Kettlebell Clean – Press- Squat

Motion

Years ago when I was low on cash and training in my studio apartment, my lone pair of 24kg kettlebells provided workout after challenging workout.  Making the most of a tiny home gym also gave me PHD in resourcefulness. 

Kettlebell training is unique, unlike any other mode of training.

Bursting onto the fitness scene in the early 2000s, kettlebells gradually became a mainstay piece of equipment in gyms all over the world.

Kettlebells disrupted fitness.  The spotlight was shifted really functional loaded exercises.  Drills like swings, cleans, snatches, Turkish Get Ups and other combinations became the new standard.  Most of which performed in standing position.

Though the effectiveness of kettlebell training has never changed, the novelty of the tool has since dissipated, which is common in the fitness industry.  

Exercises, equipment, and methods lose their popularity in the mainstream… here today, gone tomorrow.  

“Bring in the next shiny toy of the year, please!”.  

Despite the sex appeal fading a bit, basic kettlebell exercises remain brutally effective for building strength, conditioning, and fat loss.  

I’m one of those people who don’t forget.   

Outside of nutrition, sleep, hydration and adequate non-exercise activity on a daily basis… short burst kettlebell training (high intensity, low rest, etc) is amazing for burning body fat.

And yes, if you want to maximize workouts, you’d better be auditing habits outside of the gym.  Don’t sabotage your efforts. 

 

Kettlebell Clean, Press and Squat Combo

The clean, press and squat combination is a prime example of how a simple 3 exercise circuit can be leveraged to produce a significant training effect.  

And it doesn’t require much time at all.  15-20 minutes at most. 

For your eyes only… 


This kettlebell combination features 3 staple exercises:  clean, press and squat.  

Each exercise is performed with very little or no rest in between each exercise.  

Smooth transitions between each exercise is the goal.

Changing levels with the kettlebell… cleaning the bell from under the legs up to the front rack position, pressing overhead, back down to the front rack for the squat for repetitions…

… is pure work.  

This work creates a total body training stimulus.  

It’s the “magic sauce” of this combination.  

Before moving on, here are some key thoughts:

  •  You must have a working familiarity with each exercise before engaging in this circuit.
  •  Respect fatigue and what it does to the body while under load (increase rest if needed)
  •  Work reps, rounds and rest periods appropriate to your 
  •  Choose a sub-maximal kettlebell weight that allows for 10-12 reps per exercise (even though you’re going to do 6 reps).
  •  Not sure what weight to start with? Go light, work up as needed.
  •  Keep the workout short (15-20 minutes at most)

 

Alternatives/Substitutions

Not everyone is going to have access to a pair of kettlebells that are the same weight, or maybe they are the same weight, but too light or too heavy for your current fitness level.  

One of the most important ideas in staying fit is becoming resourceful.  When space is limited, equipment is scarce or time is tight, DO NOT FOLD.

How many times do we read a workout blog or fitness article and realize we don’t have the same set up the author did?  I’ve had this experience hundreds of times.  

What do you do?  Make adjustments, move forward, get the work done.

No kettlebells?  It’s ok!  Here are some equipment alternatives:

  • Barbell (same exercises and reps)
  • Dumbbells (same exercises and reps)
  • *Bodyweight (change exercises and reps)

Barbells and dumbbells are the most common pieces of weight training equipment in the world.  Most hotel gyms, YMCAs, 24Hour Fitness or Big Box Gym is going to have one or the other.  

Both allow for the clean+press+squat exercise combination to be performed.  The main difference between barbells/dumbbells and kettlebells is the design and how you can maneuver them.  

Barbell training fixes both hands to the shaft of the barbell.  For some people, this is great because you’re not having to control each hand independently.  

Dumbbells allow for independent arm work, but the shape of dumbells means you’ll have to tweak hand position/technique for each exercise.  These are subtle adjustments are mainly to avoid bumping the dumbells into your body on each movement.  

Bodyweight.  Now, if you’ve got no equipment available whatsoever, you’re still in the game, don’t worry!  You’ve got plenty of options.  Tons.  

When resources are scarce, you make adjustments, adapt and push forward.  Don’t get hung up on imperfections. 

  

Try this bodyweight combination…

Wouldn’t it be great if life was perfect all day, everyday?  Yes, it would be. 

(👋 slap across the face)

Life’s not perfect and never will be, so the best practice is to be ready to embrace the situation presented and make do with what you’ve got.

If bodyweight is the only option for the workout, consider digging into this circuit:

  •  Alternating Split Squat Jumps
  •  Dive Bomber Push-Ups
  •  Air squat (or variations: pistols, rear foot elevated, etc)
  •  Burpees

– 6-8 reps per exercise

– 6-10 rounds

– Limited/no rest between exercises

– 45-90 seconds rest after each round.

Perform in descending order (top to bottom) without rest between exercises.  Alternating split squat jumps first, then dive bomber push ups, etc…  

Factoring in no weight is being used to load these exercises, consider increasing reps per exercise, increasing the number of rounds performed or reducing the rest periods.  

Be mindful not to adjust all of these variables in one shot, it may create more fatigue than what your body can handle.  It’s like fine-tuning the dial on a boombox to get the signal of a radio station.  

Tweak here, tweak there.

Burpees?!?! What?!?! I h*te you!?

I don’t believe burpees are the greatest exercise on the planet. 

Some people do, I do not.

Burpees are often blindly prescribed to the wrong people and abused by many, but burpees are an incredible exercise to increase heart rate quickly and condition the entire body… in a pinch.

Personally, I rarely perform burpees.  But if I have few other options, hell yeah, I’m going to rip out some burpees.  

Don’t tar and feather me.

👉👉👉 Up for a challenge?  Try this burpee variation.

So, you have access to kettlebells, but… 

  • Kettlebells are too light
    • Increase the reps 
    • Increase the rounds
    • Decrease the rest periods
    • Add other kettlebell moves or filler bodyweight exercises
  • Kettlebells are too heavy (for desired rep range)
    • Decrease the reps
    • Decrease rest periods
    • Insert bodyweight filler exercises to achieve desired training stimulus)
  • Only 1 kettlebell (see video below)
    • Perform exact same exercises one side at a time 
    • Finish both sides, take rest period
    • Single kettlebell training is fantastic.

Ok, I’ve laid it out for you.  Time to dig in.  

Get after this exercise combination.  The kettlebell clean-press-squat combination is awesome for improving strength, conditioning and fat loss. 

Go.  Now. 

 

 

Cheers, 

Kyle 

 

 

 

The Anatomy of a 90-Day Kettlebell Complex Workout

15 minute Workouts

As I mentioned in my last post, this was a 3-month self-experiment.

The goal:

Observe performance/body composition impact of practicing a super time efficient kettlebell complex 3-4 days per week, across a 90-day time frame.

I used the same catalog of movement patterns for 90 days straight. 

Nutrition and calorie intake mostly remained the same, or as close to the same as possible without going insane.

Here is the play-by-play breakdown of the simple program that I used…

  • Total time: 90 days
  • Workouts per week: 3 (occasionally I mixed an anaerobic interval based Schwinn Airdyne session in on the weekends, always with 1 day rest between sessions)
  • Sets per workout: 5
  • Reps per movement: 6 (except for KB swings and pushups… 15 reps for those)
  • Training tool/weight used: 2 Kettlebells x 53lb (24kg)
  • Rest: No rest between movements and 60 sec after completing 1 round before starting the next round
 

The Perfect 15 Minute Workout for Fat Loss:

Double Kettlebell Clean x6

Double Kettlebell Front Squat x6

Double Kettlebell Military Press x6

Alternating Gorilla Rows x6 r/l

Double Kettlebell Sumo Squat x6

or

Double Kettlebell Reverse Lunge x6 each side

2-Hand Kettlebell Swing x15

Bodyweight Push Up x15

Done.  Well done actually.

Rest 60-75 seconds, repeat 4-5 more times.

This is a total body workout that leverages many of the big upper and lower body movement patterns in less than 15 minutes.

No rest between each exercise and incomplete rest periods after each round increase the cardiovascular demand and post-workout calorie burn.  

Complex training is well known for it’s ability to condition athletes and is very effective for fat loss (to the degree that you pay attention to diet).  The beauty of this training is being able to preserve muscle and condition at the same time.  

Can’t help but notice the time effectiveness also.

Here’s a clip of the kettlebell complex… 

Before you try this workout… 

Words of caution before you get after it…

… complex training is great for burning fat and conditioning but is delivers a very different training effect versus steady state cardio or lifting weights with recovery rest periods.  

In other words, there are risks involved when conditioning with external loads, in this case, kettlebells.  

There are risks involved with crossing a busy intersection.  

Jumping from exercise to exercise without rest between increases the onset of fatigue exponentially.  You’ll feel fresh on one rep, gassed on the next.  It can and often does happen quickly.  Metabolic conditioning is well known for this. 

Resistance training while under fatigue (metabolic conditioning) can be hazardous for individuals who haven’t been exposed to such training, so… work into it slowly.  

USE COMMON SENSE.

Make common sense common again.

It’s important to have some previous background experience with each lift and kettlebells in general.  You should substitute dumbbells or a barbell if you do not have access to a pair of same weight kettlebells.  

Make sure you’ve got some technical proficiency with these basic kettlebell lifts. 

Progress slowly and adjust the training variables incrementally…  Start with light weight, decrease the reps, add rest periods between each exercise, increase the rest after each round.  

Over time, do the exact opposite of the previous suggestions to keep the workouts challenging.  Increase weight, increase reps, reduce or remove rest periods between each exercise or shave off time after each round.   

Let exercise technique be your guide.  If you feel technique degrading rapidly, strongly considered taking a brief rest before starting up again.  

Workout Results…

I was leaner coming out of the 90 day time period and this was highly predictable.  Again, complex-style training is brutally effective for stripping body fat.  I didn’t progress the 

Work capacity improved dramatically.  Again, this adaptation was highly predictable.   Specific adaptations to a very narrow scope of effort (imposed demands).  In other words, I got REALLY efficient at this workout and everything it entailed.  Not a bad thing, but not necessarily the greatest.  

Toward the end of the 90 days I felt like I could add an additional round to the complex, so I did.  I ended up working through 6 total rounds for the last 3-4 training days.

Strength gains plateaued quickly, but this was also expected.  I didn’t increase the weight of the kettlebells.  Without progressive increases in weight, it’s hard to keep gaining strength.

But again, massive gains in strength wasn’t the goal.  The goal was to beat on a super short workout across a 3-month timespan to see how it impacted my performance and body composition.   

The obvious:  90 days is a long time to beat on virtually the same workout.  Keep in mind I did adjust reps, sets and eventually added a full round, but this little test was barebones.  It’s not ideal for long-term progress.  

On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoy testing training like this.

Applications for the real world…

Complex training is perfect for people who are short on time, high on motivation and looking for a hard workout to give them respectable results.  Including a warm-up, this workout will take 20 minutes which is as time efficient as it gets.

For those who are currently exercising 3-4 days per week, using this kettlebell complex could provide a nice deviation from your normal regimen.  If you’re currently heavy on on the cardio training, adding weight can help your cardio training. 

*** Be mindful of not overdoing it.  Don’t force a workout if your body is telling you otherwise.  

If you’re interested in diving deeper into metabolic resistance workouts or the potency of kettlebell training, here are some popular resources from DragonDoor Publications and Amazon:

 

Keep it simple, keep it smart, keep progressing.

Have fun and let the fat fall off.

 

Kyle