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Mixing in the Kettlebell Swing for Super Human Training, Part 3

March 4, 2008 06:02 PM

World's Strongest Man contest winner Phil Pfister once said in response to an interviewer's question, "Hey, everybody needs cardio."

Now I figure once you're strong enough you can say the word, "cardio," and (even though cardio is now associated with what passes for pathetic aerobic exercise) just by the measure of your strength you can butch the word up. The average guy has no idea what real cardiovascular power is. Real cardiovascular power is only built by using hard interval training. Rugged, sweat more than you believe, breath harder than you thought possible, and pulse higher than your doctor can imagine effort and training.

I think that's the kind of cardio Phil was talking about and that's definitely what I mean when I refer to "cardio." Not the kind that my friend Pavel says is "dishonorable."

In the first two installments of these series we talked about mixing the kettlebell swing with both maximum power and strongman style exercises to build both superior cardio, maximum and functional strength all at the same time. Yet I believe that it's still necessary at times if you really want to go into the super human level of performance to train in a way that forces pure intensity on your heart and lungs. All of the training we have discussed in these articles will do that, but this is about a level that will skyrocket your pure endurance and carry over to your strength at the same time.

Most people believe that endurance and strength are mutually exclusive. At least at the high levels. I say that's a weak minded load of bull. If you know what you're doing you can have the best of both worlds. Short, intense interval cardiovascular training along with balancing the volume of loading and building a base of training are the secrets to maximum strength and maximum endurance at the same time. The greater your ability of your heart and lungs, the greater your health, the greater your recovery ability, the greater your ability to pump blood to muscles that are putting out maximum effort.

If you can sustain a high heart rate for a long period of time it will make your maximum strength training seem almost restful by comparison and will radically improve your ability in strongman training and in applying functional strength for sustained periods. Now these articles are about mixing the swing with other exercises and implements for fantastic results. But make no mistake about it the swing and the kettlebell by itself when worked hard enough can smoke all the world class hearts and lungs.

The other incredible benefit is that it builds muscle at the same time. In fact I have worked the swing very hard recently and believe that my back and deadlifting power is probably higher than ever without training it heavy simply from the carryover of the swing. Not to mention my resting pulse even at a bodyweight of 340 pounds is only 60 beats per minute. Here are some of the routines that helped me get there:

A Take Off on Mike Bruce's Deadly Endurance Training:

Mike "The Machine" Bruce is a close friend of mine and probably one of the greatest examples of power and endurance in one body. Mike is a former no-holds-barred fighter and grappler who now trains others for physical excellence and produces training materials to teach you how to get there as well.

How is a 1,500lb deadlift lockout and a 300lb seated neck raise at a bodyweight of 200lbs for ridiculously strong?

Mike has a stand-by conditioning program in which he mixes his personal (and brutally hard) variation of the sprawl or squat-thrust with other conditioning exercises and repeats for five to ten rounds. One of the mixes he uses is the swing.

Here's my take on it:

I use a basic sprawl/squat-thrust (start in a standing position, squat down, place hands on floor, kick back to push up position, kick back and stand up). I find that I can pace these at about 20 reps per minute. For this routine I use a 24kg kettlebell and find that when I work the swing I can pace that at about 40 reps per minute.

So I do 20 squat thrusts (one minute) and 40 swings (also one minute) and repeat for rounds. Rest as you need to, but don't think you can't build up to a fast pace for a sustained period. I did five rounds in 10 minutes flat recently. The ultimate goal following the Mike Bruce standard is 10 rounds in 20 minutes.

Swing-sprint-push up:

There are lots of ways to do this particular workout. I'll just give you one. You'll easily be able to see and fear the other possibilities. You should be shuddering as you read this.

Begin with 20 swings. Immediately sprint 10 yards and drop and do 10 to 20 push-ups. Walk back to your kettlebell, rest only as much as necessary - none if you can do it. Twenty more swings then immediately sprint 20 yards and more push-ups. Repeat that pattern adding 10 yards to the sprint every time until you hit 100 yards. If you happen to be great at sprinting you can adjust the sprint yardage to longer sprints or up and down push-ups as you feel is appropriate.

I wouldn't do less than 20 swings and you can adjust higher for the appropriate weight kettlebell that you're using.

This will give you a couple of those cardio workouts that if you complete them non-stop there will definitely be no dishonor on you. In fact anyone who watches you complete them will be afraid to even mention the words dishonor in your presence. Your heart and lungs will be incredible shape and so will the rest of your body.

These are perfect cardio for strength athletes and especially MMA and combat athletes. Make no mistake you can be in world class shape you just have to put in the work. Don't let yourself be just human. You can be more.

Bud Jeffries is an RKC, a former world record holding powerlifter, competitive strongman, fighter, author, professional strongman, and ordained minister. He produces a monthly DVD entitled Super Human Training Monthly devoted to building incredible strength and endurance. He's also written five books including, Super Strength & Endurance for Martial Arts, and has a new DVD series entitled, "The Outlaw Strength-Fitness Training Challenge." Chronicling training for the most incredible feats of strength and endurance ever performed. Find these materials and more at