Guest Post: Your Backyard Kettlebell Workout

I don't do a lot of guest posts. In fact, when I do, it's almost always where I see something or someone and seek it out myself. I summarily delete a half dozen guest post proposal spam per day. This one wasn't spam. It struck me as a reasonable, great entry point for almost anyone, and very inexpensive.

Before I move onto the post, I got an email yesterday worthy of sharing. It's from Timothy:

Almost a year ago I read your Leangains article with the video of you deadlifting 305. It made a profound impression and I started lifting barbells for the very first time that week. Deadlifting 305 seemed incredible, almost superhuman, and I wondered if it would ever be possible for me.

Today, after 45 weeks of trial and error, I finally deadlifted 305 with proper form. Just two reps, and three on the 275 drop. But oh my god, it feels so good! I've never experienced anything more soul-satisfying.

Videos here and here.

My only regret is that I couldn't cut loose with a good primal scream as you did, because this gym is at my office and there are pencil pushers just outside the doors.

As my strength continues to grow on all my lifts, ancestors willing, I will always remember that you inspired me to grasp the iron. Thank you, Richard.

See there? A lot is really possible. But that's just one aspect of where I ultimately want to find myself. That is to say, I always want to lift heavy because I understand my own soul, as Timothy rightly picks the metaphor. But I also want things to work in my daily scheme of things. Truth is, I've found myself slightly lost over the last year and a half, owing to moving, having a house and a backyard instead of an urban loft with a gym a 5-minute walk away. So let's check out the guest post and then I'll complete my thoughts.

~~~

by Curt Pedersen

I love working out with kettlebells. After spending years working out in gyms, once I started using kettlebells I cancelled my membership and started working out with them regularly. It's been one of my best years fitness wise, too. By doing the exercises I write about in this article and following a Primal diet I've lost over 70 lbs. of fat and kept it off. I've gained muscle and am in the best shape of my life. After reading this article you'll be a kettlebell convert as well.

What Are Kettlebells

Kettlebells are made from solid steel and look like a cannonball with a handle attached. This unique shape changes the center of gravity of the weight making them more challenging to use. Their smooth, rounded handle and overall shape also makes it possible to more easily perform swings and throws with them than dumbbells. It's these exercises that make kettlebells so effective and fun to use.

kettlebells oceanpark
 

Buying A Kettlebell

You can buy kettlebells individually or in pairs in over a dozen different weights, ranging from 8 to almost 100 lbs. When shopping for a kettlebell make sure the the one you buy is made of solid steel and that it has a smooth handle that's welded onto the cannonball part of the weight. Kettlebells made this way will last a lifetime. Two brands I like are Dragon Door and First Place. You can buy both online at Amazon.com and other retailers. They're pretty inexpensive too. A pair only costs about $100.

The best way to determine which weight kettlebell you should buy is try one out first. I recommend buying a weight that you can perform 5 reps of squats and kettlebell swings with using good form. If you can't try one out before you buy, I recommend woman start with a 15-25 lb., and men a 30-45 lb. kettlebell. Buy one at first and then add more as you become more experienced.

A Kettlebell Workout That Melts Fat And Builds Muscle

Below is a workout you can do that's great for building muscle, losing weight, and getting itno great shape. It's a total body workout too. This means that you train every major muscle group at each workout. There are several benefits to this style of workout. First, it's efficient. You'll get more done in less time than if you break your workouts up into individual body parts (chest, arms, back, etc.). The second is that the workouts are demanding. You'll get a big boost of growth hormone and testosterone, two key muscle building and fat burning hormones from this workout. The third benefit is that you'll burn more calories and lose fat faster than you will on a single body part per workout schedule.

You only need a single kettlebell to perform the workout below. If you own more than one you can use them to perform variations of the exercises listed. I recommend starting using one and progressing to exercises that use two kettlebells as your ability with them improves.

You'll do this 3 times a week. It's meant to be done as a complex. This means you perform each exercise for the prescribed number of reps and then immediately move onto the next. Don't put the kettlebell down or rest until each exercise is completed. Rest between 1-5 minutes between each complex. The fitter you are the less rest you should take.

You should rest 1 day between each workout to help your muscles recover and grow. The schedule I like best is to train every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Start with 5 reps of each exercise. Perform 3 complexes per workout the first week and add 1 a week until you reach 6 complexes. Once you do this you can stay at 6 complexes and perform more reps at every workout or start over with another, more challenging kettlebell workout.

Screen Shot 2012 04 11 at 6 04 36 PM
 

Workout 1 (Monday)

Kettlebell Swings
Kettlebell Front Squats
Kettlebell Push Ups
1 Arm Kettlebell Rows

Workout 2 (Wednesday)

Kettlebell Front Squats
Kettlebell Push Ups
Kettlebell Swings
1 Arm Kettlebell Row

Workout 3 (Friday)

1 Arm Kettlebell Row
Kettlebell Swings
1 Arm Kettlebell Row
Kettlebell Push Ups

Reversing the order of the exercises at each workout ensures that you train every muscle completely each week. It also adds variety and keeps every training session fresh. You can finish off the workout with a couple of sets of Farmer's Walks or Kettlebell Swings.

Final Words

Now you know what kettlebells are, how to choose the right type and weight, and also have a challenging workout that will help you get into great shape fast. Be forewarned, once you start training with kettlebells youíll be hooked and will soon own several pair.

About The Author

Curt is the founder of Stayfitcentral.com, a website that features reviews, guides, and other information to help people buy the right nutritional supplements and fitness products for their specific needs. Curt has published in several leading online publications including: eDiets.com, iVillage.com, and Askmen.com.

~~~

Curt also provided me a short video demo of some of the described workouts. For the rest, simply Google or go on YouTube, plug in the workout in search and you'll find everything you need.

...Alright, here's where I'm at. First, I think kettlebells are great for entry level folks who have never worked out, and especially great for older folks.

For me? I want to be able to work out in my backyard. Now that I'm all set up with my own cold plunge & soak, I want to get some kettlebells for either before, after, or both. So what I'm envisioning is one day per week heavy lifting at the gym and then another day in my backyard doing this kettlebell shit.

Comments

  1. Lute Nikoley says:

    Get one light enough that I can handle when I’m at your house. Remember my age.

  2. A couple things..

    First if you are going to go with just kettlebells, learn from professionals like Mike Mahler or Pavel Tsatsouline. Im not trying to be an ass but this article is a pretty inaccurate the workout is terrible. Sorry Curt, glad you like kbs, just giving my opinion.

    Second, buy from MuscledriverUSA.com if you want the best bells for the cheapest price, the gray series is top of the line and really cheap. If money is no object then i would recommend LifelineUSA, RogueFitness and lastly Dragondoor. The first two are made in the USA and perfect bells, the last is China made but the quality is great. Other then these brands mentioned, i would stay away from the rest. The kind pictured in Curts article have really wide handles that throw off the movement of the bell.

    Third, you live in Cali, yes? Build a platform and buy a barbell and bumpers to go along with your kbs. Add a pullup bar and you have everything you need for the rest of your life. Kettlebells are great and i have used them exclusively before but nothing will ever be better then a barbell for strength training.

    • I second everything Zach said with the exception of the Oly set. It is irresponsible to give out movement advice on the Inet without ensuring that a qualified coach might be present, or at least available for infrequent sessions. KB’s, and especially Oly lifts, can be brutal on your low back without proper instruction/reinforcement.

      As Zach implied, there are several biomechanical mistakes Curt is making in the video. However, I fully recommend and support physical activity and movement of any kind – for both health and performance – just make sure you’re posture is squared away first.

      Good luck.

      -Al

    • “First if you are going to go with just kettlebells, learn from professionals like Mike Mahler or Pavel Tsatsouline. Im not trying to be an ass but this article is a pretty inaccurate the workout is terrible. ”

      Bullshit.

      Bullshit.

      Look, you can jerk yourself off all you want striving for that extra 3%, but this workout will be just fucking fine for most people and will be far more than very many get who really aren’t into the gym, lifting heavy, etc.

      • Christo says:

        Word of warning…you need to be taught proper form in person at least once before using kettlebells seriously.
        You can call bullshit all day but you will be missing out on way more than 3% ,your progress will stall and you have a good chance of injury,speaking from experience here.

      • BabyGirl says:

        I’m thinking that so much momentum is involved in Kettlebll swinging that the muscle gets a break whereas with lifting, it’s harder to use momentum and so your muscle gets worked more.

      • Why settle for someone who obviosly is not very experienced with kettlebells when there is a wealth of knowledge for free or very little cost on youtube and other places?

        Whatever Rich, you are the one jerkin off here, posting a very subpar article and then trying to defend it when you dont know what you are talking about. His workout is bad. His article is missleading and innacurate. And just watching his video i can tell he doesnt have much experience.

        You can get as angry as you like but im just speaking from experience and my original post was trying to give you advice which you ignored.

      • I’ve used kettlebells dozens of times at the gym, without supervision, training, instruction. I just picked it up and started using it. Just like I might pick up a box of books or some oddly shaped piece of furniture and like move to a new place. Got no “training” in that, either. So has my wife. No problems.

        [yawn] to all the hand wringing. I generally oppose the constant drone of the extreme fragility of human beings and they have to be supervised by a pro to do virtually anything.

        Go outside, pick up something heavy, move it around in various ways and figure it out.

      • Christo says:

        There is a big difference between “hand wringing” and intelligent training. Suggesting people go from couch to kettlebell is not wise,best case possible is stalled progress and inefficient use of time spent working out.
        I’m guessing you dont “pick up a box of books or some oddly shaped piece of furniture” 3-5 times per week for 30-45 minutes per session with intensity,not much risk of over use injury in that.
        ALso a big difference from doing a few presses with one at the gym and using one as a rehabilitation tool and serious strength training implement and being proficient at it while not injuring yourself.
        But hey if you just want to play with one it’s your time and your body…do what you please

      • “Why settle for someone who obviosly is not very experienced with kettlebells when there is a wealth of knowledge for free or very little cost on youtube and other places?”

        Other places such as the comment thread to a post?

        Unlike a lot of bloggers I don’t always worry too much about everything being “just so” in a post, because that’s exactly what makes for good discussion in comments.

        For example:

        http://freetheanimal.com/2012/04/guest-post-your-backyard-kettlebell-workout.html#comment-125600

  3. Jay Jay says:

    Probably a good work out. But doing the same moves with rocks and boulders is more natural.

    I happen to live in the area that has the most dense boulders in North America.

    Anybody interested in buying some? I’ll sell them cheaper than kettle bells.

    This could be a great win/win business! ;)

  4. Uncephalized says:

    I prefer a sledgehammer to a kettlebell. Good for swinging and banging on a tire with.

    And, coincidentally, I learned the Way of the Hammer from that very same Timothy.

    Speaking of whom, good work hitting 300, T! You beat me to it–I quit my gym and haven’t deadlifted since last year…

  5. Funny you should mention this. I do kettle bells IN the CT pool. So awesome. I think the best effect of the cold tub happens when you actually WORK in it instead of just sitting there….

  6. Derrick says:

    Kettlebells are made from cast iron and the more expensive ones are so because they are cast in one piece, without welding the handle on. I saw a video from an RKC showing a cheap bell he had been using where the weld was coming apart, so if you want something that’s going to last you a lifetime, spend the extra money.

    Rich, I prefer working out in my back yard. I like to get some sun and fresh air while I take my exercise. I canceled my gym membership two years ago, because I really don’t like a lot of the people that come with them. Plus it’s way more convenient to walk out my back door instead of driving to the gym. I do have a barbell set too, and when I want something different , I’ll switch over to it.

    I just switched back to KBs and the ETK program a few weeks ago and I am wondering why I ever left it. It’s fun and makes my body feel good.

  7. Internet Rule #44: If you describe your workout on the internet, someone will come along and say

    1) You’re doing the wrong exercises; and
    2) Your form sucks

  8. Tracy had a brilliant transformation from kettle bells:
    http://giryastrength.com/tracy.html

    • Hugh Anderson says:

      I actually came here to highly recommend Tracy Reifkind’s new book “The Swing!” for anyone 1) looking for a progressive kettlebell workout program for beginners and 2) looking to lose weight.

      I’ve never used a kettlebell, but I picked her book to see if it was something I could recommend to friends & family who aren’t likely to consistently go to the gym or start a barbell weight training program….and I came away floored. Her diet advice especially is some of the most straight forward and no bullshit I think I’ve ever seen. And her kettlebell routine starts out at 5 minutes, 2x a week, something anyone can do, and builds from there.

      I don’t think gym rats realize what a barrier gyms can be for people looking for fitness – the driving to & from, the gym culture, the fees. Kettlebells are a great answer to that. I workout in my garage and save myself literally several days worth of driving each year – if your gym is 15 minutes away, and you go 3x a week, you are driving to and from the gym 3.25 days of your year. Fuck that!

  9. steve_01702 says:

    Richard,
    great post. Tim Ferriss recently had a good post on kettlebell workouts. He reviewed Easy Strength by Dan Johns and Pavael Tsatsouline and featured a story about “Victor”, a Navy Seal.
    “Victor” details his kettlebell training routine and mentions that he no longer uses any weight heavier than his 53 lb kettlebell. I found that remarkable and likewise indicative that one can achieve great fitness using only kettlebells as the weight.
    http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2011/12/06/the-painless-path-to-endurance-plus-breville-winner-and-more/
    Throwing in a once weekly BBS style workout would be great also.

    Rich, dude, your blog is on fire lately! Awesome.
    In the words of the Notorious Biggie Smalls, You’re “blowin up like the world trade.”

  10. Bryan Rankin says:

    Richard,

    Once you get your Kettlebells, I highly recommend the Turkish Get-up. It’s even more addictive and satisfying than deadlifting.

  11. One annoying thing about kettlebells is that they’re so damn expensive. Ader is good because they are somewhat cheaper and make them up to 90kg I think.

    I’d recommend that beginners first practice with someone else’s or dumbells; otherwise, they will probably buy too light and quickly outgrow (if money is no issue then nevermind). When technique starts to improve, kettlebell performance will improve quite fast compared to strength.

    Swings are so dumb if not used alongside barbell work or at least kettlebell snatches. Doing snatches *forces* one to do a certain amount of work and reach a certain power level per rep.

    Regarding front squats with a kettlebell, that person better be using two, but that of course further supports the idea that they can be expensive: now you need two more when you get stronger, about a year gym membership.

    People do nowhere near enough snatches, jerks, side presses and do way too many stupid things like kettlebell sumo deadlifts or goblet squats. If I’m barbell squating/deadlifting 2-3x bodyweight, what the hell is a 88lbs kettlebell deadlift going to do..?

    Kettlebell snatches (5-20 rep max) make my shoulders, wrists, and elbows, feel great though–just the right amount of “stress.” Anyone who “throws” a lot [tennis, baseball] could definitely benefit.

    • Hugh Anderson says:

      “What the hell is a 88lbs kettebell deadlift going to do…?”

      For someone currently lifting nothing but groceries once a week, it’s going to do a lot. And perhaps serve as a bridge to a more enlightened workout routine such as the one I’m sure you employ.

    • “One annoying thing about kettlebells is that they’re so damn expensive.”

      Check Craig’s List in your local area. I found a place near me that deals in used gym equipment and they sell the cast iron bells at $1 per pound, as I recall, which I believe is about half what they cost new. One thing that makes them expensive is shipping cost.

  12. Timothy said, “Deadlifting 305 seemed incredible, almost superhuman, and I wondered if it would ever be possible for me.”

    I had the identical thought 2 years ago. I have been doing Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program and have achieved that for myself. It was exhilarating.

    To me it seems now that achieving that was not about gaining lean mass as much as training the central nervous system to mobilize the muscle that already existed. It shattered an ignorant fantasy of mine, where 50% strength gain = 50% more muscle. Hanging around the Crossfit and strength crowd also helped tear down that idea, seeing guys my size lift 400lb, 500lb, and more, and tiny women lift 300lb.

    I’m somewhat let down at how insignificant the achievement now seems, as it seems within reach of virtually everyone willing to put in some effort, and it doesn’t take any magic diet or program to achieve. The math almost can’t get any simpler when increasing your deadlift. Deadlift once a week spending as little as 15 min, and increase the weight by 5 or 10lb every month. If the weight is too much, go backwards until it isn’t too much, then increase it next month. In a few years you have huge gains for 15 min a week effort. It galls me to state it so simply, because I still want to believe in the old fantasy where gains happen super fast and translate directly into freakish bodybuilder muscles.

    • Paul C

      Could not agree more. It’s so much about CNS. Ad yes, once per week max, because you need your CNS to recover and from what I’ve heard, that takes longer than muscle recovery.

      • That’s where intensity and skill can be an important factor. Max [100% intensity] deadlifts and sprints for someone skilled will require a disproportionally high recovery time compared to going down just a bit to 95% or so. Other lifts are a little different.

        Kelly Baggett talks about plateauing the CNS and the need to keep gaining muscle. Tsatsouline is critical of that idea though. I personally suspect Kelly is correct for natural athletes in the 99th percentile. If my squat is stuck at 430 at 175, there may not be much more I can do–or I’m just a bitch..

  13. Kettlebells are great… but I keep them inside. Outside, I’ve got a big slosh pipe, a five gallon pail filled with sand, and a big sledge hammer. Those — combined with bear crawls and some tumbling/ukemi — keep me pretty active (and somehow look less out-of-place). Inside, weights and bells are really about controlled progression. Outside is about being active and having some fun. And what’s more fun that waiter/overhead/zircher/farmer/suitcase carries?

  14. Mike Sicuranza says:

    Kbs can be self learned and you can become relatively efficient with them without prior instruction. BUT I got my gains after I went to a KB instructor and got some tweaking done to my form in several areas. This allowed me to be more efficient with my movement which allowed me to lift more = greater gains. Get a book/video, a bell and get to work and have some fun.

  15. I looked at those videos and also wondered how many people would blow out their backs doing those exercises.

    He’s no expert; he’s an affiliate marketer who sells supplements and is now trying to move some exercise gear.

    Richard, if you wanted a guest post on this subject, you have enough clout to reach out to an expert and get a great one for the same price (free.)

    Doug McGuff talks a lot about survivor bias — that we only hear about workout success from the survivors, not the people who’ve blown out their knees, shoulders and backs.

    The latter folks go quiet.

    • “Richard, if you wanted a guest post on this subject, you have enough clout to reach out to an expert and get a great one for the same price (free.)”

      Sam, that’s true enough. That’s what everyone would do.

      But I remember when Sisson did a post on fasting that resonated with me and my experience and I pitched him on a guest post.

      It’s easy to read the experts. Here’s a guy who did it and is doing it on his own and who knows, he may be an expert someday too.

  16. If you can’t find them on Craigslist sometimes you can find them used at Play It Again Sports, not as cheap as buying them directly from someone who hasn’t used them in 9 months but still better than a regular sporting goods store.

  17. Kettlebells are like any other weight: proper movement is needed to prevent injury while using them. Kettlebell movements like swings can be a little different from other weightlifting movements, so at least a little research is required going into using them. Regardless of whether one is a seasoned lifter or is just starting out, there’s a wealth of information out there to help one be injury-free.

  18. While keeping the need for safety . . . and the expense of kettlebells in mind . . . kettlebells are an advanced, challenging workout. I’ve been lifting for years and my first bell weighed 20 lbs. and kicked my ass!

  19. Nora Gedgaudas uses kettle bells. She’s looking pretty good at 50.

  20. Richard, have you thought of grabbing some adjustable kettlebells? That might help keep cost down while keeping versatility up. I haven’t looked into them a lot so I’m not sure if they come in sets heavy enough for what you want. Just a thought.

    Anyone else have experience with them?

  21. wilberfan says:

    Beware of some possible side-effects of the kettle bell workout: http://chzb.gr/HBTHMu

    • OMG. Dump the kettle bells immediately!

      Are you still a Wilber Fan? I really tried, but just couldn’t get there.

      • wilberfan says:

        If you’re referring to ‘Ken’ (as I am), then yes, I am… Points to you for the attempt, though!

  22. Michael says:

    I have been a kettlebell fan for a few years. Not saying I am an expert by any stretch. Pavel’s books have given me a good start, and also You Tube has some really good videos. I found a website that is pretty good that some may find helpful. http://kettlebellfitnessdk.wordpress.com/

  23. I am glad to see you all talking about safety. Kettlebells are n0t going to be the workout for everyone and meeting with a qualified instructor sounds like a good idea, especially if you have had previous injuries. I will definitely have to look into that Turkish Get up… very intriguing name.

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