Some of our regular Kettlebell class attendees have heard me talk for a while about the 10,000 Swing Challenge. The 10k Challenge (to save me keep typing the whole thing) was originally designed, tested and written about by Dan John in his book ‘Never Let Go’ and in a T-Nation blog of the same name.
This post is specifically about the challenge and how we will implement it at Unique Results for our members. This is something that will require some individual training time and will not be possible to complete solely in our set class timetable. This will therefore demand a degree of commitment and should not be approached lightly. It is however something that I believe the majority of our regular class members would be capable of achieving (but it would most certainly be a challenge – hence the name).
Below, I have lifted certain sections from the original blog and also clearly stated where I would modify the structure to be most appropriate for our clientele as I know your abilities, level of conditioning and strength and also what is most ‘reasonable’ for you. The modifications I will make are also what I will be following as I will doing this challenge alongside you as well.
I would highly recommend that you read the original blog in its entirety here: 10,000 Swing Kettlebell Challenge as it will give you more information and a great ‘feel’ of the what the challenge has done for high level athletes.
Here’s what you need to know…
- Challenge yourself with four weeks of intensive kettlebell swinging to test your grit and improve body composition.
- Every lifter who was tested after this challenge increased lean muscle mass and conditioning.
- After four weeks, you will have done 10,000 kettlebell swings dispersed throughout 20 workouts. You’ll do 500 swings per workout.
- Between sets of kettlebell swings, do one of the following: chin-ups, goblet squats, dips, or overhead presses.
- Master your kettlebell swing form. It’s not a squat. It’s a hip hinge and a hip snap. Your arms should not travel above your shoulders.
UR Modification: We will be doing the 10,000 swings over the month of December 2020. This will mean 4/5 workouts a week, 500 swings per workout = 20 workouts = 10,000 swings.
Make Progress or You’ll Regress
Without challenges, the human body will soften. We thrive when we push our boundaries, reach goals, and blast personal records. We perform better, we look better, and we feel alive.
Get this straight: you’re either progressing or regressing. There is no maintenance phase. Moderation in training can easily turn into stagnation. And moderation is for sissies. So if we want to improve, we have to seek out new challenges, struggle, and win.
The 10,000 Swing Kettlebell Workout is just such a challenge. And it will rapidly transform your body in only four weeks.
I don’t write training programs by reading textbooks and studies. I create them in the field, deep in the trenches with real athletes and people whose lives literally depend on their physical abilities.
To create and refine this program, myself and 18 other coaches and athletes met several days every week to put it to the test.
Here’s what we experienced:
- Everyone got leaner, dropping a waist size or two, in 20 workouts.
- Every coach or athlete made visual muscular improvements in their physiques, adding lean body mass.
- Every lifter increased his grip strength and greatly increased work capacity and athletic conditioning.
- They could all train longer and harder when they went back to their normal training programs.
- After the program, every lifter saw a noted improvement in his core lifts. PR’s fell like dominos. Full-body strength and power shot through the roof.
- Abs were more visible. Glute strength was tremendously better. The abs and glutes “discovered” how to work again, leading to athletic improvements in sport and in the weight room.
In four or five weeks, you’re going to perform 10,000 proper kettlebell swings. These will be split among 20 workouts. You’ll do 500 swings per workout. Between sets of swings, you’ll perform low-volume, basic strength exercises.
You will train 4-5 days per week. Train 2 days on, 1 day off, and repeat. Men will use a 24kg kettlebell (53 pounds). Women will use 16kg (35 pounds). This is a stand-alone program. If you feel you’re able to do a second workout in the same day, then you are “underbelled” – you’re either not going heavy enough or not training with maximal effort.
UR Modification: The weights outlined above are desirable but obviously not compulsory. Use the weight that you feel comfortable with and are confident that you can maintain good form with. It’s not even a problem to use different bells for different workouts. The acceleration of the swing and good form is our priority, as always, load is secondary.
The Swings: Clusters, Sets, and Reps
Use an undulating rep scheme to reach 500 total reps per workout:
Set 1: 10 reps
Set 2: 15 reps
Set 3: 25 reps
Set 4: 50 reps
You’ve now completed 100 reps or one cluster. Repeat the cluster 4 more times for a total of 500 swings. Between sets, experienced lifters will add a low-volume strength movement.
UR Modification: We will be using the rep scheme of 10, 15, 25 and eliminating the 50 rep set. 50 x 2 handed swings is a seriously challenging set when dealing with a moderate load and I believe 25 reps will be challenging enough for the vast majority of you. This will mean we will work with a cluster of 10, 15 & 25 reps. Rest and repeat for 10 clusters to hit our 500 swing session target.
After each round of 10, 15, and 25 reps, rest 30-60 seconds. The first cluster will be easy and you can jam through it. In the later clusters, you’ll need the full 60 seconds or more for grip strength recovery. After each set of 50, rest will extend to 3 minutes or more. During this post-50 rest period, perform a “corrective.” Stretch anything that needs it, like the hip flexors. Do a mobility movement of choice.
Time your workouts. Each week you should be getting faster. Your time in workout #20 should clobber your time in workout #1. For the strength lifts, the goal is to use a weight that’s challenging on the first workout and easy by the last workout.
UR Modification: The strength moves we will do in between sets will be Goblet Squats, Press Ups and Bent Over Kettlebell Rows (or chin ups if applicable) The rep ranges will be as follows:
10 Swings – 1 Press up, Goblet squat, Bent Over Row (each side) or Chin up.
15 Swings – 2 Press ups, Goblet squats, Bent Over Rows (each side) or Chin ups.
25 Swings – 3 Press ups, Goblet squats, Bent Over Rows (each side) or Chin ups.
Rest for 2-3 minutes then repeat 9 more times.
We will be doing some of these workouts in the group classes over the 5 weeks which will provide camaraderie, support, motivation and accountability. You will be required to do 4 sessions per week however (rotating the strength moves, using just one per workout) meaning you will need to come in and put in some time on your own in the kettlebell area (or at home if you have your own bells).
FINAL UR Modification: If you like the idea of this challenge but simply cannot commit to 4 sessions per week (or are newer to kettlebells) you can do a 5,000 swing challenge following exactly the same protocol but only completing 2 workouts per week for the 5 weeks thus halving the training volume.
If you have any questions please let me know and please let me know if you plan on joining us for the 10,000 or 5,000 swing challenge!
Yours in health,
James St Pierre