Archive for the ‘Strength and Conditioning for Health and Fitness’ Category

Once in a while, after training for some time, you may feel like not training. It does happen. People may get bored, or may not be challenged.

It may be a sign that your training has been too monotonous in terms of the stimulus it provides you. Maybe you are not lifting heavy enough. Or maybe you are looking to spice things up a little bit, so you can re-focus and get back to training.

If you are training pressing movements and you feel you need a slightly different challenge, try doing the See saw Bottoms-up press. You need a pair of kettlebells that is not too heavy, nor too light. For a 65-70kg man of who has been lifting weights for a year or more, a pair of around 8 to 14kg kettlebells may work.

It is a given that you should know how to press. And another skill requirement is that you can clean 2 kettlebells at the same time. If you can do that try cleaning two kettlebells at the same time but instead of holding them at the usual kettlebell rack position, let their bottom point up- hence bottoms-up, and hold them almost in the rack position. If you cannot do that yet, then practice, practice, and practice. As always, better to start with a relatively lighter load first.

If you are finally able to simultaneously clean a pair of kettlebells in the bottoms-up position, then it is time to press both at the same time. Follow the bells with your eyes. It would help a lot. Practice, practice, practice…

If you are finally able to simultaneously overhead press a pair of kb while holding them bottoms-up, then you can press one at a time, on an alternating fashion. Then finally the alternating see-saw movement.

There you go. This exercise takes time to learn and execute if you are still improving on your strength department. It needs some strength, and of course skill. But if you are strong enough, you would be able to do it quite quickly. It is good to practice this once in a while to make training more interesting. Enjoy training!

Most resistance training equipment can be used outdoors. But some still require a solid and stable ground (like Olympic Barbells). Advantages of kettlebells over other resistance training equipement is that it requires very minimal maintenance cost. It can be used at the beach and would have minimal damage (a very thin rust) if not wiped clean after getting wet with sea water. You can practice juggling with it too. Here is a sample workout when you want to have fun at the beach.


Here is another routine which you can build upon. You can copy it as it is or modify the repetitions of each exercise. Three tips are given at the end of the video. Try it and don’t forget to comment!

Here is a quick warm-up routine for your kettlebell training. Some would want to add some more calisthenics and stretches which is great.

The nice thing about kettlebells is that they are very versatile. You can train your whole body almost anywhere. Sometimes I do it outdoors. It adds to the fun. Here is a routine which is quick but offers enough challenge. You can add reps per exercise or do more than one set. Enjoy! And don’t forget to leave your comments.

The Bottoms up grip is applicable to the kettlebell. As its name implies – you hold the kettlebell with its bottom side facing up. This makes it more challenging. You need to be able to balance it and then have a firm and strong grip to be able to maintain the aligned position. You have to keep your eyes on the kettlebell so that you can react on time when it sways.

You can use either the cast-iron type or the competition grade kettlebells. The heavier the kettlebell, the more challenging it is. For the cast-iron type, difficulty also increases with the increase in grip thickness.

How to do it:

  1. Be good in the Turkish Get-up first. (How to do the Turkish Get Up)
  2. Be good in Bottoms-up press.
  3. Combine these two skills and you get the Bottoms-up Turkish Get-Up (TGU)!


This exercise is done for the same reason why you do the TGU and the Bottoms-up press, but of course with the combined challenge. The main objective of the exercise is to practice a deliberate asymmetric movement that helps you control torso, hip, shoulder, and elbow stability. Hip and shoulder mobility also benefits from this exercise.

The end result will be better core or torso as well as shoulder stability which is essential to health and well-being. Needless to say, athletes rely on strong and healthy torso and joints for better performance.

Grip strength and endurance may also be enhanced depending on the relative weight of the kettlebell in relation to your gripping abilities.

When to do it:

Know when not to do it first: when you are really exhausted or when you are not able to use your upper limbs well for any reason. Concentration is important so do not use free weights when you are drunk or in a similar state of mind. It may sound like plain common sense and it really is. But there are a lot of posts on social media about people getting hurt in the gym simply because of lack of common sense. So do not enter the gym when you are sick or drunk.

Depending on your training program for the day, do it after your main lifts. Or if you are doing mainly core or torso or midsection exercises, whichever terminology you prefer, you better do it first or early in your training program for that day. Obviously, it demands that your mind is fresh, your muscles should not be fatigued, and that you can react on time. Especially when you lose control and the kettlebell falls down while your other arm is on the ground supporting your weight! It is better to do it on your non-dominant side first. That way, your concentration is still fresh and you are not that tired.

As a Strength Coach, I would use it to illustrate the advantage of having sufficient strength, mobility, stability, as well as focus. Some athletes are inspired by the desire to do the exercise. It inspires them to build a good foundation with their lifting skills and abilities so that they can attempt these type of lifts successfully.  They understand that developing good strength, stability and mobility is important. So they train well with the fundamental lifts like squats, presses, and some calisthenics.

On the other hand, some athletes always think of “fancy” training, or some exercise which does not bore them. I get tired convincing them that the fundamental exercises like squats, deadlifts and presses will be in their training program most of the time in the year. And if they still insist that they are already very good and want something fancy to show off, I let them do exercises like these. If they cannot do it, we regress to Bottoms-up press. If they still cannot do it, regress further to the press. Then hopefully by then, it would have dawned on them that they still have lots of work to do. 

If you can do it, congratulations! You earned it. But still, it will not take the place of your main lifts. It is just like dessert. It is not your meal. It is done to complement training but it is not the main bulk of training. Train Better! Live Better!

Time is precious and wouldn’t it be great if we can have just one exercise the whole body? It will save us a lot of time. Is there such a thing? Yes, there is not just one but many individual exercises that alone would work your whole body. One of them is called the Turkish get up or it can be shortened to TGU. The TGU is quite challenging because it is a complex exercise and it requires a lot of effort and concentration. It’s name suggest that was popularized or originated in Turkey and may have been used by the ancient Ottoman army and also their wrestlers.

During the 80’s there was a dance move named the Chinese get up copied from martial arts. It was called such because probably the martial artists who do it are of asian origin and are most probably Chinese. Anyway, the Chinese get up and the Turkish get up exercises are called get ups because that is what you do, you get up from the ground. Their difference is that the Chinese get up is explosive in nature. Kind of an acrobatic move. While the Turkish get up is more deliberate. It has slower movement because you are supposed to get up from the ground with a heavy weight being held overhead by one arm and go back down to the ground with the heavy weight still held over head. Similar exercises, different nature.

The TGU is not exclusive for the kettlebell. In fact, barbells, dumbells, even people, are being used in this exercise. Another good point about the TGU is you learn how to go down to the ground safely. Getting up from the ground and getting down to the ground is one rep. Of course you can stop once you are able to stand up straight but better practice going down to the ground with the weight too.

It would be best to keep practicing an exercise but also add some variety once in a while. Bodyweight exercises are very good and helps in body awareness. Here is a good reference for bodyweight training.

The video shows two views. It is just one of the many variations. Some would not have the T-shaped side plank position, or the one arm push press after the standing position. As you can see, it really is an exercise for the whole body. All the major joints- the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, and wrists, are being used.

How to do Kettlebell TGU:

Watch the video and memorize the movements by practicing first without any weight. After you memorized the movements, start with a light weight that you can easily control with just one arm. Start with your non-dominant side first- that is if you are left handed, start with the left arm holding the kettlebell. After one complete rep, practice it with the dominant side. Once you are quite confident of the whole movement, you can gradually use heavier loads. There are some parts where in you have to hold your breath for one or two seconds especially if the load is heavy. But you do not need to hold your breath for a long time. It happens when you need to stabilize your body or the load.


In order to have more control of the load you are holding, focus on it. That means if you are holding the kettlebell, look at the bottom part or somewhere near your wrist. This helps you catch the kettlebell with your free hand just in case you lose control.

Keep the elbow of your lifting arm locked straight. The wrist should almost be straight too if you are holding a kettlebell since it allows it. But if you are holding a dumbell, hold it like you would a dumbell. The lifting shoulder naturally moves to keep the lifting arm perpendicular to the ground at all times.

Since one arm is overhead all the time, and the neck extended because you are looking at the load, your torso is in a good position- that is not slouching. Maintain this. Your torso musculature- that is the muscles of your abdomen and back, should naturally contract as needed. But some guys may have to consciously do it, or just need to tense it more. So as a precaution, always keep your abdominal muscles tight.

Practice to get better

Now, the best way to get better at something is to do it. Watch the video as many times as you need. Then try it without load. Then watch the video again. And repeat. Keep practicing and you will get better.

After some time, you would be able to handle heavier loads. Your strength would have also increased by then. That is one exercise for the whole body.

For other exercises, you can also try the Animal Flow Workout. It is a great compliment to any type of training.

For fighters and martial artists, Animal Flow for Fighters would be a great complement to training too!

Your comments and suggestions are very much appreciated. Leave them below! Thanks!

One of the great advantages of kettlebell work out is that it is a very efficient way to improve your fitness level. You get to develop strength, endurance, mobility, some degree of flexibility (if you are not flexible enough to begin with), cardiorespiratory endurance, and even some amount of power. But instead of thinking of it as a work out, think of it as training.

Other qualities which can be influenced by kettlebell training

Think of it as training. Why? Because you also learn new skills, develop better habits, develop persistence, patience, and confidence. Unlike the fitness components mentioned earlier, these qualities are hard to measure. But these traits are what is necessary to improve in any skill. Kettlebell training is not just a work out. If done consistently, it molds you into a better you. The end result that many people aim for is improvement of fitness levels, feeling better, better health, looking great, and having more confidence.

Small, deliberate, and consistent actions is the secret

It takes small, regular, deliberate steps to get there. And training with kettlebells is one way. It requires not just a single training session, but multiple sessions to learn the lifting techniques. When your technique has improved, your fitness level surely would have improved too! So do not think of it as just a work out. Think of it also as training, since it builds upon the previous training sessions.

Hitting many birds with one stone!

In training, you are working on not just one, but at least 3 to 4 or even more areas at the same time. You need to focus on your breathing, proper body mechanics, timing, stance, joint alignment, fixation, and so on.  Each of these areas would improve at a different rate after a training session. It takes quite a few sessions before an observable positive change can be observed. 

The accompanying video is a sample of a quick session which is a culmination of a lot of training sessions in order to be put together. Once you have the necessary skills to do the lifts, it can be a training session on its own. It is a combination of many lifts performed one after the other with the exercises are arranged in a series of flow. It starts when the kettlebell leaves the ground and finishes once the kettlebell rests on the ground. 

It is for those who have already trained for a few times already and can do cleans and overhead presses safely. Shoulder strength, control and stability should be good. If you have shoulder instability, remove the windmill exercise.

These are the exercises and their volume for this particular training session:
  1. Arm to arm swing x 10 reps
  2. One arm swing x 10/10 (10 left & 10 right)
  3. Clean x 10/10
  4. Clean and press x 5/5 (although I had a miscount so my actual reps is ⅘  :D)
  5. Alternating clean and lunge x 8
  6. Alternating clean and one arm split press x 8
  7. Alternating clean to windmill x 6
  8. Front squat x 10

Some movements are short and quick while some are longer and more complex. Notice that the breathing is rhythmic and it goes with the movement. The weight of the kettlebell should be appropriate for your strength and skill level. Do not use a very heavy weight if you are still learning some of the moves. Take note that the windmill requires a lot of concentration and shoulder stability! Ladies may use 6 to 8 kg. Sexier ladies (stronger ones) definitely can use heavier bells. Gentlemen, due to the anatomic advantage of higher muscle mass on the chest and shoulder area, generally can start somewhere between 10 to 14kg. Of course, there are those who can definitely handle a lot more weight safely.

The training time is around 6 minutes for this particular combination. The time is just one factor which you may control aside from the weight of the kettlebell. Other factors are the repetitions of each exercise, the number of exercises, the complexity of  the exercises… so many things! The bottom line is that approach training as an investment. Each kettlebell workout should be a training session. It is like a platform that will develop something- be it strength, or skill, or any of the many components of fitness.

The kettlebell is just one tool. It is great to compliment it with other types of training like bodyweight training like the Animal Flow!

If you like this video, make a comment! Share to your friends and see who can do it better among your group!

Competition Grade Kettlebells


Are you looking for ways to be fit? Do you want to trim off that extra bulge from your tummy? Do you want to improve your cardiovascular health? Become stronger and move better? Feel younger? The great news is there is a way for you to reach these goals. In fact, there are many ways. But let’s focus on one way at a time and this topic focuses on kettlebell training for beginners.

Engaging in a regular physical activity has a lot of benefits like those mentioned above. The advantage of training with kettlebells is that it improves almost all of your fitness components. It makes your heart, muscles, joints, and even your mind stronger. Some activities specialize in making your heart stronger but won’t necessarily make your muscles stronger. Kettlebell training can do both and more! It gives you the benefit of more than one type of physical activity.

You can also include Animal Flow into your training!

Since there is a first time for everything, this topic is called kettlebell training for beginners. Let’s go to some common questions for someone who is new to kettlebell training:

What is a kettlebell?

Cast Iron Kettlebells

It is a type of free weight – a type of equipment used in training for fitness. There are basically two types of kettlebells – the classic cast iron type and the competition grade. Both types are great for beginners. But if you plan to try kettlebell sport someday, the competition grade is better. And yes, there is actually a Kettlebell Sport!

How heavy should I be lifting?

In Strength training, we follow the principle of progressive overload. This means that you start with a light to moderate load (weight) with low to moderate volume (how many sets and repetitions). Then you increase volume as you get better in your technique. You increase the load as your strength improves.

Another design of cast iron kettlebell

For most ladies, 6 to 8 kg is fine to begin with. 12 to 14 kg would be ok for men. 16 kg would be good for bigger and stronger guys.

What exercise can I do with kettlebells?

There are literally thousands of exercises that you can do with the kettlebell. You do not need to know all of them but here are four exercises which you can do as a beginner. But note that even seasoned kettlebell lifters do these exercises! They are quite important and are very useful in training your gluteals (the big muscles which make up your butt), hamstrings, quadriceps, deltoids, almost all if not all your “core” muscles (layers of muscles around your torso), shoulder girdle, forearms, and arms. Here are four great exercises to begin with:

1. Arm to arm swing– start with the kettlebell around a foot in front of you. Feet around hip or shoulder width apart. Keep your back in a strong erect position. Grab the handle and pull the bell towards you letting it pass between your legs. As the kettlebell reaches the farthest point in its backswing and is about to change direction of swing, push the forearm of your holding hand with your hip as you exhale forcefully. This will propel the kettlebell straight out in front of you. Let your free arm swing forward and as the kettlebell reaches the highest point (it should be around chest level), switch grip with the other hand. The kettlebell will swing back again and you just repeat the cycle.


2.Two arm swing– very similar to the arm to arm swing except that you grab the handle with both hands. There is obviously no switching between arms.


3. One arm press– rack the kettlebell on one arm. Keep your abdominal tight as you press (push) the kettlebell straight up. Your elbows should be straight and your biceps close to your ear. Hold your arms in a steady position before you lower it to the rack position under control. Breath in the rack position and start another repetition.



4.One arm clean and push press/ 1 arm long cycle– start with a swing using 1 arm but pull the kettlebell toba rack position. From there proceed to pressing the kettlebell overhead. Lower it again to the rack position before letting it drop to a one arm swing. Repeat the cycle with the same arm.

You may need more time to work on this. It can be challenging, but hey!, its not fun if it is too easy. There would be no stimulus for growth without challenge!


Important tips when executing the movements in each exercise:

  • Avoid slouching: do not hunch your back. Keep your chest “open” or “hold it high”.
  • Keep your abdominal muscles tensed. It helps in keeping your back in a good position.
  • Breath. Do not hold your breath but exhale forcefully as you swing or push or pull the kettlebell.


Can I learn the exercises in one training session?

It takes more than one session to learn and each person has a different rate of learning. Some can quickly learn the more efficient techniques in a few sessions. Some longer. Working with a qualified and experienced kettlebell teacher or coach greatly accelerates the learning process. Remember that there are variations in techniques but it is the most efficient one for your body type that is best for you. It takes lots and lots of training sessions to improve. And that is the beauty of training with kettlebells. It challenges you to become better.

How will I train?

Here is a suggested routine. Try it for 2 weeks. At first you may be sore. That is a normal reaction. To minimize this, do a good warm-up and cool down. Do some stretches and drink a lot of water. It is also very important to have enough sleep.

kb training for beginners1

Remember that to be able to feel and see fitness improvements, you have to train regularly consistently. The results will come as long as you put enough effort. If you train properly 3 times a week, you may feel some improvement in as short as two weeks.

Share to your friends now! Your comments, questions and feedback are highly appreciated. Please leave them on the comments section below!

Sept2015 019

These old fixed barbells come in different weights for a reason. The user is taught a particular exercise using a lighter barbell. He then progresses to using heavier ones as he/she develops strength and proficiency.

A few weeks ago, you made a decision to improve your life. Not in a very dramatic way. It is more in a subtle but positive way. You are now maintaining a healthy exercise habit and you feel it is easier already. You like it, and now you want to become better in what you do. Its time to progress to training. You are looking for a chart that you can follow. There are many complicated charts used by weightlifters who have trained most of their life in their sport. If you are a new lifter or will still start to train with weights, you do not need those complicated tables. They were designed to be used by seasoned lifters whose abilities are well beyond that of Mr. Newbie. They are not applicable to you since your ability to tolerate the volume and intensity is not yet developed, but with patience and persistence, you will be able to improve. The good thing is that during the first year, your progress would be relatively very fast. The best way is to take advantage of this is not to try to train like the world champions, but train appropriately and intelligently. What we should do is to understand the basic overload principle then gradually expound as you progress towards your goal. Understand and apply the basic principles so that you can later adapt it to your situation. Here is an example which may be applicable to most individuals and is flexible enough to be adjusted for your own goals:

Example: General goal is to improve health by improving cardiovascular fitness. You started with jogging, now you want to progress and be able to run faster. You can do this by improving leg strength. Mode is weight training using the squat as primary exercise.

Squat: Week 1 Set 1 Set 2 Set 3 Set 4 Set 5
Tuesday BW x 10 reps 10-15kg x 8 reps 15-20kg x 8 reps 15-20kg x 8 reps 15-20kg x 8 reps
Thursday BW x 10 reps 10-15kg x 8 reps 17.5-22.5kg x 8 reps 17.5-22.5kg x 8 reps 17.5-22.5kg x 8 reps

BW means body weight. You are not using any equipment except your body. The first two sets are warm-up sets. Set 3 to 5 are the actual working sets. You may adjust the weight to that which you can safely handle. The idea is to lift a load that you can control yet it challenges you. Rest period is 1 to 2 minutes in between sets.

Week 2 Set 1 Set 2 Set 3 Set 4 Set 5
Tuesday 10-15kg x 8 reps 15-20kg x 8 reps 17.5-22.5kg x 8 reps 17.5-22.5kg x 8 reps 17.5-22.5kg x 8 reps
Thursday 10-15kg x 8 reps 17.5-22.5kg x 8 reps 22.5kg-25kg x 8 reps 22.5kg-25kg x 8 reps 22.5kg-25kg x 8 reps
Week 3
Tuesday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps
Thursday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps
Week 4 If everything is going well, you can add 3-5 kg on set 3 to 5 for week 4 as compared to week 3.
Tuesday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps
Thursday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps
Week 5 If everything is going well, you can add 3-5 kg on set 3 to 5 for week 5 as compared to week 4 but do lighter load on Thursday.
Tuesday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps Heavy x 8 reps
Thursday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps
Week 6 Do lighter load on Tuesday.  Do heavier load x 5 reps this Thursday. It should be the heaviest load for the entire 6 weeks
Tuesday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps
Thursday Light x 8 reps Moderate x 8 reps Quite heavy x 5 reps Quite heavy x 5 reps Quite heavy x 5 reps

You may be asking, “Why only squat?” The above is only a sample template. You can add other exercises as well but better start with something short but would be implemented. If you can do it for a few weeks then by all means you should progress. (see future posts). The squat is the example used since it involves a lot of joints, and it has a lot of carry over to function. A heavy squat also stimulates the release of more testosterone which in turn would help in overall muscular development. The biceps curl involves only one joint and has a lot less muscle involvement compared to the squat. Training should be done with good and useful goals in mind. Train with function in mind and not only aesthetics. Aesthetics will surely follow after you train for function. That is training intelligently.

This program can also be added with the general conditioning (Click here for previous post) depending on one’s goal and ability to recover. They serve as examples on how the progressive overload principle is used. It should be gradual, done consistently, and done long enough to be able to elicit change. Train Better!, Live Better!

Val Ramos Jr.