Over 35,000 people now receive my weekly newsletter and one question I get asked a lot is about building muscle with kettlebells.
So, in this quick article I want to outline the 5 things you need to know in order to build muscle with kettlebells…
1 – Use the Correct Reps & Sets
To effectively build muscle, it’s vital that you work within the appropriate range of repetitions.
Here’s what you need to know:
If your goal is to develop strength, work within a range of 1 to 6 repetitions.
For muscle building or hypertrophy, choose a kettlebell weight that challenges you within the 5 to 30 reps range.
Higher reps, e.g. 10+, are better for more isolation or smaller muscle groups as they do not beat up your joints as much. If in doubt, aim for higher reps.
It’s also advisable to leave 2 to 4 reps in the tank—meaning you should stop your set with these few reps short of total failure.
Fatigue sets in quickly when training to complete failure; while it might slightly stimulate more muscle growth, it’s generally unsustainable and can risk injury.
Remember that muscle growth requires progressive overload. This means that with each workout, try to perform one more rep than the last time, add more load, or increase the number of sets you do.
As a general goal, aim for 3 to 10 sets per muscle group in each workout session.
2 – Choose Muscle Building Exercises
Not all kettlebell exercises are created equally.
If you want to build muscle with kettlebells, then you need to focus more on the “grind” based exercises…
Grind-based exercises are less dynamic and include:
#1 – Kettlebell Clean & Press
#2 – Kettlebell Lunges
#3 – Kettlebell Rows
#4 – Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlifts
You will know when you are using a “Grind” based exercise because you will get a pump in the muscle
All of the ‘grind-based’ exercises above can, and often should, be performed with 2 kettlebells to save time and overload the body.
3 – Use Efficient Programming
The simplest way to build muscle with kettlebells is to perform an exercise, rest for 1-2 minutes and then repeat for 3 sets before moving on to the next exercise.
However, workouts like this are slow. You can be much more time efficient by using super sets.
Super sets look like this:
- Exercise 1
- Exercise 2
- Rest and repeat 3 times
Providing you use 2 exercises that target different movements, it is possible to get twice as much done in half the time.
Plus, you will increase your heart rate considerably and get some great fat-burning in there too!
4 – Create Muscle Balance
It is very important to balance all exercises to improve your posture and avoid injury.
For every pushing exercise there must be a pulling one to match
Research shows that training the lower body has a large carry over to the upper body. Whereas training the upper body has limited effects on the lower body.
So neglecting the legs in favour of the upper body is a huge mistake, especially as leg based exercises increase testosterone production.
Don’t be a lion with chicken legs!
So as an example using super sets as mention above your exercises could look like this:
- Exercise 1 (eg. Single Leg Deadlift)
- Exercise 2 (eg. Overhead Press)
- Rest and repeat 3 times
5 – Monitor Rest and Nutrition
Muscle tissue needs time and good nutrition to regenerate.
You can’t build a solid house with rotten wood
Focus must be placed on eating living, not dead foods. Good quality protein should be consumed to help regenerate muscle tissue.
Hard exercise should be limited to 3-4 times per week so you have time to recover.
Too much heavy lifting will be counterproductive
One simple way to monitor your exercise recovery is to monitor your heart rate at the same time each morning.
If your heart rate is higher than usual then you should probably take another days rest.
Related: 9 nutrition tips for a better body
Conclusion to Building Muscle with Kettlebells
Above I have provided a quick rundown of what is needed to add muscle using kettlebells.
Make sure that you are using: the correct sets and reps, the right kettlebell exercises, optimising your workouts, and monitoring your recovery and diet.
So next time you perform your kettlebell workout have a think about the above points and see how you can perform your workout differently if you want to add some serious muscle.
That’s all for now,