kettlebell training

08 Jul A Super Simple, But Insanely Effective Kettlebell Program

Here’s a training program that’s one of my favorites.

It’s also a program that I have a love/hate relationship with.

I love it because it’s incredibly simple.

But, I despise it because it’s brutal.

It’s a “catch-22,” so-to-speak.

It’s great for hypertrophy, power, cardiovascular conditioning, and improving total body strength and performance.

There are some pre-requites to the program though, so let me cover them now.

NOT FOR BEGINNERS

This is NOT a beginner program, it’s an advanced program and it’s not for everyone.

If you are a beginner, this will something to shoot for and work up to, depending on your training goals.

Alright, assuming you’ve got your fundamental kettlebell skills and you need to be able to perform a solid kettlebell cleans and jerks with strong, safe technique.

BE HEALTHY AND PAIN-FREE

This should go without saying, but you need to be pain-free and injury-free and have excellent shoulder health.

Remember, you’ve got to have the fundamentals (fundamentals are the swing, squat, and get up) down before exercise progressions like this.

Assuming you have the fundamentals down and this exercise “fits” your goals, the training session consists of the double kettlebell long cycle clean and jerk.

That is really the complete program, but see below for the details.

I will also consider adding another exercise or two, but usually it’s not necessary because after this session, my body is typically exhausted and my energy level can be depleted.

You’ll see why in a minute.

You may be thinking, what’s so special about the long cycle clean and jerk?

You may even be thinking, what is the long cycle clean and jerk?

The kettlebell long cycle clean and jerk is a wonderful – and brutal – exercise.

Basically, you are doing 2 exercises in 1, you’re cleaning the bells, then jerking them up overhead in a full lockout position.

The bells move through a wide range of motion.

This spares no major muscle group in your body and it’s outstanding for superior shoulder and upper body strength.

By performing this exercise effectively, your legs will also develop enhanced muscular power, especially for sport or competition.

I’ve also found that this exercise works well for packing on muscle in the arms, back, and legs with the total body explosiveness.

It’s been said that some of the kettlebell exercises produce an effect called the “what the hell effect.”

This basically is saying that certain exercises have an effect that is not clearly understood, but for whatever reason, it produces significant strength improvements (and other unexpected gains or benefits).

This is the case with the double kettlebell clean and jerk.

It’s not surprising that this exercise would translate into improved strength and performance with other lifts and sports.

Now that you know a little more about the benefits and the power of this exercise, here’s some of the key points on how to do the clean and jerk

It’s important to know that this is a “technical” exercise and these are only general guidelines.

To learn how to do this properly, please find a local qualified instructor to teach you the proper technique.

  • Clean the kettlebells up to the “rack” position.
  • Initiate the move with a ‘dip’ in the knees (the first dip)
  • Then quickly thrust the kettlebells up that elevates the arm as you are pushing yourself away from the kettlebells overhead (*the second dip)
  • Finish the move with a complete lockout of your elbow with the kettebells overhead.
  • Then lower down into the rack, lower down to re-clean (the entire cycle is one rep).
  • This is the “long cycle” kettlebell clean and jerk.

If you are visual like I am, then you probably need to see this move, so here’s a video.

Again, please remember, these are general guidelines.

The simple, brutal training session is this:

  • 10 sets of 5 reps with double kettlebells (24 kg for strong males), rest as needed between sets, keeping rest time at approximately 60-90 seconds. 

I may finish with an exercise like pull-ups, 3 or 4 sets of 10 reps.

That’s it.

Finish with a body weight exercise or something a little less taxing, because you won’t have much after completing 10 sets of this exercise.

HOW OFTEN DO YOU DO THIS PROGRAM?

  • Twice per week seems to be about right for this particular approach
  • Perform this over a 4 week time frame and then evaluate your strength, conditioning, and other objective measure that you may be looking to improve on
  • If this goes well – and depending on your goals – consider another 4 week training block (*using progressive overload – increase volume, intensity, etc.)

HOW TO PROGRESS?

Let’s assume that you can do 10 sets with double 20 kg kettlebells with solid technique.

To progress, I would start to increase the kettlebell size on the backend of the sets.

What does this look like?

  • You may do 9 sets of 5 with 20 kg kettlebells, then on the final set, use double 24’s
  • The next session, do 8 sets of double 20 kg kettlebells and the last 2 sets use the double 24’s
  • If that went well, the next session do 7 sets with 20’s and then the last 3 sets with the 24’s
  • Etc…

(Note: You could also progress a little faster by attempting your last 2 sets with the increased load. Each time you feel you ready to bump up, progress by adding 2 heavier sets working from the backend.)

Only progress when you have good technique and can handle the increased loads on the backend, otherwise stay put.

WHAT ABOUT LOADING ON THE FRONT-END?

Could you do the same approach, but increase the load on the front-end, when you’re not as fatigued? (*Do the first set or two with the 24’s, then 8-9 sets with the 20’s).

You could.

But, I’ve found a more effective approach by loading on the back side.

It’s challenging, very effective, time efficient, and it’s a total body program.

Don’t underestimate how powerful this approach is.

Simple and insanely effective.

Choose a weight that you can “comfortably” clean and jerk 5 reps with for multiple sets.

Start conservatively.

This is the ultimate program for muscular growth, improving strength, and athleticism.

As always, the most important thing with your training is train safe and be smart about it.

Let me know what you think.

Please share this on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere you’d like.

Scott Iardella, MPT, CSCS writes about training methods to improve strength, health, and performance. If you enjoyed this article, join a strong and growing community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and subscribe below to get a ton of cool, free stuff! Go to RdellaTraining.com/join

2 Comments
  • Dave
    Posted at 03:13h, 09 July Reply

    I am looking forward to the video post of this work out, as well as trying the work out itself, thanks!

    • Scott
      Posted at 14:44h, 09 July Reply

      You got it Dave! Will do sooner, rather than later.
      Thanks!

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