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Tag: kettlebell training

Deck Squat to Sprawl

Deck Squat to Sprawl

This fun kettlebell training movement combines quite a bit of athleticism and challenge to a training session.

The deck squat challenges your ability to squat deep and essentially fall to your butt gracefully and roll up onto your shoulder to gain momentum back towards getting onto your feet. Once you’ve got your two feet under you, immediately shoot the legs back and catch yourself with your arms extended in a sprawl pattern.

Enjoy trying this exercise and having fun with the ability to move well!

3 Core Kettlebell Training Exercises You’ve Never Done Before

3 core kettlebell training exercises for a strong, lean mid-section

we must progress beyond the plank


The 3 exercises we are laying out in this post will not only challenge your core in ways it likely hasn’t been challenged, but it will also challenge your body’s mobility. You see, your core, or trunk as we like to call it, is designed to be able to transfer energy while your limb’s and joints move around it. You’ll begin to understand what we’re talking about as soon as you begin learning how to do windmills in your kettlebell training. If your mobility is good, you’ll feel the tension and strength stimulus applied to your obliques and entire lateral subsystem, which is incredibly important and often neglected. If your mobility is poor, you’ll quickly realize how limited your range of motion is in this movement pattern, and if you are very limited, imagine just how limited your core’s function and strength is? 

As you can see in this picture below, this movement, while incredible for your trunk, will require hip mobility, hamstring mobility, and shoulder mobility.

After watching the video, I’m sure you can tell this isn’t a walk in the park kettlebell training exercise. This typically develops a love-hate relationship with the kettlebell slanger, but what they learn to love about it is how much stronger and mobile they feel as they improve in this lift. You can get remarkably strong with consistent practice of this movement, and you can imagine which muscle may begin to show more because of your consistent effort.

Gladiator Holds

Any kettlebell training exercise that has the adjective “gladiator” attached to it must be tried, am I right? This core exercise is a piece of the gladiator get-up kettlebell training exercise that is awesome as well; however, it is the sequence that we are focusing on right now. Once again, the lateral subsystem of the core is forced to work hard in this position. You likely know what a side plank feels like, and perhaps you’ve mastered that movement. Well, it’s time to move on and advance the movement and add some resistance and abduct (lift) the leg from the stacked position. Check out the video:

As you’ll soon realize, the difficulty quickly amplifies once you abduct the leg off of your other leg. Not only do you feel the increased stress on your obliques and lats, but you’ll also feel your glute medius fire up like no tomorrow!

Like many kettlebell training exercises, we can also take this exercise one step further by holding this position from our hand with our arm extended, and if you’re truly crazy, add a kettlebell to the top hand for some added resistance. 

As you’re beginning to see, this is how kettlebell abs are formed.

tick tocks

The first two kettlebell training exercises were more static in nature, which after all, stability is the main function of the trunk, and while tick tocks will seem more like a motion based trunk exercise, the trunk is largely stabilizing and resisting motion in the rotational plane. Check out this video and pay attention to the mid-section:

As you can see, the trunk stays relatively “quiet” in this movement. Some key cues are to “keep your shoulder blades glued to the ground” and “own the movement, don’t let momentum own you.” The goal in this movement isn’t to flop over and touch the ground with your legs and try and bounce back to the middle. No, no, the goal is to control every inch of this movement. Once again, you’ll feel your mid-section get ripped up in this kettlebell training movement.

wait, this isn’t how i’ve traditionally trained my abs!


How do I progress with kettlebell training?

How do I progress with kettlebell training?

In strength coach land, we refer to the plan of getting better as periodization.

Learning to train instead of just working out

There’s nothing wrong with “punching the clock” and getting a mindless workout in. We all do it, and let’s face it, even consistent, mindless workouts are far better than couch sits and 12oz curls that most people are doing. Consistently working out is a very healthy habit that everyone should strive towards, but there’s a difference between working out and training. There’s seasons in my own life, where I rely on a “punch the clock” mindset with my training routine to make sure I’m at least maintaining what I’ve worked so hard to build over the years. But then there’s time to put the pedal to the metal and train hard and purposeful with my kettlebell training. This can also apply with your nutrition as well, as your nutrition should match your training goals. But let’s stay on the topic of planning for progress with your kettlebell training. 

“Belling up”

I’m sure someone else has said it before me, but if not, I’m coining the term “belling up” in kettlebell training. This means that if you got through a particular training session and you know you could have gone heavier with your kettlebell selection, then the next time you train you pick one bell size heavier and do the same kettlebell training session. In other words, you “bell up.” 

I’ve done this particular kettlebell training session I call “The Standard” for several years, and I typically do it on Sundays. Like most of my kettlebell training sessions, this one only lasts 15 minutes and it is comprised of turkish get-ups and swings. It goes like this:

Every 90 seconds for 10 Rounds (15 Minutes) Perform:

Turkish Get-Up x 1ea

Kettlebell Swings x 10

* Rest the remainder of the 90 seconds and repeat for 10 rounds.

When I first began doing this workout, I was using a 24kg (53lb) kettlebell for both movements, and in fact, I recommend only using one kettlebell when doing this training session. After 3 or 4 times using the 24kg in this training session and the training went from pretty challenging to much easier, I decided to “bell up” to a 28kg (62lb) kettlebell. This changes the stimulus of that workout altogether and it became very hard all over again and I could feel my body getting stronger as a result of that. After a few more weeks, the 28kg kettlebell was starting to get much easier, so once again, I decided to bell up to a 32kg (70lb) kettlebell for that particular kettlebell training session. As you’re already predicting, this made “The Standard” very challenging all over again, and my body had to make the physiological adjustments to handle this new weight in my kettlebell training. After about 4 weeks of using this kettlebell weight, what do you think I did?

“You belled up didn’t you?” Says the reader. 

“Yes I did,” the writer responds.

I’m probably beating a dead horse here, but this made “The Standard” very hard all over again and my body had to make more adjustments to the now 36kg (80lb) kettlebell I was now using in my kettlebell training session.

This simple example of periodization continued until I got to the 44kg (88lb) kettlebell, at which point in time I haven’t purchased a heavier kettlebell yet. This process is so simple, but it’s missed by so many people because they just continue to use the weights they have and “punch the clock” in their workouts with very manageable weights that don’t continue to challenge their body’s physiology to make adjustments. This all fine and well if you’re happy with where you’re at, but herein lies the distinction between “working out” with your kettlebells, or truly kettlebell training. 

Other ideas for periodization

The simple model I explained above within “The Standard” kettlebell training session is called linear periodization. This type of periodization is well, linear. You just continue to use heavier weight over time. This works well for those who are relatively new to any kind of strength training, including kettlebell training. This is a fun time in anyone’s training career, because it just seems like you’re going to get stronger forever! Of course, this isn’t the case, but it sure is fun for awhile.

There’s all kinds of periodization models, but the key thing to keep in mind is that you are manipulating a variable that challenges your body to continually force it to change. Let’s use “The Standard” again as an example. Let’s say you’re stubborn and cheap and won’t buy a heavier kettlebell, which is a mistake, but you’re already know you’re stubborn and cheap, so here’s the stubborn and cheap make progress. They perform the workout with less rest. A plan for progress in their kettlebell training may go like this:

  • Every 90s for 10 Rounds (weeks 1 -4)
  • Every 80s for 10 Rounds (weeks 5 – 8)
  • Every 70s for 10 Rounds (weeks 9 – 12)
  • Every 60s for 10 Rounds (weeks 13 – 16)

You could also increase the volume within the kettlebell training session by adding +2 swings every 4 weeks and keep the every 90 seconds for 10 rounds theme the same.

Another idea is to train like an athlete does throughout the year. Professional athletes have a pre-season, an in-season, and an off-season. Obviously if you’re a competitive athlete, this model works great, but it can also work great for those life athletes that just want to maintain elite levels of fitness and health and by using this model, it creates opportunities to focus on different health attributes. Here’s some ideas:

  • Pre-season (8 weeks)
    • Training frequency: 5 day/week
    • Start with volume high (higher rep ranges) and decrease throughout, while increasing intensity (using heavier weight as volume decreases).
  • In-season (16 weeks)
    • Training frequency 5 days/week
    • Train at high intensities (undulating) intensity
    • Increase additional rest for optimal recovery
  • Off-Season (12 weeks)
    • Reduce training frequency to 3-4 days/week
    • Low to Moderate intensities
    • Include more outdoor and recreational activities to keep daily activity levels high, but reduced stress on the body.
  • Punch the clock (12 weeks)
    • Climb frequency back towards 5 days/week throughout this phase
    • Train however you feel like that day (punch the clock or freestyle workouts)


The key take-away from this article to change your mindset from one of just “punching the clock” year round to training with purpose and intention towards a specific goal. This isn’t to detract from those who consistently “punch the clock,” as they are miles ahead of those doing nothing more than scratching and sniffing, but it is to bring awareness to the concept of periodization and training with a plan to accomplish something specific within your kettlebell training.

Pushup to Shoulder Tap

Uneven Pushup to Shoulder Tap

This horizontal pressing variation is challenging enough when done with both hands in contact with the ground, but elevating one side on a kettlebell, creating an uneven pushups, makes this kettlebell training exercise all the more challenging, as well as potentially beneficial. Additionally, it is also one of the more challenging kettlebell training trunk exercises you can do because the exercise can’t be done without maintaining a strong mid-section.

Watch Coach Brandon as he maintains a strong mid-section with hips tucked and tight while he performs the pushups and limits any rotation as he presses up through the pushup. After doing this exercise, you’ll see why it finds its way into our kettlebell training often. #kettlebell​ #kettlebellworkout​ #kettlebellexercises​ #kettlebelltraining

Gladiator Get-Ups

Gladiator TGU

Any dude that hears the word “Gladiator” instantly thinks of:

“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant of the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son. Husband to a murdered wife. And I will have vengeance, in this life or the next.” – From the movie Gladiator

Anyways, being able to do this kettlebell training movement will make you feel pretty darn close to a gladiator. It takes mobility, strength, and focus to perform this advanced kettlebell training variation of the turkish get up (TGU).

Watch Coach Brandon from every angle and then practice on your own. As always in your kettlebell training, go light and do it right!!!!

Kettlebell Bent Press

Bent Press

This is a fun and challenging kettlebell training exercise to learn. It not only challenges your hip and shoulder mobility, but it also strengthens muscles and a movement pattern that are often forgot about. This is one of the greatest aspects of kettlebell training is the ability to work through movement patterns in a fluid way with progressive resistance.

Chances are, people are going to have to start with bodyweight on the Bent Press, and then progress with resistance ever so slightly.

Watch Coach Brandon as he moves slowly and deliberately through this unique range of motion. Notice how most of the descent occurs with the hips moving back (hip hinge) and the kettlebell staying in line with his center of gravity. Also notice how the kettlebell almost stays in the exact position it starts in by merging the press with the descent from the hips. Once the arm is fully extended, stand slowly.

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.

Split Squat Jumps

Split Squat Jumps

When it comes to kettlebell training, bodyweight plyometrics often compliment kettlebell training. As with any exercise, doing them correctly is of the utmost importance. If you haven’t done plyos in a long time, or ever, doing high volume is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately this is what many people do.

Limit your volume, do it correctly, land softly, and then progress down the road.



This is a very functional exercise for every human to mix into their kettlebell training routine. Traditional strength coaches minimize movements like these, but movement experts, wrestlers, MMA fighters, and Jiu Jitsu athletes will all mix these movements into their kettlebell training sessions.

Watch Coach Brandon and make sure to coordinate this movement correctly. Like any exercise, even bodyweight exercises can be done poorly.

Racked Turkish Get-Up

Racked TGU

Enjoy this kettlebell training variation of the Turkish Get-Ups, you may find that the racked position challenges you a bit more than if your arm was extended with the Kettlebell overhead.

Reduce the weight and give this a shot. Watch Coach Brandon and begin practicing this new skill in kettlebell training.