Fitness doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen. Joining a gym won’t automatically make you fit and neither will buying the latest fitness gadget. It’s all up to you, but that’s the real beauty of it: we all have the ability to get fit and get strong. Give me a cold garage with a dodgy light and minimal equipment every time. The only limitations are the ones you impose on yourself.
The truth is that you can train anywhere, be it in that cold that cold garage or the great outdoors. Most bodyweight exercises such as pull-ups, push-up, sprawls, or burpees can be done anywhere, anytime. The only thing that really matters is that you consistently strive to improve, and once you commit yourself to doing that, everything else is a done deal.
Need proof? Then join me on my four-week whole body fitness plan. In week one, we’ll explore kettlebells and bodyweight training, week two brings in the sledgehammer, week three introduces the Indian club and mace, and in week four we’ll add in sandbags and medicine balls.
Week 1: Kettlebells and Bodyweight Training
There are hundreds of kettlebell and bodyweight exercises, but that does not mean you should do them all.
Too much variety creates an illusion of progress. Instead, concentrate on the most comprehensive and fundamental exercises. Most of your training should be about practice. Aim to be proficient at the exercises and perfect them (this could take years) by turning them into an art form. By training this way you involve a focus component by integrating the mind and body. If you train movements, not muscles, the mind and body will thrive.
The key kettlebell exercises that we will introduce to the plan over the coming weeks are the single arm swing, the clean, the press, the clean and press, the long cycle, the snatch, and some supplementary exercises like renegade rows, Turkish get ups, and windmills. We’ll also throw in (quite literally) some kettlebell juggling for a bit of fun too.
I’m a great believer in training every day. The human body is not supposed to be sedentary. Have a daily ritual of exercise that will turn into habits that constantly drive you forward.
A word of caution, though: doing high intensity and strength workouts everyday will cause you to break down. Restoration is a key factor of fitness. So on lower intensity days perform yoga, Indian clubs, or practice bodyweight exercises
Key Exercises for Week 1
There is more than one way to do an exercise. There is no true way and there is no true form. We all have physiological differences, so do what works for you and ignore what doesn’t. What is important is that you are smooth, fluid, and efficient. Poor efficiency leads to slow progress and giving up. Remember that.
I rarely use the double arm swing. The single arm swing is the gateway to the snatch. The swing teaches inertia and involves the whole body.
Grab the corner of the bell utilizing a finger under thumb grip. For the downswing and upswing, your head is in a neutral position. Utilize a quadruple extension on upswing – ankles, knees, hips, and torso.
The torso follows the bell on the downswing to reduce grip fatigue and improve flexibility and mobility. Relax the arms, and let the legs, hips, and back do all the work. This should be a fluid motion, not rigid. Utilize either a thumb back or finger back variation on the back swing.
Swing the bell to chest level and at the top of the motion, lean the body back, elevate the shoulder via the traps, and rise up on the toes (optional). Alternatively you can kick off the front foot on the same side as the hand holding the kettlebell.
Remember to have an active back swing between the legs to gain acceleration and develop flexibility in the posterior chain. Visualize the bell as going up, down, and out a chimney. Leaning the body back at the top of the motion described above helps facilitate this.
For the breathing, exhale once at the back of the downswing, exhale again at the beginning of the upswing, and then inhale at the top of the swing. You will notice that the double exhale creates a naturally strong and automatic inhalation.
Review the key points of the swing. When cleaning the kettlebell have an active hand. This will facilitate bell coming around hand and wrist versus over the top, and will avoid banging the wrist.
Once in the racked position, the kettlebell rests in the triangle of the forearm and bicep. Although dependent on body type, the ideal is to bring the elbow to the iliac crest of the hip to gain maximum rest. The kettlebell should rest on an angle from the inside of the thumb to the lower palm to reduce forearm fatigue.
The hands should be in a false grip position while in the rack. This is a particular safety point to protect the fingers when performing the double kettlebell clean. Legs are locked, hips are forward, thoracic spine is rounded, and there should be little, if any space between the outside of the wrist and bell.
At the beginning of the downswing, remember to elevate the shoulder and toes to help absorb the force of the downswing and preserve the grip. Turn the hand upwards and yield to the kettlebell by leaning backwards so the kettlebell travels down the centerline and the arm remains connected to the body.
With the clean there are three out breaths, exhale on the downswing, inhale on the upswing, and exhale as bell lands in rack.
Start from the rack position (review clean section). As you press the bell up, keep the forearm vertical by visualizing drawing a chalk mark with your thumb up the length of your nose.
Utilize a chest/thoracic bump to initiate the press and ensure the bell is resting across the hand at a 45-degree angle. Raise the shoulder and toes before lowering to help decelerate the bell and absorb the impact as it returns to the rack position. The kettlebell should travel up and down the body’s centerline. Again, you can think of the visual of keeping the bell in the chimney.
For breathing in the press, inhale as you press the bell up, exhale on lockout, take in a deep inhale before lowering, and exhale as the bell lands in the rack position.
Kettlebell Turkish Get Up
Lying on the floor, safely move the kettlebell into a locked out position, straight up with your right hand. Your shoulder should be tight in the socket. Your right leg will be cocked, your right foot alongside your left knee.
Pushing off your right foot, roll onto your left hip and up onto your left elbow. Push up onto your left hand. Holding yourself up on your left hand and right foot, bring yourself up off the ground (extend the hips), and thread your left leg back to a kneeling position.
You are now left knee on the floor, right foot on the floor, and implement locked out overhead in your right hand. Your arm should be locked out. You will be stronger in this position than in a flexed position where the muscles would be doing all the work.
The get up is a whole body exercise and particularly a shoulder developer. It is not meant to tire your arms out.
From the kneeling position take in a deep breath, tighten up, and lunge forward to a standing position. Reverse the process to come back down to the floor. Remember that a Turkish get up is not complete until you return to the start position.
Kettlebell Renegade Row
Place two kettlebells on the ground, shoulder width apart. Keeping your arms extended lower yourself into a push-up position so that your shoulders are over the kettlebells.
Keep your legs spread apart and drive your weight through your heels by pushing them towards the floor. Only your toes will be on the ground. Keep abs and hips stable, not allowing your back to arch.
Shift your weight onto your left side and the lift the right kettlebell to your side by bending your elbow, keeping it close in. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blade inwards, and then lower the kettlebell back to the floor. Shift your weight to the right side and lift the left kettlebell up to your side.
Hindu Push Up
To execute a Hindu push up, start with feet and hands a little more than shoulder width apart, forming the body into an upside down "V" and keeping the head, neck, and spine aligned. The arms are touching the ears in this position.
From this starting position, commonly called downward dog in yoga, bend the elbows, lowering the head towards the ground and bringing the chest almost to the ground. While the hips are still about a couple of feet in the air, swoop forward to a cobra pose.
To return to the downward dog position in a Hindu push up, from the cobra pose, raise the abdomen into a normal plank position, and then push your hips up and head backwards into downward dog.
Scorpion Push Up
Begin to do a standard push up or a basic variation of the push up. When you finish lowering yourself, raise one leg off the floor bend your knee towards your back and to the opposite side. Do individual sets for each leg or alternate between legs.
Stand with feet shoulder width apart, hands straight out in front of you. Pull your hands into your chest. Push your hands down toward the floor, behind your rear end, as you squat down. As you squat down, also lift your heels into the air.
You will be balancing on the balls of your feet. Reverse the sequence to stand up and return to the starting position. The Hindu squat is a very interesting squat variation. It is a fast-paced bodyweight squat that works your legs and really works your heart and lungs.
Sprawl is in some ways similar to a burpee. As your hands and hips go down your head goes up. Your hips must go all the way to the ground. Your hands should push outwards and should not be turned in or straight ahead.
Do not sprawl your elbows out. Use the recoil in your hips to explode back upwards to the starting position. Smooth out the whole exercise and keep it athletic and fluid.
Coming up in the Whole Body Fitness Plan
- Week 2: Extended kettlebell sets and sledgehammer training
- Week 3: Introducing Indian clubs and the mace into your training
- Week 4: Sandbag training, medicine ball training, and triple treats
For more information on the exercises feel free to Tweet me – @mikeeves