What body type will a kettlebell give you

How to unleash the power of the kettlebell to look good naked: A conversation with Johannes Kwella

"I wrote‘ the power of the kettlebell ’to make kettlebell training more successful and recognized."
- Johannes Kwella

Johannes Kwella is kettlebell world champion and has been working as a strength coach and personal trainer in Berlin for over a decade.

With his YouTube channel “Buff.Strong.Barefoot” he helps thousands of people to learn exercises from Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, CrossFit and kettlebell training with the correct technique and to continuously become stronger.

A few days ago Johannes was my guest at Fitness with M.A.R.K. If you'd rather hear the conversation, you come to the podcast with Johannes Kwella and the show notes here.

This article is the revised transcript of our podcast. You will also find video tutorials for many of the exercises mentioned in this article.

And now enjoy reading!

How to unleash the power of the kettlebell to look good naked: A conversation with Johannes Kwella

Mark Maslow: Moin Moin Johannes, welcome to "Fitness with M.A.R.K."

Johannes Kwella: Moin Mark. Thank you for letting me be here.

mark: For everyone who doesn't know you yet: Who are you and what do you do?

John: I'm Johannes Kwella from Berlin, a “regular guy” who has been doing sports regularly since childhood. I started with martial arts, with taekwondo and capoeira, and at some point I got into parkour. When I later had no money for a physiotherapy training, I scraped all my money together and bought myself a fitness trainer B license and a nutrition trainer B license. On this basis I started as a personal trainer and have deepened my knowledge over the years.

I like it varied, because I would quickly get bored with just one sport. My main sport is fitness training, but I also enjoy snowboarding, wakeboarding and also surfing and diving. I still have a voucher for a skydive somewhere that I would love to try out.

So that's me, crazy about sports and varied. (Laughs)

A 10 km competition - in a tutu?

mark: On your YouTube channel “Buff.Strong.Barefoot” I saw that you took part in a ten-kilometer run - in a tutu! (Laughs) How was that?

John: Two friends challenged me to take part in this run. They knew I hated running like the plague, but they didn't know I ran the half marathon until 2009.

The gym I worked at had a lot of marathon runners and I joined them at the time. But I haven't run since 2017, except for CrossFit training. However, these were only 400 and 800 meter distances.

Thanks to the kettlebell training, I had enough stamina to be able to master the ten kilometers. I thought I could easily do a ten-kilometer run, so I started preparing for it late. Then I got sick too.

I had little sleep at the time because of my two children who kept me busy. My son, who lives with my ex, visits me regularly. He often brings some hardcore bacilli home with him from daycare.

Since becoming a father, I've only been sick once a year: for fifty-two weeks!

Mark: (laughs)

John: In total, I was only able to do eight workouts to prepare for the run. Even though I weighed almost 15 kilos more than when I was half-marathon and was completely out of running shape, I knew that I would manage the ten kilometers. However, it was a real challenge to run it in under 45 minutes. I set that as my goal and backed it up with a fundraising campaign: I wanted to donate 10 euros for each of the 45 minutes, a total of 450 euros.

Then I looked for a good running coach and my choice fell on Anna Stefanova from Berlin. Above all, it was important to her to get me to the finish line injury-free. However, I was more interested in breaking the 45 minute target time. She coached me extremely well, and after just eight training sessions I have my goal of 45:17 minutes nearly reached. Nevertheless, I was very happy and didn't blame myself for the 17 seconds.

The 450 euros went to the “KINDerLEBEN” association in Berlin, which supports the Charité cancer ward. Because my youngest son was a hospital case, I know how shitty it is to have to lie there. The association supports the renovation of the ward and ensures that children can receive the necessary therapies. For this I wanted to donate myself and also collect donations from others.

In order to generate attention for my concern, I ran in a pink tutu, in pink compression socks and a not-so-pink top. Of course, I received corresponding looks from my fellow travelers and passers-by, but that's exactly what I wanted to do with it. I wanted to generate attention and collect donations.

How are kettlebell competitions held?

mark: Thunderstorm! Not only is this a world class story, it's an honorable goal. Your kettlebell world title is also world class. Congratulations! How can we imagine such a world championship?

John: The kettlebell competition consists of biathlon and the long cycle. The long cycle includes ten minutes of clean and jerk with two kettlebells, whereby you can only hold these kettlebells in the rack position or above your head.

You are not allowed to put them on your shoulders, hold them down, or swing them around with them. As soon as you deviate from these movements, you will be disqualified.

mark: That is, starting position at stomach level ..?

John: Yes, the elbows are at stomach level. The kettlebells are pretty, so to speak at the shoulder, but still leaning against the upper body, and they are not on top on the shoulders. In the overhead position, the arm is stretched out over the head and “pausing” in this position.

The biathlon consists of the two exercises snatch and jerk. You start with the jerk with two kettlebells for ten minutes, again the same rules, that is, the kettlebells are in the rack position or over the head, and you do as many repetitions as possible. If you deviate from these rules, you will be disqualified.

mark: In other words, the referee evaluates whether the technique is correct and how many repetitions you can do in ten minutes?

John: Exactly. And the second exercise is the snatch, which also lasts ten minutes.

But you only have one kettlebell and you can only change hands once. It doesn't matter whether you switch after three or seven minutes. Vladim from the German team, for example, does it that way, and after the competition he always complains about his left hand because it is not as strong as the right.

mark: Does it start with the left hand?

John: Exactly, he starts with the left hand and continues with the right hand until the end.

That was the biathlon. But to come back to the rules and techniques that the judge can intervene. Referees are entitled to exclude anyone from the competition who endangers their health.

If I had done my technique poorly and it was foreseeable that I would get injured, he would have disqualified me and the competition would have been over for me.

And that's what I like so much about it:

The kettlebell sport is not only about a spectacle for the spectators, but also about the health of the athletes.

At both of the world championships in which I participated, none of the over 500 athletes suffered serious injuries.

Of course there are signs of overuse and inflammation, but I have not yet heard a kettlebell athlete talk about damage to the shoulder or about torn rotator cuffs. On the contrary, most athletes are very healthy.

You can do kettlebell training into old age - I think that's great!

mark: As a matter of fact! The fact that performance and health are equally important makes this sport something special.

John: So far, kettlebell has been dominated by Russians and Kazakhs. Little by little the gates are opening and the sport is becoming better known internationally.

Unfortunately, women have not yet competed in the same disciplines, which is why kettlebell will probably not be Olympic in the near future.

However, much has already been done to make sport more attractive to women, and a lot is sure to change for the better in the coming years.

mark: What does that mean? Have women been excluded from the competition so far?

John: So far, women are only allowed to Kettlebell Snatch do. There have been a few attempts to long cycle and hit with two kettlebells, but efforts are now being made to open all areas of kettlebell sport to women.

The path from trainer to world champion and book author

mark: In your competition you had to compete with 24 kg kettlebells, right?

John: I only competed in the long cycle discipline with two 24 kg kettlebells.

mark: And how did you prepare for it? Doing the exercises for ten minutes is a completely different burden than doing muscle building training.

John: Mainly because you are not allowed to stop.

mark: That sounds difficult. How does that feel?

John: It's horrible.

mark: How do you prepare for such a competition?

John: I've known the kettlebell since 2007, but I rediscovered it in 2015. Sport is neglected in Germany, and I wanted to change that.

It's my mission to make kettlebell training more successful and recognized, and that's why I wrote my book.

While I was writing, the idea came to me to take part in a competition in order to have an even better theoretical basis for my book and to be able to contribute personal experience to a competition.

Then I turned to Daniel Hahn from Biberach and asked him if he would like to train me. He referred me to Karsten Bollert from the Berlin club “Kettle Bears”. Karsten is President of the Federal Association of German Kettlebell Athletes, and of course that was perfect.

The next possible competition was the World Cup in Ireland. Anyone who is a member of a club can take part in a World Cup. In contrast to other sports, years of competitive sport and a nomination for the World Cup are not necessary.

I wasn't a member of the association at the time, but Karsten took a look at my technology and said: "Johannes, we can somehow manage that!"

At least that sounded like the slightest chance.

Basically, my preparation for a competition was proper strength training: I gradually increased volume and intensity.

All in all, I spent eight weeks preparing for the World Cup in a targeted manner. I already brought strength and power with me through CrossFit, Strongman and Olympic weightlifting training.

My main topic was a lack of stamina and mobility.

Above all, due to my immobile shoulder region, I had to struggle to improve my overhead movements so that they met the requirements. So in preparation I concentrated on improving my flexibility and endurance.

The biggest challenge for me was holding the kettlebells in my hand for ten minutes without taking them off.

mark: How many hours did you train per week?

John: I did four training units of two hours each per week.

mark: Including mobility training?

John: Yes, including warm-up, mobility training and warm-up.

mark: A few months ago “The Power of the Kettlebell” was published. It turned out to be a wonderful book, Johannes. You can see how meticulously and lovingly you have created and compiled the texts, advice and countless photos.

John: In fact, I attached great importance to the illustration of the exercises. It was important to me that the book shed light on all aspects of kettlebell training.

The Power of the Kettlebell: Why Kettlebell Training?

mark: You have gained a lot of experience with Olympic weightlifting, barbell and strongman training. What are the differences and what are the advantages of kettlebell training?

John: A big advantage is the saving of space, because you can put a kettlebell anywhere. Even an unused kettlebell that serves as a doorstop in the household is better than an elliptical cross trainer that is dusty and only functions as a clothes horse. I have eighteen kettlebells at home and they don't take up two and a half square meters.

The nice thing is:

You don't need a gym membership or travel. You can just train where you are.

These are the decisive and unbeatable advantages of kettlebells.

The disadvantage is that the training entails an increased learning effort due to the free movements. But apart from that, a kettlebell is a super cool tool for me.

I have kettlebells in the office, I have kettlebells at home, I actually have kettlebells everywhere. The kettlebell is also ideal for "looking good naked".

mark: What do you recommend to someone who has never done strength training? Can you start with the kettlebells right away?

John: If people have a very good understanding of learning, then they can start right away with a kettlebell and a book. You can't really go wrong with the kettlebell because you quickly develop a natural feeling for handling it.

mark: Or alternatively at the beginning training with your own body weight, training your body tension - and then switching to the kettlebell?

John: Yes, that would be conceivable. Everyone is different when it comes to learning and accordingly needs a different regeneration from training stress. It can therefore make sense to start with bodyweight training first in order to learn certain postures: How do I bend correctly, how do I tighten my stomach and glutes?

You can learn all of this in kettlebell training, but special bodyweight trainings, which I also describe in my book, are groundbreaking and goal-oriented.

How do you find the right kettlebell weight?

mark: Which equipment is the best for a beginner to start with? In contrast to the dumbbell, the weight of the kettlebell cannot be changed. That said, I have to get along with the kettlebell I bought. Or do you recommend a whole set right away?

John: Basically I recommend buying two kettlebells, one for the upper body and one for the lower body:

  • An upper body kettlebell for Women should weigh between 8-12 kg and the lower body kettlebell 12-16 kg.
  • For the Men I recommend 12-16 kg for the upper body and 16-20 kg for the lower body.

The weight range depends on how much weight you can lift. I recommend the following:

Better to start with a low weight and increase yourself slowly.

One of my friends, who is also involved in powerlifting, recently ordered kettlebells: one at 16 and one at 24 kilos. I had advised him to buy a 20-kilo kettlebell as well. When he tried out his new kettlebells, he wrote to me: “Fuck, between 16 and 24 kg is worlds apart! I don't know how to get the 24s up. "

Then I realized again that a few pounds of difference can make a huge difference, even for someone who does strength training regularly. Hence my tip.

mark: Your book is very detailed and extensive. Who is it for?

John: I wrote it so that it is also suitable for beginners. But in principle, even advanced learners can take a lot from the book with them and use it as a reference work.

What is CrossFit and what are the benefits?

mark: Let's talk about CrossFit. You also work as a trainer in a CrossFit box. What actually is “CrossFit”?

John: CrossFit is a mix of weight lifting, cardio training and gymnastics. So a combination of things that otherwise have little to do with each other. I love CrossFit - also because of how great it feels after a workout.

It is well suited for people who are just starting out in sports. It improves endurance and strength and helps prevent injuries and overuse.

mark: With CrossFit there is a different workout every day. What does such a “workout of the day” typically look like?

John: Very different.On the one hand, there are pure strength training units. A workout of the day can be as boring as “five times ten squats” and then you do a bit of mobility training.

As I said, different training disciplines are mixed up. For example, a typical workout might consist of 21/15/9 reps of thrusters and pull-ups. A “thruster” is a squat with an ejection at the end.

This means that you have the barbell in the front rack position, go into the front squat, and at the end of the movement you accelerate so much that the barbell is thrown over the head with the extension of the hips and knees and extended with the help of the arms becomes.

And those thrusters and pull-ups are done one after the other.

21/15/9 then means: 21 thrusters, 21 pull-ups, 15 thrusters, 15 pull-ups, 9 thrusters, 9 pull-ups.

Mark: Let’s answer a few questions from the stay tuned community that I collected via Facebook.

How do you build muscles more effectively: machines, kettlebells or free weights?

mark: Martin asks: "What is best for visible muscle building: machines, kettlebells or free weights?"

John: When looking at pure muscle building, the tool is not as important as the fact that you are working against resistance.

mark: With dumbbell training, however, I can dose the resistance more finely. I can put a 1.25 kg disc on it, with the kettlebell it takes four kilo steps.

John: There are now kettlebells in two-kilo increments in this country too, for example at KettlebellsShop.de. You're right, four-pound steps really are a lot.

mark: Especially when you move it over your head.

John: The jump from 8 to 12 kilos means a 50 percent increase in weight! In Russia there are even kettlebells with increments of 500 grams.

A friend from the kettlebell community bought strong magnets that he attached to the base of the kettlebell with small washers. These devices hold even during curved exercises such as clean and jerk or snatch.

If you install a 1.25 kilo metal disk, it should work fine if you have strong magnets.

mark: Sounds like a space-saving option for home gym ...

John: ... and could also save costs if you only have to invest in magnets and weight plates instead of additional kettlebells.

mark: I advise everyone who wants to do it at home: be careful! Make absolutely sure that the magnet weights hold!

John: Yes absolutely! It is best to first test it somewhere where there is space and nothing can be broken. For example outdoors on sand, lawn or in the forest.

Which training concept for lasting success?

mark: "Which training concept can you recommend for permanent muscle building?"asks Martin further.

John: That is the question about the egg-laying woolly milk sow.

According to a study from Eric Helm's book “The Muscle and Strength Pyramids”, 120 to 210 weekly repetitions per muscle and muscle group are effective for building muscle. This is around 40 to 70 repetitions per training unit.

One possibility is as follows:

  • 4 times 2 repetitions with a relatively high weight,
  • then 4 times 5 repetitions with a slightly lighter weight,
  • then 3 times 8 repetitions with a medium weight,
  • then, to pump out, do an even lower weight with 2 times 12 reps.

That makes a total of 74 repetitions for a training session. And you would then do it two to three times a week. This principle applies to every muscle group. Over time you gradually increase the weights.

mark: How would you depict that in a training plan?

John: I would split the muscle groups. With four units per week, the classic models are ideal, for example: push / pull / legs. Or Upper Body / Lower Body. There are several ways to accommodate the 120-210 reps per muscle group per week.

Does weight training strengthen the pelvic floor muscles - or does it weaken them?

mark: Sylvia wants to know: “Does heavy weight training have a negative impact on the pelvic floor? Can the stress caused by heavy weight or dynamic exercises such as jumping rope damage or increase existing damage? "

John: Exactly my topic! Due to the pregnancies of my partners, I can say from experience that such exercises do not do any harm per se.

Strength training always has a big impact on the pelvic floor. If there is already a malfunction of the pelvic floor muscle culture, then I would not recommend such exercises. Because there would be the risk of increasing existing damage. However, there are modern training methods that address exactly this problem.

mark: Heavy weight training should definitely benefit healthy women. It trains and strengthens the so-called “powerhouse”, all of the stabilizing core muscles. In addition to the diaphragm, stomach and back muscles, this also includes the pelvic floor.

Proper strength training trains the core. Without core tension, basic exercises like squats and deadlifts cannot be safely performed.

John: Strength training is beneficial if the pelvic floor is functioning normally because it strengthens the entire region. It was also just called jumping rope. "Urinal drainage" is widespread among female CrossFitters. On the other hand, strengthening the pelvic floor helps.

My wife went to the Cantienica after giving birth, it's one of those newfangled training stories. Our son was very tall and heavy when he was born, and my wife had very bad diastasis recti. The abdominal muscles on the Liniea Alba have pushed apart to make room for the child.

Postgraduate gymnastics didn't help, and that's how she ended up on Cantienica. It has actually gotten better since then. This method seems to be very effective especially for such pelvic floor issues.

How effective are “Sprinter Stance Squats”?

mark: The next question is from Möni: “What do you think of Sprinter Stance Squats? I've heard that they're supposed to be especially good for women. "

John: Sprinter Squat is that thing with slightly offset feet and a heel that goes up. Due to their physique, women generally have a slightly higher risk of knee injuries. These injuries often involve the anterior cruciate ligament, as it supports and stabilizes movement.

In the squat, the anterior cruciate ligament has to absorb the greatest forces. For anatomical reasons, women are more likely to overstrain, which is why women injure their knees more often than men. But statistically speaking, most of the injuries occur in gaming. Such injuries rarely occur in strength training. And in general, squats and knee exercises aren't bad for women at all.

Good exercises are training units that are carried out on one leg, because they correspond to our natural movements. We move on one leg when we run. Because then we accelerate with only one leg while the other is stretched. We shoot a soccer ball, so we stand on one leg and swing the other leg fully.

Special one-leg exercises like Bulgarian Split Squats or Cossack Squats are good for a healthy knee. They improve the stability and resilience of the entire musculoskeletal system. Not only in women, but also in men.

I would like to revisit my training plan example from just now. We can split the same model into different exercises:

  • 4 times 2 repetitions of squats with a heavy weight,
  • 4 times 5 reps of squats with a lighter weight,
  • Front squats 3 times 8 reps and,
  • 2 times 12 repetitions of sprinter squats: once with the right foot in front, once with the left.

That would be a good routine.

How does Johannes Kwella train?

mark: What is your training routine like, Johannes?

John: I am currently working on a pull-up program for women, so my personal training program consists mostly of pull-ups and kettlebell presses. I also do breathing squats on a regular basis.

mark: Can you describe it?

John: Breathing squats were done by Dr. Randall Strossen developed. You take a weight that you would normally be able to do 10 reps with, but do 20 reps.

This works through a certain breathing technique. After each repetition, take two to five breaths and allow yourself time between repetitions to regenerate. An effective training stimulus is set by the fatigue of the muscle fibers.

This technique is called "Breathing Squats", "Breathing Squats", "Super Squats" or "Twenty-Rep Squats". You are completely tired after the ten repetitions, but the ten more repetitions give you an effective training stimulus, even though you only train one set.

These exercises help me build my butt muscles so I can fit back into my jeans.

The right jeans for strength athletes: an insoluble problem?

Mark: Jeans are such a thing anyway. For years I've had trouble finding jeans that fit the bum and thighs without sitting like a potato sack. Do you have any advice?

John: In my opinion, the manufacturer "Aesparel" makes the best jeans for lifters. They're just awesome, I don't wear any other ones anymore. The pants have a slight stretch, feel great and are cut in such a way that the pants always fit you, even if you get wider thighs or a tight ass as a result of training.

The jeans make you completely free of movement, and you can even do squats in them. You can order Aesparel Jeans in your personal waist size and leg length. It has enough legroom so that you have found a pair of jeans of the right size in which you do not have a mason décolleté when you crouch.

A slightly different Jedi mind trick ...

mark: Can you share a few simple mental tricks with us that helped you in the World Cup?

John: In kettlebell sport, you have to perform extremely well for ten long minutes. There's no point in pushing yourself to 180 before the competition. Rather, the art is to stay calm and focused.

When preparing for my first World Cup in 2015, I always gave too much gas in test runs. I can tell you, it was really difficult for me to take it easy.

Ultimately, the song “Success is no luck” by Kontra K. helped me; I listened to it over and over again. So I managed to get my nervousness under control and focus on my goal.

This training paid off at the second World Cup: I was able to control my thoughts and emotions better.

mark: Is there anything that you would like to change about yourself?

John: (Laughs) Good point! I love myself for who I am. But my impatience, I would actually want to change it.

4 years barefoot: what is it like to never wear shoes?

mark: Your YouTube channel is called "Buff.Strong.Barefoot". Are you still walking barefoot?

John: I'm just getting used to shoes again. I walked completely barefoot for four years, but now at least I wear barefoot shoes again when I ride a scooter.

mark: What has changed for you as a result of walking barefoot? After all, you stuck with it for four years.

John: The way I perceive my environment has changed. For example, I feel the feedback I get from the floor. I don't mean esoteric energy coming from the ground, it just feels strong to walk right on a surface.

You feel shadow and light, cold and warmth, you notice every bump and every stone. Running in sleet is like a Kneipp footbath, simply a cool, refreshing feeling.

The only downside is the grit that lays on the roads in winter. During this time of year I put on shoes.

mark: That means, with a few exceptions, you are still walking barefoot?

John: Absolutely. I still like to walk barefoot almost everywhere, but now I wear barefoot shoes on the street. Without it, you have to scrub your feet several times a day, and that is not good for your skin in the long run.

Johannes Kwella on unusual beliefs and good habits

mark: Is there something you believe that few other people believe?

John: I believe that everyone is lucky and that you can influence a lot in your life with the power of your thoughts. You are responsible for your future yourself because you can control it.

mark: I just opened your book on page 2. There is a large photo of you standing on the podium in the jersey of the German national kettlebell team. You can see how happy you are about the victory. I think that goes well with that thought.

Is there a book other than your own that you often give away to other people?

John: Overall, I only give books away to selected people. The last time many people read a book was when they had to read the primer in elementary school. That would be a shame if you wanted to do something good for them with a beautiful book, regardless of the topic, and then it would rot on the shelf. I have a huge library of many books on entrepreneurship, self development, sports, nutrition, psychology and coaching.

The book that I most recommend and give away right now is “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod. This is a book about self-optimization and how to take control of your life. The subtitle of the book is "Six Habits that will change your Life before 08:00 a.m." It's about how you create a morning routine that will change the rest of your life. And that reflects what I believe in: personal responsibility. A morning routine is a good way to trim your mindset to what you really want.

Some authors write that you should accept everything and just be happy because everything in life is given and has a purpose. I see that as daring bullshit. But positive thoughts help you get where you really want to be.

mark: What is your morning routine like?

John: I get up between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. Then I have an hour in which I shower, read, drink coffee and do some mobility. I read through my daily assignments and see what to do. Then I drive to the office. On the days when I give personal training, there is no mobility because I move around when I work with the customer.

Interestingly, I've only gotten up early since I wrote my book. During this time I noticed that I am most productive in the morning.

mark: I tend to be productive in the evening and lie down a little longer in the morning. I was with the federal government for a while, and it started around 6:30 in the morning. I actually took that with me into my studies. After being self-employed for a few years now and being able to organize my day myself, I returned to my presumably innate rhythm.

I fondly remember the time when I regularly got up early and still enjoy it now and then. It's nice to see the sun come up, and if you've been able to move things for a couple of hours at 9:00 a.m., that feels good.

John: Absolutely. At 10:00 in the morning, when some people come to work, I've already worked four hours. You can achieve a lot through concentrated work, but you still have the whole day ahead of you. That really makes you feel good.

mark: Johannes, where is the easiest place for people to find you online if they want to find out more about you?

John: You can find me on my website johanneskwella.de. You can find me on Instagram and Facebook under my name “Johannes Kwella”.

mark: Your book is called “Die Kraft der Kettlebell” - purchase recommendation for everyone who is interested in kettlebell training. Thank you very much for taking the time, Johannes, and good luck with everything you have to do over the next few months.

John: Thank you and good luck to you too. See you soon.

The power of the kettlebell: exercise execution. Troubleshooting. Training planning.
Bought by 114 keepers.
  • EXERCISE EXECUTION: In this book you will learn all the important basic exercises from kettlebell swing to Turkish get-up
  • TROUBLESHOOTING AND STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS: All exercises are explained with a detailed and simple description and high-quality pictures
  • BURN FAT: This book contains a 30 day plan on how to burn fat effectively and quickly with the kettlebell

Question: What is your experience with kettlebell training? Write a comment.

Photos in the article “blog post title”: © Johannes Kwella. © Shutterstock.com: Smolina Marianna.

Category: Fitness with M.A.R.K., muscle buildingTags: success, fitness coach, basic exercise, interview, kettlebell, strength training, strength training, strength exercises, podcast, exercises, exercises with body weight, competition