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Kettlebell Circuit Training and the Anabolic Diet: The path to LEAN & STRONG!

For those of you looking for a lean, strong body without the bulky bodybuilder look or like a collection of body parts – kettlebell circuit training is for you. I have been training with kettlebells for about three years. I bought my first one – a 16kg – just before my wife had triplets in October of 2003 because I didn’t think I would get to the gym for a while. We already had a 5 year old and I figured a little lifting was better for my body and mind than none at all.

I played around with them for about a year and a half but didn’t really have a system developed to train to my goals: Strong as possible while staying as lean as possible. Like most people that weight train I could gain size but usually at the price of added fat in my waistline.

Then I discovered Anthony Diluglio in Providence RI. He owns Punch Gym. This was a place I could go and devise a method to my kettlebell workouts. Anthony has created two DVD’s that focus on Kettlebell Circuits. They train the whole body in 30 – 45 minutes and allow you to focus on strength, speed, flexibility, whatever your goal is. I describe this type of training as weightlifting, cardio, Pilates and Yoga all in one workout!

The Art of Strength: Providence is a whole body workout that has 14 different exercises done in two minute intervals with a minute in between. The workout is as follows:

Round 1: 2-handed swing, one arm swing, hand-to-hand swing
Round 2: Cleans
Round 3: Chest presses
Round 4: Squats/sumo deadlifts
Round 5: One leg deadlift
Round 6: Windmills into an overhead squat
Round 7: clean and press
Round 8: Flip and squat
Round 9: Tactical lunges
Round 10: Triple crush
Round 11: Sling shot into a figure 8 with a static hold
Round 12: Seated press
Round 13: One arm row
Round 14: Pullovers, Russian twists, Sicilian crunch
Round 15: 3 minute snatch test

Some times I tweak the workout depending on my goal. For example if I want more of a cardio session I will use a lighter bell and do 15 hanging leg raises in between exercises. This basically negates the one minute rest and requires you to keep your heart rate up for over 40 minutes. If I am interested in more of a strength workout I might cut the exercise time down to a minute and increase the bell size. I alternate light and heavy usually every other workout. Another twist that I found that throws your body a curve is to do the exercises in reverse order. It keeps your muscles guessing after getting used to the sequential order and repetition of the original workout.

At least one day a week I try to blast my body with a few exercises of 10 sets of 10. For example one of my favorite total body workouts includes only 3 exercises:

  • 10 x 10: Two handed swings (48 kg bell)
  • 10 x 10: Chin-ups (bodyweight)
  • 10 x 10: Explosive KB pushups ( this requires you to do a pushup with one hand on the bell and one on the floor – then explode so that the other hand lands on the bell in the push up position for the next rep.

This circuit is a killer includes 300 total reps and fries your whole body!

My final circuit includes the use of a 16 kg, 24 kg, and 32kg bell. It involves 1 x 5 snatch with each bell in order – followed by 1 x 5 clean with each bell in order -followed by 1 x 5 swing with each bell in order. Do the above 3 times. For example:

  • Snatch 16kg 1×5, 24kg 1×5, 32kg 1×5 (each arm)
  • Clean 16kg 1×5, 24kg 1×5, 32kg 1×5 (each arm)
  • Swing 16kg 1×5, 24kg 1×5, 32kg 1×5 (each arm)
  • Three times through the circuit

At the same time I discovered the Anabolic Diet. It is basically a high fat, medium protein and low carb diet 5 days a week with a 2 day carb-up at the end of every week. This diet worked wonders on my body as it allowed my to get lean while eating virtually everything I wanted on the weekend! ( I usually eat carbs Friday night thru Sunday night). I am 5’8” and weighed 195 lbs when I started the diet/kettlebell circuit training and dropped to 165 lbs in 6 weeks. My waist shrunk from a 34 to a 28 while keeping my strength.

A sample day’s food during my low carb phase is as follows:

  • 5am – Gym
  • 7am – Low carb protein shake with 1 tbsp of flax seed oil and 3 fish oil pills
  • 10am – handful of peanuts/walnuts
  • 12pm – Cheeseburger/Steak Tips and a salad with olive oil
  • 3 pm – peanuts/walnuts and a low carb protein bar
  • 6pm – steak, chicken, pork etc.

A couple of tips – you want to keep the fat higher than the protein. Fat is your fuel and it needs to be high. I try to get the majority of my fat from fish oil, olive oil, peanuts/ walnuts etc. Also if you are craving sweets try frozen coolwhip. It works great to satisfy the need for sugar. Coffee is almost a must during the beginning of the diet because your energy will be low but I find that after a few weeks I feel great with out carbohydrates.

The weekend is when life gets fun. Ice Cream, Pizza, French Fries…they are all fair game. I usually have all my junk on Friday night and then try to switch to low glycemic carbs on the second day of the reintroduction of carbs. Every one is different. Try out different things and see what works for you. You want to eat about 75% carbs on the weekend to refill your glycogen stores and get yourself ready for the coming week. You also want to eat when ever you are hungry and as much as possible. You have the ability to over fill your glycogen stores because of the carbohydrate depletion and want to take advantage of the opportunity. It is not unusual for me to eat about 1500 calories a day during the week and about 5000 a day on the weekend.

But remember to try and keep the carbs days to about 48 hours. I have found that if you go to a 3rd day you will start gaining fat. Exactly the opposite of what you want.

I urge everyone interested in this system to try it. The carb up weekend gives you something to look forward to every weekend – and actually fuels your muscles for another week of training in a carb free environment.

Rob “KettlebellRob” O’Brien is an avid fan of strength and conditioning; focusing on non-traditional training methods like body weight only, kettlebell training and shot-put training.

He is currently working in certification in personal training through the American Fitness Training of Athletics (AFTA) and will be attending the Russian Kettlebell Certification Course (RKC) in June of 2007. He resides in Ashland, MA. and can be reached through his website at:

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