The Three Bears Kettlebell Circuit


By Jennifer Blake |

You remember the three bears: Papa, Mama, and Baby Bear. This kettlebell workout is one that the Bear family may have favored in their little cottage in the woods. The light, medium, and heavy weights create an opportunity for a heart-pumping circuit.

The Three Bears format underscores the kettlebell’s versatility. It’s not only a strength-training tool, says Philadelphia-based trainer Jen Sinkler, PCC, RKC-II, but also an underrated piece of cardio equipment.

Training with kettlebells — with lighter weights, higher reps, and little rest — “resembles the cadence of more traditional cardio activities like running, rowing, or cycling,” allowing blood to flow back into the heart in a pattern similar to that of traditional cardio activities, she explains.

This is great news if you have to forgo traditional cardio because of injury. And Sinkler notes that people who train with kettlebells often comment on “how much more easily they get around in their daily life — from hefting dog food, running after the kids, and having faster 5K, marathon, bike race, and triathlon times.” (She advises, however, that “if you want to train as a runner, keep running, too!”)

The following workout uses a range of three weights, each one assigned a certain number of repetitions — the heavier the weight, the lower the number of reps.

You can apply this workout template to the swing, clean, or snatch — popular kettlebell moves that are fast and explosive, making them particularly well suited for working up a sweat, burning fat, or simply trying an alternative conditioning routine.

The Template

Choose weights that allow you to perform clean, sharp reps for the number prescribed. Remember, you want to move fast — and keep moving!

Stick with one move for the entire circuit. Make sure to get some practice reps in (and work on form with a trainer) before doing this drill.

Complete as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes, starting with the lightest kettlebell and progressing to the heaviest one. For the single-arm movements, perform the reps on each arm before moving on to the heavier weight. Rest after the heavy set as needed.

This is a fun workout to do with one or more partners: Cycle through the kettlebells and cheer each other on!

Kettlebell Swing

  1. Reverse the movement by pulling the kettlebell down through the same arc, staying upright as long as possible before pushing your hips backward and swinging the kettlebell high between your legs. Keep your chest lifted the entire time — someone across the room should be able to read the writing on your shirt throughout the movement.

Kettlebell Clean

  1. Reverse the movement to lower the kettlebell into the bottom of a swing, gripping it again as in the first step as you hike the kettlebell between your legs for another rep.

Kettlebell Snatch

  1. To reverse the movement, lightly flick the kettlebell forward and pull it down in front of your body, hiking the kettlebell between your legs as if you were doing a swing.

This originally appeared as “The Three Bears Circuit” in the September 2018 print issue of Experience Life.

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