Despite the mounting research on how effective kettlebells can be for strength and conditioning, some people still scoff at the idea. “I’ll stick with my barbell, bro.” They figure that kettlebells are CrossFit-exclusive tool and, well, we know how polarizing that discussion can be. But here’s the news: kettlebells were around long before CrossFit and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Kettlebells are the ultimate crude implement for building strength. Developed by Russian farmers in the 1700s for weighing crops, the rest of the world has only found more and better ways to put these awkward tools to use.
The workout that follows uses only three kettlebells but attacks every major muscle group in your body. This sets the stage for increased muscle mass and crazy conditioning. And the best part? You’re out in 15 minutes.
Grab a heavy kettlebell – a 62-pounder is a good choice for most intermediates – and two lighter kettlebells. Stand over the top the heavy kettlebell and perform 10 sumo high pulls. This move resembles a sumo deadlift followed by an upright row. It is very dynamic and it helps to get in a rhythm while doing it. Reverse at a moderate pace.
Rest 30 seconds then pick up the two lighter kettlebells and hold them up by your shoulders, neutral grip, with your thumbs resting on your upper pecs. Do a full squat push press, or thruster, for 10 reps. This will look like a full squat followed by a shoulder press at the top. Rest 30 seconds then repeat the circuit for 6-8 rounds or until the 15 minutes is complete.
>> Because your shoulders are heavily involved, make sure to spend a few minutes on a good general warm-up, followed by a few minutes of lighter, dynamic shoulder work such as shadowboxing, arm circles, internal and external rotation and, finally, some light upright rows and overhead presses.
>> The sumo high pulls should be done very quickly – explode upward from the floor to generate momentum with the bell as you transition into your upright row.
>> On the squat push press, explode through your heels to generate upward momentum that you can carry into your overhead press.
>> No kettlebells at your gym? You can use standard barbells although you may have to swap out the weight if you cant grab two barbells of differing weights, which can be tough if you are training during peak hours at a big-box gym.
THE 15 PAYOFF
This workout is effective because the sumo high pull and squat push press are two awesome, big-bang exercises – there are a lot of joints moving, which means there are a lot of muscles working. Translation? This workout can help you gain muscle and burn fat all in a short amount of time. Your heart rate will be through the roof yet at the same time your total amount of reps will put your volume square into that hypertrophy phase. Hardgainer? This can work for you too. The hormonal response from this type of high-intensity work creates a perfect environment for growth (provided you feed the beast afterwards).
Phil Gephart, MS, CSCS, is a certified personal trainer and owner of Newport Fit4Life in Newport Beach, Calif. A former professional basketball player, his CHEK & PICP certifications are recognized as the top in the world in the holistic, corrective exercise approach as well as preparing athletes for competition. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.