5. Block Training.

If you ever watch toddlers play, they’re constantly creating and destroying, creating and destroying. (Yeah, I know, more the boys than the girls…) One of the things they love to do is take those little blocks that have numbers and letters painted on them and stack them as high as they can until they fall over.

After awhile, the little guy gets the hang of it and can build a pretty big structure without it falling down on its own. But more often or not, he’ll knock it down.

Our strength training and our knowledge of it is very similar. Some of us just keep adding things to our training until something breaks – the blocks just fall down.

And others of us seem to have “mastered” the ability to stack our training cycles one on top of the other to make pretty good progress.

One relatively simple way to keep making progress is to use a system developed by the Russians/Soviets (who else?) called “Block Training.”

Block training is a way of organizing your training for optimal progress. A block is a period of time that you specify. Block training allows you to alternately focus on and train specific attributes of your sport or training and keep making progress without stalling on any one of them. Pavel based Return of the Kettlebell, a muscle building program using only kettlebells, on the block system. (If you don’t have RTK, you should get it, even if you don’t want to pack on muscle because it’s an outstanding study in brilliant program design.)

For example, you can alternate blocks focused on strength with blocks focused on power.

You can use it with your barbell and kettlebell training. I suggest using 2-4 week blocks, depending on your training goals. (Me? I like mine shorter. 10-14 days are good. But I’ve had success in the past with 3 week blocks.)

Here’s how you might set up your program if general strength and conditioning is your goal:

Block A: Barbell. Deadlift, Military Press, Wide-stance Powerlifting Squat, Rows. 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps.

Block B: Kettlebell. Get Ups. Swings. Clean and Jerks. Snatches. 3-5 reps of 6-10 reps (or more – except Get Ups – 1-2 reps per set.).

So you could set up a 3 month program the following way:

Weeks 1-2: Block A
Weeks 3-4: Block B
Weeks 5-6: Block A
Weeks 7-8: Block B
Weeks 9-10: Block A
Weeks 11-12: Block B

You can set up your blocks however you’d like. But the point is that you should be working on different components of your goals in your blocks.

In the above example, we’re working on different parts of the Force/Velocity curve.

Remember, Force = Mass * Acceleration, or more commonly written as F = M*a, where the Mass is large or high.

But it can also be written the following way: F = m*A, where the Acceleration is the emphasis.

In the “A Block” we’re concerned about the Mass in the equation. We’re lifting some heavy weights and we’re using the barbell to do it.

In the “B Block,” we’re focusing on the Acceleration in the equation. So we’re lifting moderate weights quickly/explosively using kettlebells.

By using both vehicles, we have a better chance of being able to increase overall force production.

And, let’s not forget that kettlebells help develop that “in between” strength that barbells often neglect. So with this type of training cycle you are both lifting more and getting stronger – fortifying your body from all angles.

So that wraps up our series on mixing barbell and kettlebells. I’ve given you some great ideas on how to combine the two in your training. Now it’s your turn to actually get out there and do it. Drop me a line and let me know about your successes in doing so.

Part 1 – https://chasingstrength.com/5-ways-to-successfully-mix-kettlebells-with-barbells/

Part 2 – https://chasingstrength.com/5-ways-to-successfully-mix-kettlebells-and-barbells-part-2/

Part 3 – https://chasingstrength.com/5-ways-to-successfully-mix-kettlebells-and-barbells-part-3/

Part 4 – https://chasingstrength.com/5-ways-to-successfully-mix-kettlebells-and-barbells-part-3/


Mixing kettlebells and barbells

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  1. This 5 part series was brilliant! The information provided can (should) be applied to improve any training program!!

    Awesome stuff Geoff. Thank you for sharing!!

  2. this is a beauty. I have just finished the 12 week cycle of KB Muscle (with great results, thanks Geoff), and I now have a plan for the next cycle. I am fired up to get started.
    Thanks again.

  3. Geoff,

    I have read a little about periodization in the past. I thought current thinking was leaning towards mixing these goals (mass, acceleration, hypertrophy) within the same week, rather focusing on one goal at a time? I basically do what you are suggesting except I keep rotating the goal. For example, every time I do the swing I focus on something different. First time, using heavy weight, second time add a band and go for acceleration, third time push volume. I look at as as “same but different.”

    I have less than a year of training under my belt, and from what I read, almost anything should give me progress but all the same i feel this has been a great way to train.

    A thank you from me as well for this series.

    All the best


    1. Anthony – Both are effective ways. But you’re right, anything that progressively overloads your body in the first year (within reason) is going to help. Full body is a great way to go for the first couple of years. Keep it up.

  4. Your A and B block formula is very interesting, a different way of thinking about a kind of “split routine” for a whole body regimen, mixing KBs and BBs. It made me remember some old Bob Hoffman approaches, using a short intense exercise period most days of the week. I got stronger, fast.
    I would still expect that not trying to go too heavy, too fast, is key to not becoming injured– which trashes progress made.

    1. You’re right, Chuck. All things in moderation. Push hard on the last one or two workouts of each block for new PRs and then cycle back.

  5. Geoff,

    I really like this series on mixing barbell and kettlebell work. I am a big fan of kettlebells, but when I get into them I miss doing squats, deadlifts, and my olympic work.

    On the above workout how would you structure the daily workout for the barbell work?


    1. Sorry for jumping in, but when I think of kettlebells the squat, deadlift, and Olympic lifts are pretty much the first things that come to mind. Grab two 53lb+ kbells and double front squat, or sumo deadlift standing between two benches. Get RTK or KB muscle, follow them, I doubt you will miss the stiff bar. I think kbells are superior if perfect movement is your goal (should be) because the grooves in movement that result from kbe training are more natural than those resulting from barbell exercises.

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