Why Kettlebell Bullshido Is The Worst For Hypertrophy (kettlebell brahs enter at your own risk)

| by Truth Seeker |

 

I was crazy naive and stupid.

More often than not, I would fall for the following reasoning:

  1. All mainstream ideas (e.g., bodybuilding magazines) are lies and deception.
  2. Alternative systems are the key.

In other words, I trapped myself in the web of the Good Cop – Bad Cop strategy.

One of the doctrines that got my attention was Kettlebell Magic. It was supposed to be an alternative to the steroid-induced bodybuilding. The deal included lots of “functional” mass and manliness.

Kettlebells are/were advertised as essentially good for everything.

Want to lose weight? Hump a kettlebell.

Want to gain muscle? Sure, you can do it. Then the author proceeds to give a long talk about some ancient guy in the 1900s or even 1800s who’d allegedly built insane mass via kettlebells all while fighting lions or other beasts.

I bought the idea because I needed a lie to believe in.

But the reality is different.

As always, it is boring and painful but also healing in its own way.

The truth is that kettlebells are very good for cardio and conditioning, but when it comes to hypertrophy they underperform on many accounts.

Where do I even start?

1. Large Jumps 

Standard kettlebells are not adjustable and come with big gaps – e.g., 16kg to 24kg to 32kg. This complicates loading and progression as you need to do a million reps before jumping to the next bell.

2. Expensive

A set of quality bells costs as much as a second-hand car. Meanwhile, you can get a set of adjustable DBs (or build an adjustable KB handle yourself) for the price of an expensive dinner at a pretentious restaurant.

3. Most Kettlebell Exercises Are Anti-Hypertrophy

If you are completely untrained, standard kettlebell exercises will add muscle to you, for sure.

But after building a base, it’s game over. And it doesn’t take longer than 6-8 months of dedicated training to build that base.

The standard kettlebell exercises such as swings, snatches, and cleans don’t build muscle.

I am not joking.

What do you think is going to build your hamstrings? 100 swings with a kettlebell or 5 sets of brutal seated leg curls between 6-8 reps.

It’s the second.

Why? If you can do 100 reps, the muscular tension, stress, and local damage are low, and the exercise does not provide the necessary stimulus for growth.

Meanwhile, the curls may be the opposite of functional but put the muscle under the needed stress to generate insane intramuscular tension. The muscle is also damaged on a micro level.

As a result of both, it grows. Ultra-high reps (50+) cannot provide that tension and are therefore impotent when it comes to stimulating maximum hypertrophy.

Furthermore, the vast majority of kettlebell exercises are based on hip hinging (a.k.a. humping).

This is bad for growth too.

Why? Two reasons:

a. The movement is quite short. A short range of motion is not necessarily bad for growth but requires a lot more weight to generate the needed intramuscular tension. The extra weight causes fatigue and increases the chance of injury.

b. The hips do all the work.

During proper cleans, snatches…etc. the upper body doesn’t work all that hard. The lifter is catapulting the bell upward with his hips and then hiding under it. It’s somewhat athletic but not hypertrophic.

4. Many “Money” Exercises Can’t Be Done Effectively With Kettlebells

Let’s say that you want to build your chest with an incline press (one of the best exercises for that task).

How are you going to do it with a kettlebell?

It would be quite uncomfortable, to say the least. The warm-up would be weird and then the jumps would be extreme.

The same applies to other movements such as curls, triceps extensions…etc.

5. Light and Uncomfortable for Leg Training

If you’re serious about building strong and big legs, kettlebells won’t be enough after a while.

Front KB squats are nice and much better than using DBs. But even they suck in comparison to barbells and machines.

Cleaning heavy bells and then squatting with them feels tough, but the legs can handle a lot more. The upper back and your overall system will give up way before your legs.

Meanwhile, if you get on the hack squat machine and pump 15 reps to 1-2 reps before failure, the growth stimulus is maximized because all the pressure is on the legs, primarily the quads and you don’t have to worry about balancing some iron bells.

Once again, it’s not functional. But functionality is overrated anyway. If you want to be functional practice the function that you want to be good at.

Adjustable DBs Destroy Kettlebells For Upper Body Mass

A set of adjustable handles (the cheapest that one finds in convenience stores) are absolute monsters when it comes to upper body construction. Why?

Endless reasons…

  1. Infinite scalability
  2. The jumps could be as little as 100 grams (if you buy fractional plates or make some by cutting a piece of bicycle inner tube and filling it with sand)
  3. You can do all the money hypertrophic exercises – presses, curls, triceps extensions, rows…etc.
  4. Affordable
  5. No need to be part of a cult
  6. Compact

Most People Are Not Honest With Themselves

Here’s a painful truth: most people who get into kettlebell training and shame standard bodybuilding methods are often hypocrites.

They want bigger muscles, just like regular gym brahs, but also want to feel superior and thus resort to some alternative pathways that are ironically subpar for producing their actual goals.

Don’t worry. I know that this doesn’t apply to everyone and some dudes genuinely like juggling kettlebells, but the vast majority of people want to get bigger.

Seriously.

Try this test.

A genie comes out of a bottle and says: 

“What do you want? 2 inches of muscle on your arms and chest or the ability to do 1000 snatches with a 32 kg kettlebell?”

I know my answer. You know your answer. We all know your answer.

There is no shame in honesty.

Always Follow the Direct Approach

I am not a fan of indirect anything. If you want something, go get it. Dancing around the topic is putting you further away from your goals.

I am also not a fan of “carryover”. If you want a bigger bench press, bench instead of hoping that some mythical Soviet kettlebell presses will give it to you.

if you want a deadlift PR, do deadlifts instead of swings.

If you want bigger legs, destroy them in the gym.

If you want bigger arms, do the “sinful” exercises known as curls.

If you want bigger forearms, don’t type “do deadlifts give you larger forearms” in duckduckgo.com (I am not a Google guy anymore haha). Instead, go do direct forearm training.

Searching For What’s Already Out There…

We have this belief that somewhere there is a magical formula that hasn’t been discovered. Something special that trumps everything else out there. And we search for it one way or another.

Muscle construction isn’t any different.

And I was just like you as a kid. I would do “research” for hours. Going to obscure forums. Reading post after post.

Looking for that ultra-special thing.

And I would find it or so I would think.

In the end, you always go back to the basics.


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25 comments

  1. Ex-natty

    Kettlebells are very good….at injuring your spine

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Well, if the exercise is done correctly, it’s not more dangerous than using barbells.

      1. ex-natty

        It is, the swing is very dangerous but also a lot of jerky movements wit kettlebell damage the lower. You haven’t researched enough, see interview with ex kettlebell expert Steve Maxwell

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAYnIlwcYWY&t=125s

        Kettlebells are fine sometimes some normal moves legit feel good with them but the swings (and the rest of the jerky movements) are a disaster waiting to happen

      2. Juanjo

        But is your experience as a coach?

      3. Eduardo

        Me encantaría que hicieras un artículo hablando de los métodos de Arrhur Jones

      4. pierre farine

        Hi Nattu,
        When Dragon door and Pavel started the this kettle fad Steve Maxwell was one of the first to jump in this fad.In a podcast of kettle simps he stated he no longer useds or recomends kettle and the reason was simple too many injuries.A coworker got injured in his back messing around with kettle.Go to Russia and see how many people used kettles in the gym? Dragon Door is a pro in creating expensive fads.Workshops that coasts thpusands of dollars on teaching people bodyweight exercises and now selling a expensive isometric aparatus that can be made for cheap.

        1. Truth Seeker Post author

          While I get the criticism, I don’t think kettlebells are all that dangerous when used properly. Maxwell himself used them with success for years.

          Definitely not the miracle they were presented to be, but certainly not some injury machine when used with caution.

  2. LZ

    You sound way younger than I imagined you to be. Figured you were in your late 30s from the way you write.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      I am older than I sound. Also, microphones change your voice. I was in my mid-20s when I started NoN.

      1. EX-NATTY

        He sounds exactly like beta boy eastern euro guy with bad genetics and long limbs

        poor guy wasted his time in the gym, he could have a millionaire IT nerd instead

        Bro should have been injecting from Day 1

        1. Truth Seeker Post author

          You’re right bro.

          But thanks for supporting me one way or another. I appreciate it as negative comments have their place too 🙂

          1. EX-NATTY

            I love to support bro
            I would much rather have you blow up than that french cockroach Naturalhypertrophy who actually used to talk sht about your articles and defend fake natties. For sure a shadow pinner.

            Him and the crew of fake natties on YT really trigger me. Especially that bald midget alphadestiny who also suddenly got ripped while maintaining muscle after secretly injecting but his audience is brain dead.

            anyways, I am much happier now with my injection. I was already blessed natty, now I am just a monster. Cant even pretent to be natty lol

          2. Truth Seeker Post author

            I know of Alpha’s shredded transformation, but NaturalHypertrophy guy I am not familiar with.

            YouTube fitness is absolutely massive in comparison to when I started so many names are new to me.

          3. ex-natty

            If you search Naturalhypertrophy nattyornot on youtube you will find him commenting and picking apart your articles. Maybe you can do a rebuttal. Hes a pseudo philosopher french dude who blew up during covid because he literally commented on every fitness video and got followers. Produces the most boring videos ever. Him, Geoff and the bald midget (and another bald guy omni lift) are the new wave of ‘natties’

  3. Casey

    I somewhat agree with the idea that most KB routines won’t do any good in terms of muscle building in general but I also do believe that certain routines (like The Giant by Geoff Neupert and his similar programs) can build the upper body pretty well.

    It’s all mostly based on KB clean and press. You’re supposed to press heavy and press a lot which in turn gets some noticeable gains in your delts and surrounding areas. It’s pretty dumb but it works. At least in my case it worked noticeably better than barbell OHP variations. Maybe it’s just the volume these KB workouts provide though.

  4. SamS

    My experiences with kettlebells are pretty much the same. If you like them, they are good for cardio and conditioning. But as said, when it comes to hypertrophy, they aren’t that good, I think they are actually pretty much the opposite. Although years ago I had a bodybuilding magazine that had a bodybuilder army guy who showed ideas of how to use kettlebells for muscle building and while some of them were worth while they really didn’t work as well in practice. I think Mike Mahler was one of the guys advocating similar stuff too, don’t know if he still is.

    Those weight gaps put you in a situation where you need many different kettlebells, and then when you want to use two kettlebells at the same time, you need even more kettlebells. I also don’t really like that doing long sets with ton of reps because I’m after the intensity and time efficiency.

    But one thing that has worked well for me with kettlebells has been injury rehab. Years ago I tore my shoulder labrum in sports and it was later fixed wit a surgery but then I blew it up again. At some point I found a really good physio who had the same injury himself. He showed me kb arm bar exercise. I wasn’t familiar with it but we drilled it enough times that I was able to practice it myself. I practiced my way up to a decent weight for the purpose. For the loose shoulder kb was the perfect instrument for rehab. The handle let the arm stay in a neutral position, and the kb’s weight distribution also helped to keep the humerus in the shoulder socket better than for example a dumbbell would have done. But that was pretty much the only case for me and without the physios help I would’ve never been able to figure that out by myself. And the problem was that I should have kept doing that exercise for the rest of my life to reap the results.

    Funny thing is that the best upper body I’ve ever seen was my former coworker’s. He had massive lats and shoulders and bigger biceps than I’ve ever seen excluding the obvious pinners. Of course I can’t be completely sure if he was a natty either, nowadays I’m pretty sure he wasn’t. Anyway, I often interviewed him about his training. It turned out that he was a BJJ guy (should have guessed by the cauliflower ears) and on top of that he basically only worked out with kettlebells and a horizontal bar. I thought at the time that kettlebells probably were the ones with the magic and bought a few. I was wrong. By the way, that guy didn’t really have any legs at all.

    If you really want to fuck shit up and need an example, here’s Usyk doing his thing with big bal..I mean bells:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CF7XWn2fF4&pp=ygUQdXN5ayBrZXR0bGViZWxscw%3D%3D

    1. SamS

      If I had enough balls I would try that in my living room, would be nasty to see the results. Don’t know what the insurance company would say.

  5. Dave

    Instagram has this whole genre of guys who obviously got big using barbells (and juice) but beyond the normal shadow pinning, are showing you these kettlebell workouts they clearly didn’t build their physiques with and promise you that that’s all you need. Like yeah I guess same as calisthenics, if you do volume every day you’ll put on some muscle, but you didn’t build 20 inch thighs and pumpkin delts doing lunge to press with a 24 kg kettblebell.

  6. mattsk1

    I have put more mass on my shoulders and arms with pressing 50kg rocks for reps. I did not have to pay for them.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      well, pressing a 50kg rock is strong as hell.

      1. mattsk1

        I am 1.7m tall, weigh 86kg and have a body fat of 25-20% so I am not lean but have some size and strength which works with my goal for becoming a novice strongman. I’d have to get on gear to get beyond novice. The stuff they do is insane if you have ever seen the open men’s 80kg strongman comps.

  7. peketudo

    Omg, finally, you have your yt channel! subscribing faster than creatine phosphate being consumed during weighted bulgarian rows!

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      hahaha thank you for the subscription 🙂

  8. conflagration

    I started training with kettlebells mainly because I hate gyms and my apartment is too small for barbell. Turns out it was one of the best decision I made. Training with kettlebell makes me feel aweseome: I mean literally excercises as swings and turkish get ups generates in my brain much more endorphins than regular strength training with barbell, they are much more fun than regular cardio and requires less time to get “runners high” (e.g. 20 minutes of swings with rest between sets gives me more high than continously running for 40 minutes) . I am hooked to this feeling so this is my main reason I sticked with kettlebells.
    There are other benefits of kettlebells like unilateral work, conditioning for martial arts etc but they are secondary. I agree that they are not optimal for building muscles but still after a year of training I am looking better than most people I meet.

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