When people say they want to start kettlebell training, what I actually recommend is they incorporate some kettlebells into their current routine, rather than trying to do a kettlebell-only program. By adding some kettlebell moves to your weightlifting routine, you can still keep all your favourite lifts and maintain strength, but improve in all other aspects of your fitness – kettlebell training improves mobility and stability in the joints, promotes excellent technique and improves metabolic conditioning, explosive power and muscular endurance.
Anyone can throw in some kettlebell swings and turkish get ups (and that’s a good start) but if you want to fully reap the benefits of kettlebell training, replacing some of your regular lifts with a kettlebell equivalent (or variation) will give your program a fresh boost and ramp up your results.
By categorising weightlifting movements, its easy to replace some of your dumbbell/barbell exercises with kettlebell exercises to make up a fresh new program:
(keep your chin ups and pull ups!)
I suggest doing heavy deadlifts with an olympic barbell once a week, as this is an essential part of boosting your growth hormone and improving total body strength. Then add/replace some of these kettlebell exercises:
If you are doing barbell cleans and snatches, try them with kettlebells. The technique is really different though and you may find it very challenging to adapt at first.
Try doing a single arm chest press lying supine on a swiss ball. Or doing your push ups on kettlebell handles for a deeper burn.
Like deadlifts, I recommend keeping in a heavy barbell back squat, to build absolute strength, doing low rep range (3-5) once a week.
Then you could replace:
We can’t forget these core/total body kettlebell exercises. Replace your abs/core exercises with some of these:
Three non-KB exercises you should still be doing are rollouts (using a swiss ball, barbell, TRX, rings or sliding discs), hanging leg raises and planks.
If gaining lean muscle and losing fat is your goal, a couple of high intensity circuit-style workouts will be a great addition to your program. You can use any of the above exercises in your circuits, but try to have a balance between the categories, eg you might chose one lower body pull, a lower body press, an upper body pull and an upper body press exercise, and a core exercise and make a circuit. The more ballistic kettlebell exercises such as swings, snatches and cleans you have in your circuit, the more metabolic (cardio demanding) it will become. Don’t forget to throw in some bodyweight exercises.
I hope that’s helped you to understand how to incorporate kettlebells into your training routine. Learning the moves – now that’s a different story! If you have never swung a bell I highly recommend you book some one-on-one sessions for proper coaching technique. Even just figuring out how to hold them can be a challenge!