By April 24, 2009

Kettlebells and Great Body, session 15

It’s been a little over three weeks since I completed the excellent Power Half Hour series by I wanted to give myself a little time off from the typical Power 90 / Tony Horton-style home workouts, and was on the lookout for something a little different.

I turned to a Russian kettlebell workout every other day, with’s Great Body fitness series on the off days. Like the Power Half Hour series, I work out six days and take the seventh day off.

For those of you unfamiliar with Russian kettlebells, they are basically a big ball of iron with a handle on top. The bottom is flat so you can rest it on the floor. The ones I’ve purchased have a vinyl lining; that was because they were the least expensive not because I had an affinity for vinyl. Well, at least, not with my workout equipment. Online recommendations suggested a 16kg (35lb) kettlebell to start, with a 24kg (53lb) kettlebell for “fit” men. I am glad I didn’t listen to any of that shit and bought a 20lb kettlebell. But more on that later. Let’s just say it felt delicious for to second-day air me a twenty pound chunk of iron. 🙂

Along with my new cannonball, I purchased Enter the Kettlebell, a introduction DVD by kettlebell expert Pavel. This guy has the type of body I want, and could reasonably attain. I am not a big guy by any means, so adding a little bit more mass while staying lean is more of a possibility. I was hoping for a workout DVD, but instead it was a break down of the common kettlebell moves. It was useful, as some of the exercises are pretty dangerous if you are new to kettlebells or lifting in general.

Which brings me to the Great Body series. The sessions are very short, usually fifteen minutes or less. Like the Power Half Hour, each session targets a particular muscle group: thighs, butt, arms, abs, stretch.

This set is horrible for beginners, and questionable for intermediates. To keep the time short, there is no warm up, no cool down, and poor instruction. I say “poor,” because while there is some instruction it would be potentially harmful to go by their brief explanation alone. For example, in the P90 Basic series, the P90 Hawaii Fat Burner Express disc, and the Power Half Hour, Tony Horton makes an incredibly big deal about keeping the rear leg straight while doing a lunge. It’s pretty fucking important; I heard him say it roughly 10,000 times through all the workout sessions. So what does the lady do in the Great Body Thigh session? Bend. Bend. Bend. “Keep bending your back leg!!” she calls out. If you follow along with her, you are going to stress your knees more than you need to.

The good thing about the series, if you already understand good form, is that it is pretty effective in a short period of time. There is no rest between exercises (another reason it sucks for beginners), but I was humbled by my first Great Body workout. I thought I was bad ass coming off of the other series, but my quads were burning up something fierce four minutes into the routine.

Since Pavel’s DVD — which is a real hoot, by the way — didn’t come with any workouts, I purchased The Great Kettlebell Handbook by Michael Jespersen and James Talo. The majority of the little booklet explains the different exercises, so it was nice to cross-reference Pavel’s instructions with the printed examples. There are three sample workouts in the back of the book, and I have been doing two of them alternatively.

Most of the kettlebell movements concentrate on the legs and hips. The rest of the body is used at all times, but mostly as stabilizers as you hump the kettlebell from a football center’s “hike” position to any number of strongman-esque poses, like holding the kettlebell over your head. One workout concentrates on repetitions, the other on doing as many movements as possible within a time period. Either one is really, really tiring.

My least favorite movement to do (and therefore the best one I should be doing) is the Get-Up. You lie flat on the floor, with a kettlebell to one side. During the first part of the move, you pick up the kettlebell with both hands and then extend it overhead with one hand. Turning the torso and upper body together, you extend the kettlebell up as far as possible. Then you stand up, lifting the kettlebell overhead. Then you reverse the motion, and switch sides. Forever. Or five times per side. Feels like the same thing.

I was very glad I got the 20# kettlebell to start. For one, it’s a manageable weight for learning the movements. There are some counter-intuitive things you do during a kettlebell workout, like extending the kettlebell out in front of you and then transferring it from one hand to the other. In mid-air. While your dogs watch you totally unaware that there’s a big weight floating close to them. Or pass it between your legs like a football and then switch hands. In mid-air. With a set of French doors behind you.

I bought the next largest kettlebell a week into my routine, but I don’t use it very much. It is still too heavy for me to complete a full session, and I don’t believe in slowing down my pace just because I’m tired. I am subbing the heavier, 35# bell in as often as possible, and switching back out to the 20# as I become fatigued. If I had started with the 35-pounder it would have been trouble. Going “big” up to 53 pounds would have resulted in a disaster.

Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed the combination workouts between the kettlebells and the Great Body series. I definitely wouldn’t recommend the Great Body set as a stand-alone workout routine, but it’s a nice “off day” for the kettlebells. I add in the stretch session from Great Body on kettlebell days, and the ab section from either Phase 4 of P90 Basic or the Great Body abs on the Great Body days. Seems to work so far.

Here are my measurements:


Although my arms and chest aren’t getting bigger, I’m getting more defined. Losing so much in the chest was disheartening, but I don’t really do any discreet upper body work with this program, and some of my mass from last time was fat I’ve lost this time around. My big “wins” for the time period is my waist and thigh … I was pretty sure I’d plateaued in my legs, but down they go! I can see my quads again without having to really flex them.

Here’s the part that the freak show connoisseurs are waiting for: pictures.

Front, after my Power Half Hour sessions:

Front, after session 15 of Bells & Body:

Back, after my Power Half Hour sessions:

Back, after session 15 of Bells & Body:

Front, in flex, after session 30 of Power Half Hour:

Front, in flex, after session 15 of Bells & Body:

Back, in flex, after session 30 of Power Half Hour:

Back, in flex, after session 15 of Bells & Body:

Triceps from Power Half Hour days:

Triceps, after session 15 of Bells & Body:

2 Comments on "Kettlebells and Great Body, session 15"

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  1. Starbuck says:

    Again, I thank you 🙂

  2. Ed says:

    Show us the kettlebell!