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How To Fix The 3 Most Common Programming Mistakes For Kettlebell Fat Loss Workouts

December 28, 2010 12:01 PM

Losing fat with kettlebells is simple.

At least it should be easier than using other tools – after all, we have high rep Swings and Snatches at our disposal. But unfortunately, it appears that fat loss programming with kettlebells still eludes many people.

I don't blame them though – there is just so much misinformation in the weight loss marketplace and society in general.

So let's make it easy and get back to what really matters – results. That's what we're all really after anyway, right?

If you are interested in using your kettlebells to lose fat here are three of the most common mistakes made in programming for fat loss with kettlebells. I've also included what I believe to be the fixes.

Mistake #1 – "Working Out."

It's part of the common vernacular, so we can barely help ourselves. "Workout." "Working Out."

But if your goal is fat loss, then you're not "working out" – you're TRAINING for fat loss.

Training implies a goal to focus on, a strategy to achieve that goal, and a series of tactics to use within that strategy.

In other words, there's a systematic plan to follow.

Working out is just that – exercising to the point where you feel fatigued, or "good about your workout." It is generally random, which explains the popularity of the so-called "Workout of the Day."

"Working out" is short-sighted. Training is focused on a goal and usually measured to track progress. For example, I can tell you EXACTLY what I did in my training this time last year – because I wrote it down. I had a plan. You need one too.

Forget about the "Workout of the Day."

Yes, I said it, or more specifically – wrote it – and it'll make some people mad. Get over it. The WOD mentality fails to take into account the long-term considerations of adaptation. You want to know if you're WOD is working for you? Track and measure your progress. If you're getting your desired outcome – the goal for which you are training – you're on the right track. If not, time to abandon that "plan" for a real one.

Remember, adaptation is what we are looking for in every training program. For our purposes, we are looking for increased fat loss.

Mistake #2 – Not Fixing Bad Movement Patterns

You've done it and I've certainly done it.

What is it?

Only doing the exercises we like to do, regardless of whether we need to do them or even should do them.

You know what I mean – your shoulder hurts but you still insist on pressing today – and tomorrow (just to double-check) – even though deep inside you know you shouldn't.

Yes, the mind is a powerful thing. We can convince ourselves of almost anything it seems...

But the problem here is that often with pain, comes inflammation. And with inflammation come decreased neural drive to the muscles around the affected area, and then compensations occur.

"What's so bad about that?" some may say? "Aren't we designed to compensate?"

Yes, we are. But it's a survival strategy, not a performance strategy. It's meant to keep you alive, not necessarily to help you run faster, or lose more body fat.

So, discover what is holding you back and fix it.

I lost 20 pounds of muscle and gained 15 pounds of fat when I lost the ability to Squat and Deadlift heavy due to pain and compensations. It took me years to gain most of that back. And that was only after I took care of the movement restrictions.

"Well How Does That Work?"

Here's the deal – your body is always doing the best it can to do of it what you ask it to do. Lift heavy kettlebell. Swing heavy kettlebell. Snatch kettlebell for a lot of reps. Run. Pick up and burp junior.

When your body is working efficiently, it's burning an optimum number of calories, because all the muscles are working in symphony. When your hip flexors lock up cause you spend all day sitting on your keyster, your butt doesn't work the way it should – maybe not at all (gluteal amnesia).

Your body still has to find a way to do all the things you ask it to do, so it "re-routes" or "re-directs" energy away from the muscles that it should be using to move to ones that should be used to stabilize. (In this case the gluteus medius, the erector spinae, and the quadratus lumborum.)

The problem is, those muscles are no longer performing their job exclusively, but some other muscles' jobs too.

With regards to fat loss – which is what we really care about, the larger muscles in your body – the ones that produce large amounts of force and use all the energy, are no longer "fully operational." So your body can no longer produce large amounts of force (which requires energy) and no longer use as much energy on a daily basis as they normally would.

So you are no longer burning as many calories either while working or while "resting" (daily activities).

Therefore, it makes great sense from a fat loss perspective to get all your muscles working again properly so you can burn more calories (read: stored body fat).

Makes sense, right?

Mistake #3 – Trying to "Out-Snatch A Donut."

I think it was my good friend Dave Whitley, Master RKC, who came up with the term "Out-Snatch A Donut." And I laughed out loud when I heard it because it sums up all that is wrong with the weight loss industry today.

Here's the deal, no matter how hard you try to skirt it, deny it, or overcome it, the Laws of Thermodynamics hold true for weight loss – you must eat less calories than your body burns every to lose fat.

I know – I hate it too, but it doesn't make it any less true.

So, you just cannot eat whatever you want, swing your kettlebell, and expect the body fat to magically disappear.

Look, there are people out there who can do that – but they are the exception – you and I are the rule. If that weren't the case then everybody who touched a kettlebell would drop off the excess blubber and you and I know that just doesn't happen.

Here's why –

There are two types of responses to intense exercise:
  1. The hunger response is blunted and the individual ends up eating less, and the individual ends up burning off more calories than he/she consumes, or

  2. The hunger response is accelerated and the individual eats more than he/she normally does to compensate (there's that word again) for the calories burned.
I don't know what the exact statistical breakdown is, but in almost 20 years in the fitness business, many more people fall into the second category than the first. I'm one of them. If you're reading this article, you probably are too.

Therefore, whether you like it or not, you must get control of the foods you put in your mouth if you ever want to achieve the fat loss you desire.

The Fixes

Now that we've seen what the most common mistakes are, let's take a close look at how we're going to fix them.

We'll start these in the reverse order because the last Mistake will be fresh in your memory and therefore the easiest to address.

Fix #3 – Eat For Energy Not To Store Energy – And Fat Loss Will Be Virtually Automatic.

Hardly seems possible, let alone true.

But do you know what the unwanted fat on your body is?

Stored energy.

Do you know why it's there?

Because you told your body that it needed to store that fat for some future use.

It's just that simple.

Therefore in order to get rid of it, you must tell it to do the opposite.

And the only way you can do that is by switching the signals you are sending it.

And the only way to do that is turn off your fat-storing hormones and turn on your fat-burning hormones.

The single best way to do that is to eat only foods found in nature – meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, legumes, and seeds and nuts. Stay away from processed (man-made) foods like breads, cereals (yes, what they feed cows), pasta, deli meats, etc.

Yes, it's ok every once in a while to eat processed foods, but they should not make up the bulk of your diet like they do now for so many Westerners.

Fix #2 – Get Down With Movements That Build You Up (Like The Get Up)

Incorporate movements that challenge you like the Get Up. It is just a great exercise in general and has a way of making you address and correct poor movement patterns, especially if you perform it in a slow and deliberate fashion (like the Kalos Sthenos).

One of the most productive months of training I've had in recent memory was December 2009 where I committed to exclusively performing only the Get Up and variations along with some Swings. It fixed most of my issues.

There are a lot of other great kettlebell exercises that literally "bulletproof" you when performed correctly. Here's a sample list –
  • The Swing and it's variations
  • The Press
  • The Windmill
  • The Clean
  • The Goblet Squat
  • The Single Leg Deadlift
  • The Snatch
These movements literally pry open all the tight spots, creating flexibility (increased muscle length) and restoring lost mobility (increased joint range of motion) as well as giving you that "in-between strength" – that strength that keeps you from getting hurt doing the simple things in life like throwing a football or bending over to tie your shoe.

Look for places to incorporate these exercises in your training program. And remember, you don't have to feel like you're having a "workout" for them to be beneficial.

Where should you start?

Probably with the exercises you don't normally do. Pick one or two of those and put them in the beginning of your training program. Drop one or two of your favorite exercises for a while and see where you are in 30 days.

Remember, restoring lost movement will increase your body's need for stored energy, and will automatically start burning stored calories (read: body fat).

Fix #1 – Find a Plan And Then Stick With It.

Look, we all want to believe we are "special" or "advanced" or "different" from the next guy (or gal).

The bad news is that we're not (physiologically speaking, not metaphysically speaking...).

The human body is relatively predictable. If it weren't, things like modern medicine couldn't exist.

Because this is true, you need to follow a plan – and preferably not one you designed, because, as we saw in Mistake #2, you'll likely keep doing the same things you've been doing – the things you like and are "good" at doing.

You need to follow a plan designed by a professional – even if you're one too – because it takes your ego out of the equation. It's like the old saying "The lawyer who represents himself in court has a fool for an attorney."

The professional can see things that you just can't because you are too close to them. (Even as I write this article, I am using another professional's program because I recognize that I have fooled myself way too often in the past...)

There are many fat loss programs available, and even a few great kettlebell fat loss programs. Pick one. Stick with it. See it through to the end. And measure your progress.

When you do, you will no longer feel the need to "workout" because you will know for certain that your newfound training is providing you with all you really wanted in the first place – results.

Geoff Neupert, Master RKC, has been an exercise professional for over 17 years and is currently the owner of Integrated Fitness Solutions, a personal training company in Durham, NC. He has logged well over 20,000 hours of one-on-one client sessions.

His background includes Division 1 Strength and Conditioning, Personal Training, and Post-Rehabilitation. He's either currently certified or has been certified through the following agencies: NSCA, USAW, RKC, NASM, ACE.

He loves kettlebells because they remind him of his passion for the Olympic lifts, but they allow him to train anytime, anywhere without negatively affecting his current life responsibilities.

When you want to strip off that unwanted bodyfat using kettlebells then make sure you grab your copy of Geoff's Kettlebell Burn 2.0 – The Ultimate Kettlebell Fat Loss Program and discover how you can lose up to 2 pounds of fat each week