Five Kettlebell Exercise that Will Bulk you up
Kettlebells are great for build grip strength, boosting cardiovascular health and increasing athletic conditioning. But what if I told you that they are also one of the best tools to use for building up muscle mass, would that be something you’re interested in? Thought so!
Here’s the deal though, there are some key factors to keep in mind when using kettlebells for building muscle mass.
No matter what tool is being used – the body, barbell, dumbbells or kettlebells – one way to elicit muscle mass growth is through progress overload.
Progress overload is a way to moderately increase the amount of stress on the muscles by either increasing the weight of the load or the time under tension.
Time under tension (TUT) is a variable used to measure the amount of time your muscle fibers are under stress from an external load. Aside from using a heavier bell, this is a pretty easy way to increase the amount of stress on the muscles to promote growth.
We always advocate quality over quantity, and you should absolutely keep that in mind – but if you’re not eating enough, you’re not feeding your body enough. Those missing nutrients will be the key factor holding you back from all those gains!
Again, keep it clean, but if you’re using #1 and adhering to #3 and not finding the growth you’re looking for, then take a look at your calorie intake and your macro-nutrient levels.
We’ll talk more about nutrition in later posts.
Sleep You Must
Sleep is crucial if you want to build high quality muscle mass.
During the sleep phase, your body goes into a sort of “repair” mode where it focuses on rebuilding the muscle fibers that have received those micro-tears caused from resistance training.
This is where the magic happens, but only if you’ve nailed down #1 & #2 first.
So, as long as you keep all three of the above in mind, let’s talk about the five kettlebell exercises to bulk up.
1. The Deadlift
This exercise is king of the lifts when it comes to building mass, and for good reason – it promotes growth in size & strength of the muscle fibers of the active muscle groups including the legs, back and core.
2. The Goblet Squat
If the Deadlift is the king of the lifts, then the Goblet Squat is the right hand man.
The Goblet Squat is a compound movement using the legs as the primary moving components and the upper body as the stabilizer. Using the whole body is key to promoting muscle growth.
3. The Row
The Row uses the muscles of the back to pull the tool closer to the torso. When using a kettlebell, as demonstrated below, we also get the hips involved as stabilizers, essentially “sitting” into the hips while pulling with the arms.
Again, a compound movement using one half of the body as the mover and the other half as the stabilizer…are you seeing a trend yet?
4. The Clean & Press
This compound movement is actually two big movements put together that takes the bell from the floor to over the head – challenging all the major muscle groups in fail-swoop.
The other reward to this movement is the cardiovascular challenge which will help the body feed more growth enhancing oxygen to the muscles.
5. The Turkish Get Up
Although not commonly thought of as a mass builder, the Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up has the highest effect of building a strong foundation to the full musculature system.
So just like building a castle on the beach, we can’t build a strong body on a soft foundation – in comes the Turkish Get Up
The Right Way
Now we know the five mass building kettlebell exercises, so next let’s look at how to do them correctly.
How to Deadlift (the right way)
As I mentioned earlier, this movement uses the hips and legs as the primary moving parts, the back and core are activated as pure stability and connections so the body can move through the range motion safer and stronger. So stay in the hips and keep the core tight.
When programming the Deadlift into your workouts, you’ll want to focus on heavy weight with about 6-8 reps for a mix of strength and size or 10-12 reps to focus more on size than strength. If you’re hitting the top of the rep range, go heavier!
This Starts with a Proper set up:
- Stand with feet shoulder width apart and Kettlebell in between the feet.
- Maintaining a neutral spine and braced core, send the hips back with a slight bend in the knees, keeping the shins vertical.
- Grasp the bridge of the bell firmly with both hands, keep the shoulders packed into their sockets.
- Keeping the tension throughout the body and keeping good posture, drive through the heels, tighten your glutes and stand up tall.
- Shoulders need to be pulled back and down, keeping the chest open throughout the movement.
- Return the bell safely back to the ground by sending the hips back and slightly down.
Don’t break form until the bell is fully on the ground. (INSERT PICS)
How to Goblet Squat (like a boss)
If done correctly, this movement challenges the full body and promotes better posture. The cool thing about this movement too, is that there are a variety of ways to grip the bell, keeping it fresh and unique every set.
Program this movement in the same fashion as the Deadlifts but focus more on slow controlled rep tempos, something like a 3210 – 3 count on the way down, 2 count hold at the bottom (and yes, you’re hips need to be parallel with the floor or lower!) and 1 count up with 0 rest at the top.
Here’s how you get it done to maximize results and minimize risk of injury:
- Hold the bell in the Goblet, Crush or Bottoms Up position , feet shoulder width apart and standing tall.
- Brace the core and maintain a neutral spine while sending the hips back and down, as if sitting into a chair.
- Keep the chest open and tall as you make your way down till your elbow are in between your knees. Or as low as you can go with good form.
- From the bottom, drive through the heels, keep your chest tall and core tight as you return to standing.
Row Row Row
There are 2 different versions that we teach for the 1 Handed Kettlebell row, the split stance and hinge stance. I find that the Split Stance style bring less stress to the hips and lower back, so this is a great place to start but the hinge stance is prefered for greater reward Using a moderate rep range and weight will elicit the most positive effect to your strength and muscle mass. So aim for 8-10 reps at a steady tempo. Add in a little extra gain by holding for a 2 count at the top.
The Hinge Stance 1 Hand Row:
- Start in the deadlift position (see above)
- Send your hips back and bend your knees slightly, lowering down to the bell
- Be sure to keep a nuetral spine and learn forward till your torso is 45 degrees or closer to the floor.
- Reach down with your left hand, grasping the bell around the bridge
- Keep the left shoulder packed and pull the bell towards the lower ribs.
- Body should stay tight and in control as you lower the bell back to the floor.
- Repeat from step 4 or switch hands.
How to Clean and Press
This one is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re really looking to build muscle mass, it needs to be in your repertoire! The key to this movement is using the ballistic snap of the clean and the grind of the press while maintaining focus and tension throughout the movement.
Since this one is a bit more evolved of a movement than the Deadlift or Goblet Squat, you should program this one in using a rep range between 5 – 8 reps. And remember, ballistic snap of the hips during the clean and sow grind for the press.
- Stand in the deadlift position with the bell in the between the feet
- Perform a hip hinge as you reach for the bell, keeping the core tight and shoulders packed
- With a quick snap of the hips, pull the bell into the rack position (or Goblet position if doing 2 handed). Elbow(s) should by tucked in nice and tight the body and bridge under the chin.
- Keep the core and glutes engaged as you press the bell up over head keeping the shoulders squared and away from the ears.
- Slowly pull the bell back under the chin and transition it back to the floor.
- Rinse and repeat
How to Turkish Get-Up
If I was stuck on an island and had only 1 Kettlebell, I would do this move everyday…in fact I’m NOT stuck on an island and still do this everyday. It’s the holy mecca for building rock solid bodies and is a MUST if you want to build mass. The big key here is the TUT factor, so go slow with this one and reap all the gains!
As you can see below, this is a pretty extensive movement. (This is no bicep curl!) So only program in no more than 10 TOTAL reps (that’s 5 a side if you’re bad at math) but keep the tempo slow and controlled while using a challenging weight. The best scenario is a weight heavy enough that you won’t be able to do two reps on the same side consecutively.
- Begin by laying flat on the floor bell in the right hand and pressed to the ceiling. Set up your left arm to be laying out to the side at a 45 degree angle from the torso (palm down), left leg straight and inline with the torso, and right knee bent with foot flat, outside of the shoulders and toes pointed out roughly 45 degrees from torso
- Drive your right foot to the floor, rolling your body to the left side while driving the kettlebell up to the ceiling.
- Pull your body up so that you are laying on your left forearm (be sure to keep your eyes on the bell.
- Press your left hand into the floor and extend your left arm straight. You should now be in a tall seated position with left hand on the floor and bell overhead in your right hand. If the bell has left your right hand, something went terribly wrong and you need to start over!
- Lift your hips up high and shift your weight to your left hand while threading your left leg underneath you. You want to land your left knee on the floor underneath your hips so that your left shin is inline with your torso and perpendicular to your right leg and be sure to tuck your left toes.
- Send your hips back towards your left heel
- Use your left glute to bring your hips and torso up, making your way to your left knee and right foot.
- Your hips should be open and NOT in a good position to stand with…so, either sweep the left foot over so the left leg is inline with the right or rotate your right foot over. Either way, you should end up in a kneeling stance.
- From here, drive through the right heel and left toes to come to standing. Bring both of your feet together under your hips to finish.
- Now…just reverse everything you just did – EXACTLY!! – to return back to the floor…that’s one rep!
That’s mass building with a kettlebell, in a nutshell! The only other piece of advice that you need to leave with is: Be CONSISTENT!! One thing that will always hold you back from that next level is jumping from program to program week to week.
You should give every program 6-12 weeks to really get the results. So here’s one to get you started, but remember, stick with it for at least 6 weeks!
Three Day program
Be sure to take a rest day between each workout and somewhere between 1 to 2 minutes of rest between each set.
- A1: Deadlift 4 x 10-12
- B1: Goblet Squat 5 x 8-10
- C1: TGU 5 x 1 each side
- A1: Clean & Press 3 x 6-8
- B1: Row 4 x 8-10
- C1: TGU 5 x 1 each side
- A1: Deadlift 4 x 6-8
- B1: Goblet Squat 3 x 8-10
- C1: Row 5 x 8-10
- D1: TGU 5 x 1 each side
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