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How to Progress Using Only One Kettlebell (Workouts Included)

Follow this plan to get better by using only one kettlebell, if that’s all you have.

One of the most common questions I receive from the Kettlebell articles I post online is: “How to progress using only one kettlebell?”

Most of us are well aware by now of the term “progressive overload.” This basically means we must increase the demand we put on the body throughout the training cycle to encourage growth and progression.

But the majority of people only think about one variable when progressively overloading: Weight/Load. You add an increment plate to the bar or drop the pin to the weight below on the stack. This is not an option when working with a single weighed implement so where do we go from here?

How to Progress Using Only One Kettlebell

Progressively overload can occur in other variables, be it volume, intensity, or time under tension.

The simplest and most effective example I can give you for each is to use the workout below

This is a single kettlebell workout, so how to progress using only one kettlebell and the workout described above? With different ways of progressive overload.

Volume – We know the overall volume is 100 reps but the chances are you’re not gonna be able to do that unbroken, so the way we progressively overload volume in this workout is to record the breaks and aim to complete more reps before we rest. Take fewer breaks and work up to going unbroken – Once unbroken for 100 you could increase the reps.

Intensity – Intensity is simple, we aim to complete the 100 reps for time working as fast as possible. The next time, try to do it faster.

This can also assist in your volume variable as you may find your breaks become less frequent, but probably longer – work to improve your intensity means keeping the rest time to a minimum.

Time under tension – Here we aim to make the muscle work for longer by slowing down the eccentric portion of the movement and/or adding in pauses or pulse reps. You could challenge yourself to perform the 100 KB Goblet Squats with a 3-second eccentric.

The challenge here is remaining honest with your timing as the fatigue builds.

Kettlebell Arm Workout

These 3 are the most common but not the only answer on how to progress using only one kettlebell. You may also:

  • Increase the range of motion
  • Change the stance
  • Increase movement complexity

Workouts – How to Progress Using Only One Kettlebell

Now that you know how to progress using only one kettlebell in theory, let me show you how to do it in practice. The workouts below will help you feel this in action and also provide you with the tools to progress your own workouts.

Read More: How to Adapt a 6-Week Hypertrophy Program for a Garage Gym and Home Use

Starting with the simplest but possibly most savage progression in this article, the Kettlebell Swing Kalsu style! You will start with a simple 100 Russian Swings and progress in both movement complexity and volume up to the dreaded Drago! The workout that holds the record that also brings me the most hate mail.

Workout 1

  • 100 KB Russian Swings 
  • EMOM 5 Burpees starting at 00:00

Progression 1

  • 100 KB American Swings 
  • EMOM 4 KB Over Burpees starting at 00:00

Progression 2

  • 200 KB Alt Arm Swings 

Every Break 

  • 15 Air Squats
  • 10 Push ups
  • 5 Burpees

Progression 3

Drago

  • 100 KB American Swings 
  • 200 KB Russian Swings 

Every Break

  • 15 Air Squats
  • 10 Push-ups
  • 5 Burpees

As you can see these 3 progressions focus on increasing the difficulty of movement, volume and intensity but the weight remains the same.

If we look at this in a more classic CrossFit-style workout, you can adjust and progress movements based on the Kettlebell weights we have, starting with a 2 handed variation of DT and progressing through to a single-arm and then increasing the difficulty to ensure even the lighter Kettlebells can make you sweat.

How to Progress Using Only One Kettlebell

Workout 2

5 rounds

  • 12 KB Deadlifts 
  • 9 KB Hang Goblet Cleans
  • 6 KB Push Press

Progression 1

5 Rounds

  • 12 KB Single Arm Deadlifts 
  • 9 KB Single Arm Cleans
  • 6 KB Single Arm Push Press
  • 12 KB Single Arm Deadlifts 
  • 9 KB Single Arm Cleans
  • 6 KB Single Arm Push Press

Progression 2

5 Rounds

  • 12 KB Single Arm Staggered Stance Deadlifts 
  • 9 KB Single Arm Staggered Stance Cleans
  • 6 KB Single Arm Strict Press
  • 12 KB Single Arm Staggered Stance Deadlifts 
  • 9 KB Single Arm Staggered Stance Cleans
  • 6 KB Single Arm Strict Press

Progression 3

5 Rounds

  • 12 KB Single Arm Sumo Deadlift High Pulls
  • 9 KB Single Arm Devil Cleans
  • 6 KB Single Arm Thrusters
  • 12 KB Single Arm Sumo Deadlift High Pulls
  • 9 KB Single Arm Devil Cleans
  • 6 KB Single Arm Thrusters

This workout progression keeps volume the same but increases the difficulty of movement making the use of any Kettlebell weight heavy or light.

Workout 3

Sticking with the classic CrossFit WODs we know and love, Helen is a perfect example of a scalable Kettlebell and bodyweight workout. We can start with a basic form, progress to the classic wod, make adjustments in case we do not have a pull-up bar and then we can go for a real savage test of grit.

3 Rounds of:

Progression 1

3 Rounds

  • 400m Run 
  • 21 KB American Swings 
  • 12 Pull-ups |Burpee if no Pull-up bar

Progression 2

3 Rounds 

  • 800m Run
  • 42 KB American Swings
  • 24 Pull ups|Burpee if no Pull-up bar

Progression 3

3 Rounds

  • 800m Run
  • 42 KB Alt Arm Snatch
  • 24 Burpee / Pull-ups

You can see here we progress the volume and complexity of movement to make Helen from a shorter, race-speed WOD to an all-guns-blazing fight for survival.

Workout 4

How to progress using only one kettlebell? It doesn’t have to be too complicated. You can go from a two-handed movement to a one handed movement and add some spice along the way.

This overhead push press-focused workout will give you everything you need to improve both your strength and conditioning, as the push press difficulty increases so does the burpee variation to keep the muscles and lungs working.

10 min AMRAP

  • +2 KB Push Press
  • *4 Burpees after each completed round

Progression 1

10 min AMRAP

  • +2 KB Headcutter
  • *4 KB Over Lateral Burpees after each complete round

Progression 2

10 min AMRAP

  • +2 KB Alt Arm Clean and Press
  • *4 KB Facing Burpees after each round

This method can be used easily to target any other muscle group with a few tweaks along the way.

Workout 5

This lower body and upper body piece will show how to progress using time under tension. Tempo reps are great for switching the stimulus and overloading the muscle.

The way you will read this Tempo:

32X1

3 – Take 3 seconds to lower into the eccentric phase

2 – 2 sec pause at the bottom of the movement (first pause phase)

X –  Stand up as fast as possible (concentric phase)

1 – Rest for 1 sec before starting the next repetition (second pause phase)

Workout

  • 25-20-15-10-5 reps
  • KB Goblet Squats
  • Push-ups

Progression 1

Progression 2

  • 25-20-15-10–5 reps
  • KB Goblet Squats [Tempo 32X1]
  • Push-ups [Tempo 2111]

Making lighter weights heavy is a great progression. It allows for better muscle contraction which translates to bigger size, more strength and endurance to support other movements.

I hope this gives you something actionable to incorporate into your Kettlebell training 

If you need anything more from me I can be found on Instagram @LukeyDPT or www.lukeydpt.com

You can find my Ebooks via the store on my website which will give you some structure Kettlebell Functional Fitness and I also work with clients in a remote coaching capacity if you require something more.

Keep the Fitness alive 

Take Care

LD

About Luke Downing

“NASM Certified Personal Trainer Minimal Kit specialist, Daddy to Luca & Roma Ray. As a father and business owner, I’m well aware that not everybody has hours each day to spend in the gym. I believe that you can do a lot without a lot, which is why I’m a lover of the single Kettlebell workout. I like to keep things as functional as possible, which means I do not waste time with unnecessary movement’s. Everything I do with my athletes has a purpose and a carryover to sports, activities and everyday life.”

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