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.




The Ultimate Combo for Overall Fitness

June 12, 2009 07:52 AM

How to get strong, lean and ultra-fit with minimal equipment and time!

Like most health and fitness professionals, I get lots of questions about training and program design.

Here are a few that come to mind.
  • What is best way to train for overall strength and conditioning?
  • What's the best way of combining my strength and "cardio"?
  • How can I get leaner and stronger with out all the bulk?
  • How do I fit training into my busy schedule?
  • Can I train at home and get the results I want?
Here's what I do, and also recommend to people who have similar goals.

Most of our clients are looking to build some strength, get lean, fit, and stay healthy and free of injury. These are basic goals with a basic solution.

Personal Experiences and Results!

With two full-time jobs, running the gym, a full time gig as a High School Athletic Trainer and a family, I don't really want to spend more then 30 minutes a day training. With limited time on my hands, I look to get the most out of my training sessions.

My program of choice is clean and press/ pull up ladders as outlined in Pavel's book Enter the Kettlebell! This simple program requires one Kettlebell, a pullup bar and can be performed in any setting. I've gotten my best results from this particular program. From following weighted pull up and clean and press ladders three days a week along with two to three days of Max V02 snatch protocol, designed by Kenneth Jay, Master RKC, I was able reach the following goals.

Male: 42 years, 167 lbs.

SSST: 242 snatches with 24kg
USST: 140 snatches with 32kg
First Place Overall TSC Elite division: 92 snatches in 5 minutes with 32kg, 18 pull ups with 10kgs of weight
Third Place Overall TSC Open division: 140 snatches with 24kgs in 5 minutes, 30 pull ups
1 RM weighted pull up: 116 lbs.
1 RM Kettlebell press: 88 lbs.

Recently, my main goals have been to build up work capacity for activities I enjoy such as surfing, and running around with my kids while building some respectable strength, maintaining kettlebell skill and a lean physique. It is important to me as a fitness professional, RKC and Athletic Trainer to be able to walk the walk while staying injury free. In order to keep thinks simple; I've been sticking to five main movements in my training.
1. Kettlebell swing
2. get-up
3. kettlebell clean and press
4. weighted pull-up
5. kettlebell snatch

There's my top five. There is no stone left unturned with these five movements.

Here's an example of what a week of training might look like, and how I combine the top five movements into a basic, time efficient, result-driven program.

Monday/Wednesday/Friday: Clean and Press/weighted pull ups

For overall strength, kettlebell clean and press ladders coupled with weighted pull up ladders provide a well balanced and efficient way of training. With these two simple movements, full body strength can be attained.

Warm up with get ups: 5 minutes of get ups will do the trick (moderate weight 24kg for me). I will do one day of heavier get ups.

A majority of us don't like to warm up and may skip it all together for whatever reason. Don't sell yourself short. Warming up with getups will take the guess work out of your warm-up and your shoulders will thank you in the long run. I won't get into the technical jargon of why performing the get-up on a regular basis will help maintain a healthy shoulder complex; there are many other articles and dvd's that go into that. Brett Jones and Grey Cook showcase the get-up in their fantastic dvd, secrets of the shoulder. I owe my many years of injury free training to the get-up along with smart progressive training which the ETK program automatically provides. I've recently started to include get-ups in my shoulder rehabilitation program for high school athletes and am looking forward to seeing incredible results.

Choosing the Right Kettlebell for Clean and Press/Pull up Ladders

Before starting on the ladder program it is imperative to select the appropriate bell. Whatever you can strictly press five times with a few reps to spare will do. For example: I know I can handle the 32kg pretty well, but I'll go with the conservative 28kg. Do the same with pull ups, if you are able to do them with weight. I know I can get about 5 strict reps with a 32 kg, but I will be more conservative with a 24kg. I've learned my lesson after dealing with a few bouts of elbow tendonitis.

In order to avoid overuse injury, start with light bell and gradually pick away. Follow the progression outlined in ETK! Stay injury free!

Week one:

Clean and press ladders 3x (1,2,3)
Pull ups, weighted pull ups, or assisted pull ups 3x (1,2,3)

Alternate between clean and press and pull ups. If doing pull ups with weight, you can hook the bell around your toe to achieve full body tension and a stronger pull (irradiation as mentioned in PTTP). This method will also build very strong anterior tibialis muscles in the lower leg. Why build up the Anterior Tib? As a high school Athletic Trainer, I am constantly getting complaints of lower leg pain from many of my athletes. Many of these kids will have imbalances between anterior and posterior muscles of the lower leg. A strong anterior tib or lower leg muscles may help to alleviate this issue.

Changing up the Point of Attachment for Variety

It's not a bad idea to vary the point of attachment of your weight with weighted pull ups to challenge the body in different ways. There are belts on the market that are used for attaching weights to hang from you waist. You can use a backpack filled with weights or rocks, use heavy chains or even use a weighted vest if you can afford it. I sometimes have my kids hold on to my waist during a backyard pull up session. This can be a nice family bonding experience.

Family Bonding

I will not go into great detail about clean and press ladder progression. For further explanation and progression of this ladder protocol, pick up a copy of Pavel's Enter the Kettlebell.

Pull up Tips: My Experience

There's a ton of information out there about pull ups. Here are a few time tested methods that have worked for me and some of our clients at The Training Room.

If you cannot achieve body weight pull ups, do band assisted pull ups. Do band assisted pull ups frequently, but not to failure. As you do them, you will get your pull up groove; you will get stronger, and will keep moving down to a thinner and thinner band until one unassisted pull up is achieved. Remember to tense up the body before pulling, and think about pulling your elbows to your ribs. If you can only do one body weight pull up, make sure to grease the groove, or perform pull-ups many times throughout the day. This will help to increase your numbers. My wife went for 0 to 7 pull ups in a few months using this method. She gradually weaned herself down to a very thin band while working on jumping pull ups off of gymnastic rings.

The jumping pull up that we perform at our gym uses an explosive jump to assist the pull up motion. The descent is usually in the form of a slower negative movement. To set up the jumping pull up, the rings must be adjusted at a height so when the arms are extended, the bottom of the rings hit the lower arm about mid-way. Once the rings are set properly, grab hold of them, squat down until elbows are extended, jump up and pull at the same time. The descent should be slower and more controlled.

Eventually, my wife was able to perform one strict, dead hand pull up from combining these different methods. She performed them several times through out the day. She swears that the jumping pull ups combined with band assisted pull ups helped her get her groove on for her dead hangers. Whatever! It worked for her.

Watch Overuse Injuries

Injury will put a damper on your progress. Help prevent overuse by varying your grip. Be kind to your medial and lateral epichondiles (that's Athletic Training talk for the outside and inside of your elbows). Change your grip (pronated, supinated) every so often. It's a good idea to switch to rings every once and a while. The free flowing movement of the rings makes them more forgiving and easier on the joints. Use joint mobility drills and make sure to stretch the wrist/elbow flexors and extensors. I picked up this cool gizmo from Ironmind that helped me out when I was doing too much BJJ, Judo, Kettlebell workouts and pull ups. It's called the Heavy Hammer II and worked like a charm to help my sore elbows.

Tuesday: Fun Variety Day!

Sometimes, I'll get a touch of Kettlebell Attention Deficit Disorder, or KADD. I'll feel like I need a little variety, so I'll throw in my own fun conditioning mix on this day.

I like to limit these sessions to some type of swing training combined with a few other modalities that I enjoy such as the C2 ergometer (rower), the Prowler sled, sand bags, rope skipping, sledge work, thick rope work, and of course, body weight calisthenics. I like to tell runners that this type of training takes the place of running for me. They just don't get it! I tell them to read the literature about interval style training compared to steady-state "cardio" when it comes to heart health. I also tell them to pick up a copy of "The Doctors Heart Cure" by Dr. Al Sears.

Here are some sample training sessions that I may use on a Tuesday.

5 rounds of 40 seconds work/ 20 seconds rest using a GymBoss Timer to stay on task.

1 minute rest between rounds
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Rope or Fire hose chop (John Brookfeild's Battling Ropes)
  • Box Jumps
  • Kettlebell high pulls or snatch pulls
  • Jump rope
  • Burpees
Grip Master, John Brookfield uses 1.5 inch or 2 inch rope for his Battling Rope movements. Check out his website at These ground-based movements can be very deceiving, physically demanding and great for building work capacity and grip strength. They are also a great compliment to Kettlebell swings and snatches for their opposing chop motion. I've been toying around with the power rope chops using 50 foot lengths of old fire hose that can be found at your local fire house for free. The fire hose provides the same training affect as the rope and is virtually indestructible. Take hold of the 4" piece of hose and let it rip for 40 seconds. That will get your attention!

Fire hose chops will certainly get your attention!

Here's another favorite that includes the Concept 2 ergometer. I enjoy the rower and like to mix it into my kettlebell conditioning sessions for its full body conditioning effect.

40,30,20,10 reps
400,300,200,100 meter row

Do this circuit style.
  • Kettlebell swing R/L: 20/20, 15/15, 10/10, 5/5
  • Sledge hammer hits R/L: 20/20, 15/15, 10/10, 5/5
  • Kettlebell jerks or push presses R/L: 20/20, 15/15, 10/10, 5/5
  • Row 400,300,200,100 meters
If you don't own a rower, hit the road and run some intervals. If you despise running, skip some rope. I've done this very same workout substituting the rower for double-unders with a jump rope.


Only one Kettlebell required for this one!

Our students cringe when we tell them that. That usually means that the upcoming session will be no cakewalk!

Here's a 20 minute blaster that we use with our victims in group classes. This was designed by my good friend, business partner and fellow RKC Jim Milkowski. We call this the two minute torture. Only one Kettlebell required.

Complete the following movements on the two minute mark for 20 minutes for a total of 10 rounds.
  • 5 burpees
  • 10 kettlebell snatches 5r/5l
  • 15 mountain climbers
  • 20 kettlebell swings
Give this a try. Be care full with bell selection. Be conservative; go with a moderately weighted bell. I use a 24 kg for this particular workout. The average man will use a 16kg; average women will use an 8 or 12kg. The "Two minute torture" will get your attention, to say the least. Another brutal variation of this workout is to try and beat 10 rounds in 20 minutes. Good luck! I'm not sure which is more difficult. You be the judge.

I enjoy these days, good for my mental state. The opposing movements and variety are a great physical and mental break from the grind of the clean and press/pull up ladders. Most of the workouts performed on this day are between 15-20 minutes. Some are even shorter. I feel I can recover pretty quickly from the short, intense training sessions. Again, this takes the place of long, boring steady state training for me. Make sure to check out my blog, for a ton of workouts similar to the one's above.

What the Heck?

I just recently had a nice "what the heck (WTH) effect!" Let me tell you about. We just recently held a charity marathon row event at our gym. The event consisted of four man/women teams rowing a total of 42,000 (marathon distance) meters between them as a team. Our team had three members, Jim (The Milkman) Milkowski RKC, Coach GP (my bro-in-law) and myself. There was another team that showed up and they where actually from a rowing club. Anyway, it came down to us (3) and those (4) in the end. We beat them by 1 minute. The thing is, the only training I was doing at the time was this program with very little to no rowing. WTH!! I was able to row a total of 14,000 meters without really including much rowing at all in my training.


On Thursdays, I follow the V02 max protocol outlined by Kenneth Jay, discussed in great length on the forum also available on DVD. I've been using the 15/15 format with the 24kg bell and progressing gradually by adding 1-2 rounds per week. As soon as I work up to 80 sets with the 24kg, I will move up to the 28 or 32 kg and follow the same progression from the beginning. I use a Gymboss Timer available at to keep my pace and count my rounds. This protocol is also an excellent way to get your numbers up for things like the 10 minute snatch test (SSST) or the Tactical Strength Challenge. I will not go into great detail about this protocol. Pick up Kenneth"s DVD to get full details.

You can do a lot with just one kettlebell and this $20 timer!


Saturday is a day of rest. From training that is. Right now as I type this article, its fall sports season, Football games are usually on Saturday. My high school Athletic Training duties consume most of Saturday.


Sunday is active rest (surfing, paddling, or maybe some swings in the back yard with the family). If I'm feeling up to it, I'll throw an extra VO2 max workout in on this day. I've learned to listen to my body and usually know what I can get away with.


The combination of these protocols will provide the individual with everything needed in a well balanced program to build highly respectable strength and conditioning.

The shoulder strength and endurance built up from the clean and press ladders combined with the V02 snatch protocol and metabolic mix, provide the best of both worlds for those who want a results-driven fitness program without spending a ton of time training. If strength, conditioning, and a lean muscular physique are what you're looking for, you may want to consider this simple, time efficient program which requires minimal equipment.

Remember, before taking part in a program of this nature; consult your local RKC to get the moves down right!

Michael Stehle ATC,CSCS,RKC is co-owner of The Training Room, Avon-by-the-sea, NJ and Head Athletic Trainer at Freehold Borough High School, NJ since 1990. Michael can be contacted through his websites, and