Men's Health UK graciously asked me to do another article on "unconventional" muscle building methods using compound movements, and when talking with the editor he mentioned that kettlebells are the hottest topic on their forums. Lightbulb.
Build the body you want with this four-week workout programme
Compounding your isolation
In our recent article on the top 10 muscle-building mistakes, personal trainer Chris Bathke lamented the scores of gym-goers who spend every session pounding specific muscles with ineffective movements while ignoring the bigger picture. Escape from your isolation and use his compound kettlebell exercises workout to build full-body muscle fast. "After four weeks not only will your shoulders and back be more injury proof, but they'll look substantially better," says Bathke.
"This type of workout will work shoulder, core, and hip stability that exercises done lying on a bench won't," says Bathke. Do it twice per week for four weeks and choose weights that are challenging but that you can complete with perfect form. Together with chin-up and squat work on another day you'll see good progress.
Sets and reps
Kettlebell clean and push press: 3x10 each side
Renegade rows: 3x5
Turkish get-ups: 3x3 reps each side
(Rest 60 seconds in between sets.)
"Each consecutive week add one rep per set until you can comfortably do an extra 4 reps per set, then increase the weight and drop the reps back to the initial level," says Bathke.
Kettlebell clean and push press
Begin with the bell in front of you on the floor. Perform a swing and clean the weight up into what’s called “the rack position” with the bell resting in the crook of your elbow between your shoulder and wrist. Next, drive the weight overhead ending with the elbow locked out and arm next to your ear. “Initiate the overhead portion of the lift with a slight dip and leg drive,” advises Bathke. To finish the lift, drop it back into the rack position, then down into a swing and repeat. Try to look as cool asthis guy throughout.
This movement just about does it all. “The posterior chain is used in the clean portion, while the press hits your pushing muscles. Grip endurance, shoulder flexibility, and shoulder stability will all really be taxed,” says Bathke.
Kettlebell renegade row
Assume a press-up position with each hand on the handle of a kettlebell. Do a full range press-up, then while holding your torso and hips still row one KB at a time. Row each side once. This is one rep. “The goal is to not allow your hips to move, nor your body to twist while rowing,” says Bathke.
See an example of this exercise here.
“The renegade row is a great movement to work both core strength and horizontal pushing and pulling muscle groups.”
Kettlebell Turkish get-up
Start lying on the floor. Bring the kettlebell into a locked out position straight up with your right hand. Your right shoulder should be pulled back into the floor to stabilise the joint. Your right leg will be cocked, with your right foot alongside your left knee. Pushing off your right foot, roll onto your left hip and up onto your left elbow. Push up onto your left hand. Holding yourself up on your left hand and right foot, raise your hips up off the ground, and thread your left leg back to a kneeling position. You should now be in a lunge position, right foot on the floor, and KB locked out overhead. “Make sure that your elbow is not flexed,” says Bathke. “From the lunge position brace your core and shoulder and drive through your front heel to rise up to a standing position.” To complete the movement, simply reverse the process until you are lying flat on the ground again.
Turkish get-ups boost shoulder stability and strength, anterior core strength, and glutes/hamstring/quadriceps. “In other words it works pretty much everything, which is why experts such as physical therapist Gray Cook utilise it with everyone from average Joes to pro athletes,” says Bathke.
Currently residing in Portland, OR, I am the director of training at Edge Performance Fitness. My approach to training is to integrate the formal (I'm an NSCA CSCS as
well as a coach with the American Kettlebell Club and the IKFF) with the
practical. I've studied martial arts in Japan and the U.S. for 15 years,
and have put in my time in the gym, in the water, on the snow, and on the bike.