Updated: Nov 18
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If you’re looking for a simple workout that promotes full-body functional fitness, this one’s for you. With just a single kettlebell, your bodyweight, and a training mat (and this workout of course!), you’ll have all the tools you need to build functional strength and muscle endurance. All while sculpting a lean, defined physique that will perform as good as it looks.
Another attribute of this kettlebell and bodyweight workout, besides the many fitness benefits it delivers, is the staggering range of customisable options. I talk more about this in the hints and tips section below, but just a quick peek. As well as being suitable for all levels of fitness, you can tailor the workout for a training goal – such as weight loss or improved sports performance.
Below I’ve briefly outlined the key intended fitness outcomes. If your training aim is nonspecific – just want to get all-round fit – you could skip straight to the workout. If, however, your aim is specific, for example, you want to develop strength, it might be worth reading over the benefits as I explain how the workout can be adjusted to emphasise a component of fitness.
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Kettlebell and bodyweight workout training outcomes
The workout has been designed to deliver two fitness outcomes. The first is functional strength. Not to be confused with maximal strength, the functional prefix is defined as the ability to ‘handle’ your ‘bodyweight in all planes of movement’ while maintaining control of the resistance object that you're lifting (Advances in Functional Training).
Kettlebells are a superlative tool for training functional strength. A consequence of the way they destabilise the body during the exercise, which typically transitions through multiple planes of movement. But what if you want to focus more on enhancing strength?
To adapt the workout to align with this aim, increase the kettlebell weight (or double up) and decrease the training volume (reduce the reps and take more rest).
Related: Need a Strength Training Program?
The second fitness outcome is muscle endurance – which Wilmore and Costill argue is an important attribute as many activities ‘depend on your muscles’ ability to repeatedly develop and sustain near-maximal or maximal forces,’ (Physiology Of Sport And Exercise). Combining bodyweight exercises with a high-volume training method – such as circuits and AMRAPs – makes for a near-perfect endurance-enhancing recipe.
A secondary benefit of this combination is sharpened muscular definition. It’s not up for debate, performing lots of press-ups, burpees, and squat thrusts helps to toast calories while triggering muscle growth. (If your training aim is to sculpt a cut physique, throw in a few HIIT skipping bouts.)
Now we’ve reviewed the chief training outcomes, it’s time to turn our attention to the workout.
Relevant: When you're done here, get started on this 6 Week Kettlebell Program
How to do this kettlebell and bodyweight workout
I’ll be straight with you, I couldn’t make up my mind about which training method to apply to this workout. The problem I found was that the exercises work well with multiple training methods. Before committing, I tried three different approaches to see which one yielded the best training experience. These approaches included the AMRAP, repetition ladder, and circular circuit.
The second problem: I couldn’t decide which method to use as they all provided a great workout. However, this was easily resolved. As I couldn’t choose, I created three workouts around each method. Here’s how they work.
Option 1) Repetition ladder
The objective, of course, is to ascend and then descend the ladder. First, you will perform one rep on each exercise in the list. Then you’ll go back to the start and perform two reps . . . and so on until you reach the final rung. At which point you’ll do it all in reverse. There are three levels to choose from.
Level 1: 1 up to 10 then 10 down to 1
Level 2: 1 up to 12 then 12 down to 1
Level 3: 1 up to 15 then 15 down to 1
Option 2) AMRAP
After setting a countdown timer for either 2, 3 or 5 minutes, aim to amass as many reps as possible on exercise one. Once the time elapses, make a note of your score before treating yourself to a minute’s rest. Repeat this process until you have a rep total for all ten exercises.
Option 3) Circuit
The exercises are organised in a traditional circular circuit (or loop). I’ve opted for timings instead of reps. Why? With a fixed time, you are able to focus more on performance as opposed to keeping count and trying to recall which number you were on. So, before starting the circuit, set a repeat time for 30, 45, or 60 seconds. Try, if you can, reserving your rest until after completing one full lap.
Workout key points
Complete the warm-up before starting the workout.
Select the preferred training option. They are:
Option 1: Repetition ladder – after selecting the level, ascend then descend the ladder in the shortest time possible.
Option 2: AMRAP – Set a countdown timer for 3, 4, or 5 minutes and attempt to accumulate as many reps as possible.
Option 3: Circular circuit – decide on the station duration (30, 45, or 60 seconds), the circumnavigate the loop of kettlebell and bodyweight exercises.
Good warm up exercises
1 min mobility exercises → 5 min low-intensity cardio (jog, skip or cycle) → 10 reps air squats and press-ups → 3 min medium intensity cardio (jog, skip or cycle) → 10 reps press-ups and swings → 2 min high-intensity cardio (jog, skip or cycle) → 10 reps swings and thrusters → Start the workout.
Kettlebell and bodyweight workout hints and tips
An effective way to boost training motivation is to enlist a fitness friend to compete against. This tried and tested tactic is tailor-made for workouts one and two. Place a small wager on who can climb up and down the repetition ladder first. Or the person that amasses the least reps across the ten stations has to buy the winner a copy of the Hungry4Fitness Book of Workouts Volume 3. Just a thought.
Because the aim of the workouts is to develop physical functionality, they have been designed to be completed with a single light to moderate-weight kettlebell. But, if you want to modify the plans to emphasise strength, select a heavy bell or use two. However, if you do go heavy, I advise toning down the training volume and factoring in longer rest periods.
Related: Need advice on selecting the right Kettlebell Weights?
Enjoyed this workout?
Then get your hands on 80 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 3.
About Adam Priest –
A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and wellbeing practitioner. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam via LinkedIn or firstname.lastname@example.org.