24 Nov How to Combine Barbells and Kettlebells into Your Training (Workout Examples)

BarbellKettlebellIf you want the ultimate strength and conditioning combination, combining barbells and kettlebells into your programming is an amazing blend.

This is something I’m asked about a lot.

Here’s how you do this to get the most out of these two amazing tools.

Barbells and kettlebells are essentially what I call the “Power Tools.”

What I mean is that they are two of the most powerful training tools we have and the possibilities with each of them is endless.

How you ultimately use the tools depends on your goals.

So, the first thing you need to do is decide exactly what it is you’re trying to achieve.

Are you chasing strength, hypertrophy, fat loss, general conditioning, or athleticism?

(It’s also important to consider the type of strength: explosive, maximum, speed-strength, strength-endurance, general strength, etc.).

Maybe you’re training for an athletic event or preparing for a kettlebell or barbell certification?

Defining your top goals and the reasons your training will dictate how you use the tools, it’s that simple.

Once you have your goals defined, pick a program or apply common “principles” to match your goals.

I’ll give you a couple examples of programming principles for different goals.

EXAMPLE #1: STRENGTH

Let’s say your top goal is strength.

Well, there are many strength programs out there to choose from, although you may need to tweak the program a bit to add the kettlebell component.

Here’s an example of a typical training session I’ve used when focusing on increasing maximum strength.

  • BARBELL DEADLIFTS, (warm up sets, as necessary) then 2 sets of 5 with 80-85% 1RM
  • BARBELL STANDING PRESS (1-2 warm up sets) then 2 sets of 5
  • BARBELL BACK SQUAT (2-3 warm up sets) then 2 sets of 5, with 80% 1RM
  • KETTLEBELL TURKISH GET UP with “moderate” weight, 2-3 reps per side
  • KETTLEBELL SWINGS 3 sets of 20-30 reps with a heavy kettlebell
  • (And, maybe ‘ab wheel’ to conclude training session for 2-3 sets of 10).

This is just an example.

As you can see, the barbell work is the focus in the beginning and the kettlebell work is additive and complementary to this.

There are many variables that change here (reps, sets, intensity), but the principles of training for the goal of strength are my focus.

I may add some “conditioning” at the end of the session – as I’ve done here.

But keep the goal the goal.

Make sense?

Here’s another example for a different goal.

EXAMPLE #2: FAT LOSS/CONDITIONING

Let’s say your goal is fat loss and conditioning.

Different goal and different training approach here.

Here’s what this training session might look like:

  • BARBELL DEADLIFT (70-80% 1RM) 3 sets of 5, nice and ‘easy’ to work on full body strength and to Practice Proper Technique (PPT)
  • TURKISH GET UPS 5-8 minutes of continuous get ups alternating each side with moderate weight kettlebell
  • KETTLEBELL CLEAN AND PRESS 5 reps, moderate size kettlebell, 3-5 rounds, approximately 30 seconds rest between rounds.  (My preference is double kettlebells.)
  • KETTLEBELL SWINGS one hand swings performing 10/10 for 100 reps, 2-3 rounds with moderate size kettlebell
  • KETTLEBELL GOBLET SQUATS, Tabata protocol (20 seconds work/10 seconds rest) for 8 rounds (4 minutes) OR 3-5 rounds of 10 reps with minimal rest between rounds
  • (And, possibly a loaded carry for distance to finish).

You can see by this example, the kettlebell is emphasized and the rep schemes are much different than example #1.

The barbell is included, of course, but I may just use a deadlift in the session (and maybe a squat in another session) to maintain barbell strength work and continue to always include technical skill development.

But, the focus is much different.

It’s more conditioning and metabolic training as opposed to increasing raw strength.

Again, keep the goal the goal.

There are many, many examples of training sessions like this that I have done.

And, another example would be for muscle building, but I’ll save that for a future article.

I’ll probably post some other training samples with barbells and kettlebells.

It seems like the question of “how to use kettlebells and barbells” is a big question and people want to know the best ways to integrate the two.

But, the answer depends on the goal.

Again, there are many ways to approach this and this is only a small sample of the effectiveness of combining these two training tools.

For additional ideas and principles around effective combination training, get the great books Easy Strength and Never Let Go.

Either of these will open your mind to the possibilities and keep you focused on the fundamentals.

If you have questions, let me know.

Spread the word! Please share this on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere you’d like.

Scott Iardella, MPT, CSCS writes about strength training methods to optimize health and performance. If you enjoyed this, join a strong and growing community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and subscribe below to get a ton of cool, free stuff! Subscribe at RdellaTraining.com/join and get your FREE Report and Resource Guide.
7 Comments
  • shneur shapiro
    Posted at 10:50h, 24 November Reply

    thank you for this article. I have been trying to figure out how the best way to incorporate barbell training into my kettlebell classes and this is a great guideline that will help me do so

    • Scott
      Posted at 21:01h, 25 November Reply

      Thanks Shneur!

  • Joe Pantaleo
    Posted at 11:26h, 24 November Reply

    Great article! Absolutely love this style of training, as I believe it takes the best of both worlds. I feel like the KB’s allow me to keep my conditioning and mobility up while doing the heavy BB lifts. I like to open up my workout with lower rep Double KB swings or snatches to fire up the nervous system. (5X5 or so). Picked that up from a Mike Mahler workout. Throw a little bit of bodyweight work in, and it feels perfect to me. Scott, do you have any thoughts on programming a BB/KB/Whatever else workout for firefighters or other 1st responders? I feel I’m fairly dialed in, but always looking for advice from the folks who put out solid information such as yourself. Thanks!

    • Scott
      Posted at 21:13h, 25 November Reply

      Thanks Joe.
      Yeah, the combination of these 2 is outstanding.
      Good question about Firefighters. A big thing with them is to minimize risk for injury, so getting an FMS screen is a GREAT way to assess baseline mobility and address any problems there (and there’s even data to show the benefit in that population).
      As far as training for them, it’s all about the fundamentals, right? Squats, swings, presses, DL. And, mobility and conditioning.
      The screen and the fundamentals are the best approach there, in my opinion.
      There was also a small pilot study done in the tactical population doing kettlebell and mobility work, which showed significant strength benefits over 12 weeks of training for all participants. The program was TGU’s, swings, squats, presses.
      Keeping it simple and focused is the key.
      Hope that helps…
      Scott

  • Tim
    Posted at 23:35h, 24 November Reply

    Thoughts on a program with the goal of an RKC or SFG cert?

    • Scott
      Posted at 21:19h, 25 November Reply

      Good question Tim.
      For SFG/RKC, this would be the time I would say to put the barbell away for a while.
      I think you really have to immerse yourself in the kettlebell technique to own the skills for a few months.
      AFTER the cert, then get back to the barbell. I know there may be a few that keep up with a DL or squat, but my experience to is to “keep the goal the goal” here and fully commit to the KB for the cert.
      That’s what I did and that’s what I recommend.
      The barbell will be ready, after you pass -:)) I’d focus on the KB’s.
      Scott

  • Tim
    Posted at 08:48h, 26 November Reply

    Thanks, Scott!

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