Mass-Building Kettlebell Routine – Justin Woltering
Mass-Building Kettlebell Routine
Kettlebells: They’re all the rage among Crossfitters and conditioning buffs, but are they really any good for building mass? You bet! You may not want to throw out barbells and dumbbells any time soon, but kettlebells can absolutely have a place in your muscle-building routine. Whether you’re pressed for time, training at home, or just sick of the same old movements, they’re a great way to boost your progress.
Obviously, one of the biggest drawbacks to kettlebells is that they’re just not that heavy. They’re cumbersome, sure, but you’re just not going to be lifting the same kinds of loads as you would with a barbell. Fortunately, building muscle isn’t ONLY about moving huge weights. You’ve got to put your muscles under a certain amount of stress, and the odd shape of the kettlebell is perfect for getting more stimulus with less weight.
So, how a big a kettlebell do you need? If your gym already has a few, then don’t worry about buying different sizes – use what you’ve got! If you’re thinking about buying some, however, start with something around fifty pounds. If you’re new to kettlebells, you’ll be surprised at how tough such a “light” workout can be!
Big in a Hurry
One of the best things about kettlebells is that they allow you to get in a decent workout in a tiny amount of time. There’s no loading and unloading, no messing with machines, and no waiting for other people to finish. They’re not going to induce the same amount of growth as a heavy squat or deadlift, but a quick kettlebell workout is far better than nothing! In fact, when you’re trying to be big AND lean, pretty much any activity is better than riding the couch all day.
If you’re going to be doing a kettlebell-only workout, your best bet is to go full-body. It may not match up perfectly with your normal body-part split or strength routine, but trust me – you’ll adapt. We’re going for a full-body growth stimulus here, since we won’t have the variety of equipment necessary for a more targeted workout.
Tried and True Movements
The best exercises? Not surprisingly, my favorites are variations on the squat and deadlift. Squat with the kettlebell held in front, or better yet – overhead! Try quick, high-rep deadlifts or romanian deadlifts for a change of pace. Then, of course, there’s the almighty “swing.” A swing is basically the same movment as a pull-through, and you use your hips to drive the weight out in front of you. You can make all of these exercises harder and more effective by using two identical or similarly-size ‘bells, one held in each hand.
As for the upper body, kettlebells are obviously better for overhead pressing than bench pressing – especially if you don’t even have a bench handy! The easier way to press is to allow the kettlebell to hang, keeping the handle pointed up. If you want a real challenge, though, you’ll press with the handles towards the floor. The movement becomes part strength, part balancing act, and the required stabilization will SMOKE your shoulders.
Once you’ve done your leg and shoulder work, it’ll be time to hit your lats and traps. Try rows from all angles, from parallel to the floor (more lat involvement) to almost vertical (more traps). You’ll probably have to do quite a few reps to feel challenged, but that’s alright! Most lifters find high reps to be pretty damn effective for legs and back. Once you’re done with your rows, throw in some shrugs and shoulder raises for good measure.
That will just about wrap it up, but you can finish the workout with some arm work if you like. Nothing too complicated here – just plenty of curls and extensions with the kettlebells. You might also try some one-legged calf raises with a kettlebell held in hand – harder than you think!
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