Tabata Bodyweight and Kettlebell Circuits

10kg KettlebellsI’m not a fan of weight-lifting or hanging out in gyms, and also don’t want to have to lug a heap of equipment round with me (we’ll ignore the mountain bikes and rowing machine, for now) when I move to new projects.

Intervals have featured in my running and rowing sessions, and also form part of the hundredpushups / twohundredsitups / twohundredsquats / onefiftydips / twentyfivepullups programmes that I have toyed with at various points in the last few years.

When I then discovered kettlebells and Tabata, what better thing than to combine them?

Being cynical I don’t see that the “classical” 4-minute Tabata workout (8 x 20 second effort/10 second rest) really has any benefit, so mine are extended. And repeated when time and fitness permit.

The links above will take you to some basic guides on good form and training plans to get you into a state where you can do a full minute’s worth of each.

My kettlebell circuit is from Men’s Fitness, and, just in case it disappears, here’s a pdf.

I start by hooking up the HRM and loading some music (Prodigy, dubstep, Chemical Brothers…), then set the Tabata clock:

Tabata Clock settings for a 6 station bodyweight workout.
Tabata Clock settings for a 6 station bodyweight workout.

Round 1 (Work: 60, Rest: 30, Rounds 6).

START bip bip bip crack! (hit start on your HRM, if you’re using one)

Execute as many as you can between the whipcrack and the bell, use the 30 second rest period to note down how many you managed.

  1. Pushups
  2. Crunches
  3. Pull-ups and chin-ups (3 or 4 of each, change, repeat)
  4. Tricep dips
  5. Ab roller
  6. Squats


This should take you to 8:30, take a break here, pull out the kettlebells and set up for:

Tabata Clock settings for a 12 station x 12 rep kettlebell workout.
Tabata Clock settings for a 12 station x 12 rep kettlebell workout.

Round 2 (Work: 30, Rest: 30, Rounds: 12)

I’m currently comfortable doing 12 reps with 10kg ‘bells – adjust the weight so you can do 12 reps in the time available.

When your stopwatch shows 10:50

START bip bip bip crack! (11:00 elapsed)

  1. Swing (extra challenge: keep ‘bell body in line with your arms)
  2. Squat (extra: hold the handle and invert the kettlebell during whole movement)
  3. Shelf Left (extra: keep ”bell in line with arms)
  4. Shelf Right
  5. Power to the People Left
  6. Power to the People Right
  7. Row
  8. Curl
  9. Chest Press or Fly or a hybrid (I do it flat on floor and bring the ‘bells together in the air)
  10. Unnamed: single ‘bell held in one hand, steadied by other hand 12 reps left hand in 15 secs, 12 reps right hand in 15 secs
  11. Situp
  12. Russian Twist: 12 full movements side to side and back (I count Left 1 Right 2 Left 3 … Right 24)


Timer should now be on 22:30 elapsed (11:00 from Round 1 plus rest and 11:30 from the hard part of Round 2)

  • If you want to go again then return to Round 1, reset the timer and hit START at 24:50, when the whip cracks push the lap timer on your HRM or reset the stopwatch.
  • If you’re feeling faint stop your HRM or stopwatch and stretch out.

Circuit Training Heart rateHere’s my HRM readout from a session in late-2012, in Round 1 I managed the following:

  1. Pushups 25
  2. Situps 25
  3. Chinup 6 + Pullup 6
  4. Tricep Dips 30
  5. Ab Rolls 16
  6. Squats 35

Plus ‘bells.

Repeated three times.

You can appreciate which of the movements take the most effort, and slightly smug that HR recovers to ~85 quite quickly between sets.

And if you’re doing it properly, you should at least feel like doing a Tabata clown…

Author: Michael

Parent, husband and civil engineer born and raised in Britain before emigrating to Botswana. Interests in construction, information technology, fitness, mechanics and mapping, among others.

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