Are Kettlebells Good For Hypertrophy? (Tips & Hints To Achieve Success)
Kettlebells have come along way since their genesis in Russia over a hundred years ago, and the inevitable squabble regarding their effectiveness for hypertrophy rumbles on.
Since you have decided to stop by and read this, let’s answer the question and delve a little deeper into kettlebell hypertrophy.
Are Kettlebells Good For Hypertrophy?
Kettlebells can be used for hypertrophy, although they aren’t seen as a traditional method to do so. If you are lifting heavy weight, whether it be in the form of barbells or kettlebells, the outcome is the same. As you will know, it’s not just down to the lifting of weight which creates the process, but other factors too, such as plenty of rest and good nutrition. Kettlebell grinds will increase hypertrophy as these exercises involve lifting the weight as opposed to ballistic exercises that involve swings. Increasing the weight lifted and changing up the workouts every few weeks, will set you on course to hypertrophy heaven. Remember to keep a log of your progress and set goals to work towards. It will take hard work and dedication to get there, but you already knew that right?
What is hypertrophy?
Muscle hypertrophy or muscle building involves an increase in size of skeletal muscle through a growth in size of its component cells.
Two factors contribute to hypertrophy: sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, which focuses more on increased muscle glycogen storage and myofibrillar hypertrophy, which focuses more on increased myofibril size.
It is the most important part of bodybuilding-related activities.
Where To Begin?
I don’t need to sit here and open the can of worms regarding how much protein you need to build muscle, as its a little more complex than multiplying between 1.2g – 2.0g by what you weigh in kilograms.
The opinion online varies quite a bit, but you need to take into account your age, genetics, physical fitness level and diet to get an accurate reading of what you personally need.
You will also know that its not purely down to the lifting of heavy weights to build muscle. There are various other factors in which you need to adhere to in the pursuit of building muscle.
Everyone knows that your “diet” holds the key to any kind of progress and it’s very important to eat meals and snacks throughout the day, with plenty of fluids, which will compliment your lifting and include the correct amount of protein you need.
Not getting enough rest can also kill your gains in the gym, as most of the magic happens when you are resting and sleeping.
So why not have that early night if you are feeling a little jaded from a heavy sesh in the gym? I Get up around 5.15am in the week, so like to go bed at the latest by 10pm.
Most nights in the week, my head hits the pillow just after 9pm and I feel like I need it.
As my body is telling me its had enough and you need to listen to your body when its telling you its flagging, even if it means missing that episode of whatever you are watching on Netflix.
Theres always tomorrow, but I know a lot of people that fight the urge to go bed as they feel they are wasting the evening. You have to find the right balance.
Kettlebell Hypertrophy Basics
So you have your heavy pair of kettlebells and you are ready to start packing on the muscle, but kettlebells are not known for their hypertrophy benefits.
Traditionally, the general consensus is to lift as heavy as you can until failure, this doesn’t have to be the case, but you need to make sure the intensity of your workouts remain, even if you aren’t going to failure.
I know we all look to those Marvel-esque body types when we think of how we want to look, but let’s not forget that some of those body builders are prone to dabbling in certain supplements to help gain such size and mass.
Olympic weight training is well known to being the most common way to achieve hypertrophy through exercises such as the clean and press, the snatch and the clean and jerk.
When you stop and think about how kettlebells can be used to increase hypertrophy, you will realise that weight is weight at the end of the day.
Working with kettlebells is very similar to using dumbbells and barbells, it just takes a little change of perspective to realise this.
As you can perform the same or similar exercises with a heavy kettlebell in each hand, or offset the weight using one.
Some classic bodybuilding exercises are:
- Chest press
- Front squat
- Shoulder press
Grinds or Ballistics?
All kettlebell exercises can be categorised into two groups: Grinds or Ballistics.
Grinds involve kettlebells being lifted up and down (presses, squats, windmills, get-ups etc).
Ballistics involves the kettlebell to be swung through two-planes of motion (swings, cleans and snatches).
For weight loss or improving conditioning, ballistics should supersede grinds.
Ballistics using two heavy kettlebells are good for boosting testosterone levels for a good hypertrophy session, but the bulk of a session should be made up of grinds.
Compound, Not Isometric
For kettlebell hypertrophy, you want to be doing more compound exercises, rather than the isometric variety.
Compound exercises are movements which uses multiple muscle groups within the one exercise.
As you will know this type of movement is bread and butter for any kettlebell user, with such exercises that have already been mentioned above (swings, cleans, snatches etc).
Take a traditional kettlebell swing, it uses a variety of muscles within the one movement such as: Hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, back and shoulders.
As you know, isometric exercises specifically “isolate” whichever muscle you are targeting when lifting.
Doing compound exercises also work the stabiliser muscles more than any isometric exercise would.
In any kind of movement, stabiliser muscles act to stabilise one joint so the desired movement can be performed in another joint.
These muscles aren’t usually directly involved in a movement, but work to keep you steady so that your primary muscles can do their job.
Functional fitness also ties in to those compound movements we mentioned earlier.
Functional fitness involves doing movements that mimic everyday actions, these incorporate multiple muscles groups at the same time, to build strength, stability and mobility across the body, allowing the body to move and operate as it should.
Doing these type of exercises with a heavy kettlebell will have the same desired effect, just as it would when using a barbell or other weights.
Some common functional exercises include:
- Bodyweight squats
- Jumping jacks
- Jumping, lunging, or box jumps
- Jump squats
- Lateral bounds (running from side to side)
- Movements done while balancing on one leg
- Walking lunges
Adding a heavy kettlebell to some of these exercises will increase the chance of hypertrophy drastically.
Obviously I can’t condone or advise doing jumping jacks with kettlebells, that is the recipe for disaster.
Eccentrics Contraction Required
Whenever you put your muscles under tension, there are three types of contractions muscle fibres can perform:
Concentric – Concentric contraction occurs when the muscle fibres shorten
Eccentric – eccentric contraction occurs when the muscle fibres lengthen
Isometric – isometric contraction occurs when the muscle fibres stay the same length
Why train this way though?
Eccentric training focuses on the lengthening phase of any particular exercise, which makes it awesome for building strength.
By lowering the weight with more control, you’re able to create a great stimulus for growth even while the gravitational force of the weight is greater than the force the muscle is producing.
Using kettlebells this way and incorporating eccentrics into your workouts will increase hypertrophy, so get eccentric training in your workouts ASAP!
Keep a Training Log & Change It Up
It goes without saying to help building muscle means being a little bit anal. Keep a training log so you can follow your progress.
I have done it myself, when training it can feel like I’m just going through the motions as I have no goal or any kind of progress chart to work towards.
Setting small and achievable goals will help you push that bit harder and enable a better focus of where you want to be.
Always remember to mix up the training schedule too, don’t just keep doing the same exercises in the same order all the time.
You need to shock your body into stimulating that muscle growth through a varying amount of grinds, ballistics and functional training drills (don’t forget those eccentrics too).
If you manage to put this all together, you will be in a great position to increase hypertrophy with the use of kettlebells.
It can be done, just shift that perspective and you will be surprised at the progress you will be able to make. The best of luck to you.
Workouts This Way…
If you enjoyed this, then please check out the YouTube channel, with over 60 workouts which include the use of kettlebells, resistance bands, dumbbells and even body weight exercises too.
Don’t forget, I will be adding more workouts weekly to help you stay fit and healthy at home with just the use of a kettlebell.
With workouts of all types, for all fitness levels. You know that we have you covered, so stay tuned for more.
Keep practising this workout and increase those reps until the next workout drops in a weeks time. You won’t regret it!