The Best and Simplest One Kettlebell Workout

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Max Shank Single Kettlebell Workout

With the following single kettlebell workout, you can work on all your strength movements in one session with 2-6 sets of 3-8 reps. Each movement provides an adequate amount of rest for the next item in the superset. The finisher, which consists of swings and planks or pushups is a great way to add some cardiovascular work as well as some extra core/arm training.

Superset the exercises below for 2-6 rounds:

Press (up to 80% effort)
Row (up to 80% effort)
Squat (front squat or goblet squat)

Then perform kettlebell swings and planks (or pushups) for 2-5 sets

Together, this workout covers all the main strength movement categories:
Upper Push (press and/or pushups)
Upper Pull (rows)
Lower Push (squats)
Lower Pull (swings)

Part of the reason that programs generally work well is that they provide workouts which are already designed for you. If you struggle to think of what you should do at the gym, you’re less likely to do as much work–or any at all! It’s very helpful to at least have a go-to workout in your collection.

Another great thing about the workout listed above is that you’ll probably want to do more reps of rows than presses anyway. This often happens because  most of us can row with more weight than we can press. In other words, you’ll likely press the same kettlebell 5 times and then row it for 8-10 reps with the same weight (which will put both exercises at 80% of your effort). That’s a good thing!

Finally, this takes very little time–I was recently able to do 3 rounds of each part in about 12 minutes.

It’s so simple that it almost seems too silly to work, but it does–and it covers all of your bases regardless of which kettlebell you use. For example, if you choose a kettlebell that you can press once, the workout might look like this:

Press x 1
Row x 5
Squat x 6
Or whatever rep range is within your 80% effort.

It’s beautifully simple, and it can really remove some potential barriers to training consistently–you can do a version of this workout anywhere in a very short amount of time.

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Master RKC Instructor Max Shank is the owner of Ambition Athletics in Encintas, California. He is very active in martial arts, competes in the Highland Games, and promotes a holistic approach to overall fitness. For more information about Max please visit www.ambitionathletics.com.
Max Shank is also the author of Master the Kettlebell, now available in ebook and paperback format.

The Power of One Year

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Karen Gasparick HKC

Today I’ve learned that my past is not my future. One year ago, I was a scared physical and emotional wreck. But, a little over one year ago today, I took my first step to change that—I had my first lesson at Superb Health with Nick Lynch, RKC Team Leader.

Historically, I’ve had a difficult relationship with food and exercise. I have always been “the fat kid.” I’m a tall woman at 5’-10”. The kicker is that I was 5’-10” in the 6th or 7th grade. Being a full foot taller than the whole class makes you stand out. Looking back at old photos, I see now that I was actually not obese. However, height and weight charts in the nurse’s office at school didn’t say that. TV didn’t say that. Magazines didn’t say that. All of those things told me I was “the fat kid.”

Karen: approximately 14 years old

Karen: approximately 14 years old

I don’t ever remember wearing “cool” clothes designed for children my age. I was always too tall, too husky. Puberty is already a terrible time for everyone when it comes to coordination and growing. So, being bigger than everyone else and having to wear women’s clothing in middle school rather than clothes from the juniors’ department, being clumsy, and being teased for all of that snowballed into really not caring about what I ate. I thought, “Well, I’m already weird, so who cares.” So I ate—and eventually became obese.

My athletic experiences were also terrible. Gym class uniforms didn’t come in my size, and it hurt to always be picked last for the team. I had straight A’s in every class except for Physical Education and watched my GPA plummet from 4.0 to 3.0 because no one explained how to run effectively or how to do a real “not girl” push-up. The teachers just assumed I wasn’t trying, and my grade in PE reflected it. Eventually, I just stopped trying. I became even unhealthier, physically and mentally.

This eventually led to good grades, a quick-witted sense of humor, and diving head first into the visual arts to cope. I coped with the pain of being a woman with body image issues and a very unhealthy lifestyle.

But coping is not living.

Karen & Beardy: 2000

Karen & Beardy: 2000

My career became my identity. I eventually went back to school and earned my Masters Degree from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Unfortunately, I was still only coping, not living. I was hiding behind what other people told me that I was good at. I love art, learning and writing—these are all true passions. But, it was impossible to fully reap the rewards of the focus and drive I had for my education and career when my physical body was decaying.

So many people, women especially, in similar situations of poor health turn to the well-publicized “solutions” being sold by a huge corporation. I believe that many people with poor health and negative body image issues truly want to get better. But I only seemed to find plenty of quick-fix, faddish “band aids”, and no real solutions. It was all so appealing but temporary, fast, and often dangerous. Of course I purchased these products—and of course they didn’t work! The goal of marketing and advertising is to appeal to the customer’s psychological reactions. Even “solutions” promoted by some physicians are ways to sell pharmaceuticals and bring dollars in to insurance companies and hospitals.

So, what changed for me 365 days ago? Why do I look forward with considerably less fear and the kind of determination that gave me my career?

The first domino fell when our trusted family physician said that both my husband and I were very sick. Her candid explanation of what would happen to us played right into my tendency to worry. I was now afraid of my own poor health, but more terrified to lose my husband. As a team, we had to make health changes. We knew we had to change everything. Our mantra became “not optional.”

My husband, Jim was quick to action with diet, exercise and discipline. I followed, but out of fear. I was coping. I was not living. However, I was slowly coming around by seeing him experience the positive results of a total life change.

Unlike a fad, trend, or pharmaceutical “solution,” we started slow. We did not expect instant results and unlike attempts at changing my body in the past, my personal goals were not related to a number on a scale or a size of clothing.

Karen & Beardy: September 2013

Karen & Beardy: September 2013

We started eating healthier. Slow and steady, first focusing on portion sizes. Next came education on nutrients as fuel rather than eating for boredom or comfort. We started to eliminate alcohol from our social lives and dug out our bicycles from their 10-year hiatus in the basement. Instead of eating out, then hitting a bar for entertainment, we joined up with other friends and rode bikes from coffee shop to park to trail nearly every weekend. Then we started commuting to work on bikes when the weather permitted. We really got into maintaining and fixing our bikes. We bought cool accessories and gear.

Then winter came to Milwaukee and biking stopped. Jim discovered kettlebells and instantly fell in love. I was skeptical and thought it looked dangerous and that it required a lot of coordination. To me, exercising with kettlebells looked like something that belonged in the military, and something that was “for dudes.” But, I was still determined to follow. I focused on our mantra: “not optional.”

Karen at Peninsula Point Lighthouse: First 26 Mile Bike Ride – June 2013

Karen at Peninsula Point Lighthouse: First 26 Mile Bike Ride – June 2013

I focused on the positives I saw—kettlebell training and the accompanying exercises such as ballistic body movements, battle ropes, etc. really looked “cool” in a Rocky Balboa, Sarah Connor kind of way. I have a passion for sports stories (fiction and non-fiction) and this looked like Rocky, Muhammad Ali, Iron Mike Tyson stuff. This was Clubber Lang. This was “Eye of the Tiger.”

In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah Connor is shown doing pull ups at the Pescadero State Hospital on the frame of her bed. She was preparing without Universal Machines or sports shakes. “The future’s not set. There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.” That’s in the movie too, and I knew it was true. “Not optional.”

So I signed up for kettlebell class.

In the beginning I needed 3 chairs to do a squat—one for each hand and one for me to sit on. Years of sedentary life and a desk job had destroyed my posture. It took at least 6 weeks to begin to remember each “step” of the Turkish get-up on my own, let alone hold a weight above my head. I swung a 10 pound kettlebell for at least two months.

Karen Before Kettlebells: (Left – “ Normal” Posture & Right “Correcting” posture with a broom handle) February 2014

Karen Before Kettlebells: (Left “Normal” Posture, Right “Correcting” posture with a broom handle) February 2014

What changed for me? Why did I continue to come back to Superb Health? Why was quitting never an option? Even though I was struggling, why did coming back every week to Superb Health make me so happy?

In the past, I would have quit even before I started, but now I had a forward focus unlike anything in my life. In hindsight, getting accepted on scholarship to art school, or completing my master’s degree was easier, because I had the talent and love going in. This was different, everything was hard. Yet, everyone at Superb Health was supportive. It was safe. I would not be made fun of. I was encouraged to try. It was ok to go at my own pace. I was instructed with patience. Now, someone took the time to teach me how to do a push-up …and then I did one!

Karen 1 month in at Superb Health 2014

Karen 1 month in at Superb Health 2014

I learned that it’s a forward focus, a safe community, plus support at home that gave me results. I learned to relish each victory. Maybe doing one push up is not significant to anyone else, but to me it was like winning a gold medal. Every victory led me to desire more victories. I wanted to knock down all the dominoes. I learned that coping is not living when I actually felt what living feels like.

Less than nine months since my first class at Superb Health, I participated in the HKC in Milwaukee, WI and am now a certified Dragon Door HKC instructor. Each small victory was like a domino that pushed the next domino down. It starts slow, but the chain reaction gains momentum with determination and focus.

“HKC Day” – February 7, 2015

“HKC Day” – February 7, 2015

4/14/15 – “Milwaukee Day” Photo Shoot for The Beardy Apothecary, LLC

4/14/15 – “Milwaukee Day” Photo Shoot for The Beardy Apothecary, LLC

One trip around the sun can truly change a person. Reflecting on the past is still uncomfortable. But, today, it’s glorious. Learning from the past instead of worrying and coping is living. Living is freedom and I want to share this. I know there must be so many people, especially women, who share similar stories. I want to help free others from merely coping. Superb Health, Dragon Door, and the RKC / HKC methods are promoted as beneficial to so many types of people. But what I want to add an 8th item to Dragon Door’s “Our Difference” checklist:

  1. Are you scared? Do you feel like you don’t fit in with the typical “gym scene”? Do you feel like there’s just something “missing” in your life but you can’t put your finger on it? Do you feel like powerful corporations have mistreated you with profits over people as the mission? Do you feel overly self-critical from years of a beat-up psyche? Do you feel like you are so out of shape that you can’t make a change? Do you feel too old to change your health? Do you feel like you are out of options? Are you tired of industry standards of beauty? Are you just coping and not living? It’s time to start living.

I want to thank my husband. Changing your life is hard and his example was all I had in the beginning. I want to thank Nick Lynch at Superb Health for offering our community a safe place for achieving health and fitness goals. I want to thank everyone who is a part of the Superb Health family. They are true friends. Finally, I want to thank Andrea Du Cane from Dragon Door. Andrea taught me how to start turning fear into power, and with that power I’m learning that I can do anything.

I’m so excited to continue to learn and improve. I can’t wait to see what the next trip around the sun brings.

This is living.

“HKC Day” at Superb Health – Milwaukee, WI – February 7, 2015

“HKC Day” at Superb Health – Milwaukee, WI – February 7, 2015

 

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Karen Gasparick is a certified HKC instructor, owns The Beardy Apothecary with her husband Beardy, and is a full time Designer at Interior Systems, Inc. In Milwaukee, WI.

The Sweaty Beast Workout

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Beth Andrews Senior RKC

I live for a great workout. Do you? This is one of my favorite workouts and it’s a hit with my students as well. I thought I would share some of the kettlebell love and sweat with you. This workout is challenging, fun, will leave you in a pool of sweat and feeling like a beast when you’re done.

You can take this workout and grow with it by challenging yourself with heavier weight. I would first suggest you complete it with a kettlebell that’s your snatch test weight. When you can successfully do that, you can advance to the next size kettlebell.  :)

Most people are familiar with the snatch and goblet squat, but are unfamiliar with the one arm chest press. Here are a few things to remember when performing the one arm chest press, a few options for the workout, a quick video tutorial and a demo sample of the workout.

1.There are many different ways to do the one arm chest press. My preference is to perform it with both legs down and both arms off of the floor, in the video below. This variation requires more body control/core stability. If you can’t keep your low back flat and your bum tight, bring one or both knees up. I prefer both knees up or both down.  Please option it out if needed. See pictures below.

Beth Andrews Chest Press Legs Up option

Yes! Legs up, bum tight, low back on floor.

BethAndrews Chest Press Legs Down Option

YES! Legs down, bum tight, low back on floor.

 belly button up to chin. This will help bring low back to the floor.

No! We want to prevent arching the low back.
Focusing on squeezing the glutes and pulling
belly button up to chin. This will help bring low back to the floor.

2. It can be challenging to chest press with your snatch test weight. No worries, just drop down to a lighter weight for that exercise.

3. You have 25 min to complete the workout. This workout is not about beating the clock, the timing is to keep you focused. It is all about good form, you gain nothing by racing through and taking shortcuts with form. Finish strong, my friends!

4. There are two ways I like to mix up the reps: a 10-1 countdown on all exercises, in a circuit fashion, or stay with 5 sets of 10 reps on everything for a beastlier challenge.

Check out the One-Arm Chest Press video tutorial:
(All kettlebells in the videos below are official Dragon Door kettlebells that have been painted)

Now you’re ready to give the The Sweaty Beast Workout a try! :)

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Beth Andrews is a Senior RKC, PCC Team Leader, and CK-FMS. She leads HKC and RKC certifications, and assists at the PCC. She became the 5th Iron Maiden in 2013. Beth owns Maximum Body Training and a successful online training business. She has over 25 years of training experience. For online training or to host a certification, email Beth at: bethandrewsrkc@gmail.com. For more training tips and workouts subscribe to her YouTube channel, Beth Andrews RKC or visit her website at maximumbodytraining.com

Fitness Freedom + Play = Increased Strength and Conditioning

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Lori Crock Movestrong KB Pull Up

Fitness classes are social by nature and lend themselves to incorporating occasional play components to explore new, interesting and challenging movements and lifts with less structure, measurement or a set goal.

I call this Fitness Freedom.

The keys are:

1) Keep it exploratory

2) Give the student some control over how much they do and how they do it, and

3) Keep it safe.

Note: Play is not training riskier than usual; it is practicing relevant skills in creative ways when your students are ready for it.

Lori Crock Post Book Cover PlayYou can encourage creativity by using different fitness tools and combinations of movements that feel physically and mentally freeing, while still conditioning and challenging the body and the mind.

Stir the Imagination, Stimulate the Brain, and Reach into the Soul with Play

In Stuart Brown, M.D.’s book Play, he describes play “as important as diet and exercise to health.”

I agree.

So how do we incorporate play into our busy lives?

 

Our physical lives are the the perfect arena to explore play in a spirit of fitness freedom.

But we should already be thriving and enjoying our physical training–the everyday work should still feel fun.

Adding occasional play components can rev up our skill set in a new way and still be compatible with our current training methods.

For example, bottoms up kettlebell carries are challenging, but feel like play to me, and I like to find new ways to challenge myself with them. In the video below, I am balancing and moving mindfully with a kettlebell in the bottoms up position.

Often play starts out one way, and morphs into another way once our imagination kicks in.

Play is in the eye of the beholder and only limited by the imagination.

This opens the door to learning, creativity, improvisation and advanced skill development as individuals explore movements and lifts in a relaxed and exploratory environment.

I like to practice a climbing technique that I refer to as a jungle-up, and that often leads to practicing other hanging/pulling techniques on our suspended pullup bars. The jungle-ups condition the body for all types of bodyweight movements.

How Do Students Respond?

Some students enjoy the change … the freedom, the laughter, the ability to set their own limits and to try something new.

Others may tell you they prefer more structure with the reps, sets, and specific goals, but those are probably the students who will gain the most from fitness freedom.

How Often to Incorporate Play into Small Group Classes?

Play works well as an occasional warm-up component, a finisher, between sets, or as the main element of a lighter training day.

It can also be ideal for special occasion classes (holidays, open houses, family and friends events, special workshops, hump day, etc.)

You might decide to include a play component in Saturday classes when people are not rushing off to work and they have a more relaxed mindset. Or, you could add it as a recovery tool at the end of each round of a strength circuit

Play Examples for Small Group Kettlebell Classes

The Kettlebell Ameoba… often we are standing in one spot while we swing, clean, press, snatch, etc. Getting outside and moving as a group while we handle a kettlebell can feel playful while providing some great conditioning.

Sample Ameoba Programming with a Single Bell
(We use this is two teams, outdoors, and rest after each set of 10 paces.)

  • Walking 2-arm kettlebell swings – 10 paces down and back
  • 1-arm suitcase carry – 10 paces down and other arm back
  • 1-arm racked kettlebell lunge – 10 paces down and other arm back
  • Goblet hold and shuffle sideways – 10 paces down and back
  • Your choice carry – 10 paces down and back
  • Finish with single kettlebell figure-eight practice in the grass.

The Kettlebell Swing Wave… this idea came from Superb Health where we did it with a large group event. We used it when the Ohio State Buckeyes (our local team) were off to play for the national football championship. Our heavy 2-arm swing wave lasted as long as the Ohio State fight song and we started the swing as soon as the other person had the bell in the air–wave style.

Hand-Foot Crawling with Torso Stability Animals… the dog toys I keep in the gym for our occasional furry guests, come in handy when we are hand-foot crawling (great for warmup or as part of a circuit.) If the animal falls off a student’s back, add another animal and another to help them zero in on tightening their torso and moving the shoulders and hips.

Roxanne… playing the song Roxanne (or any song) and squatting (or any movement) every time you hear the word ‘Roxanne’. This is a great for warmup or a finisher–thanks to one of our gym members for this idea.

You-Go and I-Go Swings in Teams… two teams (one at a time) do 2-hand heavy swings in a 10-9-8 … 1 ladder (and maybe back up). We maintain active rest and cheer on the opposing team as they swing.

Kettlebell Figure-8s / Kettlebell Juggling… moving the bell in this way feels like play, but requires concentration, coordination and strength. Go light if you are new to this and make sure the flooring can handle an occasional dropped kettlebell — or better yet, head outdoors in the grass, to a volleyball sandpit or to the beach.

Push Exploration… set up an area with yoga blocks, Neuro-Grips, kettlebells for students to explore various push variations such as uneven push-ups, planks, kneeling fingertip push-ups, one-arm Neuro-Grip holds, ab wheel and so on. Not familiar with some of these? You might want to check out the PCC workshop. This is great fun. great conditioning and as a coach, you get visual feedback about your students’ strengths and weaknesses. We also use Pull Exploration with lots of hang and pull-up variations.

Lori Crock Group Fitness Push Exploration

 

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Lori Crock is an RKC Team Leader, PCC, MovNat-II and FMS-II strength and movement coach based in Dublin, Ohio (Columbus area.) She owns MoveStrong Kettlebells where she practices fitness freedom with her students who continue to amaze, inspire and educate her in small group classes. Lori can be reached at lori@movestrongkbs.com, www.movestrongkbs.com or on Facebook.

It’s All About the Data

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Laurel Blackburn Senior RKC

I am a data freak. I love tracking my fitness, my nutrition, my accomplishments and my goals. I do this both for my clients and myself.

Back in the day when I first started bodybuilding, I just used a notebook. I jotted down my workouts and food but not much else. I really did not know if I was making progress in my strength. I did however know exactly what I was eating and how many calories I was consuming everyday. Keeping a food journal was a priority because I had to get as lean as possible for every show.

That was years ago and my goals have changed.

Since then I completed two half marathons. I printed out a running program I found online and stuck to that. I never logged my runs or anything else, I just followed the plan. I had days where my runs were horrible and I would end up walking a lot. I had days in which I felt I could run forever.

Had I kept a log and a food journal, I may have been able to see why; on certain days I felt like I was running through mud and why some days I felt like an Olympian. Maybe my nutrition, hydration and sleep had a big effect on my training. I would never know because I didn’t keep data.

Over the past few years my goals have changed. For several years I didn’t do much but train with kettlebells. I went from program to program and tried and stopped every one of them. I had workout dyslexia. I was always getting distracted by a shiny new program.

My personal training business pretty much followed the same fate. I either did not write down programs or I would throw something together before I headed to the gym to train my clients.

They did see results with weight loss and body composition which was fine because that is pretty much all they cared about. I never kept data on their actual progress in the gym. Many times I would have to ask how much weight we used on our last workout. Had I kept data, I would have been able to show them their progress.

Things changed for me when I began setting goals that had deadlines attached to them. Had I not kept data on my training, I doubt I would have accomplished much.

One of my goals, and still is to be the oldest woman to complete the Iron Maiden challenge. For those who may not know; I would need to do a pull-up, pistol squat and press the 24 kilo (53 pound) kettlebell.

First thing I did was to hire a coach. Second thing I did was to get a good log to journal my workouts and more importantly, my progress.

Over the years I have bought, downloaded and made my own workout logs. None of them had ALL of the features I wanted.

Convict Conditioning Log BookI came across the Convict Conditioning Log Book. Even though it’s focus is on the CC program, I loved the layout and used it for my personal goals. I don’t do the CC program and didn’t pay attention to that part of the log. It didn’t matter because the actual log pages had everything I was looking for.

Once I started keeping data on my workouts, I was able to progress and regress as needed. I also was able to share with workouts with my coach. If he asked me about a past workout or weights used, I could flip to the page and let him know.

Having this data was crucial for reaching my goals. My coach was able to use this info to program my training cycles.

That is not the only data I keep. I still log my food and my running.

I am proud to say that I am one of those obnoxious people who have to take 5 minutes before a run to start my heart rate monitor, my Map My Run app, my music and my interval timer.

Funny thing is, I am not even a serious runner and I’m not very good at it. I do it for fun and to spend time with my friends. Do I really need that much data on my running? No. I just love having the data and more importantly, the gadgets.

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Senior RKC, Laurel Blackburn owns Boot Camp Fitness and Training and Tallahassee Kettlebells.  Look for Laurel at www.bootcampstogo.com or www.tallahasseekettlebells.com.

In her early fifties, she is out to prove that age is just a number. Her goal is to motivate and inspire people everywhere, both young and old that strength, flexibility and mobility can get better with age. Follow her adventures on her blog: www.SuperStrongNana.com.