Nailed It: Ass-Kicking With Nothing But a Kettlebell

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Note from TG:  Still on vacation.  Lisa dragged me zip-lining yesterday.  I almost destroyed the back of my pants.  But it ended up being so much fun!

That is all.  

Enjoy this awesome guest post by current Cressey Performance intern, James Cerbie (who happened to write THIS very popular article on push-ups a few weeks ago).


Conditioning can be boring.  Like really boring.

Just think back to high school sports, or really any level for that matter, and reflect on how many times people had you run for the sake of running.


Unless you’re a long distance runner (I currently live with two and don’t know how they do it) this was probably about as much fun as repetitively banging your head against a wall.

This isn’t to say that running doesn’t have its place (because it does), but more to bring light to the fact that there are many ways to burn fat, get in shape and all that jazz.

Furthermore, we know from experience that high intensity work (think sprints, circuits, finishers etc) is more effective than slow, steady state cardio when it comes to burning fat, building muscle, increasing VO2 max, and improving GPP.

Enter the kettlebell:  one of the greatest and most versatile pieces of equipment of all time.  It, by itself, has the ability to take your conditioning and fitness to the next level, so let’s get started.

The Movements

For the sake of today’s discussion, these are the movements you will need to be familiar with:

1.  Russian Kettlebell Swing

There are primarily two types of kettlebell swings:  Russian and American.  In the Russian swing the bell will only reach eye level, while in the American swing the bell will go all the way overhead.

We will be concerning ourselves with the former because I think it’s more user friendly, teaches the hip hinge better, and gets more out of your glutes and hamstrings:

2.  Kettlebell Goblet Squat

3.  Kettlebell Squat Jump

4.  KB Goblet Walking Lunge

5.  1-Arm Kettlebell Push Press

6.  KB Snatch

Note from TG:  as simple cue I like to use on these is to pretend as if you’re performing a KB high-pull and then the bottom of the KB should face straight a head once it hits about nipple height.  From there just think about “punching” the ceiling with a quick, explosive jab.

Look at you!  It’s like you’r Thor!

7.  1-Arm KB Reverse Lunge

The Workouts

As I mentioned above, all you need for a kickass “cardio” session is a kettlebell and your imagination.  With both of those things you can burn fat, build lean mass and take over the world.

Here are 4 variations to get you started:

1.  100-300 swings

This is about as straight forward as you could ever ask for:  pick how many swings you want to do, grab a kettlebell, and start swinging until you finish all the reps.

Side note: I’d recommend checking out THIS piece by Dan John on the 10,000-swing challenge.  It just goes to show how effective high volume swings can be.

2.  Swing and Squat/Jump Ladder

Perform the following in descending order until you hit 1.

10  kettlebell swings

10  kettlebell goblet squats or kettlebell squat jumps

9  kettlebell swings

9  kettlebell goblet squats or kettlebell squat jumps

8  kettlebell swings

8  kettlebell goblet squats or kettlebell squat jumps





1 kettlebell swing

1 kettlebell goblet squat or kettlebell squat jump

I’d recommend sticking to the swing and squat combo if you only have access to one kettlebell because you’re realistically not going to be able to jump with a heavy kettlebell (unless you wanted to do bodyweight squat jumps).

If you have access to a lighter kettlebell, and enjoy having jello legs, then give the swing and jump combo a try.  You’ll swing a heavy bell and jump with a lighter one.

3.  Squat, Press, Lunge Circuit

Complete as many rounds as you can in 8-10 minutes of the following:

15 kettlebell goblet squats

10 1-arm kettlebell push press with right arm

10 1-arm kettlebell push press with left arm

16 (8/side) kettlebell goblet walking lunge

4.  Overhead Nightmare

This variation is only for more advanced personnel that can go overhead safely.  Give THIS article by Tony a read over if you have questions concerning whether or not you should go overhead.

Perform as many rounds as possible in 6 minutes of the following:

10 kettlebell snatch on right

10 1-arm kettlebell reverse lunge on right

10 kettlebell snatch on left

10 1-arm kettlebell reverse lunge on left

Rest 1.5 min

And then go for another 3 minutes.

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully this has given you some new exercises to play with and ideas on how to put together a conditioning session with nothing but a kettlebell.  There’s honestly an infinite number of possibilities you could throw together just using the 7 exercises I gave you.

In addition, I hope it helps those of you who have really tight schedules.

Just because you can’t go to the gym for an hour, or just because you have access to limited equipment doesn’t mean you can’t get in an awesome workout.

Anyways, thanks for your time and post any questions or comments you have below.

Note from TG:  On an aside, my good friend Jen Sinkler just released an awesome new product – Lift Weights Faster – that mirrors many of the same thoughts in this article.  Ie:  Traditional cardio is about as exciting as watching NASCAR.

In it you’ll find 130+ grab-n-go workouts that will not only improve your conditioning, but also help you burn fat, possibly build a little muscle,  move better, and possibly help you look better naked…….with the lights on…..;o)

Go HERE to check it out.

About the Author

James Cerbie, CSCS, Pn1, USAW, Crossfit Level 1

James Cerbie is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, Precision Nutrition level 1 certified, USA weighlifting sports performance coach, and Crossfit Level 1 certified.  He has been blessed to work with athletes from the middle school to professional level, powerlifters, olympic lifters, and Crossfit athletes alike.  At the end of the day, James gets no greater enjoyment than seeing people improve, succeed, and achieve their goals.  He’s the owner of Rebel Performance and currently works as a strength and conditioning intern at Cressey Performance.

Come hang out with James on Facebook, Twitter, or drop him a line at Rebel Performance.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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  • David Pavkovich

    This is a really great article and resource. 2 things I teach differently is to bring the bell back into the rack position between each push press, and also, never touch knee to the ground during any lunge. The video looked slightly painful. Thank you for sharing this.

    • James Cerbie

      Hey David, glad you enjoyed the article. I’m personally a fan of limiting outside movement and keeping things as simple as possible. Which is why I don’t come all the way back to a “technical” front rack during the press. I just don’t see why I should when I’m going to have to go back to the position I’m in in the video in order to press anyways. If I was going to a kettlebell competition that’d obviously be different, but I’m not. As far as the lunge goes, there’s nothing wrong with tapping the back knee on the ground as long as the motion is controlled.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks for chiming in David, and for the insight. Really appreciate it!

  • ronellsmith

    I’ve been saying for some time that, for people who are uber-busy and who cannot commit to consistently getting to the gym, a kettlebell is one of the best pieces of equipment you can invest in.

    Thanks for the great information, James.


    • James Cerbie

      I couldn’t agree more. Glad you enjoyed the article!

  • Shane Mclean

    Nice work James. Like the swing squat/jump ladder. Use this in the past and it’s about to make a comeback thanks to you. With the KB squat jump I’ve taught this with the KB between the legs and not Goblet. Does this matter?

    • James Cerbie

      It’s kind of personal preference. I like the goblet position because I think it helps people maintain better trunk position.

  • Shelley

    Great article! This is totally unrelated, but what song is playing in the background of the first few videos?

  • Hey pal,

    Great article, sometimes we can neglect the effectiveness of some of the simplest pieces of equipment. The KB can also be a useful tool in correcting and maintaing correct movement patterns

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