The best kettlebell programme

Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash

I like to do my heaviest lifting on a Saturday, It is currently my rest day from running, and it allows me not to rush the rests between heavy sets of deadlifts or bench press as I tend to have less going on. I have been building up a home gym over the last few years and makes Saturday workouts even more straightforward. Ever since I moved into a house with a garage, I have picked up a second-hand gear including a barbell and bumper plates and have taken advantage of sales to pick up smaller items including kettlebells.

Gyms have been closed in the UK for most of the last seven months, leaving many people unable to train. I have been suggesting a simple kettlebell workout and progression from the Deadlift legend Andy Bolton that can be completed in 10-15 minutes (just 1% of your day) that I found in Ross Edgley’s ‘Fittest book in the world’. I tried the programme two years ago when I was getting back into strength training after preparing for an ultramarathon and found it quick, easy, and useful.

The ladder

  • Day 1: 5 swings every minute on the minute for 5 minutes.
  • Day 2: 6 swings every minute on the minute for 5 minutes.
  • Day 3: 7 swings every minute on the minute for 5 minutes.
  • Day 4: 8 swings every minute on the minute for 5 minutes.
  • Day 5: 9 swings every minute on the minute for 5 minutes.
  • Day 6: 10 swings every minute on the minute for 5 minutes.
  • Day 7: 10 swings every minute on the minute for 6 minutes
  • Day 8: 10 swings every minute on the minute for 7 minutes
  • Day 9: 10 swings every minute on the minute for 8 minutes
  • Day 10: 10 swings every minute on the minute for 9 minutes
  • Day 11: 10 swings every minute on the minute for 10 minutes – 100 swings total in 10 minutes!
  • Day 12: either get a heavier bell and start back at day one or if you are not ready to make the jump to the next size, start the ladder again but cut the time in half so every 30 seconds rather then every minute.

Which Kettlebell?

Start with a 16kg kettlebell, then progress to a 24kg, then 32kg, then 40kg, and finally ‘The Beast’, at 48 kilograms. The big jumps shock the body to encourage growth. It can be tempting to make smaller jumpers, so 20kg for your second kettlebell but you will quickly outgrow it, and you will end up spending more money than you need. Many people are happy with just 16kg, 24kg, and 32kg Kettlebells and never feel the need to go heavier. If you do choose to go heavier, 100 swings with the 48kg kettlebell in 10 minutes represents an impressive level of strength and conditioning so send me a video on Twitter if you manage it (I have completed the ladder with a 32kg bell and have ordered a 40kg). 

Ideas on how to do it

The beauty of the workout is its simplicity, train when you can and gradually work up the ladder until you complete it with your current weight. I have included some suggestions of how you might want to get started for those that what extra help. 

When you start, especially with the 16kg bell, and depending on your level of fitness, you could probably do the workouts five days per week, skipping a day when you are too busy. As you get further up the ladder and the bells get heavier, you will need to add more rest days or start to introduce different exercises on the days do not swing. For example, once you reach the 32kg you might do your swings on Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday, then go for a run on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. If you need to keep your workouts short, you could introduce some overhead pressing or snatches with the 16kg bell on the non-swinging days.

Don’t be stupid

I am not a qualified doctor or fitness professional and you are swinging a cannonball with a handle around so do this at your own risk. If it hurts stop, and if you are injured, wait to recover before you start. Check out Ross Edgely’s book for more ideas on getting fit and lookup Strongfirst on their website or on youtube for all things kettlebells including technique, different programmes or to find a certified coach.

Get high quality coated kettlebells; if you look after them they will last a long time, probably longer than you will, so it is worth paying an extra £30 to get something that has a smooth and even handle. You get what you pay for! Brands that make high quality coated Kettlebells and sell in the UK include Bulldog gear, Primal Strength, Strength shop, and Again Faster. Rogue Fitness for everywhere else in the world.

Find me on Twitter if you have questions or if you have a go and want to share the results.