The lamest excuse for not working out is “I don’t have time.” Everyone has time. It’s how you manage it. This means being organized. If it means going to bed earlier and shutting off the TV, phone and computer, do it. Ironing clothes and making lunch the night before, do it. I’ve become more OCD in my old age. I can’t stand tardiness, 5 minutes is fine, but I start getting annoyed at 15. I remember interviewing for a job and waiting 20 minutes. The hiring manager walked by me in the waiting room coming back from lunch like he was Oliver Flipping Cromwell without acknowledging me. Needless to say I punted the offer. I already had my mind made up at the 10 minute mark. I figured if he didn’t respect my time, he wouldn’t respect me. Also, I can’t stand mess and clutter. I have inherited this from my mother. Is it too much to pick the towel up off the floor? Get the toothpaste out of the sink? Put your clothes away? Make your bed? You’ve probably correctly guessed I have a teenage son who thinks he lives in a hotel. My younger soon to be teenage son is falling into the same pattern.
Rant aside, I’m going to give you in my opinion, the best 20 minute kettlebell workouts that I know. These are the bang for your buck, I’m glad I did them workouts. Why? Well it’s summer time. Usually during summer, I get off what program I have and do total randomness. Not this year however. I’m still doing 5/3/1 with a barbell three days a week and looking to do something fun the other 3-4 days. I need to take more days off. Tuesday after 8.5 hours sleep, I was woozy and tired. Went to the gym, hit my numbers, but it was less than a stellar day. To humble brag, I still can’t believe I got 135 x 3 on the standing barbell military press. I felt lousy. So I took Wednesday completely off. Came back on Thursday and had a great bench press workout and 3 mile run. Felt really strong doing pull-ups. I’ve also got my running legs back after being dormant for a few years. Sunday, I ran 5.7 miles and sprinted down the end. I was thinking of my friend and the “I could drop dead any moment” was going through my head. Other issue was running up the last steep hill during mile 5, I’m So Tired by the Beatles came on the shuffle. Great tune, but completely inappropriate running up the 5 minute grade. Followed up with a 4 mile run Monday.
Most of these can be done with 1 or 2 kettlebells. If you need to warm up and cool down, total time 30-35 minutes tops.
1. The Helion
This lovely complex was created by Pat Flynn. Set timer for 20 minutes. Do 2 two hand swings, then 2 one handed swings on each arm, then 2 thrusters with each arm. (squat to press). Now do 4 reps of each, then 6, then 8, then 10! Now go back down the ladder. 10 again, then 8, etc. Rest as necessary. As many ladders in 20 minutes. Each ladder is 30 reps per exercise per arm.. Recommended bells for men. 35 or 45
I’ve used 3 different bells for this. First the 35. This one is the, “I have to hustle through this, I might be a little hungover but need to sweat, or I can only do two ladders and I can’t put the bell down.” The last one I’ve accomplished in a shade under 13 minutes. Never put the bell down. The 45 is a good go to bell because when you get into the upper reps of thrusters it becomes a fatiguing challenge. I’ve used the 55 twice. This is the “I can take on the world” bell. I remember failing the 10th rep on the way back down the ladder. This is a total body workout.
2. EDT Total Body
Charles Staley inspired workout. Take two same size kettlebells that you can do 6 reps with. Do as many sets of three of this complex as you can in 20 minutes One clean, Military Press, Squat, Double Row. Record number. Next time you do it, try for one more rep than last time. I like setting the time where, I’m doing a set every 100 seconds.
3. EDT Lower Body
Use two kettlebells. For this one, don’t do as a complex. Rest between each exercise and do as super sets. Clean bells, do 3-5 reverse lunges each leg. Rest to the top of the minute. Then do a set of 3-5 double snatches, rest to the top of each minute. If you can’t double snatch, do a single arm snatch each arm. If your form isn’t good do a set of 10 double swings. This is also a great shoulder workout because your holding the bells in the rack while doing lunges. Don’t do this workout if you’re not feeling your personal best.
4. Turkish Get-Ups
Set clock for 20 minutes. Turn on Pandora or I-tunes. Do getups switching hands after each rep. My only beef with TGU’s, is you will get floor burn on your elbows and knees unless you wear long sleeves and sweats. But then you’ll sweat so much you will feel like your in a sauna. Boring, but effective. Once you’ve dominated your heaviest bell then try this
5. Turkish Get Down
Only do this for 15 minutes. It is much harder than just doing getups. Why? Because you never put the bell down to switch hands. I can do getups with a 70 for 20 minutes. For this workout, bell down to a smaller bell. Switch hands at the top by either snatching the bell or cleaning and pressing it into position.
This is a favorite of mine when I don’t have tennis elbow. I found it an an article on Dragon Door by Steve Freides. Take a 55 lb. bell, set clock for 20 minutes. Do a set of 5 with each arm. Rest to the top of the minute. 200 snatches in about 19:34. If you haven’t done it in a while, expect soreness in your traps and bicep. Once this becomes easy, reduce by 5 seconds and do a set every 55 seconds, and continue. Once this becomes easy…
7. Snatches 2.0
This is a David Whitley workout. Do a set of 10 snatches each arm. Rest a minute, repeat until you finish 10 sets. Never has a minute gone by so fast from the 8th set and beyond. If your form and grip break down, stop and call it a day. Brutal. I’ve lost a bell in the 10th, just flew off my fingers. BOOM under the floor. Chalk your fingers.
Single bell, heaviest one you can handle. Snatch to Press to Squat, to One Arm Row. Switch hands Ladders of (1,2,3,4,5) Snatch to press is tough because you have no momentum bringing the bell down from the lockout of the snatch to the rack. Each ladder is 15 reps. As many ladders as possible in 20 minutes. If the snatch isn’t your thing, then do cleans instead of snatches.
9. Two hand swings
I’m not a fan of heavy volume of one hand swings. They bother my back. 20 reps each minute for 20 minutes. Or as many sets of 10 in 20 minutes. Or alternate sets of 10 and 100 skips of the rope.
“My baby’s got me locked up in chains and they ain’t the kind that you can see…” All right token Beatles reference from the Please Please Me album aside, a chain is going through a progression of exercises 5 times. This can be done with single or double kettlebells and they can beat the tar out of you. At first glance, it looks easy but they’re brutal. If you use double bells, you are pushing heavier weight. If you use a single bell, you have to switch hands so the set is longer. It goes like this:
Swing, Clean, Press, Squat, Row. Do one rep of each, go through circuit 5 times. That’s one set.
I like chains better than complexes. Complexes can cause form to break down, chains are only one rep. That being said, I don’t recommend double snatches when doing chains. In a complex, sure, but at the beginning of the set while your grip is fresh if you are using heavier bells.
11. One Arm Long Cycle Clean and Jerk
Sets of 3-5. Rest as necessary. Start with 10 minutes. I tried this with a 70 lb. bell hoping for 80 reps. Epic fail, did 60 and heart was pumping over 180 per minute. One needs to perfect the jerk form and start with a lighter bell. It’s like a push press with a duck under. Practice it without a bell. Push up on your toes, extend arm, duck under. Great back shoulder and conditioner builder.
12. Single Arm Kettlebell Complex
Sets of 5 switch hands, rest 3 minutes, repeat for 20 minutes
One arm swing x 5, Snatch x 5, Clean and Press x 5, Reverse Lunge x 5, One Arm Row x 5. Which exercise takes the most out of you? The clean and press. This will test your mettle. If it’s easy, go heavier or reduce rest. You can do this with any exercise, mix and match
13. Fitter Happier More Productive
Pat Flynn complex. He says it sucks. I concur. Recommended bell 35 or 45. I’ve done this with a 45 in about 9:45 if I recall. Haven’t had an overwhelming urge to try it since. Mainly because it makes my lower back sore. It’s the Helion with the snatch added in after the thruster Like the cherry on the hot fudge sundae. Oh and you can’t put the bell down. 2,4,6,8,10. You’ll be saying no mas when you’re finished.
14. The 300 Kettlebell Meltdown Workout
An oldie but a goodie. I’ve seen guys do this with a 55, but that’s too much for me. I’ve done it with a 35. Takes about 16 minutes. The burpees kill you. I have to do them in 5 or 6 sets.
Jack knife/V-Ups x 25 (Sit up touching your hands to your toes as you lift your legs off the ground)
Snatches 25 L, 25R
Pushups x 25
Two hand swings x 50
Burpees x 50
Clean and Press 25L, 25R
Mountain Climbers x 50
David Whitley inspired, he does it for time. Not me, take a heavy bell and do for reps. 55 or 70, Adjust the reps depending on size of bell
Two hand swings x 10 Rest 30 seconds
Two hand swings x 10, Goblet Squat x 5 Rest 30 seconds
Two hand swings x 10, Goblet Squat x 5, Slingshot around body x 15 Rest 30 seconds
Two hand swings x 10, Goblet Squat x 5, Slingshot around body x 15, Clean and Press 3-5, Rest 30 seconds
Two hand swings x 10, Goblet Squat x 5, Slingshot around body x 15, Clean and Press, 3-5, Row x 5
Rest 90-120 second and repeat for 20 minutes
16 Conditioning Complex
This baby is my own creation. I usually do 10 sets which is over 20 minutes, but you can still do 5-6 times around the circuit in 20 minutes and get a good sweat. I do this one in my garage.
Take heaviest bell you have. For me an 88
Swing x 15, Pushup x 15-20, Skip rope 50 jumps, Sprint 100 yards. Walk back repeat.
17. The Long Haul
This is not the complete program but a workout from Geoff Neupert’s More Kettlebell Muscle. Perform 3 sets, Work:Rest ratio 1:2, you can shorten it to 1:1.5 and 1:1 when you get in condition. It’s basically 2:30 seconds of non-stop work, but I hate watching the clock so I’ve kind of calculated how many reps I can do in the 30 seconds. I remember getting performance anxiety during rest periods it’s so tough. Use two bells, I use 45’s for this.
Double Cleans x 12 (grip sapper)
Front Squat x 10
Military Press x 8
Double Snatch x 6
Double Swing x 20
See you on the other side…
18. Swing Ladder Superset
Another creation of mine, tested on my wife and kids. Rest as needed. Depending on size of bell do 5-10 reps. You can also swing a heavier bell and then use a lighter bell for the other exercises.
Reverse lunge 5 -10 each side
Military Press 5-10 each side
Goblet Squat 10
Swing 40, rest, repeat for 20 minutes
19 Swings and Burpee Ladder
Another oldie but a goodie. Haven’t done this one in a while. Takes about 11-12 minutes, no rest unless necessary. I do this with a 55.
10 swings, 1 burpees
10 swings 2 burpees
Etc. Do 10 sets of 10 swings and work the burpee ladder up to 10. The last couple of sets are a grind.
20 Up and Down the Ladder
This can be done with one hand swings (easier) and snatches (tougher) Rest as needed. Starts and ends like a sunny day, middle is a severe thunderstorm with large golf ball sized hail. You’ll be putting the bell down a lot going up ladders 7-10 and down to 7
1,1,2,2,3,3,4,4,5,5,6,6,7,7,8,8,9,9,10,10,9,9,8,8,7,7,6,6,5,5,4,4,3,3,2,2,1,1 = 200 total reps. PHEW.
21. Bonus complex
Blackjack pays 3-2 unless you’re in a Harrah’s owned casino playing $10 in Vegas and they rip you off paying 6:5. In that case, run.
Go through this complex and rest until the beginning of the 3rd minute. (In English, start a new set every two minutes)
Use a 35 lb bell
Snatch x 5,5
Burpee x 5
Two hand swing x 20
Mountain climbers, 15,15