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Kettlebell Part 4

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.

Interested in knowing more about online training with Nathan Walton so you can experience the benefits of kettlebell training?  Click these links to learn more about how it works and coaching fees.

Kettlebell Part 3

Now that I’ve posted an introductory kettlebell training plan and a transition plan, it’s time to get to the kettlebell strength and conditioning program.

Because Ethical Responsibility; let me remind everyone that this is a general article to a general audience and may not apply to you specifically. This article also assumes that you will have done the recommended beginners program and practiced the Clean, Press, and Snatch before beginning this program. If only you knew a Regulated Health Professional (say, for instance, an RMT), who was also an online health and fitness coach? That might give you the one-on-one assistance you require?

Take responsibility for yourself, is, I guess, the point you should take away… Remember that no amount of education, even with direct hands on training, can take the place of your good judgment.

When it comes to safety; it’s your fault. If you hurt yourself it means you did too much, too soon, or too sloppy.
Pro Tip: Whenever possible, train barefoot (or minimalist shoes) and outside.

You may have increased the kettlebell weight since you started, but the kettlebell you use for this plan should be one that you can safely do five to eight clean and presses (that’s a clean in between each press).

You will need to understand two new training terms before we lay out the plan: The Ladder and the rung.

One Ladder consists of one to five rungs. Each rung represents an equal number of repetitions. The first rung is one rep, the second rung is two reps, the third rung is three reps, the fourth rung is four reps and the fifth rung is five reps. We always stop adding rungs at five. So you must do the first rung with each arm before the second rung and so on.

That means that for a ladder of one rung you will do one clean and press with each arm. However, a two rung ladder means that you do one rep with each arm and then two reps with each arm before putting the kettlebell back down.

This means that a ladder of one is one rep for each arm. A ladder of two is a total of three reps per arm. A ladder of three is six reps for each arm. A ladder of four is ten reps per arm, and a ladder of five is fifteen reps per arm.

Therefore by the time you get up to the maximum volume of five ladders of five rungs you’ll be doing seventy-five reps of clean and press with each arm! That’s the goal, we’re not starting there.

Here’s your strength and conditioning program:

You’ll be splitting the week into three primary training days, with up to two bonus (or variety) days. We’ll get to the variety days at a later time. For now, variety day means take it easy or do something fun and active.

Your primary exercise is the clean and press. This is the exercise you’ll be doing ladders of.

On your Heavy day you’ll start with three ladders of three rungs. Don’t go to failure! If forms slips, you’re done! You may find you can only do one ladder to three, and then do the next one to two and the last one to one. That’s ok. We’re building up. If you chose the correct weight, however, you should find that three ladders of three is a good place to stop.

After your final clean and press ladder, you’ll take a short rest, then you’ll do two to twelve minutes of swings, doing the maximum number that you can manage in the time. The time is random. Roll two dice (I usually just use an online random number generator), and do that many minutes, resting as much as you need to, but really go for it.

On your Medium day, you’ll do three ladders of one less rung than the heavy day, so the first medium day will start with three ladders of two. After that, you’ll do two to twelve minutes of swings at a moderate pace. Roll the dice and then do about 70-80% of what you think you could do in that many minutes if you were going all out.
On your easy day, you’ll do three ladders of two less rungs than your heavy day, so the first easy day will start with three ladders of one. Afterwards, you’ll do two to twelve minutes of Snatch. Your goal is to do 50-60% of what you think you could do in the allotted time if you were to go all out.

You can set the days to be Heavy then Medium then Easy, or Easy, Medium, Hard at your preference. I like my heaviest workout on the weekend, but it’s up to your personal preference. If you’re just dying to get started with some hard work, maybe you’ll want to start with a heavy day. If you want to ease in, start easy. Use your best judgment.

The next week, add an extra ladder to each day. The week after, add another. Once you’re at five ladders, it’s time to start increasing rungs. Add one rung each week until you’re up to three on your easy day, four on your medium day and five on your heavy day. If you can’t do the entire designated ladder, do what you can. Do not blindly follow the plan to failure and injury. If you find you added a rung and can’t do it with excellent form, take a note in your workout log (you DO keep a record, right?) and try again next time, and you can add the next rung when ready.

Finally, when you’ve reached five ladders of five rungs, maintaining form, it’s time to increase weight. I suggest jumping 4 kg (8.8 lbs). Take that heavier weight and drop the volume back to the beginning (ie: Heavy day is no longer five ladders of five, but is back to three ladders of three) and start building back up. True Confession: When I could do five ladders of five with the 20 kg I went to buy a 24 kg but they were all out. So I bought a 28 kg (after giving it a few practice swings, cleans, presses and snatches to confirm safety). It’s been quite difficult, but nothing tells your body to get stronger like a hefty increase in weight. 4 kg is a perfectly large boost, unless you are well-conditioned or you started out much too light.

In between ladders, it’s important to rest. Rest is an important variable to manipulate depending on your goals. For now, let’s start with thirty seconds to one minute of rest between sets on your easy day. As you start really pushing a heavy weight and are feeling the load, don’t be shy about taking three to five minutes. Trust the science of strength training. You’ll also get ample cardio and conditioning benefit from the high intensity bursts of doing your ladders, as well as from all the swings you’re going to be doing, so you don’t need to do extra cardio or anything else to trim the fat and get stronger.

In my next post, I’ll show you some things you can add to this program when you’re ready, as well as cover some things to do on your variety days and rest days.

Here are some videos to help you out.

Interested in knowing more about online training with Nathan Walton so you can experience the benefits of kettlebell training?  Click these links to learn more about how it works and coaching fees.


Kettlebell Part 2

Last week I posted an introductory kettlebell training plan.  Before we move on to the next phase here is an important review…

Because Ethical Responsibility; let me remind everyone that this is a general post to a general audience and may not apply to you specifically. If only you knew someone who could help you navigate the awesome responsibility of internet usage? Take responsibility for yourself, is, I guess, the point you should take away…

Safety Pro Tip: It’s your fault. If you hurt yourself it means you did too much, too soon, or too sloppy.

I will be sharing my current workout plan with you next, but first we’re looking at a transition period. If you’re familiar with kettlebell training or have a history of strength training you might start transitioning within a week or so, but otherwise you should plan on staying on the introductory plan for a few weeks before you add the transitional movements, then a few more weeks before moving on to the next phase.

Assuming you’ve picked the right weight, you should find that it gives you a comfortably moderate challenge for the beginner program.

Here’s your transitional program:

Start practicing your kettlebell cleans, presses, and snatches. The keyword here is: Practice. NOT workout.

Practice means that as part of your warm-up or cool-down on either your swing day or get-up day you will try a few cleans with each arm and/or a few presses and/or a few snatches. This is not done to failure. It shouldn’t even be done to a comfortable stop. The point is that you try a few and focus entirely on form so that when these movements become part of your regular training in the next phase, you’ll know you can progress safely.

Start with practicing the clean. When that’s comfortable and smooth, you can start practicing the press. When you know you can own that weight overhead, you can start practicing the snatch.
When you know you can safely do multiple snatches, it’s time to take the kettlebell that you can safely do five to eight clean and presses (that’s a clean in between each press) and move on to the next phase

Comrades, I couldn’t find good concise videos for these moves, so here is a longer video that really breaks down the whole series of moves, complete with breakdowns and safety rules and as much Russian deadpan humour as you can handle by recognized master of the kettlebell, Pavel Tsatsouline.

Interested in knowing more about online training with Nathan Walton so you can experience the benefits of kettlebell training?  Click these links to learn more about how it works and coaching fees.

Kettlebell Part 1

As you may know from the table, I can be a bit of a talker.  I can shut up too, but that’s not what we’re talking about today.  I’ve recently become a bit of a kettlebell evangelist. In addition to the usual training and books and video watching and self-experimentation, I’ve also been examining the research literature and there’s a lot of evidence-based benefits to kettlebell training. We’re talking about strength development, mobility and flexibility improvement, heart and endurance training, and ultimately; looking and feeling our best – being fit and healthy.

Because Ethical Responsibility; let me remind everyone that this is a general posting to a general audience and may not apply to you specifically. It might be best for you to get one-on-one coaching, personal training or attend a workshop before undertaking a new training. Maybe you should check with your doctor first? Take responsibility for what you do with what you find on the internet, is, I guess, the point you should take away…

When it comes to safety: It’s your fault. If you hurt yourself it means you did too much, too soon, or too sloppy.

I will be sharing my current workout plan with you soon, but first I’ll share an introduction to kettlebell training.

Start with the right weight:
If you are an average lady, start with 8 kg (18 lbs).
A strong lady can start with 12 kg (26 lbs).
If you are an average man, start with 16 kg (35).
A strong man may begin with 20kg (44 lbs).

Here’s your beginner program:

Twice a week do 12 minutes of kettlebell swings alternating with light jogging. Swings are done to a comfortable stop, and jogging is for active recovery (the key thing is just to keep moving, jog a few hundred yards, walk up and down the stairs, gently jog on the spot for a minute, don’t come to a dead stop and don’t push yourself either).

Twice a week (on a different day than the swings), do 5 minutes of continuous slow and controlled get-ups, switching hands every rep. Don’t count your reps and don’t try to top them, that will only encourage you to go faster and lose the benefit of the get-up.

Why 12 minutes? Why 5 minutes? Why not? You can increase or decrease the time if you need to. Give this a try for a few weeks to really get the swing (ha ha) of things and you’ll be ready for new challenges in no time.

Here are two videos that demonstrate a perfect swing and a perfect get-up (the get-up is being done with a ridiculous weight and a spotter in the video, don’t let that frighten you). The videos were chosen for their accuracy and brevity.

Interested in knowing more about online training with Nathan Walton so you can experience the benefits of kettlebell training?  Click these links to learn more about how it works and coaching fees.

Support that Hurts and Helps

Personal pet peeve time.  I hate mediocrity.  It is not my desire to be mediocre. To race to the middle ground. The standard has been set too low and I wish to raise the bar.

It is frequently our acceptance of the status quo that helps us find mediocrity.  And society will happily support you in your mediocrity.  Instead of supporting personal integrity and self-discipline we’ve given way to self-importance and self-indulgence.  Society will set aside calling you out on unhealthy habits so as not to ‘judge’ you.  Culture will value your self-esteem over properly educating you.

Our society seems to have settled on the overall message that to encourage and support means to tell people that they don’t have to change.  I think that’s an incredibly dangerous message.  When it comes to health and fitness that kind of support will support us all the way to an early grave.  Which means it’s not actually support at all.

The reality is that we benefit from support only when it’s the right kind!  It’s been said that you are 3x more likely to achieve a goal if you have a strong support network.  Don’t ignore that number.  3x more likely to improve your fitness translates to being less likely to experience heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and other life-altering emergencies and conditions later in life as the result of poor health and fitness!  Tripling your chances at success is not a small thing.

So who do you choose as part of your support team?  The people who actually want you to succeed and are willing to kick your butt or say the hard things you need to hear in order to help you get there.  These are the people who will hold you accountable, actively check in on you, and whose taste in resources you trust if you need more help.  These people will support your growth in the areas of personal integrity and self-discipline by being willing to say the things that hurt a bit so you can be the best you that you can be.

Society says don’t judge and tells people cruising towards cardiovascular disease that they are perfect the way they are. Is it judgment when your doctor tells you that you are obese and on your way to a heart attack?  Absolutely not. Your doctor cares about your well-being enough to say you are carrying too much fat, that your diet is terrible, that you spend too much time sitting, and that you need to do better.  They invest in educating you if they realize you’re struggling because you’re missing important information.  Find more people like that!  That is a powerful source of external energy to draw on to help you keep going when someone cares about you enough to hold you accountable in reaching your goals.  It might hurt in the moment, but ultimately it leads to us feeling valued.  And feeling valued can get us through some tough things.  Like improving our health and fitness.

Goals must be set if we are to improve and advance as people. We must challenge ourselves and others.  We are human and stumble and fall, but with every effort put in we have opportunity to gain ground, to move forward, to be better than we were before, together.  And if you realize that people in your life are cheering you towards mediocrity maybe it’s time to stop giving them tickets to the game and relegate them to the parking lot for now.  Fill your benches with people who actually want to see you win.

I want to help you set and reach your goals.  I can be part of that support network.  I’m willing to challenge you.  I’m willing to say the things you may not want to hear.  I’m willing to do that because I care about your health and wellness.  And I care about you being able to say that you lived your life and didn’t just exist.

Check out my online coaching options from short-term support to ongoing fitness mentoring, assemble your support team (I hope I’m a part of it) and go Live.