Kettlebell training has takes the fitness world by storm. In just a few years, there are now thousands of people in the U.S. who are benefiting from the brutal benefits of kettlebells. In addition, to everyday men and women, many athletes from a variety of sports now use kettlebells in their programs. Top K-1 fighter Bob Sapp recently stated that he uses kettlebell training to enhance cardio in a recent Muscle & Fitness interview.
Welterweight UFC champion BJ Penn uses kettlebells to ramp up his muscular endurance for killer MMA battles. The benefits of kettlebell training having even reached Hollywood as actor Ed O'Neil well known for his role as Al Bundy on the hit comedy sitcom "Married With Children" (Imagine Al doing Kb snatches!) is a big fan of kettlebell training.
Make no mistake about it kettlebell training is not another passing fad. The benefits of kettlebell training are undeniable which is precisely why many of the top strength coaches in the world such as Coach John Davies, Christian Thibaudeau, Steve Maxwell, and Wake forest strength coach Ethan Reeve have incorporated kettlebells into their athletes training regimens. In this article I am going to go over several ways to incorporate kettlebells into your training regimen. Let's get started!
Kettlebells For Killer Cardio
There is no better way to burn fat than with a few high rep sets of kettlebell swings, snatches and clean and jerks. These killer ballistic exercises work your body as one unit and require a great deal of hard work. The harder you work the more calories you burn. This is why sprinters are ripped to shreds and marathon runners have a skinny-fat look.
One-Arm Kettlebell Swings
As effective as sprinting is, ballistic kettlebell exercises such as high rep snatches (20 reps or more per set) make sprinting look like a walk in the park. High rep snatches work more muscle groups than sprinting and will build strength in the lower back, shoulders, and hip flexors.
Sample HOC program
- 10 1-arm swings r, l (right and left)
- 1-minute of jump roping
- 10 1-arm snatches (r,l)
- 1-minute of jump roping
- 10 2-arm swing
- 1-minute of jump roping
- 10 1-arm clean and jerk
- 1-minute of jump roping
- 10 1-arm swings (r,l)
Unlike many other forms of cardio, kettlebell training is "brutal fun" and a hard cardio kettlebell workout gives you a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Moreover, using kettlebells for cardio does not make you feel like an idiot the way that step aerobics, spinning and other "body shaping" forms of cardio do. Just remember that if you feel dumb doing something than it is probably a dumb thing to do. Don't believe me, than forget about kettlebells and check out Richard Simmons' "Sweating To The Oldies."
One way to take the benefits of ballistic kettlebell exercises up a big notch is to combine them with aerobic activities such as jogging or moderate jump roping. I like to call this combination HOC (High Octane Cardio).
In the beginning take 1-minute breaks after each set. A set in this program equals one minute of jump roping followed immediately by a set of a ballistic kettlebell exercise. As your conditioning improves decrease the breaks. Have your athletes work up to ten rounds with a heavy kettlebell and their conditioning will go through the roof.
Kettlebell Training For Active Recovery
Adequate recovery is crucial for athletes. However, programs in which you train to failure and than take a week off to hang out on the coach are not effective for athletes. The key with athletes is to improve performance and conditioning. Doing a few light workouts per week will speed up recovery by getting some blood into the worked muscles.
An excellent way to use kettlebells for active recovery is to implement Jeff Martone's H2H kettlebell drills into your athletes training regimens. Jeff is the Physical Training and Combative Coordinator at the Direct Action Resource Center, which is the largest urban warfare-training center in the US.
Translation: Jeff knows a lot about conditioning! Jeff's H2H video goes over several drills in which you pass the kettlebell from hand to hand in mid air. These exercises will increase hand eye coordination, grip strength and the ability to absorb shock. An additional benefit of the juggling type kettlebell drills that Jeff does, is that they work the brain. Don't believe me? Try an H2H workout for 45 minutes and watch how mentally tired you get afterward.
In addition to all of those benefits, the H2H exercises are flat out fun and you will not even feel like you are working out. Try doing two active recovery kettlebell workouts on your off days to speed up recovery.
Kettlebell Combination Workouts
Yes, you can have your pie and eat it to. There is no need to drop what currently works for your athletes and do kettlebell only programs (although there are some benefits of doing that which I will go over next).
Coach John Davies incorporates killer core kettlebells drills such as the Turkish Get-up, The Windmill, The Push Press and the Renegade Row into his athlete's training regimens. His excellent book on training for football entitled, "Renegade Training For Football" reveals several kettlebell exercises that he uses with his football players.
Wake forest Strength Coach Ethan Reeve likes to have his athletes warm up with the kettlebell clean and the kettlebell snatch before doing barbell cleans and snatches. It is much easier to teach the rapid hip fire movements with kettlebells and have them carry over to barbells. BJJ champion and strength coach Steve Maxwell, likes to combine kettlebell training with bodyweight drills and clubbells.
This combination has worked very well for Steve and his athletes. Finally, RKC Dylan Thomas likes to do some workouts in the gym and takes his kettlebells along for the ride. After knocking off a few sets of bench presses, chin-ups and deadlifts, Dylan will bang out some kettlebell snatches and other drills. Dylan has had many of his clients do the same with success. The possibilities are endless for combing kettlebells into your athletes training regimen.
Kettlebell Focus Workouts
With some careful planning and some creativity, you could design a killer training regimen that revolves almost entirely around kettlebell training. I have done this for my own workouts and many of my clients with excellent results. However, rather than convince you that this is a viable approach, I will meet you halfway.
Try having your athletes do one month of Kettlebell only training for every three months of regular training. The one month of kettlebell only training will be a nice change of pace and allow your athletes to focus on one thing really well. Your athletes will not lose strength in other exercises and will most likely come back stronger each time. You could have your athletes do kettlebell only workouts during the in season of their respective sports.
Alternating Kettlebell Press
During those periods, athletes generally train with lighter weights and do more maintenance workouts. That is a perfect time to implement some kettlebell focus workouts. Here is an example of a kettlebell only program that works well for strength and conditioning:
Sample Workout Program
- Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up (Squat style)
3 sets of 8 reps, with one minute breaks
- Alternating Floor Press
3 sets of 8 reps
- Barbell Hack Squat
3 sets of 5 reps, one minute breaks
Instead of taking Tuesday and Thursday off to hang out on the coach and waste time watching TV, have your athletes do some active recovery workouts. Again, check out Jeff Martone's H2H video for some great ideas. A 20-to-30 minute active recovery workout will get the job done.
The possibilities with kettlebells are endless. One criticism that I have heard from some people is that kettlebells only come in a few sizes. What happens when an athlete can do every kettlebell drill with the heaviest kettlebells? Good question. However, there are always ways to make kettlebell exercises more difficult.
For example, when you can do standing military presses easily with a 70-pound kettlebell, try doing a sots press with a 70-pound bell or a bottom up press. If you can snatch an 88-pound bell with ease, try snatching two 70-pound bells at the same time. Believe me it is much harder than snatching one heavier bell.
When you can do front squats easily with 2 88-pound bells, try doing a 1-legged front squat with two 53-pound bells. My friend and Senior RKC Steve Cotter can knock off a rep on 1-legged squats with two 70-pound bells and has functional tree trunk legs as a reward.
If you still do not think that kettlebell training can benefit your athletes, feel free to not jump on board. Your competition will be pleased when they crush you on the athletic battlefield!