11 Jul Where Kettlebells Fall Short…

KettlebellKettlebells are fantastic tools.

But, we need to remember, they are just tools.

And, we have many other great tools that are available to us, depending on our goals.

The BEST tool is the tool that match’s our primary training goal.

Now, don’t get me wrong here, I absolutely love kettlebells and will be training with them for the rest of my life.

Kettlebells offer many great benefits, without question.

You want to know the big hook for me with kettlebells when I started?


Kettlebells offered many things, but learning better movement was the hook.

It’s the principles of movement, the skill of strength, and the simplicity of training that captured my attention with kettlebells.

And, of course the tool delivered phenomenal results in terms of improved strength, mobility, conditioning, and body composition.

Kettlebells pretty much completely revolutionized my training when I discovered the tool.

And, let me tell you this, it will always be a “staple” and a big focus in my training.

But, that doesn’t mean it’s the ONLY thing there is.

As a matter of fact, I don’t know of anyone who actually claims that “kettlebells are the only thing.”

So, where exactly do kettlebells fall short?

Well, after just completing a laser focused barbell muscle building program which delivered killer results, I’d have to say that kettlebells fall short in building hypertrophy.

Now, hear me out and let me explain a bit further, so there’s no confusion.


I’m not saying they are ineffective in that department.

Kettlebell training will help you forge a leaner, stronger, and more muscular body.

As a matter of fact, I created a program called The Shock and Awe Protocol specifically designed for size and strength and the program works.

You also have great programs like Geoff Neupert’s Kettlebell Muscle, which is totally awesome.

Don’t get me wrong, both of these programs deliver and will help you put on muscle, but there is a difference.

The difference is that you can’t pack on muscle to the level you can with a bodybuilding style program.

Here’s what I mean.


There is a difference between training for the “bodybuilder effect” and training to put on general size.

The difference is that the “bodybuilder effect” will produce maximum muscular hypertrophy in your arms, chest, shoulders, back, etc.

In other words, you are training to look like a bodybuilder – this is the “bodybuilder effect.”

Let me ask you, have you ever heard of a top level bodybuilder who’s training primarily with kettlebells?

Me either.

Let’s talk about programming.

A bodybuilding style hypertrophy program focuses more on specific body parts and works your muscles from many different angles in ways that aren’t really possible with traditional kettlebell training.

And, you can train with higher intensities with laser focus on muscle building.

For example, the barbell program I just completed emphasized the basic barbell exercises (bench presses, squats, rows, curls, tricep extensions, etc).

It was a specific bodybuilding style program designed for hypertrophy.

The program allowed me to target muscle groups and apply proven principles for bodybuilding style results and would be tough to accomplish using only kettlebells.

Doing this bodybuilding style program, I was able to achieve a level of muscular development that I wasn’t able to achieve in many previous years with kettlebells.

Sure, kettlebells contributed to muscle building over the years, but I’m referring to the “bodybuilding effect.”

Here’s a picture that was taken just after completing the 6 week hypertrophy program.

PostProgramKettlebells are absolutely killer tools for strength, conditioning, movement, and performance.

The benefits of the tool are outstanding, as I’ve mentioned.

But, the tool does have limitations, just like any other tool.

We need to be realistic in what it can do and cannot.

To put on serious mass and for the “bodybuilder effect”, we need to look beyond kettlebells, use the right tools and, of course, implement the right programming and training variables.

That’s what it’s all about.


As we always emphasize here, chase ONE GOAL at a time.

Make sure that you have the right tool or tools to help you meet your primary training goal.

Understanding the benefits and limitations of the tools we use is a major factor in our training success.

For fat loss, conditioning, performance, and general size and strength, the kettlebell is a unique and effective training tool that will always play an important role.

Scott Iardella writes about strength training methods to optimize 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!  
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  • Firebird
    Posted at 10:29h, 12 July Reply

    Kettlebells were used extensively by bodybuilders at the turn of the 20th century through the 1930s and they had bodybuilder bodies. Case in point, Sig Klein. Steve Reeves also used kettlebells as part of his training and incorporated the swing into his warmup.

    • Scott
      Posted at 11:08h, 12 July Reply

      Great point, if that’s the case.
      As you mentioned, Steve Reeves used KB’s a PART of his training with his “warm up.”
      The point is that they can’t be used exclusively the “bodybuilding effect” I describe.
      Are they going to build muscularity? Of course, but not to the extent of a “bodybuilding style” approach.
      Look, I love KB’s and always will, but we should be realistic on what are the BEST applications.
      Thanks for the comment.

  • seth
    Posted at 01:56h, 14 July Reply

    Interesting blog. I am curious about one thing though. In past discussions and blogs you have mentioned that when you competed in bodybuilding you did not have the functional strength that you later got from kettlebells and the powerlifts. When referring to the powerlifts I mean the squat bench press and deadlift as well as overhead pressing done for low reps and myofibullar hypertrophy. What type of loading i.e, intensity was used in this 6 week bodybuilding program? Was it a traditional bodybuilding program where you perform 3 to 4 exercises per bodypart using a split routine or more of a strength based program revolving around the big lifts?


    • Scott
      Posted at 08:35h, 14 July Reply

      Great question! Yeah, when I was bodybuilding before it was completely different in that was no real skill, technique, or performance component to it. I trained solely for muscle building – basically because I didn’t know any better.
      The most recent bodybuilding program I did was a “Functional” hypertrophy program (squats, DL’s, Bench, MP, etc.) I used the techniques and principles I’ve used in KB’s & BB’s to work on performance, as well as muscle building throughout the program. I would definitely say it was “functional” program in combination with bodybuilding principles.
      Intensity was progressive over 3, 2 week training blocks until a week of “de-loading” after week 6.
      The de-load was absolutely necessary as to avoid overreaching.
      It was a combination of the big lifts, with some of the BB exercises and it was almost exclusively done with a Barbell (~90%)
      I wanted to prove that Bodybuilding program could be successful with this type of approach – it was.
      Excellent questions!

  • Michael Gilleo
    Posted at 20:54h, 01 January Reply

    What were the rep,sets, and frequency you used? Did you do a full body three days a week or another split?

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