Common Kettlebell Fat Loss Mistakes And How To Fix Them

I spent the last weekend in beautiful San Diego – specifically in La Jolla at Revolution Fitness with my good friends Franz and Yoana Snideman.

Saturday I taught an RKC Recert which went very well.

The RKCs really liked the updated and streamlined teaching progressions.

Sunday, I taught a Kettlebell Muscle workshop.

Everyone there set PRs in multiple lifts – everyone achieved deeper, more controlled Front Squats. Many people set new PRs in the Press, the Double Snatch, and the Jerk.

It was very cool.

But at the end 3 of the ladies came up to me and asked my why they all crashed at the beginning of Phase 4 of “Burn.”

Upon further questioning, it turns out they were making a very common mistake:

They were exceeding they’re recovery capacity.

In other words, they were doing too much and not resting enough.

But how is that possible when “Burn” is only 3 days per week?


1. They were doing A LOT more than just “Burn” 3 days a week. One was teaching multiple kettlebell classes every day. All 3 were taking intense kickboxing classes 2-3 days extra per week. So they weren’t following “Burn.”

They were doing WAYYYY more than “Burn.”

2. Upon even further questioning, it turns out that they weren’t as diligent as they needed to be with their eating – they weren’t eating enough. Yeah, weird, I know. But you actually need to eat more than you think to fuel your training/workouts – even on a fat loss program. So by their own admittance, these 3 lovely women weren’t getting the calories they needed to fuel and recover from their training/workouts.

3. Both overtraining and under-eating are actually the 2 best ways to sabotage your fat loss efforts. More is not better. Less is.

I can only assume, because I didn’t ask, was that they might have been a little bored with “Burn.” After all, it’s only kettlebell training for fat loss.

There’s no mixing of modalities like bodyweight or barbells or anything like that.

Funny how timing works out – I just interviewed my friend and fellow RKC Chris Lopez about how to combine kettlebells and bodyweight training for fat loss.

Some people “need” more than just kettlebell training. And that’s fine – we’re all wired a little differently. So it makes good sense that we should address how to effectively mix training methods like bodyweight training and kettlebells in such a way as to not overtrain and continue seeing results.

You really need to read it because Chris exemplifies what it means “not have time” to workout. (He’s got 5 kids and 2 businesses – Yikes!)

He covers 3 things you need to consider when training for fat loss (or anything else for that matter).

And we start to get into mixing kettlebells and bodyweight training.

Here’s part 1 –

GN: Tell us a little about yourself Chris – your background in the fitness industry, etc.

CL: I’ve been in the fitness industry for 14 years now. Like a lot of us “trainer-types”, I was an athlete growing up and started working out to improve my performance in my chosen sports – baseball, basketball and then eventually volleyball. Being not very tall for basketball or volleyball (I’m 5’11”) I became obsessed with vertical jump in my junior and senior years of highschool. That’s where it pretty much began for me.

I had a PE teacher and coach who was a standout volleyball player and could dunk a basketball off 2 feet at a height of 5’8”. He was big on bodyweight training and training to get strong. He was one of the first ones to tell me that if I trained like an athlete, not only would I perform like one, but I would LOOK like one as well. From there, I was hooked. I followed him around. Did push-ups and pistols when he told me to and began to see great results.

From there I went to university (we don’t call it “college” up here in Canada) and studied Human Kinetics. I also played varsity volleyball for a couple of years and used my teammates as guinea pigs to some of my training methods. Back then, circa 1997, the “fitness industry” was still evolving and personal training was still thought of as a luxury that only the uber-wealthy could afford. The strength & conditioning field up here wasn’t something that everyone bought into yet either. Nonetheless, I took the plunge, got certified first as a CPT and then as a CSCS and never looked back.

Between that time to the present I went from doing bodyweight training, to machine training, to bodybuilding style training, to balance-board “functional” training, to Olympic lifting and on and on. Funny, it’s been a full circle, but now I’m back to using bodyweight training and kettlebells (of course) as the foundation for my training practice.

Currently, I hold a BSc HK from the University of Guelph, I have my CSCS designation, I’m the first ever Certified Turbulence Trainer and am a very proud RKC.

GN: Chris, you’ve got a unique personal story about kettlebells – please tell us how you got into kettlebells and what they’ve done for you since your first touched them.

CL: I got into kettlebells mainly out of necessity. Like many folk these days, I’m incredibly busy – I have 5 kids, I run 2 businesses, I coach a competitive volleyball team, I’m an assistant coach with the Canadian National Beach Volleyball Program and I really, really like my wife, so spending time with her is right there on the top of my list. That said, I’m still a coach and a trainer and know that in addition to being strong and fit, I have to look strong and fit as well. The problem was that – given all the things above that I am very passionate about – there wasn’t a lot of time to do “traditional gym workouts”.

GN: That’s a very full plate!

CL: Yeah, I found that if I can train at home, using my own bodyweight and kettlebells, I can get an even better workout than if I spent 15 minutes driving to the gym, finding a parking spot, changing, etc, etc.

So before our 3rd was born (she is 6 now), I started to really get into kettlebells and bodyweight training and the results that I was getting were staggering.

I felt like I could move better, I felt healthier, I was lean AND strong and – going back to the whole reason why I started training in the first place – I could jump higher.

I would use kettlebells at the training studio that I was working out of and people started to take notice and started asking questions (one of those people, in fact, was Craig Ballantyne, creator of Turbulence Training).

I started to regularly incorporate kettlebell swings, snatches and goblet squats into my programming after reading Pavel’s books and articles by yourself, Brett Jones, Steve Maxwell, Mike Mahler and the like.

All in all though, I got into kettlebell training because I didn’t have a lot of time to train. I found that I could get all that I was looking for in 1/3 of the time by just being able to train at home using kettlebells & bodyweight.

GN: Those are fantastic reasons that I think a lot of people overlook. And certainly, if kettlebells worked for you with your busy schedule, they’ll work for anybody.

Why do you like using kettlebells for fat loss and what kind of results have your clients and customers seen?

CL: I think it’s common belief in our world that the Holy Grail of fitness is the ability to burn fat and build muscle at the same time. According to legend, all the stars have to be aligned in order for this to happen – diet, training, lifestyle, stress levels, etc.

Now, by no means am I saying that kettlebells are the way to this “Holy Grail”, but in my 14 years of experience in this industry, I have never seen any other training method work in transforming my clients’ bodies in the least amount of time than when they started training with kettlebells.

Now, keep in mind, that this is just MY experience as a trainer. I’ve trained hundreds of clients in my 14 year career using various different methods. And, no disrespect to those that use other methods, but using kettlebells has become my go-to because it simply works.

Mind you, these days I only really train clients in small groups or privately in their homes and therefore space is an issue. I run a few BYOKB classes and so my clients usually only bring a single kettlebell to our class.

So, I love using kettlebells for fat loss, initially because of its versatility and portability.

You can train anywhere – in your living room, in the park, in the parking lot of a hospital when your wife is in labor (long story) – without sacrificing the quality of getting a great workout.

One of the fad terms these days is “Metabolic Resistance Training” (using resistance training with almost inadequate rest periods to elicit a metabolic response in the body) which, as far as I’ve known, is the essence of what kettlebell training has been for the past 10-12 years.

Using a training method like this has been known to “spare” hard earned muscle while creating a furnace effect in the body that incinerates fat.

All that said, it makes sense to me to use kettlebells to try to get to “the promised land” of fat loss & muscle gain.

GN: What are some major mistakes you’ve seen people make when using kettlebells to lose fat? Give us your top 3 please.


i. Probably the biggest issue that I’ve noticed is that people see using kettlebells as their “magic bullet” and fail to understand that diet & lifestyle both play MAJOR ROLES – possibly more than the training effect – in the fat loss equation.

If we break things down into percentages with average training session taking 45 minutes, 3 times per week, then we’ve got a total of 2 hours and 15 minutes of TOTAL training time.

There are 168 hours in a week, so training only accounts for 1.3% of the total time that you have in a week!

Therefore, the question that EVERYONE needs to ask themselves if they are trying to lose fat, gain muscle or look better is “What am I doing in the other 165.75 hours (or 97.75% of the time remaining) in my week to help with my results?” I call this “The Rule of 165”.

Training isn’t the be all and end all of looking great. There are so many more factors involved.

Losing fat is NOT EASY – although, the equation to do it is SIMPLE – so once someone recognizes that it is about more than training, then they’ll be in the right mindset to achieve all they can from any good kettlebell program.

ii. Not addressing and/or correcting movement issues first.

A lot of what we teach as RKCs is the ability for our clients to move correctly and efficiently. This is the one thing that I often see neglected by trainers who start out with fat loss clients.

Correct movement is the foundation for ANY training program and something that needs to be addressed FIRST ABOVE ALL ELSE prior to anyone using any type of program – be it strength, hypertrophy, fat loss, whatever.

Without correct functionality and correct movement patterns, without cleaning up form and technique in your foundational kettlebell lifts and movements, clients will end up injured and/or not achieving anywhere close to their potential.

iii. Thinking that being strong isn’t part of the fat loss equation.

After movement, the next issue that people don’t understand is that they need to gain/achieve an appreciable level of strength. This is something that you’ve hammered home for me when we first spoke almost a year and a half ago and something that has been reiterated by the likes of Pavel & Dan John especially.

I think Sr RKC Dan John had the best analogy when he said (and I’m paraphrasing) that strength is much like a glass that you are trying to fill. The stronger you are, the bigger your glass is and therefore the more you can put into it – ie. the easier it will be to achieve your goals if you have a certain level of strength.

So pound for pound, if you’re not very strong (if you’re working with a shot glass), you won’t get as great results as the individual whose got a goblet the size of the beast, if you know what I mean.

I guess the take home is that having a certain level of strength should be something that everyone should be gunning for – from housewives to 80 year old grandfathers.

That doesn’t mean that you have to train for strength prior to everything else. Strength elements can be built into fat loss programs and into programs that build muscle, but they should never be without.

GN: Those are great points that I’d dare say most people fail to take into consideration when using kettlebells or anything else for fat loss. Speaking of which, you have a great fat loss program which we’ll talk more about later and in it, you mix kettlebells and bodyweight training. Why do you like mixing or combining the two together? What are some of the benefits you’ve noticed?

CL: Bodyweight training, in my opinon, is the PERFECT compliment to kettlebell training. I honestly think that when the training gods came together to match training modalities, they said that KBs and Bodyweight were all that anyone would ever need.

With a lot of my clients, a lot of the benefits of what I’ve noticed has been mental. I know that clients somewhat enjoy having to put down the kettlebell to superset their swings/snatches with some complimentary bodyweight exercise.

Supersetting bodyweight exercises into the program gives clients that mental break thinking that they are resting because they are not holding the kettlebell.

We’re almost – and I hate to say it – “tricking them” into thinking that they’ve got a break, all the while they are doing more work because they are doing a low impact bodyweight exercise.

From a strength standpoint, I find that a lot of people are lacking in basic relative strength and because of that, the advanced stages of the program incorporate a bodyweight strength based exercise. Nothing will get you moving better, and get you stronger than moving your own bodyweight through space doing exercises like pistols and chin-ups.

Certainly some great points Chris brought up here for us all to consider. I strongly urge you to evaluate your own training in light of them.

We’ll talk more with Chris tomorrow.

1 comment… add one
  • Monique LaFontaine-Tomaso Feb 25, 2012 @ 2:39

    Geoff you are so great! Doing the Burn this time around I am not participating in my Kettlebell, Sculpt, or Cardio Kickboxing classes.
    I am focused giving the best training I can by observing, and coaching my my members to train to the best of their ability each time they pick up the Kettlebell.
    Thanks Monique, RKC

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