Fitness Tips

How to combine kettlebell training and barbell training for bigger gains

November 21, 2019

Swings are great because they really should not cause undue fatigue in any particular body part so they are perfect for increasing the intensity of a weight workout.
If you haven’t tried this, I must warn you, it may seem too simple to be as effective as it is, but you will be surprised by how much it increases the training effect of your usual workout. This method works very well for time-crunched individuals and for people who work out at commercial gyms. Simply take your kettlebell with you as you do your routine and hammer out a set of swings between each set. Without a lot of hassle, you may find that bang out upwards of 500 swings in a workout depending on how many sets you do that day. If you are using a 24 kg bell that’s an extra 26000 lbs of work in the time that most people are using to check their cell phones, walk to the water fountain, or just generally rest between sets. I will share a day out of the routine I am currently using to give you an idea of how I like to integrate this plan.

Set1: (Bench X 5, Pullups X 5, swings 10 reps)X3-5 sets
Set2: (Dips 10 reps, *Kroc rows 10 reps/side, 10 swings/arm)x3
Set3: (Bicep curls 5 reps, skull crushers 5 reps, 20 2-handed swings)x3-5
Set4: (hanging leg raises 10 reps, wheel rollouts X10, full contact twist 5/side, 10 snatches per arm)X3

*Kroc rows are simply bent over heavy one-arm dumbbell rows, Jim Wendler recommends these highly as an accessory exercise in his 5/3/1 powerlifting book

I used a 24 kg bell for my swings throughout this training session and it took just under an hour to do the whole thing. The time it took to do the swings allowed for recovery of the upper body muscles I was working on but kept the heart rate up. I stayed focused throughout the workout but didn’t have to move like a raving lunatic to complete it. I added 12, 500 lb of work to what would have otherwise been a good but not complete workout. It does not seem like the addition of the swings between sets takes away from my ability to use as much load and reps on the upper body set either. Try adding swings to your next workout. You will be pleasantly surprised.


Pavel Tsatsouline and many kettlebell experts believe that the three most valuable kettlebell exercises are the one-arm swing, goblet squat, and getup. Pavel recently said this again on the Tim Ferriss podcast and if you haven’t yet listened to this episode, do yourself a favour and go to this link: httpssss:// Go to the 6-minute mark to hear what he says specifically on the benefits of these 3 exercises. When I hear something repeated over and over, especially when it comes from a credible source, I eventually take it to heart. So if you are currently doing a routine other than kettlebell training, a really great way to still enjoy the benefits of these movements is just use them at the beginning of your training as a warmup. Here’s an example with a 24 kg bell:

  • 10 swings/arm
  • 10 Goblet squats
  • 2 getups per side

I did these for 3 sets non-stop. It took 8 minutes and by the time I was finished, I felt ready to train.


I need to share this with you because I have not thought I have ever seen this approach mentioned in mainstream fitness. This came up during a discussion about the many permutations and complications of periodizing training programs at a kettlebell workshop several years ago. The experts there, including Pavel, all agreed that possibly the most effective approach for periodizing your training is to simply do the heavy lifting with barbells for 2 weeks, then train with kettlebells for 2 weeks, then back to heavy barbell training for 2 weeks, and so on. The premise is that the physiological adaptations made while using a particular training stimulus will not begin to decline as soon as you stop, there is about a 2 week grace period, give or take. So the gains you made with heavy barbell training will be carried forward even after you have completed the 2-week kettlebell phase. Because you are focusing on one modality at a time, the training stimulus can be amplified and will naturally escalate as you progress. So just before a detraining effect starts to take place, you are back at it and on the road to increased gains. Theoretically, this approach helps the trainee avoid plateauing by keeping the training effect relatively fresh.

I admit I was skeptical when I first heard about this, but this approach really did help me improve my strength and fitness to the level it needed to be for the 3rd DVD. I will share my experience with this soon. It is a simple approach that maybe seems too elementary to work, especially compared to some of the more complicated methods out there, but I would recommend you try it for a couple of cycles and see. I like it personally because I can really immerse myself in going heavy for 2 full weeks, then I can shock the system with the relatively lighter but higher volume kettlebell work. I do like to use my own videos because these are benchmarks that can be used to get a really comprehensive snapshot of your fitness. For example, when I am able to do my first DVD from start to finish without hitting pause, I know this is the level where I need to be to feel my best. It is fun to test just before embarking on the 2-week heavy lifting phase. If I find I fall short in shoulder strength, I make sure to prioritize overhead pressing for the next 2 weeks. If my legs are too weak, maybe I’ll do a high rep squat program fort 2 weeks. Knowing that it is only a 2-week chunk really helps with focus and gives me something to shoot for when I retest. Meanwhile, your body will thank you for the 2-week “breaks” and will adapt accordingly. Now that I have the 3rd video completed I feel like I can still get my heavy fix with the relatively heavier double kettlebell training.

Stay tuned for part 2 coming up before Christmas. Drop me a line if you have any questions or if you just want to let me know how awesome things are going.

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