A kettlebell workout for strength and health designed for busy people.
20-30 minutes twice a week. This minimalist kettlebell workout is all you need and doesn’t get in the way of life.
Finding the time to exercise is hard!
You have a busy life. Full with work, family, friends and well-earned relaxation. Finding the time to exercise can be tough.
How often have you enthusiastically started a new fitness regime only to struggle and fail when life got in the way?
Back to the square one. No fitter. No healthier. And the gym or fitness class’s monthly direct debit quietly taking money out of your bank account.
Time for a new approach. No frills. No beach body promises.
Just the essential exercise needed. Enough to improve and maintain your health. And do it in the least amount of time.
Consistency builds health
Yo-yo exercising and yo-yo dieting are opposite sides of the same unhealthy coin.
A boom and bust training pattern is easy to fall into. A quick fix is attractive. But i
Instead, consistency builds good health. Consistently exercising and consistently eating healthily – most of the time.
To be healthy you don’t need to train like an athlete. And anyway, you don’t have the time. The truth is, training for health is more tortoise than hare – s
training for health is more tortoise than hare – steady progress over the long haul
Progress made by consistently and intelligently training in the time you have. Not exhausting yourself. But you need to do it week in, week out.
And it’s essential you train the natural human movement patterns. And work all the muscles involved.
Train smart and train consistently and you can get all the health benefits you need from a minimum effective dose of exercise.
Leaving you time to get on with your life.
The minimum effective dose
I first came across the term minimum effective dose sitting in a pharmacology lecture. It’s the lowest dose of a drug that produces a biological response.
Somehow, I’d missed the internet storm as Tim Ferris popularised the term in his book, The 4-hour body. Tim Ferris’s thinking is doing any more than the minimum effective dose is wasteful. Because the law of diminishing returns means any more effort isn’t matched by equal gains.
in health, the gulf between no exercise and consistent minimum effective dose is huge
Not quite true to the pharmacological origins of the term nor where I’m coming from. What I’m talking about is the lowest dose of the drug (exercise) that produces a biological response (strengthens and maintains your body). Yes, do more and you’ll get faster and greater gains. But do you have the time? If you don’t, the minimum effective dose is what you need to keep you healthy.
Because in health, the gulf between no exercise and a consistent minimum effective dose is huge.
But the training you choose determines the time it takes to achieve that dose. And no tool delivers a minimum effective dose in less time than a kettlebell.
The objectives of the minimum effective dose kettlebell workout
The kettlebell minimum effective dose is designed for busy people like you. The objectives are simple.
- fewest sessions per week
- shortest training time
- consistent training
- real health benefits
20-30 minutes twice a week is all you’ll need. And if you own a kettlebell, you don’t even need to leave the house.
- Good mobility
- Strong legs and back
- Cardiovascular capacity
The three exercises
The Turkish get-up, hardstyle swings and the goblet squat. They’re the foundation of kettlebell training. And to get the best results safely, think of them as skills, not exercises. Skills you need to learn and then practice mindfully.
A few sessions with an experienced instructor is a solid investment. Learning good technique from the outset will set you up for steady progress without injury.
The Turkish get-up is the classic kettlebell movement flow. From the ground to standing and back down again with a kettlebell overhead. Or vice-versa if it takes your fancy!
Grey Cook, founder of Functional Movement Systems describes the get-up as loaded yoga. And that’s not a bad description.
It’s a full-body, mobility, balance, and stability exercise. The get-up unpicks the damage done by our seated lifestyle. And it restores proper shoulder function and overhead reach. Something we all need help with.
Learn more about the Turkish Get-up here
Hardstyle swings are the centre of this kettlebell workout.
A ballistic hip hinge, the swing works all the muscles on the back of the body hard. And they’re the muscles that give your body its strength and power. A strong back and strong legs are the foundation of human movement and athletic health.
Swings give you the strength and cardiovascular capacity you need to enjoy an active life.
Learn more about the Hardstyle Swing here
If swings are the centre goblet squats are the finisher. A deep, flat-footed squat is a natural human movement. Add weight and it’s a challenging grind.
Goblet squats maintain this natural movement and make it strong. They strengthen the thighs and arms and balance the posterior strength the swings develop.
Learn more about the Goblet Squat here
The Turkish get-up, the hardstyle swing and the goblet squat. It’s a powerful combination. And I didn’t invent it. The three foremost hardstyle kettlebell organisations StrongFirst, DragonDoor and StrengthMatters all combine them in some shape or form.
Kettlebell minimum effective dose – the workout
Twice a week with at least two days between each session.
Turkish Get-ups (7½ – 10 minutes)
5 get-ups with each arm
- Perform your get-ups on alternating sides starting with your weaker side
- A get-up is a steady, methodical movement pattern. You should take at least 30 seconds to complete one repetition
- Pause between reps and refocus before continuing.
2 reps right and left unweighted (your warm-up)
3 reps right and left with a kettlebell. Choose a kettlebell you can comfortably hold overhead for a full minute.
Two-handed hardstyle swings (5 minutes)
5 x 10-20 two handed swings
- Begin with a kettlebell you can swing for ten reps with good form
- Aim for 5 x 10 swings per set to start with
- Rest for as long as you need between sets
- Progressively reduce your rest time until you can perform a set every minute for 5 minutes
- Continue to perform a set every minute, but steadily increase the number of reps per set
- When you can comfortably manage 5 x 20 swings in 5 minutes, it’s time for a heavier kettlebell
Goblet squat (5 minutes)
5sets x 5-10 reps
- Use the same kettlebell as your swings
- Start with 5×5 reps with as much rest between sets as you need
- Gradually reduce your rest breaks until you’re can manage one set every minute
- Continue to perform a set every minute, but bit by bit increase the number of reps per set to 10
Tweaking the workout
This kettlebell workout will deliver. If you train the minimum effective dose twice a week it will keep you strong and mobile for years to come. But…
Increasing the training frequency or time
You might have a week or two, or even a few months when you’ve more time to train. You could push for more strength, mobility or endurance gains.
So you could,
- Increase training frequency to 3 times a week. Be sure you have at least one day off between sessions. If you have time for a fourth session, don’t. Instead, mix in some other light training, for example, jogging or jump rope.
- Increase the number of sets you do of each exercise.
- You can do up to 5 get-ups with a kettlebell on each side (maximum of 7 including the warm-ups). If you could comfortably do more it’s time for a heavier kettlebell
- You can do up to 20 sets of 20 swings. High volume swings really boost your cardiovascular capacity and burn fat.
- 5 sets of 10 goblet squats are enough. Instead of doing more, use a heavier kettlebell.
And when life gets busy and time gets short, drop back to the minimum effective dose and you’ll hold on to the gains you’ve made.
And if you have the kettlebell skills you can add in variations to mix it up. You could add some presses to your get-up. Or you could swap two hand swings for one hand swings or even snatches or cleans. Or add in d
A last word before you pick up a kettlebell
Don’t overdo it. Feel free to do more if you have the time. Varying the amount you do each week is a positive choice. But keep your sessions short. Walk away energised, not exhausted. This is a kettlebell workout designed to keep you healthy and let you get on with your life.
But always get two short sessions in every week…
…consistency is the key to the kettlebell minimum effective dose.
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Hi, I’m Ralph. I’ve been training with kettlebells for over 10 years and certified as a StrongFirst instructor in 2015. And I’ve been teaching kettlebells ever since.
Why StrongFirst? Because StrongFirst sets the standard for Hardstyle kettlebell instructor certification.