5 Ways To Successfully Mix Kettlebells With Barbells

You may not be using barbells right now. Don’t worry – this information is still for you because you’ll get some new ideas on how to structure your kettlebell training programs.

There seems to be so much great information about kettlebell training it’s hard for the average person to know where to start and to actually be satisfied with that starting point. Many of us come to kettlebell training from a background of barbell lifting (myself included) and recoil at the thought that kettlebells are the “only tool you need.” Limiting ourselves to “just one tool” isn’t going to happen.

There was a great thread started on the RKC Instructor forum about mixing barbell and kettlebell training together so I thought I’d post my thoughts/experiences for you to use and learn from so you can skip making the same mistakes I did.

  1. Movement Prep.
  2. Feeders.
  3. Finishers.
  4. The “Sandwich.”
  5. Blocks.

1. Movement Prep.

“Movement Prep” is now a term that’s replaced “Warm Up” in our strength training vocabulary. As the name suggests, this is work that precedes the main training goal and prepares your body for that training.

I think using kettlebells as movement prep before your barbell work is a great way to go.

Here are some exercises that I would use:

  • 1/2 Get Up (Get Up Sit Up)
  • Get Up
  • RKC Arm Bar and variations
  • Single Leg Deadlift
  • Windmill
  • 1 Arm Press
  • 1 Arm Swing
  • H2H Swing
  • Counterbalanced Pistols
  • Lunges
  • Goblet Squat

Each of these exercises allow you to check your body’s current movement ability, create space within that movement, correct imbalances between sides/limbs, and improve coordination, allowing you adequately warm up for your barbell work.

I am currently training for Olympic lifting and am using Get Ups as part of my “movement prep” (although I still call it a “warm up”).

Now obviously, we all have our limitations and our strengths so your movement prep doesn’t have to include all the exercises on the list – they’re just suggestions. Use your brains and select your exercises according to your current needs and the demands of your barbell training.

For example, if you were going to use kettlebells as movement prep for a Squat workout, your movement prep might look something like the following:

  • 1/2 Get Up x 3,3
  • Windmill x 3,3
  • Lunge w/ KB x 5,5
  • Get Up x 2,2
  • Goblet Squat x 10
  • H2H Swings x 10

And that may be it based on your strengths and weaknesses. It shouldn’t be that rigorous, but it will allow you to get your blood flowing, your heart rate slightly elevated, your muscles warm, and your CNS stimulated for the training session about to come.

The more I use it and play with it, the more I am a fan of the Get Up. I’ll probably write an extensive piece on it in the future, but needless to say, there is A TON of undiscovered benefit in that exercise waiting to be tapped by each individual willing to spend time there, which is why it’s part of my warm ups.

Gray Cook and Brett Jones put out what I consider to be “THE Primer” on the Get Up, Kettlebells From the Ground Up. Using this alone for 10 minutes before your main workouts, barbell or kettlebell, will sky-rocket your progress and give you faster results for the simple fact that you will clear out movement restrictions and overcome faulty movement patterns.

In Part 2, we’ll cover “Feeders” – what they are and how to use them.

9 comments… add one
  • Tim Shuman Aug 26, 2010 @ 14:13

    Your killing me with these 2,3,4,5 part things.. I start reading get real interested then you hit me with “next time”‘.. But you keep me coming back for more.. Great blog.. will you be writing about the Summit???

    Shu

    • GEOFFN Aug 31, 2010 @ 10:07

      Shu – Ha! Then my evil schemes are working! ;-] I’ll get around to the Summit… Suffice to say, it was great!

  • Larry Aug 26, 2010 @ 15:15

    Great article. I’m always trying to get ideas about how to combine different training tools. Can’t wait to read the rest. Thanks Geoff.

    Larry

    • GEOFFN Aug 31, 2010 @ 10:08

      Good to hear, Larry.

  • Anthony Aug 26, 2010 @ 18:55

    I have gone back to doing a morning movement prep for the day. If I train I will do a warm-up as well. It includes the get-up with high bridge, something Nick Tumminello calls the yoga plex; a single leg deadlift and another movement for thoracic spine mobility.

    It is short, quick and easy; and doesn’t necessarily warm me up. It feels good to something upon waking, and I will usually do those movements that I am hopeless at. For me, doing a particular movement everyday is the only way I can make ground.

    Looking forward to the next post.

    • GEOFFN Aug 31, 2010 @ 10:11

      Anthony – good stuff. Like it.

  • Russ Moon Aug 28, 2010 @ 8:05

    Movement/Gray Cook – Received, WOW, Thank you… going with me to the beach today, will be reading/highlighting when not working out 😉

    “To reinforce hip extension and core stabilization”
    Try Kettlebell Deadlifts” Another huge vote for the deadlift, beyond sold.

    TGU – Is it possible this is the ultimate exercise performed with a kettlebell ?

    • GEOFFN Aug 31, 2010 @ 10:12

      Russ – re: the TGU – you’re on to something, for sure…

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