is more ergonomic to utilize kettlebells instead of barbells or dumbbells. So unless you’re in the sport of powerlifting, where you absolutely need to get good at lifting with a barbell, there’s rarely a better implement to use than kettlebells. 

Let’s look at the main contact sports of ice hockey, American football, and wrestling. In most cases, the athletic profile of these athletes are to have a strong and explosive lower body, strong grip (hands), strong and stable trunk, and strong shoulders to withstand the blows from checking, tackling, and grappling. The very nature of kettlebell training forces athletes to handle the kettlebells in their hands or in a racked position (shoulder isometrics) at all times. This type of training creates a vice grip for these athletes, and ask any coach how important strong hands are in sports and they will likely tell you it’s one of the most underrated athletic attributes. Additionally, due to front racking the kettlebells in many exercises, the shoulders get a great stimulus for stability as well hypertrophy, which is important in contact sports.

Admittedly, there may be a limitation in how much one can load the lower half with kettlebells, which may be one of the only advantages of barbells; their loading capacity. When an athlete needs to put on size, barbell exercises such as back squats, bench press, deadlifts, and power cleans can be great for building muscle, and while you can certainly build muscle with kettlebells alone, this may be one shortcoming of kettlebell training; however, that argument could be refuted as well as an athlete gets strong enough to do single leg squat variations where the athlete’s own bodyweight  plus the weight of the kettlebells can easily be enough of an external load to outpace what an athlete could perform with both legs underneath them at a barbell on their back. Strength coaches refer to this phenomenon as the “bilateral deficit,” where athletes oftentimes can lift more (as a percentage) with one leg than they otherwise could with both legs on the ground. 

Let’s look at some non-contact sports, such as baseball, gymnastics, and basketball. Baseball again is another explosive sport where arm, hand, hip, and trunk strength are vital to high performance. Gymnastics also requires much of the same as baseball except more upper body strength, trunk stability, and total body mobility is required of them to be successful. As for basketball, a lean, explosive frame with strong hands is highly valued. Once again, you can see how handling kettlebells offers a superior training effect with building strong hands, a stable trunk, and an explosive lower half, as many exercises utilized in kettlebell training involve explosive hip extension or “hinging,” which is where the majority of lower body explosiveness originates. The amount of trunk stability gained from kettlebell training may be the modality’s most unsung hero. From different carrying variations (farmer’s carries, suitcase carries, bottom’s up carries, etc…) to performing innumerable exercises while holding one or both kettlebells in the front racked position, the trunk is nearly always under high tension through nearly all planes of motion. 

From a strength and conditioning perspective, kettlebell training can develop nearly every single movement and training attribute an athlete would want to have from their gym time. 

  • lower body strength – check
  • lower body explosiveness – check
  • trunk stability/strength – check
  • grip strength – check
  • Energy System Development – check
  • Upper body strength – check
  • Upper body explosiveness – check

That’s a ton of bang for your buck from training with one implement. The only aspects an athlete would need yet to hone in is their sport specific skills relative to the sport, some upper body pulling strength (pull-up bar), and some SAQ (speed-agility-quickness) training. For today’s athletes, where training time in the gym is oftentimes minimized due to the amount of time spent in practice and competition, kettlebell training could be a very efficient means to incorporate into practice 3 times per week to gain/maintain strength, power, and resilience to injury. In fact, in a study done in 2013, a 10 week kettlebell training program demonstrated a transfer of power and strength in response to 10 weeks of training with kettlebells. Like mentioned above, traditional training methods may not be convenient or accessible for strength and conditioning specialists, athletes, coaches, and recreational exercisers. The current data suggest that kettlebells may be an effective alternative tool to improve performance in weightlifting and powerlifting.

Is Kettlebell training good for fat loss?

There’s many ways to skin a cat so-to-speak when it comes to fat loss; however, where kettlebell training will reign superior is the efficiency in which fat loss can be accomplished. Fat loss will always have to be accompanied by a caloric deficit in one’s dietary intake first and foremost, and no training implement will every defy that, so the next time you hear of a new training device that “burns more fat than every before,” know that it won’t change a body one iota if that body doesn’t consume less than it burns calorically. 

From an efficiency standpoint, when a person becomes proficient in kettlebell training, they can literally get a total body workout that enhances strength, hypertrophy (muscle gain/retain), power, and conditioning in 30 minutes or less. These workouts can be incredibly demanding on the metabolism, forcing it to not only burn a substantial amount of calories during the workout, but more-so keeping the metabolic rate of the body elevated for 24 – 48 hours after the training session. Additionally, because the training sessions are so short, training frequency (sessions per week) tends to increase.

Think of the metabolic enhancement of a training frequency where you train 5+ days per week. Think of your metabolism being spiked for 24 hours and as it begins to normalize you hit another short, but intense kettlebell training session, which spikes your metabolism again for another 24 hours. If you combine this methodology with a caloric deficit and the correct macronutrient profile in your calories, you’re really setting yourself up for success for fat loss while also maintaining your precious muscle mass. Never sacrifice muscle at the expense of losing weight. If you just try to lose weight through dieting alone, you will lose a significant amount of muscle in the process, which will significantly slow your metabolism to a crawling pace. This is bad news, because you can’t continually cut calories forever.

Can Kettlebell Training help me get ripped?

I dedicated a whole article to kettlebell training for aesthetics already, but let’s discuss it briefly. When it comes to aesthetics, or “looking better naked,” men are generally looking for slimmer waistlines, bigger arms, chest, and shoulders, and that mystical thing called a 6-pack, which I wrote another entire article on kettlebell training for abs as well. As for women, they typically want the same things, you just have to insert a different term for them, it’s called “tone.” I’ll call it muscle gain and fat loss, if you’re a female, you can call it “tone,” and in either case, we will find ourselves at the same destination.

With kettlebell training you will get plenty of aesthetic benefit because you will perform mostly multi-joint movements that work the large muscle groups. You name it, quads, hamstrings, glutes, lats, traps, rhomboids, delts, biceps, triceps, and abdominals will all get plenty of action, and if someone is a physique competitor by chance, performing some isolation work may be necessary; however, you can develop of lean, sinewy, and very impressive functional physique with kettlebell training alone.

Kettlebell Training for Life

As you progress through life, it’s a war of attrition on your body. In the end, gravity always wins; however, you must fight gravity with diligence and intelligence. Consistently applying resistance in functional human movement patterns will continue to pour on a layers of dense, metabolically active lean muscle mass to your frame, and it’ll also inject adamantium (ever seen Wolverine?) into your bones, strengthening them against fractures and the frailty of life in your later years. 

Speaking of frailty in the later years of life, when a minor fall can result in a hip fracture that can literally be a death sentence, developing and maintaining lean muscle and bone density can literally mean life and death. One such study demonstrated dramatic benefits of kettlebell training in elderly women aged 65-75 years with sarcopenia (loss of lean muscle tissue from aging). After only an 8 week kettlebell training intervention where they training only twice per week for 60 minutes, participants experienced impressive results.  These women significantly increased their sarcopenia index, grip strength, back strength, and PEF (Peak Expiratory Flow). In addition, the retention effect of the training program continued after 4 weeks of detraining. These are very valuable results, and just imagine if the training stimulus continued or even advanced as their fitness improved!? We aren’t just talking about living longer here, we are talking about living better.

The enhanced metabolic effect of kettlebell training consistently will allow for life’s celebrations to truly be enjoyed because you will be able to have your cake and eat it too without guilt! Because how truly enjoyable is your favorite slice of cake, ice cream, pie, and entre if you ate it too frequently anyways! The discipline you employ through rigorous and consistent kettlebell training will spill over into many other areas of your life, leading to many other goals accomplished and your purpose on this Earth fulfilled. You see, the world tends to avoid this topic because it’s too sensitive to offense, but you and I both know that you must become strong, resilient, and hard to kill to do anything worthwhile in this life. 

No other training modality will train you more for life’s adventures than kettlebell training. Be consistent, become a learner, and progressively challenge yourself to get better within your kettlebell training, because that’s what life is all about.

3 Things to Do When You’re Injured

3 Things to Do When You’re Injured


Progress doesn’t need to stop, you just need to re-purpose your purpose


KEEP YOUR CHIN UP AND KEEP FORGING AHEAD WITH THESE TACTICS

You’ve either been there, or you’re going to go there eventually in your kettlebell training. You’re human and not a cyborg, so don’t get all bent out of shape when it happens. What’s “it” exactly? Please forgive my superstition and not just coming outright and saying, but I tread carefully when saying or even typing this word, even though I did already in the title. “It” is an injury. 

Personally, despite being very active my entire life, I’ve been blessed with few injuries, tweaks, or whatever you want to call them. It’s pretty remarkable considering I played 3 sports in high school and two for awhile in college that I didn’t have more injuries. My first injury was a broken right foot playing tackle football in my friend’s backyard in the 7th grade. The second injury came when I was a junior in high school, I impinged my throwing shoulder the last game of my high school football career, yet I wrestled an entire season with it, while also doing PT so it could be ready for baseball season.

During the college years, I sprained my ankle a couple times pretty good, which probably hurt the most out of any injury I’ve ever had. After that, I didn’t really experience an injury until my mid 30’s. I strained my SI joint a couple times doing heavy deadlifts while preparing for a competition, this injury can make you feel old pretty darn quick. Now I’m on the back 9 of 3rd decade of life and just recently developed some pretty sharp medial knee pain following a 10,000 Swing Challenge. 

You might be thinking to yourself, “cool story bro, what’s your point?” To which I’ll respond, “cool your jets hombre, I’m just building some context to my points, so hang in there and keep reading.”

In each of the above injury scenarios, here’s 3 things I did to keep on truckin.’

1. Don’t stop moving

A tweak or an injury has the tendency to ruin your motivation and discipline really fast with your kettlebell training. I mean, what’s the point of training if you can’t do what you want to do? Right!? 

Wrong. Pain is information, albeit sucky information I agree, but it is information and our body is trying to tell us something. It may be telling is to chill on something we are overdoing within our kettlebell training, it may be saying your technique isn’t up to the task of the weight you’re using, or it may be saying you have some imbalances that you need to work on. You see none of that information says stop moving though. You probably just need to move differently for awhile. That may be a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months in some cases; however, the main thread is TO KEEP MOVING! 

Make a list of all the kettlebell training exercises you can do versus focusing on the one’s that cause you pain, and do those for awhile. With few exceptions, you can always work around an injury, and in doing so, you’ll find that you don’t lose much ground, your injured limb may heal faster and experience less atrophy, and you’ll keep your psychological edge in life.

2. find the root

Once again, pain is information. Like the shortcomings of modern medicine with merely treating the symptoms with medication and not the root cause when it comes to lifestyle related diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, people can oftentimes do the same thing with injuries.

Many people tweak their back, take lots of ibuprofen and Advil, wear a heat-pad at night, and maybe do a couple stretches to provide some short term relief, only to have their back feel a little better again until they re-tweak it. The same goes for a runner with knee pain. Pound, pound, pound the pavement, ouch goes the knee, take a few days off to rest until knee feels better, then go pound, pound, pound the pavement once again, and ouch goes the knee.

In either scenario above there’s a better approach to this and it begins with a simple question: “Why is this pain being manifested here?” In more times than any surgeon would like to admit, since they are wired to cut to try and fix the solution (this is and always should be your very last option, never first), the body presents pain in areas due to muscular imbalances that are pulling on joints, leading to malalignment, poor posture, poor mechanics, and stuff breaking down, which is where the pain site is. But the important thing to point out is NOT the pain, but the imbalance and malalignment leading to the pain. Treat that, and oftentimes, the issue disappears! 

Sometimes all one has to do is look down at their belly. If that is sticking out further than it should, that may be the very first place to look.

3. Control what you can control

Type A people hate this, but oftentimes there are things that are just outside of your control. When I broke my foot in the 7th grade by being awkwardly tackled from behind, I couldn’t control that my buddy tackled me that way. When I sprained my ankle going up for a pass in a heated flag football game with my baseball buddies in college, I couldn’t control that I landed on someone else’s foot and my ankle rolled. I couldn’t control when I went to defend a pass while also tackling a wide receiver that I buried my shoulder into the ground in the process. Stuff just happens, but it’s what you do about the stuff that happens in your life that determines if you come out better or worse on the backend of it.

So, if you’re injured, or when you get injured in your kettlebell training, remember that you can still move in ways that don’t cause you pain, and in fact, you can even train your body to become more resilient by working on things you oftentimes toss aside because you don’t feel it’s that important. Well guess what, it just became important. You can work on your mental game by reading good books and listening to good podcasts. You can focus some of your extra time on not eating like a turd and getting better with your nutrition.

Control what you can control and work hard on those things. As with the rest of the stuff that you can’t control, learn to not be so hard on yourself with those things. Setbacks are going to happen within your kettlebell training, success isn’t linear, and adversity is preparation for greatness.

Kettlebell Company Partners with Iron Warrior to Keep it “American Made” While Also Improving Quality and Access to More Sizes

Kettlebell Training Company Partners with Iron Warrior to Keep it “American Made” While Also Improving Quality and Access to More Sizes

Well Built Kettlebells LLC, a kettlebell training, distributor, education, and lifestyle company based in southeast Minnesota, has launched a partnership with the best iron foundry in the mid-west to expand its offering of sizes of kettlebells while also improving the quality to it’s customers. 

Well Built Kettlebells was formed in 2020 with a mission to provide American made kettlebells, quality kettlebell training program modules, and expand upon this foundation into other innovative products that align with the kettlebell training and fitness lifestyle. The founder, Brandon LaRue, realized a problem with the fitness industry, in particular kettlebells, where nearly all kettlebells were being outsourced to China to be manufactured. 

“When the pandemic hit in late 2019 there were massive shortages in home fitness equipment, especially kettlebells, because kettlebell training is the most effective and efficient training too for home fitness. I knew there had to be a way to manufacture kettlebells in America and that we could do it better here than overseas. I was also operating on the faith that there are still a lot of Americans who would prefer to buy American made goods and that we could build a brand with a strong, loyal community of Americans who enjoy kettlebell training, getting some callouses on their hands, and working out in the most efficient manner possible.”

Well Built Kettlebells started small with a line-up of 3 kettlebells (18lb, 26lb, and 35lb) as those sizes are popular for beginners and novices early in there kettlebell training journey; however, the goal was to expand to at least two more sizes, the 44lb and 53lb. Aligning with our new manufacturer not only allows us to expand our line-up to our original goal of 5 sizes, but we’ve actually positioned ourselves to provide 11 sizes for our kettlebell training community. The sizes we will be able to provide are:

  • 5kg/11lb
  • 8kg/18lb
  • 12kg/26lb
  • 16kg/35lb
  • 20kg/44lb
  • 24kg/53lb – Currently Out of Stock
  • 28kg/62lb
  • 32kg/70lb
  • 36kg/80lb
  • 40kg/88lb
  • 44kg/97lb

While kettlebells are the main training implement produced and sold from Well Built Kettlebells, their online programs that are hosted on their website: www.wellbuiltkettlebells.com allow for anyone with any brand of kettlebells to enjoy the world class structure, efficiency, and unique kettlebell training programs created for people for all levels.  

“It’s one thing to sell a quality piece of American made equipment, but it’s quite another to teach someone how to use it. If you think of all the pieces of fitness equipment that get sold and collect dust or become a glorified place to hang one’s dirty clothes, we want to make sure we not only provide the best kettlebell for our customers, but we want to make sure they are empowered to go use it properly and accomplish the health and fitness goals that they purchased the kettlebell(s) for in the first place. Every purchase of a kettlebell from our site comes with a FREE 28 Day Essentials Kettlebell Training Program, where customers get familiar with the foundational kettlebell exercises while also getting a great workout. It’s great when you get feedback from someone who purchased a kettlebell or two from you knowing full well they didn’t know how to use it, and then 28 days later they are so pumped about their progress in 28 days and how efficient they can be with kettlebell training.”


The kettlebell training programs provided by Well Built Kettlebells will be expanding every month with their goal of creating one quality kettlebell training video module program per month. Additionally, they are working on a couple innovative ideas to bring to the marketplace that align with the kettlebell health and fitness lifestyle.

“We understand that we aren’t the big fitness equipment distributor on the block, nor are we trying to be. We compete by competing in ways that other larger brands can’t compete, and that’s on quality customer service, unique tight knit community, quality kettlebell training programs done in-house, and providing a ton of free kettlebell training content from free daily workouts, exercise demonstrations, and weekly motivational posts. We don’t have the deep marketing budget many of the larger brands have, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grind it out day after day, one customer at a time, and build something special.” 

 

Click Here to view our new line-up of kettlebells.

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5 Advantages of Kettlebell Training

5 Advantages of Kettlebell Training


How you can use the minimum to get the maximum


“Using less to accomplish more” is the essence of kettlebell training

What many thought was a passing FAD back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, kettlebell training has had quite the staying power in not only the health and fitness industry, but also in the even more highly scrutinized strength and conditioning sector of the health and fitness industry. 

Growing up it was all barbells and dumbbells in the strength world, and in particular, my strength world. I was a DII athlete and even interned as a strength coach assistant at a DII powerhouse school that also had DI Hockey. Kettlebells weren’t seen in that facility in as late as 2006.

It wasn’t until 2007 when I had my first real job in my educational field as a personal trainer in a small, exclusive, and private studio in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, where I was first exposed to this bowling ball looking thing with a handle. Like many others resistant to change, I was kind of snarky about them when the owner of the studio introduced them to me. Because I was the low man on the totem pole, I was up for anything the boss man wanted me to try, so I obliged and began learning a couple kettlebell training exercises he was demonstrating for me, the kettlebell swing and then the kettlebell snatch. 

It took a couple sessions to nail down the technique and that’s when it started to click for me. Kettlebell training movements were smooth, easy on the joints, explosive, full body, functional, and very efficient. I didn’t fully immerse myself into kettlebell training quite yet, but I certainly respected them, bought myself a pair of 35lbers for home, and worked them into my programming for humans of all ages and fitness abilities.

Here’s 5 advantages, each of which likely requires its own article, of purchasing and learning the art of kettlebell training for your health and fitness journey.

  1. minimum space requirements

I once had someone tell me they didn’t have any time or room in their apartment to workout. I told them to buy a gym membership then, and he said he “didn’t like training in the gym.” I said train outside then, and he said “it was winter in Minnesota.” This guy was a real Nancy of course, so I challenged him on the “I don’t have any room in my apartment” excuse. I said, “tell me about how much room you don’t have in your apartment.” He said, “the only space I really have that is open is my closet.” I said “good, buy some kettlebells and we’ll teach you how to kettlebell train in your closet.” 

My point is this, if you have a closet, you have enough space in your house, apartment, or tiny house for kettlebell training. 

2. Maximum output per unit of time

If you were to ask 100 fitness pros and strength coaches to pick a tool to use if you had only 15 minutes to train and you wanted to get the most bang for your buck and the most variety of movements and benefits, I think you’d get a majority of them answering, “kettlebells.” Sure, there’s going to be the barbell and dumbbell answer in there, but after some discussion afterward about the varying answers, I think 80% or better would say kettlebells would be the way to go. Strength, power, endurance, mobility, stability, and EPOC effect, you’d be hard pressed to find anything better.

3. best piece of equipment on a budget

When you understand the variety of movement, general fitness, strength, power, and endurance benefits of kettlebell training, the price is incredibly low. People spend $3,000 for a stationary bike with a screen nowadays. I could build an entire 2,000 square foot gym with a $3,000 budget. With a couple hundred bucks into some kettlebells, maybe $500 if you want a complete line at home for you and your family, you’re basically set for a one-stop-shop for life! Now you’ve just got to kettlebell train consistently!

4. They last forever

Unlike fancy widgets that rely on technology, batteries, motors, etc….kettlebells will last you forever, provided that you purchase quality kettlebells and not the crap they sell at retail stores. If you’ve bought from a reputable supplier and they have a quality powder coat, they will work as long as you’re alive, and if your kettlebell training is consistent, chances are your life will be lengthened.

5. Endless variety for every stage of life

Whether you’re you’re a young buck or doe just learning the ropes, in the prime of your competitive athlete days, in the real world, or retired, kettlebell training can be utilized for all seasons of life. Gaining or maintaining muscle, gaining or maintaining lean mass, and gaining or maintaining functional capacity are qualities we should all strive to retain as we age, so whether you’re 8 or 80, your kettlebells can grow old with you.  

Kettlebell Training for Abs

Kettlebell Abs


Abs, trunk, core, or whatever you like to call it, can be developed quite effectively with kettlebell training.


Here’s how to build your set of strong abs with kettlebells

Like every article I write, let me be up front and blunt when I say the following:

If you eat like a garbage truck, you’re likely never going to see your abs, and that’s ok if you don’t want that. If you want to see your abs, you’re going to need to be doing well in the kitchen. Notice how I didn’t say perfect. But you clicked on this article to read about how to build strong abs with kettlebell training, so that’s what we are going to talk about. Ok pumpkin?!

The functions of the abs

Anatomically speaking, one could argue that the functions of all of the muscles that intersect the anterior trunk are designed to flex, rotate, and some combinations of the two; however, what many people fail to realize that the main function of the “abs” is to stabilize and transfer force effectively to the appendages (arms, legs). If the main function of the trunk is to stabilize and transfer force, then perhaps we should train with an emphasis on stability and force transfer in the mid-section? Does that mean we shouldn’t flex and rotate the anterior side of the body in kettlebell training? Of course not, but we should be cognizant of the amounts.  The 5 exercises below are some more advanced variations for kettlebell and non-kettlebell ab training; however, this is something to work towards being able to perform.

Anterior Flexion

Here’s a challenging kettlebell training exercise, done with two kettlebells, that will greatly challenge anterior flexion of the trunk. By keeping your legs straight in this exercise, you inhibit the use of the strong hip flexors and force a greater demand on the trunk to perform the work.

Trunk Rotation

Rotation of the trunk can be initiated from the bottom up and from the bottom down. This is a very unique kettlebell training exercise in that the upper body is relatively pinned to the ground from the weight of the kettlebells, while the trunk is forced to decelerate the descent of the legs and re-accelerate the legs back to the starting position. The key to this exercise to aim to keep your belly button always facing the ceiling and limit the amount it moves from side to side while the legs move side to side. 

Trunk Flexion/Rotation

Like many movements in the body, because muscles cross more than one joint in many cases and the body isn’t just an east/west/north/south vessel, this particular exercise, the windmill, merges flexion and rotation of the trunk. People quickly realize in a motion like this, that without hip mobility, it’s really hard to tap into great trunk stability and force transfer, which really limits the amount of power you can generate.

Stability/Diagonal Rotation

This is another kettlebell training movement that would earn the adjective “functional” before it’s name. The plank knee touch really hammers stability of the hip and spine while the body works in diagonal force transfer, which happens to be how we walk, jog, and sprint. Perhaps you’ve never thought about it this way, but our bodies are designed to move due to it’s opposing diagonal forces. 

Total body/Lateral Subsystem Stability

This may be one of my absolute favorite kettlebell training exercises partly because it’s fun and challenging, but also due to the high” “bang for the buckness” of the exercise. There’s obvious total body benefits from this movement; however, one particular aspect of it, when you’re in the gladiator hold (or side plank with hip abduction hold) you quickly realize what your lateral subsystem is whether you know what that is anatomically or not. It’s that often forget about lateral part of your body in training. It’s your lats, obliques, QL, and glute medius. You’ll also quickly realize how weak this may be on you after a few short seconds of holding, or falling all over the place.

Kettlebells and Aesthetics

Aesthetics and Kettlebells


One can build a very impressive physique by kettlebell training alone. Here’s an overview of how to do just that.


How to build an impressive physique with kettlebell training

Unless you’ve been gifted from God with the genetics of a sub 10% body fat while carrying a significant amount of muscle and not having to work hard at it, congratulations, because you’re one in a million.

Let’s lay some ground work for what it takes for most average homo sapiens to build an impressive physique. Additionally, we need to define what an impressive physique is for you. If you were to ask me to objectively define “what is an impressive physique,” I’d say for men you’re at or under 10% body fat. You have at least a vague 4 pack or 6 pack, which would prove your sub 10% body fat.

Body Fat %’s for Men:

  • Essential 2 – 5%
  • Athlete 6 – 13%
  • Fitness 14 – 17%
  • Acceptable 18 – 24%
  • Obesity > 25%

You’d carry around some arms that without going sleeveless, people could see that you’re probably not the first option for someone to get physical with. This may just be me, but I’ve always strived for a physique that was functional and athletic first, and after that, I’ve always wanted to be humbly ripped. That may be a new term, “humbly ripped,” but what I think I mean by that is, you don’t show it off just to show it off. When you’re playing in the pool with your kids, or out on the lake with friends, or just doing some yardwork when it’s hot outside and it’s time for the shirt to come off, then your hard work shows and if people happen to see it, they are surprised by it because you’re not constantly strutting around like a peacock. 

As for women, well, I’m not one, and I feel like if I try to objectify an impressive physique for a female, I’m walking into a death trap. As a healthy and fitness pro; however, I can lay down a few things that women could shoot for, if they want to that is (me putting it nicely). Body composition is a great objective measure, in my opinion, to assess anyone’s physique. For women, generally speaking, body fat percentages can get categorized by the following:

  • Essential 10 – 13% (typically not sustainable) 
  • Athletic 14 – 20%
  • Fitness 21 – 24%
  • Acceptable 25 – 31%
  • Obesity > 32%

Keep in mind, impressive physiques come in all shapes and sizes, so don’t let my definition be yours. But we should strive to have a healthy body composition, because without it, we are at risk for a bunch of lifestyle related diseases.

4 Nutrition tips

Getting into the athletic percentages of body fat from the above tables, typically one is going to need to be in a caloric deficit to get there. Rare is the person who is too lean and needs to gain body fat; however, I’ve worked with people like this before, so they do exist, but oftentimes it’s muscle they need to gain. Simply put, to lose weight, we must expend more calories than we consume, consistently. Fat loss really is a math problem. Of course there’s a lot of factors at play here, but you must figure this part out and be consistent in making this a lifestyle, which once you do, you’ll be so glad you did. So here’s some framework to do some number crunching with your nutrition so you can begin to become more aware of nutrition, macronutrients, and portion sizes. In America, we have lost touch with what a portion size is.

  1. Determine your calorie deficit range by multiplying your bodyweight x 10 and then x 12. This is your calorie range to begin with to put you in a deficit. Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT, just use MyFitnessPal and allow the default settings to put you at 2lbs of weight loss per week. Good luck with that if you do. 
  2. Determine your macronutrient goals by doing some more math. A good general starting point is 30% Carb 30% Protein, and 40% Fat. Take your calories and multiply by .30 and then divide by 4 to get your carbohydrate grams, and you can do the same with protein. Fat is a little different because fat contains higher calories per gram than carbs and protein, so take your calories and multiply by .40 and then divide by 9 to get your fat grams. Now you’re armed with your macronutrients!
  3. Track your intake with an app. Fat secret and MyFitnessPal are the most common and they both work well. There’s a lot of opinions out there amongst experts about whether someone should track their intake. I’m a fan of it, at least in the beginning so people can develop an awareness of nutrition. Most people are clueless and the tracking teaches them a lot about portion sizes, what foods are high in protein, carbs, and fats etc…. 
  4. Don’t skimp on the protein. This shouldn’t happen if you’re tracking your intake, but if you don’t eat enough protein while in a caloric deficit, especially when you’re training hard, you’re going to spin your wheels with your body composition. Your body needs to be fed amino acids (digested protein) continually throughout the day since it’s poorly stored in the body. If it doesn’t get enough through food/supplements, guess where it’s going to get the amino acids from? You guessed it, your own muscle tissue. 

Strength/HIIT Training and Multi-Joint Movements

Kettlebell training is oftentimes thought of as a great cardiovascular method or a “muscle endurance” method, which it can be, but lest we not forget kettlebell training’s primary use is for developing highly functional and athletic physiques. While you may not have the loading capacity that you would with barbell training, you can certainly load the body more than enough to build muscle and drop fat. Have you seen impressive physiques built with dumbbells? Of course! Have you seen impressive physiques built with Olympic lifting? Of course! Well guess what you get when you combine dumbbells and Olympic lifting? You get the best of both worlds with kettlebell training, in my humble opinion.

One of the greatest assets to kettlebell training is the ability to efficiently. In a single kettlebell training session you can work in volume for hypertrophy (muscle growth), high intensity interval training (high metabolic demand), low volume strength training (progressive resistance) to build more neuromuscular strength, and Olympic lifting to create more explosiveness. These multi-joint, taxing (in a good way) training modalities will always yield a high metabolic effect on your body, requiring it to remodel itself and keep your metabolism elevated for many hours following the session. But remember, your physique will still largely hinge upon how well you’re doing with your nutrition.  

Isolation Training

Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of this kind of training. Isolation training is when you single out a single joint or muscle group and target it with some sort of isolation exercise. Think bicep curls, tricep extensions, and leg curls. I’m not a huge fan not because they can’t work, it’s really just a training efficiency principle for me. If I’ve got 30 minutes to train, I’m hitting the bang for my buck exercises and leaving the isolation training alone. However, you can certainly use kettlebells for isolation training. You can do all sorts of bicep curl variations, tricep isolation work, as well as isolating some of your lower half. The questions is, do you have the extra time to do these? If so, have at it, I personally just don’t think it’s necessary.

Periodization

Periodization is basically your plan of attack to train year long. Think of how a professional athlete varies their training throughout the year. Let’s divide that into 4 quarters of the year. There’s Off-season, pre-season, in-season, post-season. The same concept can apply with you, except you may not have an actual in-season, although it may not be a bad idea for you to begin competing in something as it gives you a training mission and you just may find your inner athlete again, or it may introduce you to the athlete inside of you that you never knew was in you. Here’s a basic plan that you could implement:

  • Winter – Strength emphasis phase
  • Spring – Hypertrophy emphasis phase
  • Summer – Muscle Endurance phase
  • Fall – Stability phase

Each season has 3 months in it (12 weeks, and you could break down each month into smaller micro-cycles where you could develop a plan to properly progress in either intensity, frequency, or volume.

Summary

After I’ve typed all of this out, I’m realizing the common theme amongst it all. It’s to train and eat like an athlete. I may be biased because I’ve been an athlete my entire life, and this is the lens in which I look at much of life. I’d encourage you to adopt a similar mindset. Set a goal, develop a plan using the strategies listed above, then go into full Rocky IV kettlebell training montage mode.

A 16kg Kettlebell Workout for Men

A 16kg Kettlebell Workout for Men


Most kettlebell experts will say men should be using a 24kg (53lb) kettlebell; however, if you haven’t mastered all the movements with a 16kg first, you have no business with a 24kg kettlebell.


once again, throw the ego aside gents

Men and women are so very different. You tell a woman she needs to begin with an 8kg kettlebell, and she’ll say that’s too heavy, even though she’s been working out consistently for 10 years. Tell a man he needs to start with a 16kg, and he’ll say it’s too light, even though he hasn’t lifted weights in 10 years.

We don’t need to dive deep into the physiological stress of resistance training to help you, the reader, understand this a bit better. Tissues, joints, and bones all need time to adapt to a new stimulus. It’s why the marathon runner doesn’t just up and run 26.2 miles on day 1. They take a long, calculated approach to work up towards that type of running volume. The same goes for resistance (strength) training. If you put too much stress on your body too fast, you’ll end up injured, incredibly sore, and you’ll most likely end up quitting. 

This may sound simple, but men, listen to me closely, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. 

humble yourselves

I’ve personally been training exclusively with kettlebells (with the exception of sprinting in the warm months, and a pull-up bar) for nearly 5 years, and before that, I’ve been strength training for 25 years. I started when I was 12 years old. I’m definitely not the strongest guy in the world, but I’m probably in the 90th percentile. I don’t say that to brag, just to bring some perspective. Additionally, I’ve literally training hundreds of people ranging from professional athletes, geriatric folks, high school athletes, and young kids. This broad experience gives me a lot to draw from. If a grown man can learn to handle a 16kg kettlebell, he’s well on his way to be much stronger and fit than 80% of his peers. So when I prescribe to you that you should begin with a 16kg kettlebell sir, not the 24kg, your response should be, “yes coach.”

What you should be able to do with a 16kg

Just like there are standards of strength to shoot for with barbell training, there are standards you should aim for with kettlebell training as well. When working with a barbell, a good first goal is to be able to bench your bodyweight. You should also aim to be able to back squat at least 1.5 times your bodyweight. Additionally, you should be able to deadlift 1.5 times your bodyweight as well as a basic measure of strength. Another one is to be able to perform a standing military press .75 times your bodyweight. Remember, these are standards, and not setting the bar high.

So it goes with kettlebell training, just a little different obviously because you’re training with a different implement and on that is more unstable. So, here’s some feats of basic strength you should be able to do before you consider moving onto heavier kettlebells, which don’t get me wrong, you should do at the right time.

  1. Turkish Get-Ups x 5 consecutive per side
  2. 100 Kettlebell Swings in under 3 minutes
  3. 100 Kettlebell Snatches in under 5 minutes
  4. Strict Press x 15 consecutive reps
  5. Bent Press x 5 consecutive per side
  6. Goblet Squat x 30 consecutive reps
  7. Floor Press x 25 consecutive reps 
  8. Front Squat x 15 consecutive reps
  9. Double Thrusters x 15 consecutive reps 
  10. Renegade Rows x 10 consecutive reps

Here’s a humbling double 16kg workout

I did this workout recently as I was filming another workout program for Well Built Kettlebells called “Double Trouble.” I used two 12kg (26lb) kettlebells because it was my second workout of the day and I thought it would be easy enough. 

I got humbled pretty quick. I still finished every rep and in good time, but I was amazed at how hard I was working with just the 12kgs. Good luck with the 16kgs! 

 

Format: 5 Rounds

Exercise:

Reps:

1A

KB Front Squat

X 10 

1B

½ Kneeling Strict Press

X 10

1C

Y-T-W-L

X 15s ea

1D

KB OH Sit-Ups

X 10

How long did it take?

The 10,000 Swing Challenge

The 10,000 Swing Challenge


OUR KETTLEBELL EXPERT BRANDON LARUE BREAKS DOWN THE IMMENSELY CHALLENGING 10,000 KETTLEBELL SWING CHALLENGE, AND HOW YOU CAN DO IT IN 30 DAYS.

BREAKING DOWN THE 10,000 SWINGS

I need to be up front right away, accumulating 10,000 swings in just 30 days is no small feat. In fact, I would suggest it ranks right up there with the grind it takes to train for a half marathon or some other event that pushes not only your physical capacity, but also your mental capacity. Your hands are gonna get tore up at some point. Your hamstrings are going to be sorer than they’ve likely ever been. You’ll experience soreness in your forearms like you’ve never experienced before. Most challenging is the mental grind that even though you accumulated 300+ swings on one day, you’ll have to accumulate another 300+ the next day. In summary, it’s really stinking hard, but like all really stinking hard things, it makes it a worthy challenge to pursue. 

Be smart

If you’re new to using kettlebells, new to the kettlebell swing, or perhaps you’re out of shape and you’re looking at this as a means to kickstart your journey, I would not recommend the 10,000 swing challenge; however, attacking the 3,000 or 5,000 swing challenge may be a good starting point. Nothing will ruin your fitness lifestyle efforts faster than an injury, so don’t be a hero….out of the gates anyway. I fully support being a hero later.

Take care of your hands

If you’re a connoisseur of the kettlebell, then you already know what I’m talking about, then again, perhaps not. It’s usually only if you’ve done high volume training or competed with kettlebells that you learn the lesson of taking care of your hands. Take a look at your hands, if they have callouses on them, you may to take a cuticle cutter and trim those puppies down and even shave them down before you begin this journey. You do not want an entire callous to tear with 8,000 swings left to accrue. Also, depending on the size of your hands or the handle of the kettlebell you’re using, your pinkies may take a beating as well if they get pinched into the handle. You may need to put your pinky on the outside of the handle when swinging to alleviate the friction and reduce the likelihood of blistering. Chalk will be your become your best friend forever to help with the overall friction of the high volume swinging. Make sure you have chalk and don’t run out. Lastly, you may want to get a good hand moisturizer to help with healing the hands and keep them from drying out from all the chalk you’re going to be using.

The kettlebell swing

Since you’re going to do 10,000 of them, we’ve got to discuss the nuances of doing the kettlebell swing perfectly. There will be other exercises in this program to balance out the program so you’re not just training the hip hinge 10,000 times and nothing else, but any dynamic, explosive movement done that many times needs to be executed properly. When done with great technique, the kettlebell swing is one the most beneficial exercises in existence. You can get strong, develop muscle, increase power, enhance conditioning, and melt body fat away with this one exercise. While it surely targets the glute, hamstrings, and low back, the kettlebell swing is a total body movement that also hits the mid/upper back, shoulders, and trunk. Make sure to watch this short video to ensure that you’re doing the kettlebell swing correctly.

Programming 10,000 Swings

We don’t know about you, but we like a little diversity in our programming, so we aren’t just going to line up each day and knock out 333 swings. If that’s your style, then by all means, have at it. As for us, we are going to create a full body, balanced program with 7 different workouts to perform throughout the 30 days to hit all the major movement patterns to maintain and promote strength throughout the entire body. 

Workout #1: 30 Minute EMOM

  • Kettlebell Swings x 10
  • 1-Arm Rows x 5 ea

Workout #2: Inverted Ladder

  • Kettlebell Swings x 1 – 24
  • Hollow Holds x 24s – 1s

Workout #3: 15 Sets

  • Kettlebell Swings x 20
  • Pushups x 5

Workout #4: 15 seconds ON 15 seconds OFF

  • Kettlebell Swings x 5

Workout #5: 6 Round Ascending Ladder

  • Kettlebell Swings x 1 – 10
    • After every finished ladder, front plank for 1 minute.

Workout #6: Every 10 Minutes for 30 Minutes

  • Kettlebell Swings x 100
  • Single Arm Strict Press x 10 ea

Workout #7: 50 Sets

  • Kettlebell Swings x 6
  • Pull-ups x 1

Feel free to insert some other movements into this workout structure each week, but keep the bones the same and you’ll accrue your 10,000 swings. Keep in mind that 300 x 30 = 9,000 swings, so somewhere along the way you’ll have to accumulate the other 300 swings. You could just add 33 swings to the end of every workout so you’re not stuck with 1,000 left to do on the last day. I’ve been there before, stuck with 1200+ swings to do on the last day to accomplish my goal of 10,000 swings in 30 days. Trust me, you don’t want to have to do that.

3 Best Lower Body Exercises You Aren’t Doing with Kettlebells

THE 3 BEST LOWER BODY EXERCISES THAT YOU AREN’T DOING WITH KETTLEBELLS


OUR KETTLEBELL EXPERT BRANDON LARUE EXPLAINS THE 3 BEST LOWER BODY EXERCISES MOST PEOPLE OVERLOOK


The 3 best kettlebell lower body exercises

When I was in my early 20’s, I remember playing some wiffle ball with my Dad and my brother in the front yard. The ‘Ol Man was up to the plate and connected well on a nice gap shot to left center. I remember watching Dad’s “eye of the tiger” look on his face as he took off in a sprint; I think that’s what we was trying to do anyway! He looked more like the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz without the oil. He was running about as stiff legged as you could imagine. I wish I had video of that moment, because he’s never heard the end of it from me. He must’ve been 46 years old at the time, and my ‘Ol Man has done a pretty solid job of staying in shape….. 

Lower body exercise #1: sldl

This may be our favorite lower body exercise for athletes of all kinds, and yes, that includes you. Bilateral exercises (both feet on the ground) are great, but they tend to lack some transfer to actual human and athletic movement. This exercise offers a lot to be gained in balance, stability, flexibility, and of course strength. When done correctly, this exercise not only hits the obvious, the hamstrings and the glutes, but it also hits the hip stabilizers, the feet, and the trunk.  It’s hard to attribute my lack of hamstring injuries to one thing, but if I had to give credit to one thing, it would be because SLDLs are always part of our program. 

lower body exercise #2: 1/2 Rack Lateral Lunge

The frontal plane is the forgotten plane of movement in most human’s training programs. The frontal plane is lateral, or side-to-side, movement patterns. Imagine a baseball pitcher, not training in this plane. Imagine a football or basketball player not training in this plane. It happens all the time. The 1/2 Rack Lateral Lunge offers a unilateral (one-sided) load. I really like this because it forces the body to turn on the stabilizers of the trunk and hip, and it’s very transferable to skills of daily living and sport. You’ll notice, if you don’t move well in this plane, that your adductors are very tight and you’ll struggle getting good depth in your lateral lunge; however, keep working at it and you’ll develop strong glutes, quads, and enhance your hip mobility.

lower body exercise #3: 1/2 Rack Reverse Lunge

Once again, the 1/2 rack position offers a lot of transfer to life activities that just make us better movers. The 1/2 Rack Reverse Lunge aids in better stride length and functional flexibility. Of course, this could also be attributed to the forward lunge, it’s more common movement cousin, but learning to move backwards is a lost art amongst all humans. Don’t believe me, ask your athlete to run as fast as he or she can backwards. More often than not, it’ll be painful to watch. We’re amazed at how many kids can’t run, much less shuffle backwards anymore. Reverse lunging not only strengthens the musculature in that movement pattern, particularly the glutes, but it also teaches, in a more controlled movement, the art of moving backwards. 

Switching the “Dumb” for the “Kettle”

SWITCHING THE “DUMB” FOR THE “KETTLE”


OUR KETTLEBELL EXPERT BRANDON LARUE EXPLAINS THE 5 ADVANTAGES TO USING KETTLEBELLS OVER DUMBBELLS


Before anyone gets all bent out of shape, let’s agree that strength training and resistance training are kings of being physiologically superior in inducing the changes most people desire, and that’s get strong, build muscle, and lose fat. Whether it be dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, resistance bands, mace clubs, etc….use resistance and progressively overload the system.

There, now that we have that out of the way, we can move forward with why we believe kettlebells are superior to dumbbells.


Versatility

Both the kettlebell and dumbbell are versatile, but which is more versatile? Let’s put it this way, with a dumbbell you can do hundreds of exercises, making it quite versatile. With a kettlebell, you can do every one of those exercises a dumbbell can do, plus another hundred that a dumbbell would be too cumbersome to accomplish. Can you get a lot accomplished with a dumbbell or set of dumbbells? Of course you can, but can you get more accomplished with a kettlebell or set of kettlebells? Of course you can.

Advantage: Kettlebells

Economy/Efficiency

From an economics perspective, good dumbbells and good kettlebells cost about the same. For about $2 – $3/lb brand new and many times you can find shipping included in the amount. Whatever you choose, make sure to buy American made. From an efficiency standpoint, which could fall under the category of economy, we don’t think there would be any argument as to what tool allows for more work to get done in a shorter amount of time. The design of kettlebells allows for smooth transition into multiple different movements patterns (100’s of exercises) and much of the kettlebell industry understands and programs according to being efficient with one’s time.

Advantage: Kettlebells

Power Development

We don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but once again, you can develop power with both, but which is superior? Because of the ergonomics of the kettlebell, movements such as Swings, Cleans, and Snatches, which are typically considered the kings of power development in the strength training world are staples in kettlebell-land. Some may argue, “yeah, but you don’t use triple extension (referring to the ankle joint not extending with most movements) with kettlebells.” This may be valid for recreational athletes and fitness enthusiasts; however, you can most certainly do triple extension swings, snatches, and cleans with kettlebells. Additionally, no implement, that we’ve ever used allows more power access to the hips, with resistance, than the kettlebells.

Advantage: Kettlebells

Grip Strength

Due to the ballistic and explosive nature of kettlebell training, and the fact that you have to hold onto them for most of these exercises, the grip gets trained better than anything we’ve ever experienced in strength/power training. Grab the forearms of anyone who’s trained with kettlebells and you’ll feel what we’re talking about. Better yet, shake their hands, you won’t find a lame-wristed hand-shake from someone who trains with kettlebells. Grip strength is one of the human performance qualities that just seem to make a human more difficult to kill.

Advantage: Kettlebells

Look cool

Maybe dumbbells are just old news, although they are still very useful for many and can still produce great results for people, but kettlebells, even though they’ve been around just as long as dumbbells, have long been a training tool in Europe and only in the last couple decades have caught on in the USA. Go to a big box gym, and you’ll find all the “brad chads” doing bicep curls and shoulder flyes, looking for their 90 min pump for the day, and lo and behold in the corner, there’s a lone ranger busting out a training session with their pair of kettlebells in less than 30 minutes. All the “bodybuilders” are wondering, how’d they get done so fast, and how do they look so darn cool when they’re training???

Advantage: Kettlebells

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