Get Strong and Lean – Kettlebell Strength and Tabata

by Marianne  - November 30, 2010

Hi everyone,

Right now I am sitting in my living room, in front of the beautiful open fire (which I just revived from last night). Shinning in through the bay window, the winter sun oozes festivity.  Logs burning, snow melting, the smell of ginger and cinnamon wafting from the kitchen (I may have made some flapjack last night :/ ), just the occasional cracking off the fire and the tap tap tap of my keyboard is all that breaks the peaceful silence – can you tell that Christmas is nearly here?! Gotta love this time of year 🙂

Here is a picture from last night – how cosy is this?

Now, back to business. Today’s workout is strength training followed by Tabata. The Tabata was an total killer, but worth the extra effort! I used to include tabata training at the end of most of my earlier workouts, it is a great way to boost the metabolism and elevate the heart rate.

As you know I am putting together some tutorial videos. I am doing the first one today, so I hope to have it posted tomorrow. This will really test my teaching skills, so I apologise in advance if I seem awkward LOL, BUT I will be trying to keep the tutorials brief 🙂

Back to today’s workout. The first section is strength-based, so each exercise has set reps. I did 3 rounds of the seven exercises in 22 minutes and 41 seconds. It was really tough, especially the Kneeling Press!

So, I just set my Gymboss Interval Timer for stopwatch mode and timed the 3 rounds. The 7 strength exercises and the set reps are:

  1. Double KB Suitcase/Dead Lift “Burpee” x 8 reps (I used 2 x 24kg)
  2. Kneeling KB Press (right) x 4 – 6 reps (16kg)
  3. Kneeling KB Press (left) x 4 – 6 reps (16kg)
  4. Single Leg Deadlift and Row (right) x 8 reps (20kg)
  5. Single Leg Deadlift and Row (left) x 8 reps (20kg)
  6. Heavy Sumo Deadlift x 8 reps (2 x 24kg)
  7. On a KB Tricep Push Up x 8 reps

After the strength section I took a short breather while I reset my Interval Timer for 8 cycles of 10 second rest and 20 seconds max effort. The Tabata section is a mixture of KB swings and bodyweight cardio exercises.  The sequence is as follows:

  1. Two-Handed KB Swing (20kg)
  2. Burpees (with push ups)
  3. Two-Handed KB Swing
  4. Mountain Climbers (eek!)
  5. Two-Handed KB Swing
  6. Squat Jumps (watch the knees)
  7. Two-Handed KB Swing
  8. Lunge Jumps (really watch the knees)

What a challenge! This workout was great, I had so much fun today, and the Tabata really made me feel like dying during it, but after, I felt amazing!

Let me know what you think of this one everyone!

See you tomorrow




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  1. Well ma’am, I picked this workout today because I liked your intro talking about the fire and the coziness, I am so sick of the heat over here in Arizona, I want FALL already! Anyway, I am on week 3 of the 100 push up / 50 pull up challenges and my arms felt like jell-o, so I thought this would be good to work the legs. I was really tired/sore throughout this whole workout and then the TABATA… oh jeez. I was panting like a crazy person in my garage, but I feel really happy now, esp since my workout is over. lol
    Thanks for the motivation,

  2. Hi there! I’m not exactly a kettlebell of guy, but I’ve been thinking of trying out some kettlebell workouts for both myself and my wife.

    Any special consideration when it comes to buying a kettlebell? I’m assuming I can’t go wrong with a pro-grade type. (same dimension regardless of size etc) Having said that, the pro-grade minimum 8-kg weight might be a little too much for my missus. Any idea if those lighter cardio-bells by Reebok are any good?

    1. Hi Feng, Glad to hear you and your wife want to start using Kettlebells. I’m not a fan of the cardio bells, especially if they have a short handle. Honestly, I would encourage your wife to start with 8kg, she will be able to do everything except maybe the military presses and windmills. For presses, I would substitute push presses and upright row until her upper body is strong enough. She will surprise herself Feng. Anything lighter, probably won’t challenge her enough, she wouldn’t need the light ones for long anyway so it would be a waste of money. We have very unfit ladies try our classes for the first time using 6kg and 8kg for presses, they try their best and eventually they build strength.

      Another point is, it might be better for your wife’s technique to learn from the start with the pro grade size, mainly so she will be more likely to move to the heavier KBs and not be intimidated by their size in the future – especially when the KB is in the rack position 🙂

      Good luck and happy shopping 😀

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  5. Love the new workout, especially the heavier weights for variety, and the different exercises mixed up with the kettlebell swings in the “finisher” round! 🙂

    Quick question: For one-legged deadlifts, I occasionally feel it in my back. Is there anything you’d recommend when working in heavier weights?

    Thanks again for all the new workout ideas!

    1. Thanks Marty, it was a really tough tabata for me, but I really pushed through.

      For the single-leg deadlifts I would recommend holding the KB with both hands to keep you more centred. This will prevent the body pulling too much on the back. Also, watch your form, as in make sure you are sitting back first and not bending too far forward, as this will also put more strain on the back, especially when performing the single leg DL. If it doesn’t improve, then I would stick with the normal DL for heavier weights until the back strengthens. Do single-leg ones with lighter weights and see how it goes.

      I hope this helps Marty

  6. Today I did it! The strenght part no stop took me 10 minutes and 15 seconds, and after 2 minutes or rest pause I did it tabata. I found tabata training more easy than strenght period

  7. Marianne,
    Bravo!!!!! What a fantastic workout. Not easy, very challenging. Most difficult for me, one legged deadlift with row. Just like an actual deadlift with a straight bar I felt it from my calves to my neck. The tabata at the end, whew!!!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m giddy with excitement on buying the wide based kettlebells. Cheers ,
    Minnie 🙂 ps your place looks warm, cozy, relaxing and inviting. Enjoy.

    1. Thanks Minnie as always, it’s great to hear from you. You are really getting into your KB training – it’s is so great, I know you will just go from strength to strength 😀


  8. Hi Marianne,
    Another great workout! I can’t wait to do this one tomorrow at my gym. I was wondering, is it neccessary to work out barefooted or can I wear sneakers? I just feel funny taking my shoes off at the gym. Is there another alternative or is it okay to wear sneakers while doing kettlebell workouts?


    1. The reason why barefoot, or as close to it, is better is that your whole body is in a natural position and correct angle to the ground. Most sneakers have a slightly raised heel, so the posture is tilted forward and the natural curves in the spine are knocked off. So, the swing, for example will be less effective on the hamstrings, glutes and back. In most gyms you’re not allowed to go barefoot anyway, so if you don’t have any FiveFingers (which are a bit pricey), you could make sure your sneakers are as flat and thin soled as they come, or even weight-lifting shoes. Just so you are as close to the ground as possible. It will help your technique in the long run.

      Hope this helps Lori 🙂


    2. Thanks, what about socks? Can you wear those while training? I actually took my shoes off at the gym today and just wore my socks. I guess with socks your only thing is that you would have to worry about slipping right?

      Thanks for getting back to me!

  9. Marianne:

    I am definitely going to do this workout tomorrow. I love the two components! I was wondering, and you may have answered this question previously, but if I did just a workout like this, is this enough of a workout? I mean I am literally “spent,” but wondering if I should add to it, or is it too much to add, or too little if I don’t? I have an active job, and time is a major consideration, but should I be working out 45 to 60 minutes? I have seen other Kettlebell instructors talk of getting a full workout in 15 to 20 minutes, and that is all you need. Do you find this to be true?
    Also, where do you purchase your kettlebells? I love the colors, and they appear to be so sturdy. Most of mine are not sturdy enough to use as a base for push-ups, etc.
    Thanks again for your wonderful workouts. I have a collection of them now, and like to mix it up, so it doesn’t get boring. You are kind to put these out there for people who love kettlebells, but are not professionals. All the best.

    1. Hi Mary,

      Whether something is “enough”, depends on a few things. Current fitness level and your goals. If you were spent after this, then it sounds like you were training at the correct intensity to reap the benefits from the workout. There is no real set time to workout, I would say to vary it though. Mix in a little of everything, time permitting of course. I realise it is easy said than done. Having said that, workouts like mine, which are mostly 16 – 25 minutes, are enough for achieving great full body conditioning, fat loss, and even some strength. But what you get from a workout all depends on the effort you put in, so it sounds like you have no issue with putting in the effort, which is great!

      As for my Kettlebells, they are Pro-grade KBs, which are all the same size, no matter the weight, so they are designed to be wider like that. I got them from Wolverson-Fitness in England. I’m not sure where you are from, but I know they ship to UK and EU.

      Enjpy the workout, hope this helps

  10. Did it! The only thing I skipped were the push-ups, and I modified the burpees and did half ones. ( The reason is I did 135 push-ups before the workout. I’m on week 6 of the 100 push-up challenge) The Tabata at the end was killer.

    1. I did a pushup workout and then a pullup routine before doing this… I am stuck on the 100 pushup challenge… my best effort has been 65 PUs in a row, then I have to rest. On bad weeks I can only manage 35 in a row before rest. So I am back to week 7 again, for the 4th time! I figure 100 in a row means just that… no rest, so I am slogging on.

      I am happy with my advancement on the pullup challenge though
      ( ), but I am also on week 12 of the RItes of Passage KB routine, which has a lot of pullups.

      Great workout: challenging and concentrated. I managed this routine in 15:48, but I have real problems with weak shoulders: on the kneeling presses I did 4 reps with 10kg, then went down to 15lbs and did 8 reps, and then went back to 10 kg and did 6 reps R and 6 reps assisted on the left (my left shoulder is really weak.) I used 2 30lb DBs for the suitcase DL and the Sumo DL, a 12kg KB for the single leg DL and the swings. I really need to buy a heavier KB for swings, but that will have to come sometime after Christmas.

      I don’t work nearly as hard as Marianne does, so I think she should gets more points! She’s lifting almost twice what I lift! OMG!!!

      I am glad she is so sweet!

      Oh, since this is the time of year that I can excuse indulgences, yesterday I made chocolate chip brownies with this recipe (I added 4 oz of melted Ghiradelli unsweetened 100% cacao baking chocolate and 2 Tbs of instant coffee to make them Mocha Brownies.) I tell you this because I wanted to show how I really really earned the brownie I ate this morning after my workout! LMK if any of you try this.. it really is yummy, and the almond butter is good for you… really!

      ~ Gillian

      1. I was reading some material from Scott Sonnon of Tacfit/RMax that I had overlooked, but I was stunned by its simplicity and obviousness: he says we don’t eat for today, we eat for tomorrow. What we eat right now will be put to use tomorrow. Based on what you intend to do tomorrow, you may want to adjust today’s eating habits accordingly.

        That is one reason why workouts drag when you are on a low calorie diet. I was surprised that I did not have to pay dearly for the two brownies I ate yesterday… but yesterday was a hard workout day and so was today. Tomorrow is a light day, so no brownies allowed today!

        I really really like Marianne’s limited fasting approach to eating, where you can only eat during an 8 hour window. I have finally settled in to working out first thing in the morning, and then having a good breakfast and smoothie right after my shower. I have read that we have a higher metabolic rate for about an hour after strenuous exercise, so I try to eat within that hour window. I eat minor snacks like fruit or a handful of nuts during the day and then we try to have dinner between 6 and 7 PM.

        Using that routine, I have stayed within about 3 lbs for months now without really being too concerned about what I eat, though I try to eat clean, unprocessed foods. I went up a little bit over Thanksgiving, but now I am back to normal.

        So between the varied workouts and the limited fasting,it seems pretty easy to keep my current shape. Not backsliding is my big concern. Now that I can think of what I eat as a tactical decision, my choices suddenly become easier to make.

        I hope this helps someone!

        ~ Gillian

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