Get A Hard Core From A Hardcore Workout
The second half of 2016 wasn’t my most productive period in terms of consistently working out and my fitness levels. I ran a Half Marathon (you can read my training plan here) which was a great. Giving me something to focus on. Unfortunately I had been suffering from with a shoulder injury from June 2016, right up until December 2016. Which had prevented me from doing certain exercises. Mainly upper body exercises, therefore most overall body workout plans. Could I do the 10000 Kettlebell Swings workout carrying an injury?
At the start of December 2016 I met up with a friend for lunch who is a qualified personal trainer. I told him about my shoulder injury and the frustration it was causing. He mentioned a workout he has been doing called 10000 Kettlebell swings. This workout was developed by the people over at T-Nation. You can find the article here.
As this workout is designed around the Kettlebell swing. Which focuses on using your core strength to swing the kettlebell up to eye level. The movement shouldn’t put too much strain onto the shoulders. Could this be the answer to my prayers? A workout I could start doing that would work my upper body as well as my core and legs?
I decided to start this workout right at the beginning of January 2017. Tieing it in with my health kick which included fasting for three days at the start of January.
Swing Low Sweet KettleBell
The workout is structured that you do 4 workouts per week. Working out for two consecutive days. Have a rest day. Workout again for another two days. Then rest for two days. This cycle then repeats for 5 weeks. Each workout consists of 500 kettlebell swings, complemented with some auxiliary exercises to help build lean muscle mass.
I followed the structure of the workout plan according to how T-Nation had described it. Where you breakdown the workout in 5 “circuits”. Here is an example of how a “circuit” is structured:
10 kettlebell swings
1 rep dumbbell shoulder press
Rest (30-60 seconds)
15 kettlebell swings
2 dumbbell shoulder presses
Rest (30-60 seconds)
25 kettlebell swings
3 dumbbell shoulder presses
Rest (30-60 seconds)
50 kettlebell swings
Mobility exercises (see below)
Rest (3-5 minutes)
The auxiliary exercises are different each day. Depending on which day of the week it is. You will perform a different exercise for a different number of reps after the 10, 15 and 25 reps swings. The exercises that make up the additional strength work are.
Dumbbell shoulder press (sets of 1, 2, 3 reps)
Dips (sets of 2, 3, 5 reps)
Goblet squats (sets of 1, 2, 3 reps)
Chin-ups (sets of 1, 2, 3 reps)
It is also recommended that you time each workout to see how long it takes you to complete. With the goal of reducing your rest time between exercises, while speeding up how quickly you can perform each swing. Without sacrificing form of course. Each day you aim to take less time to complete the entire workout.
I decided to incorporate mobility stretching as part of the workout and tailored the workout to reflect this. Instead of resting for 3 to 5 minutes after the 50 swing section of each circuit. I would perform numerous exercises, with the aim of increasing my strength and improving my flexibility.
The exercises I decided to do were:
5 J-Curls (also known as Jefferson curls).
3-5 ring press-ups
8 Shoulder dislocates.
Again I performed the exercises one after each other. Only resting after all three exercises had been completed.
The above program is very intensive. The team T-Nation designed this workout to burn body fat while increasing both lean body mass and your fitness levels. Many people who have completed the 10000 kettlebell swings workout have lost inches off their waist, dropping one of two notches on their belt too.
I was interested to see what benefits I would get from undertaking the 10000 kettlebell swings workout. Or “challenge” as I decided to name it.
Swing When You’re Winning
How did I get on? For all my workouts I used a 24kg kettlebell to swing with. I kept a spreadsheet on Google Drive that I used to keep a record what my overall times for each workout. With what additional exercises I did as part of the workout. I highly recommend using Google Docs to record each workout. This made me very competitive with myself. Making sure I would try to push myself every single session to improve my time on the previous day. This wasn’t always the case as you can see from the table and chart below.
|03/01/2017||0:52:26||500||30 Dumbbell shoulder presses (12kg)|
|06/01/2017||0:54:25||500||30 Goblet squats (20kg)|
|07/01/2017||0:57:28||500||30 Chin-ups||Felt ill|
|10/1/2017||0:48:53||500||30 Dumbbell shoulder presses (12kg)|
|13/01/2017||0:47:40||500||30 Goblet squats (20kg)|
|16/01/2017||0:46:16||500||30 Dumbbell shoulder presses (14kg)|
|19/01/2017||0:47:35||500||30 Goblet squats (20kg)|
|23/01/2017||0:41:46||500||30 Dumbbell shoulder presses (16kg)|
|24/01/2017||0:43:27||500||50 dips||Played 7-a-side football the night before|
|26/01/2017||0:43:55||500||30 Goblet squats (20kg)||Felt like I had a hangover. Fighting a cold and sore throat|
|30/01/2017||0:43:06||500||30 Dumbbell shoulder presses (16kg)|
|31/01/2017||0:40:52||500||50 dips||Played 7-a-side football the night before|
|03/02/2017||0:28:18||500||30 Goblet squats (18kg)||No mobility inbetween, all at the end|
|07/02/2017||0:28:18||500||30 Chin-ups||No mobility inbetween, all at the end|
A few comments on my performance. The first few sessions, my times actually got worse, not better. I was also doing a 3 day fast for the first few days of the workout. This could have impacted my times? Also I was fighting off an illness and didn’t feel 100%.
My times after the first two day rest period improved significantly. And I continued to shave seconds off the time it took me to complete the workout. With the only “strange” spike occurring on 19th Jan. It wasn’t anything in particular such as illness or fatigue that caused the spike. It was a complete lack of focus. I didn’t push myself nearly as hard as I had been doing in the previous few sessions. Tracking my times highlighted this and was a good thing looking back. It made me refocus and I then concentrated on pushing myself each and every workout thereafter. Thanks Google Docs.
Manage What You Measure
After refocusing, from the 20th Jan my times improved again and I was on course to keep improving my times. That didn’t really happen. Unusually I had plateaued, in fact my times were slowly creeping up again. I was trying to push myself to perform the swings as quick as I could. This wasn’t improving my times as I had expected.
Two things I believe impacted this. Firstly I think my resting strategy and the mobility work in between circuits made me hit a “time barrier”. After each 10, 15 and 25 rep swings I would rest for 10 seconds, 15 seconds and 25 seconds respectively. Then go straight into the 50 swing reps. I wasn’t able to complete the 50 reps in one go most of the time. When my grip gave way I would give myself a 5-10 second rest. Then try to complete as many swings in a batches until I reached 50 reps. Once completed I would perform the three mobility exercises, which could take around 30 seconds to 40 seconds. I would then rest between 30-60 seconds.
The second thing that may have made me slow down slightly. I had started playing 7-a-side Football for an hour on Monday evenings. This could have fatigued me for the Tuesday and Thursday Kettlebell swing sessions. I also felt ill again on the 26th Jan. Strangely it felt like I had a hangover even though I was doing Dry January, very weird.
In the last two sessions of the workout (3rd and 7th February). I decided to leave the mobility exercises until I had completed the 500 kettlebell swings. With my focus to rest as little as possible and try to get through the swings as fast as I could.
IT WORKED! I shaved a whole 12 MINUTES off my previous best time (Which was 40 minutes 52 seconds, recorded on 31st January). I was extremely happy. The mobility exercises HAD given me a bit of a barrier. The strange thing was is I recorded the exact same time of 28 minutes 18 seconds for the final two workout. Again, very weird.
Swing And A Miss? Or Swing And It’s Out Of The Park?
So, did I see any benefits? YES, LOADS!
Many people have stated that they have lost a lot of body fat and gone down belt sizes from doing the 10000 kettlebell swings workout. I’m no different. Tracking my weight from the start of January 2017 to the 8th February 2017. I ended up losing a stone in weight. Fantastic. I also lost inches off my waist, having to move down a belt size. Amazing.
Another claimed benefit was to put on lean muscle. Again I can confirm this happened too. Being unable to do any upper body exercises for the previous 6 months. I didn’t follow the T-Nation recommendation to the letter. I decided to take things easy. Especially with the shoulder press days and holding a dumbbell for the goblets squats. (I started with very light weight of 12kg dumbbells, by the end of the 5 weeks had progressed up to 16kg dumbbells). Going from doing no bodyweight exercises to dips and chinups, along with the presses and squats. I could definitely feel I was increasing my strength and lean muscle mass.
These were my two main goals and the reason I decided to do the 10000 Kettlebell swings challenge *cough* workout. Looking back now there have other added bonuses on top of losing weight and increasing muscle.
Hard To The Core!
Incorporating the Kettlebell swings with the mobility exercises has given me a “Hard Core”. More specifically performing the swings have massively improved my core strength. And improved the overall strength of my back and posterior chain. Coupled with the Jefferson Curls (J-Curls) these have improved my hamstring strength and flexibility. The curls also improved my back strength and flexibility which I wasn’t expecting.
My stamina has also gone through the roof. I am a big advocate of HIIT style training as I believe this improves fitness way better than chronic cardio. The way the workout is structured. The intensity in short burst with a rest period massively improved my overall stamina. I mentioned I had started playing 7-a-side Football on Monday evenings. The third time I played a game this year was a few days after my final Kettlebell swing workout. I didn’t stop running for the entire 60 minutes. The power that I had developed in my legs had improved my sprinting. Along with the increase in my core strength and stamina, this was the fittest I have felt in a long while.
After completing the 10000 kettlebell swings workout. I am now looking to incorporate Kettlebell swings into all my future workout plans. To the point where I’m about to purchase a 24kg kettlebell for home in case I can’t get to the gym. I plan to still do 500 Kettlebell swings at least once a week.
The benefits for me have been four-fold. Weight loss, more lean muscle. Improved core, back and leg strength. Increased stamina and fitness levels. With the added bonus of the mobility exercises enhancing the four benefits and improving my flexibility.
For people who like a challenge, along with having a clear workout plan. I would definitely recommend trying the 10000 Kettlebell swings workout from T-Nation. It isn’t for the faint hearted. If you are, by the end of the 5 weeks you will have heart of steel and core of granite. Take the challenge, I DARE YA! ?