Can you build muscle with kettlebells?

The answer is of course yes. Kettlebells are weights after all. Dan John has some fantastic muscle building routines such as the armor building complex and the eagle.

Pressing power

Likewise Geoff Neupert’s Kettlebell Muscle program has been known to add some decent mass gain in as little as 3 months.

Pavel’s Return of the kettlebell is another great program. build muscle

If you are using kettlebells for the purpose of adding muscle, I highly suggest you check those out.

Another option is to combine bodyweight exercise into the program. Below is a template that you could use for this purpose.




Monday – Upper body

Double Kb clean and press 5×5

Pull up (hang kb off feet?) 5×5

Hardstyle plank – 5 x 10 seconds

Tuesday – Lower body

Double Kb front squat – 5×5

Walking lunges (holding a kb in each hand) – 3×12

Heavy swings – 5×10


Rest up

Thursday – Upper body

Clapping push ups – 3×10

Double Kb row – 5×5

Dips (hang kb around waist?) 5×5

Hanging leg raises – 3×5

Friday – Lower body

Bulgarian split squats (hold kbs in rack, overhead or suitcase position) – 5×5

Single leg Kb deadlift – 3×8

Farmers walks – 4 x 25 metres


On 5×5 exercises, increase sets each workout until you are at 10 sets. Then increase the weight and start over at 5 sets.

On the other exercises, you can increase reps to 15-20, add one or two more sets, or increase weights used.

If you struggle with the hanging leg raise, do the knee raise first, increase sets to 5. When you can get 5×5 with good form on the leg raise, take your reps to 10 but don’t do more than 3 sets, when you can do that, progress to a 90 degree flexed arm leg raise.

No need to increase sets or time on the hardstyle plank, try to get tighter each round and squeeze your muscles harder. Focus on power breathing and make it hurt!

It goes without saying, that you stop all sets once form has gone.

When you can progress no more, switch the exercises. Below is a list of good substitutes.

Double kb push press, Double kb lockout row, Renegade row, Double kb swing, Pistol squats, Kb hammer Curls, Kb step ups, Push ups with feet elevated, push ups with a 4-4-4 tempo, Kb floor press, Kb bench press off a fitball, Kb crush squat, Kb crush push up etc

Train these exercises hard and you will gain lean body mass, it is not as effective as using barbells where you can get a much more significant load to stimulate GH and testosterone, but with some dedicated focus and effort you could add 10 pounds.

Good luck and I’d love to hear how it works out for you!

Drop me a comment below if you need any help making this work.


Are you committing these 3 muscle building mistakes?

Across the land gyms are full of guys wanting to add thick slabs of muscle to their frames, but unfortunately some are getting no where fast.

I have been weight training for 15 years now, I have owned a gym and I have trained tons of guys who want to get bigger sticking to the rules below. The results have been very good and every client took their muscularity and strength to new heights.

These are the top 3 most common muscle building mistakes that are holding you back from seeing continuous gains in size and strength.

Hopefully you are not committing any of them?


1. Too much isolation work

Lateral raises, front raises, upright rows, leg extensions, leg curls, the list goes on! Isolation is pointless until you have built some decent size, and even then it should be kept to a minimum. Your training should focus around compound exercises such as bench press variations, squat variations, deadlift variations, rowing variations, pull up variations, dips and few other select exercises. You need to get under some heavy weight to stimulate GH and testosterone, raising 10kg dumbbells out to the side is not going to cut it.

muscle building

2. To many missed training sessions and meals

Natural muscle growth is around 2-3 pounds per month at best, and that is only if you are hitting your sessions consistently, getting adequate nutrition and 7-9 hours sleep each night. If you are gaining more than that, you are adding body fat, not muscle. Your program should gain momentum as the weeks go by, missed training sessions will kill that momentum and all of your strength and size gains! If you are not dedicated to the mission, you will fail.


3. Working in the wrong rep ranges

I’m sure you have heard you need to mix things up to ensure progress? So how come you go to the gym every week and try to bust out 3 x 10 with the same weight or exercise? Sets of 10 induces hypertrophy no doubt, but you will stall very quickly if you stay in that rep range. Your program should cycle through every thing, rep ranges, exercises, rest periods, intensity and volume. That is how you keep the gains coming week after week.



There are a number of other factors, why guys are failing to make any decent size and strength gains in the gym, such as lack of total body tension, lack of muscular control, incorrect exercise form, not enough emphasis on the eccentric phase, not using a full range of movement, using weights that are too heavy, using weights that are too light, the list goes on.

Gaining muscle is hard work and takes time, if you are doing it right, you should see a 6-12 pound gain over the next 6-12 months.


If you need any advice, I’m happy to help, just drop me a comment below.


To your success!


Primal move – Coming soon!

In just a few months time I will be offering Primal move classes in the Bristol area.

Primal Move is a game-based, play-oriented approach to the art and science of enhancing your movement skill.

The Primal Move system—with its deep roots both in modern science and the most revered of the ancient “body culture” disciplines—provides you a dynamic new way to effectively retrain your body to reclaim its natural ability to move with elegance, strength, power and speed.
Added benefits often include: improved endurance, a reduction or removal of paingreater energy and a radically improved sense of overall well being.
Primal Move helps puts the joy back into your exercise program—when injury, imbalances, aging or other set backs have made “working out” a painful struggle rather than a natural source of pleasure.

Here is a description from Primal move creator Peter Lakatos

“Primal Move’s goal is to make changes through playful, beautiful and mindful movements. Through better movement you will be able to enjoy whatever you like doing in life. We want to show you the potential we all have in us, buried deep down.

Our goal is to move better through the unique mixture of unloaded and loaded mobility exercises, strength and endurance practice, while aiming to better movement at all time.
Moving more is not better. Moving stronger is not better. Moving faster is not better. Moving better is better, and we aim to move stronger, more and faster when we have already mastered better.”
Watch the video to see Peter taking a group through a session


Coming summer time 2013!

Xmas gift idea’s for the fitness enthusiast.

Christmas shopping, don’t you just love it!!

If you have a boyfriend or loved one who is into fitness, you are in luck, there is lots to choose from, although that is often the problem when buying gifts, too much choice!!

You are in luck, I have narrowed it down to my top 5 choices.

So without further ado.

  • Heart rate monitor 


This is a handy thing to have providing valuable feedback from your training, more expensive models will have a calories burnt estimate which can be useful when cutting weight. I recommend the Polar brand having used them, spend over £50 if you want a decent one.


  • Fitness apparel

Bristol Kettlebell club t-shirt

You can’t go wrong with a nice fitted t-shirt to show off those nicely toned muscles. So here is a very nice kettlebell related t-shirt from Bristol Kettlebell club. Yes this is a shameless self plug of my new design :)

Pick them up here


  • Rumble Roller

Bristol Kettlebell classes

Consistent training can create some adhesions, knots or trigger points, this causes pain and tightness. The Rumble roller will help to straighten you out and self massage the affected area’s, but be warned! Its not the faint hearted. If you have extreme tightness you might want to start out with a regular foam roller first.

The guys at Kettlebell Fever currently have a discount on so pick one up here 


  • Kettlebells

Bristol Personal trainer

Kettlebells are cheap, versatile and compact, making them great fitness tools to have at home. To get the most out of them and to use them safely, hands on instruction is a must.

I buy and recommend these

  • Barefoot trainers

Bristol Personal trainer - Peter Luffman

Personally I love barefoot trainers and own several pairs. They are lightweight, comfortable, and stylish. Perfect for weight training, kettlebell training or any type of conditioning activity. If you run in them and its your first venture into barefoot’s, start out slowly and allow your ankle and foot muscles to adapt.

I recommend these

So there you go, 5 gifts to suit different budgets, for the fitness freak in your life :)

Merry Christmas



The perfect workout

What is the perfect workout? Does the perfect workout even exist?

Should it involve squatting?

Or maybe deadlifts?

Over head press or horizontal press?

The perfect workout does exist but it will be completely different from one person to the next. If you can not squat without an excessive lean forward, this indicates tightness and inflexibility through the hips, you would be better of working the deadlift or doing lunge variations whilst working on fixing the issue. If you can’t perform 5 proper push ups then this this would be a worthy strength goal to focus on instead of doing tons of over head work. Everybody has a weakness, it could be strength based or you may have mobility/flexibility issues that cause dysfunctional movement. In the case of the latter, these area’s should be fixed before adding load.

Today I trained Claire who has been a client of mine for a few years now. Right now we are transitioning into some barbell work after a lengthy period of strictly using kettlebells. She has some upper back tightness which we are working but other than that no mobility or flexibility issues.  Basic kettlebell work such as swings and get ups are pretty much a mainstay in her sessions but building up some strength with the barbell using deadlifts, rack pulls and clean and press will be the focus over the next few months. Today’s sessions was pretty perfect, it went like this :-


Warm up

Joint mobility + Armbar stretch + walking lunges


Turkish get ups with a 14kg bell – 10 mins practice

Barbell deadlift – 60kg – 5×5 (Went light here as we have just switched from the trap bar to the barbell)

Double kettlebell military press –  2x12kg – 5×5


Two hand swing weight ladder

  • 28kg – 10 swings
  • 24kg – 15 swings
  • 20kg – 20 swings

3 times down the ladder for a total 135 swings.

We finished with some planks followed by a few stretches.

Now that is a pretty perfect session regardless of your goal!

Of course the perfect workout also depends on what you are trying to achieve?

Following the perfect fat loss plan in the hope to build muscle will not work.

It always comes back to the individual and what they want out of the training.



How NOT to swing a kettlebell


I see a lot of people swinging kettlebells incorrectly, and dangerously! They often come to me after having used them at a gym or a “class”, and there are always the familiar signs that they have not had proper instruction.

Kettlebell swing - Bristol Personal trainer

Poor form – to upright and squatty


Its very common for other personal trainers or fitness instructors to watch a youtube video and believe they now posses the information and skills to teach someone the kettlebell swing. I know that because I once thought this way when I first started out. But the truth is, no matter what the exercise, there is always going to be a learning curve. And if you haven’t practiced the exercise you will get caught out. Especially when it comes to kettlebells!!

Here are my top 5 don’ts when it comes to the kettlebell swing.

  • Don’t squat!!

The swing is not a squat, there will be some movement at the knee but mostly it should be hip flexion. The kettlebell swing is a posterior chain exercise, focusing on the hamstrings and gluteal muscles. Keep your shins vertical and move from the hips.

  • Don’t use your shoulders to pull!

The kettlebell should swing through extension of the hips to the standing position at which point it should feel weight less at the top . The arms should be loose and the hands act like hooks to guide the bell. If you are pulling the bell up to chest height you are doing it wrong and totally missing the point of the exercise.

Kettlebell swing - Bristol Personal trainer

Drooping kettlebell?!! Never!!!

  • Don’t swing it higher than chest height!

Another misconception is that you are trying to swing the bell higher and higher. Crossfit anyone? This could not be further from the truth. The point of the exercise is to project energy forwards, not upwards. Swinging kettlebells above your chest or in some cases above the head is inviting injury at the shoulder and lower back. Don’t do it!

  • Don’t swing it lower than your knees!

If you have a weight on the end of your arms and it swings down lower than your knees, you will feel a pull and strain on your lower back. Does that seem like a good idea? Swinging a bell this way will invite lower back pain quicker than anything. Guide the bell in towards the groin and elbows towards the ribs.

  • Don’t swing it for more than about 30-40 seconds!

This is another one that really grinds my gears, a typical trainer will set up a circuit and of course he/she is a super duper cutting edge trainer so there is a kettlebell swing station, and then prescribe working sets to last for 1 minute and the rest period to last for 10-15 seconds! Sound familiar? I very rarely recommend doing more than about 20-25 swings. in one go and for good reason. The swing is a tiring exercise, performing it for one minute is very exhausting (unless of course you are swinging a really light bell, in which case you will never see any benefits) and form starts to go out the window. Swinging with poor form is the quickest way to get injured. If your trainer prescribes circuits like this, trust me he/she has no idea how to put a proper circuit together, my advice is to walk out of the door and look elsewhere.

Kettlebell swing - Bristol Personal trainer

Excellent form!

The above photo shows excellent swing form. Note how straight he is when stood up, and note how deep his hinge position is, maximally engaging hamstrings and glutes. His elbows are next to his ribs and his shins are very upright. The bell has gone slightly higher than the chest but the lats are engaged to bring it back down.

And please, please, please, don’t ever swing like this -

Kettlebell swing - Bristol Personal trainer

Horrendous form!!

This is a picture of the celeb Jillian Michaels taken from her kettlebell DVD. This is the most absurd thing ever, for a so-called expert to recommend you swing your kettlebell like this!! Its akin to a policeman telling you to rob houses or to drive past school’s at 80 mph!

Please be careful with your kettlebells and seek correct instruction if you are unsure.


Recipe – Low carb cottage pie

Here’s a great low carb version of this classic winter dish.

You will need

  • 800g of Steak mince or the highest quality you can get your hands on.
  • 1 large onion
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • Any type of home made stock (roughly 300ml)
  • A little bit of gravy powder (essential to thicken it up)
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 1 large potato
  • 1 large cauliflower head
  • 2 large parsnips
  • Peas (optional)
  • 2 tbsp of real butter

Peel, slice and steam or boil the parsnip, cauliflower and potato.

Healthy recipes - Bristol personal trainer

Fry off the onion, garlic and mince.

Healthy recipes - Bristol personal trainer

I steamed the cauliflower, parsnip and potato which took about 40 mins. Once this is done add the butter and mash it up.

Healthy recipes - Bristol personal trainer

Transfer the mince into a suitable oven dish and add sliced uncooked carrots, and pour in your stock and gravy powder. If you want peas also, now is the time to put them in. They could go in frozen.

Healthy recipes - Bristol personal trainer

If you are happy with the consistency of your mash, pour over the top and smooth out to the corners.

Healthy recipes - Bristol personal trainer

You can see here that I could have had more mash, I think a bigger cauliflower or potato would have given me that little bit extra I wanted.

Healthy recipes - Bristol personal trainer

40 mins in the oven at around 190. The smell coming from the kitchen is immense! :)

Healthy recipes - Bristol personal trainer

Time to eat!!

I had some steamed curly kale with mine. Cabbage, spinach or greens would also be good.

This is not the quickest of dishes to make but its well worth the effort. Its loaded with goodness and with the addition of extra vegetables it will satisfy the most ferocious appetite!

Its a winner in my book!

I Hope you try it, and if you do drop me a comment below and let me know if you liked it.


Diets don’t work!

If you haven’t already figured it out, diets such as Atkins, Dukan, or cambridge, don’t work. It is not sustainable long term to only eat fat and protein, or have smoothies or shakes as replacements for meals, doing this will lead to metabolic disorders and extra weight gain in the long term.

So what’s the answer?

Changing your habits and removing sugar!

Your food selection needs attention and is more than likely the reason why you have gained unwanted weight. There are other possibilities such as medical reasons or hormone issues, but I’ll save that for another post.

Changing your habits is key. Identify which problem area is causing the most damage. Is it because you don’t prepare your own meals and eat to much takeaway? Is it the glass or two of wine you have each evening? Do you have a food intolerance or allergy? Are you in metabolic decline through not eating enough? Or maybe its a combination of the above? When you know what the problem is you can set about working on correcting it. If you have more than one bad habit, choose the one you believe causes the most damage (or hire me and I’ll figure it out for you) and replace it with a good habit.

However, don’t try and change too much at once, this usually leads to frustration. If you can improve by 1% every day in just over 3 months you will be 100% better! And probably thinner too!

You may have heard about doing this before, but recording everything you eat over 3 days and writing it down can be a real eye opener, and you will quickly realise why you have put on weight.

After a few weeks of practicing your new habit it will become the norm and you can move onto the next bad habit and set about fixing that. Your diet should be a balance of all 3 macro-nutrients, carbohydrates, protein and fats, cutting one of them out will not work in the long term, and your mood, energy and health will be compromised if all 3 are not present. What’s more important is the type of each nutrient you eat, choose natural sources only, and remember, nobody ever got fat eating too much broccoli or kale!


Sugar is in everything, buy a “low fat” product and you are taking in more sugar, drink skimmed milk in an attempt to reduce fat from the diet, you are now taking in more sugar, drinking alcohol on the weekend and once again you are loading up on sugar! Its every where and its slowly killing us!

Carbohydrate breaks down to sugar, and its true that this is the bodies preferred fuel source, however most folk can and should reduce their carb intake considerably. The average person is eating a high carbohydrate diet whether they realise it or not, some tweaking to your ratios is essential. This is easily done by simply upping your portion of protein and veg, and reducing the amount of carbs on your plate the next time you eat.

Take home points

  • Most “diets” are not long term solutions to managing weight gain!
  • Work on switching bad habits to good habits in order of worst first!
  • Anything that ends in “ose” is a sugar, fructose, glucose, galactose, sucrose, maltose and should be removed from your diet as much as possible!
  • Do all of this on a consistent basis!

Please leave a comment and share this post if you found it useful

Many thanks




My favourite core exercise – The RKC plank

If I had to pick just one direct core exercise to do then it would be the plank but this is not just your plain ole regular plank, the RKC plank is a supercharged version that teaches total body tension for superior strength and stability. Its one of the first exercises I teach new clients, its that good.

How to perform the RKC plank

Assume the forearm plank position but bring your heels and knees together, squeeze glutes, quads, brace abs and contract your lats all at the same time, now imagine pulling your elbows down and your toes up to meet in the middle, they should not move but this is your intention. Hold this position maximally contracting these muscles for 10 seconds on 10 seconds off, and repeat for 5 rounds. Each round focus on getting tighter and tighter.

If performed correctly by the end of the 5th round your abs should be on fire!

If you didn’t get that burning sensation don’t worry, with a little bit more practice you will get it.

Check the video for further clarification

Benefits of the RKC plank

Teaches total body tension – Which helps in other lifts!

Trains the entire body – No isolation!

Teaches the importance of bracing – To protect the spine!

Achieves greater strength gains in less time – Its more effective!

Try this one out and thank me later :)






A short guide to HIIT (interval training)

HIIT or high intensity interval training is time efficient, fun and works great to aid fat loss.

Intervals are rest breaks in-between high intensity exercise, of which the duration can change. In simple terms, you have a work period and a rest period. The ratio of work to rest can change depending on the desired outcome of the training or the fitness level of the participant. For example, a common interval I use with clients gives an equal amount of work to rest, this is a known a 1:1 interval. If I had a client who is in good shape potentially we could go to 2:1 so the work period is twice as long as the rest period. Working twice as long as resting obviously makes it much more intense as you don’t have as much time to recover in-between your working sets.

We could go even further with the interval and make it 3:1, this would be very intense so either the total duration would need to be shorter or with sensible exercise selection we could sustain it for longer.


A typical interval session could last anywhere from 5- 30 minutes, depending on the exercises employed and the desired outcome of the session. There are many different ways to perform intervals and that is why they are a great addition to your training.

HIIT has been shown in studies to burn a higher number of total calories than steady state cardio but only just. 30 mins of HIIT only outguns 60 mins of steady state cardio by around an estimated 200 calories or so. It has the advantage of taking less time but the disadvantage of taxing our nervous system to a higher degree and therefore requires more recovery time in-between training.

I would not recommend more than 3 HIIT sessions per week and steady state cardio still has its place to aid fat loss and should not be counted out.

Train hard but also train smart!

Please leave comment and I will do my best answer any questions you have.