Sunday, 28 July 2013

KettleBear Program

There are countless ways to gain "functional" bulk with kettlebells, usually involving Cleans & Presses and Squats, performed with two kettlebells, otherwise known as doubles. This program was designed for my personal training clients who only had approximately 30mins per session and 2 days per week to train, on top of their other training.

It's common for my clients to compete in one or more sports or martial arts, then yoga for 1-2 days per week, then other strength/boxing/ma/swimming work for 1-2days per week, on top of their busy professional careers - so the program had to be minimal and efficient.

Enter the KettleBear - a narrow focus of Double Cleans & Presses and Double Front Squats to efficiently morph a busy cub into daddy bear. Everyone who has done it gained a minimum of 5kg’s in less than 3 months. I personally gained 5-6kg in approximately 6-7weeks.

To begin with, perform DCP x (1,2,3) + DFSQ x 3-5 for 8 rounds, with 60-120sec rest between sets.

LADDERS + STRAIGHT SET: (1,2,3)reps + 3-5reps
8-20 rounds

So, perform your Double Cleans & Presses, and immediately upon completion, perform your Double Front Squat set, then rest. Also, each comma represents a clean before the number of press reps eg. one press, one clean, two presses, one clean, three presses…

Goal: DCP x (1,2,3,4,5) + DFSQ x 8 for 10 or more rounds within 30-60mins, twice per week.

This program is fairly straightforward, and based on sound, popular concepts found among hardstyle lifters, so this program may have been done before without my knowledge. I first used it just over a year ago, with great success, which prompted me to write this up.

I also realise there are other programs out there with the same title, but I feel that my program is a truer and more accurate representation of the spirit of Pavel's original Bear program, so don't mind me for going with KettleBear.

I named it KettleBear in honour of Pavel’s Power to the People “Bear” program, only utilising kettlebells instead of barbells. The original Bear from PTTP calls for 10-20 sets of 5 reps in two lifts - a push and a pull. KettleBear has a push/pull combined, and a squat! If you’re familiar with Pavel’s works, you’ll notice the lifts are not-so-strangely dissimilar to those found in another of his excellent works, Return of the Kettlebell.

I went with Double Cleans and Presses because they will work the upper body thoroughly.

I chose Cleans instead of Snatches because my clients couldn't learn them quickly enough, or perform them safely under fatigue. If you are competent with Snatches, then maybe try one session with snatching before pressing and the other session with cleans before presses.

Double Front Squats will take care of the lower body.

Before the shit hits the fan
You must have a solid technique that allows you to work hard whilst fatigued without injury, so, this is not for beginners. It is designed for active clients requiring a kettlebell program for bulking, or “functional” hypertrophy, who either have a solid base of kettlebell or lifting technique, or, are lifting under the guidance of a knowledgeable coach.

However, you can use kettlebells, strongman log, barbell or even sandbags - as the weight stays fairly much the same throughout the cycle, the key variable will be sets and reps. Also, let me know how you go if you try the KettleBear with something other than kettlebells.

For an in-depth explanation of technique and instruction on the lifts, consult Sergio Merino’s article at

Sets & reps; use ladders for presses, and straight sets for squats. For more info why, consult ROTK by Pavel. Ladders of (2,3,5), (3,3,3), (3,5,3) are also acceptable – basically, get to 10-15reps total per set. Add reps when you can.

Duration; usually with clients I’ll have them work 8 sets in 35mins, so a round every 4mins. If you have more time, then go for it.

Rest; take 60-120sec between sets. Anymore, and you're going too heavy. You will be breathing hard.

Frequency; twice per week, sessions 3-4 days apart.

You can use load variability if you're really strong and you're finding it difficult to progress.
Mon - hard out 100%, eg. (1,2,3,4) + 6 x 5 rounds, and (1,2,3) + 5 x 3 rounds.
Thurs – approx. half to two-thirds of Monday’s session, eg. (2,3) + 3 for 8 rounds.

Otherwise, 100% effort is expected on both days.

Monday - KettleBear
Wed - sports practice
Thurs - KettleBear
Sat- sports competition

Tues/Fri works well too, also Wed/Sat.

Slot KettleBear sessions between your busiest days or where sufficient rest is allowed. You get the idea.

Duration; follow for 6-12 weeks, then move into a more strength orientated program.

-Eat a lot; lots of meat, lots of protein, lots of eggs, dairy, and lots of fruits, veges, and ingest a lot of water. Your urine will tell you how much fluids you need. Surplus calories will be your motto. Don’t be caught without food in your paws. Or else.
-Rest a lot. Expect to be tired. Even though you're active you're gonna want to hit the hay a couple hours earlier than your usual bedtime.

-Try to get your training in first thing in the day. It's a matter of prioritising.
-Any size weights will do, even light ones - although it may take a while to notice any gains, as you need to push your body to notice results.
-You may experience a delayed response, that is, until your strength catches up with your conditioning. You may go for a month with no sign of progress and then in a couple of weeks gain 5kgs of bodyweight. Trust the process.

Any questions, feel free to ask, and report your progress if you give it a shot.

Happy lifting!


  1. Hello looks like a great workout. I am a martial artist and I think this is great to build some serious strenght for it and it won't interfere with my mma training.
    I have a question: do you start with one clean and Pres, then 5 squats, then 2 c & p, 5 squats, 3 c & p, 5 squats and then after some rest start over again with one clean & p etc.? Can you please explain because I don't get it, sorry

    1. G'day, do one ladder of cleans and presses, then without rest, straight into a squat set, then rest 1-2mins.
      So, in the above example you would do;
      one clean,
      one press,
      one clean,
      two presses,
      one clean,
      three presses,
      squat for five reps,
      that's one round,
      rest 1-2mins before next round.

      It should work great for martial artists. The key is to work hard and aggressively during the session.

    2. Hello Andrew, thank you very much for explaining. Its good think that I asked otherwise I would have done it wrong. Thanks again.

  2. Hallo i am german guy who want to try this program. But i have a question: is there no rest between the press ladders?

    Thank you.

  3. G'day my Deutsche friend,

    No rest between presses, only cleans, or if you're really good, snatches.

    Again, press, clean, two presses, clean, three presses clean, then straight into squats, then you rest.

    And eat as aggressively as you lift.

  4. Transitioned to this after finding the standard Prometheus Protocol too easy with a set of 24s. I had already experimented with supersetting the C&P and Squats, as well as increasing the density by gradually reducing the rest time, a la Vince Gironde principles. That went some way, but Kettlebear was another animal, with potential for greater progression.

    In the first session, I completed 8 rounds in maybe 15 minutes, making for 24 cleans, 48 presses, and 45 squats... so the overall volume was less than the standard Prometheus but I think the Time Under Tension was far greater. Completing the ladders and transitioning straight into the squats, I really felt my chest get a good pump with the static hold straight off the ladders... and chest work is something I felt was lacking in the original Prometheus, and most Kettlebell programs. Two thumbs up. Will be sticking this out and see where it takes me.

    Cheers from another Sydney bloke, transplanted overseas. :-)

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