An excerpt from: Kettlebell Simple & Sinister

By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman


Ladies and gentlemen, I present you my new book, Kettlebell Simple & Sinister.

If you are new to kettlebells, S&S is your entry point.  If you have been around the kettlebell block, S&S will deepen your understanding of the hard style system and introduce you to important subtleties of technique and programming.

Kettlebell Simple & Sinister starts with an accelerated sequence of learning the swing and the get-up, refined over the years of teaching.  The goblet squat and several other key stretches are introduced to unlock your hips.

The programming is best described by the ad for the latest generation of the battle tested F-16 fighter jet: “Proven.  Powerful.  Perfected.”

I do not care how smart you are and how hard you try, you are not going to one-up the Program Minimum by Steve Baccari.  No other kettlebell routine will deliver such extraordinary returns for such a minimal investment of time and energy.  Period.  Without touching this classic program’s DNA, I remastered it with research and experience of the last decade.

Our strength bias has gotten stronger than ever.  You are not going to rush your rest periods—you are going to dominate the biggest, baddest kettlebell.

I am not going into the scientific nitty-gritty in the book—but the set duration, volume, and rest periods experimentally arrived at by StrongFirst’s most experienced instructors like Mark Reifkind, Michael Castrogiovanni, and others are eerily in line with cutting edge Russian research.  Instead of killing yourself in the lactic acid zone, you will be training to exert your maximal power over and over—and rapidly recover aerobically.  The mindset of the remastered PM is that of a predator, not prey.

The PM progression has become nearly foolproof.  A special option with lighter overspeed eccentric swings and static-dynamic method get-ups has been introduced.  It will enable you to train and keep making progress on the days when you are not at your best.

The training loads were carefully laid out to give you more energy for sports and other pursuits rather than to drain you.  Because you have a life beyond kettlebells.

Following is a short excerpt from Kettlebell Simple & Sinister.


A Little Every Day Goes a Long Way

More is not better, it’s just more.

—Steve Baccari

Would a higher volume be more effective?  Would shorter rest periods?

Perhaps—but at what cost?

First, consider that StrongFirst puts a premium on strength and power.

It is tempting to write off the kettlebell as only an endurance tool, given its relative lightness.  But do not forget the “virtual force” that multiplies the bell’s “heaviness” by as much as ten times in the hands of a skilled hard style girevik.

If you are told to do a higher volume or to compress the rest periods, you will unavoidably start holding back power, pacing yourself.  Your goal would change from getting the desired training effect to just surviving.  Remember Dr. Hatfield’s “cardio” training instructions to a power athlete: “an all-out effort… maximum contracture against submaximal resistance.”

Another issue is efficiency.  Once you reach a certain volume, you hit the point of diminishing returns.  The human body is a non-linear system.  This means doubling your swings from 100 to 200 will not double the results—far from it.  A decade ago Michael Castrogiovanni, today an SFG Team Leader, identified the swing workout that gives the most for the least: 100 swings total, three times a week.

Tim Ferriss, always dedicated to finding the minimum effective dose, discovered that as few as 150-300 weekly swings was the dose for him.  A total of ten to twenty minutes of weekly swings got him a ripped six-pack and added over 100 pounds to his deadlift.

Finally, there is the big issue of leaving enough energy for other things—practicing sport skills, being ready to fulfill your duty on the battlefield, or just enjoying your day and not dragging your tail through it.

Bulgarian elite gymnastics coach Ivan Ivanov believes that the purpose of a training session is to store energy in the body rather than exhaust it.  That is a powerful mindset.  In Ivanov’s experience, 100 repetitions per movement hit the spot—and these must be done daily.  I concur.

It may seem strange to recommend training without days off when the goal is storing energy, but moderate daily training will keep the muscles’ fuel tanks topped off, while making tissues resistant to microtrauma and almost soreness-proof.  It is the ticket to being always ready.

Prof. Arkady Vorobyev explains that incomplete restoration training stimulates the recovery ability; your body literally has to learn how to recoup faster…or else.  Those who have served in the military can relate.  You got sore after your first day in basic training, but you persisted—as if you had a choice—and kept up with the daily grind of pushups and runs, and finally you could handle it.  If you were given the unlikely choice of PT-ing only when you had totally recovered, you still would have been stiff, sore, and a sissy.  This is why the S&S program, while tolerating a minimum of two workouts a week if you are in a pickle, prescribes near-daily training.

Think of the S&S regimen not as a workout but as a recharge.

One of the meanings of the verb “to work out” is “to exhaust by extraction.”  Ponder that for a moment and ask yourself if that is your goal.  In contrast, “recharge” is the name Russians gave to an invigorating morning exercise session.  Out with a workout, in with a recharge!

A U.S. military special operator (you know him from Easy Strength as “Victor”) will tell you what Kettlebell Simple & Sinister has done for him and can do for you:

I have been training consistently for the past 20 years: cross-country, swimming, and lacrosse in high school; running, rock climbing, weight training throughout college.  I have spent the past thirteen years serving on active duty in U.S. Special Operations.  I have completed more than a few arduous military training courses that required a blend of strength, endurance, and durability.  I do not have the luxury of being able to focus on only one or two aspects of physical fitness.  I have to be well balanced across the entire spectrum of fitness.  My workouts have to be efficient, and I do not want to risk getting injured in training, because I need to be totally healthy and injury-free in order to be effective in my job.  Pavel’s training principles have been a huge influence in my training, and kettlebell training has not only increased my fitness and durability, but it has allowed my train anywhere, anytime.  I have developed a personal training program that has been heavily influenced by the Program Minimum and Pavel and Dan John’s principles of “Easy Strength”.  This program has allowed me to develop a blend of strength and endurance in the most efficient way possible.  I have avoided major injuries, and I have made steady and consistent progress since high school. 

In my opinion, Pavel’s Kettlebell Simple & Sinister is an ideal program for a military professional.  The Swing and the Turkish Get-up are two exercises that produce maximal results in the most efficient way possible.  S&S will allow for safe and progressive increases in strength and conditioning and it can be done anywhere, with minimal equipment.  I have been training almost exclusively with the S&S principles for the past five years, and I can honestly say that it has been the foundation upon which I have built my operational and recreational fitness.  The S&S principles, combined with consistent and progressive training, have given me the strength to accomplish a broad range of athletic feats in addition to maintaining my operational fitness requirements.  I have been able to complete a 100-mile endurance run (with 23,000 feet of elevation gain/loss) in less than 25:00 hours and I have closed the Captains of Crush #3 gripper with my right hand (parallel set).  Pavel’s lessons in relaxation, tension, and safe biomechanical movement have been critical to my athletic success.

The clarity and simplicity of S&S make this one of Pavel’s finest programs.  I would recommend this program without hesitation to ANYONE in the military, or in jobs that require physical strength and durability. 

Repeat until strong.

Order your copy of Kettlebell Simple & Sinister

Paperback, Kindle, or Audio Book


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52 Responses to An excerpt from: Kettlebell Simple & Sinister

  1. kealen says:

    Hey just wondering if the 100 reps is meant to be spread out throughout the day in low rep sets or done as a single endurance set?

  2. jeremy strickland says:

    Hi Mr. Pavel. I have been using your Rite of Passage workout for several months. Lately I purchased Power to the People and S&S. I am having trouble blending them into a program for myself. I am 29, 5’11″, and 170lb. PLEASE HELP

  3. Patapong Aikwanich says:

    Pavel, I bought your book last month and just start the minimum program this week. It is a great program. However, I encounter a few problems and would be very appreciated if you can give me suggestion.

    I am a 43-year-old man with 90 kg weight and 1.72 m height. After I start the program I found out that the 24 kg swing is not the challenge. I used to swing a 16 kg at 30-40 rep per set and that demand a lot more the the 10 rep with 24 kg. I found that the 3 warm up exercise with the 16 kg took me a lot more effort than the swing with 24 kg. When I do the Pry Goblet squat, I heard the popping sounds from my knee when I pry. I feel a little bit discomfort in my knee after the exercise. Is it possible that I let my but go too deep in the squat?

    Finally, I only can do 1 get up on each side with 16 kg. It’s too heavy, my elbow cannot hold strait on the 2nd rep. I have 30 lb. bell and 12 kg bell. I can do the get up 5 rep with those bells.

    Please tell me what I should do with my program.

    • Pavel Tsatsouline says:

      Patapong, have your knee checked by a doctor; no squats until then.

      You are not supposed to do multiple reps in the get-ups—1 rep at at time; for 5 sets

  4. Pavel’s Book Simple and Sinister is probably the easiest and yet most profound book to read whether you are a beginner in strength and conditioning, fitness or kettlebelltraining The tidbits laid out apply to many modalities in training. The way he speaks in the book is truth anyone can understand and utilize immediately. His program design in the book is simple to follow and will deliver the results and then some.

    There is no mistaking or misinterpreting what is written on these pages of Simple and Sinister and that is why it is just as important for an advanced kettlebeller or kb instructor to read it as well. Familiarity can lead to bad form. In this book an advanced person can still be brought back to the nuances that matter in smart training, no matter what size bell you have in your hand.

  5. BlueDaffodil says:

    S&S was a very good read. The writing is very concise and easy to grasp for the lay(wo)man.Thank you.
    Is it acceptable to substitute double swings in the S&S program? I want to start the program right away, however my kettlebell park is small, consisting of one 8kg, one 12kg and two 16kg kettlebells. Currently I am able to do double swings with my two 16kg for 5-7 sets of 10 swings, making up the difference with 16kg one-arm swings for 3-5 x 10.

  6. Victor says:

    Coach Pavel, I just got my Kindle copy of S+S and I’m loving it! I do have a question regarding post training mobility, however. I noticed your caveats against lumbar extension after training, but find that I often require at least some element of flexion work in order to stave off soreness in the lumbar region and stiffness the next day. Do you recommend avoiding lumbar flexion only immediately after training, and if so, what kind of time frame should I wait before I attempt to mobilize the area after training? Thanks for a great resource! Looking forward to more great works from you!

  7. o'dell says:

    I just ordered this book along with a 40kg and 48kg kettlebell. I am preparing for my firefighter testing coming up in Febuary. Would it be wiser to perform this program or the R.O.P program for 7 weeks in preparation for my physical test?

    • P J says:

      If you are not doing any specific training according to the actual test, I’d choose S&S any day of the week. Although I would add some pullups and some of Dan Johns Batwings… Just my two cents…

  8. Grigory says:

    Thanks for another great book, Pavel, listened to it twice already and get some more understanding every time I do it.. I guess, I am going for S&S for the next couple of months–I am OK with 32 kg now, but have to move up.. :)

    Would appreciate your insight into one matter, namely, breathing:

    You say at some point that it is optimal to maintain 2:1 ratio of swings to number of breaths (i.e., 10 swings – 5 breaths), while we typically try to exhale explosively when going up in each swing. How can one get into such a breathing pattern, so that we exhale at each swing, but try to maintain 2:1 ratio…

    Thanks for your explanation!

    Greg, RKC (rather fresh though:) )

    • P J says:


      I’m not Zpavel, but I think he means a 2:1 ratio when it comes to active rest between sets. 10 swings – rest for the time it takes you to take 5 deep breaths. Breathing during the actual swings are still explosive…

  9. P J says:

    Pavel – got the book today. Excellent work, my friend, and completely in line with my own practice. TGU’s and Swings and some pullups – who needs more?

    Regarding the book, I especially liked the part about not trying to out tough pro tough guys. I didnt know John and I dont know any seals, but Ive had the pleasure of working with some very fine LEO special operators. And Ill put my money on each and everyone of them if it ever came down to a contest between them and a top notch croosfitter. Not because they are in better shape than the crossfitter – but because they possess tactical focus, perseverance and out of this world disciplin and willpower. When you have done time in the sharp end of the spear, theres not a single peacetime competition on the planet that gets near to that level of tension and stress.

    You cant “be ready for anything” – that kind of level doesnt exist. But you can do your TGU’s, swings, pullups and Super Joints, and then combine it with willpower aka the ability to suck it up – then you are as ready as youll ever get.

    Again – excellent work. Take care – Peter

  10. noe pacheco says:

    PAVEL why so many wed sites like international kettlebell fitness not part of strong first

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