I was dealing with some injuries this fall (ankle, shoulder) that limited what I could do in the gym. My typical routine of olympic lifts, powerlifting, weightlifting, running, and other activities were limited while I tried to heal. As such, I couldn’t do as much cardio as I would have liked, nor the full spectrum of workouts. One thing I could do was kettlebell swings (KBS), so once or twice a week would do a workout with usually a 2 pood (32 kg or 70 lb) bell, Russian style (just to eyeball level). Stuff like 100 KBS for time, but 3 burpees at the top of every minute; or 5 rounds of 25 swings, 20 pushups, 10 pullups.
With about 5 weeks before our tropical vacation in December, I wanted to tighten up as best I could to try and lose the few extra pounds on my midsection and look good at the beach and in the bedroom. My friend randomly texted me this workout from T-Nation: The 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Workout. From the article:
To create and refine this program, myself and 18 other coaches and athletes met several days every week to put it to the test. Here’s what we experienced:
• Everyone got leaner, dropping a waist size or two, in 20 workouts.
• Every coach or athlete made visual muscular improvements in their physiques, adding lean body mass.
• Every trainee increased his grip strength and greatly increased work capacity and athletic conditioning. They could all train longer and harder when they went back to their normal training programs.
• After the program, every trainee saw a noted improvement in his core lifts. PR’s fell like dominos. Full-body strength and power shot through the roof.
• Abs were more visible. Glute strength was tremendously better. The abs and glutes “discovered” how to work again, leading to athletic improvements in sport and in the weight room.
I thought “what the hell” and started on November 1. Twenty workouts later, on November 30th, I finished my 10,000th swing. Here’s my experience.
If you don’t feel like reading the T-Nation article, here’s how it was set up:
- 2 days on, 1 day off
- 1.5 pood bell (24 kg/53 lb)
- Swings done Russian style
- 5 rounds of swings as rep intervals 10, 15, 25, 50 (essentially 100 reps per round, or 500 reps total per workout)
- Between each rep interval of swings you do a single weight movement (reps as 1, 2, 3, or 2, 4, 6, or something else that is challenging, heavier the better), I did the following over the course of the month: front squats, back squats (squats from 135 – 185# with varying rep intervals), thrusters (115#), walking lunges (95#), pullups, chinups, bent over rows (95#), pushups, dips, push press.
- The article’s rest interval in the article was inconsistent, in one spot it said rest 30-60 seconds between each rep interval (10, 15, and 25) and 2-3 minutes after each set of 50. In another spot it basically said to plow through each set of 100, and rest 30-60 seconds. I started out resting between each rep interval and the longer rest after the 50 rep set, but found that was pretty easy , so quickly cut the rest down to the minimum, plowing through each set of 100 with a 45-60 second rest after the 50 swing set before starting the next round.
Keep good form, and don’t let the bell swing too far back between your legs or your chest to come down too far. Many of the pics and videos out there show much more chest drop than is safe in my opinion. If you have to drop much lower than below, you’re using too heavy of a weight. With any sort of volume, your lower back will be fried. Stable back, tight abs, nice hip pop. Smooth light butter, not like you’re fighting it.
My experience with this positive, but I wouldn’t do it again. It was one of the more boring workouts I’ve done. I wore a belt since that’s a lot of lower back movement and fatigue can get high. As a result I stayed healthy throughout the month. A sore back a few times, but nothing too bad. Day 1 I did barehanded and had blisters in places I never had before. After that, I used gloves, but early on blisters were an issue until my hands got callouses.
Keep in mind I was already doing 2-pood swings regularly so dropping 17 pounds and doing this wasn’t too big of an adjustment for me, your results may vary. My workout times varied from about 35 minutes to under 23 minutes depending on the weight movement I was doing and what I did for rest intervals. After getting through workout 12 (of 20), I decided to do the first to sets (10, 15) as 2 pood swings and the last two as the normal weight to make it more challenging, so in total, 1,000 swings were at the 70 lb weight. I rarely made it through the 50 rep set unbroken, usually breaking between 30-35 reps, and finishing it up after a short break (15 seconds or less).
I was happy, but not blown away with my results. My diet wasn’t great, so I’m sure that contributed some, but here’s what I found:
- Cardio ability went up, a lot, and quickly. 20-30 minutes of pretty high intensity cardio in that frequency is pretty solid
- My shoulders, arms, and especially traps got noticeably bigger. My lower back/core, and upper back felt stronger, though not sure if they got bigger necessarily. Also, I now have the G.I. Joe Kung-Fu grip after gripping that bell for so long.
- I may have leaned out a little in the mid-section, but like I said, my diet wasn’t the best, plus stress and travel made eating super clean tougher. I will still look good on the beach, but won’t be rocking 6- pack abs, my body fat just didn’t get low enough. My bodyweight didn’t change, so if I did gain a couple of pounds of muscle (looks like it), I probably did lose a couple of lbs of fat. That’s not huge in the grand scheme of things, but still an improvement.
It is intended as a standalone program, and for the most part, I kept it as such. I squeezed in a couple extra 30-40 minute runs and bench press workouts (chesticles for the beach), but besides that kept the program as intended. I think I could have added more and still recovered well, but wanted to see how it would go as designed. Like I mentioned, it got a little boring, but was still fun to mix it up a little and do something like this just to say you’ve done it. I’m mostly healthy at this point, so will go back to my more traditional workouts. It will be interesting to see if any of this translates over.
Mixing things up instead of just doing the same thing over and over again can help you get out of a rut and give some motivation where maybe it is lacking. Deciding to take off on a 10 mile run a little under trained. Or throwing on a weighted vest for a hike. Or deciding to heavy singles every minute on the minute for an hour. Leaves you sore and satisfied and ready for that next challenge workout. Give it try this winter. I have been doing a ’12 Days of Christmas’ workout on Christmas eve or Christmas day for the last few years (1 rep of something, 2 reps of something else – then 1 rep of the first thing, and so on). Get the snow shoes out, or try training for a cross country ski race if you’re in the northern climates. This is the time of year to not let yourself go, so when spring and then summer roll around, you’ve already made improvements (or at least limit the damage).