Consider fat mass in your kettlebell workouts
June 17, 2018
I am around 300 pounds (136kg) and my fat mass is around 33%-40%. 300lbs*.33=99lbs (45kg) and 300lbs*.40=120lbs (54.5kg). It’s really important for all of us plus-sized (ahem, obese), big and tall, boys and girls to consider how much extra weight we have on our bones when we take up kettlebell training. Two-24kg kettlebells weigh 106 pounds. Even without lifting a single bell, I am basically doing a farmer carry with a 44kg kettlebell whenever I get up off of the couch or stand up from my desk.
I’m Always Piggybacking a Small Woman Everywhere I Go
I try to remember every time I choose the elevator over the stairs: whenever I climb or descend the stairs I’m basically doing it piggybacking the equivalent of a small woman. Everywhere I go, I’m carrying a small woman. When I race, I’m doing the 5k piggybacking a small woman.
We Obese People are Always Doing a Farmer-Walk
Maybe, if you’re carrying enough weight on you, it might be worthwhile to try doing some of your kettlebell exercises either with a little bit lighter weight or even try doing it with just your body weight. Give yourself a break.
I know, I know: when you carry the weight held perfectly vertically in your fist, racked against your forearm, you get an entirely different workout based on where the weight lies and the instability of the cannonball-with-a-handle; however, if you find that doing squats—Goblet Kettlebell Squats, Two Handed Kettlebell Squats, Racked Kettlebell Squats, Kettlebell Thrusters, Overhead Kettlebell Squats, Kettlebell Pistol Squats, Kettlebell Deck Squats, Kettlebell Sumo Squats—is really hard with a 12kg, 16kg, 20kg, 24kg, 32kg, 40kg, or 48kg kettlebelles (even if Pavel Tsatsouline tell you that real men start with 16kg kettlebells, spend their every day with their 24kg kettlebells, and will need 32kg kettlebells soon) then you really should give yourself a break: you’re already always carrying a couple heavy bells on your body already.
The Turkish Get Up (TGU) can be very intimidating for us heavyset people. Don’t let your inability to do even one TGU with any weight at all. You’ve got enough weight on your bones to make each and every get-up the equivalent of getting up with between a 24kg and a 40kg kettlebell.
Even Pavel Tsatsouline himself recommends that you learn to do the flowing and exact movements of the Turkish Get Up with a shoe balanced on the knuckles of your fist to start (in order to make sure you work on your form, your balance, and the perfect straight vertical you need to keep your arm during the entire movement. Feel free to stay with a balanced shoe as long as you want; or, keep it light with a 4kg (9lb) kettlebell or even a 2lb or 5lb dumbbells—the light ones that the cult of the power-walker tend to use or they sometimes use in classes.
Weight Shaming is Dead (Both Bodyweight and Kettlebell Kilos)
So, give yourself a little grace, give yourself a break. Even if you are a pretty strong man or woman but you have an extra 20lbs, 100lbs, or even 200lbs, according to your lean mass—how much you would weigh with zero body fat, then you should maybe choose a much lighter kettlebell for your squatting exercises.
Or, do what I do: I forget about my kettlebells when it comes to squatting! I actually use my TRX suspension straps system, anchored to the front door of my apartment, to do assisted squats.
So, I am around 300 pounds, 100lbs of which is fat, so that’s equivalent to a 44kg kettlebell. I find it pretty challenging to do deep, full range of motion, squats even just on my own. It feels really hard on the knees. On my knees. So, I do all my squats with the assistance of my straps.
I can only assume that doing squats with my TRX straps takes a quick 100lbs off of my deep squats because deep squats are really nice and feel good (for me, doing full range-of-motion exercises feels really good, similar to how good a nice deep stretch feels—is that just me?).
Your Knees Need Full Range-of-Motion Exercises to Be Healthy
And, when it comes to tired, old, high school and college sports-suffering knees (rowing, running, and wrestling), when it comes to my knees, they’re “use or lose.” Believe it or not, the more row (full range of leg motion) and the more squats I do (using my TRX door straps), the better my knees feel in general and the easier going up and down stairs tend to become. Stiff knees are the worst. And when my knees are stiff or sore, I feel far less mobile and a lot more decrepit and aged (and I’m not—not yet, I am only 48).
So, please be kind to yourself. If you’re packing a lot of weight, don’t follow the sort of weight-assisted workouts that everyone else is being recommended. Until you really become strong enough that you either don’t notice your added bodyweight at all during your workouts or lose a lot of the weight you’re carrying on your body, you should take your excess bodyweight into consideration in your daily workouts; otherwise, you might just become frustrated and abandon hope.