Using Kettlebells To Attack Stubborn Fat

April 14, 2009 10:36 AM

One of the most common questions on the dragondoor forum (this is probably true on all fitness forums) is something along the lines of "Any tips to help me lose some weight" or "How can I get rid of this gut?" Usually the answer is "eat less, move more" or "push-aways". The fact is that a sensible training program (e.g. ETK ROP or program minimum) and diet (sufficient protein and essential fatty acids, 10-20% calorie deficit) will work so as long as you stick to it.

What I want to cover in this article is how to use kettlebell training to lose the "last few pounds' that often appear immune to training and diet despite the trainee's best intentions. Few people have written more intelligently on this subject than Lyle McDonald, and I highly recommend his last book "The Stubborn Fat Solution" to anyone struggling to lose that last bit of stubborn body fat or training people who wish to. Lyle covers the underlying physiology in great detail and his book is well referenced (for those of you that like to read the original research). He presents 4 different training protocols in his book but I will only cover one, "The Stubborn Fat Protocol 2.0 "or "SFP2.0", and how to follow it using kettlebells.

I stress this protocol is not for the individual who "just wants to get in shape" or "lose a few pounds", it's hard work and the candidate is someone who already has their diet and training in order, already lean and already has proficiency in kettlebell lifting. So if you fit that description and want to attack your stubborn fat then here is the protocol.

Lyle suggests some supplements to help mobilise fatty acids, if you wish to use them or if you want to know the method behind the madness please see his book for the details. This protocol works best on a low-carb diet, but it is not essential just do your training on an empty stomach. Warm up for about 5 min. I just do joint mobility exercises from "Super Joints". Then start snatching. I have had great results using the 15 sec on 15 sec off snatch protocol from Kenneth Jay's "Advance Strength Strategies". These are meant to be maximum intensity so I use a 24kg kettlebell but obviously use the appropriate kettlebell for you. Start with 5 min of intervals, after you have tried the whole thing you may build up to 10 min. After the snatches spend 5 min shaking of the tension (Fast and Loose) then go for a moderately intense run for about 30 min (you may do this on a bike or a rowing machine but the key is "moderate'). After the run pick up the kettlebell and do 2 handed swings for 5 min, starting each set on the minute. You can build up to 10 min but start with 5 min. I use a 32kg kettlebell here but again use the appropriate weight for you.

So effectively what you are doing is sandwiching a moderate run between two high intensity kettlebell sessions. Use snatches for the first session when you are fresh and switch to swings after the run so there is less chance of things going wrong when you are fatigued.

Do not perform this protocol more than twice a week. Very tough individuals may attempt it 3 times a week but it also depends on what the rest of your training looks like. I like to use it as the "conditioning' in a "strength and conditioning' program. So the week may look like this;

Day 1 SFP2.0 with kbs
Day 2 Moderate/easy run (optional)
Day 3 Strength Training (e.g. deadlifts, weighted pull-ups and clean and press)
Day 4 Off
Day 5 SFP2.0 with kbs
Day 6 Moderate/easy run (optional)
Day 7 Strength Training

I would not spend more than 4-6 weeks on this program, after this time focus on something else before attempting it again.

Al-Sabah Suleiman is a qualified karate instructor and 3rd dan black belt in shotokan karate (KUGB). Martial arts led him to train with kettlebells in 2002 and in 2007 he qualified as an RKC. Al-Sabah works as a research fellow at the University of Reading (School of Pharmacy) and holds a PhD in biomedical sciences (University of Leeds, 2003). If you would like to gain an edge in your chosen sport or simply improve your current level of fitness with kettlebells, contact him to arrange either a training session or a workshop.