The “Perfect” Complement To Your Kettlebell Workouts

I’ve done A LOT of kettlebell work over the last 9 years.

I’m not sure how to quantify that if I wanted to other than go back and add up all the tonnage.

But there’s one “tool” that’s the perfect compliment to kettlebells.

And no, as much as it pains me to say this, it’s not the barbell – as much as I love it.

And nope, it’s not the time-tested sandbag.

Although that is an amazing tool.

The tool I’m talking about is something you can take anywhere and use at anytime, which, you have to admit, is pretty stinkin’ convenient.

Before I tell you what it is, let me tell you that I had an amazing training session on Monday while waiting for a client. It only 9 minutes and 12 seconds to complete.

I stood outside my studio on a decline and did Pistols. Sets of 10 – 3 each side.

Of course that tool I’m talking about is your body.

I’ve spent the last 3 month doing a lot of bodyweight training.

And it’s been, well, challenging – for several reasons.

1. I like lifting heavy. Really heavy. Bodyweight training isn’t necessarily heavy, unless you add external resistance to it.

2. There are certain positions which make me feel weak like a kitten. A pike is one that comes to mind.

3. My mind has to be trained to derive satisfaction out “just” bodyweight.

But the results have been spectacular.

I now “own” a bodyweight Pistol – which was one of my goals. I can finally, at anytime, drop into a pistol, on either leg without and pops, clicks, or pain that used to be associated with the Pistol and my compensations in general.

I’ve been able to do Pistols for quite some time with a counterbalance, but never just “naked” until recently. I completely agree with Pavel that if there is one leg exercise you should do, it is this one. Plus, it really tells you something about your body – specifically, how much and how well you control it. Not only that, but you can get a great “leg workout” anywhere, anytime, when you master the Pistol. And that of course is one of my goals.

I can now do multiple sets of multiple reps of Pull-ups and Chins with my legs in a pike position. I have always been very strong at Pull-ups – on any given day I can usually toss 70lbs or so on my body and get at least 1 rep, without training it. But when I went to the pike, it was literally like someone else was hanging on my body! They were tough!

The carryover to kettlebell exercises like the Double Front Squat has been noticeable. I’ve always “hated” that exercise because it was so hard. That was probably because I couldn’t get out of my own way. Now they feel easy compared to the way they used to feel.

And I’ve been doing a lot of Parallel Dips with the pike too. These end up looking kind of weird, with my body pitching forward. I certainly don’t look like nor have the body control of a gymnast. Yet. (I have to ask Rif about this.) Again, load me up on the Dips with weight – no problem. Put me in a pike and I’m completely lost. These are coming up quickly. It’s kind of hard to add weight with a dipping belt, so I’ve used an old backpack and started sliding plates in there.

The Biggest Benefit I’ve Seen So Far Is My Energy Levels.

Because my bodyweight training has helped address my physical limitations, my energy levels are much better than I expected yet exactly what I had hoped for in light of coping with the sleep deprivation that goes along with having a newborn.

If I had continued my previous training, I would’ve been a complete disaster.

Thankfully, I had the wisdom to change what I was doing. Otherwise, this could be a very different period in my life. I would not be enjoying fatherhood nearly as much – I’d be way too tired.

The really cool thing though about laying off the heavy barbell and kettlebell work in favor of bodyweight mastery is that my kettlebell work is really crisp when I play around with it. I can attribute that to at least to things:

1. The Reminiscence Effect – taking a layoff and coming back fresher than before.

and

2. Being more “put together” – ridding myself of compensations.

An “Unusual” Secondary Benefit.

Now admittedly, for many people, this would be a Primary Benefit, or the goal they are seeking to accomplish. But it wasn’t necessarily for me.

I lost body fat.

How much?

I didn’t measure.

Why not?

Because it wasn’t my primary goal. I just used the mirror and my clothes.

But I am down to about 200lbs and my waist hasn’t been this small in 15 years.

I use a relatively simple system of eating that allows me to enjoy all my favorite foods in unlimited quantities.

I think this is because bodyweight training in many cases is more physically taxing than most other forms of training, including kettlebell training.

All though I haven’t investigated it, a few reasons come to mind –

1. More neuromuscular activation. You’re moving your body through space using different and less than accommodating leverages, requiring more energy, and therefore burning more calories.

2. Lymph system stimulation. Your lymph system is essentially a waste removal system. All the pushing and pulling and twisting and turning stimulates lymphatic drainage, reducing bloating and fluid retention.

3. Core stabilization. Yeah, I know, I’ve been on-again-off-again on this concept over the years, but I want to tell you about something I’ve noticed – and it’s been dramatic. I have never had that “line” down the center of my abs. Never. Not until recently. And that’s a result of my abs and my body working correctly – finally. (There’s a lot more to this, but that’s the short story.)

4. Improved digestion. Now based on 1 thru 3 (and probably my new style of eating, but that combined especially with #3) my digestion is much, much better. So I’m able to absorb my nutrients much better.

So all this begs a question –

What’s The Best Bodyweight Exercise To Add To Your Kettlebell Workouts?

Well I think “best” is a relative term – relative the individual.

One that I’m really in favor of is the Walkout.

The walkout (I’ll post a pic once I get my blog rehabbed after the server crash) is simply where you put your hands on the floor and walk out to a push up position. You hold that position for a couple of seconds – letting your abs contract – and then you walk your hands back to your feet, but without standing up – so you’re folded over in the middle. Then you walk back out. And repeat until finished.

These are really great to super set with Swings – especially 2H Swings. It makes the Swing so much crisper.

Give it a try.

Here’s a little workout you can. It’ll look easy as written, but you’ll find it pretty challenging.

A1. Walkouts x 5-10
A2. 2H Swings x 20

Rest 60-90s.

Repeat for 20 minutes.

I’ve got some more ideas on bodyweight training for you next time too.

Until then, if you’re at a loss for what to do for a workout today, give the one above a shot and then post back and tell me what you think.

16 comments… add one
  • Robert Jun 23, 2011 @ 11:32

    I gotta agree! I have been working on 4 bodyweight exercises for months now and while the progress has been slow (which in my mind is a good thing) it is building strength I didn’t know I had. Many BW exercises are “whole body” and I quickly find out how closely related core stability is (for example) to expressing strength in other limbs under difficult positions. I am working on getting my pistol down right now and it has been tough, but also rewarding as ever so slowly I see and feel improvements.
    However, the last few weeks I have included a strength endurance KB workout (lifts and ballistic) once every 7 days or so I have noticed a marked improvement. back to BW though……exercises like pistols REALLY show me where the troubled quadrants are and thanks to that I can identify them shore them up. AB work in BW exercises is also a constant no matter what it is I seem to be doing! Last there is the mobility aspect of BW exercises. Pistols? Need I say more there?

    • GEOFFN Jun 27, 2011 @ 22:30

      Robert – right on about the Pistols. Glad the KB work is complimenting it.

  • Abdiel Rodriguez Jun 23, 2011 @ 12:26

    This post comes in the right time for me. I am just in that time when I don’t want (for some unknown reason) to work with a barbell. I have kettlebells and like them but don’t want to spend a lot of time doing pressurization thechniques for the press (sorry, but can become boring and draining… with time). And I just recently began doing push ups with a plate on my back and the feeling is wonderful. It puts everything together as Geoff says. Will try some of your ideas Geoff!

    • GEOFFN Jun 27, 2011 @ 22:31

      Abdiel – funny how there are seasons in our training just like in life. Unfortunately, I think we do a terrible job recognizing these seasons…

  • Aleks Salkin Jun 23, 2011 @ 12:53

    Couldn’t agree more, Jeff! The more I improve in my bodyweight strength skills, the better I find I am at kettlebell lifting and vice versa. Definitely the ultimate tag-team attack on your weaknesses.

    • GEOFFN Jun 27, 2011 @ 22:31

      That’s good to hear, Aleks.

  • James Jun 23, 2011 @ 19:07

    Great post Geoff, can’t wait to try the swing/walkout combo.
    (Ps., the title should be complement, not compliment)

    • GEOFFN Jun 27, 2011 @ 22:31

      James – thanks for the grammar check. Enjoy the combo.

  • Andy Jun 24, 2011 @ 16:22

    Geoff, I just completed the workout and I love it. I added a push-up at the bottom of the walk-out and it made it tougher. Can’t wait for more BW/KB exercises!

    • GEOFFN Jun 27, 2011 @ 22:32

      Andy – yep, the push up takes it to a new level for sure.

  • Russ Moon Jun 27, 2011 @ 11:59

    MRKC Neupert – I hope these excerpts are going to make their way into a book at some point…with video.

    “I have never had that “line” down the center of my abs. Never. Not until recently. And that’s a result of my abs and my body working correctly – finally. (There’s a lot more to this, but that’s the short story.)”

    I want to hear that story because your line must be contagious 😉

    • GEOFFN Jun 27, 2011 @ 22:33

      Russ – you never know about that book thing… and maybe I’ll tell the full ab-line story someday when I have more time…

  • Mike Perry Jun 27, 2011 @ 13:25

    Great post Geoff!!

    I always look forward to reading your blog! What I admire the most is your “hands on” approach to training then writing. You write from experience and not just from what you’ve read in a book…very refreshing.

    Your advice is key, especially when training with a newborn in the house. Our little guy is 3 weeks old and training for RKC II has been hard. Laying off the heavy weights and changing it up to bodyweight drills have done wonders to my training and all the movements feel cleaner.

    Will you be at level 2 in July? I didn’t see your name on the list but I figured I would ask.

    • GEOFFN Jun 27, 2011 @ 22:35

      Thanks Mike. There’s a world of difference between theory and practice. It’s amazing how much “theory” people these days spout off as gospel without having the practice behind it.

      Congrats on your “little guy” and good luck at the level 2. I won’t be there – teaching the level 2 in Hungary.

  • Todd Morgan Oct 25, 2013 @ 13:55

    Hi Geoff,

    Sorry, but what are “Walkups?”

    Thanks,
    Todd

  • Todd Morgan Oct 25, 2013 @ 13:57

    Err “Walkout?”

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