Bodybuilding Versus Kettlebell Lifting
Joe Daniels was a Competitive Bodybuilder and now he’s a kettlebell competitor. Find out why and how he made the transition, and how you can start incorporating kettlebell training into any regimen.
What I care about is helping you to use the kettlebell in a way that will keep you enjoying your training and allow your brain to continually develop as your body awareness increases. This is the beauty of the kettlebell; there are so many ways to use it, and most of those ways want to throw you on your face if you’re not careful or respectful of the weight.
But there always seems to be so many people saying that you can’t build muscle with kettlebells, and there are many reasons for that misconception. I’ll touch on a few.
#1. Using Kettlebells for training is very new to the United States.
Even if you’re 18 years old now, how many of your weightlifting dads were bragging about how much they could Turkish Get Up in the basement? How much could they Double Clean with kettlebells? Right. They were bench pressing in their garage like their dads before them probably did (and lots of them had chicken legs. Don’t trust the chicken legs).
#2. Not many trainees want to start learning new tricks.
Do you think the chicken legs want to go from benching 315lbs to not being able to snatch a sixth of that weight with one arm? Forget about it. People don’t want change. It’s scary. They won’t be good at something new and that frightens them.
#3. “Kettlebells don’t weigh enough to build muscle!”
A quick Instagram and Google search will show you Rogue Fitness makes a damn 203lb kettlebell. “But, but , but…. that mass is too large to do proper exercises with!” Oh, and a 200lb dumbbell gives you full ROM on your presses as well right? The thing is, you can build muscle with almost any weight (maybe not the Shake Weight). You just have to have an open mind, and while it’s open, learn from someone who has accomplished it.
See barbells , kettlebells and dumbbells are like pens, pencils and markers. They all will make marks, but some are best used in certain situations.
WHY SHOULD YOU LISTEN TO ME?
Reason #1. I was a Competitive Bodybuilder and now I’m a kettlebell competitor
To start, I was a fairly successful competitive bodybuilder for a while. I’m both the tan guy and the double kettlebell lateral lunge guy on the left. I’ll cover WHY I switched to kettlebells for another article. Now I am a competitive kettlebell athlete with MUCH more muscle density than I ever had when I was competing in bodybuilding.
I’ve fielded question after question on the Swing This Kettlebell Youtube channel about what my percentage of Kettlebell lifting to traditional lifting is since 2010.
Reason #2. I’ve Worked with Champions
I’ve worked with the some of the absolute world champions in kettlebell sport who wrote me ridiculously hard workouts because I “have big legs… lots of muscle. You can handle… jump squats 50 reps…. maybe 100 with 100kg,” according to Ivan Denisov in 2013.
Reason #3. Ridiculousness
I’ve done ridiculous stuff with kettlebells while training with Chris Duffin at Kabuki Strength Lab and recently watched him deadlift over 1,000lbs for almost 3 reps (no biggie).
WHY WOULD IT BE ADVANTAGEOUS TO ADD KETTLEBELL TRAINING INTO YOUR WORKOUT?
#1. Prevent Burnout
Adaptations happen when you change stimuli. This can be wonderful for sparking new muscle growth and strength increases. Just as I said before, leave the ego at the door. I started with 2x12kg, 2x16kg and 1x24kg kettlebells.
Your brain craves new simulation and if you’ve trained for a long time with machines and barbells, you know what I mean about possible burnout. It gets boring doing the same thing day in and day out. This is one reason why inexperienced trainees jump from program to program without allowing enough time to solidify their adaptations to each. There is also a big difference between LEARNING and TRAINING.
Big changes take a while. Give them time. Adding a few kettlebell exercises, even if similar to your existing ones, can give you some much needed motivation to continue on the long road of building muscle and strength.
#2. Increase strength and coordination
I get it . It’s going to be tough to learn intricate movements. Kettlebells will challenge you on more planes than machines will. It’s fine. Increasing coordination and biomechanical awareness can only help you on the big lifts you may continue to use with barbells and machines. Training unilaterally
with heavy or even light kettlebells can fill in the stabilization gaps you may have in your movements. They can easily train your ability for better proprioception (awareness of your body in a space and how it reacts to that space).
#3. It’s Neato
Because they’re cool and everyone is doing it. Just kidding. That’s not a good reason to try something. No explanation needed.
#4. Easily Transportable
Kettlebells are easy to transport and it’s fun to train in new environments. This was a life changer for me. On vacations I always had to find a specific gym. In 2010, I took a 35lb kettlebell in a backpack and rode my bike for miles down the beach. Had a wonderful workout by myself and the ocean. Nature is amazing. Get out there and play. You want a solid torso and grip strength for days? Farmers carry two kettlebells up (and back down) a cool hiking trail. Set up an obstacle course. Whatever your brain can think up.
#5. It’s Good for Business
If you are a trainer, learning kettlebell movements can increase your knowledge AND Income. Face it . Not every one of your clients wants to or should do what you do. Using kettlebells for strength and increased movement ability is an efficient way for many people to lean down and get stronger. Training unilaterally with weights that fit many body types is always good. I feel that they are the swiss army knife of resistance weights.
OK, so you’ve read far enough, you have to believe that kettlebells can build muscle or benefit you in some way. Now is the part many of you have been waiting for. The “What to Do” part. I’ll talk about a few kettlebell exercises that you can learn and incorporate into your program without having to lose what you’ve gained or get a lobotomy and start all over again. Sound good?
HOW TO INCORPORATE KETTLEBELLS INTO YOUR EXISTING REGIMEN
Barbell/Machines + 1 Kettlebell
Good place to start for almost anyone. This way you won’t have to change too much of your current routine. Just add a few sets and exercises here and there.
Good for evening out strength symmetry and fixing lagging parts.
This is where a tree trunk torso is important. Great for Powerlifting assistance work.
Trust me, you’re not ready for Kettlebell Sport lifting without 6-12 months of GPP and understanding of the kettlebell’s power. Be safe. You’ve got time to develop.
I prefer going through phases of each these. Example: 2 months Barbell + KB, 1 month Double KB, then 1 month of Single KB. Rest and Repeat. Three cycles of this for a year will get you places.
USING KETTLEBELLS FOR GLUTES / HAMSTRINGS / ERECTORS
Learn the Kettlebell Swing to really nail down a solid posterior chain from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Swings help with deadlifts and squats and can be used for a wonderful bit of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).
Incorporate the Strict Kettlebell Press, Push Press and Half Crush Press Rope through Kettlebell Upright row.
Incorporate Kettlebell Farmers Walks and Heavy Cleans.
TORSO/ABS/WHOLE BODY STRENGTH
Focus on Learning the Turkish Get up.
QUADS / CALVES
Incorporate Kettlebell Push Presses or Calf Assistance-Only Push Presses, Rack or Goblet Squats and my Somersault Squats using a kettlebell, and Reverse Rack Lunges.