How To Maintain Your Kettlebell Skills While Deadlifting - Strong As Hec

How To Maintain Your Kettlebell Skills While Deadlifting

It can be very challenging to maintain strength in all kettlebell skills--especially while deadlifting.  One common question I get from my students and subscribers is, "Hector, how can I maintain my kettlebell skills without interfering with my deadlift?"

Or the question is "how can I maintain my endurance without interfering with my deadlift program?"

First off there are no absolutes in strength training. You need to find what works for you and your training schedule.  With that said here's

what has worked for me 90% of the time

First I establish a priority lift, in this case it's the deadlift.

The deadlift if VERY taxing on the nervous system and will make it challenging to build max strength in other lifts with a high metabolic cost like the squat.

In fact...

... top level powerlifters will choose either the squat or the deadlift to build max strength--with 60% (or more) of the total reps in the weakest lift.

The other lift goes into more of a "maintenance mode".

Here's how I structure my training:

  • I set my priority lift, the deadlift. Your priority exercise will likely be an exercise that demands a lot from your nervous system (squat or deadlift).
  • Next I choose a secondary exercise that opposes the deadlift like the over-head press, push-press, jerk or even bench press.
  • Third is choosing a "maintenance exercise".  This is an exercise that I "practice" on off days like: swings, cleans, snatches or pull-ups.
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    Lastly, I cycle my exercises.  This keeps things "fresh" and allows me to train as often as possible, as heavy as possible while staying as fresh as possible.

What do I mean by "practice"?

Here's an example:

At the end of a deadlift session I'll work on my kettlebell skills--particularly my snatch technique.  

I usually perform sets of 5 [per side] for 10 sets (50 snatches total) with a 24-36kg depending on how I feel after deadlifting.

But in no way am I trying to push the pace.


Because I need to reserve my energy for deadlifting and my secondary exercise... make sense?

But, if at any point I'm feeling fatigued or if I have and high volume--high intensity deadlift session--I pass on practicing my kettlebell skills.

Which reminds me, here are some other 

Exercises or workouts to avoid while deadlifting

If you're currently trying to build a deadlift and have committed to it 100%–then you want to avoid things like:

  • Kettlebell complexes. This approach to strength training is extremely taxing to your central nervous system (CNS) and has what we call "a high metabolic cost".
  • High volume heavy lifts in the squat. Like complexes, the squat is just as demanding on your CNS, brutal on your hips and really works your back, HARD! 
  • The last one you can probably get away with but still use caution.  When deadlifting I do very little pull-ups because, like the deadlift--pull-ups are tough on your lats, grip and abs.  Plus through the snatch I get a nice strength carry-over to help my pull-up. 

At the end of the day, you can't focus on EVERYTHING, I know I know it's not a sexy answer but, I'm here to guide you to the right path and not blow smoke up your a**.


incase you scrolled all the way to the bottom of this blog post...

... to maintain your kettlebell skills while deadlifting follow this template:

  • Choose a secondary lift like: the kettlebell press, push-press or jerk
  • Then choose a "maintenance lift" like: the swing, snatch or pull-up and keep this maintenance lift to a practice.
  • Cycle your exercises to stay fresh, reduce the "redundancy of training", and increase your performance.

If you like this post, leave a comment below.

Be Unstoppable!


P.S. - If you liked this post and are looking for a minimalist approach to building or maintaining your deadlift, press or squat--you're gonna love...

Strength Plan 001

Inside I teach you a minimalist approach to add  10-20 pounds to any strength exercise (deadlift, press or squat) in 4 weeks.  While still being able to improve your kettlebell skills.

  • Oscar Romero says:

    Cómo siempre gran información es una pena que no divulgue sus libros en español… Gracias y le deseo muchos éxitos.

  • jhpowers says:

    Great Article!

    How do you program the “secondary” lift. I just bought DL Series 260 and was considering pairing it with either the double KB overhead press or the dumbbell bench press, but most of the press programs I have are high volume and might not pair well.

    Soju and Tuba? Any other suggestions.

    • Hey James,

      The secondary exercise will be a press, push-press, jerk or even pull-up. You’ll want to keep your reps in the 2-4 range with no more that 16 total lifts. Like I mentioned in the post, you can run it as a super-set or at the end of the session.

      Then you’ll need to cycle the exercise.

      So lets say your deadlifting MWF.

      Week 1 would be:

      Monday – Deadlift, press
      Wednesday – Press, Deadlift
      Friday – Deadlift, press

      Week 2:

      Monday – Press, deadlift
      Wednesday – Deadlift, press
      Friday – Press, deadlift

      So on and so forth.

      Does this help?

      • jhpowers says:

        Yes, thanks. It sounds like the goal is to maintain rather than increase the press during this phase of training. Makes sense. The deadlift is the primary focus. Keep the goal the goal.

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