Kettlebells v. Bodyweight – Which One’s Better?

Which one is better for fat loss – that’s the question.

But before I answer that, I just wanted to let you know that I got 150 Pistols tonight in my training session – 15 sets of 5 each leg. I was on a slight decline, but still – I’ve never approached anywhere near that volume tonight.

And I feel strong – really strong.

And like I mentioned the other day, I’m getting leaner – again. Waist is at a 15 year low (and I’m not on a fat loss program).

Now I don’t write that to brag, because there are many, many people who can do way better than that. I just highlight my work tonight because it proves my point – so let me get back to that…

Funny how we tend to set up a false dichotomy with questions like the one I started the blog with – which is better for fat loss – kettlebells or bodyweight exercises.

Either – or.

Why not both?

Or, here’s a novel concept – why not cycle the two?

That is one of my preferences.

Most people don’t know this, but the body responds really well to contrasting stimuli. For example, running cycles of low reps, heavy loads, with higher rep ballistic type loads, like Pavel set up in RoTK. (I first heard about this concept from a Romanian coach, Georg Marom, back in ’98 at Yale University after taking my USAW Club Coach Course.)

And usually, when progress stalls, the further you can go from what you’ve currently been doing, the easier it is to jump start progress and get the results you’re looking for once again.

For example, I’ve been doing heavy extension based work for years – both barbells and kettlebells. Tons of Olympic lifts, and tons of kettlebells.

The one thing I hadn’t done?

Bodyweight exercises and flexion-based exercises. Let alone combined the two like I’ve been doing recently.

As a result, I’ve started seeing massive progress once again. My Pistol numbers are an example.

Why is this important to you?

Here are three reasons:

1. Because if you’re not seeing the progress you like or want, it may be time to step away from your kettlebell(s) for a season and get back to the basics – bodyweight training.

There are “super coaches” like Vern Gambetta, who believe that you shouldn’t even touch a weight until you’ve mastered the ability to move your own body. And training with your own body can produce superior results in areas such as relative strength – just look at gymnasts.

2. Sometimes you just need a change – a fresh stimulus to reinvigorate your training again. I can subsist on a relatively spartan diet of training exercises. But even I need to shake things up every once in awhile. My new training program has been “just what the doctor ordered.”

In fact, I think it was Dan John who talked about matching your training to the seasons. I don’t remember how he set his up, but the summer seems like the perfect time to me to train with bodyweight only – it’s light and fun – just like the summer itself.

(I guess barbell work or double kettlebell work could be fall and winter, and single kettlebell work could be spring…)

3. Bodyweight training can be challenging – even hard, but without leaving you with the “beatdown” feeling of heavier forms of training. Like I mentioned in my last post, you can make bodyweight exercises harder just by modifying or challenging the leverage – like holding an “L-sit” doing Pull-ups for example. Or you can do your bodyweight work on an unstable surface, like a pair of rings, for example.

There are so many options that make this just plain old fun. I did my Pistols with my shirt off in the parking lot outside my studio this evening. Why shirt off? Well it certainly wasn’t to show off my massive pecs (I don’t have any). It was so I could soak up the sun and get my daily dose of Vitamin D. Plus, do you know how good it feels to feel the sun beat down on you while exercising? I LOVE it.

So, if you’re stuck, and you need to make progress again – wanna see your “six-pack” or strip off some excess body fat for that beach trip later this summer, put your kettlebells down and do the opposite of what you’ve been doing.

Spend some time getting reacquainted with your body again. Here are some bodyweight only workouts that meet all the requirements we’ve just discussed. You’ll find them challenging, fun, and you’ll love the results you get from doing them. They’re just what the doctor ordered. Check them out.

I’ll keep you posted on my continued progress. My goal is 5 sets of 20 consecutive reps of Pistols on each leg. So 100 total each leg or 200 total. I think I’ll get them by the end of the year.

3 comments… add one
  • Dave Johnston Jun 30, 2011 @ 0:33

    Good on ya Geoff! Keep up the great work!

  • davor suker Jun 30, 2011 @ 20:16

    A coach extolling the virtues of BW exercises and vitamin D synthesis.. I’m on board. The idea of not touching external weights, until being able to move the body’s weight really strikes a chord with me.
    As regards the vit D, I’ve heard that the optimum time to get in the sun is around midday, and that it takes 48 hrs to adsorb the vitamin from your skin surface to the bloodstream, so any washing with soap during that period will destroy it. But cold, unsoapy showers are great fun.

  • Drew Franyo Jul 1, 2011 @ 8:31


    I, too, have been mixing things up and loving it
    I have added to my kb worouts, the goal of completing the dreaded planche pushup.
    Here’s to new challenges!



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