Monday, April 25, 2016

My Kettlebell Workout

I have never been very athletic or physically fit.  I disliked the physical fitness tests in the Navy and only passed them with a good bit of effort.  I'm not sure what it says about me that it took a debilitating disease and a bilateral lung transplant to kick my butt and set me on the path to fitness.  I do know how great it feels now that I am on this path.

In the post about My Post Transplant Fitness Progression I talked about how I progressed from barely being able to shower by myself to swinging kettlebells.  Today I'll introduce the StrongFirst Simple and Sinister program.

Before I get started I have to say that I really enjoy kettlebells, I actually look forward to my workouts and is something I've never experienced.  Me anticipating a workout, who'd a thunk it?  This love of kettlebells has kind of made me a kettlebell evangelist.  Hopefully my enthusiasm for the 'bells shines through.

I have found several advantages of using kettlebells as fitness tools.  First, they are very cost effective.  You can buy all the 'bells you need for less than a quality Olympic Bar and a set of bumpers.  Next is that all of the exercised involving kettlebells can be performed in a limited amount of space.  I do all of my exercises in the living room.  Another nice effect of working with kettlebells using the SF S&S program is that you minimize or even eliminate strength and endurance imbalances between the sides of your body.  The program provides balance. And, very important for a lung transplant recipient, is that Simple and Sinister strengthens the muscles that protect your lungs, incision site, and diaphragm.

The Simple and Sinister workout consists of four parts, the warm up - kettlebell swings - Turkish get ups - stretches.

The warm up exercises consist of three movements, the Prying Goblet Squat - Kettlebell Halo - and Hip Bridges.

If you start out as I did, it will take you awhile to accomplish a full Prying Goblet Squat.  It is well worth your effort.  The PGS as used as a warm up for your S&S workout is used to open up the hips and improve hip/knee/ankle mobility.  You don't need to use heavy weights.  As a matter of fact, once you get down into position and relaxed, you can set the 'bell on the floor if you need to when you stand back up.  Proper form is the most important aspect of all of these moves.

The Kettlebell Halo improves shoulder mobility and strength.  Again, this is a warm up exercise and heavy weight is not necessary, but correct form is.

The Hip Bridge strengthens your glutes and stretches your back and hips.

Perform three sets of the above warm up exercises and you are ready to start swinging :)  Yeah I know, the warm ups look like a good exercise routine all by itself.  But now it's time for the fun stuff.  Kettlebell Swings and Turkish Get Ups.

The Kettlebell Swing is a very dynamic movement that utilizes the power generated in a hip hinge to propel the kettlebell in an arc.  Your shoulders are just the pivot point and your back is protected by proper form and packing your shoulders (basically an anti-shrug).  As you learn the swing you will likely notice improvements in your posture, strengthening of your entire trunk, improved PFT's (for lung transplant recipients), an accelerated metabolism, and just a general feeling of badassery.  You will work your way up to doing ten sets of 10 one handed swings (5 sets with each hand). 

Where the swing is a study in explosive power and endurance, the Turkish Get Up is a study of strength and precision movement.  I do my get ups very slowly, concentrating on every movement.  We only do five sets of 1 rep on each side when we are doing these.  You are using your entire body, and you are doing it slowly.  Ten total reps really is optimal.  When first practicing this movement, you don't use any weight at all, just practice the movement.  Then you practice with a flat bottom shoe on your fist, and maybe, if you want to show off, a half full glass of water.  Get the movement down before adding any weight.

Now it it time to stretch.  Pavel recommends two stretches for after this workout.

The 90/90 Stretch

And the QL Straddle

I can do a very good 90/90, but the QL Straddle still kicks my rear.

Pavel's book, Kettlebell Simple & Sinister does a great job of  explaining each exercise and safely guides you on how to accomplish each one.  

I keep an open kettlebell workout log here if you are interested in following my progress.  I plan on reaching the Simple goal of swinging a 32 kg kettlebell, one handed, 10 sets of 10 in five minutes followed by a one minute rest then 5 Get Ups on each side with that same 32 kg 'bell in 10 minutes by November.  I have my work cut out, but a man's gotta have goals.

I will go into more detail on each movement in future posts.  Hope you enjoy.

Image sources QL Straddle, 90/90 Stretch, Hip Bridge


  1. Still reading with interest, John. You outta be a teacher!

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