Say hello to my new best friend. Yes, that’s right. I am talking about a kettlebell. Not just any kettlebell, this is literally my dearest friend for the past five days and will continue to be for five more days. You see I read an article on T Nation written by Craig Weller and James Heathers in July 2012. In the article they talk about doing 10,000 kettlebell swings in 10 days. Yes your math is correct, that’s 1,000 kettlebell swings per day. The idea is that you incorporate the KB swings in on top of your current exercise program. So if you are working out once or twice per day this would be in addition to that. The idea behind the challenge is that doing KB swings at a high volume with a significant anaerobic emphasis would change your body composition and hit some pretty impressive levels of work capacity.
Upon reading the article, I immediately sent it to my long time client and friend, Sharon. Sharon started as a personal training client of mine in 2013 and we have been consistently training for the past six years. For the past 3 years we have strictly worked out together instead of me training her one on one. Sharon immediately said when do we start? We had just entered a metabolic conditioning stage in our workout programming so this seemed like a great addition to the program. In the article they talked about the “experiment” they had using different test subjects that volunteered for the torture. We followed the experiment as closely as we could. The basic plan is to complete multiple sets of 20-50 repetitions in one or two daily workouts. In other words, you couldn’t do 100 swings now and 100 swings an hour later and then another 100 an hour after that and so on….instead you were to complete the total 1,000 in one or two sessions per day. The women were to swing a 35 pound kettlebell and the men a 50 pound kettlebell.
So Sharon and I started on Tuesday, February 19. After our workout we decided to do 500 swings together in a you go, I go fashion. We broke them into 25 repetitions at a time and rested while the other went. The first thing we noticed during the 500 was our forearms and grip strength was lacking. That evening Sharon came to my house so we could complete the next 500 together. We did not do 25 at a time, but instead decided to do as many as we could before putting the KB down and then the other would swing. 1,000 reps down.
Wednesday we both noticed our lats and mid-back were sore, but in a good way. It solidified that we were packing our shoulders and keeping good form throughout our movements. Both of us had sore hands, but that was to be expected. Wednesday was a snow day and we both had kids at home so our swings took place in our home gyms separately, but again we divided the workout into two sets.
Thursday I was getting frustrated that my glutes and hamstrings weren’t as sore as I thought they should be with that volume of training. I started my morning with 650 swings in 30 minutes (in between the bootcamp sessions I was coaching). Our workout consisted of heavy squats, and a lower body metabolic circuit followed by the remainder of my swings. Sharon decided to complete all 1,000 swings in one workout.
On Friday I decided to mix it up and deviate from the protocol, in the name of science of course. I opted to swing a 44 pound kettlebell for 500 repetitions. My grip strength and forearms gave out long before my lower body. Sets consisted of fewer repetitions typically between 25-35. In my second session I used the 35 pound kettlebell for 500 and completed those in 15 minutes. They felt easy, powerful and I was able to crank out sets of 50-75 reps without having to put the KB down.
I woke up a bit more sore on Saturday, definitely feeling the increased weight. Again I chose to swing the 44 pound kettlebell. I set a timer for 30 minutes and decided I would see how many I could get. 550 was the total…having not eaten and coaching three bootcamps, my energy just wasn’t there to move more weight. After fueling I finished the 450 swings with the 35 and again did high rep sets: 100, 100, 100, 75, and 75. Sharon texted me after her 1,000 swings today and said the only thing that makes her put the KB down is her hands/grip strength. She thought the challenge would be a lot harder than it is and is finding that each day is getting easier.
So we are 5 days in, 5,000 kettlebell swings down and we are both looking forward to the next five days. I am anxious to remeasure our body composition and circumference measurements to see if this has had any impact. I am noticing that my appetite is much stronger and I think that has to do with the 45-50 minutes of extra activity I am getting in each day.
Stay tuned for the final notes from my experiment!!!