3 Kettlebell Complexes You Can Do at Home

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The kettlebell has historically been and remains one of the most versatile pieces of fitness equipment available today. Its popularity has spiked in the United States over the last twenty-five-plus years thanks to coaches such as the Russian chairman of StongFirst Inc, Pavel Tsatsouline, and author/track and field coach, Dan John. The kettlebell may seem like a trendy fitness implement that is here today and be gone tomorrow; it is has stood the test of time for centuries across the globe.

What makes kettlebells so unique is their versatility, with which one can only target their training by using a single medium-sized kettlebell (i.e., 24kg). The options become even more significant when an array of different kettlebell sizes are available and the luxury of getting to use two at once, but a single bulletproof kettlebell offers limitless potential in and of itself.

I strongly believe in a holistic training approach; everything has an appropriate time and place. Kettlebells are a tool and can be integrated into most programs in quite nicely. I enjoy occasionally creating and prescribing exclusive kettlebell complexes for my athletes and clients when applicable. These are not intended to replace conventional strength training programs that use things like barbells, dumbbells, etc. Instead, they are designed to provide a training option for those who may have limited gym access, need a break from traditional training methods, or are merely seeking something new. For some, following a simple program consisting of nothing more than five or six kettlebell movements spread across the week can be a great option. Below I have highlighted three of my go-to kettlebell complexes great for developing higher general work capacity.

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The kettlebell has historically been and remains one of the most versatile pieces of fitness equipment available today. Its popularity has spiked in the United States over the last twenty-five-plus years thanks to coaches such as the Russian chairman of StongFirst Inc, Pavel Tsatsouline, and author/track and field coach, Dan John. The kettlebell may seem like a trendy fitness implement that is here today and be gone tomorrow; it is has stood the test of time for centuries across the globe.

What makes kettlebells so unique is their versatility, with which one can only target their training by using a single medium-sized kettlebell (i.e., 24kg). The options become even more significant when an array of different kettlebell sizes are available and the luxury of getting to use two at once, but a single bulletproof kettlebell offers limitless potential in and of itself.

I strongly believe in a holistic training approach; everything has an appropriate time and place. Kettlebells are a tool and can be integrated into most programs in quite nicely. I enjoy occasionally creating and prescribing exclusive kettlebell complexes for my athletes and clients when applicable. These are not intended to replace conventional strength training programs that use things like barbells, dumbbells, etc. Instead, they are designed to provide a training option for those who may have limited gym access, need a break from traditional training methods, or are merely seeking something new. For some, following a simple program consisting of nothing more than five or six kettlebell movements spread across the week can be a great option. Below I have highlighted three of my go-to kettlebell complexes great for developing higher general work capacity.

Complex 1: Swings, Squats, and Snatches

The beauty of designing kettlebell complexes is that they can be tailored to the individual executing them rather efficiently. Depending on one's current fitness level and competency with performing each movement, the reps can vary to suit individual needs. The three changes to be executed for this complex are the swing, squat, and single-arm snatch. All that is needed is a timer and a kettlebell. For week 1, begin by setting the timer for 15 minutes and starting with five kettlebell swings. From there, immediately move into five goblet squats, followed by 5 single-arm snatches each side. Depending on how long these movements take, the remaining time will rest until the top of the next minute is reached. This type of complex is known as an "every minute on the minute" (EMOM) format. The goal is to perform the reps at a high intensity with perfect form so that over time one becomes more proficient and recovers at a quicker rate between each round. Completing all three exercises should take somewhere between 20-25 seconds, subsequently allowing for 35-40 seconds of rest. If this prescription is seemingly too tricky or too easy, altering the rep scheme and or the load used is advisable. Below is a progression that can be performed across four weeks 2-3 times per week:

Week 1: 15 minutes

  • EMOM: 5 Swings, 5 Goblet Squats, 5 Single Arm Snatches each side
  • Week 2: 17 minutes
  • EMOM: 5 Swings, 5 Goblet Squats, 5 Single Arm Snatches each side
  • Week 3: 17 minutes
  • EMOM: 7 Swings, 6 Goblet Squats, 5 Single Arm Snatches each side
  • Week 4: 18 minutes
  • EMOM: 7 Swings, 6 Goblet Squats, 5 Single Arm Snatches each side

***At the end of week 4, return to the week one format and increase the load used or reps executed for each exercise.

Single Arm Kettlebell Snatch

Kettlebell Goblet Squat

Complex 2: Swings and Turkish Get-Ups

Kettlebell complexes don't have to be complicated to be effective. Perhaps one of the most famous and ironically most basic programs ever designed was 'Kettlebell Simple & Sinister', by Pavel Tsatsouline. This complex is rather straight forward and involves 100 one-hand swings and 10 Turkish get-ups (TGU). Perform ten sets of 10 swings in 5 minutes, or ten swings every 30 seconds (5 in each hand). After the rest, and 10 Turkish Get-Up is completed at the top of every minute for 10 minutes. According to Tsatsouline, the goal weight for men is 48kg in the Turkish Get-Up and swing, while it is 24kg and 32kg, respectively, for women. This program is rather difficult and, subsequently, doesn't necessitate a great deal of additional volume to progress it, but there are ways to make it more advanced if one desires. Employing active rest periods (i.e., planking between sets of kettlebell swings), increasing the load used, and increasing the frequency of days doing this complex are viable options. That being said, this program's primary goal is to execute every movement with flawless technique and intensity.

Turkish Get-Up

Kettlebell Swing

Complex 3: Swing, Squat, and Press Ladder

A fantastic way to incorporate kettlebell complexes is through the use of a 'ladder' format. By choosing 3-4 movements and a sensible rep scheme, the options are limitless. For this complex, start by executing ten swings, followed by ten goblet squats, and ten overhead presses (5 each arm). After ten reps of everything are completed, eight reps of everything are to be completed, followed by 6, then 4, all the way down to 2. The goal is a perfect technique with a challenging load executed at a continuous pace. The greater one's fitness becomes the fewer breaks that are required.

Here are a few great ways to progress this complex:

1) Down the ladder, then back up (2 reps each, four reps each, etc.)

2) Adding another exercise (i.e., snatches)

3) Starting the ladder at a higher number (i.e., 12 or 14)

Incorporating different kettlebell complexes may be a fantastic addition to your overall training program, depending on your goals and needs. Additionally, they can be an excellent option for those seeking some much-needed variety or the ability to train with limited access to gym equipment. No matter the reason, kettlebell complexes are an option worth exploring.

Single Arm Kettlebell Over Head Press