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Kettlebell Training The 5 Pillars

Mike Prevost

If you are looking to get in shape, there are many tools available, including the option of using no tools
at all (i.e., bodyweight exercises). If you want OPTIMAL training, you should choose the best tool for the
job. Nothing beats a fully equipped gym, with access to a large variety of tools. However, you may not
have access to a gym, or you may choose to do something less optimal (but still effective) because it is
more fun or convenient. The best program is the one you will actually do, consistently, week in and
week out. If you like training with kettlebells, you can get an effective whole body workout if you train
the 5 pillars. 2-3 days per week work through the 5 pillars. There are lots of ways to organize the sets
and reps depending on what you have available. If all you have is one kettlebell, you are going to have
to get creative.

If you can only do 1-3 reps with your kettlebell for an exercise: Perform several sets of 1-2 reps
or ladders.
If you can do 5-8 reps with your kettlebell for an exercise: Consider something like 5 X 5, or
ascending sets (i.e., 3 reps, 4 reps, 5 reps, 5 reps, reps to failure).
If you can do 8-12 reps with your kettlebell for an exercise: Consider something like 4 X 8, or a
Dan John rep scheme 5 reps, rest a couple of seconds, 3 reps, rest a couple of seconds, 2 reps.
Do 3-4 sets of the Dan John rep scheme.
If you can do 12-20 reps with your kettlebell for an exercise: Consider trying to make the
exercise harder by slowing down or speeding up the movement (i.e., jumping kettlebell goblet
squats, or super slow presses)

Obviously some exercises are going to be easier than others, so one loading scheme may be applied to
one exercise and a different scheme to another. If you have multiple kettlebells, try to vary the loading.
Pavel refers to this as making the loading wavy. For example, on Monday you might focus on pressing
in the 2-3 rep range, on Tuesday you might do 3 X 15 reps and Friday 4 X 5 reps. Again, if all you have is
one kettlebell, you will have to choose a loading scheme based on your ability and the weight of your
bell. This will result in different loading schemes for each exercise.
For example, if all I have is a 24KG bell I might construct a workout like:
1 arm overhead press: 5 X 6 reps
1 arm bent over row: 5 reps, 8 reps, 10 reps, reps to failure, 10 reps, 8 reps, 5 reps
1 arm kettlebell swing with a hand switch mid air (for added difficulty): 4 X 20
Kettlebell split squats: Ladders to 15
Kettlebell windmill: 4 X 4 reps
In this case the weight was fine for overhead press but a bit light for rows, so we did ascending sets to
failure, then descending sets afterwards since fatigue would make these sets harder. Because this is
light for swings, we added a hand switch and went with higher reps. Split squats would also be a bit
light so we went with ladders to fairly high reps. This is a very high volume split squat workout and
would be the major effort for this session. Finally, we finish up with some windmills but only a few reps
due to their difficulty and because they are done at the end. There are other possible adjustments to
add difficulty if we only have one kettlebell. For example, we could have done goblet squats with a
jump, or you can slow down any movement to make it much harder, even pausing at typical weaker
points of the movement. Speeding up or slowing down lifts is a great way to make them harder. If you
have limited tools, you have to be creative to squeeze all of the benefit out of them. This is not

necessarily a bad thing as you really get proficient at the movements and can train until you really
own that weight before buying another kettlebell.
The 5 pillars are:

Upper body push

Upper body pull
Hip hinge

1. Upper body push - Floor press, overhead press, weighted dips (with kettlebell).

2. Upper body pull Rows, weighted pull ups (with kettlebell), batwings, man makers

3. Hip hinge Swings, one legged deadlifts, Bulgarian goat bag swings

4. Squat Goblet squat, double kettlebell front squat, singe leg squat, lunges, rear foot elevated split
squat, box squats

5. Core Loaded carries (carry while walking), windmills, Turkish getups

Note: Google Dan John, Mike Mahler or Pavel Tsatsouline for some great kettlebell training ideas.