There’s nothing wrong with training for an aesthetic goal – and besides, if someone trains hard but says they don’t care how they look, the chances are they’re lying – but it would be a shame to add muscle without improving the other elements of fitness such as power, strength and agility.

These three workouts will give you an amazing all-round fitness benefit, as well as increasing the size of your biceps. The first session is a kettlebell workout designed to build explosive power. The second is a barbell workout dedicated to building strength and the third is a dynamic session that involves lots of whole-body movements that will get your heart racing and develop real-world capabilities.

How to do it

Do each workout once a week for six weeks, aiming to increase the amount you lift each time. The exception is the kettlebell moves, where you should add one rep to each set every two weeks. And make sure you note how much you lift in each session to keep yourself motivated.

Workout 1: Kettlebell

1 Swing

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 45sec

Why This full-body move engages all the muscles of your posterior chain, but also teaches the explosiveness you need to do everything from throwing a punch to jumping onto a box. Remember, it’s a swing and not a squat: you only need to bend your knees as much as you would before a big jump.

How Swing the kettlebell between your legs with both hands, and then pop your hips forwards to drive it up to head height, keeping your arms relaxed. Let the kettlebell swing back into the next rep – again, you don’t need to bend your knees much.

2 Rack squat

Sets 3 Reps 8 Rest 60sec

Why Holding kettlebells in the rack position in front of your chest enables you to be more self-correcting than the traditional barbell back squat does. You won’t be tempted to lean forwards, and holding the bells on your forearms will allow you to handle decent weight for moderate reps.

How Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and clean both kettlebells into the rack position, resting the bells on your forearms. Squat down as low as you can, pausing at the bottom. Drive back up through your heels.

3 Overhead press

Sets 4 Reps 8 each side Rest 60sec

Why As well as allowing your shoulder joint to rotate more naturally than a barbell press, the one-sided kettlebell version of the press brings your obliques into play, forcing them to work to stabilise your torso. Working your shoulders unilaterally should also fix any imbalances.

How From the rack position, press the kettlebell overhead, keeping the bell resting against your forearm. Lower the bell under control, pausing at the bottom of the move with the bell resting behind your shoulder. Complete all your reps on one side, then switch to the other.

4 Windmill

Sets 3 Reps 5 each side Rest 60sec

How Press the kettlebell overhead, then – keeping the leg under the bell straight and the other one slightly bent – lean your torso forwards and to one side so your free hand travels down your leg until the kettlebell is directly overhead. Keep your arm and back straight throughout. Reverse the movement to the top position.

5 Turkish get-up

Sets 3 Reps 5 each side Rest 60sec

How Lie on your back with a kettlebell in one hand. Roll slightly away from it as you press it up, using your other arm for support. Plant the foot on the kettlebell side on the floor, and let it take your weight as you sweep your other leg under you into a half-kneel. Stand up with the kettlebell overhead. Reverse the whole movement.

Workout 2: Barbell

1 Back squat

Sets 4 Reps 6-8 Rest 60-90sec

Why Squatting big weights will build full-body muscle because it prompts a huge growth hormone hit. It works not just your legs but also your core, back and everything else below the bar.

How Take the bar out of the rack so it rests on your trapezius muscles. Take two big steps back, ending with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart and toes pointing out slightly. Keep your spine in alignment by looking at a spot on the floor about two metres in front of you, then sit back and down as if you’re aiming for a chair. Descend until your hip crease is below your knee. Keep your weight on your heels as you drive back up.

2 Overhead press

Sets 4 Reps 6-8 Rest 60-90sec

Why The strict overhead press builds full-body muscle and co-ordination, bringing your abs into the equation to stabilise the weight overhead.

How With your feet shoulder-width apart, position a bar on your upper chest, gripping it with hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Brace your abs, glutes and quads as you press the bar straight upwards. Pause at the top, then lower. You might find you can lift more weight by wrapping your thumbs around the same side as your fingers, because it keeps your forearms in a better position.

3 Bench press

Sets 4 Reps 6-8 Rest 60-90sec

Why It’s a classic for a reason: a properly executed bench press (your feet should be pressing into the floor) will tax your whole body and allow you to use heavy weights to maximise upper-body development. Ensure your form is correct to avoid injury and maximise growth.

How Grip the bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and squeeze your lats together to create a pressing platform before you take the bar out of the rack. Watch the ceiling, not the bar, to ensure you’re pressing in the same line each time. Lower the bar to your chest, aiming to brush your T-shirt without bouncing. Press up powerfully, pause at the top, and then go into your next rep.

4 Bent-over row

Sets 4 Reps 6-8 Rest 60-90sec

How Hold the bar with a shoulder-width grip, bending your knees slightly. Bend at the hips until you’re at roughly a 45˚ angle to the floor. Pull the bar up to touch your sternum and then lower under control. If you’re moving your upper body to shift the bar, the weight’s too heavy.

5 Roll-out

Sets 4 Reps 6-8 Rest 60-90sec

How Get on your knees with your arms extended, holding a barbell with a shoulder-width grip. Slowly roll the barbell away from your body, keeping your core braced throughout. Extend until your torso is parallel to the ground, then contract your abs to pull the bar back towards your body to return to the start.

Workout 3: Movement

1 Kettlebell walking lunge

Sets 4 Time 30sec Rest 60sec

Why The lunge is a great exercise because it works both sides of your body independently and requires you to balance your body in unstable positions. The walking version adds an extra co-ordination challenge and keeps tension on your muscles for the duration of the set.

How Hold a kettlebell in each hand then lunge forwards so that both knees are bent at 90°. Straighten up by bringing your back leg through and lunge forwards with that leg. Continue that movement for the duration of the set without resting.

2 Battle rope slam

Sets 4 Time 30sec Rest 60sec

Why Treadmills, rowers and Wattbikes are all fine for high-intensity cardio, but what if you want a high-intensity option that targets the shoulders and biceps? That’s where battle ropes come in. Because they allow you to work at an all-out pace with very little chance of over-fatigue injury, they’re ideal for short, nasty bursts of cardio.

How Hold a rope in each hand, raise both arms and then slam them down together, aiming to create a wave that travels all the way to the anchor point. For added cardio benefits, throw in a slight jump with each slam. You can also do this alternating arms.

3 Overhead carry walk

Sets 2 Time 30sec each side Rest 60sec

Why Weighted carries are great for building whole-body strength endurance and this version adds an extra shoulder stability test into the mix. You’ll also get a considerable test of your core strength because your trunk is forced to work hard to stay in a strong position.

How Press a kettlebell overhead and make sure that your shoulder is in a stable position. Walk forwards while holding the weight directly overhead. If you feel that your form is being compromised because of fatigue, stop the set, rest and go again.

4 Press-up burpee

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 60sec

Why No-one really likes burpees but they get your heart racing and develop explosive power in a safe way. The press-up variation adds an upper body strength element.

How From standing, drop into a crouch with your hands on the floor, then jump both legs back so that you’re in the top of a press-up position. Perform a press-up, then jump your legs forwards and spring up so that your feet leave the floor, keeping your body straight. Go straight into the next rep.

5 Powerbag Zercher carry

Sets 4 Time 30sec Rest 60sec

Why This loaded carry targets your biceps, which are held in an isometric contraction for the duration of the set. See, we told you there would be glory as well as guts in this workout.

How Hold a power bag in the crook of your arms and walk. It’s that simple. The set is over when you drop the bag or start whimpering.

Photography: Ben Knight; Model: Greg Cornthwaite


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