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Kettlebells Are Cool, But What About My CHEST?

“What about my chest?”
I’ve heard this question on more than one occasion from newbies in my class and just in casual conversation. This question usually comes from people with a bodybuilding or powerlifting background. These guys are used to working individual body parts and have their obligatory leg, chest, back and arm days. They might utilize the push-pull principle or another version of a split routine.

Depending upon your goals, these workouts may suit your needs. But if you are looking for an incredible, full-body workout to do just three to four times a week, then the answer is kettlebell and bodyweight training. On the off days, engage in restorative training and other physical activities of your choice. Personally, I do a great deal of stretching, Martial Arts (striking and grappling), and roadwork (short distance and sprints).

One of the greatest advantages of using kettlebells and bodyweight exercises for chest development is that you’re also working your core, lats and stabilizers at the same time. You aren’t lying on a bench or tethered to a machine trying to isolate your muscles while leaving your core and stabilizers virtually untapped. Obviously, if you are a powerlifter you will still need the bench press—and bodybuilders will need to achieve symmetry with some isolation training. Although, I’ve seen quite a few people achieve great builds and incredible strength with only bodyweight and kettlebells, I do not know of any bodybuilding champions who only train with bodyweight and kettlebell exercises.
While I’m sitting here writing this blog, my chest is screaming from yesterday’s workout! I led my class through a five round, ten exercise circuit. For every set, we did 50 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. The three chest concentration exercises that we used were push-ups, dips and plyometric push-ups. For four of the five sets of push-ups, I used the Neuro-Grip push-up tools, and one set of decline scorpion push-ups. The plyometric push-up variations included hands off the mat, hands and feet off of the mat, offset, skewed and superman versions (hands and feet off the mat with limbs extended). For the dips, I keep my feet forward and my chin down, which changes the focus to the inner and lower pecs while taking a lot of stress off of the shoulders and triceps.
There is a virtually unlimited list of fun push-up variations—I perform over 30 variations on a regular basis. Please note that you should perform push-ups with your “elbow pits” facing forward. Also, make the negative phase active by “pulling” yourself down while including your lats in the movement. It’s also important to “tighten your butt and tighten your gut” while maintaining a solid plank position throughout the movement.

Some of my favorite push-up variations use equipment. If I use two kettlebells, I place them at a slight inward angle. Other kettlebell push-up variations include bottoms-up with two hands on one kettlebell, or with one kettlebell in each hand. A set of parallette bars are a lot of fun, and will allow you to get nice and deep. Medicine ball push-up variations include both hands on, one hand on and alternating the ball from side to side. If you have a set of gymnastic rings, they can be used for very challenging push-up adaptations. You may have your feet on the ground or you can raise your feet to various heights. Last but certainly not least, there’s the Neuro-Grip push-up handles. They are my absolute favorite. Not only are your pecs left begging for mercy, but your grip, core and stabilizers are dramatically challenged.

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