The Forgotten Kettlebell Exercises

I have a confession to make – I’m a junkie for all “new” strength training ideas, methods, and programs. I mean, I eat that stuff up like a fat guy at a buffet who’s lost his “full mechanism.”

When I was younger, all you had to do was stick “Soviet” or “Eastern Bloc” or “Bulgarian” on it, around it, or even near it and I’d gobble it up. My bookshelves are stuffed with books, programs, manuals, and journals on strength training. The more exotic it sounded, the bigger the sucker I was for it. Seriously, I even bought a book called “Power Training For Sport” about 7 years ago – it was a second edition and it cost me almost 100 bucks!

Unfortunately, after scouring through all that information, there really isn’t anything “new.”

Except maybe this (they’re new if you’ve never done them or spent any time at all on them…) –

There are a series of “forgotten” kettlebell exercises that most of, myself included, have been ignoring in favor of the “sexy” and “shiny” exercises and programs – the ones with all the fancy “science” backing them.

There are two people that I know of – two very smart people – Dan John and Andrea Du Cane, who routinely include these “forgotten” exercises in their own programs and that of their clients and athletes. And for good reason – these exercises plain old work! And when I say work, I mean, they work your abs, your legs, your hands, your heart and your lungs. They work everything!

What are these “forgotten” kettlebell exercises?

Kettlebell Carries.

Yup.

Not sexy.

Not shiny nor bright.

But downright brutal when performed correctly.

What are the Kettlebell Carries?

Simple.

  • Carry in the hands by the sides (one hand or two).
  • Carry in the rack (one hand or two).
  • Carry over head (one hand or two).

Each one challenges different parts of your body differently. Each one tells you what’s going on in your body and equally important, if not more so, what’s not going on that should be.

How Do You Implement Them?

Here are three options that work great –

1. Warm ups.
2. Finishers.
3. “Extra” workouts.

And of course there’s the fourth – structure your training around them for a season, which is what I recently did.

Here’s what I just started doing and have committed to keep doing for at least 8 weeks, maybe 12 (for very specific reasons I’ll save for a future post).

Two days per week, carry a pair of 48kg KBs approximately 40 yards. Put them down. Rest, Carry them back. Perform either 20 rep Deadlifts with one 48kg KB or Swings with one 48kg KB. I’ll be doing this until I can carry these beasts relatively easily for 100 yards. I do this for 30 minutes, but no more.

I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you what to expect as a result.

Overall you’ll feel more “put together.” You’ll have stronger abs, stronger grip, better posture, and stronger lungs. And the best part is you can even get your nature fix in by doing them outside (works for me).

I’ll post again middle of next week – I’m off to San Diego for a conference.

Drop your comments below about your experiences with Kettlebell Carries and how you’re going to implement them into your program.

19 comments… add one
  • Laurel Feb 9, 2011 @ 13:27

    We just used carries today in a Suicide format. Carry 2 bells to cone 1, Do Dbl swings, walk them back to start. Carry to cone 2, do 10 Dbl Swings and 5 Dbl Squats, walk them back to start. Carry to cone 3 repeat the above but add 3 Dbl Clean and Press, walk them back to start. Carry them to cone 4 and repeat the above and add 3 Pull ups.

  • Diana Feb 9, 2011 @ 13:30

    Geoff,
    You’re right on how forgotten these on. I remember doing them long ago and then recently to get ready for my “grad” workout at the RKC. They are actually quite fun. I like taking them over to the high school football field and march up and down stopping every 10 yds or so to do some swings or squats or presses. I also incorporate this into my snow shoeing activities as well. You’d be surprised how hard those lungs can pump while snowshoeing and carrying 2 bells! Along with carrying them, I like to drag them behind me on a sled my hubby made for me to put bells on. That’s another great snowshoeing workout! I also pull that sled while cutting the grass! I guess you could say I love my kettlebells!
    Great post-great reminder!

  • Andreas Feb 9, 2011 @ 14:03

    So right Geoff,

    I tried a workout with timed sets of highpulls, some overhead carries and overhead holds static. An amazin experience for that showed me I forget excercises like this much too often!

    Thanks for your inspiring blogposts and take care!

  • Sharon Simpson-Goodman Feb 9, 2011 @ 15:45

    I like it!
    Great idea for a simply, benefit packed, outdoors workout.
    Diana thanks for some insight on the RKC grad workout. I’ll be doing my RKC April 29th.
    Laurel, I really like your suicide workout. Definitely gotta do that one.
    A day without kettlebells is like a day without sunshine!

  • Eric Moss RKC Feb 9, 2011 @ 16:23

    heh every time I run a class I am forced to do these because they have to get in my car somehow

  • Leon Ginenthal Feb 9, 2011 @ 16:52

    I combine kettlebell carries and the step up on box, another old time, forgotten exercise. Great to do indoors in the winter. You can try a variety of rep schemes. I like to work up to a max set of 5 reps, then contnue to build up to a set of 2-3 reps.

  • Ken Whidden Feb 9, 2011 @ 23:54

    Living on the Gulf Coast, I’ve found that doing kettlebell carries in the soft sand along the beach takes it to a whole new level.

    Ken Whidden, DC
    Emerald Coast Chiropractic

  • Maurice Feb 10, 2011 @ 2:50

    I love/hate a program that Zach Even Esh created that he calls ‘loaded conditioning’. Check it out here http://www.sicfit.com/speaker/6617-Zach-Even-Esh/video/332124-Kettlebell-Loaded-Conditioning.

  • Gary H. Feb 10, 2011 @ 10:44

    Agreed, the carries (cleaned or hanging) are a simple and effective training tool. If we’re training to be able to work effectively, this training method is close to real-life work.

  • Billy Meyer Feb 10, 2011 @ 11:17

    Can’t wait to see if I”m cleared medically to try these. I bet they are great for your shoulders and the T-spine and rib cage mobility so those things can achor themselves to something.

    • Billy Meyer Feb 12, 2011 @ 18:21

      Didn’t get clearance yet. The overhead walks felt awesome… guess what???? OVERDIDIT!!! Did way too much way too soon. Back to bird dogs, spiderman crawls, and TGU!!! Hey… at least it’s all fun!!

  • Ryan Atkins Feb 10, 2011 @ 14:58

    Just like Eric I have to carry these to my car before every class, but up here in Michigan in the wintertime there’s a stability workout as well, walking across the ice and snow in the parking lot. I very nearly put a pair of 16 kgs through my passenger side window when my feet went out from under me, but I managed not to, and the only thing running through my head at the time was “keep your chest up, fold at the hips” as I tried to control their fall.

  • Russ Moon Feb 10, 2011 @ 16:20

    I took my 40kg to NYC and did the single carry in the sides from origin Amtrak station and then all the way through PennStation, loading and unloading to the hotel so I could later do my swings.

  • Jill Craig Feb 17, 2011 @ 10:39

    I designed a program for Austin fire fighters in which they carry two different weight KB’s to the ftop of the fire tower. Then, on each floor, we do a set of exerdises that target the muscle groups used in a fire ground task: there is a forced enrty floor, a ladder raise floor, an overhaul floor, etc. Talk about job-specific training…

    • GEOFFN Feb 22, 2011 @ 11:12

      Jill – and I’m sure they love the metabolic benefits of those workouts too – how simple is that really? Reminds me of a program I had one of my weight loss clients on when I trained in NYC – lots of stair walking – loaded and unloaded. 28 flights. Got the job done.

  • Larry Peterson Nov 10, 2011 @ 19:15

    Geoff: It is very important to balance here. Kubik says that he carries a 180lb suitcase in every hand-around the block-every morning. I would try that, but I only have one suitcase. Woods closes a #3 just a couple of times to get the circulation going, or you can buy a DVD on how to close #4. That’s what I did-watch it every morning-better than working out. Now with carrying kettle bells-you have to really balance that-so I carry a 15lb. kettle bell in the right hand, and a quart of ice-cream in the left. Carry the bell, set it down, eat your ice-cream and go back to bed.

  • Larry Peterson Nov 10, 2011 @ 19:19

    Geoff: It is very important to balance here. Kubik says that he carries a 180lb suitcase in every hand-around the block-every morning. I would try that, but I only have one suitcase. Woods closes a #3 just a couple of times to get the circulation going, or you can buy a DVD on how to close #4. That’s what I did-watch it every morning-better than working out. Now with carrying kettle bells-you have to really balance that-so I carry a 15lb. kettle bell in the right hand, and a quart of ice-cream in the left. Carry the bell, set it down, eat your ice-cream and go back to bed. This comment is original>it has never been said by me. Somebody i s stealing copyrighted material.

  • Larry Peterson Nov 10, 2011 @ 19:26

    Hope that your better, and that you got a chance to hug Mike last night. You both were probably going thru withdrawls. I hope that you gave him a hug for me-or maybe just said,”Hello.”>take care of everybody>as a reminder it is O.K. to hug Mike again tonight and you might want to say HI to the wife>Best Always>Larry

  • Martin Brown Jan 23, 2012 @ 11:17

    Hi Geoff,

    I have been doing 2 X 32Kg carries (By my side) 4 times a week as a warm up before training – 40m carries x 3-4 times. My mid section strength and grip have improved dramatically since doing this (Started about 6 Months ago). Every few weeks I add an extra few metres. Some days if im feeling tired I will cut back a bit. Its an amazing exercise.

    Martin

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