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101 Kettlebell Workouts: Intervals and Tabata

Updated on November 9, 2016


Intervals, Tabata, Kettlebells... oh my! Intervals, Tabata, Kettlebells... oh my! Intervals, Tabata, Kettlebells... oh my!

OK! Let's take a look at Interval Training with Kettlebells. What is Interval Training? What is the Tabata Protocol? How do you plug Kettlebells into Tabata? Then finally, answer the question: Why would you train this way.

Tabata and Kettlebells got together in an E-Book entitled "101 Kettlebell Workouts" by Master RKC David Whitley. You can visit this real-life strong man and Kettlebell Trainer at

I've spent the last year of my personal training going through this book and doing a Hub on each workout and section.

Now we're into Intervals and Tabata.

A quick note/disclaimer here. The following style of training is not something to just jump into head first. As with all exercise programs, get with the doc before entering into an exercise program. Especially if you've been out of the loop for a while. If you're in Lance Armstrong kind of shape, then feel free, otherwise, use common sense and train at your level. Work up to what's about to get covered...

What is Interval Training?

Interval training is simple and effective.

Just the way I like it. Basically, it is where you exercise for a given period of time or distance then rest for another period of time or distance. Some circles refer to this as High-IntensityInterval Training or H.I.I.T for short.

Kettlebells set aside for a moment, a good example would be to go hit the track and after warming up, you'd want to sprint for 30 seconds and then jog for thirty seconds. That's one interval. Based on your conditioning, you can do anywhere from 2 to 10 to 20 or more. It's really up to you!

You can also mix up the time. Say 20 seconds of work and 40 seconds of rest or vise-versa!

You can also go for distance as I mentioned earlier. 25-yard sprint, 25-yard jog. 50-yard dash, 25-yard jog.

Lot of choices, lot of options with High-Intensity Interval Training.

Tabata Protocol

What is the Tabata Protocol?

The Tabata Protocol is a system of Aerobic Training that was created by Izumi Tabata in the mid 90's. I'm going to pass the mike over to Wikipedia for a second...

"A popular regimen based on a 1996 study uses 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise (at 170% of VO2max) followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continuously for 4 minutes (8 cycles). In the original study, athletes using this method trained 4 times per week, plus another day of steady-state training, and obtained gains similar to a group of athletes who did steady state (70% VO2max) training 5 times per week. The steady state group had a higher VO2max at the end (from 52 to 57 ml/kg/min), but the Tabata group had started lower and gained more overall (from 48 to 55 ml/kg/min). Also, only the Tabata group had gained anaerobic capacity benefits."

In a nutshell, the victims in this little experiment would climb on a recumbent bike, warm up for about 4 minutes, then hit it for four minutes of all out do or die blasting the pedals and then spend the final four cooling down.

This has many benefits that I'll get to in a minute!

H.I.T.T. the Iron

How do you plug Intervals and Tabata into Kettlebell Training?

According to David Whitley, you'll spend the first 4 minutes warming up. Dave recommends Joint Mobility, which is always a good idea, but you can also practice jumping rope, shadow boxing, doing the side straddle hop (jumping jacks) to warm up and get the body and heart prepped for the ensuing pain (which you will enjoy).

From here, at minute 4 through minute 8 you will perform a Kettlebell drill like the Snatch or Swing for 20 seconds without stopping and then set the Kettlebell down for 10 seconds and then resume the work.

I did this recently with the 1-Arm Snatch. However, for the warm up I did 2-Handed Swings for 20 seconds, rest for 40 seconds. Then at minute 4, I would snatch for 20 seconds with my right hand. Set the bell down, do a little Fast and Loose drill (10 seconds) and then resume with the left hand. This 4-minute torture session leaves you pretty well smoked but you need to cool down somewhat so I did another 4 minutes of swings (20 on/40 off).

I finished up with stretching and hanging leg raises.

Eric J Moss Gettin it Done - Carefull, he's from Jersey...

Why Train This Way?

One question...

Have you ever seen and overweight Olympic sprinter?

Me neither and that's exactly why training this way is a great idea.

High-Intensity Interval Training is good for a few things.

-Heart: Without killing you with the science, the Tabata style and Interval training is very effective for developing your Vo2 Max which is your maximal oxygen consumption. This will have a cascading effect on strengthing the ticker...

-Metabolism: This style of training has also been shown to increase your RMR (resting metabolic rate) for 24 hours after completing a session. Which basically means you'll burn more calories at rest than normal...

-Fat Loss: Which leads us here. Increase your V02, boost your RMR while maintaining a good clean diet and fat loss will be the next inevitable benefit.

-Bonus Benefit: Anyone who's been cleared by their doc can train this way. It doesn't matter what fitness level you're at because you will work at your level. You will be in competition with one person and that is you. You can do this on the track, on a bike, on the Elliptical Trainer, Rowing Machine, or a Treadmill. You can use Kettlebells, Dumbbells, Bodyweight exercises or any combo you can think up. If you get started on a bike and are out of shape, start with a perceived exertion level of 7 for your work interval and a 3 for the rest. Work up to level 10 on the exertion level. It's up to you, but you got to do the work to reap the benefits...

Imagine 20 seconds of pushups, rest for 10 seconds, 20 seconds of deep knee bends, 10 seconds rest and back to push ups. 4 minutes of that and the old excuse of I don't have time to workout will be right out the window real fast!


Like I said and like so many more before me have said, simple and effective. Whether you do traditional Interval Training or take a stab at the Tabata protocol you can make some serious improvements in endurance, strength endurance, and body composition when you train this way. Couple this with some basic heavy strength training and you'll be on the road to a whole new you!

If you decide to give this a try leave a comment below about how it all went for you!

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Let me know if you try it and what you think!

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    • profile image

      Larry R. Miller 22 months ago

      Very good. I'm 76 and do Tabata 3 days a week using various different protocols. i.e. Monday day upper body, Wednesday core. Friday waist down all followed by Yoga, my wife has been a certified yoga instructor since 1981, or Active isolated stretching. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are light workout or no workout days only AIS stretches if I feel tired. I also teach senior fitness and write a weekly health and fitness newspaper column (since 1995). I have a health and fitness blog and have written for various internet publications including Hub Pages.

    • profile image

      Andrew 4 years ago

      Thanks for the article - that's a really interesting way to make use of kettlebells. It's more conditioning-oriented that I'm used to, but I might give it a shot!


    • David R Bradley profile image

      David R Bradley 6 years ago from The Active Side of Infinity

      jstelletello, CrossFit can be a very effective method of getting into great shape. I only have one main concern and that is CrossFit can very quickly put volume before form and technique. Many CrossFit exercises (ie; Olympic lifts and explosive Kettlebell drills) really shouldn't be performed while fatigued unless you're dealing with a highly trained athlete. There just seems to me to be too much of an opportunity for injury. So make sure you get a good... no GREAT instructor who KNOWS what they're talking about and can push you but also know when to back you off.

    • jstelletello profile image

      jstelletello 6 years ago

      What about CrossFit?