How to make progress with kettlebell training

It’s not enough to just swing your kettlebell around once in a while.  Although that might be an OK workout, it really doesn’t get you any closer to the goals that you (hopefully) had when you first started working out with kettlebells.

To make progress on any kettlebell routine, you need to do two things:

  1. Exercise with enough training stress that your body is forced to adapt to your exercise program.
  2. Give yourself enough time to rest and recover from exercise so this adaptation has time to occur.

But, as you can imagine, you’re not going to stress your body by doing the same exact routine each time you work out.  If your long-term workout program doesn’t force progressive overload and adaptation on your body, it won’t help you reach your goals.

There are three variable you can change to increase training stress in your kettlebell program: volume, intensity, and density.  We’ll examine each in one of the following sections.

Volume

The total amount of work you do during a workout session is your volume.  As an easy way to grasp this concept, think of this as the total amount of weight you lift during the workout.

To increase your volume, there are several things you can do:

  • Add repetitions to your exercise sets
  • Add more sets
  • Add exercises
  • Add workout sessions to your weekly schedule

Intensity

This is a measure of how much work each set (or each rep) contains.  For example, if you do a set with 50 pounds, you are working out at a greater level of intensity than if you did the same set with only 25 pounds.  Everything else being equal, you increase the intensity by increasing the work required to complete a set or a rep.

Here are some ways to add intensity to your workouts:

  • Increase the weight you’re using
  • Increase the complexity of the exercises you do during a workout
  • Increase the range of motion

Density

This concept can be a bit tricky to understand.  Manipulating density in an exercise program is usually used by advanced athletes.  Beginners are much better off increasing only the intensity with which they work out.

Density refers to the amount of work you do during a given period of time.

If it takes you a minute to snatch the kettlebell 20 times, but it only takes your friend 45 seconds, you’re working out at a lower density than your friend.

Here are some ways to increase density in your kettlebell training:

  • Decrease your rest between sets
  • Decrease the time between individual repetitions (speed up your exercise performance)
  • Decrease your rest and recovery between workouts

Fixed-weight kettlebells make it hard to adjust intensity

The design of old-style, fixed-weight kettlebells is simple and easy to manufacture.  But it doesn’t lend itself very well to providing an easy way to increase exercise intensity and add progressive overload to your workout program.

But modern adjustable weight kettlebells are a different story.

These well-designed exercise tools may not be ‘hardcore’ and fit for ‘warriors’ (it’s amazing that hype-filled language like this actually works on a lot of folks).  But they work.

And they let you adjust the weight you use in 2.5 pound increments, so you can always dial in the perfect level of intensity.  So don’t let the hype-filled marketing jargon used by old-school kettlebell hucksters convince you that kettlebells with less benefits are actually better than modern, second-generation ‘bells.

With a good adjustable kettlebell, you can keep making progress by increasing your workout intensity just like successful athletes have been doing for ages.