Kettlebell Pyramid Circuit Workout

by Marianne  - February 29, 2012

Hi everyone,

Firstly, I could kill my computer sometimes! I tried to get this workout up yesterday but the editing Software was crashing and I kept losing clips, so my patience just couldn’t hack it and I gave up last night.  Feeling fresh, and much less irritable this morning, I bring you a Killer Kettlebell Workout.

While I was thinking aloud about what type of workout I would put up (because I wanted it to be something different to my usual designs), it was suggested to me to try a Pyramid. I have never done a Pyramid before so I was intrigued.  When designing it, I had to set realistic but challenging reps. There is no point starting at 1 rep because none of the exercises are overly challenging in the very low rep range (if you are have Pull Ups in it, then that’s different). So, I started the reps higher and I increased each round by 2 reps (so the intensity would noticeably increase).  The total reps for each exercise is 48.

A Pyramid (in this way) can be a great way to improve your Strength Endurance and conditioning.  You can also use a traditional Pyramid style approach in the gym ie: with each set you increase the weight and decrease the reps.  Additionally, there is “Reverse Pyramid” training when, after your warm up sets, you start your work set at your heaviest weight (I have never tried this).  However, because I don’t want to complicated today’s workout, I was using this design as a new challenge and a bit of fun! Perhaps in a future post I will explore different methods of training with weights and what advantage/disadvantage each method has.

Would you find this helpful? Let me know 🙂

The Workout

You’ll need to set your Gymboss Classic Interval Timer for stop-watch mode to time yourself. There are 6 exercises and there are 7 rounds (sorry).  The first round you start with 4 reps of each exercise, then each round after that you increase the reps by 2 until you get to 10. After that you go back to 8, then 6, then finally 4.  I even hated myself when I got to the 8,10, 8 part! EEK!

  1. Goblet Squat (I used 20kg)
  2. Double Military Press/Push Press (2 x 14kg) – my vertical press needs work!
  3. Suitcase Deadlift Burpee (2 x 20kg) – what a burn from these towards the top of the Pyramid!
  4. Push Up
  5. Double KB Bent Over Row (2 x 14kg) – probably should’ve used the 16kg’s here, but ah well.
  6. Vertical Swing/Pull Burpee (20kg) – Upper back BURN

What weight? I chose weights I knew would challenge me but not be impossible. In hindsight, I probably could have gone heavier in the Goblet Squat and Rows, but I couldn’t be bothered bringing MORE KBs outside.

Only 1 Kettlebell? Well, you have a longer workout ahead of you as you will have to split the “double KB” exercises in to “right and left” by completing the set repetitions on each side. For the Suitcase Deadlift, you can either swap the KB from side to side each round, or you can place it in the middle and do a standard KB Deadlift.  If you are swapping it from right to left, you do not need to do double reps – just swap sides each round and that will be enough 🙂

Oh and will you believe that I planned a Tabata for the end of this?? EH, I don’t think THAT was going to happen! Maybe next time 😉

Have fun and let me know your thoughts.




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  1. Impressive workout. I forgot about pyramids as a routine and the use of bottlenecks is an added bonus. Impressive and under 30 minutes.

  2. Hi,
    Loving all your workouts. I have been doing my Kettlebells workouts recently however I only have one of each K of 15 lbs & 25 lbs. Would you recommend two Kettlebells instead when doing the workouts?


  3. These type of workouts are exactly what I need for conditioning, training for my martial arts competitions. I like how you put together various exercises that addresses total body. I’ve done similar HIIT routines, but I appreciate your choices of exercises

  4. Just new to your videos…Great job, impressed! Looking forward to trying it. Like your other workouts also. Keep on rocking!

  5. Killer workout! You are so delicate to your kettlebells. I let them crash to the floor all the time. You set them down so nicely. lol

  6. I did this workout this morning and managed it in 22 minutes, weights were 12 kg except for military presses where I used 8 kg.

    I think this will be a good workout to use when I want a hard session, at present I use the triplets one – Trick or Treat, which is a killer, but so gratifying to complete.

    Many thanks Marianne for another great workout.


      1. Hi Marianne,

        I have continued to use this great workout and can now manage the squats with 2 x 12k. Times with these are around the 20 minutes mark.
        I intend to tailor this workout for badminton by adding an exercise of “winding a brick up and down” to the end.

          1. I think the pyramid structure is good in that you can set your own pace and once you have got past 10 reps, you know you are on the way home.

          2. Hi Marianne,

            well, I did this workout this morning with my addition of winding a brick up and down, and my time went out from 20 minutes to 34:50 minutes! This makes it around 19 seconds per wind up and down, according to my reckoning, so I don’t think this particular exercise would suit a timed workout.

            I’m feeling pretty tired, as usual, but with no particular sore spots, which has become the norm when I do your workouts, so I urge all other of your devotees to stick at it and fitness will come.

            Cheers, Peter

  7. heyho !!

    i rly love ur workouts …. even i dont owe kettlebells i try to replace it with some selfmade weights …. thanks for posting all this cool videos …. very inspiring !!!

    ur cool … pls keep going <3 <3 <3

    xoxo beretta

  8. Its been a while since I’ve done a pyramid — the difficulty sneaks up on you! But you have to keep going!

    I forgot to post that I did this on March 1st. It took me 23:57 and it was tough!
    I rated it: HR 1.25 sweat 1.5 and face: red

    I haven’t been doing a lot of KBs lately, so this was fun… well, not fun, it was work, but good work!

    ~ Gillian

  9. I’m gonna do this tomorrow. I need to work more on my push-ups. I might ‘cheat’ a little with my push-ups by doing it on my knees. (Argh! I need to build strength on my arms.)

    I hate push-ups but I know I have to do it. To let you know how much I hate them, I would rather do 100 squats than doing 10 push ups. LOL!

    Please continue to inspire us to be in our tip-top shape.

  10. Just did this and boy was it a killer. I ended up having to take longer breaks between sets towards the end. I adjusted it a bit and did mountain climbers in lieu of pushups, and KB double handed swings in lieu of vertical swing/burpees.

    Thanks for posting this! Great workout! 🙂

  11. Oh man, that was an excellent workout. Thank you.

    I added the tabata to it… great stuff. Thanks again!

  12. Great workout, I did the 10,000 kettlebell swing challenge in January. It is videos such as yours that inspire so many. Keep up the great work.

  13. Hi,
    I’m new to the site for a few weeks now and I Love it! I’m an ex “bodyrocker” 🙂 and this site does so much more for me!! i love the weighted stuff and I now have goals to progress with heavier KB’s which is happening quickly so i get so much satisfaction from them! this workout was by far my favourite so far!! Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi there! I am SO happy you have found this way of training. You will get more balance to your workouts, improve your performance and strength (even more) and you will look and feel better as a bonus. Also, if you check out Girls Gone Strong on Facebook, you will find links to 6 other great blogs to keep you informed about proper fitness and nutrition for strength and conditioning.

      You’re very welcome here 🙂

      1. Thank you so much for that marianne – I a fan of Girls Gone Strong which is how i came about this site!! I love it and have been doing this for about 4 weeks now and already see the difference.

        One question I do have was frequency of this sort of training? I love training 5-6 days a week and although i realise i shoudln’t probably do KB’s every day, do you think its ok to mix it up with bodyweight intervals or sprints on alternating days??


        1. That’s great about your results so far! To answer your question, I think your plan sounds good. Alternating it with other things is what I do too. Only I use KBs for conditioning and the barbell for most of my strength stuff right now. But you can mix things up any way you wish 😀

    2. I was also following the same blog before. But I am a Kettlebell believer and found Marianne’s exercises to be more challenging and more fun. I exhaust myself but feeling stronger at the same time.

      Kettlebell did wonders for me. I hope it will also do great for you.

  14. I tried to do this one today. I only made it through the 10 reps set. I think my arms gave up first, those military presses were no joke for me. I plan on getting stronger, so next time I can finish the whole workout :).

    1. Next time you will be stronger. I think this would be classed as an intermediate/advanced workout, so don’t be hard on yourself. It killed my shoulders too!! 🙂

  15. I am so glad to see that you have uploaded a few things yipee. I was away sailing (came in second) and will have to hold off for a bit till my muscles heal. Love the pyramid I now have to catch up with you. Looking great by the way.

  16. Great site, am a bit of an addict. Have been at kb’s for a while n am using 2x20s ATM. Really enjoy yr instruction n dedication. Keep it coming.


  17. That was great, I really enjoyed the pyramid – well, the 6 to 4 more than the 8 10 8 maybe!

    For my weights I was using the same percentage BW that I worked out you were using (working on your BW from a previous article if that makes sense), sometimes a little more for the DLs and rows. Is this a good way to do it do you think?

    Thanks as always! 🙂

    1. You can start out that way with your weights, but I would keep assessing if it’s enough, or if it’s too much. Only you will know if you are being pushed enough. You will of course surpass these % sooner than me as you progress 🙂 Coz you’re a guy.

      Glad you enjoyed this different style.

  18. Hey again!

    I love hearing about your other gym training and would love to know more about your approach and views about different types of weight training etc as this is helpful for those out there also working shift work or for students like me who have crazy ‘out of the norm’ schedules.

    I love your site – I’ve been following along with you for almost a year now I recommend this site to anyone and everyone I know who takes an interest in functional training as well my fellow nursing students !! This type of training makes so much SENSE for our work ! 😀

    Also love hearing about your gym training – I am just getting into more barbell training but am still hesitant about my lack of knowledge about safely lifting and workout set up etc. so YES more about different methods of weight training would be very helpful !

    Thanks !


  19. Hi Marianne,
    A question for you; when I do the swings, the next day I feel the muscles in my middle back a bit sore, like that nice soreness when you worked out a muscle. But is that right ? I really try my best in doing the swings properly ( watched myself in the mirror )and I do power the movement from the hips, contracting the glutes, but I just want to make sure I am not working it the wrong way, if I feel it in my back muscles.
    Thank you !

    1. Perhaps you have some issues with packing the shoulders? Or you need to stop looking in the mirror as that might be causing a change in your spinal loading. To be honest I am not sure where the issue might be. If it is general muscle soreness from training then I don’t think it’s anything serious, maybe just try and keep the shoulders back, spine and neck in line and see if that helps. 🙂

      1. oh… hee hee…don’t think I am looking in the mirror for the whole workout, just for a couple of swings before the workout to make sure I am doing it properly. Actually my back feels better after these exercises, I think it was just a sign that those muscles got a workout, which is good. Thank you for the advice 🙂

  20. So since I only have 1 KB I would do for exp the rows like this… Left side 4 then right side 4 then go on to next exercise, correct? You know what I love pudding also haha 🙂

  21. You are so funny!!! You are also getting very “V” shaped – nice “pumpkins” (shoulders – lingo I just learned!;)). Love the workout – I’m still working on those pull ups!!! Will do this tomorrow when I can get to the gym. I have definitely improved with the depth of my squats – I have lamented to you about them before, but I am taking my time and advancing slowly but surely! Learning to push, but in moderation and as my body grows in strength!!!! Thanks for all your coaching and leading – I am stronger and in better shape than I have ever been in my whole life! You motivate us by your realness and modesty – thank you so much for this site!!! Please keep it up – I also continue to recommend your site to others and tell them what how impressed I am by your knowledge and ability to teach! Because I am an occupational therapist, I am a stickler for proper form and technique, and safety in how exercises are performed – you are great at that!
    I hope you continue to learn and grow and share what you have learned with us – you don’t often have trainers who are willing to learn and modify what they are doing to improve – that ability to be teachable yourself, in addition to teaching us, shows true professionalism and passion for what you do and how you do it!
    Sorry for the long message, but I really appreciate you!
    Thanks again! Michele 🙂

  22. hi Marianne, in this video we can see how successful your workouts are, because your body has changed, has improved a lot.
    it is a proof, that strenght and power training is very important, just cardio wouldn’t do the job.
    great work!
    greetings from germany

    1. Hi Chris! Thank you for the comment and compliment 🙂 My workouts are such a big part of they way I am today! I am so grateful for the continuing support from everyone here. I know a lot of my readers have had much success because of my workouts and other posts. I am very happy I could help, even if it was just a little 🙂


  23. Love the Pyramid workout! I’ve been experimenting with them since reading Return of the Kettlebell, which explains the pyramid and block training. I find that this makes my workouts take longer, but that’s ok. (S’pose it depends on the # of exercises you use in the pyramid too) It’s amazing the number of reps you can get done in a workout this way isn’t it? Especially with pullups! I finished a pyramid at 4×2,4,6 (going a bit heavier) with 5 exercises including pullups. I love the feeling of knowing I just completed 48 pullups. 🙂
    [the way I did this pyramid was doing one set of 2,4,6, then start over at 2,4,6 etc. rather than climbing back down]

    Speaking of pullups, my latest accomplishment is one weighted pullup with a 40#kb. yay.

    I love that you are exploring new methods and sharing it with us! I look forward to the workouts more than you know.

    *those tweety birds are funny. I welcome the sound though as i’m waiting patiently for spring to arrive!*


  24. I love that you talk to yourself during the workout – especially to encourage yourself on the last one. I do that too. LOL
    Great workouts – tough, but awesome. Thanks for putting them up!

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