Take it from a guy who once spend 2 hours or more in the gym 5 days a week, you don’t have to complete marathon workouts to see real results. My time in the gym averages between 30 and 40 minutes and I see results now like I never did before.
One of the great advantages of kettlebells is the ability you have to hit your body from a bunch of different angles and leverage points with a single bell. You can pick up a kettlebell and perform several different lifts that target the entire body both from a standpoint of strength and from conditioning without having to put the bell down or change weights. This makes the workout not only extremely effective but extremely time efficient.
In this article you can see how stringing together several different exercises with a kettlebell into what we call complexes can be super efficient and super effective.
These days we are literally racing against the clock! Even in the midst of heightened technology, better communication modes, faster computers, etc., our lives are more complicated now than ever. EVERYBODY complains about not having enough time…
You’ve heard it before, “Where’d the time go”, “How can it be the end of the month already?” “2010, I can’t believe it!” and as we realize the precious value of time with phrases like: “Time is of the essence”,” Time is money”, we also repeat this excuse on a daily a basis, “I don’t have the time”! This phrase is used constantly when it comes to exercise and fitness.
As a fitness instructor and trainer for 20 plus years, I can truly say it is increasingly difficult to get clients to train three times a week with me, let alone once or twice on their own. Is motivation one of the factors? Well, yes… but let’s save that for another article. What if you could be SURE there was a faster, smarter way to train? Would that motivate you to get your workouts in? Once, twice, or three times a week?
It has been said over and over again… Kettlebell training is time efficient! This single tool uses every square inch of the body simultaneously. No movements are performed in isolation, and the fitness industry is finally recognizing (or admitting) this, and that perhaps the old isolationist approach to fitness was wrong, that there is a better way. We KNOW this and choose kettlebell training for ourselves and our clients as the most efficient tool.
But did you know you could make your kettlebell training even better? Even more time efficient??? Can you really get all you need (or want) in 25 minutes or less? The answer is yes! But ONLY if you train with intent, and technique.
Let me touch on the basics with some emphasis first. You may have heard this over and over again, but it is the TRUTH. Elite athletes, or the formally trained dancer (for example), train the basics REPEATEDLY! This never leaves their repertoire! And nor should it leave yours. Training the basics is a necessity and really there is no magic as to why… There is no way you can link movements together, or move on to more complex movements, if you don’t have a strong foundation and excellent technique… and the ONLY way to improve technique is to practice it on a regular basis. Sounds pretty logical, doesn’t it?
It makes me wonder how many people would start seeing results if they just kept their training program simple, like 20 minutes of hard, fast swings two or three times per week.
I know – it’s too boring…
You know what is really boring though? “Working out” for years and years, and seeing no visible or measurable change in your body’s appearance or performance… Ouch!
Ok, so you have the basics down now what? This is where we get back to the “25 minutes or less” workout that you can do anywhere, anytime, at home or travel, at work, in the gym, etc.
The workouts I am referring to consist of Complexes and Chains.
What are Complexes?
Complexes are a series of compound exercises performed sequentially without rest in which all the reps for one exercise are completed before moving on to the next exercise in the sequence. For example, perform five squats, followed by five presses, followed by five rows, using the same weight for each. Complexes with kettlebells are simply awesome.
Huge results are yours to have… Systemic strength endurance, functional core strength, grip strength, hip strength, and even neck strength, improved cardiovascular conditioning, improved work capacity, improved mental toughness, improved fat loss, increased lean body mass, improved coordination, decreased boredom, and did I mention improved TIME EFFICIENCY of the workout?
The variety is endless when setting up complexes. However, you need to keep two things in mind:
- What am I training for? Increased muscle mass? Decreased body fat? Strength gains?
- What is my weakest exercise that I want to include in my complex?
Suppose you want to set up a complex to improve your general conditioning and your weakest exercise you want to include is your press. You can press a 16 kg for 5 sets of 5 resting three minutes between sets. You can press the 20kg for one or two good reps on any other day.
How much weight should you start with? The general rule of thumb is to use a weight equal to between 50-60% working up to 70-80% of your one rep max of your weakest exercise. So in this case, you would start with the 12kg and plan on working towards using the 16kg as your body adapts.
When performing this complex, place the weakest exercise first in the complex. As you improve, you can switch the order placing your weakest exercise to another place in the complex.
Press x 5
Swing x 5
Front Squat x 5
As your training becomes more advanced you can change the order of the movements. This will elicit a different response to the body. These are just some basic rules to follow while doing complexes. Remember the possibilities are endless for varying the complexes in training.
Now let’s talk about Chains.
Chains are a series of compound exercises performed sequentially where each exercise is performed once before starting the sequence again. Each time the sequence is performed is considered one repetition. For example, Clean +Press+Swing+Squat. Chains build off each other. But be careful! Make sure you are familiar with each move before progressing to the next (train the basics, sound familiar?) otherwise you may end up in jeopardy with a kettlebell on your head. Not the desired outcome!
Chains can be more difficult than complexes due to the change in rhythm and tempo of each movement. So be sure you are very familiar, practicing excellent technique when performing Chains.
Here is an example of a Chain:
- Swing + Snatch
- Swing + Snatch + Press
- Swing + Snatch + Press + Front Squat
- Swing + Snatch + Press + Front Squat + Clean
- Swing + Snatch + Press + Front Squat + Clean + Push Press
- Swing + Clean
- Swing + Clean + Press
- Swing + Clean + Press + Front Squat
- Swing + Clean + Press + Front Squat + Press
- Swing + Clean + Press + Front Squat + Push Press
In regards to rest periods, my general recommendation would be for Beginners and/or Strength training a work to rest ratio of 1:3. For Intermediate and/or Hypertrophy training, a work to rest ratio of 1:2. For Advanced and/or Fat Loss Training a work to rest ratio of 1:1. Rest Periods should be short enough to keep you breathing hard yet long enough to allow you to complete your reps.
In conclusion, Complexes and Chains will give you exactly what you are looking for in a time efficient workout. These can be used with one or two kettlebells! Double KB work can be brutal, so first practice your skill using one kettlebell before taking on two. When you combine the kettlebell with Complexes and Chains you will soar to the epitome of strong, lean, and exceptional health. I guarantee it!
I use these on a regular basis in my group kettlebell classes at Rapid Results Fitness and with my private clients. Depending on the desired effects of our training we have seen gains in muscle mass, fat loss, and strength gains with these mixes of Complexes and Chains. It just plain works!