Kettlebells, while growing in popularity, are still a terribly underused form of training. So I figured now is as good a time as any to share a simple (yet effective) kettlebell HIIT workout. If you’ve yet to experience it for yourself, you’ll soon realize that kettlebell training will push the body and will the way few forms of exercise can. This is likely because of the numerous adaptations it triggers in a single workout- creating an all-in one effect in a short period of time.
Those who perform at the highest level of virtually all fitness disciplines require aerobic power and maximal strength. This is something that resistance circuit-based training (RCT) combines in a single exercise form.
RCT is defined as rounds of single sets of multiple exercises one after the other with very little rest. It’s main goal is to produce improvements in strength, muscular endurance, and aerobic conditioning at the same time.
This category can also be extended to kettlebell HIIT training. Kettlebell HIIT workouts have been shown to elicit similar results in strength improvements and oxygen uptake.
In a Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study, both traditional weightlifting and kettlebell training were compared in healthy males in a 6 week training protocol. They measured strength (back squat 1RM) and power (vertical jump and power clean 1RM) and found both were capable of increasing each category(1).
Researchers found that kettlebell training (20 minutes of snatches with 15 seconds work-to-rest intervals 3 days a week for 4 weeks) was successful in improving aerobic power in female soccer players (6% increase in maximal oxygen uptake) (3).
Kettlebell swing training does provide enough stimulus to improve both maximal strength and explosive strength (2).
Kettlebell HIIT Workout: The Exercises
In the spirit of a true resistance circuit based workout, you’ll see the kettlebell is more than capable of meeting its criteria. Many of the kettlebell exercises hone the power of explosive movement. This in combination with a fairly heavy kettlebell (for a challenge) will push your muscular strength and endurance. The structure of the workout will tie it all together by pushing the boundaries of your aerobic capacity. Multiple explosive movements, very little rest; this is the recipe for one hell- of-an aerobic workout.
With that in mind, use a kettlebell that’s not too light, but doesn’t have you gasping on the floor in five minutes. The is a marathon (or at least will feel like one), so it’s in your best interest to both challenge and PACE YOURSELF.
While it’s nice to have the workout written out, it’s also nice to have the exercises explained as well. I won’t go over push ups or burpees, but a number of the kettlebell exercises require deeper understanding to be performed correctly.
There are a few variations of the kettlebell swing; the Russian, the American, etc. If you have experience with kettlebell swings I say go for whichever one you feel comfortable doin. If you’re new to the game, I recommend the Russian swing as they are one of the safest forms for beginners. For the sake of simplicity the Russian kettlebell swing is the version I’ll explain in depth:
- With your feel shoulder width apart and your heels planted, bend your knees and reach down to grab the kettlebell between your legs.
- Stand up straight, still gripping the kettlebell on the top of the handle.
- Keep your hands and your arms loose, retract your shoulder blades, and engage your core.
- Hinge your hips back behind you-causing your arms to shift between your legs and the kettlebell behind your heels
- Explode your hips forward back into a near standing position. Use the momentum to swing your arms and the kettlebell past your quads until they’re nearly chest height.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement. As the weight descends allow the momentum to naturally move you back into the bottom of the movement. Repeat this until the end of the set.
Remember that you’re not using your arms to swing the weight, only the momentum created by your hips. If you squeeze your lats it should keep your arms stable to prevent them from swinging too freely.
Kettlebell Clean And Press
- Keep your feet shoulder width apart, bend your knees and take the dumbbell with your right hand.
- Swing the kettlebell back between your legs (similar to the kettlebell swing). Use this momentum to swing it forward and up. Once it’s at the height of your belly bottom, flip the kettlebell so the ball rests against the back of your hand. This is known as the rack position.
- Bring you’re a m shoulder height with the kettlebell still resting on the back of your wrist.
- Press the kettlebell straight above your head, then return your arm to the rack position.
- Reverse the bell back into the clean movement and into the bottom of the movement between your legs.
- Get on all fours with your hands spread above and a little wider than shoulder width apart.
- Spread your legs about hip width apart.
- Use both your hands and feet to keep you body from touching the floor. Keep enough distance between the two for a kettlebell to easily slide underneath.
- Place the kettlebell on the left side of your rib cage a few inches below your left hand.
- With your right hand reach for the kettlebell and drag it to the right side of your body. This is done all while using your left hand and feet to keep yourself from making contact with the floor.
- Engage your core to keep your torso from dipping towards the floor.
- Use your left hand to repeat the process. Once the dumbbell is back on the left side, this completes 1 repetition.
Kettlebell Shoulder Press
- Take hold of the kettlebell and lift it to shoulder level on your right side. The kettlebell should be resting on the back of your wrist like the rack position.
- Bring your elbow close to your body so that your hand is parallel with your shoulder.
- Press the weight overhead while keeping your shoulder down and back. As the kettlebell moves upward, begin to turn your wrist so that by the top of the movement, your palm is facing forward.
- Reverse these steps until you’re back in the starting position.