Can You Become Super Fit With Just a Full-Body Kettlebell Workout?

Can You Become Super Fit With Just a Full-Body Kettlebell Workout?
Presented by Spartan Training®

This is how I came to truly appreciate a full-body Spartan kettlebell workout.

Every year since I was young, my family has celebrated my grandma’s birthday at my aunt and uncle’s cabin. It’s something I always look forward to. I have a lot of fond memories of the cabin from my childhood, and it’s great being able to relive those memories now with my kids.

I love it. My kids love it. My family loves it.

The only issue is that it typically falls right before a big race. Every year now, it seems, I have to decide if I’m going to miss a workout or try to fit one in early. Most years I’ll just train before heading out, but I wasn’t able to do that this year.

Feeling destined to miss training that day, I grudgingly helped my wife load the car. At the last minute, I decided to throw my 32 kg kettlebell and a pair of running shoes into the trunk. I figured I might just get an opportunity to sneak a quick workout in.

Related: Why Is This Man Carrying a Kettlebell?

As the afternoon progressed, everyone was having a blast. I had been playing with the kids in the pool for a while, but now they wanted to get out and have a snack. I figured if I was going to get any training in, it was now or never.

I dried off, grabbed my keys, and went out to the car. I threw my shoes on and went for a quick 20-minute run down to the beach and back. When I got back up the hill and to the car, I pulled out my kettlebell and did some swings, goblet squats, and presses.

This full-body kettlebell workout was quick and simple. And it was one of the most enjoyable training sessions I’d had in a while.

There was something about being “stuck” with this one piece of equipment that I loved. It really simplified my training. There was a lot I couldn’t do and because of that, I just stuck with what would give me the biggest bang for my buck.

Related: These Playlists From Trainers and Coaches Will Get You Through Every Kind of Workout

Having a solid training session with only one kettlebell in a beautiful environment was enlightening. It made me question why I had all that other stuff in our gym. Barbells, sandbags, plyo boxes, and rings are fantastic — and absolutely add value to your training — but what if all it took to become a great obstacle racer was a pair of shoes and a single kettlebell?

I wanted to find out.

Simple, Fast, Effective: Full-Body Spartan Kettlebell Workout

I played around with the original kettlebell workout for a while by adjusting the reps for each exercise. I also felt that combining the kettlebell weights with shorter-run intervals made more sense for obstacle course racing purposes. Eventually, I put something together that I liked.

Five rounds:

  1. 200-meter run
  2. Kettlebell clean and press × 2 on each side
  3. Goblet squat × 5
  4. Two-handed kettlebell swing × 20
  5. Rest 2 minutes

Note: When I say swing, I’m referring to the hip-dominant hardstyle kettlebell swing. With this method, the bell is projected forward up to chest height, as opposed to the American swing, where the bell is swung all the way overhead. For a variety of reasons, I believe the hardstyle swing is the better approach for a Spartan racer.

The full-body kettlebell workout is short but intense. And I love it.

It was so enjoyable and effective (my time for each round was improving, as were my race results) that I wanted more. I fell in love with this idea of simply grabbing a kettlebell and heading somewhere new to train. I began scouring our training logs for workouts that fit the bill. I wanted options for when I wanted to grab a kettlebell and go. After trying quite a few different workouts, some of which worked well, some of which didn’t, here are three of my favorites.

One-Handed Spartan Kettlebell Swing Intervals

Not only does this workout improve endurance, but it also increases your grip strength. While the two-handed swing is great for developing power, the one-handed variation is the better grip builder. You’ll do a lot fewer burpees out on the course after incorporating this workout into your training.

Related: This One-Exercise Workout Burns 400 Calories

5–10 rounds:

  1. 30 seconds one-handed swing with left hand
  2. 30 seconds rest
  3. 30 seconds one-handed swing with right hand
  4. 30 seconds rest

Short, simple, and effective.

One-Arm Flying Eagle

This is a full-body Spartan kettlebell workout we’ve been using in our gym for a while. It’s based on Dan John’s “Eagle” challenge, which combines farmer walks with kettlebell front squats. While Dan’s challenge requires two kettlebells, ours requires just one. This workout is another fantastic grip builder and also improves mental toughness as you fight to not put the weight down.

3–5 rounds with each hand:

  1. Suitcase carry 20 meters with left hand
  2. One-arm front squat × 1
  3. Suitcase carry 20 meters with left hand
  4. One-arm front squat × 2
  5. Suitcase carry 20 meters with left hand
  6. One-arm front squat × 3
  7. Put kettlebell down and immediately begin the circuit with your right hand

Note: A suitcase carry is a farmer walk with a weight in just one hand.

Work Capacity Circuit

If you want to work on your conditioning but can’t get a run in, this “work capacity” circuit is a great option. The goal of this session is to stay aerobic while getting in as many reps as possible. The beauty of it is that it allows you to get in a great aerobic workout in a confined space. Sure, you could do burpees for 45 minutes, but this is likely a better option.

15–45 minutes of:

  1. Clean with left hand
  2. Press with left hand
  3. One-arm front squat with left hand
  4. One-handed swing with left hand
  5. Park the kettlebell, recover, repeat with the right hand

Remember, the goal is to stay under your aerobic threshold the entire workout. Rest as much as you need to between rounds to make sure you do.

These three workouts are fun and challenging, and they can be done absolutely anywhere. Try them at the trails or at a park you haven’t been to in a while. Bring your kettlebell to the beach, or sneak in a training session during your kid’s little league practice. Get outside of your usual training environment, and you’ll be surprised at how fun and effective these simple workouts can be.

Athletes I coach online often ask me what kind of equipment or gym membership they’ll need. Having access to a full gym is fantastic. But I’m starting to think all you really need to become a great obstacle course racer is a pair of shoes and a full-body kettlebell workout.

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