Kettlebell Workouts – Ideas When Pressed For Time

I’m only just now coming up for air. My son was born two weeks ago. And of course, for those of you who have kids, you’re right – you told me so. My time is not my own any longer.

Right now, my in-laws, God bless them, are visiting and helping us out for 2 weeks. Cooking. Cleaning. Shopping. Being good sports and just giving us time and space. I just went back to work. And my wife seems to spend 80% of her day feeding, changing, and soothing the boy.

Workouts for the past two weeks were very limited and very time based.

Which brings up a great question –

Why don’t we make our kettlebell workouts more dependent on time?

Is it because everything else is?

Commute – 30 minutes each way.

Work – 8.5 hours, not including lunch.

Is it because we are so over-scheduled that we give ourselves open-ended workout times?

Sure, you may allot 60 minutes to work out, but do you need all of it?

(That of course challenges some other assumptions we make about exercise, which of course, why the kettlebell is such a good tool – it frees us, if we so choose, from traditional exercise assumptions and therefore programming.)

What if you really don’t have 60 minutes to work out? Does that mean you won’t work out at all?

What if you only had 15 minutes a day?

Could you do it?

Well that’s what I was doing last week.

I gave myself 15 minutes to train – for my kettlebell workouts – in my basement – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday and 10 minutes on Wednesday and Saturday.

Here’s what I did:

Monday / Thursday: Double Clean and Press 2x32kg

Tuesday / Friday: Double Front Squat 2x32kg (ok, admittedly, I escaped to my studio on Friday and was able to do some barbell squats…)

Wednesday and Saturday: Snatch, 32kg

I just used the ol’ density protocol, which Charles Staley popularized about 8 years ago, and went to it.

I wasn’t trying to kill myself, just attempting to get some numbers on the board, so-to-speak. And I wasn’t worried about reps. I just did what seemed natural, or intuitive in that particular moment.

For example, on Monday, I used sets of 3 on the C+P. Thursday, sets of 2,3,5 cause I just felt like it. And my goal was to do more work (volume, or total reps lifted) in that same time period. No pressure. Just focus and fun. And progress.

And that’s the key – Progress.

So it doesn’t matter how long your kettlebell workouts are. That’s kind of missing the point. The point is really, what kind of progress can you make, that helps you get closer to your goal, in whatever time you have. Not only that, but can you consistently make progress toward your goal?

Those are valuable and worthy questions to ask the next time you pick up your kettlebell.

Speaking of the next time you pick up your kettlebell, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Am I making the best use of my time and my choices of exercises in my workouts or am I just going through the motions or incorporating things because I feel some external pressure about doing so, like “I should?”

2. How much time do I really need to workout? Am I using all of it wisely, or am I goofing off? Am I ok with goofing off or is my goofing off when I should be working out causing stress in other areas of my life (i.e. with my spouse or kids)?

3. Am I still making progress – real, measurable progress toward my goal? Or have I stalled and am I just marking time?

4. If I answered any of the questions in such a way that violates my own sense of personal justice – that is, that violates my conscience about what I want to achieve, am I willing to do anything about the area in question or am I just going to keep doing what I’m still doing? Can I live with that?

So, yeah, I know those are some deep questions.

But now that my time is not my own and I want to share it more with my wife and my son, I’ve been asking myself those types of questions. I thought I’d pass them on to you.

I’m learning that it’s the questions and the quality of the questions you ask that determines the outcome and results in your life – and the same holds true for your kettlebell workouts.

Next time, I’ll give you some more ideas for short, efficient, kettlebell workouts.

14 comments… add one
  • Billy Meyer May 4, 2011 @ 16:56

    I am blessed to have a wife that allows me to “goof off” in my man cave upstairs with my kettlebells. She only hollars when I let one down too quckly. Oh, and I have to hear when she calls my name and not come downstairs angry that “my” workout was interrupted. If there weren’t kettlebells… I wouldn’t have any fun with weights!!

    • GEOFFN May 11, 2011 @ 13:12

      Yep – been there Billy.

  • BCF May 4, 2011 @ 17:56

    Congratulations on your son Geoff! Isn’t love at first sight grand?

    Staley’s EDT abosolutely rocks! I just came off a 4 week cycle of it. I upped my double 32 press from 20 to 30 in a 20 minute PR zone. Leg day using EDT is quite the challenge. The heart feels like it’s going to go through your chest.

    • GEOFFN May 11, 2011 @ 13:11

      BCF – yeah – it’s kinda weird. Charles certainly reminded us of a foolproof way to make progress, that’s for sure.

  • Jerry May 4, 2011 @ 18:08

    Your comments about time and the use of kettlebells nails it.
    I am a proud owner of your Kettlebell Muscle Book, Kettlebell Burn Book and a new member of your insiders club.
    I started with your Burn program and I got results. But frankly I found it boring doing the same exersise or two for 15 minutes then switching to another for 15 more minutes. Doing repetitive TGU until I actually got a nerve stinger in my left knee and had to stop. I moved onto the Kettlebell Muscle Progam. Loved it and saw great results. Just finised week 12! It was intense, short exersise time needed (talking 12 to 18 minutes max)and interval based (heart rate zooming from 110 to 170 in a 3 minute time frame). After completing a session of the Kettlebell Muscle program it becomes very obvious that you don’t need to spend an hour training to get the results you are looking for. Frankly, you can’t and you don’t want to. Did I mention intense…
    I would love to see more progams based on high intensity (chains or complexes, keeps it interesting) interval based with short time frames. Maybe through the insider club?
    Love getting your emails keep up the great work and congrats on the new member of your family

    • GEOFFN May 11, 2011 @ 13:11

      Thanks for buying my stuff, Jerry and thanks for the congrats!

      RE: Boring & Burn – you have to focus on competing with yourself – then you’re not worried about the repetition, if that makes sense.

      What were your specific results on “Kettlebell Muscle?”

  • Gina May 4, 2011 @ 21:42

    THANKS for this! I have 2 kids, a 3.5 yr old and a 4 mos old and I am sleep deprived, and pressed for time. I workout 10-20 minutes a day in my basement as well – there is no other time. I make it work. I’d love some more ideas on this topic. This is great!

    • GEOFFN May 11, 2011 @ 13:09

      Thanks, Gina. Will keep posting ideas. May even write a book for you… 🙂

  • Amy May 6, 2011 @ 1:20

    Great post and welcome to the parents club! I’ve got a 3 1/2 yr old and a 6 month old. They both keep me fully engaged when they are awake and home with me. Littlest one still wakes up 2-4 times per night, so I haven’t mustered up the motivation to work out consistently while I am feeling so sleep deprived. Under “normal” conditions working out gives me more energy… Wonder if it would be the same under sleep deprived conditions?

    Well, you and reader Gina (above) have inspired to try to make the most out of 10-15 minutes per day.

    Look forward to more posts on this topic!

    • GEOFFN May 11, 2011 @ 13:07

      Thanks Amy. Motivation is a funny thing – it can be learned but it’s best if it’s subconscious – and for that to happen, it’s got to be driven by emotion. And the emotion must be bigger and stronger than your current desire to remain where you are. Might have to do a post on that sometime…

  • Teresa Merrick May 6, 2011 @ 12:11

    Hi Geoff,

    Congratulations on your new baby and welcome to parenthood.

    My food for thought, especially in view of the new demands and priorities: Activity first, then CONSISTENCY is the next most important attribute for a program. Fitness/strength maintenance is critical when conditions make it hard to push for progress. “Going through the motions” and “marking time” with your workout program isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it keeps you in the game rather than on the sidelines, watching your body slide backward and lose whatever gains you had made.

    Stay in the game!
    Teresa Merrick, Ph.D./Bellevue, NE

    • GEOFFN May 11, 2011 @ 13:06

      Thanks Teresa – I agree that “marking time” is better than sliding downhill. Good point.

  • Doug Aug 16, 2011 @ 14:45

    I need you to hurry up and have another kid so that you can do a blog post on kettlebell training w/ 2 kiddos at home. You’ve got a week to figure it out since my second baby girl is scheduled to arrive this coming Monday. It may be more probable for you to buy a puppy.

    All joking aside this post is the inspiration I need to help me make use of my time so that I don’t waste it away from the family. My current goal is to press the 32 x 5/5. I started out 4 weeks ago w/ 2wks of PM and 2wks of ROP (progressing from tall kneeling to half kneeling) all the while receiving ART treatments and rehab for my shoulder pain and asymmetry. Starting out, I could only muster 2 on the rt and a very uncomfortable 1 on the lt. Yesterday I hit 2/2 and if felt strong and pain free.

    Point being, I will reach my goal; however, there will have to be some modifications to the training plan. 10-15 min daily EDT style may just be what I need. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and helping us get stronger.

  • Andrew Siddins Nov 25, 2013 @ 19:53

    Congrats from Australia Geoff, the little buggers will keep you on your toes. I have 4 boys five and under so your emails and posts lately about short frequent sessions is working fantastically for me. I know I am making progress, bought my first 32 the other day and can press it for 3 reps with good form. Couldn’t do that a couple of months ago so stoked with that.
    More importantly though congrats again and best of luck with the little man.

    Regards, Andrew

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