Kettlebell Q&A : I’m a weakling when it comes to kettlebells….. Kettlebell Complexes for Strength ?

This Q&A comes from the Swing This Youtube channel  (please follow if you aren’t currently)

(Question) I’m a weakling when it comes to kettlebells…..Are there any complexes you would recommend to increase strength? I currently have trouble with incorporating 44 lbs kb’s to my exercises.   -Nick from Youtube

 JOE DANIELS- This is a great question that I hear a lot.  There are a couple of factors related to it.   First off, form is imperative.   The first kettlebells I had were as follows.

This was the beauty of Kettlebells to me.

I had  more experience with free weights than machines so how could kettlebells be much tougher??  Boy was I shocked. I was fairly strong  prior to kettlebell training but the 16kg weights were just wearing me out!!  

Forget about the 24kg, I  couldn’t do much more than swing it. If you are new to kettlebells, you’re playing with more physics here than with your traditional barbell deadlift, bench and squat.  You’re using MUCH more stabilization and proprioception than you are used to with machines. 

Understanding the movements  is the most important.   KEEP IT SIMPLE  .  You may be stronger than myself,  but I may know better leverage , control and technique than you when it comes to manipulating the kettlebell.

In the first month or two of kettlebell training (or any training for that matter)  you may make large gains. This is usually NOT due to increases in strength but actually increases in your BRAIN and  nervous systems ability to  control the weight and coordinate your muscles to leverage your skeleton to move the weight.

THIS IS WHY FORM IS SO IMPORTANT.

If you are looking for Strength, build strength in the basic  movement  patterns before you attempt to string them together.   This is  why I DO NOT feel that  Kettlebell Complexes are the best thing for people to use to get stronger with kettlebells.

Example.   This is the same amount of work using a 16kg KB

  • Finishing 10 reps of cleans,  then 10 reps of Overhead squats and 10 reps of snatches   on one side  in a row  with a rest between exercises is STEP 1
  •  Step 2 , put them together with zero rest.
  •  Step 3 is the last thing you should do. This  is to create the complex of 1 clean, 1 snatch into over head squat and repeat for 10 rounds.  THIS IS THE COMPLEX.

Why??

Kettlebell Complexes are taxing on the nervous system to get the “flow” of the exercises right.  Even I can do 10 min of swing /snatch and mess up by skipping a swing in between snatches. It is based on much more focus to shift between movement patterns without messing the flow  up or worse , getting injured.

Kettlebell Complexes are taxing on the respiratory system.    Depending on the length  of the complex, especially when a Turkish Get Up is thrown in,  can last  up to a couple minutes.   Shoulders can get very tired here  and the brain can get foggy especially with limited oxygen and  metabolic waste building in the tissues .  (Great for MMA or timed round sports)  This can cause you to not be as focused as you should be  for exercises that  require a lot of attention such as snatches, flip swings etc.    Start light.

ALWAYS START WITH  SINGLE KB BEFORE DOUBLES.

To me this is a no-brainer, but I see so many people jumping onto double kettlebells without building the rotational/ anti rotational strength and stability that unilateral (single kettlebell) training  is so good at developing .    Also if you are not experienced , you will take a bite of the dreaded “Hand Sandwich”     See video below..

With all those variables above, I have to say that I’m actually NOT a fan of complexes for people that don’t have at least 6 months or so of kettlebell fundamentals under their belt. Even longer for people who are new to exercising in the first place.

I recommend to get  better form with lighter weights 1216 kg   even for men,  focus on Turkish Getups  (Actually a complex or  movement flow as it is ).   Work on single arm swings, cleans, rack squats and perhaps snatches all in a consecutive order before  trying complexes.  Kettlebells should increase your coordination , stability strength, and endurance so you can train for a very long time with less pain .

There is no point in risking losing that by attempting too heavy weight in complicated exercise compilations until you’re really ready for it.

Be the ego-free lifter.

Make YOURSELF better, not just compared to others.

Kettlebell complexes are flashy,  fun and perhaps the current Instagram trend, but only attempt them once you are very proficient in the moves that you are putting together.

Here is a playlist of a few complexes  in ranges of difficulty if you are ready ……

And.. if you have some wonderful complexes feel free to let us know below and we can add them to the KETTLEBELL COMPLEX PLAYLIST.

Also Check out my friend Levi Markwardt’s  Youtube . He’s another kettlebell complex maniac.

Joe Daniels

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