For people who are new to kettlebell training it can become confusing trying to determine where to put them into your normal workout routine. Here are the stages I’ve gone through personally in my kettlebell journey and a few simple templates to make your entrance into kettlebell training easier.
STAGE I: Use Kettlebells on your off days or different times of day from your normal training
This template is for individuals who are still learning how to perform kettlebell techniques. When learning kettlebell techniques for the first time practice either on your off days as a form of variety and active recovery or practice at a different time of day from your main workout. At this point in your journey your focus should be on technique. You should treat your kettlebell training more like a lesson where you’re learning to dance with a new partner, instead of sparring session or a W.O.D.
STAGE II: The Kettlebell Warm-Up
At this stage you can perform the basics safely, but you still need more time under the bells before you consider yourself proficient in their use. For this reason it’s a good idea to only use the kettlebell techniques as part of your warmup while you are fresh and your technique is sure to be at its best.
Start with a few getups, then progress to kettlebell squat and pressing variations, wrap up with kettlebell ballistics and mobility, then get on with your regularly scheduled workout.
3 getups per side
3 rounds of (10 swings, 5 clean & presses per arm, 5 prying goblet squats)
3 to 5 sets of 20 swings
5 windmills per side
STAGE III: The Kettlebell Sandwich (Kettlebell Warm-Up + Your Usual Workout + Kettlebell Smoker)
This template is for individuals who have the fundamental kettlebell techniques down and can perform them well under stress.
These individuals are proficient with kettlebell techniques but still see the kettlebell as unique way of training separate from other forms of strength and conditioning. For this reason it is still best to keep your kettlebell techniques separate from other modes of training, but still within the same workout by performing a kettlebell warmup, then your normal workout, then finish with a kettlebell smoker.
The Kettlebell Warmup+
Something like 5 to 10 minutes of swings, goblet squats and getups or arm bars.
My favorite is 75 swings, 10 goblet squats and 5 getups per arm, then get on with your workout.
Your Main Workout +
Kettlebell Ballistics + Farmer Walks
When your main workout is over it’s time for some intense kettlebell ballistics. It’s ok to place them at the end of your workout as long as you know your technique will hold up. 12 minutes of kettlebell ballistics (e.g. swings, cleans, snatches, jerks,) Determine the number of minutes you will work by rolling a pair of dice in the spirit of Pavel Tsatsouline’s Rite of Passage. Sometimes choose a single ballistic movement other times I like to pair a ballistic with one other exercises (e.g. pushups and swings , swings and hill sprints, swings and jump rope, swings and planks, etc…)
+ Kettlebell Farmer walks
When you’re done with your ballistics it’s time to honor Popeye’s forearms by doing a few sets of farmer walks.
Each day perform a different variation of the farmer walk and go for time or distance, your choice.
One day per week do every variation you can think of. Here’s my favorite routine I call “Farmer Walks to the Pain”.
Single Arm overhead walk as far as you can, then lower the bell to the rack position and walk down & back again. Repeat with the other arm. Finally finish up with farmer walks carrying both bells at your side for as far as you can. Rest, then carry them back.
STAGE IV: All Kettlebells All the Time
At this point you’ve gotten a taste of the transformation power of the kettlebell and you’re hooked. Kettlebells are now either your only tool or your favorite tool for strength & conditioning. You use press them, pull them, squat with them, perform all manner of hip hinge movement with them, carry them, and stretch with them… and why not? For most people’s strength and conditioning needs the kettlebell is one-stop shop.
There are many excellent programs out there that use kettlebell exclusively or can be adapted to kettlebell techniques. My favorites are…
- Enter the Kettlebell
- Return of the Kettlebell
- Kettlebell Muscle
- Simple & Sinister
- Easy Strength
- Escalating Density Training
STAGE V: Kettlebells as Needed
At this stage you still love kettlebells but you realize their limitations or you seek more variety.
You explore other forms of training and use kettlebells to hit the in between spots that aren’t addressed by other forms of training. Example: You perform the Barbell Power Lifts as you main source of strength but ad Kettlebell Ballistics for conditioning and insert Armbars, GobletGetups, Windmills and Bent Presses for mobility.
STAGE VI: There Is No Kettlebell
At this stage in the game you are experienced enough to seamlessly and intuitively integrate kettlebells into your routine.
You don’t see training as making a choice between one tool or another, but as loading or unloading human movement as necessary. You understand the pros and cons of kettlebell techniques and are less concerned with using one particular tool than using the best tool for the job at that moment. There is no template at this stage.