Strength is built through repetition—the tough reps, perfect technique, and methodical planning. But repetition isn’t everything.
If you’ve been focusing on the fundamental presses, pulls, and squats 3-4 times a week, a “variety day” could be just the thing to help you improve your overall movement quality and technique. Pick the right movements, and it could also shore up some of the leaks holding you back from the next-sized plate or bell.
Simply plug in the routine below once or twice a week, and you’ll get some solid upper-body strength work, but also get the “ooh that feels good” vibe of a yoga class, and just for fun, a wicked biceps pump.
Your squat form will definitely improve, and your posture just might, too. But crucially, it won’t beat you up enough to get in the way of your regularly scheduled strength work.
Why not just do clean and presses, you ask? Good question. One reason is that you can clean a bell a size or two larger than you can press. If you can press, say, a 20- or 24-kilogram (44 or 53 pounds) single bell for reps, you can definitely clean a 32-kilogram (70-pound) or maybe even a 40-kilogram (90-pound) . And what’s more, you probably should.
Heavy cleans are one of the unsung movements of the kettlebell world. They hammer the lats, arms, and hips, but also have a special ability to train the type of full-body linkage that makes you better at pretty much every other movement. If you simply limit yourself to cleaning the same amount you can press, you’ll end up with a weak, indecisive clean—and by extension, a weak, indecisive press.
Another reason to focus on the clean: The kettlebell press isn’t just another press variation that uses a different weight. It’s its own animal, due to the design of the bells, and needs to be trained as the skill it is. On the other hand, if you’ve got a decent swing, you can develop a solid clean with just a little extra guidance. The secret, according to strength coach Jim Smith, is all in the hands.
How to Properly Rack a Kettlebell
Watch the video – 4:54
For the routine below, you’ll perform 5 sets of 1 rep each. Each rep starts with the kettlebell on the ground in front of you. You’ll swing it back, then up to the rack, pausing tightly in this position for a second or two. Then swing it back down between your legs and park it on the ground in front of you. Do all 5 singles per set with one arm, then 5 with the other arm.
Goblet squats are more popular than ever, but here’s what people forget about them: They’re not just a regression for heavier barbell or kettlebell front squats. They’re also an unparalleled way to rack up serious squat volume with textbook technique.
Seriously, which do you think would benefit you more: Squatting once a week with nosebleed intensity and increasingly scary form, or alternating your low-volume heavy days with 50-100 deeper-than-parallel, picture-perfect reps that open your hips, scorch your quads, and train perfect spinal position? OK, trick question.
The bodyweight purists may scoff at this, but you’d be right to consider the goblet squat the lower-body equivalent of the push-up. You may think you’ve outgrown it, but it still has plenty to offer you.
Points of Performance
Watch the video – 1:25
Did somebody say push-ups? Don’t take the “advanced” part to mean that regular old (properly performed) push-ups aren’t good enough. On the contrary, they remain one of the most important exercises, and alternating 5-10 sets of 10 push-ups and 10 goblet squats is a great routine in and of itself.
But on your variety day, it’s worth your time to get your spine out of the same old locked-and-loaded position that characterizes nearly every strength movement. That’s why you start this routine with as a warm-up, and it’s why you’ll perform this stellar push-up series from Onnit coach Erik Melland.
5 Push Up Variations For Your Next Bodyweight Workout
Watch the video – 1:50
You could stick to one or two variations in the below routine, but the five work together ideally as a progression. Each one leads seamlessly into the next. By the end, your spine will thank you.