Are you using a specific training program and want to start adding in kettlebells?
If so then here are 5 ways you can mix kettlebells into your training program.
Let’s get started:
Why Add Kettlebells to Your Training Program
Kettlebells can offer many additional improvements to your existing training program.
Here are 8 kettlebell training benefits:
- Stabilisation: stronger joint stability and so less injury potential
- Mobility: increase your ability to move through a greater range
- Speed and Power: fast ballistic movements increase force production
- Cardiovascular (aerobic and anaerobic): improve heart and lungs without high impact cardio
- Muscle Size and Strength: generate a different training stimulus
- Reduce Overuse Injuries: take your body through different movement patterns
- Fun and Motivational: move away from the same old exercises
- All Natural: based on human movement patterns that work together with your body
Kettlebell training offers many exercises that are more comfortable to use for certain exercises, for example the overhead press feels more natural.
Kettlebell rows and the single handed deadlift work well too due to the way the kettlebell handle sits up, and the Turkish get up works nicely due to the way the kettlebell lies against the arm when conditioning the core muscles.
Here are 5 ways to integrate kettlebell training into your current program:
1 Replace Exercises From Your Current Routine
If you are performing a more tradition barbell or dumbbell routine then simply replacing some of your existing exercises with kettlebells is a great start.
You have a few options here:
Replace similar movements
This is the easiest option, just replace like for like so a dumbbell overhead press can be replaced with a kettlebell overhead press, a dumbbell lunge with a kettlebell lunge etc.
Upper body or lower body
Perform all your upper body exercises with kettlebells and lower body exercises with barbells. I like this option because many of the upper body kettlebell exercises including: presses and rows, feel more natural with a kettlebell.
Want more? 16 kettlebell exercises for upper body conditioning
High rep light vs low rep heavy
This option promotes using kettlebells for the more high rep lighter exercises and reserving the low rep heavier exercises for barbells. You can perform deadlifts and squats with a barbell and snatches and swings with a kettlebell.
Single leg vs both legs
You may also choose to perform all single leg exercises with a kettlebell and all others with a barbell. For example, single leg deadlifts, pistol squats, Bulgarian lunges etc.
Discover more: Top 5 single leg kettlebell exercises
Don’t forget your goals
Keep in mind your goals, if it’s size or strength then you may NOT want to completely eliminate all the big barbell lifts.
2 Specific Warm Ups and Activation Drills
A second option is to add kettlebell training as part of your warm up or as a muscle activation drill before your existing workout.
Certain kettlebell exercises lend themselves perfectly as great warm up movements:
- Turkish Get Ups
- Good Mornings
- Single Leg Deadlifts
- Bottoms Up Clean
Here’s an example of 3 warm up drills you could use:
1. General Warm Up
- Slingshots x 10 each way
- Halos x 10 each way
- Good Mornings x 10 reps
- Goblet Squats x 10 reps
This first warm up drill works into the legs, hips, back and shoulders.
Want more? Why I love kettlebell slingshots
2. Sports Warm Up
- Turkish Get Ups x 10 alternating sides each rep
- Single Leg Deadlift x 5 reps each leg
If you are training for a specific sport or activity then this warm up drill will help to develop better rotational strength through the core muscles. You will also develop good full body muscle activation and challenge your mobility through the essential movement patterns.
Learn more: Ultimate guide to the kettlebell Turkish get up
3. Overhead Pressing Warm Up
- Bottoms Up Clean x 5 each side
- Windmills x 5 each side
For those performing a lot of overhead pressing in their workout this is an excellent preparation drill. The bottoms up clean will help develop good body and shoulder alinement whereas the windmill will loosen the shoulder and prepare the stabilisers.
Learn more: Master the kettlebell windmill with 4 logical progressions
3 Finishers and Conditioning
Kettlebells are a great tool for conditioning due to the many ballistic exercises that you can perform.
With the use of the right kettlebell exercises you can seriously challenge your cardio both aerobically and anaerobically.
So you may choose to use kettlebell conditioning workouts at the end of your existing workouts as a way to improve your cardio or burn some additional fat.
Great kettlebell exercises for conditioning include:
- High Pulls
- Clean and Presses
Here are 3 conditioning workouts you can use:
1. Conditioning Swing Workout
- Two Handed Swing x 10 reps
- Rest x 10 seconds
- Repeat 10 rounds
You should finish this workout in under 5 minutes. Great for adding an explosive hip element to your training while at the same time working your cardio.
Want more? 7 kettlebell swing workouts in under 10 minutes
2. On the Minute Snatch Workout
- Snatch (left) x 10 reps
- Rest until end of the minute
- Snatch (right) x 10 reps
- Rest until end of the minute
- Repeat for 10 minutes
Perform 10 snatches on the minute, every minute for 10 minutes. As you get stronger and more conditioned you can either increase the weight or the number of reps.
Learn more: Ultimate guide to the kettlebell snatch
3. Conditioning Circuit
- One Arm Swing x 10 reps each side
- High Pulls x 10 reps each side
- Snatch x 10 reps each side
- Thruster x 10 reps each side
- Rest and Repeat
Flow from one exercise to the next without putting the kettlebell down in-between exercises. Keep the kettlebell moving and work on smooth transitions from one exercise to the next.
Learn more: Master the kettlebell high pull exercise
4 Two Day’s Week
If you have a demanding schedule of sports, running, or martial arts then one option is to add two days of kettlebell training to your week.
Exactly what type of kettlebell workout you perform will depend on your goals. Think about what you are looking to achieve with your workout and program it accordingly.
Here are a few considerations:
What weaknesses do you need to fix? Runners or cyclists may need to work on their hamstrings
What strengths do you need? MMA fighters may need more core strength, tennis players better lunging strength
Think about the different movement patterns used in your sport or activity:
- Hip Hinging
- Squatting or Lunging
For a full body workout you may choose to use all the above movement patterns but for a more specific workout you may choose just one or two.
1. Full Body Workout
- Turkish Get Ups x 2 reps each side (Core / Mobility)
- Double Squat x 12 reps (Squatting)
- Double Clean and Press x 8 reps (Hip Hinging + Pushing)
- Double Regular Row x 8 reps (Pulling)
- Rest and repeat
This full body workout is performed with two kettlebells but could easily be perform with just one. As you can see it uses lots of different movement patterns and so activates hundreds of muscles per workout.
Want more? Top 5 kettlebell double exercises
2. Runners Workout
- Turkish Get Ups x 1 each side
- Single Leg Deadlifts x 5 reps each side
- Bulgarian Lunges x 8 – 12 reps each side
- Rest and repeat
This tri-set is performed one exercise after the other without taking a rest in-between exercises. The workout is designed to strengthen the legs for running and incorporates strength and stability as well as core conditioning through the rotational sling system.
Learn more: 6 kettlebell strength training exercises for runners
5 Daily Short Circuits
One final option is to add short, low volume workouts that you can perform each day that doesn’t take away from your other activities.
Using this option can give you a great introduction to kettlebell training without overloading your body and avoiding the risk of injury.
Care needs to be taken so you don’t overdo things, rest days should be taken if things start to get a bit too much.
Here is an example daily workout that is great for general fat loss:
1. Four-Minute Beginners Fat Loss Circuit
- Slingshot – clockwise x 30 seconds
- Single Arm Deadlift – left x 30 seconds
- Single Arm Deadlift – right x 30 seconds
- Halo – clockwise x 30 seconds
- Slingshot – anticlockwise x 30 seconds
- Halo – anticlockwise x 30 seconds
- Goblet Squats (or Bodyweight Squats) x 30 seconds
The above workout is a full body beginners circuit that will take 4 minutes. It can be repeated if necessary. The workout takes you through some of the major movement patterns using hundreds of muscles at a time and raising your heart rate too.
Want more? 50 Kettlebell Circuits from Beginner to Pro
Watch a follow along video of this 4 minute workout below:
Flexibility of Rest and Recovery
As with all exercise rest and recovery is very important.
Everyone recovers from exercise differently depending on their: age, experience, diet, genetics and so on.
A simple guide is to listen to your body, start off gradually and take an extra days rest if needed especially when you first introduce kettlebell training.
Be prepared to reduce kettlebell loads, take longer rest periods in between exercises and change repetitions.
Conclusion to Mixing Kettlebells Into Your Training Program
Kettlebell training makes an excellent addition to any training program.
Think about your goals and how kettlebells could improve on your existing program.
Above I have listed 5 different options to begin incorporating kettlebells into your routine, you could start just by replacing a few exercises or performing a kettlebell warm up.
Start off steady and listen to your body taking rest days when needed.
Take care and best of luck.
Have you tried adding kettlebells to your existing training program? Let me know more below….
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