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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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….
- 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.
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 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.
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.