McAfee Secure sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams
Share Print

You have not viewed any products recently.




Mixing in The Kettlebell Swing for Super Human Training - Part 1

August 19, 2005 09:29 AM

You want to take your power to the next level? Do you want to take your conditioning to previously unexplored peaks? Do you want to be so radically muscled that little old ladies and most bodybuilders cower from fear when you walk through a room? Do you want little kids to come up to you and ask if there's an "S" on your chest under your shirt? Do you want your buddies to ask, "Hey man? what are you using to get so jacked?" Then consider adopting this style of training using the simplest yet possibly most brutal kettlebell exercise mixed with your other training to blow your combined strength and conditioning through the roof.

Since my introduction to kettlebell training and especially after I was privileged enough to attend the RKC, the basic swing has become my favorite exercise and for good reason. It's simple. You can teach almost anyone to do a basic variation of it with good form in about five minutes. So you can almost immediately begin reaping the benefits of the exercise. It's flexible. There are many different types of swing emphasizing different parts of the body or levels of strength. Mostly it's brutally effective. It gets the job done in amplifying your cardio and working vast amounts of muscle mass at the same time.

The fact that it very evenly spreads out the stress of the exercise and allows you to still use a ballistic, yet simple movement makes this a killer exercise. In fact if you use this as your major conditioning exercise and worked it hard you would need very little else to be in great shape. However? if you know anything about my style of training you've probably picked up by now that I'm a mixer. Conditioning alone doesn't cut it for me. Neither does strength alone. Or for that matter, the use of any singular implement or point of training. I want to do and be great at some of everything. High level maximum strength and high level endurance simultaneously. I think I've done much to disprove the old fallacies of, "you can be strong or enduring, but not both together."

The key to achieving that is in knowing how to mix your training, how to take care of your self and in believing that it can be done. You also need to train for each of these qualities. So some training must be devoted to maximum strength, some to sprint or repetition type strength and some to conditioning and cardio vascular strength. One of the things I've explored fairly deeply since traveling down this road is mixing exercises to see how they work together. One of the things that I've come to believe is that the more interval based your endurance training is, the greater your retention of pure strength and the greater your overall results will be.

In some ways I look at all exercise as interval training and almost all natural movements have some built-in interval. So if I'm doing low rep sets and resting long it's just a slower interval than if I'm doing high rep sets and barely resting. One way I think to make your training extremely efficient is to mix more than one exercise alternating from sets of one exercise to the other and trying to move non-stop. In this way you retain more strength, you build more endurance, you get the intensity of the interval exercise and the aerobic benefits of a non-stop cardio workout.

Now truthfully, if you mix heavy exercises (fairly close to your limit), or even high rep exercises, no matter how great a shape you're in, after a while you're going to have to stop ten seconds to take a breath. That's fine. The idea is to try to keep moving. By intensifying the pace of your workout you get twice as much done in the same amount of time. Plus once you become relatively accustomed to this type of strength and conditioning workout you can use very heavy weights as well as move very quickly and maintain your heart rate. In the long run you become stronger because your strength is demonstrated while in an endurance deficit. When you approach your normal poundages in the midst of an endurance training session you know you've gotten stronger.

You also know that your endurance is sky rocketing because you're maintaining a fast paced aerobic workout and at the same time able to display close to maximum strength. Tell me any aerobic class that you've ever been in that will give you the ability to do that. Also tell me how applicable that will be to the real world. How great will it be to still be able to put out 80-90% of your maximum strength when your heart rate is sky high and your breathing like a steam engine.

So now we have the basic idea for making you that much closer to being a super human. So how do we actually get it done?

One simple way is to mix the kettlebell swing into your workout. In doing this you add a conditioning element to any workout that you do and are constantly working on your entire body's functional abilities. What you basically do is alternate two exercises with as little rest as possible in the workout. The kettlebell swing and the maximum strength or repetition strength or conditioning exercise of your choice, basically a two exercise interval strength and conditioning workout. When doing the heavy work, the kettlebell work becomes your conditioning interval and the other exercise is your max strength interval. One of the keys to a workout like this is to use an exercise like the kettlebell swing, which is for the most part general enough that you can mix it easily with other strength, or conditioning or body part exercises and still maintain solid performance in both once your strength and conditioning adjusts to the challenge.

When you begin a workout like this your poundage or performance in another exercise may take an initial hit. Don't worry, as your conditioning adapts, this will come back and you'll actually be stronger in the long run. You may find yourself extremely out of breath and you may have to use a moderate to slow pace to begin with. That's fine. Progression is the order of the day. The more you do it, the better you'll get at the swings and your cardio and strength will come up so that you can rip through at a blistering pace and still be scary strong.

You may have to dial down your reps at the beginning with the swing or take a few more seconds to breathe between sets. Your reps will come back up, but depending on how intensely you attack your opposite interval exercise you may always need a few breaths. Don't worry about it. As long as you're consistently getting stronger and faster and breathing hard, then you're doing the job.

Let's begin with three programs mixing the kettlebell swing with max weight exercises for the first part of this series.

I always like to get at least 100 swings when I do one of these workouts. So I generally am shooting for ten sets of 10-20 reps. Remember also that the harder your strength exercises the harder your swings will be too. So if you could do 50 swings non-stop with a particular kettlebell if you were fresh, after six or eight sets mixed with a strength exercise, ten reps is going to feel like plenty to start with. You can pace yourself in multiple different ways. I like to just keep an eye on total time and beat it for the same number of sets every time. However you could go on the minute or however you want to pace it.

Program 1 ? Heavy Barbell and Swing

Ten sets of 10 to 20 swings alternated set for set with one to two reps of full or partial barbell squats or deadlifts. Start with a fairly lightweight with you're a barbell exercise, add weight every set working to your peak set for the day on your 10th set. You could alternately wave the load on your barbell exercise. Also on the kettlebell swing I like to maintain the same number of reps on every set, but you could wave those up and down as well especially if you wish to drive your cardio higher than usual.

Program 2 ? Heavy Dumbbell and Swing

Ten sets of 10 to 20 swings alternated set for set with one-arm dumbbell presses and one-arm dumbbell rows for one to two reps each exercise, each hand. I like to work these together because they work quite efficiently together and work all of the pushing and pulling muscles of the upper body along with the conditioning exercise of the swing. I like to press a rep right and left handed, then row a rep or two right and left handed, then do ten kettlebell swings. However you could do presses and swings first and then rows and swings however you want.

Program 3 ? The Naked Warrior and Swing

Ten sets of 10 to 20 swings alternated set for set with the low-rep strength building bodyweight exercises of your choice. The pistol, the one arm push up, the handstand push up, etc. I would pick three exercises doing three to four sets each of around five reps. Be sure to apply the tension principles from The Naked Warrior.

Remember to move as fast as is safely possible. Meaning moving as fast as you can go while maintaining good form even though your breathing is not normal. This will come and your speed for the whole workout will pick up. Set a goal for completing one of these workouts in ten minutes or less with at least 100 swings and 80+% of your max on any of the other exercises. That's a great jumping off point.

Next time we'll discuss mixing the swing with strongman exercises for some of the most rugged training known to man and in the third installation of this article, we'll discuss mixing the swing with other conditioning exercises for heart and lung busting cardio.

God bless,

Bud Jeffries

Bud Jeffries is a professional performing strongman and former World Powerlifting Champion, World Record Holder, competitor in strongman competition, No-Holds Barred fighting, and more. He is the author of four books and ten training videos including a brand new book, Twisted Conditioning II ? Advancing Concepts in Super Strength and Endurance Training, which is the next step in informational power to get you to the goals of world class strength, muscle and endurance. Look for more information or products at