Double Kettlebell Accessory Work for Hypertrophy

If you’re reading this blog post, I assume you share the same passion as I do for kettlebell training. While single kettlebell training can fast track an athlete to potent gains in strength and power, my preference is in training with double kettlebells.

Double kettlebells require more skill, more strength, and more power. These requirements in turn provide dividends in improving muscle mass, melting body fat, and developing resilience in both sport and life.

With the addition of two days of targeted double kettlebell accessory work, the athlete can expect improved body composition with four key exercises:

  1. The Double Kettlebell Floor Press
  2. The Double Kettlebell Row
  3. The Double Kettlebell Reverse Lunge
  4. The Double Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift

In this blog post, I will make the case for the addition of specific hypertrophy training for improved aesthetics and muscle mass. Both of these components will add to one’s anabolic profile and overall strength.

Adding Targeted Hypertrophy

In the modern world of hardstyle kettlebell training, strength is often the main focus. Although the byproduct of increased volume in strength training is often hypertrophy (muscle building), it is achieved in a roundabout manner.

For the needs of myself and my clientele, I argue that an athlete can easily add higher volume training as accessory work to support building muscle to the athlete’s frame.

In order to successfully achieve this, we need to be methodical in applying hypertrophy sets: they should not cause excessive soreness that interferes with the foundational strength goals of the program. The exercises should be minimal in their application and be compound in nature.

However, if maximal muscle mass is the goal, the athlete should always aim to lift heavy and expect delayed onset muscle soreness in subsequent days. These athletes should supplement to help their recovery efforts. Refer to my article on The Performance Stack for more information.

Referring to primal movement patterns, the athlete should look at both an upper and lower body push and pull. Each exercise will be compound (using multiple joints) and performed with a medium tempo (2-2-2) to allow proper eccentric loading.

The Exercises

Upper Body Push

Pushing exercises in hardstyle training are often overhead. Since we are likely getting enough overhead work in our mainstay strength training, the exercise of choice is the Double Kettlebell Floor Press.

A potent builder of the chest, anterior deltoids, and triceps, the double kettlebell floor press changes our normal vertical push to a horizontal push. I have found that supporting the horizontal push has a direct effect on improving overhead strength.

Aesthetically, the double kettlebell floor press is a compound exercise that will add size to the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

Upper Body Pull

Pulling exercises in hardstyle training are mostly performed in the kettlebell clean and snatch. Although I am a fan of each movement, I believe that full range of motion rows can help to build the lats and shoulder girdle effectively.

Since the lats are the supporting structure of a powerful rack position, building their size positively affects one’s ability to press both vertically and horizontally. The Double Kettlebell Row is the choice exercise for aesthetic/hypertrophy training.

A potent builder of the lats and muscles of the shoulder girdle, the double kettlebell row allows more range of motion than the kettlebell clean and a deeper contraction in the pulling musculature.

Aesthetically, the double kettlebell row is a compound exercise that will build an impressive back and v-taper.

Lower Body Push

Lower body pushing exercises are typically relegated to the goblet and front squats. Athletes will get a lunge each time they perform a get up, but in my opinion, that’s not nearly enough to load the limbs that move us throughout our lives.

Front squats are a personal favorite exercise of mine for building the quadriceps and abdominals, but I also love lunging for its inherent functionality for running athletes. The Double Kettlebell Reverse Lunge just hits different.

If you want to know more about my fascination with lunging, check out this article I wrote for Kettlebell Kings: What About the Lunge?

A potent builder of the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps, the double kettlebell reverse lunge from a front rack effectively and safely allows athletes with beat up knees to load their lower body.

Aesthetically, the double kettlebell reverse lunge supports similar muscles to the double kettlebell front squat, but in a shorter range of motion. My clients and I love this exercise for the deep glute burn it provides.

Lower Body Pull

Lower body pulling exercises in hardstyle kettlebell training are ever present: the swing and its various versions, the clean, and the snatch, all build powerful type II muscle fibers in the glutes and hamstrings.

Although I’m a huge believer in the above listed movements, I love the Double Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift as a means of training balance, unilateral strength, and full body coordination. I have spent periods of my training career avoiding barbell deadlifts in favor of the double kettlebell single leg deadlift (SLDL).

A potent builder of the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and even the lats, the SLDL is perfect for athletes and non-competing trainees. The SLDL is a safe exercise for loading the hip hinge pattern with real world carryover.

Aesthetically, the double kettlebell single leg deadlift supports ideal body proportions in the glutes and hamstrings, giving the legs an athletic look.

The Programming

In my minimalist beliefs, I aim to keep programming as simple as possible. I personally have two heavy training days per week on Mondays and Fridays. I train Essential Grinds twice times per week after a full day of recovery from the heavy training days.

Depending on your personal recovery, I recommend adding Essential Grinds a day after your heavy days loaded to weights you can perform at a 12RM level. For me, those weights are between double 24kgs and double 32kgs.

Training SessionMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday
Essential GrindsESES
My preferred training schedule

Although we could perform fancy programming as taught in PlanStrong, I prefer simplicity. The volume schemes are based on typical bodybuilding templates of progressive overload.

Floor Press57-10
Double Row57-10
Reverse Lunge57-10
Single Leg Deadlift57-10
Basic Bodybuilding Template.

I like to perform upper body and lower body supersets for Essential Grinds:

A1. Double Kettlebell Floor Press

A2. Double Kettlebell Row

Rest 90″ Between Supersets

B1. Double Kettlebell Reverse Lunge

B2. Double Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift

Rest 90″ Between Supersets

Progressive Overload

WeekFloor PressDouble RowReverse LungeSingle Leg
15 x 75 x 75 x 7/s5 x 7/s
25 x 85 x 85 x 8/s5 x 8/s
35 x 95 x 95 x 9/s5 x 9/s
45 x 105 x 105 x 10/s5 x 10/s
Sample Progressive Overload

WeekFloor Press
Total Reps
Double Row
Total Reps
Reverse Lunge
Total Reps
Single Leg
Total Reps
Totals170 Reps170 Reps170 Reps/Side170 Reps/Side
Total Repetitions Over One Month

If performing one month of Essential Grinds with double 24kg bells, the reader can see very high volume in each exercise. High volume = high return on hypertrophy, even with relatively “light” weights.”

If you are not used to training for hypertrophy, this might cause dramatic soreness in the beginning. Ensure that recovery tools are optimized: sleep, nutrition, massage, and supplementation.

Further, if this training totally drains you, reduce Essential Grinds to one time per week. Always ensure that an annex program like Essential Grinds fits into your foundational goals if any.

Looking Forward

What’s next? If you have successfully completed Essential Grinds with your 12RM kettlebells, you can repeat the program until you have reached your aesthetic/hypertrophy goals. If the 12RM kettlebells have become too light, upgrade to your 10RM kettlebells in month 2 and 8 RM kettlebells in Month 3.

If you have already reached your aesthetic/hypertrophy goals, this program can either be trained once per week or once every two weeks. One could also split the training into an upper body focused day and a lower body focused day. Use your discretion and always aim to lift heavy.

John Parker

November 20, 2021