Kettlebell Workout Theory

    Kettlebell workout

    The kettlebell swing plus the 5 additional kettlebell exercises give you a small arsenal to create kettlebell workouts to challenge the whole body, and when programmed correctly can work towards different goals.

    Here are the exercises you’re currently familiar with through this course:

    • conventional double-arm swing
    • double-arm clean
    • halo
    • front squat
    • double-arm press
    • sumo squat high pull

    We’re going to be using those to design a workout with a complex.

    What is a Complex?

    A complex is a set of exercises intelligently strung together so that they can flow from one into the next through smooth transitions. A Kettlebell Complex is therefor one where kettlebell exercises are used. A complex can be any number of exercises and sets of repetitions flowing from one into the next and then repeated. The number of reps, sets or rounds is irrelevant, the only thing that matters is the flow. Having said that, usually when programmed appropriately, the number of exercises and reps in a set are programmed so that the athlete can complete a whole round without putting the kettlebell down. The added benefit of a complex is that the athlete keeps moving for one whole round (or more) and therefor taxing the cardiovascular endurance system more than a workout usually would.

    Below is an example of a bodyweight complex designed for a personal training client, each bodyweight exercise flows into the next, this video will give you an idea of what a bodyweight complex is.

    The following is a video of the same kettlebell complex listed further down which you’re going to perform with a few slight adjustments, namely you’re going to perform it correctly, although Gloria did a great job as a beginner, there were a few transitions she did not get right, even so, this video will get across to you the concept of a kettlebell complex.


    Beginner Kettlebell Complex ‘Novicius’

    This is a great complex for practising and improving the kettlebell swing but at the same time still able to give you that workout you’re looking for while not neglecting other parts of the body. The workout is performed with one kettlebell which should be light or medium weight.

    Exercise #1 Double Arm Swing
    Repetitions: 5

    Exercise #2 Alternating Halo
    Repetitions: 5
    Transition Double Arm Swing Clean

    Exercise #3 Double Arm Swing
    Repetitions: 4↓

    Exercise #4 Front Squat
    Repetitions: 5
    Transition Double Arm Swing Clean

    Exercise #5 Double Arm Swing
    Repetitions: 3↓

    Exercise #6 Double Arm Press
    Repetitions: 5
    Transition Double Arm Swing Clean

    Exercise #7 Double Arm Swing
    Repetitions: 2↓

    Exercise #8 Sumo Squat High Pull
    Repetitions: 5
    Transition Double Arm Swing Clean

    Exercise #9 Double Arm Swing
    Repetitions: 1↓

    Rest and repeat as required.

    When to rest?

    Rest before you’re fatigued, you can rest in the Double Arm Racking Position, rest the Bell on one of your shoulders or put the Kettlebell down all together and rest. Even though this is a complex and meant to be performed continuously at least for one round, this will never mean that you can’t rest if you’re in the middle of the round but near exhaustion.

    Use the above program for a workout, either set a time and do as many rounds possible (AMRAP), or go for time by setting the amount of rounds to be completed (FOR TIME). When setting a time, try and stick to something achievable and safe like 15 to 20 minutes, when setting rounds, stick to about 8 to 10.

    If you decide to incorporate this workout in your regular week to week training, then gradually progress over time by adding weight, reps, time or more rounds. Perform the workout once or twice a week and keep track of your progression.

    Programming Explained

    Objectives of the workout are:

    • improve form and technique
    • keep it safe for your level
    • tax the cardiovascular endurance system
    • improve muscular endurance
    • improve flexibility and range of motion

    The programming for the above workout can be explained as following:

    • I am confident that you know the exercises used
    • the reps in each set are kept low as I’m not familiar with your muscular endurance
    • the kettlebell is of light to medium weight as I’m not familiar with your strength
    • the kettlebell is of light to medium weight as the objective of the workout is to tax the cardiovascular system
    • the kettlebell swing is using a downward ladder because it’s included more than one time within a round and I want to make sure that you maintain the ability to perform each repetition safely
    • the downward ladder is included because I assume that you still have things to learn about the swing


    ‘Novicius’ For Strength

    The same exercises programmed for strength.

    Exercise #1 Double Arm Swing
    Repetitions: 6

    Exercise #2 Halo
    Repetitions: 6 reps each side
    Transition Double Arm Swing Clean

    Exercise #3 Front Squat
    Repetitions: 6

    Exercise #4 Double Arm Press
    Repetitions: 6

    Exercise #5 Sumo Squat High Pull
    Repetitions: 6
    Transition Double Arm Swing Clean

    Exercise #6 Double Arm Swing
    Repetitions: 6

    6 to 8 rounds
    Rest 1 to 2 minutes between rounds
    All exercises performed slowly with maximum but safe weight, it’s the high pull and/or halo which you should base the max weight on.

    More Exercise Details

    → Double Arm Press

    Start from the chest, brace the core, squeeze everything tight, slightly pull the head back when pressing up, and gently bring it forward once the Kettlebell is past the head, pull the lats down, slightly pull the shoulder blades together, pull the biceps towards the ears, lock the elbows out and actively but in a controlled manner pull the Kettlebell back down. The grip on the Kettlebell is thumbs around the horns, palms around the Bell, handle pointing down and base pointing up (open hand horn grip).

    → Sumo Squat High Pull

    You stop the kettlebell when transitioning from the swing by using a Double Arm Swing Clean, then from the chest you bring the kettlebell down, arms straight, come into a quarter squat letting the kettlebell hang, come back up fully, slight pause and perform a high pull with active traps and powered by the front delts, the elbows lead and stay above the handle, do not bring the hands higher than the elbows (engaging biceps), the Kettlebell should not come higher than the chin and keep the Bell close to the chest, it should travel in one straight path up and down.

    → Double Arm Clean

    Note that on the down phase you should choose the shortest path, i.e. don’t cast the Kettlebell out but guide it down and back.


    You are encouraged to submit a video of yourself performing this workout but it’s not a requirement, you can email the link to [email protected] We will provide feedback on your video if you submit one, but it won’t be part of an assessment.