Kettlebells: Movements, Rules, & Structure

Kettlebells, The Movements, The Rules, The Structure

The movements and rules relate specifically to the kettle bell classes I teach at Apple Computers. Each morning, Monday-Friday I teach one Kettlebell class for Apple employees, their families and contractors alike. This class is 45 minutes in length and is open to anyone. There is no levels, there is no intro, beginners classes, etc. This makes things a bit tricky as I can have a highly skilled kettlebell athlete and a newbie. Therefore I devised a system that could easily allow and adapt for whatever comes my way. Classes vary between an average of 15 students up to 24 students.

The 5 core movements

The Other Kettlebell Movements
Renegade Row
Turkish Get Up
Floor Press
Side press
Swing Squat
Deck squat
1 leg Deadlift
Arm Bar
Bottoms Up Clean
Bottoms Up Press
Bottoms Up Squat
Overhead Squat
Farmers Carry
Rack Holds
Overhead Holds

Other movements:
We have no pull-up bars, no barbells, etc. So we have basic gymnastic movements and of course Kettlebells at are disposal. We use a good variety of core based gymnastic movements combining static holds with dynamic movements including:

hollow body hold
hollow body rock
hollow to superman
boat pose
Front Lever or ‘leg lifts’
Planks and variations
Pikes (sliders)
Jack Knifes (sliders)

Why no Turkish Get Up as a core movement, because my classes despise them and I do not think them essential but do believe they are an excellent movement. I ask the class to do 5 reps on each side in the warm up.

General Rules of Thumb for the Grinds aka Squat & Press
Complete 5 reps of 5 sets/side

once you can do this move up one bell size and aim for

3 reps of 8 sets/side

General Rule of Thumb for Swings
2 Hand Swing
Start with 2 hand swing.
Complete 20 reps for 5 sets. General is 100 swings minimum/workout. Class average is 100


1 Arm Swing
Complete 10 reps x 5 sets/arm of the 1 arm swing

If you can successfully do this, then we introduce the snatch.

Base goal is 5 reps x 5 sets/arm.

Next Steps:
From here we simple work bell size, reps/set, sets, time components for all the movements.

Other Rules, Etc.
Bell Size:
We have limited number of bell sizes for the class. The class can hold up to 21 people so we sometimes have to share or adapt to a different weight, lighter or heavier.

Double Bells:
We love double bell work. Ideally reserved for more advanced athletes, those comfortable with the 5 basics and add in the Renegade Row. The doubles serve as a great variation on the 5 Core moves and open many more options in terms of complexes and loading schemes relative to the body.

These are brilliant and the bells lend to making these an important part of the programming. We do a lot of couplet based complexes such as Clean Press, Thrusters, Squat Cleans and even triplet based such as clean squat press. But the possibilities extend far beyond this and here are some more convoluted examples. Note these can be done with one or 2 bells.

Man Makers (row, row, hop forward, clean thruster, hop back and repeat).
Swing, Clean Thrusters
Swing, Clean, Snatch
Snatch Thrusters
Crawl, Man Makers
Crawl, Row, Swings

There are many more to add to this. the key from my perspective is to find a flow and rhythm while being creative.

Shoes, Gloves, Wristbands:
No Shoes unless Chuck Taylors, Nanos, or other hard sole flat shoes. My classes all go barefoot.
Why Gloves are frowned upon, if it keeps people coming to class then so be it. These are working professionals not professional athletes. I will say no gloves help give a better grip.
Wristbands, same with gloves. If you know the technique you should not need wristbands.

All classes use time to help manage work to rest ratios and relative intensity. Students are encouraged to work within their capabilities, being sure to observe the first rule of being safe and effective.

On the minute
Tabata: 20 sec work, 10 sec rest x 8 rounds
30sec/30sec work to rest
15sec/15sec work to rest

Class Structure:
Students do their own warm up as most arrive early.

Recommended Kettlebell based warmups include:
Turkish Get Up/5 reps a side
Windmill/5 reps a side
Halo/8 reps per direction

First Part: The Grinds/Strength, Cleans, Presses, Squats and Rows

Clean & Press/OTM/1 Bell/3-5 reps a side/5-10 sets
Squats/OTM/1 Bell/3-5 reps a side/5-10 sets
-less reps equals more weight and vice versa

Second Part: Ballistics/Strength & Conditioning
Advanced Athletes:
Snatch/OTM/1 bell/5-8 reps a side/10-15 sets

Beginners: 2 Options
2 Hand Swing/OTM/1 bell/20 reps/10-15 sets
1 Arm Swing/OTM/1 bell/5-10 reps a side/10-15 sets

Third Part: Core or Burner aka WOD

Example: Tabata of 2 movements (alternate)
Hollow Body Rocks

This is my general layout and approach and all within 45 minutes. I have been sharing our workouts on various social media forms so I hope you enjoy. Any questions please reach out.

kettlebell workout

kettlebell workout

Kettlebell ComplexesAdvanced Class Sample


The Conjugate Method & Why its Perfect for Crossfit

The conjugate method allows an athlete to breakdown a specific movement to identify weaknesses in the movement pattern and train them through special exercises that work the weaknesses in the pattern. Take the Barbell Snatch where you can work the high pull, overhead squat, snatch balance, snatch grip deadlift, muscle snatch, etc. Catalyst Athletics lists 41 different movements under the Snatch. The key is finding your weakness and applying one of these 41 movements to address it. As a Crossfit Athlete you commonly see up to 5 of these in competition Full Squat Snatch, Hang Squat Snatch, Hang Power Snatch, Power Snatch, and Overhead Squat. The conjugate system recognizes and appreciates this and allows you to train all these movements while increasing your strength and capacity in each of the movements. 

You can apply this same method to gymnastic movements and then in return apply them to strength movements. Let me give you another example, dips, military press, push press, power jerks, split jerks, handstand pushups, pull-ups, muscle ups, hollow body holds, L-Sit, toes to bar and more. All these movements have the potential to increase and support each other due to the concept of patterning. This helps in programming to allow for recognition of the weak point, train the pattern and in effect increase the overall ability of all the movements related to that pattern.
I argue that the conjugate method could be the perfect approach to Crossfit. The recognition the special exercises are crucial to increased ability, address weakness and relate to the concept that all movement is based on form, function and patterns. In training and practice execution of the movement done with precision, aka technique and skill is vital. All us pro coaches and athletes understand that when it comes to max effort time or competition day that form may indeed fly out the window as we push beyond our comfort zones reaching that 101% +. But we also understand knowing how to move, hold position, etc. under duress is crucial to success and at some point your technique/skills could be the difference between success and failure. 
When we get fatigued and move out of the proper pattern our bodies will compensate. This compensation will begin to sap our energy and effectiveness. The ability to move within a pattern to the highest quality and the understand how to train that pattern, both its weaknesses and strength under duress will only enhance our ability to succeed on game day. 
This system has produced a number of highly successful athletes and can be adapted to the individual which is key. You can set up a template, identify what is your weaknesses and plug and match accordingly. It is easier than it looks and harder than it sounds. It takes a certain humility and humble attitude to admit weaknesses and it forces the athlete to do things that often times they may not want too which could be why the weaknesses exist in the first place. Also, for the crossfit athlete it makes them often have to add in more specific work in addition to the Crossfit classes, etc.
I have only shared a general approach and philosophy. For more specifics please feel free to reach out.