Kettlebell Challenge Workouts

Best Beginner Kettlebell Workout

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Alternate press












Two arm snatch or snatch pull




Snatch lowering the KB to the chest




* Time per repetition/the number of cycles per minute

* Time per repetition/the number of cycles per minute

The tempo would be recorded after each set with caps: F(ast), M(edium), and S(low). E.g. 32kgx30S, 24kgx50F. If all the sets of an exercise are performed in one tempo mark them once in the beginning, e.g. M32kgx20/3, 24kgx40.

The author mentions that the tempo may be monitored with a stopwatch but a metronome is better. A girevikusually gets accustomed to training with a metronome in two to three sessions. Later he will possess an inner rhythm and the metronome can be used just for control.

Voropayev complains about kettlebells coming in only three sizes. He recommends various ways to modify the kettlebells' weight, such as drilling holes in them, then filling the holes with different amounts of lead. Occasionally a top weightlifter (such as legendary Yuri Vlasov, who was heart broken when someone stole his custom made 56kg kettlebells) or a circus strongman like Valentin Dikul, would order heavier kettlebells or 'bulldogs'. Considering that these men are professional strength athletes and Voropayev is a college professor, this is an acceptable luxury for him and his students, but certainly not an option for the armed forces. Besides, I never worked with non-standard KBs during my competitive career and I never felt the need for extra KB sizes. There are more creative ways of varying the difficulty: lifts without the use of momentum, partials, etc. Still, I am listing Voropayev's exact workouts to be accurate and to stimulate your imagination.


(Voropayey, 1986)

Training session #1

1. Alternate or 'see-saw' press 16kgx60%/2M*, 24kgx70%/2M, 24kgx70%/2F

2. Two arm snatch pull. -M24kgx40%, 32kgx50%/3

3. Snatch. -24kgx40%M, 32kgx50%/2F, 32kgx40%/2F

4. Parallel bar weighted dips. -Bodyweight + 10-15kgxl00%

5. 2KBs jerk. -F24kgx50%/2, 32kgx60%, 32kgx70%/2, 32kgx50%/2. Clean the kettlebells only once, at the beginning of the set.

6. Rope climbing. -3 times

8. Relaxation exercises. **

* Weight x percentage of a recent PR (repetitions) /sets tempo

* * Fast & Loose! book and video cover these exercises.

Training session #2

1. Snatch changing arms every repetition. -

16kgx60%M, 24kgx70%/2F, 32kgx80%M, 32kgx90%F, 32kgx80%F

2. 2KBs clean. -M24kgx70%, 32kgx70%, 36kgx70%/4

4. Back raise off a pommel horse. -5-10kgxl4-18 reps/4 (the weight is held behind the neck)

5. Snatch without lowering the kettlebell to the chest. -F24kgx80%, 32kgx90%/3

6. Easy cross country run. -15 min.

7. Relaxation exercises.

Training session #3

1. Pressout from the forehead level. -M24kgx50%/2, 32kgx50%/2

2. 2KBs jerk. -24kgx70%M, 24kgx70%F, 28kgx70%M, 32kgx60%/2F

3. 2KBs deadlift off an elevation. -28-36kgxl0-14 reps/5-7

4. 2KBs bench or floor press. -S24kgx80%, 28kgx80%, 32kgx80%/4

5. Cross country run. -20 min.

6. Relaxation exercises.

Training session #4

1. Snatch without lowering the kettlebell to the chest. -16kgx50%M, 24kgx60%M, 24kgx60%/2F, 32kgx60%M, 32kgx60%F

2. 2KBs jerk. -24kgx70%M, 24kgx70%F, 32kgx60%/2F, 36kgx40%/2F

3. Barbell good morning. -40-50kgx6-8 reps/4

4. Overhead barbell squat. -60kgxl5 reps/2, 70kgxl0 reps/3

5. Basketball. -20 min

6. Relaxation exercises.

Voropayev's training plans are designed with four training days a week in mind. You have your choice of two standard Russian schedules: Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday, or, if you are tougher, Prof. Arkady Vorobyev's Monday-Tuesday-Thursday-Friday.

The optimal training effect for the development of strength endurance is only achieved in a state of pronounced fatigue. Voropayev has observed this threshold at 80% of the best result, at least when the medium tempo is used. According to this specialist, it takes a lot of repetitions to get to that threshold and these reps are not worth much in terms of training effect.

Voropayev reports that his athletes have had great success when they applied the traditional bodybuilding technique of 'drop sets' to kettlebell lifting. The idea is to do as many repetitions as possible, then reduce the weight and immediately keep going. Usually three back-to-back drop sets are performed in this fashion, e.g. 32kg, 24kg, 16kg. It was suggested that drop sets are marked with an "<", e.g. (<32kg, 24kg, 16kg).


(Voropayey, 1986)

Training session #1

1. Snatch. -24kgx80%M, 32kgx80%S, 32kgx80%M, 32kgx80%/2S.

2. Alternate or 'see-saw' press. -(<28kg, 24kg, 20kg, 16kg) /3, rest 3-4 min between series.

4. Parallel bar weighted dips. -Bodyweight + 10-15kgx 8-12 reps/4

5. Lower back and abdominal exercises.

6. Running with a change of pace. -1500m

7. Relaxation exercises.

Training session #2

1. Snatch. -(<36kg, 32kg), (<36kg, 32kg, 28kg)/2, (<32kg, 28kg, 24kg)/2

2. 2 KBs jerk. -24kgx80%/2, (<36kg, 32kg, 28kg)/2

3. Rope climbing. -3 sets

4. Barbell deadlift. -80kgx8/2, 100kgx5/3

5. Barbell supine (bench or floor) press. -70kgx6/2, 80kgx5/2, 90kgx4/3

6. Basketball. -20min

Training session #3

2. Press. -(<28kg, 24kg, 20kg)2. Complete one series with one arm, rest, and work the other one.

3. KB juggling. -16kg, 24kg/15min

4. Snatch. -(<36kg, 32kg, 28kg, 24kg), (<28kg, 24kg, 20kg)/2

5. 2KBs supine (bench or floor) press. -S24kgx60%/2, 28kgx70%/3

6. Abdominal exercises. *

7. Cross country run. -15min

8. Relaxation exercises.

* See Bullet-Proof Abs book and Beyond Crunches video for the most effective ab exercises in the world.

Training session #4

2. 2KBs jerk. -24kgx60%/2, (<32kg, 28kg, 24kg)/2

3. Snatch. -(28kg, 24kg, 20kg), (<32kg, 28kg, 24kg)/2, (28kg, 24kg, 20kg)/2

4. Barbell back squat. -50kgx30, 60kgx20/3

5. Rope climbing. -3 sets

6. Parallel bar weighted dips. -Bodyweight + 15kgxl00%/4

7. Basketball. -20min

8. Relaxation exercises.

Voropayev's gireviks also practice lifting kettlebells to the rep max, or one's limit before failure. This approach is admittedly inferior to the ones described earlier, such as tempo variation, intelligent load juggling, etc. It is still used however, because, according to Voropayev, strength endurance training is extremely tough and employing more than one method is easier to handle psychologically.


Considering the time limitations of the service—you need to practice killing people and destroying things—the armed forces strength training manual bases its programs on three weekly practices.


1. Alternate press -32kgx4, 24kgx8, 16kgxl2

2. Hop. The knees are slightly bent, the feet are shoulder width apart, hold one kettlebell in front of you, hanging in straight arms. -32kgxl0, 24kgx20, 16kgx30

3. Spin. -32kgx4, 24kgx6, 16kgxl0. Stand in front of a kettlebell with your feet a shoulder width apart. Take a hold of the K-bell with one hand, place the other hand on your thigh. Lift the kettlebell and swing it back between your legs. Drive your hips through and snatch pull the kettlebell higher than your chin. Quickly push the bell away and give it a spin with your thumb. Catch the falling kettlebell once it has made a complete turn and swing it between your legs in preparation for the next rep. Plan on dropping the weight a lot until you master this drill. Obviously, this one for the great outdoors. And make sure to perform the spin over a soft surface such as soft soil or a thick mat to prevent the breaking of the kettlebell's handle.

4. Under the leg pass. -32kgxl0, 24kgxl5, 16kgx25.

5. Two kettlebells bench press. -32kgx6, 24kgx8, 16kgxl5. You may perform the press on the floor instead of a bench. Be certain not to slam your elbows into the floor.


1. Snatch. -32kgx8, 24kgxl2, 16kgx20. Snatch the given number of reps with one arm, then immediately with the other.

2. One arm jerk. -32kgx8, 24kgxl2, 16kgx20.

3. Overhead squat. -32kgx4, 24kgx8, 16kgxl2. Clean and jerk or press two kettlebells overhead, then squat back as deep as your flexibility allows you to while keeping your weight on your heels. Rock forward on your toes -and you fall, hurt your knees, or both. And do not let your knees buckle in.

4. French press. -32kgx3, 24kgx6, 16kgxl5. Hold a kettlebell overhead in locked arms. Lower the hanging bell behind your head as far as your flexibility allows you. Do not flare your elbows excessively and do not relax on the bottom; you could hurt your elbows.

5. Two kettlebells clean. -32kgx6, 24kgxl0, 16kgx20.

6. Supine straight-arm pullover/front raise. -32kgx6, 24kgxl0, 16kgxl5. Lie on your back on a bench or on the floor. Pick up a kettlebell from between your legs. Hold the bell by gripping both sides of the handle with your hands facing each other. Bring the weight behind your head and back while keeping your elbows locked.


1. Two arm snatch pull to the overhead position. -32kgxl0, 24kgxl5, 16kgx25. Hold one kettlebell with two hands. Do not set the bell down, keep on swinging.

2. Clean. -32kgxl0, 24kgxl5, 16kgx20. After doing the prescribed number of repetitions with one arm immediately do the same with the other.

3. Extended snatch pull/yielding upright row. -32kgx8, 24kgxl2, 16kgx25. Stand on a box a foot tall or so, the kettlebell on the floor in front of you. Squat deep, grab the bell with both hands, and explosively stand up and lift it until it is hanging in front of your locked arms overhead. Lower the bell slow. Do not put the weight back on the floor until the end of your set. Warning! This drill can be very hard on the shoulders. If you cannot do it pain free -just forget it.

4. Jerk. -32kgx6, 24kgxl0, 16kgx20. Work one arm, then immediately the other.

5. Two kettlebells curl and press. -32kgx4, 24kgx8, 16kgxl2. The kettlebells are in front of you and your feet are a shoulder width apart. Bend down and grab the bells with an undergrip. Straighten out while curling the bells slowly -good luck ;] -to your shoulders. Without stopping there press them overhead. Lower the bells in the reversed sequence. Unless you are my arm wrestling buddy national champ Jason Remer you will have to cheat curl the K-bells. Do not lean back if you do.

6. Stiff legged deadlift/upright row. -32kgxl0, 24kgxl5, 16kgx25. Stand on a box a foot tall or so, the kettlebell on the floor in front of you. Bend forward while keeping your knees straight and pick up the bell with both hands. Slowly straighten out and lift the weight overhead, then lower it back to the floor. This one is for healthy backs only

The armed forces manual encourages the use of the tonnage system favored by Russian weightlifters—calculate the total amount of weight lifted or the number of lifts with a given weight per workout. One to three sets per exercise are recommended.

Considering the fixed weight of the kettlebells, Soldier, Be Strong! advises increasing the difficulty by adding repetitions, performing exercises without a pre-swing—e.g. snatching straight from the floor—increasing the speed of lifting and/or performing the same set in less time.

The manual presents three complexes that are progressively higher in volume. The first routine contains 45 lifts with 32kg, the second goes up to 55, and the third one wipes you out, with 90 lifts using dvukhpudoviks. Lighter bells follow the same progressive pattern from complex to complex: 50, 65, 85 lifts with 24kg and 120, 130, and 135 lifts with 16kg. The manual points out how easy it is to calculate your tonnage by multiplying your weights by your reps in each exercise and then adding up the numbers in all six drills.

The armed forces manual stresses that the suggested routines obviously need to be individualized. Not everyone will be able to perform the listed numbers from the get go. If you cannot make the prescribed reps you are advised to do more sets with lower reps, e.g. 24kgx10/2 instead of 24kgx20.

"For a faster rate of improvement and better recuperation in a weekly cycle it makes sense to vary your loads," write authors A. Burkov and V. Nikityuk. "For that reason one ought to increase the volume in one of the weekly workouts (by approximately 10%) in each set and perform the last set of each exercise to the limit and with maximal speed."

The armed forces manual advises monitoring recovery and watching out for overtraining by keeping track of one's heart rate. A 25-50% increase over the pre-workout numbers is acceptable right after each session but is supposed to normalize within 1-2 hours.


Kettlebells are equally well suited for individual training in your back yard and for group training, e.g. in the military, in law enforcement academies, in a college Phys. Ed. class, on high school and college athletic teams. And not only in Russia. One of our first kettlebell orders totaled thousands of pounds; it came from a training facility for one of the federal agencies.

The armed forces manual offers clear-cut recommendations on group kettlebell training. The proposed length of a lesson—not a 'workout'!—is 50-90min: the introductory part of 5-7min, the main part, 35-80min, and the cool-down part of 3-5min.

The purpose of the 5-7min introductory part is to "organize the trainees, perform general conditioning exercises, and to prepare the organism for more intense exertion of the main part".

The introductory part is kicked off with a roll call and explanation of the objectives and content of the class to the personnel. The troops get mobilized for what is coming their way and do easy general exercises such as squats, forward, backward, and side bends (see Superjoints for a wide range of these joint mobility drills), hops, and basic kettlebell drills with light KBs. Note that there are no static stretches! The heart rate should reach 130-160 beats per minutes, at least for twenty-year old studs.

Needless to say, in military conditions even this short 'warm-up' is often skipped or reduced to condition the body to go into action without prep.

The 50-90min main part's objectives are "kettlebell exercises technique practice, strength, strength endurance, and will power development". Generally more dynamic exercises such as snatches are trained before C&Js and slow strength exercises. The heaviest loads are planned for the final third of the main part. 180-200 BPM pulse is common at this stage.

Competition kettlebell lifts' skills are also frequently practiced with light kettlebells in the main part of the session. Technique is usually practiced individually; the main workload is often done in groups. The troops are deployed in rows with two steps between soldiers. Each row is made up of trainees of similar strength levels. The PT DI demonstrates the drill and orders the number of repetitions; the whole unit performs. This setup is supposed to provide for optimal density of the lesson and easy monitoring of the load.

If kettlebell competition is not pursued less time is dedicated to the practice of snatches and C&Js. The trainees instead perform a variety of KB drills, for strength, agility, quickness, and flexibility with variable loads. The idea is to provide a less specialized, more all-around development. The workload of noncompetitive kettlebell trainees is usually a lot smaller.

The cool-down part is dedicated to calming down the organism after the intense loading. Easy jogging, walking, flexibility, and relaxation exercises are practiced.


The toughest way to perform snatches and other explosive kettlebell drills is under water, a favorite of select Russian Naval Spetznaz or Navy SEAL units. Water provides pseudo-isokinetic resistance, which means that the faster you are trying to move the harder it gets. Soviet weightlifting great Vasiliy Alexeyev who pioneered underwater lifting used to roll a barbell in the river, squat down until he was totally under water, fumble for the bar, and finally snatch it!

You may vary the depth anywhere from a few inches to having your whole body submerged, with an extended arm. Depth variation creates interesting effects. For example, try standing slightly more than ankle deep in the water and do repetition snatches. The bell will brake every time it hits the water and you will have very little momentum and elastic rebound to work with. The result is great starting strength. Dead snatching a kettlebell barely submerged in the water will have a similar effect.

Do not train at a depth greater than your chin! You may black out under water when exerting yourself and holding your breath. Cracking your skull or drowning is a definite possibility.

If you select a depth anywhere between your knees and your chin you will take advantage of the powerful 'release effect'. For a number of reasons, your muscles are reluctant to give their best during fast movements. But if the muscle is straining in a static or fairly slow exertion—and then the resistance is suddenly removed—the fibers blast into action faster than ever!

You may select a depth that encourages a burst of speed in the range of motion you want to emphasize. For example, a weightlifter who wants to develop a TNT second pull would stand knee deep in the water. Be careful with release drills and do not hyperextend your joints the moment the bell comes out of the water. This especially applies to jerks.

The following has nothing to do with water, but is another release effect application. In the Rapid Response S.W.A.T. tapes, a live recording of a full day PT course I taught to Texas special weapons and tactics teams, I demonstrated how to apply the release technique to pull-ups. One tactical officer is straining for a couple of seconds trying to do a pullup while his partner is holding him down. Suddenly the partner lets go and the trainee flies up, like a bat out of hell. In my unit, troopers routinely got as high up as the sternum level with the bar.

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