How To Make A “Basic” Kettlebell Program “Advanced”

I have to admit – I was a little taken aback, even offended at first.

Then I just had to chuckle…

Someone had gotten a refund for Kettlebell Burn 2.0 because it was “way too basic” for him. He is an “advanced kettlebell user.” Which is really funny, because I am an advanced kettlebell user, and when I follow the program as outlined – it kicks my butt. (Burn is structured to be used by anyone – regardless of their “skill level.”)

So that got me to thinking – how do you make a “basic” kettlebell program “advanced.”

Here are some ideas that you can implement immediately.

1.  Use a heavier kettlebell. This seems really obvious, but it was lost on the guy requesting the refund. If you can make it through Burn with a 48kg kettlebell, I would be impressed – very impressed. (Ok, maybe I’m still a bit take aback…) But anyway, I think you see my point. Is your program “too easy” – go up a kettlebell size. The weight difference will tell you how dialed in your technique really is.

2. Change the tempo. Do you race through your Get Up? (I do sometimes…) Well slow it down. This increases your time under load, and therefore, according to some strength authorities, will increase your strength. Do you move at a snail’s pace when you Press or Squat? Well speed it up!

Remember, Force = Mass * acceleration. Move the same weight faster, increase force output and then strength.

3. Decrease your leverage. Let’s just say you finish the ROP with your 24kg but your really strapped for cash and can’t get a new kettlebell for another 3 months. How do modify the ROP to still get strong using only your 24kg?

Decrease your leverage – take your legs out of the equation. Try kneeling or Seated Presses. This makes your upper body work harder, strengthening your lats, pecs, delts, and triceps even more.

4. Challenge yourself. This seems like a strange one at first – but if you really think about it, so many of us just go through the motions. Take a stopwatch and see how much work you can get done in 20 minutes. Now do the same amount of work your next training session – that’s right – the exact same workout – in 19 minutes. Keep shaving off minutes until you can no longer make progress. So, see how many Swings you can do with your heaviest (or here’s a novel idea – lightest) kettlebell in 20 minutes. Then do the same number next time in 19 minutes.

5. Increase the complexity of the exercise. You can still do basic exercises and make them complex. (You know, writing this post makes me contend that there is nothing basic at all about the Get Up…) For example – let’s say you can do 10 minutes of Get Ups with a 24kg. That’s nice work. “Basic” but nice. What if you stacked two 12kgs in your hand and then did your Get Ups. Could you still get the same number of GUs in that 10 minutes (see point #4). Probably not.

So there you have it – 5 ways to make your “basic” kettlebell exercises more “advanced.” Give any one of them a try and let me know how these ideas work for you.

Hey – speaking of basic, there’s nothing more basic than food. Yet when it comes to eating we tend to complicate things to the point of screwing them up. Here’s some basic but proven principles:

  • Gain strength – eat a little more.
  • Gain muscle – eat a lot more.
  • Lose fat – eat less. (Most of the time…)

But with fat loss, we tend to screw that up really bad. Here’s a cool way to “eat less” and still eat all your favorite foods. Seriously. Check it out…

Favorite Foods To Lose Fat – Seriously…

21 comments… add one
  • Stephen Kiely Nov 17, 2010 @ 4:45

    What is so Good about Burn 2.0 is it’s so called simplicity. On paper you see four exercises for 45 mins and think “whatever!” But once you start trying to squeeze every rep possible into the time frames you go “what the F*&@”
    Then the next workout comes around and you are trying to best those numbers. Amazingly simple but Amazingly tough. Awesome Program

    • GEOFFN Nov 18, 2010 @ 14:45

      Yeah, Stephen – their are lots of things that look “simple” on paper. It’s the doing that really gets us…

  • Daniel Nov 17, 2010 @ 7:15

    I’m in week three of phase one and did workout A yesterday. It kicked my butt. I increased the weight of the kettlebell from the first week. I had a really hard time with the finisher. I didn’t give up. I changed the tempo to keep going. Maybe this “guy” will read this and give it another try. There is nothing wrong with basic. I believe to many people over complicate everything in their lives. Just remember my favorite movie quote, “slow down, take your time and you’ll have a much more harmonious outcome.” thanks for the great “basic” program.

    • GEOFFN Nov 18, 2010 @ 14:44

      Exactly, Daniel.

  • Daniel Hanscom HKC Nov 17, 2010 @ 8:19

    Thanks for those tips Geoff! Helpful reminders of how to keep the challenge present and the attention sharp. Seems to me that an advanced practitioner is somebody who has an advanced understanding of the basics while a master is somebody who has mastered the basics. By that reasoning, is anybody too advanced for the basics? Sure, I’m working on pressing 36% of my bodyweight… but I still learn when I do bottoms-up pressing with even an 18lb’er. Perhaps sometimes people collect programs looking for a magical secret and are disappointed when instead they find solid principles and hard work.

    • GEOFFN Nov 18, 2010 @ 14:44

      I’ve been training for over 20 years Daniel and I still haven’t “mastered” the basics. The only “true” masters, in my opinion, have world records to show for their endeavors…

  • Trina Rich Nov 17, 2010 @ 11:42

    At this point I can only dream of doing KB Burn with a 16kg bell. I have a hard time lifting it with one hand just carrying it (esp. since I broke my wrist last summer). That is my goal eventually, to be able to do your program with my 16kg. Right now I am stuck with an 8kg, and will be trying to master that weight. I am still working at mastering the GU. By the way, one of the best parts of your program is the emails, especially butt-kicking ones, they keep me on track!! Thanks a million Coach!!

    • GEOFFN Nov 18, 2010 @ 14:43

      Trina – you’re not “stuck” with the 8kg – you’re right where your body wants to be for now. Relax and enjoy the ride.

  • Rob DuBoux Nov 17, 2010 @ 11:44

    That is silly – “too basic”

    Sure the program only uses a few exercises but it is how these exercises are used and the intensity of the session.

    • GEOFFN Nov 18, 2010 @ 14:42

      Amen, Rob.

  • Jennifer Urbano, RKC Nov 17, 2010 @ 12:20

    Your blog topic today really hits home.
    I can empathize with people who might say that they arent feeling challenged…
    I just started week 4… the 40sec of swings last week beat the heck out of my grip… but I felt like I wasnt improving with my TGU or my C&P…
    How did I rectify this?
    Heavier bell for the TGU and double KBs for the C&P..
    NO refund for me thanks….

    • GEOFFN Nov 18, 2010 @ 14:42

      Jennifer, You may not improve on everything all at one time, so don’t be discouraged. Heavier KB for the GU and for the C+P try compressing the rungs of the ladder with more rest between the ladders. Hope that helps…

  • Paul Straw Nov 17, 2010 @ 13:25

    I am also on week 3 day one. I have stuck to the same weights from the beginning. Today I completed 15 min 2/2 with a 32 (24 total). Week one I was only able to get 16 doing 1/1 and they were scary at times. The second part I have continued using the 32kg but moved from 5/5/5 to 6/6/6. I completed 10 sets first week day one to today 12 sets of 6/6/6.

    And for the finisher I have been using a 40kg. (242 reps today)

    From the first week first day til today I have added 201 reps in the same amount of time!!!

    Very simple but no way is it easy.

    Thanks for a great program.

    I have had to video myself doing each practice knowing that my accountability partners just might watch.

    • GEOFFN Nov 18, 2010 @ 14:38

      Nice job, Paul!

  • Russ Moon Nov 17, 2010 @ 14:38

    I believe basic IS advanced.

    Is the technique of the “basic” exercise perfect ?
    That gives mere mortals like myself plenty of room to advance.

    Get strong instead – use a heavier kettlebell, the litmus test and YES when you jump from 40kg to 48kg the TRUTH comes out 😉

    • GEOFFN Nov 18, 2010 @ 14:38

      Yes it does…

  • Richard Shade Nov 17, 2010 @ 14:50

    You say to slow down the getup, but to increase the speed on squat and press. If a decrease in speed on getup increases load, the same should be equal on a squat. Can you help?

    • GEOFFN Nov 18, 2010 @ 14:37

      Great and complex question – speed has varying effects on your body. Your body is very adaptive and that’s why we’re changing parameters such as speed. Most people learn movements in the following way:

      1. fast and erratic to
      2. slow and less erratic to
      3. slow and controlled to
      4. fast and controlled

      Because the GU is really a combination of movements, most people would be better served by slowing it down and gaining control in all pieces of the movement. Gaining control requires that the right muscles fire in the right sequences at the right time. That ultimately increases force production. The Squat by contrast is more simple and the learning process can be accelerated. Hence, the increase in speed. And therefore force production.

      Make sense?

      • Richard Shade Nov 23, 2010 @ 10:11

        Geoff, thanks for the reply. I think I get it.. I have been reading thru KettleBell Muscle, and it looks like a great program.

  • Dale Nov 19, 2010 @ 15:05

    Great post Geoff. Keep up the great work. I love Kettlebell Burn and so do my clients.

  • Lori Gorman Dec 4, 2010 @ 7:50

    Basic……Here is what I know for fact…..I am entering phase 2 this week….and I can say I have increased my kettlebell weight….and feel stronger. Did this guy even attempt the finishers because it took everything I had in me to do them….and I slept like a baby…..and I am not going to lie….I have used your name Geoff in some not so nice ways while doing the finishers…….lol…..but with the results I am seeing I forgive you….hahahahaha

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