Perfecting the 20 Minute Workout: Kettlebell Complex and Stationary Bike Sprints for Aggressive Fat Loss

Quick Tips

After a short breather from the blog, I’m back!  Ha, it feels good to be pecking at the keyboard again.

Hockey season has officially arrived, and my evenings are now that much busier.

The reception to my continuous posting of sample workouts has been awesome.  The feedback from readers has been amazing, so thank you for that.  I appreciate the personal emails and words of encouragement!

If you haven’t already, check out my Pinterest page, where I have begun compiling my visual versions of each of the workouts. I make them with PowerPoint, which can be time consuming and lacks visual creativity, but it can be incredibly helpful to not only read what I am talking about, but SEE it also.  You’re bound to find something on the Pinterest page that fits  you situation.  Find it and scale it to your abilities and you’ll be just fine.

As of late, I have been interested in progressing my staple kettlebell complex.

It’s the same kettlebell complex that I used for 90 days (yes, 90 days) successfully.  Of course I tweaked a few variables along the way (rest periods, reps, sets, etc), but for the most part, the complex was fairly unaltered from it’s original form.  Click the link above to find out more about that little self-experiment.

Since progression is the king of building human performance and has a great byproduct that rides along with it called FAT LOSS, I decided that I would make some simple adjustments to my staple complex-style workout.

The original complex looked like this:

Original Kettlebell Complex

My goal was to keep the workout under 20 minutes while increasing the physical demands of the work being done in that time frame.  Anything beyond 20 minutes, and I have noticed a couple of things personally…

1)  I end up going through the motions to fill the work time.


2)  I have over-worked myself and have nothing left to give for the coming day’s workouts.

You’ll know when you’re suffering from #1.  You’ll hit 30 minutes of training time and you’ll feel like you need another 30 minutes of work just to get something out of the workout, or you’ll dog your rep cadence or technique just to fill time.  The work performed loses its quality and therefore loses its effectiveness.

Most of the time, the remedy to #1 is to shorten rest periods (or incorporating no rest periods) or progressing the exercises you’re using via weight.  Simply adding weight (in small and manageable doses) to incorporate some added stress to your training session will make a 30 minute training session seem unachievable.  But this is a good thing because keeping the work highly concentrated and strict to a 20-25 minute timeframe will pay off.

Higher quality work in shorter time.

#2 on the other hand, is a serious problem more so because it affects the future.  Since losing weight in the form of fat, replacing it with useful muscle and boosting performance is all about analyzing the past, digging in during the present while looking ahead to the future… draining your battery so much that you cannot manage a workout for 2-3 days can actually work against you.

Remember, any body endeavor that you embark on takes time.  Why?  Because it’s a process.  Once you come to grips with the fact that nothing is going to change overnight, or with just one workout, you can rest your mind and keep your training sustainable.

You’ve got to be able to train, rest/recover, train over and over again.

Nobody gets rich overnight, it takes time and diligence to build wealth.  The body follows similar rules.  The accumulating results of smaller focused training efforts will deliver.  Be patient and stay the course.  You’ll be fine.

The workout…

20 Minute Kettlebell Complex

Biking.  First and foremost, notice the addition of the Schwinn Airdyne sprint at the end of the round.  Maybe I should refer to it as an “effort” versus a “sprint”, since it’s a sub-maximal 1 minute ride.  I consider myself to be a conditioned individual, so my aim was keep my pace above 80rpm.  In the first few rounds, this was easy, but I knew it wouldn’t remain that way.  By the 4th and 5th round, it’s a bitch to maintain this pace.

I chose the stationary bike as the finisher at the end of each of the rounds for a reason.

Biking is a low impact activity and requires ZERO thought.  Just push the pedals at the pace that I’ve recommended and you’re golden.  The last thing anyone needs to be doing late in a circuit, complex or work-set (when you’re sucking wind) is skill work of any kind.  Injuries lurk in this realm.

Biking is the perfect blend of low impact, low skill, high metabolic demand.  Especially considering the total system weight of the complex up to that point.

Fatigue.  Secondly, I discovered that the ascending rest period tactic was perfect.  Right from my initial testing with this kind of rest period strategy, it was perfect.  Rarely does that happen when you draw up a workout.  Something usually misses or doesn’t flow once you’re in the belly of the beast, but having the rest periods increase in length as the rounds passed was right on the money.

Ascending Rest Periods

As the fatigue escalates, so does the amount of rest.  I found that the extra 5 seconds added to each round helped tremendously with my fatigue management during each round.

You’ll find that 75 seconds seems long in the beginning, yet by the 3rd and 4th round, 85 seconds and 90 seconds passes ridiculously fast.  During your rest period, focus energy on breathing.  Inhale aggressively through your nostrils, pushing the oxygen deep into the floor of your stomach, holding for a fraction of a second, then exhaling through your mouth.  Breathe deep into your belly, not your chest and neck.  

Nasal breathing for recovery is getting some headlines as of late, but this is an advanced tactic that takes courage (to be honest).  That’s not to say it cannot be practiced and successfully integrated into your training, just simply that’s its advanced and probably unnecessary for most people if you like to prioritize.

It sounds funny to say that breathing takes courage, but until you attempt to breathe with your mouth locked shut at 80-85% of your max heart rate, you may not understand.  It’s not a comforting sensation feeling like the air isn’t coming, which is similar to what a person experiences during an asthma attack.

Metabolic style training of any kind is designed to stress the muscles and cardiovascular system in a balanced fashion, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of exercise technique.  Just to be clear and piss pound that dead horse once more… poor exercise technique while under load is the world’s greatest recipe for INJURY during a workout.

The additional seconds of rest made a world of difference.

As I always recommend, scale the workout for yourself.  Start with longer rest in the earlier rounds, use less weight or bike for 30-45 seconds at a lower RPM instead of 1 min at >80 rpm.

Explore and tweak it as you go.  You can expect each “round + rest” to last 4+ minutes, with the later rounds lasting longer because of the increased rest.

You could say that I over-analyzed this workout, but my theory is that if you know what to expect during a tough training session, almost like you’ve been there before, you’ll be prepared to handle the stress.  A lot of people fear the unknown and higher ranges of physical work, so removing that fear may provide some encouragement to attack the workout with a newfound confidence.

Don’t be afraid to take breaks if you need them intra-round…

… and lastly…

… kick some ass.

Cheers to adjusting the simple variables to increase the impact of a workout!


(PS:  Nutrition is the ultimate accelerator of fat loss and fuel to improve performance… read this article and check out Precision Nutrition’s awesome products)


One thought on “Perfecting the 20 Minute Workout: Kettlebell Complex and Stationary Bike Sprints for Aggressive Fat Loss

  1. I did this work out this am. Its a killer ! 5 rounds and I was smoked! Going to try and do it for 30 days ! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s