Circuit Training: Kettlebells

Good day to you my friends, and welcome back to another installment of The Weekend Warrior. The protocol remains the same for this series; wake up, brew coffee, type in address to this site, read while sipping coffee. Repeat both days for every weekend, and happiness is assured. That is a fully refundable guarantee I’m making you. If your day doesn’t start out better as a result of reading this site while drinking coffee, then I will return to you the time that you have invested here. I haven’t quite worked out the logistics involved in that guarantee, but you have my word. Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that. All I need is some clever law student to take this to court and have it stand up as a legally binding contract, and as a result I have to fly myself somewhere to mow his or her lawn. Oh well, it would make for an entertaining post.

I’ll do my best to get myself back on topic. The past two Weekend Warrior posts have dealt with resistance bands, and medicine balls. Today I would like to introduce you to my weekend kettlebell circuit training routine. One of the hardest parts of this training day is carrying my gym bag, and the two kettlebells to the school where I train. I usually bring a pair of 25 pounders, as they are heavy enough to work my muscles, and light enough to allow for versatility between the exercises. This is an important consideration should you choose to invest in some. I suggest getting a pair of mid range ‘bells in reference to their weight. If you want to squat heavy, that’s what the gym is for. A kettlebell circuit is for variation of the training stimulus, and for a mental break from the grind of day-to-day training as well.

This circuit will be a little different from the other ones I’ve outlined, as all the exercises will take place at the same spot on the track. The track will be used at the end of this circuit for the sprint portion of the circuit that I always include. This sprint will be very different from the others. The past two weeks I have used a jump rope for a 60 second ‘sprint’ to conclude each circuit. This week the jump rope will be staying at home for a much-needed rest.

In order to do this circuit all you need is a flat spot of earth, and preferably a track to run around. If you try this circuit in a park or soccer field for example, just make sure there is enough space to do a run that is at least 200 meters. That would mean running to the far end of the soccer field and back, if that’s what you’re using for your training ground.

The first exercise I like to include is kettlebell thrusters. I simply grip the ‘bells in a clean grip at my shoulders, something like what I would do with a barbell as if I were about to do a front squat. I then drop down into a deep squat, and when I come back up I push press the bells overhead. I’m only using 25 pound ‘bells, so I do higher reps in the 15-20 range. When I’m circuit training I’m not aiming for muscular failure, as it’s a cumulative type of exercise approach.

I then put one kettlebell down, and begin kettlebell swings. I do these a bit differently than you may see them performed by some. I more or less do a wide stance squat, and when the ‘bell hits the ground I reverse my motion. As I’m squatting back up I swing the kettlebell overhead trying to use mostly my traps and shoulders. I do it this way to remove the momentum that the regular kettlebell swing entails. I find this makes my altered approach to the movement more of a muscle exercise, and less of a full body momentum movement. They both have value, it’s just my preference.

The third exercise will be a bent over, one arm row. I stand in split squat position, with my free hand resting on my lead leg knee. I lower the kettlebell down to the ground, and allow it to drift forward in order to receive a fuller stretch in my lats and traps. I then row it back up to my hip. As I’m not using a barbell, my torso isn’t in the way, and as a result I can get a fuller range of motion at the top of the movement.

The last exercise for this particular circuit is going to be a between the legs pass. I stand with my feet wider than my shoulders. Then while keeping my core tight I squat down, and begin passing one of the kettlebells between around my legs in a figure eight motion. I do this as quickly as I can while maintaining control of the ‘bell. This is a great core exercise due to the stability required, and it’s great for conditioning as well if you do it for time. Instead of counting reps I’ll do this for 60 seconds to two minutes, depending on what else I have planned for that training session. When I finish the exercise, it’s time for the sprint portion.

So it’s time to run the track, right? Well, sort of. It’s time to pick up both kettlebells, and make my way around the track as quickly as I can. In terms of exercises that are the most metabolically challenging, weighted carries are the most taxing. I speak in more detail about this here in an earlier article. I don’t really run when I do my kettlebell version of the farmers walk, it’s more like speed walking, but without the violent hip motion that you see in the races for that particular sport. By the time I get back to the starting point, I put down the ‘bells, grab a drink, and get back to it for two or three more rounds.

I really enjoy training in this fashion, and will be sad to see it end. When it’s time to hang up the exercise equipment in November, and allow the dust to accumulate until spring is going to be a tough task. That’s why it’s so important to do it as much as we can now. The winter is the time to grow inward, and focus on developing strength as the options aren’t as plentiful as they are in the late spring, summer, and early fall. Now that we are officially in the dog days of summer though, remember to get every last bit out of the option to train outdoors. Regardless of where you live, you are going to be less likely to want to train outside when the days aren’t as long, and the and the air isn’t as warm.

Tomorrow of course shifts our focus from the outdoor training that is The Weekend Warrior, and moves inside for some recipes featured in this weeks Sunday Quickie. I personally am looking forward to seeing what MrsToronto comes up with using this week’s Super Food selection. Remember to start your day the same as today, and join me here with a fully loaded mug of java tomorrow my friends. Until then,

Happy Lifting!


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8 comments for “Circuit Training: Kettlebells

  1. August 13, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Great circuit, Matt! Our fellow GTA warrior Dave Avery just released Progressive Kettlebell Vol 1, and it wasn’t until watching those videos that I realized how heavy-duty a core workout one gets with any kettlebell training. Your abs must be rock-solid now with all your gym training and your Weekend Warrior training on top of it – you da man!

    • August 13, 2012 at 10:10 pm

      Kettlebell training is an amazing way to work your core without really focusing on it I find. It’s not like planking, or many of the various targeted exercise, but it does an amazing job. Every exercise requires so much stability. I think some of that is due to the nature of the kettlebells themselves. They aren’t easy to balance like a barbell, or easy to grip like dumbbell. They are always leaning one way or the other. For an added challenge for your core try one arm squat thrusters, but invert the kettlebell. You are force to balance it upside down while you squat, the weight is all on one side, and you have to go slowly or the weight will tip. Great core training,a s well as full body. Thanks for commenting Doug. It’s always a pleasure talking training with you!

  2. Nathan Hess
    August 13, 2012 at 12:27 am

    I did a circuit just like this two days ago after my back workout minus the leg pass and track routine plus some snatch. Love the kettlebell circuits. Cant wait to add this too the routine next week bro. This is the first I’ve heard of the make your way around the track thing and Im very excited about trying it! Thanks brother, you always seem to make this way of life a bit more interesting.

    • August 13, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      The kettlebells definitely add a new dynamic to a an old routine. I didn’t invent the farmer walk, it’s a part of the strongman competitions. Not to mention they carry around some serious weight, but at the end of a circuit lugging around 50 lbs as fast as you can for 200 meters/yards will definitely have your heart rate up! Thanks for the comment my friend.

  3. Anonymous
    August 11, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    I hope you keep doing this for a while. I’m a PT and it gives me ideas. Have a great day. The Trainer

    • August 13, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      Help yourself my friend. I’m flattered that you use our ideas with your clients.

  4. Anonymous
    August 11, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    As always, good reading. I might give this a try even.

    • August 13, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      Thank you for commenting! Let me know if you like it.

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