Vail Daily column: Kettlebell programs deliver results |

Vail Daily column: Kettlebell programs deliver results

Ryan W. Richards
Make It Count

We are in the mud season. We might as well call it “wimmer time” because spring doesn’t really exist in the high country. These few weeks that linger between winter and summer are often filled with warm summer days and winter snowstorms alike. It’s my least favorite time of the year, as recreational opportunities can elude us.

The good news is that the mud season presents a great time to exercise indoors. Unless you are traveling like many residents of the Vail Valley do this time of year, being stuck here presents the opportunity to have uninterrupted gym time.

A potential problem can surface for the average fitness enthusiast, though. The curls won’t deliver, bro, and the chrome plated light dumbbells you swing while walking on the treadmill aren’t going to help you squeeze into your new Lulu Lemon gear, ladies. Most exercises don’t deliver results. Why would you ever do anything but use the best, simplest strategies to create the fitness results you’re after? If you demand results and want the straightest, simplest path, I highly recommend kettlebell training combined with a few bodyweight exercises.

I have been accused of being a kettlebell guy. The reality is that I am always seeking the simplest, most effective strategies to get students the results desired. I recommend and endorse many exercise modalities for all fitness populations including but not limited to running, barbell lifting, swimming and yoga.


The reason I prefer kettlebells time and again for most people is that they come as close as possible to developing the best overall fitness without complicating the process. Want to lose weight and body fat? Kettlebell swings in the 200-400 total rep range works as well, if not better, than any other modality for burning calories. Want to develop useable aerobic and anaerobic fitness? High rep swings are the answer. Interested in developing functional, general fitness for mountain sports? The get-up, swing, goblet squat combined with pullups will deliver every time. Need more useable strength? Heavy get-ups and double kettlebell front squats are the answer. Want to look better naked?

Strict adherence to diet is needed, regardless of what you lift or how you exercise to begin with. The only caveat is that chronic aerobic training with strict dietary practices will diminish your body into resembling a chronically, terminally ill patient so be careful you don’t run a marathon every week.

In other words, there is rarely a situation in which a basic kettlebell program won’t deliver what you’re after. Sure you’ll never look like a world class bodybuilder. You will never be well equipped for winning a power lifting meet. You certainly won’t be well prepared to smoke through the Triple Bypass cycling event. You need to train specifically for specific events. However, general training and specific practice is the way to go. Train generally in the gym, and ride your bike to create cycling specific fitness. Squat heavy to develop your legs, but ultimately nothing beats running for marathon specific fitness. Don’t get carried away here. Keep it simple folks.

Here is what you should do for simplicity and total fitness. First of all, make certain you get proper instruction beforehand. I must underscore how much it bothers me to hear how chiropractors and physical therapists despise kettlebell swings. Swings can hurt you performed incorrectly. Walking across the street is dangerous too, but it doesn’t mean we should all start pointing fingers at the auto industry. You get the point. Women start with an 18 to 26 pound kettlebell. Men start with a 35 to 53 pound kettlebell.

Option 1: Get a clock or timer you can clearly see. Start the clock. When the second hand gets to 12, swing for 10 reps every time the second hand gets to 12 (on the minute, every minute) for 10 minutes twice per week. That’s 100 swings. Every week add 2 minutes to the workout. Once you get to 20 minutes, start adding a rep to each minute until you are performing 20 swings on the minute every minute for 20 minutes. That’s 400 swings in 20 minutes. Once you hit this goal, start over again with a heavier bell. Report back to me when you start to see your abdominal muscles.

Option 2: 25 swings, five goblet squats, five pushups. Rest. 20 swings, four goblet squats, four pushups. Rest. 15 swings, three goblet squats, three pushups. Rest. 10 swings, two goblet squats, two pushups. Rest. Five swings, one goblet squat, one pushup. Repeat once more. This equals 100 swings, 30 goblet squats, and 30 pushups. Perform this five days per week, for six weeks. All business, no fluff.

Option 3: One get-up per side, 15 swings; one get-up per side, 25 swings; one get-up per side 35 swings. Rest five minutes and repeat one more time. Perform this twice per week. Each week add one set until you get to five sets within five weeks. That would be a workup to 375 total swings and 15 get-ups per side per workout. This should fill in the gaps and fix all of your fitness problems.

Have fun with these as they will develop a solid base for summer sports that are about to commence. Have a great week!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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