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LIFE, UNEDITED: Travel-Friendly Kettlebell Workouts

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Our fitness editor shares four easy-to-adapt kettlebell circuits that kept her sweaty through the holiday weekend.

Holiday weekends are always an exciting time for me. Primarily, they’re a chance to reconnect with family. I almost invariably make the trek from my home in Minneapolis to my parents’ in New Jersey for Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as the Persian New Year in March. Holidays are also an opportunity to lose my routine — to stay up late, to sleep in, to drink coffee and devour books and go for long walks at all odd hours. I truly relish the disruption.

I didn’t always feel this way. In fact, I used to hate the disruption — I craved my routine! I felt inconvenienced by the freedom afforded by a few days off; lost without the foods I “normally” ate and the workouts I “had to” squeeze in because a training program said so.

Sometime in the last couple of years, I grew tired of worrying about the perceived consequences of not sticking to plan, especially when it came to exercise. I no longer wanted to set an alarm to get up and drive an hour to the gym that most closely resembled the one I had at home. Sure, I wanted to work out — but I also wanted to see my family and friends, and have some downtime with myself. I wanted to relax and to have fun.

Enter the hero of our story: The Kettlebell.

I know I’m not the first to sing hosannas to this versatile strength-and-conditioning tool, and I won’t be the last. But honestly, investing in my own has made a huge difference in my fit-life when I’m away from my gym. I keep two KBs, a 12kg and a 16kg, at my apartment (or secured in my car for when I’m on the road), and also keep one (a 16kg) at my parents’ house for visits home.

Often I’ll refer to my past programming and the Experience Life archives for workout ideas. But sometimes I enjoy making up my own circuits based on what feels good and fun and challenging on a given day. Make-my-own circuits were on the docket last week, when I was away for Thanksgiving. Here’s what I came up with:

CIRCUIT 1

20-mins. OTM:

At the top of each minute, perform 20 kettlebell swings.

CIRCUIT 2

20 Rounds:

  • 10 kettlebell deadlifts
  • 10 kettlebell swings

CIRCUIT 3

Ascending-Descending Ladder, as follows:

  • 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-20 kettlebell goblet cleans
  • 10 kettlebell side bends (right side)
  • 20-19-18-17-16-15-14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 kettlebell swings
  • 10 kettlebell side bends (left side)

CIRCUIT 4

Ascending-Descending Ladder, as follows:

  • 1: 20 kettlebell push press
  • 10 kettlebell swings
  • 20: 1 butterfly sit-ups

As written, these are fairly long workouts (20 rounds apiece) and heavy on reps but not weight (since the KBs I have are on the lighter side for me).

If you want to try any of these, feel free to make adjustments! Halve the number of rounds, for example, or do just an even number of reps in each set. Also go ahead and choose variations of the moves I suggested — single-arm side-to-side swings instead of standard two-handed ones or Russian twists in place of side bends, to name a couple.

Whatever you choose, I’d suggest the following:

  1. Avoid pain and egregious amounts of effort.
  2. Keep your focus on breath and proper form. If you’re hunched over in exhaustion or feel sloppy in the movement, scale back your pace/duration/weight/etc. Or just call it a day and go enjoy something else.

Here are some additional KB workout ideas:

And if you don’t have a kettlebell handy, this body-weight workout is a great option:

, RKC, is Experience Life's senior fitness editor.

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