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How To Prevent Kettlebell Calluses

Flash back to late 2008. I am in training for my first Russian Kettlebell Challenge certification.

One of the things you have to do to get certified is the infamous 100 rep snatch test – 100 snatches with a 24 kilo kettlebell in 5 minutes or less.

So after a month or two of training for the test – still maybe three or four months out from the actual certification weekend – I decide to do my first trial run.

It goes fairly well. I get it done, but just in time – with maybe 10  or 15 seconds to spare, if I remember correctly.

Funny thing was though, my hands were feeling really “hot” during the last minute or two of the test.

So I look down, and am surprised to see that there is a streak of blood running down my right arm.  I had ripped a callus straight off and just powered through (with all the fatigue and willingness to get it done, I did not even realize it when it happened)!

This was a good lesson though – because my training was affected for the next week or so, and I did not want that to happen again.  So I have had to learn to take better care of my hands in my KB training.

I thought you might have similar problems?  So I shot a quick video with some tips to help.  Here is how to prevent kettlebell calluses:

SO if you picked up a copy of Challenge Complexes – or are just planning on doing more complexes in your programming in general – you’ll want to pay special attention to this one.

How to Prevent Kettlebell Calluses

(video recap)

I’ve got a new video for you today to show you three tips on how to save your hands when training with kettlebells.

This is a really common problem.  Almost everyday it seems, I get questions like

“How do I save my hands when training with kettlebells?”


“My calluses are getting ripped off during hard kettlebell training.  After my high rep snatch workout I look down and blood is running down my forearm!”

Well I’ve got three simple tips to help solve this one.

Number one is to stop gripping the kettlebell so hard. What’s probably happening is when you are doing something like a snatch or clean you are gripping the bell really hard to try and slow it down. So maybe for one single repetition I do a snatch and I grip it hard and it slows down the impact but that’s an artificial way to keep that from happening. What needs to happen is you actually grip the kettlebell less and improve your technique on the snatch. Or on the clean, you need to be able to punch your hand around and not grip it hard to keep it from smacking you in the wrist. With the snatch it is just about snapping the hips hard, doing a little bit of a high pull, getting the weight to float up there and spearing the hand through.

Check out some of my other videos on my Youtube channel. I’ve got a lot more tips and specifics on there on how to do the kettlebell snatch.

The same thing with the clean, you are just punching that hand around like you are drawing a six-shooter. Elbow stays close to the body and your hand just comes around the ‘bell. No impact, no need to crush the grip.

Number two, and this comes from practice and lots of repetitions, is you want to be able to transfer that kettlebell back and forth from (demonstrating) this part of your hand to this part of your hand to skip over the calluses.

So if I’m doing a snatch, I’m going back and the kettlebell is going to be more in the hook of my fingers. Then as it comes over the top I skip to this part of my hand and as I gooseneck it to the top it’ll flip back over to the other part. So really, my calluses aren’t getting a huge beating while I’m doing that.

Number three would be if your hands tend to sweat and you are going to lose your grip (this happens a lot with any kind of high rep single arm kettlebell work in particular) just use some lifting chalk. You can get it at your local sporting goods store. Really all this is going to do is dry your hands off and improve your grip. It definitely helps to improve your grip if your hands tend to get sweaty. You may like it or you may not…as you can see it is a little bit messy but its worth it if that is a problem that you’re having.

So there are three tips for you to save your hands when training with kettlebells. Start using those right away and see some improved results.

Keep training hard, and talk soon –


PS – If you are in the Sacramento area and want to learn more about training with kettlebells check out my training page at Bootcamp Sacramento!

Lunge ‘n’ Bears KB/BW/Resistance Band Workout


I’ve got a sample workout for you today from my new Kettlebell Boot Camp Workout program. Enjoy!
– Forest


Lunge ‘n’ Bears KB/BW/Resistance Band Workout

You’ll need a little extra space to get this one done … it’s a great workout to do outdoors …

TWO different pairs of exercises to start – push ups (15) and KB swings (20) … burpees (7) and bicep curls with a heavy resistance band (20).

Complete pair one (push ups and KB swings) of exercises back-to-back, without rest, ONE time.

Do walking lunges for about 25 yards.

When you arrive at your destination, complete exercise pair two (burpees and band curls).

Lunge back to where you started.

Repeat for TWO rounds of each exercise pair, FOUR sets total of lunges.

take a short break, then –

Second pairs of exercises are:

close grip push ups (12) and KB goblet squats (10), bear crawl between stations, pull ups/inverted rows (4-10, depending on fitness level) and squat jumps (12).

Finish off by performing the following total body ab circuit three times:

1/2 Turkish get ups (3 each side)
side plank (:20 hold each side)
mountain climbers (15 each side)


Whew!  That’s a fun – AND tough – one for you to try this week.

And if you liked this Lunge ‘n’ Bears KB/BW/Resistance Band workout, you can get 98 more like it at the link below:

=> Grab 99 Kettlebell Boot Camp Workouts (58% off this week only)

The REAL TRUTH About Buying a Kettlebell




During a workout today, for some reason, I was thinking about different brands of KB’s that I have trained with over the years. And since we’ve been getting a lot of questions on this topic as of late, I thought I would take this opportunity to write a bit about how to buy a kettlebell.

Through testing and feedback and lots of trial and error, I have come to a simple conclusion: to figure out what kind of kettlebells you need, you have to decide what your ultimate kettlebell training goals are.

If you’re just doing some basic two hand swings and TGU’s, and you won’t be using your ‘bell more than two or three times per week, then you can probably get away with a basic brand and save a few bucks.

If you’re going to be doing more intermediate-to-advanced moves like cleans and snatches … and if you’re going to be using your ‘bell more frequently … consider going with a high quality KB brand. It is well worth it. Higher-end KB’s are going to be are balanced better, have a much smoother handle, and just have a higher quality feel.

Now, if you’re going to go with the “more basic” route, I would strongly recommend buying the KB’s in person. This is because the quality of each KB does vary a bit, and you want to make sure that you’re getting a quality one that suits you. Look on craigslist, your local used sporting goods store, etc.

On the other hand, if you’re going to go “all out” and opt for a higher quality KB, I’ll make it simple for ‘ya – click HERE to check out the brand that I recommend. (Also, if you happen to be in the Sacramento area, swing by our studio – no pun intended … we have a selection of kettlebells for sale that are of great quality as well.)

That’s it for today! I hope that if you are in the market to buy a kettlebell, that this article has helped you out. Just remember – decide on your ultimate training goals first. Then get the kettlebells that you know are going to be most approporiate for you and your needs.

Train hard, and ’till next time –

– Forest Vance, MS, RKC II

PS – Want to actually learn how to use that bad boy once you pick it up? Come on down to my Sacramento boot camp and learn how!

Kettlebell Challenge Workout

A big mistake a lot of folks make who are training for general, “aesthetic”-based fitness goals like fat loss, muscle gain, etc. – is that they set zero performance-based targets.

So – let’s say your main goal is fat loss.  Your biggest measurement of progress should be your weight, body fat %, measurements, etc., for sure.  But, setting performance-based goals for yourself should be a key part of the process as well.  You need a way to see if you are getting stronger and making progress in your workout program.

BUT – being specific, and knowing the best way to measure your workout progress, can be tricky.  You know that, for example, doing swings with a given weight is getting easier – but are you really getting stronger/getting in better cardio shape/etc.?

Well, we use kettlebell challenge workouts for this exact purpose at my Sacramento KB Boot Camp.

Challenge workouts, done somewhat infrequently (every two to four weeks), are a great way to test yourself both physically and mentally, and see how your overall fitness level is progressing.

Try today’s kettlebell challenge workout.  Record your score.  Train hard, come back to the workout in two to four weeks, and see how those performance-based fitness targets are coming along!

Video Recap

Hey – Forest here from Forest Vance Training and FVT boot camp in Sacramento, California. Today I have a brand new challenge workout for you!

Our challenge workouts are meant to challenge you both mentally and physically. They are going to be scored in some way, and what we do at our studio is repeat them once a month throughout the year. We do this, number one, so that our folks can see how their fitness level is improving over time. Number two, is that it’s a fun, physical, and mental challenge that helps to mix up the monotony of a normal workout routine.

Kettlebell Challenge Workout (recap)

▪   burpee

▪   body weight squat

▪   push up

▪   kettlebell swing

Perform each exercise for 45 seconds continuously, completing as many reps as possible with perfect form. Rest for exactly 15 seconds.  Repeat the process with the next exercise in the sequence. Do five rounds of the entire sequence total, resting for 60 seconds between rounds.

Keep track of how many reps of each exercise you get in each set. Your score is the total number of reps you get in the entire workout.

So, to sum up, in addition to your general, “aesthetic”-based fitness goals, make sure that you are setting some performance targets for yourself as well.  Kettlebell challenge workouts are a great way to do this.  Incorporate them into your existing routine for faster progress right away!

Thanks for reading, and talk soon –

Forest Vance, MS, RKC II

Oh – and one more thing … if you liked this intense kettlebell challenge workout you can many more like it in my new Kettlebell Challenge Workouts 2.0 program – on sale, for this week only. Check out this preview by clicking the link below!

Kettlebell Challenge Workouts 2.0

Kettlebell Exercise Alternatives


It’s really important to 1) be aware of and 2) know exactly how to “scale” a kettlebell workout for different fitness levels.  It gives you the ability to perform nearly ANY routine you find – no matter your ability and/or kettlebell training skill.

For example – in my Sacramento boot camp classes, I give folks an extreme version, a regular version and a beginner version of every exercise we do.  So folks that have been training hard for months or years can pick the hardest version, intermediate-level folks can pick the medium-intensity version, and beginners can pick the “entry level” version.

I thought I’d put together a simple list of kettlebell exercise alternatives for all the basic kettlebell drills for your reference.  Hope it helps!

Kettlebell Exercise Alternatives

1. Kettlebell Swing Alternatives

If you’re just getting started, out of shape, have injury issues, etc., you can do the sumo deadlift instead of the kettlebell swing.  You’d then work to the 1/2 swing and finally the full swing.

I outline the full learning progression for the kettlebell swing – including how to do the sumo deadlift and 1/2 swing – in this post:

=== >> The HardStyle Swing

2. Turkish Get Up Alternatives

If you can’t do a full Turkish Get Up, start with the 1/2 TGU.

See a video on how to do it here:

=== >> The Turkish Get Up

3. Kettlebell Squat Alternatives

The squat is a movement that, IF done correctly, the vast majority of people CAN do.

It KILLS me when folks say “my doctor told me not to squat, I have bad knees!” … and then when I have them do a squat, their heels come up and their knees shoot out over their toes.  Here, it’s not the movement itself, it’s HOW YOU’RE DOING IT.

You have to squat multiple times throughout the day – sitting in a chair, getting into your car, sitting on the toilet, etc.  If you can do these things, you can squat!!

BUT – if you truly want to regress this exercise – do it without weight first.  Try the box squat.  Get a weight bench or other object of similar height.  Stand about 12-18 inches in front of it.  Sit your hips back on to it and tap it with your butt.  It’ll teach you how to hinge at the hips, get into a proper squat position … and you’ll be squatting using your KB in no time.

4. Pressing Alternatives

If you can’t press overhead for whatever reason (injury, etc.), pressing in the horizontal plane can be a good work-around.

Check out this post on another one of my blogs on one of the best all-around pressing moves ever – the push up:

=== >> >How to Do More Push Ups

5. Kettlebell Snatch Alternatives

If you can’t do a kettlebell snatch, substitute a one hand swing.  Learn the swing PERFECTLY and get it down cold … then progress to the snatch.

6. Kettlebell Clean Alternatives

The squat clean is a great alternative if you can’t do the kettlebell clean.  It’s a two-hand, simpler variation of the standard clean.  Here’s how to do it:

=== >> The Kettlebell Squat Clean

7. Pull Up Alternatives

Though not a PURE kettlebell move, still a very important one.

Many kettlebell workouts call for pull ups.  But a lot of folks can’t do them.

A great alternative for the pull up is the body row.

Learn 5 ways to do more pull ups here:

=== >> How to Do More Pull Ups

In summary, just because you can’t do a kettlebell exercise, it doesn’t mean you can’t do workout that includes it … you just need the right kettlebell exercise alternatives.  Use this list next time you’re in a pinch, do what you can with what you got and keep training hard!

PS – If you like my post and are in the Sacramento area, check out my Sacramento boot camp classes.

Kettlebell/Body Weight Boot Camp Buddy Workout

I posted this workout up on my training site – a few days ago, and have gotten some great feedback from it.  So, if you missed it – check it out.  It makes for a great weekend workout!


I just finished up day one of assisting at the San Jose RKC. So awesome to be part of an event like this …. I am learning a ton from everyone involved, from our head instructor, to my team leader, to my fellow assistants, and even the participants … plus, just because I love KB’s and everything about them, I am having a lot of fun!

One thing that is heavily utilized in the RKC cert work format is the buddy system. The typical flow during the day alternates between instruction and drill work/KB practice/short workout. And almost every drill/exercise/workout/etc. is done with a partner.

This is a GREAT way to structure a group workout. We use this format daily at my downtown Sacramento training studio and it works great. Folks typically push harder than they would on their own, they can see what the other person is doing and provide feedback, they get to know other folks in the group, etc.

So, to better illustrate how you could set up a session like this, and to give you a sample workout to try on your own, I pulled one of my favorite kettlebell and body weight – based boot camp buddy workouts out of the vault for you today. Check it out:

FVT Kettlebell/Body Weight Boot Camp Buddy Workout

1 – Start with your SMR/mobility/dynamic stretching work for 5-10 mins before the workout

(Check out this article for a simple progression:

2 – Buddy set #1 – ketttlebell squat and press + body row

*Person one does five KB squat and presses (with a – relatively for you – heavy weight!) on one side, a hand-to-hand swing switch, and five KB squat to presses on the other side.

HOWEVER LONG IT TAKES person one to do this, person two is performing body rows.

Rest briefly (10-15 secs), switch exercises and repeat.

Do this three to four times total.

3 – Buddy set #2 – burpee + kettlebell swing

*Person one does seven burpees.

HOWEVER LONG IT TAKES person one to do this, person two is performing kettlebell swings.

Rest briefly (10-15 secs), switch exercises and repeat.

Do this three to four times total.

4 – Buddy set #3 – kettlebell figure eight to hold + plank-to-push up

*Person one does ten kettlebell figure eight to holds.

HOWEVER LONG IT TAKES person one to do this, person two is performing the plank-to-push exercise (with a push up).

Rest briefly (10-15 secs), switch exercises and repeat.

Do this three to four times total.

5 – “Cool down” with SMR again, static stretching for your tight muscle groups only, etc.

Whew! Nice. Enjoy that one That’s all I got for ‘ya for now. If you are not incorporating buddy training into your workouts, hopefully this article and sample workout has changed your mind … it’s a great way to structure your sessions, and will help you take your training to the next level.

Keep training hard, and talk soon –

Forest Vance, MS, RKC II

PS – Located in the Sacramento area and looking for ongoing training? Check out the website for my Sacramento studio at

3 Minute Kettlebell Workout

Sometimes, you have the best of intentions to get your workout in …

But you oversleep, or something else comes up during your designated workout time, and your normal 30 or 45 minutes to work out is cut down to 15 or 20.

At this point, some folks will just give up. Do nothing. The workout does not happen, at all.

This, in my opinion, is a BIG mistake.

I think that it is very important to keep in mind, that SOMETHING is ALWAYS better than nothing, when it comes to your fitness program.

Even if you can only work out for a few minutes, if you have a short, intense workout on hand, you will still burn a few kcals, rev up your metabolism, and make some progress towards your ultimate fitness goals.

And that’s what the workout I have for you today is all about. It is perfect for these types of situations. It is SUPER short – but quite intense.

Without further ado – the 3 minute kettlebell workout:

1 – Do a quick warm up. Something like two rounds of the following exercise circuit, each move done for 20 seconds each:

body weight squat
plank hold
wall slide

2 – Do a few low-intensity sets of kettlebell swings, to get yourself in the “grove”.

3 – Set a timer for three minutes. Do as many kettlebell snatches as you can. You can switch arms as often as you like – and put the kettlebell down as often as you like – but the goal is to get as many as possible in three minutes. Use whatever strategy is best for you.

4 – Take about three minutes to stretch tight muscle groups to finish off.

Take this workout seriously, pick a proper weight, honestly go for max snatch reps in three minutes – and you WILL be smoked. Enjoy! ;)

That’s it for today! Have a great one –

Forest Vance, MS, CPT, RKC II

PS – Kettlebell training bringing on a little unintended back pain? While you work on your form, check out these great back exercises without weight You’ll thank me later!

How To Build Mental Toughness with Kettlebells


Twelve weeks ago we put together a training group for a mud run event.

And now that official start time is 36 hours away, what’s done is done … we’ve done all we can when it comes to mental preparation, it’s time to GO!

I have been reflecting a little today about the last twelve weeks of training … we put together an awesome group of folks for the event …  I’ve learned a LOT as a trainer during this time.

One specific take-away I wanted to share with you and that I think can help you a lot with your kettlebell training is …

Mental toughness is a learned skill

I had folks from varried backgrounds and training experience levels sign up for this program.  So here’s what I discovered:

Let’s try and flash you back to the first time you ever worked out. Maybe it was 20 years ago. Maybe it was this month. Either way, you have a “starting point” when it comes to your training. You didn’t start with a hard mind at 3 years old.

I still remember the first time I lifted weights HARD. I was 15 and it was in a football weight training class.  I didn’t even make it 30 minutes without running to the side of the building to have a puke.  Which I wasn’t super excited about at the time.  BUT – it made me realize I could push myself to a new level.

Over the last 15 years or so, I’ve been subjected to a LOT of hard workouts.  And each time I push myself a **little** harder, it takes me to a new level.

This is why I think folks that are just getting started have a hard time really pushing themselves to exhaustion. They really don’t even know what it’s like. It’s not even in their realm of thinking.

And this is also why I think people that were athletic, that maybe have trained hard in the past, many times get injured, throw up, etc. when they first get back into it. Because their MIND knows how to push hard, but their body’s forgot :)

How To Build Mental Toughness With Kettlebells

So – the moral of the story is that you need to be striving to push yourself a little bit harder – than you ever have before – on a somewhat frequent basis. Now, let me be clear – you CAN”T train like this every day, or even every week. But you should be training hard every once in a while to really test your limit and get to a new mental toughness set point!

Train hard, and talk soon –


PS – If you’re in the Sacramento, CA area, head over and check out Forest’s main Sacramento boot camp page at

Kettlebell Exercise for Abs – the Renegade Row

No matter WHERE your fitness level is at …

You can always get better abs.

Thing is … traditional ab training …crunches, leg raises, sit ups, etc. … not only is it ineffective … it’s boring.

A fun and unique kettlebell exercise for abs is the kettlebell renegade row.  And as an added benefit, when you do this move, not only will you work the heck out of those core muscles, you’ll hit almost every other muscle group in your body at the same time.  Watch the video below for the full breakdown:

Find out what ALL of the best kettlebell exercises for abs are here:

=> Kettlebell Basics Premium Workouts

Video Transcription

Today I’m going to show you a unique kettlebell exercise for abs.

Now when most people think of training abs they think of doing crunches or sit ups or leg raises. These exercises are okay but really the way that your abs and your whole core (which includes your glutes, your midsection, your lower back and those muscles in the middle of your back) functions is as a stabilizer.

Say for example, if I’m doing a kettlebell swing or I’m doing a goblet squat, my abs are tightening up to stabilize my trunk during functional movements.

So here is an exercise called the renegade row. This is a unique exercise, you may have see it before, but it is a great total body ab movement.

Grab two kettlebells. The basic version has you practising shifting your weight back and forth. Shift your full weight to one side while keeping your abs tightened like you are doing a push up.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 6.07.54 PM

Then you can go ahead and add a row to it.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 6.03.24 PM

If you want to make it more difficult, you can add a push up and a row at the top.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 6.03.47 PM

As you can see my abs are bracing really hard to stabilize as I shift my weight and do a row on one side.

This is a total body exercise with a strong emphasis on the abs. There’s the kettlebell renegade row – a great exercise for abs!

=> Kettlebell Basics Premium Workouts

That’s it for today!  Thanks for watching, and talk soon –

Forest Vance, MS, RKC II

PS – If you’re in the Sacramento, CA area, head over and check out Forest’s main Sacramento boot camp page at

Quick Kettlebell and Body Weight Home Circuit Workout

Maybe 100% of your workouts are at home.

Maybe you work out at a gym or other type of training facility primarily, but a quick home workout has to do when you’re pressed for time or just can’t make it happen any other way.

Well, clearly I’m a bit biased ;) , but –

1) Kettlebell workouts and 2) body weight – only training are by far my two favorite ways to exercise at home.  I have a workout room set up in my house with a variety of different types of exercise equipment … but to be honest, 90% of the time I just stick to KB’s and body weight.

The combination of these two modalities allows you to get a fat-blasting, lean-muscle building, high-intensity conditioning workout almost anywhere.

I put together a quick video for you from my home workout space – this is a great one to knock out over the weekend for some extra holiday-time calorie burning.


To quickly recap the video –

Do this exercise sequence:

  • plank-to-push up
  • kb goblet squat
  • jumping jacks
  • kettlebell swings

Do each exercise for as many reps as possible in 30 seconds. No rest between moves. Do the entire sequence three to five times non-stop with no rest.

KB’s and body weight are a powerful training combo for getting a lot done, in a short amount of time, in a very small space. Perfect for those home workouts during the busy holiday season.

Enjoy this workout, and have a great weekend!

Forest Vance, MS
Certified Russian Kettlebell Instructor

PS – Head over and check out for more kettlebell training workouts like this one.

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