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Off-Center Core and Body Conditioning with Kettlebells

February 7, 2005 07:42 AM

I have often been accused of being a little off center? sometimes by my wife?and then sometimes by other people whose opinion has much less direct effect on what dinner is going to be like.

Actually for this article I wanted to take advantage of multiple ways to training the abs within a whole body conditioning routine. The abs are the drive train of the body. If you can build huge thighs or shoulders or whatever the case may be, but don't have the linkage strength of the abdominals then you can't display the strength you have built. You will never build a powerful body without building powerful core muscles. So for this routine we're going to take advantage of a few different ways to overload the abs without actually having to spend a great deal of extra time or effort on them and going to work them into a complete body routine.

You see, that is one of the secrets of building truly strong abdominals. To use exercises that force them to function as a whole unit. I built the ability to do repetition sit-ups with 400lbs. on my chest while only intermittently doing sit-ups. And when I did do them it was for low repetitions and low sets. But I built that strength by doing a ton of extremely heavy overloading exercises that force my abdominals to fire with strength to match my thigh and back muscles. (Lots of squats, deadlifts, partials and most of it without a belt.)

Another secret to great abdominal strength is off-center or one-limbed exercises. By forcing the body to work one sided you create and off center stress that creates double the pressure on the abdominal muscles. Even though it is "indirect" work for the abdominals -just like the overload exercises I mentioned above -it is by far the greatest strength builder and most functional work you can do for your core. In fact the one arm press has become the staple of my upper body work and I and others as well believe that its overall strengthening effect of the core has lead to gains not just in shoulder and upper body strength but in leg and back strength as well.

Another technique that we're going to take advantage of in this routine is pre-exhaustion, but not necessarily in the traditional way. You see, if you want to truly make sure that an area is strong, occasionally do something in your routine that targets that area first, then finish using big basic exercises that force even more pressure on that link in your strength chain. By working a couple of exercises that have high abdominal stress then finishing a routine with active and static one-armed exercises, you create an extremely thorough training effect and test for your core muscles.

Also because every part of this routine has a synergistic effect on the core muscles, yet only one exercise is truly an abdominal exercise and done early in the routine, you avoid the common training problems of a long drawn out abdominal workout and the fact that pretty much all of your big lifters work so hard on the big muscles that abs only get done as an after thought when in fact they should receive full attention.

The rest of this routine also places active and static conditioning work on your whole body. So you get a very fast strength building and conditioning workout and you also get to take advantage of the ballistic movement of the kettlebell which also has an abdominal concentrating effect as well as its already well known conditioning benefit.

So here's the routine:

You will need one kettlebell. You may choose to use multiple kettlebells but you will only be using one a time. You may however have to adjust the weight you use for the individual exercise according to your ability. Or you can simply stay with the same weight and increase the reps on the exercises where you have greater strength or leverage. Because I tend to use kettlebells for more conditioning purposes I'm going to suggest that you shoot for 20 repetitions at least, on each exercise and do it in a straight set. However, you may work heavier or lighter depending on what you want or you may switch hands back and forth with heavier weight until you get to 20+ reps.
  1. Begin with one set of windmills. These are not only an excellent thorough body warm-up, but are tremendous abdominal exercise along with flexibility and shoulder strength. ? Note: High repetitions with a windmill may be difficult to maintain your form on for some people so you may wish to break it down into lower rep sets to achieve a total, but you will need to determine this on your own.
  2. Rack hold sit-ups. Begin holding one kettlebell in the rack right handed and do 20?25 repetition sit-ups. You may anchor your feet if necessary, then switch and do 20?25 holding in the left hand rack. By holding a kettlebell in the rack position to do sit-ups you place the weight high in the hold position making the exercise harder as well as off center which creates an intense abdominal pull.
  3. One arm overhead lift and walk. Clean the kettlebell to the shoulder right handed then press, push press, or jerk, suits you, the bell 20?25 times then switch to left hand and repeat. Then switch immediately to your right hand again and put the bell up to an overhead lock position and go for a walk. When you can no longer hold the bell in that position switch back to your left hand, put the bell overhead and walk some more. You may want to decide on a preset distance to walk or simply walk as far as you can one time each one or multiple times switching back and forth with your hands.
  4. One arm front squat and walk. Bring the kettlebell to the rack position right handed. You may use you left hand to help balance your right hand if necessary. The important point being that the weight is to the chest and at the right side. From there 20 to 25 reps front squats, then switch immediately to left hand rack and 20?25 more reps front squats, switch immediately back to the right hand rack and go for a walk. When you tire switch back to the left-hand rack and continue walking. Here is where you have some options as far as weight used or repetitions or event he style of walking that you employ because your legs are so much stronger. You may need to use a heavier bell to limit your repetitions or do higher repetitions with a lighter bell and or you may wish to add difficulty to the walk to balance the work to make it difficult enough for your legs. Some options here would be walking squat, lunge walking, dragon walking, duck walking, half squat walking, etc.
  5. One arm swing and farmers walk. Begin with the right hand 20?25 reps one arm swing, switch immediately to left hand, 20?25 reps one arm swing. Then immediately switch back to the right hand and begin one handed farmers walk as you tire switch the left hand and continue walking. Again you may pick a pre set distance you wish to walk and walk as far as is necessary or simply walk as far as you can with either hand.
If you go through this routine quickly you will get intense cardio and strength, endurance training and muscular strength training for every major part of the body as well as the body as a unit with a particularly hard emphasis on the abs especially as the routine is prescribed. As a bonus the static work/ walking part of the routine as well as switching back and forth from side to side will give you a built in work rest interval so that you can go through this routine at a non-stop or very fast pace making this an extremely quick and efficient routine to complete.

Hope you enjoy it.

Bud Jeffries has been billed as the modern day Paul Anderson. He has written three books and produced 10 videos on the subject of drug free, raw strength training. Jeffries holds numerous titles in Powerlifting and Strongman Events including a World Title with the WNPF. He has been a competitive powerlifter, strongman, NHB martial arts fighter, as well as a Highland Games and Kettlebell Sport competitor. Jeffries played as an Offensive Lineman for the University of Florida and is a motivational speaker in schools and churches, using strength demonstrations as part of his venue. His accomplishments rival medical opinion -doctors stated he should never have walked let alone be one of the strongest men in the world. Bud Jeffries' books and videos are available at