As you know I’ve posted an introductory kettlebell training plan, a transition plan, and a strength and conditioning program. Time to fill in the final pieces of the puzzle and take that strength and conditioning to a higher plane of existence. Because of the way the workout schedule undulates from Easy to Hard and scales up first with volume and then decreasing volume and increasing resistance and repeating, you can continue this plan with minimal variety (other than the variety days) until you can do 200+ Snatches in 10 minutes with a heavy kettlebell and can one arm press half your body weight. Oh yeah!
As always, I must remind everyone about safety and such. Seriously, if you hurt yourself it’s because you’ve done too much, too soon, and/or too sloppy. I am not a substitute for your own good judgment.
A Tip for Every Day: Train outside as much as you can. Train barefoot (or as close to it as possible) as much as you can. I’ll expand on these points at a later time.
So you understand the ladder now and you’ve been doing them and feeling strong. You’re wondering if you could be doing more and what you should be doing during your off days.
First, on your easy days; switch your clean and press to press, and only clean when changing arms. That means a 3 rung ladder on easy day would be a right side clean then press, then clean and press left, then on the right clean and press, then press again. Then a clean and two presses left, then a clean and 3 presses right and a clean and 3 presses left. Same number of presses as before, but fewer cleans. Just on easy day.
Second, here’s what you’ll add to your 3 days of ladders. Pull-ups! This assumes that you can do 5 or fewer pull-ups. If you can do more that that, you need to add weight so that you’d fail on 6 or so. Adding weight is easiest with a variable weight vest, but can also be done by putting weights in your pockets or in a backpack, weights hanging from a lifting belt, gripping a dumbbell between your feet or hooking your foot through the kettlebell.
So here’s how you add the pull-ups: after each ladder you’ll do a number of pull-ups equal to the current rung that you’re doing in your ladders. So at first, that’s 1 pull-up per set on easy day, 2 on medium day and 3 on hard day. That will eventually grow until it’s 3 on easy day, 4 on medium day and 5 on hard day. As with your presses, you should not be going to failure. It’s ok to stop one rep early. You will get stronger. Much. Stronger.
If you can’t do pull-ups (but want to): do cable or resistance band pull-downs instead, again looking for a weight that you can do 5 or 6 reps maximum. OR you do pull-ups but use a pull-up assist (a band that will offset your weight slightly by pulling you towards the pull-up bar, or they have ones at gyms that have variable plates to offset your weight), or a foot on a chair or similar. Again, trying to offset your weight just enough so that 5 or 6 is your limit.
If you want more, or are accustomed to training more often, add 2 variety days. Variety day should be no more difficult than easy day (trust me; when the weight and volume get higher that easy day is not so easy). An excellent variety day might include playing a sport or going for a hike or snowshoeing etc. But if you need something in your home gym to feel as if you “worked out” in order to check that box off your day.
Remember your 5 minutes of Get-Ups from the intro? That would fit well on a variety day. Mix it up, do a get-up and some swings, some crunches, some push-ups. Do a few rounds. Put in some light work and finish stronger than you started.
Need more direction for variety day? OK. Here’s what you’ll do. Do your warm-up (I should write a post about warm-ups and cool-downs, please comment if that would be of interest to be posted sooner rather than later). After the warm-up, set the timer for 20 minutes. You’re going to do this in an interval-based metabolic conditioning (MetCon) kinda way. Every Minute On the Minute (EMOM), you’re going to do an exercise for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. As you become more proficient you can work longer and rest less, but you’re still starting a new exercise every minute and it only lasts for 20 minutes. Pick 4 exercises and do them one after the other (in the aforementioned work:rest ratio) until time runs out. That means you’ll do 5 rounds of those 4 exercises and then you can catch your breath and cool-down. Not ready for 20 minutes? Cut it at 10. Find you need more rest? Make it a 20 second work period and 40 seconds of rest. Need to to be harder? Increase your work time to 45 seconds and decrease your rest to 15 seconds.
Still need more detail? OK fine, how about Kettlebell Swings then Burpees then Jumping Lunges then Mountain Climbers. Hands need more rest? Swap out the Swings for some Skipping. Got some room to move? Swap something out for Sprints. Want more core engagement? Swap out something for your favourite ab killer. Want to improve your run and want less variety? Swap out a variety workout for this bit of self-hatred: Warm-up then Sprint all out for 20 seconds, walk for 10 seconds and repeat for 4 minutes (8 sets of Sprints) then try not to die and don’t come to a complete stop but do your cool-down. Your total workout time should reflect more time warming up and cooling down than actually Sprinting. Truly though, try not to die and don’t throw up.
Ultimately, the point is to work hard for a limited period of time on your variety day. At the end of the workout you may feel spent, but within a short window of time (say, when having your post-workout protein shake) you should feel action-packed with energy.
Now that we’ve increased our workout week to 5 days, what about the remaining 2?
Rest is good.
I like to take at least 1 day and spend some quality time with my foam roller. Just spending 40 minutes or more rolling out some sore spots while watching a show or movie. That’s something you can do on any day off from training (or on a training day too, I happen to incorporate some rolling into most warm-ups). If you’re a runner or cyclist or similar, one of those remaining days can be for your long run/ride. I’m not advocating a long slow workout for everyone, this is just for those who have a specific goal related to running/cycling or just love it. You could also make it a day for swimming or practicing skills related to your sport. Whether it’s a scheduled variety day or rest day, you can take your rest and recovery guilt-free, you earned it.