Russian Style General Strength Training

Edited November 29, 2020

If you are looking for serious long term strength training that you can do every day, with minimal equipment, in less than thirty minutes, take a look at Kettlebell Simple & Sinister.

Simple & Sinister is a strength endurance program of 100 kettlebell swings and 10 getups every day. It is meant to condition a person to always be ready for life, and to “store energy in the body rather than exhaust it” (Kettlebell Simple & Sinister). By training day after day, you adapt to a higher level of strength and endurance. You start with a small weight, develop solid form, and progress to the next weight. Rest days are fewer because the weight is relatively small.

Unlike powerlifting, kettlebell training does not aim for the highest possible weight lifted. Rather, it focuses on total body acceleration, and stable coordination of all parts of your body. It won’t directly add tons of weight to your barbell max. There is, however, ample evidence that there is unexpected improvement in bigger lifts.

The grass is always greener on the other side. If you don’t believe it, go to a park and find the greenest patch of grass and sit. Then look around and see if there’s greener. I assure you there is.

Powerlifting taught me that training every day was not healthy. When I was squatting twice my bodyweight for sets of five, I needed at least a day of rest, if not three, for any benefit. So naturally I doubted the S&S protocol of daily training.

However, swings and getups were filling gaps in my powerlifting training. For one, I built all-around shoulder stability in connection with the rest of my body. I also balanced the strength between the two sides of my body. These can easily be overlooked in basic powerlifting exercises if you have significant strength imbalances. Back to the issue of daily training.

At first I was constantly sore, and it was certainly difficult to train every day. I would wake up to find my whole body tight and achy. Rather than decide not to train at that moment, I would put off the judgment call. Instead, I went through my morning routine. I drank butter coffee and journaled, basically enjoying life as I woke up. When training time came, I felt better and went for it.

As of this writing, it’s been about two and half months since starting kettlebell training with the 16kg. My recovery time is shortening. I’ve managed to take just one day off in the last eight weeks. I’m doing all sets now with the 24kg, and my swings and getups are getting stronger. My callouses are smooth and my mind feels sharp. I look forward to training most days. Just like Tsatsouline says in Kettlebell Simple & Sinister, the exercise has become a “recharge” instead of a “workout”.

After the initial struggle, I started to look forward to the training. S&S is remarkably effortless compared to other strength programs.

Edit: It’s now three and a half years from the time I started kettlebell training. After becoming comfortable with the 32kg for all sets, and introducing the 40kg to getups, I am now alternating kettlebell days with barbell days. Rest days are still few and far between, as it feels better to train than not to. 11-29-20

First, the only equipment needed is the kettlebell. No gym, no shoes, no machines, no bars nor weight plates. S&S prescribes a starting 8kg for average strength women and 16kg for average strength men. Even with a 300+ lb squat, I found that the 16kg was more than enough load to teach me the movements.

Second, the exercise leaves me with plenty of energy for the rest of my day. I gradually adapted to the training, and became more efficient in the movements. It will be different for everyone, but the soreness stopped after several weeks. Even when I did feel sore, it was slight and bearable and frankly, felt good.

Finally, it’s convenient and accessible. The kettlebell sits at your doorstep where you left it the previous morning. You have no excuse for not training. This saves time and eliminates the ill effects of sitting in your car on the way to the gym.

NL161 two kettlebells the brilliant beast blog

As I transitioned from 16kg to the 24kg kettlebell, I felt much more tired at night and needed more food. So I ate a little more, and kept training every day. The jumps in weight by proportion are much greater than with progression barbell training. I imagine the next transition to 32kg will be even harder. I look forward to that too.

Edit: The transition to 32kg was magnificent. Most exciting was the increase in muscle size, of course. But I had two swing progressions as I did with every weight. First it was incorporating two-handed swings with 32kg, then to one-handed swings once all sets at 32kg were solid. Getup progression was natural and felt great to have that heavy load straight up above me. A little more food, a little more soreness at first on the one-handed progression. 11-29-20

Do some digging in the StrongFirst website to see if this is for you. If you decide to take on the kettlebell, I strongly recommend that you read the book first. I’ve read both the audio and kindle versions hundreds of times. Mind before matter.

Live powerfully.

Steve

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