11 Minute Kettlebell Strength Program

Published by Jason Narog on


Even though this routine has the words “11 minute” but doesn’t include the words “abs”, “hips”, or “glutes” doesn’t mean the routine won’t be beneficial for the abs, hips or glutes. And yes, this will be completed in 11 minutes. This routine is designed to target multiple muscle groups, focusing on 4 of the 6 of the big 6 kettlebell exercises for the Strong First SFG-1 certification. Throughout the routine you’ll be doing swings, cleans, presses, and squats.

Yes, swings and cleans are more of a “ballistic” movement whereas presses and squats are more of a strength “grind” type maneuver. I have a theory on this (which is probably not true, but hey, I’m sure someone in the metabolic training world will agree with me) and it’s as follows – squats and presses should be done in sets of 5. If you follow a 4-0-2 tempo (in a squat that’s 4 seconds down, zero hold, then 2 seconds back up) that’s 6 seconds. 30 / 6 = 5. So if you do 5 reps in 30 seconds using the 6 second tempo you hit that magic number of 5 reps. And you’ll be doing 4 sets so that gives you 20 squats. Plus there’s the whole having to clean or goblet the bell at the beginning of the round and you’ll probably stop more at the 28-29 second mark than the 30 so we’re looking at something more like 25-26 seconds of work so a 5 second squat or a 4 second squat with a second breather inbetween still puts you around 5.

Let’s talk about bell size selection then before we get going. You may want 2 different bells. 1 bell for the first exercise – renegade rows, and then 1 bell for everything else – swings, squats, and shoulder presses. I’m assuming if you go with this 2 bell method that the squats are going to be goblet squats and you won’t be cleaning the bell up, instead you’ll be rowing it up. But, you could get 3 bells and clean two of them to get 2 bells going on your squat. Or you could use 4 bells and do the push up portion of the renegade row with both hands on bell handles. I opted for one bell doing a split push up – 1 hand on the bell and 1 hand on the floor. Select a bell that you’re comfortable with for the renegade row. Too light a bell and your wrist strength is going to be seriously tested. I tried a lighter bell first myself and had the bell tip over so I opted for a heavier, more stable bell. Please, please be careful with all weighted exercises, but be mindful of your bell selection here with the row in particular due to the wrist rolling factor.

So here’s the routine – 2 rounds, 8 exercises, 30 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest.

* I designed this for kettlebells, but have seen kettlebell swings performed with dumbbells so you can do this routine with dumbbells.

Exercise 1 – Push Up to Renegade Row on the Left Side

If you can’t perform a full push up but can hold a plank then you can opt for the renegade row portion of this exercise without the push up. Depending on your set up from my lengthy introduction (number of bells used), start in plank position with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and do a push up. When you return to plank position perform a renegade row at the top with your left side only. Then do another push up, then another row. This is where the bell selection was important. You want to maintain a neutral position while performing the plank / row. Don’t twist the body to pull the bell up. Keep your elbows close to the body, pulling your arm up to an L like position.

T Nation does an awesome job of explaining why the renegade row is awesome.

Exercise 2 – Squat

The piece of paper I wrote this routine on says “Goblet Squat.” If you want to work on your cleans then you can opt to do a clean before your squat instead of the row to get your bell to goblet. If you need help with form, check out my guide on proper squat technique. In all seriousness, if you don’t have squat form correct, don’t do this with weight.

Exercise 3 – Russian Swings

I don’t know what you have available in terms of bell sizes so this one is up to you on whether you’re doing a double arm or a single arm swing. If you only have lighter bells available and you’re comfortable swinging the bell one handed, this should be a left arm swing. If you have a challenging bell for doing a double then go double. Cues for swings – this is a hip hinge exercise, your hips should be going back and forth, glutes tight, core, tight. Play chicken with the bell on the backswing, waiting for the last second to move out the way. You’re not using your arms so much as your hips to power the bell up, it should be weightless near the top. Don’t push the bell down on the way down, gravity will help with that. Feet planted firmly on the floor, hips shoulder-ish width apart. No squat swings, no swings over the shoulders. The title of the exercise is “Russian Swing.”

Exercise 4 – Shoulder Press Left Side

Clean the bell then press the bell overhead using your left arm. Exhale on the way up, and inhale on the way down. Hold the bell close to your body when the bell is down. Squeeze your right hand and keep your core / glutes tight through the entire movement. Your body should not be moving outside of your left arm (and possibly your right if you’re adjusting your squeeze.) If you were opting for a heavier weight, you could bend your knees to do a shoulder push press, but the way this is written is as a standard shoulder press with no assistance from the knee.

Exercises 5 through 8 – Replace the word “Left” with “Right” in exercises 1 through 4

Exercise 5 are push ups to renegade rows on the right, exercise 6 is still a squat (if you were using two uneven weighted bells that you cleaned then switch the uneven-ness to the other side, otherwise just do the squat again), 7 is a swing (if single arm switch to right), and 8 is the shoulder press on the right side.

Pre and Post Routine

For a pre kettlebell warmup I had halos around the head, bottoms up holds on both arms, and the kettlebell behind the back neck stretch. You should be able to find halos and bottoms up all over the interweb without issue. The behind the back neck stretch is performed as follows – grab a heavy-ish bell and hold it with both hands behind your back. This will drop your shoulders down. Look up and down, left and right, and diagonally to stretch various pieces of your neck and shoulder complex.

For post routine do 11 minute kettlebell abs. As described you have about a 25-30 minute routine excluding any additional warm up or cool down. Add your own warm up or cool down as desired. When I ran this routine the warm up included some of the walking stretch movements from the mud run workout combined with some animal movements.