23 Sep 4 Proven Ways To Pack On Muscle With Kettlebells.
Kettlebells for muscle building?
Of course, if you want to look like a bodybuilder, then you do have to train like a bodybuilder (at least to some extent).
Muscle building is extremely important for health and performance, even if you don’t want to look like a bodybuilder (I discuss this in my book, The Edge of Strength).
You may know that kettlebell training offers many fitness and performance benefits, however the big question is can you really build muscular hypertrophy with kettlebell training?
The answer is yes – you can.
The basic premise is that you build muscle through the benefits of resistance training.
Add a heavy load and stress the muscles, you will build muscle.
But, there’s more to it than that.
Since kettlebell training is a unique, proven form of resistance training, you can definitely put on muscle using a kettlebell, but what’s better is a pair of kettlebells.
Your results will depend on the training protocol and other variables (rest, nutrition, and many other things).
Let’s take a quick look at some of the key training methods with kettlebell muscle building and then I’ll share with you a simple, effective program you can use, depending on your skill level.
To gain muscle or “hypertrophy,” it’s widely established that you need to train with heavy weights and manipulate many key training variables such as
- time under tension
- rest between sets – just to name a few.
Keep in mind that it’s VERY hard to “bulk up” because not only do you have to train a specific way, but you’ve got to eat a large amount of high quality food.
Eating can become a full time event to really put on size.
I say this because I see people all the time that are afraid of putting too much muscle on, but the reality is, it’s VERY hard to do.
Let’s talk about reps.
It’s established that higher reps, reps in the range of 8-12 are thought to be optimal for muscular hypertrophy.
But, this is not set in stone (as you’ll soon discover) and many had have results with other rep counts (higher and lower than this).
Kettlebell training has a long list of benefits, but one of the major advantages is that the exercises are all multi-joint, compound lifts.
This is important to stimulate powerful hormones, such as growth hormone and testosterone (and other hormones), that are critical for lean muscle building.
A short, explosive kettlebell workout can stimulate many powerful hormones in your body to optimize body composition (shed fat) and enhance muscular hypertrophy.
Let’s take a look at 4 different methods to build muscular hypertrophy with kettlebell training.
1-The Double Kettlebell Complex
The double kettlebell complex the first example of an extremely effective method to build muscle.
A kettlebell complex is a series of 2 or more exercises that are done sequencially without rest.
For example, you would perform a kettlebell clean for 10 reps, then immediately perform kettlebell military presses for 10 reps without rest between exercises.
That’s a kettebell complex.
Kettlebell complexes are certainly not the only way to build muscle with kettlebells.
And, if you have just a single kettlebell, you can definitely put on muscle by following something like this or other hypertrophy training protocols.
For a great 6 to 12 week training program with double kettlebells, get the great book “Kettlebell Muscle” by Geoff Neupert.
It’s a proven program that’s very simple, challenging, and effective.
2-The Kettlebell Rep Ladder
Another method for hypertrophy (and strength) would be using kettlebell rep ladders.
This is a great way to challenge yourself and improve strength and mass.
Here’s how a kettlebell ladder works.
Let’s say you are doing kettlebell military press.
You would press the kettlebell 1 rep each side, then press 2 reps each side, then 3 reps, then 4, then 5. So, that’s 1 on the right, 1 the left, 2 right, 2 left, working on up to 5, you get the point here.
No rest as you’re working up the ladder in reps.
This is very challenging and you’re doing quite a bit of volume, especially if you are doing multiple ladders.
If you do one ladder as above, then that’s 15 reps per side for each ladder.
Don’t use a light weight either, which defeats the purpose.
Use a challenging weight that you can “comfortably” press 5 times and see how demanding this workout really is.
For more information and protocols with kettlebell rep ladders, I recommend the great book, “Enter the Kettlebell” by Pavel Tsatsouline.
3-Kettlebell Ladder Complexes
Want another method that’s even harder?
How about ladder complexes?
Take the double kettlebell complex (or single kettlebell if you prefer) and integrate that with rep ladders.
It would look like this.
You do a clean and front squat as your complex (or clean and press or other kettlebell complex movement).
Now, you do this in a ladder sequence.
You do one rep of a kettlebell clean and front squat, then 2 reps, then 3 reps, etc. Work up to 5 reps.
If this is easy, your weight is too light with your kettlebells.
This is another challenging method, but very effective.
4-German Volume Training
A final method to maximize hypertrophy with kettebells is the old german volume training approach.
This is basically performing 10 sets of 10 reps.
This is not easy.
This is insanely brutal actually.
Pick one very good total body exercise with kettlebells and do 10 sets of 10 and see how you hold up.
It will take you from average to elite, if you can complete.
Seriously, do 10 sets of 10 of kettlebell front squats and see how your stamina and strength holds up.
Or you could take clean and press and do the same.
How about kettlebell long cycle clean and jerks?
None of these are an easy task.
Ultra simple, but NOT easy.
A very effective program for muscle building, strengthening, and total body conditioning, without question.
Here’s a specific example of a 4 day hypertrophy program using double kettlebell complexes (as described above).
Remember, each is exercise performed sequentially without rest.
Rest only when you complete the complex.
Workout A (Day 1 and 4)
- A1: Double Kettlebell Swings x 10
- A2: Double Kettlebell Cleans x 5
- A3: Kettlebell Military Presses x 5
- A4: Double Kettlebell Push Press x 5
Workout B (Day 2 and 5)
- B1: Double Kettlebell Front Squats x 5
- B2: Double Kettlebell Snatches x 5
- B3: Double Kettlebell Front Squats x 5
- B4: Double Kettlebell Swings x 5
Perform a minimum of 3 rounds and up to 6, resting 1-2 minutes between complexes.
Can you build muscle mass with kettlebells?
These methods answer that question.
Now it’s up to you.
Pick any one of these training approaches and incorporate them into your program for 3-4 weeks.
Then, discover the improved muscle building benefits with these methods.
Of course, there are many other variables that can come into play.
But, these methods work.
Remember, you don’t need to make exercise complicated.
You need to train hard, train smart, and train safe with proven, time tested methods to produce the results you want.
Kettlebell programs will help you to build muscle, but these protocols are more focused on building muscular hypertrophy.
If you want a muscular, athletic looking body, then test out some of the programming ideas I’ve mentioned here. They work.
Good luck and let me know if I can help.