Kettlebells: Weights and Progression Part 1 (Presses, Rows, Cleans)

Let me begin by re-emphasizing my non-certified, non-expert, sample-of-one status regarding physical fitness.  The content of this post has worked for me thus far.  If something changes I will update this post as appropriate.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Adding weight before you are ready may cause injury which necessitates a pause, recovery, weakness, and wasting time as you cover the same ground again.  The below process is SLOW but I have had no issues with injuries and I am currently working through it with a 32kg kettlebell en route to doubles.

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Internet research points to kettlebells traditionally weighing 16kg, 24kg, and 32kg.  The U.S. being a marketing culture we can now buy weights between the traditional such as 18kg, 20kg, 26kg, 30kg etc.  This marketing culture also contributed to martial arts, upon arriving into the U.S., suddenly having many more belt ranks than they traditionally did.  In order to progress you pay for the test and pay for the belt — everyone makes money.  People in the U.S. love to spend money and love to feel like they are making progress.  The world of kettlebells, like the world of martial arts, has responded to the demand of the market.

Sometimes my mindset is “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”  As such I do not own any of the in-between weight kettlebells.  If I want to work up to lifting a 24kg kettlebell I need to lift a 16kg kettlebell — a lot.  If I want to work up to lifting a 32kg kettlebell I need to lift a 24kg kettlebell — a lot.

Your question: 

In the traditional kettlebell weights of 16kg, 24kg, and 32kg, how do I know when I am ready to move up in weight or transition to double kettlebell work?

My Answer: 

Three sets of 12 repetitions with a four-second negative and a 2-3 minute rest between sets.

The goal:

Military Press two 24kg kettlebells.

The start point:

Military Press one 16kg kettlebell.

To determine initial strength military press a single 16kg kettlebell for as many repetitions as possible using your weak side.  Take this number and remove 25%.  This will be your base number.

Beginning at your next session at least once per week, preferably twice, on non-consecutive days, perform three sets of your base number of repetitions with a four-second negative on your weak side first then on your strong side.  Take a 2-3 minute rest between sets.  Once you can complete three sets with your base number of repetitions with a four-second negative add one repetition to your next session.  Continue this process adding one repetition to your next session until you can perform three sets of 12 repetitions with a four-second negative and a 2-3 minute break between sets.

You will now begin double kettlebell work using two 16kg kettlebells.  Your new base number is two.  At least once per week, preferably twice, on non-consecutive days, perform three sets of two repetitions with a four-second negative and a 2-3 minute rest between sets.  Once you can complete three sets of two repetitions with a four-second negative add one repetition to your next session.   Continue this process adding one repetition to your next session until you can perform three sets of 12 repetitions with a four-second negative and a 2-3 minute break between sets.

You will now begin single kettlebell work with a 24kg kettlebell.  Your new base number is two.  At least once per week, preferably twice, on non-consecutive days, perform three sets of two repetitions with a four-second negative on your weak side first then on your strong side.  Take a 2-3 minute rest between sets.  Once you can complete three sets of two repetitions with a four-second negative add one repetition to your next session.  Continue this process adding one repetition to your next session until you can perform three sets of 12 repetitions with a four-second negative and a 2-3 minute break between sets.

You will now begin double kettlebell work using two 24kg kettlebells.  Your new base number is two.  At least once per week, preferably twice, on non-consecutive days, perform three sets of two repetitions with a four-second negative and a 2-3 minute rest between sets.  Once you can complete three sets of two repetitions with a four-second negative add one repetition to your next session.   Continue this process adding one repetition to your next session until you can perform three sets of 12 repetitions with a four-second negative with a 2-3 minute break between sets.

The single to double to backing off repetitions to a heavier single to double cycle works well for me with kettlebells having an 8kg difference in weight for the exercises of military press, push press, upright rows, cleans, and floor presses.  Perform each repetition with good technique.  As you increase weight you will no-longer be able to muscle-through bad technique.  I discovered this with the 32kg.  Nothing identifies flaws in technique quicker than heavy weight.  🙂  In the future I will adapt this methodology as a way of transitioning from exercises that use leg drive such as the push-press to exercises that do not such as the sots press.

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