Information on how to run faster, lift stronger and think deeper

Can I kettlebell train everyday? [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Dec 4, 2017 10:00:00 AM

Can I kettlebell train everyday

 

Can I kettlebell train every day?

 
The short answer is no, as you will get sick and have other commitments. As the question in itself lacks context this article will provide the necessary scenarios, workouts, and rep schemes and look at the question under which circumstances it could be a yes.

Get the free kettlebell guide

The question lacks context

 
As so very often on the internet when it comes to fitness the question "Can I kettlebell train every day?" lacks context. The most likely answer is no if you take the question literally as you will not train every day with a kettlebell from today onward until the day you die. 
 
You will travel, get married, get sick and so further. While this is a "Too smart for the room answer" it is in itself correct. What you might be looking for raising this question is whether you should make kettlebell training a part of your daily routine.
 
I will walk you through the main points based on my own experience and what I have read so that you identify what might be best for you. Personally, I swing a 32kg kettlebell with no problem whatsoever and do Turkish get-ups with it. I am generally healthy, have run three marathons, did a 300-pound bench press and a 400-pound deadlift aged 32. 
 

What is your goal?

 
For more context, it is important to know what your goals are and how you would like to achieve them. "Can I kettlebell train every day" is a question which clients usually raise way too early in the process. In search of a quick solution to achieve a poorly formulated goal. I have been there myself and 9 out of 10 clients start with poor goals.
 
Your goal is poor when it sounds something like this:
 
"I want to lose weight and shape up while not having to put in too much effort in as I do not have a lot of time. To achieve this I want to do a bit of cardio, strength training, and team sports. I will do a little bit of everything and will train 6 times a week."
 
This mindset will not get results for one simple reason: there is no result defined. In addition, this way of thinking has not committed time and resources to achieve a goal and doing some research and testing which tool might be best suited to progress. You only have a limited amount of time in the day. To get results somethings got to give. What is also overlooked in this scenario is the time and effort which has to be spent to arrange all of the different activities and learn the movement patterns. All in all, there will be a lot of time wasted and it is not unlikely that frustration will creep in for you very quickly. 
 
A better goal set can be:
 
"I want to lose 5kg within the next two months. I will achieve this by going into a caloric deficit. For me, as a woman who is 35 years old, 175cm tall and weighs 70kg with a sedentary job this means eating less than 1800 calories a day. To support my weight loss and tightening my butt so that it looks nice in leggings I have chosen kettlebell swings as a supporting exercise as I can do them from home. Here I would like to lose 1 inch around the waist at least. I have carved out three hours a week in the mornings before I make breakfast for the kids to support this."
 
This goal set is better as it is relevant to the specific person, focuses on one particular area and picked an exercise which attacks it specifically and the trainee understands that getting up early to make the extra time, if other activities are not given up, is a necessary sacrifice to get results. In addition, the client has understood that there are two battlefields, the kitchen, and the gym, where the fitness results are being made or broken. It is also important to understand that your exercise regime does not exist in a vacuum. You have friends, a job, family and other commitments to take care of.
 
After discussing two explicit examples let me walk you through the most commonly found goal sets in the industry and whether kettlebells can help here.
 
A major area of fitness is the question of fat loss, weight loss and getting into shape. Usually asked for more by women than by men. For this goal set light kettlebell training which gets the heart rate up and can be done from home seems to work very well. Similar results can, however, be achieved with just body weight exercises.  Bikinibodymommy or Joe wicks Lean in 15 programs are good examples of this. The advantage of kettlebells is that you will get better strength and toning results than with just bodyweight. The spatial awareness and training to manipulate objects is something which bodyweight exercises do not provide. In addition, you will get the same results with fewer repetitions if you perform exercises against resistance. If you already have wear and tear injuries in the knee or shoulder 8 - 12 kettlebell swings might be a better option than 50 squats.
 
Strength gains are another major field of fitness for which kettlebells can be used. This goal set is usually more related to male fitness enthusiasts than female. Based on my own experience the kettlebell is a great tool for building strength in areas which are being undertrained if you only use barbell exercises. It will also help you to be more explosive and get more isometric work into your routine. Since I am making kettlebell swings and Turkish get-ups part of my warm up I feel that my body functions better as a unit through a more stable midsection and bulletproof joints. For absolute strength gains, the barbell is the more distributed and better-understood tool as heavy kettlebells are rarely available and only very few trainers can claim extensive experience with them.
 
Aesthetics is the third and for me most elusive goal set in fitness. Aesthetics are highly subjective and defined by the standards of the community you want to present yourself in. The kettlebell cannot really help you with this. Here it is more about understanding what the requirements are, knowing how to act, talk to the right people and get your diet, supplements, and makeup right. This is also the area I am least experienced in do some additional research.
 

What is your status quo?

 
Based on how active you are already the next question becomes whether you should (not can) kettlebell train every day. Here are some of the most common scenarios.
 
Coach potatoes who have not done anything for years in terms of physical have a higher likelihood of success if they start out with a less extreme approach. Good starter programs which I and clients have stuck to are programs which get you from zero to exercising three times a week. The importance here that you prioritize your exercising before other activities and make this a conscious decision. This is the most important part for couch potatoes to get going. Three times a week is a fine protocol for this. 
 
Runner's usually looked into strength training to get more variety in their routine or because they have injured themselves and now want to strengthen the affected area. If you are looking into kettlebell training to become more resilient and less injury prone as a runner I think you are making a great choice. Personally, I have been an injury-free runner for three years with mileage between 50 to a 100 miles monthly when preparing for my marathons. I supported my running with the Stronglifts 5x5 program. Knowing what I know now I can confidently say that kettlebells would have done more with less effort when I was mainly focused on running. 
 
For lifters, the kettlebell becomes interesting as accessory work to train the posterior chain and hamstrings. If you feel stuck on a certain lift and want to progress or if you have mobility issues in the hips and ankles, kettlebells are a great tool to help you in these areas. Since I have implemented kettlebell swings as a warm up to my lifting sessions my overhead presses and beltless lifts have gone through the roof and match my belted lifts. I also find it way more fun to work up a sweat with swings than on a concept 2 rowing machine. Compared to other accessory routines I have been doing I also need a lot less equipment and space using a kettlebell. 
 
For the elderly and patients in rehab, I would advise caution when using any loaded exercises. Work with your professional on body weight exercises and stretches to enhance the range of motion first to get ready for compound movements like kettlebell exercises.
 

How much time can you spend?

 
Even if we take the question of "Can you kettlebell train every day" less literally I still tend to a no based on best practices on recovery and social commitments. 
 
Three times a week is the usual go to for the average joe. You will not progress the fastest, but safely and steadily. This schedule also works with everyday life.
 
Four to five times a week is the schedule I am personally on. I try to keep the weekends free as this is the time of the week where I can spend time with my wife as we both have full-time jobs. In terms of recovery, I also have at least one 48 hour window to recover from the work I accumulated during the week. If you have children and a life beside the gym but want to be above average this your aim.
 
You can do kettlebell training every day, especially when it is the only form of exercising you do. The intensity at 10 repetitions or above per set is relatively low and recovery can happen overnight. This is different to intense barbell training where the muscles need to recover longer in intermediates. Additionally, most people who pose a question like "Can I kettlebell train every day" are beginners and need only 24 hours to recover in general. If you want to know more about this read "Practical Programming for Strength Training" by Mark Rippetoe.
 

Which type of kettlebell exercises?

 
You should keep it simple as simple usually gets results. The simple and sinister regime from Pavel Tsatsoulin recommends the swing and Turkish get up only. The circuit programs you will find on the internet are way too lenient with the use of complex movements like windmills and snatches. It takes considerable time and effort to master the swing and Turkish get up and they built the foundation to put more complex movements on top of them.
 
The American swing which leads the kettlebell overhead is also highly debated. I personally feel like I get more activation of my abs and hamstrings out of the Russian swing than the American one with the lesser risk of injury. The American swing cannot be done as aggressively and goes overhead, which puts more stress on the shoulder and can lead to dropping the weight from higher up ? on yourself.
 
The Turkish get-up is preferable to the snatch as it is the simplest overhead movement to teach and also addresses isometric strength. The snatch is one of the most complex movements you can do, be it barbell or kettlebell, and is thrown into freely available programs on the internet way too lightly.
 
Look up the certifications from Strongfirst and read at least one of Pavel Tsatsoulin's books, like simple and sinister, to understand why it should be kept simple as proper strength execution is about focus and power, not about being fancy.
 

What do kettlebells work?

 
If done correctly kettlebell swings work the posterior chain, the midsection of your body and cardiovascular system. The correct execution is usually brushed over on the internet so here is some insight for you.
 
For the correct execution of the swing, the main point is that you remain tension in your entire body and control the kettlebell. The momentum in the swing is produced by your body, not the kettlebell itself. 
 
To ensure this for the posterior chain squeeze your glutes at the top of the swing and tighten your abs as if you were about to be hit in the stomach. The top of the swing is a plank, not a spaghetti twist.
 
On the way down it is you who accelerates the weight down almost like a medicine ball slam. You do not weight for the kettlebell to pull you down, you force it down. This is done through the arms and hip hinge, not by squatting. 
 
If you keep maximum tension during each set the heart rate will go up by itself and you will start to sweat after the third set latest. If you don't you are doing it wrong. Take rest so that you can comfortably talk to another person again and hit the next set with full intensity.
 

How many swings?

 
You will find several programs out there and some of the most popular blog posts will recommend anything between 100 to 1000 swings a day. It depends on how you train and what you want to do.
 
100 swings are the program that I am currently on for 10x10 sets. As my training is strength focused I milk every single repetition to the maximum per the guidance taken from the Simple and Sinister book. If you do this hardstyle type of training 100 swings is more than enough and there is no need to go any further, After 100 swings and 10 Turkish get-ups you will still be ready to do some heavy work while sweating.
 
300 swings a day is a recommendation from a popular breaking muscle article. Based on the context of the article to distribute these 300 repetitions during an entire day this makes sense. However, you might lack focus when you just get ten to fifty repetitions in between brushing your teeth and going to bed. If you want to lose fat and mainly stay at home during the day this regime is good for you
 
1000 swings are based on a popular post on T nation which takes it to the extreme. It is doable and I have been on this program for three months. This is for hardcore lifters who want to take a break offseason from deadlifts especially when their lower backs are giving them trouble. For 90% of the population, this is not recommended even though it might be tempting.
 

Conclusion

 
Yes, you can kettlebell train every day and I think you should not. The main reason for me is to keep the weekend free for family and to get some head space. If you reformulate the question into "Can you kettlebell train every weekday" it is definite yes for me and something that lifters, runners and couch potatoes should strive towards. There are only little if no other tools in the fitness industry which provide so much intensity on so many levels in this little a space.
 

Further reading


Resources
 
 
 
 

Topics: Lift stronger, Kettlebell