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Build Ballistic Strength With This Kettlebell Complex

A man completing a kettlebell complex workout.

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Kettlebell complexes are compact workouts that enable you to cram lots of exercise into a constricted time frame. The exercises are typically organised into a sequence of ‘flow.’ This facilitates training efficiency as you can progress through the line up of exercises without pausing.

It’s this quality of kettlebell complex that makes them ideal for those with a busy schedule.

The workout below can be polished off in under 30 minutes. And if that’s too long for you, there’s the option of cutting the complex down to 20 or even 10 minutes. (I outline a few ideas of how to tailor the workout in the hints and tips section below.)

Equipped with this kettlebell complex, you’ve got no excuses to skip your daily sweat session. With a single kettlebell and a bit of space, you can do this complex.

Related: Best rated Competition Kettlebell
Competition kettlebell affiliate link.

Kettlebell complex workout benefits

As well as being time-sensitive (a benefit for some), kettlebell complexes help boost muscle endurance. Because training volume is high (which is why it’s best to use a light bell), you can keep your muscles actively engaged for the duration of the workout. Watson tells us that ‘volume training’ is the most effective method for enhancing muscle endurance (Physical Fitness & Athletic Performance).

The workout also possesses the capacity to improve cardio conditioning. If you keep your foot to the floor throughout the complex, your heart will have to work harder to fuel output. An oft-overlooked attribute of kettlebells, Pavel Tsatsouline states that K-bells are a powerful tool for promoting aerobic fitness (and burning fat).

But what if I want to build strength and not muscle endurance?

Due to its adaptability, you can tailor the complex to focus on that component of fitness. For example, by increasing the poundage (kettlebell weight) and decreasing the training volume (reducing repetitions and taking more rest), the kettlebell complex will promote strength while also developing muscle mass.

Related: Need advice on selecting the right kettlebell weight?

Kettlebell complex key outcomes

So, to sum up, the fitness benefits. If you can make room in your routine for this complex, you can expect some of the following outcomes:

  • Increased muscle endurance

  • Full body workout

  • Activation of all the major muscle groups (some twice over)

  • Improved aerobic conditioning

  • Enhanced functional fitness

How to do this kettlebell complex workout

The exercises are arranged into a bottom-up progression. That is, lower leg muscles are engaged first, followed by the glutes, core, lower and upper back, arms, and finally the entire posterior chain.

Simple complexes that observe a logical structure improve transition efficiency between exercises. In addition to making the workout easier to follow, a logical structure also enables you to eke more reps out of each cycle. How? For the simple fact that you will spend less time flitting from one station to the next.

You can tackle the complex from two different angles.

Repetition ladder

First up is the classic repetition ladder. A simple yet effective training approach, the objective is to climb up and then down the ladder as quickly as possible. Starting at the first rung, you will complex one rep on exercise as you progress through the complex.

At this stage, you’ll think the workout is too easy and you’ll be itching to do more. My advice is to cool your enthusiasm – at least until you climb to rung five. At this point, the workout quickly starts heating up. When you reach rung 10, shake off, knock back a glug of water, and then begin the climb down.

Timed stations

Your second option involves timed stations. In contrast to scaling a repetition ladder, there’s a lot less going on here. After setting a 60-second countdown timer, your aim is to perform as many reps as possible before the time elapses.

The moment it does, you are to move on to the next exercise. Repeat this process until you have completed the complex. Once you’ve cycled through the list of exercises, either take a short break or, after completing the five minutes of cardio, jump straight back into another round.

One cycle of the complex takes approximately six minutes. Of course, this depends on how long you rest between stations. The number of cycles has not been stipulated. Just keep going until you’ve had your fill.

Related: Try these Kettlebell Circuits

Kettlebell complex workout key points

  • Prepare your body and mind for the workout with the warm-up below.

  • Once you’ve organised your training arena (a kettlebell and slice of space), select your preferred approach. They are:

  • Option 1) Repetition ladder – climb up and down the ladder in the shortest time possible.

  • Option 2) Timed stations – for 60 seconds, aim to amass as many reps as possible on an exercise before progressing to the next on the list.

  • Observe correct form at all times and remember to prioritise quality lifting over quantity lifting.

  • Rest as and when you need to.

Warm up

5 minutes rowing → 30 seconds kettlebell swings → 1 minute row → 30 seconds kettlebell swings → 1 minute row → 30 seconds kettlebell swings → 1 minute row → 30 seconds kettlebell swings → Get going!

A woman completing a kettlebell complex workout.

A man completing a kettlebell complex workout.

Kettlebell complex workout hints and tips

When you’re in the thick of a workout, it’s easy to lose your position in the complex. This is especially likely if you select the repetition ladder. Was it 5 reps of swings or snatches? And when you’re in flow, focusing intently on executing perfect form, it’s irritating to stop to open your phone every time you forget which exercise is next. There are two simple ways to avoid this.

First, print off a copy of the plan and place it directly in front of your feet. A printed plan is also useful for making notes of your scores and performances.

Second, for those who are trying to embrace a paperless society, chalk the exercises on the floor or a wall. (This is acceptable practice in most CrossFit gyms. But dare to graffiti the floor at David Lloyd’s and you’ll likely be excommunicated.)

The backbone of the complex is comprised of kettlebell exercises. But if you want to diversify the workout, you can integrate other exercises into the plan. For example, you could boost muscle endurance gains by slotting bodyweight movements between the kettlebell stations.

Alternatively, you could stimulate the heart and burn a few extra calories by bolting a cardio finisher at the end of every cycle. What might this look like? On completing the six kettlebell exercises, run, row, skip, or cycle for five minutes. (Here's why we should always squeeze cardio exercise into our workouts.)


Enjoyed this kettlebell complex?

Get your hands on 80 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 3.

Kettlebell complex workout concludes with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits 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 at

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