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Why All Bodybuilders Should Start Using Kettlebells

Why All Bodybuilders Should Start Using Kettlebells

Written by
April 9, 2015
Updated May 15, 2020

Whether you are currently a bodybuilder or beginning to train like one, there are a few things you must consider. Are you looking to add mass? Or are you already in the bulking stage and trying to lean out for contest preparation? If you are trying to add mass, there are some bodybuilding exercises that are a must:

  • Bench Press
  • Close Grip Bench Press
  • Incline Bench Press
  • Pull Ups
  • Dips
  • Push Ups
  • Behind The Neck Press
  • Military Press
  • Deadlifts
  • Bent Over Rows
  • T-Bar Rows
  • One Arm Rows
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Stiff Legged Deadlifts
  • Good Mornings
  • Bicep Curls
  • Tricep Extension

All of the above mentioned exercises can be done with kettlebells, even T-Bar Rows, which are one of my favorites. Adding mass is crucial to a bodybuilder, but that isn’t what it’s all about. Symmetry and proportion are also key components to an award winning physique.

Onnit Kettlebell Starter KitBringing Up The Rear With Bodybuilding

This may sound like I’m referring to the posterior chain, but what I’m actually talking about is addressing the lagging body parts or muscles that are slow to respond. We are all born with the same anatomy, but genetics plays a big role in our body type. How you are judged during a bodybuilding and/or figure competition is greatly dependent upon your genetics.

  1. Mesomorph
    Someone who builds muscle easily.
  2. Ectomorph
    Someone who is leaner naturally and has a harder time adding muscle mass.
  3. Endomorph
    Someone who has more body fat and has a harder time adding muscle or leaning out.

Everyone has the same exact muscle groups, but mother nature doesn’t always play fair. Some of us have to work much harder than others to build up our glutes and hamstrings or to get quad separation. While adding upper body muscle mass in the shoulders and back can be extremely difficult for many women.

This is important as a competitor, because creating a V taper gives the illusion of a smaller waist and hips. Some people become muscular fast and lean out even faster while others have a difficult time adding muscle at all or getting lean. You should already understand what body type you have. I for example, am an ectomorph. It took me many years of squatting very heavy, 225 lbs to be exact, to get my entire body to respond.

Squats will make your entire body grow. As I trained heavy the muscles in my upper body, like my back and shoulders, became rounder from supporting the weight across my back. These are big muscles in the sport of Figure and bodybuilding where they really address symmetry and proportion. Lean but not to lean. Muscular but not too muscular. Defined, but not to defined. Everything must be perfect.

No matter how good you look nobody is ever really perfect. We all have to strive to achieve the desired leanness, amount of muscle mass and stage presence to take home a trophy. Figure is very different from bodybuilding. The judges do not want to see as much separation as they do in bodybuilding. This can be frustrating and confusing but in bodybuilding it’s cut and dry.

  • Mass
  • Symmetry
  • Proportion
  • Hard
  • Defined

How Bodybuilders Get Ripped For The Stage

Bringing Up The Rear With Bodybuilding
Diet is about 75% of getting body fat low enough to take the stage, but how do you train? Adding kettlebells is the perfect way to get shredded for the stage. In my entire career competing in Figure I always did it the same way. Early AM cardio, for an hour on an empty stomach, and afternoon weight training.

I relied on my cardio and diet to expose the majority of definition that I needed for the stage, but it wasn’t until 2007 when I added kettlebells into my training. This would be the last time that I would stand on stage as a National level competitor in the NPC and the highest I had ever placed at the nationals.

I was leaner and more defined than ever in my entire career as a Figure competitor and happier with my results. Even though I never turned pro, this was the best I looked and felt all due to my kettlebell training. I had achieved the exact look I wanted and never stepped foot in the weight room or onto a boring set of revolving stairs.

Here is my exact workout from the USA’s in 2007. The last two weeks before the show I added two forty minute sessions of treadmill incline walking to tighten my glutes due to water retention. I did a lot of Swings, Cleans, Push Presses, Deadlifts and Lunges.

Kettlebell Bombshell Bodybuilding Basics

These are suggestions of various unconventional methods I use for bodybuilding or figure training. Mix and match as much as you would like to create the workouts that will best help you achieve your goals.

  • 2 Hand Kettelbell Swings – 4 sets x 25 reps
  • Kettlebell Suitcase Deadlifts – 3 sets with 2 x 20lb kettlebells for 12-15 reps.
  • Kettlebell Romanian Deadlifts – 3 sets with 2 x 20lb kettlebells for 12-15 reps.
  • Kettlebell Threaded Lunges Walking Forward – 3 sets x 20 reps (perform this like a figure 8 going through the inner thigh passing it around to the outside.)
  • Kettlebell Clean Squat Push-Press – 3 sets with 2 x 20 kettlebells for 15 reps.
  • Push-ups on Kettlebells – 3 sets x 10 reps (from knees to modify.)
  • Kettlebell Bent over rows – 3 sets with 2 x 20 lb kettlebells for 12-15 reps.
  • Kettlebell Renegade Rows – 3 sets x 10-15 reps (each side) with 16 kgs.
  • Kettlebell SeasSaw Presses – 2 sets with 16 kgs for 20 reps total.
  • Weighted Dips – 3 sets x 20-30 reps.
  • Weighted Pull Ups – 3 sets  x 15 reps.
  • Kettlebell Military Press – 3 sets x 20 reps with 14 kgs-24 kgs.
  • Kettlebell Clean Squat Push Press – 3 sets x 15 reps with 16 kgs-24 kgs.
  • Kettlebell Stiff Legged Deadlifts – 3 sets x 20 reps with 16 kgs-32 kgs.
  • Kettlebell Pull Overs – 3 sets x 15-20 reps with 16 kgs-24 kgs.
  • Kettlebell Chest Press – 3 sets x 15 reps with 16 kgs-32 kgs.
  • Kettlebell One Arm Rows – 3 sets x 15 reps per side with 20 kg-32 kgs or heavier.
  • Kettlebell Racked Squats – 3 sets x 20 reps with 2 x 16 kg-2 x 24 kgs.
  • Kettlebell Wood Chopper Lunges – 3 sets x 20 reps with 12 kgs-16 kgs (not necessary to do these heavy.)
  • Kettlebell Floor Presses – Slow and controlled 3 count up and down 20 reps total with 16 kgs-24 kgs.
Lisa Balash has been a top Pilates and Kettlebell trainer in Las Vegas, NV since 2003. Lisa opened her studio Elite Physiques in 2008 and is currently training a variety of clients. Lisa still enjoys being an athlete herself and competes in Kettlebell Sport. She has released two instructional DVDs, Kettlebell Bombshell Vol. 1 and 2, which include 6 follow along workouts. These DVD’s have gotten rave reviews and were #26 on Amazon’s top 100 list. Lisa is also an ambassador for FitFluential and ReebokONE.
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