Simple & Sinister
Learn how to use the extreme hand-held gym from the source—the man who started the kettlebell revolution.
- Simple & Sinister will prepare you for almost anything life could throw at you, from carrying a piano upstairs to holding your own in a street fight.
- Simple & Sinister will forge a fighter’s physique – because the form must follow the function.
- Simple & Sinister will give you the strength, the stamina, and the suppleness to play any sport recreationally – and play it well.
- If you are a serious athlete, Simple & Sinister will serve as a perfect foundation for your sport-specific training.
- If you are a serious lifter, Simple & Sinister will build your strength, rather than interfere with it.
Simple & Sinister will achieve all of the above while leaving you plenty of time and energy to do your duty, your job, practice your sport, and have a life.
For the last 38 years, I served in the United States Marine Corps as a Force Reconnaissance Marine and Marine Corps Special Operator. My job was fairly simple: hunt down and eliminate the enemies of our great nation. I spent over half of my career overseas; had 66 months in combat; 88 months in Command; and went right to the last day, commanding a Joint Special Operations Task Force in Northwest Africa.
A big part of that lifestyle is the ability to have a functional and direct fitness regimen that you can follow anywhere—whether on a base, a ship, a jungle, a mountain pass, or a combat zone. Like most in my profession, I have been open to trying anything that works. For me, since I met him in 2000, the answer has always been simple: Pavel Tsatsouline will put it in the most concise and practical terms. His latest book KETTLEBELL SIMPLE & SINISTER is his best to-date for men like me. Stripping away any fluff, he gives a no-nonsense, high-value program that brings outstanding results. I have known him for years; had him train all of my Force Reconnaissance Marines when I had Battalion command; and trust him implicitly. But as I poured over the pages of this new manual, I am constantly reminded of this incredibly capable man’s work ethic, ability to produce results, and genuine passion for giving the professional what he wants and needs to maintain high-end levels of performance.
Over the years, Pavel has stayed in touch with me while I was deployed; his advice has always been on-point to me— particularly when I was hit and recovering from an IED. When I retired in August 2013, the first e-mail I received was from him. Now, as I work in the private security sector and engage in my main passion of backcountry predator hunting, I realize that following what I have just seen in this book will serve me well on this next leg. It is as the title states: simple and sinister. All you need is a kettlebell and your mind, muscle, bone, blood, and the heart that pumps it.
What would I tell members of my Special Operation Brotherhood? What I have told them for years: buy this, do it and just grind it out and it will keep you alive. What would I tell anyone who wants to get fit, resilient, and better prepared for life’s challenges? Invest in this book, do the program, and experience a glimpse of what hard work and focused application can do for you.
Semper Fidelis and STRONGFIRST!
—George H. Bristol, Colonel, USMC (retired)
Pavel’s Kettlebell: Simple & Sinister is just that: An incredibly simple guide to creating sinister workouts that really work. Don’t mistake “simple” for “basic.” The instruction in this book is exactly what you would learn were you to train with Pavel himself. I know, because I have had in-person coaching from Pavel—who is recognized around the world as the master of kettlebell training—and am a student of his methods. Within Kettlebell: Simple & Sinister, you won’t find rambling text and obvious directions; Pavel cuts through all that, and instead details the “secret” cues you need to use the kettlebell safely, effectively, and with precision. If you use the kettlebell, you need this book. Kettlebell: Simple & Sinister is truly a difference maker.
—Adam Campbell, MS, CSCS, Men’s Health, Fitness Director
Pavel has done it again. He’s the best in the world at creating easy-to-read books that are both captivating and informative. In Kettlebell Simple & Sinister, Pavel and his team provide excellent pictures, instructions, graphs, quotes, science, and anecdotes so that you can master the art and skill of kettlebell training. I have many of Pavel’s books, and this is hands-down his highest quality publication so far. I’m confident that you’ll love it just as much as I do!
—Bret Contreras, author of Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy
I have just too many good things to say about Pavel’s new book. I downloaded it as an audio book, and have listened to it twice. Now I’m going to go back and thumb through the pages because I want to see his photographs and explanations.
If you’re already a fan of kettlebells, if you’re a fan of strength culture, in Simple & Sinister you will hear what you’ve heard before… in a refreshing, new and simplified way to reassure you that you’re already on the right path.
If you’re new to kettlebells, there isn’t a better starting point than Pavel’s. Unbelievably simple, yet the workouts and work that can be derived from this is absolutely sinister. It’s a concise read, with so many pearls. I’m on my second pass through and I will definitely do a third.
My current workout incorporates kettlebells… Unlike lifting a dumbbell, which keeps your center of gravity fixed, kettlebells incorporate movements that throw off your center of gravity and use your core muscles to keep you balanced. The end result is a dynamic, whole-body exercise routine that incorporates cardiovascular, resistance, and range-of-motion training into one workout. Pavel Tsatsouline has written Kettlebell Simple and Sinister, which is likely the best book on this topic.
—Dr. Joseph Mercola
I’ll be honest—when kettlebells first arrived on the scene here in the USA I was already a successful trainer with my own gym. I really didn’t want them to be that effective a tool, as it required rewriting a lot of our programs and protocols. But kettlebells cannot be ignored. They are too effective and now our programs reflect that. We have more kettlebells than we have dumbbells or barbells now!
…Pavel’s latest work Kettlebell Simple & Sinister meets [the need for programming] head on covering not only the theory behind kettlebell training, but narrowing the programming down for you to two simple exercises and progressions, that require only a couple of kettlebells. The coolest part to me though, was that it features Pavel’s latest coaching cues and teaching drills. I’m always fascinated to witness great coaches in action and how they actually teach. Without attending a live workshop or hiring Pavel personally, this book is the closest thing to learning all the nuances that separate a master coach from the masses. Great investment for coaches and practitioners alike.
Pavel has done it again! In Kettlebell Simple & Sinister you get the secrets that the experts of all experts in this area has uncovered… here you have it all in a highly functional package that without a doubt will take you to the next level!
—Timothy DiFrancesco, Head Strength & Conditioning Coach, Los Angeles Lakers
Kettlebells were not featured in my musclebuilding routines years ago. If I had this snappy book in my hands at the time, my training would have been different. There’s tough joy in those kettlebells, and Pavel and his sturdy friends clearly prove it.
—Dave Draper, Mr. America, Mr. World, Mr. Universe
Sinister and fantastic.
—Prof. Stuart McGill
No matter how many times I have read your material, I still learn new things with every book. Thanks!
—Peter Park, strength coach for Kelly Slater and Lakey Peterson (surfing), Giancarlo Stanton and Jason Kubel (baseball), Xavier Henry, Derek Fisher and Greivis Vasquez (basketball), Chad Reed (motocross), Lance Armstrog (cycling)
A new classic by Pavel. This book is Pavel at his best. Pavel’s genius is making the complex simple, and, as he did in his classic first books that inspired and motivated us all to become better men he does again in Simple & Sinister.
The book is all meat and no potatoes. Jammed packed with the great nuggets of knowledge he is famous, for I can read this book over and over again and get something deeper out of it each time.
Specific, to the point instructions of what TO do and what NOT to do leave no question about how to institute this program and what it can do for you and why. A great starting point for the beginner as well as the intermediate or advanced practitioner who wants to really dial in his game.
As usual, Pavel is unafraid to break new ground and refine and recraft his basic material; stripping it down to its bare essentials. Only what really works and counts is carried forward.
I’ve been waiting for this book for more than a few years and it doesn’t disappoint. I go to it regularly just to get fired up for a workout or to keep my sites on “keeping the goal the goal”, as Dan John says.
It brings me back to the beginnings of my kettlebell journey while at the same time sharpening my focus up for the great road ahead, all with this simple cannonball with a handle and some serious smart principles.
—Mark Reifkind, Master SFG
Kettlebell Simple & Sinister is precision strength training at its best. Pavel clearly outlines how to build full body strength and mettle without any wasted time or energy. No one coalesces experience, science and top-notch writing better than Pavel, and this terrific book is proof.
—Chad Waterbury, M.S., author of Huge in a Hurry
I’ve been very pleased with S&S. I’ve been doing it for two straight weeks now, and have only taken Sundays off. Been using my 24kg for both the swings and get-ups and here is what I’ve noticed as benefits:
- Grip has improved tremendously.
- Everything is much crisper with my technique. Doing swings daily hasn’t been in my routine until S&S but I think this is just what the evil russian doctor ordered.
- My get-ups have gotten progressively easier and my shoulders feel like solid granite rocks now.
- Weird one to mention but… my glutes are much tighter now.
…More results—5 weeks into S&S:
- Working the 28kg into my swings and getups at 60-80% of the time. 24kg is getting pretty light these days! (Should I just work in the 32kg now?)
- Muscle has definitely built up in my shoulders and back….butt too. Definition is noticed by not only myself but others. While slight, I can for sure feel the “fighter” type strength this program brings.
- Overall GPP is vastly improved. I can do more with less gas in the tank.
Again, still VERY pleased with this program so far. It’s like medicine for the soul swinging those hunks of iron each day.
Simple & Sinister Delivers Results
…The results were impressive. I improved my cross-country ski race time in biathlon competition by 17% in the 10km sprint and 25% in the 12.5km pursuit in two months. The only other training I did was running and I could really feel the extra power in my stride from the kettlebell.
—Daniel Markert, military officer, Silicon Valley
This is a fabulous book… Following this program alone, I went from doing a TGU with a 16kg to doing one with a 24kg. As a 120lb. woman, I am very happy with those results! I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to get stronger and has minimum time to work at it.
—Ashley Maseda, SFG, San Diego, CA
I am also enjoying the program. I have been using 24 and 28kg bells, purposely going light with slow progression. I have a quick WTH story to share. I have only taken 1 day off since starting (which amazes me now that I think about it). That day was a bad day and late that night I grabbed the kettlebell and did a 5min press workout (54321 method) because I felt guilty for not working out. 28kg x 5, 32kgx 4, 36kg x 3, 40kg x 2. 44kg is my half bodyweight. I have pressed it before for 1 shaky rep each arm 3 times in the past. When I went to do my rep with 44kg, it felt easy (felt like 36kg). So I cranked out 4 reps with each arm. I know I’m capable of pressing that Beast, too bad I don’t have one.
Simple and Incredibly Effective
My deadlift has increased 60 pounds in 6 weeks (from 338 to 395)…. without training the deadlift! Traps, lats, and trunk musculature also noticeably developed during this time… Note that I had been working kettlebell swings and TGU’s weekly for a year with moderate-heavy weight and low reps prior to starting this program.
I am in my fourth week, and have noticed much improvement in my work capacity. I managed to swing my 32 for 100 reps without setting the bell down last Saturday. Never have been able to do that before. Composition-wise… have been able to maintain my “figure” despite over indulging during the holidays. I should have put a tape on my forearms, as they seem to have grown significantly. =)
Moving up to the 32kg. I’ve lost about 10lbs so far. Now that I “recharge” instead of “working out” I don’t unthinkingly load up my plate after exercise.
Certainly got more dense around the back and shoulders.
I’m feeling more solid in the back and shoulders too.
The effects of the previous day’s efforts seem to melt away some time in the afternoon and I feel fresh and ready to go again in the evening.
I’m in my 6th week. Using the 24k for both get-ups and swings. Leaning out pretty well, I can see pretty good definition of abs, seratus and obliques. Everything from neck to calves is noticeably denser and thicker. I’ve put a couple pounds on the scale while still leaning out, I’m at 185 pounds on a 5’6″ frame and feel solid and strong. I love this program, you guys are great, keep up all the strong practice!
6 weeks of S&S
I was feeling good today so I decided to do a little C+P test after my warm-up. I bought my 32 back in November, and before I started S&S I could get 1 press with my left and 3 with my right. Today I got 4 C+P on the left side and 6 on the right! In case anyone wasn’t sure yet, this system works.
…S&S definitely builds the promised fighter physique, my legs and chest feel a little smaller than when I began, but my torso and forearms seem to be knotted with muscle. You won’t get massive quads and giant “guns,” but you will develop the Spartan look. I made no real changes to my diet but I have observed weight loss of a couple pounds. This coincided with the holiday season, so if anything I ate worse and drank much more than I usually do. Despite this my roommates have noted that I look leaner, and my family remarked upon the definition and veins evident in my forearms.
…Simply put, Simple & Sinister is a terrific General Physical Preparedness program. Joe Defranco refers to the feet, core and hands as the “strength infrastructure.” The idea is that any athletic movement requires power transfer from the legs (through the feet), through the core, and into the hands. If all an athlete does is focus on those elements, he will be in a good spot. You would be hard pressed to find two exercises that better hit those three qualities than the swing and the get-up. My grip is out of control and my hips feel quick and strong. S&S may not have directly helped me achieve my goals, but it put me in a place where I can now attack them. If you can complete the program with the 32 you are in a good place. If you complete it with the 48 you are ready for anything. (Authors note: I am in no way affiliated with StrongFirst and have nothing at all to gain from my review. I just happen to have had some awesome results from one of their kick-ass products.)
I have been doing S&S pretty much as written (plus one set of pullups) for about six weeks. I am working the 32kg right now. Results so far: I weigh the same but am clearly leaner and carrying a bit more muscle. The conditioning has carried over very well to sparring, both stand-up and rolling (Muay Thai and BJJ), and some of the younger guys (I’m 52) have started saying things like, “Man, you’re strong as hell.”
Simple + Effective + Repeatable = Results! This program is great for beginner or advanced levels. You will see results as long as you follow the program. It’s so simple that many people will “add this or that” and then the program is not really the program anymore. I randomly pressed a 44kg kettlebell 5 times on each side AFTER an intense training session. I had previously pressed the same bell 2 or maybe a sloppy 3 reps while fresh. Keep in mind that I didn’t practice pressing—this was simply a result of heavy get-ups.
I just wanted to say a massive thank you for your Simple & Sinister book. I have been training with kettlebells for 3 years now and this is by far and away the best program I have ever followed. The results really translate into everyday life and I am really noticing differences in everything from getting out of a chair to playing with my kids. No more soreness or tightness or feeling bulky and awkward either. Real results for real functional strength. I’m 43 and I feel 20 years younger after following this program for only 6 weeks.
Well, folks, I am officially 1/2 “simple”… I’ve noticed a lot of changes in my body: my torso is a lot denser and thicker, abs are a lot more visible and feel like a brick wall. My back is stronger than it’s ever been, neck and shoulders too, and lats are also much stronger and bigger.
I’ve been doing S&S for about two months. Avoided the Christmas gut spread… on Friday I set new PRs for my 5km run and pullup ladders. Oh, and the stretches and breathing leave me feeling like a superman.
Hit 100 one-arm swings with 48kg in 5 min 2 weeks ago. TGU 40kg 10 reps in 16:48. Every practice the TGU time goes down without frantically rushing, every practice some swing parameter (volume, density, weightt) goes up. Barbell military press up 10 pounds, deadlift is floating up. TGU programming is a masterstroke. Attaining the “Sinister” level as written is going to turn me into an Android.
My girlfriend followed S&S for 2 months 5-6 days a week… Without pulling a single deadlift for 2 months she increased her 3RM by 25lbs.
Started with 32kg and met the goals after just 4 sessions; moved up to 40kg and the get-ups were no issue but the swings were humbling. Ultimately, got my first 48kg get-up after 10-12 S&S sessions. Was completely comfortable at my SFG re-cert 3 weeks ago—an easy snatch test, strength to spare in my presses, no ripped skin all weekend, and I have never felt more mobile and conditioned for anything. Even set a big back squat PR without much training!
10 get-ups in 10mins with the 32 this morning and 5min 10×10 two-handed swings… I’ve noticed moving from the 24 to the 32 has added a lot more dense muscle and my grip strength has rocketed.
Never thought I would be so excited to refer to myself as “simple”. 4:48 for the swings and 9:15 for the get-ups with the 32kg. I feel better overall. My body moves better and feels more durable. My pants are loose in the waist and my shirts are tighter in the shoulder/chest area. The changes really started becoming noticeable when I moved up to the 32. Now to become sinister.
I have found [Simple & Sinister] to be one of the best treatments of strength development I have read. The book never deviates from its intent and the writing and pictures are characteristically engaging, witty and inspiring.
I found this especially useful for the “high milage frame” (lot of years wrestling and MMA). The book delivers what it promises. I have never manifested strength to this degree this quickly as is evidenced by my sparring/takedowns and even X-rays of my spine and its improved alignment. My hips have finally “opened” and my lower back health feels great for the first time in a long time.
For selfish and aesthetic gains, my frame has added a lot of quality muscle as well, going from 200 up to 210 with no change in body fat. This was a pleasing “side effect”
The goals, while seemingly far out at first, become very obtainable if the user remains honest to the program. I have emphatically recommended this book to my friends and training partners and they also are reaping its benefits.
I had entered a 90-day competition and was looking for an exercise program that was the most effective in terms of results and efficient in terms of time. I had done much research and knew kettlebells were the way to go and that Pavel was the guy for kettlebells. I had a friend who suggested Simple & Sinister since I was starting kettlebells for the first time. I did exactly what it said along with a reasonable diet, and I lost 73lbs. in 90 days!!! I also increased in strength by 100%: began with a 35lb. kettlebell and ended with 70lbs.
Pavel’s latest book has been a game changer for an old paratrooper. I have always had a lot of trouble sticking with a program for any length of time. Especially without scrutinizing and exploiting any grey areas where I could modify the programming to suit my tastes. S&S is just the sort of “do this” program I needed to stay focused and get results. I now move the 32kg bell around with ease.
The carryover to my job has been extraordinary. I am now able to road march faster than I did in my twenties, and with more weight. I’ve also noticed a distinct improvement in my flexibility and movement patterns. My 2-mile APFT run time has also stayed consistently at a 13:20. Despite the fact that I have cut out all of the long slow runs that the Army is so fond of.
Despite the rigors of airborne ops and deployment related injuries I feel great and have many years left. Between S&S and The Naked Warrior I am in the best shape of my life. Scoring a 300 on the APFT is now my new normal. Thanks Pavel, you’ve given me a new lease on life.
Great program for women! I ramped it up about it about 5 months ago and have been dialing in on the S&S program. Serious results! I’m consistently getting stronger and my body fat % keeps going down. This program allows you to focus on form and power without a lot of mixing up and endless variety that other programs seem to thrive on these days. I especially like how women are not a “by the way this can apply to you too” note. Rather, the entire book applies EQUALLY to women and men, with differences noted as applicable.
—Anna Cannington, Ocean Springs, MS, USA
This is a great book and an excellent workout! I can’t recommend this book enough. I am 46. I was a soldier and a high school football player. I love beer and pizza. Needless to say, I let myself go over the years. I needed to lose weight and change things for my own health. In August, I accomplished the “Simple” goal. My goal is to accomplish the “Sinister” goal. I feel great after working out with the S&S. I have lost weight and I am much STRONGER!
Buy this book. If you are new to kettlebells, there is no better introduction. If you are not new to them, but like me, have had trouble finishing programs then this is THE book for you. The instructions are crystal clear. The programming is dead on. The results are obvious after one week. I did exactly what the book said for 2 months and obtained the “Simple” standard. I’m 50 this year and have never been stronger in my life. Buy this book. Do this.
Two years ago I was 200lbs., at only 5 foot 7 and 30% body fat. I had been coming off of a long hiatus from my bodybuilding days. I found kettlebells and Pavel and it changed my life. I started doing the [old] PM program and cleaned up my diet drastically. After about 5 months of PM and the diet change I had lost about 20lbs. and went down to 23% BF and felt great. Unfortunately, old [bodybuilding] injuries had come to light… I had to get surgery and take 3 to 4 months off training completely and slowly build my core back up. By this time Simple & Sinister had come out and I read the book extensively. I started back on my journey not losing sight of my goal, which now was to become sinisterly strong.
I began with the 16kg bell and after some soreness from the surgery and months of persistence I began feeling strong again. I worked my way up to where I am now easily doing 5 get ups on both sides and 100 one arm swings with the 40kg kettlebell. I now weigh 150lbs. and have 8% BF. I feel amazing…
If you want to get stronger and fitter, GET THIS BOOK! Follow what it says exactly, clean up your nutrition, and watch yourself transform.
I started in January carrying 245lbs. on my 5’6″ frame. Following the Simple & Sinister program and eating just halfway smart, I have dropped over 50lbs., weighing in this morning at 193. Where I used to be soft and mushy, I am now soft (still have some fat to lose) but with a layer of hard steel underneath. Everything—legs, core, shoulders, arms, etc.—all of it is harder and stronger. I have gone from a 40-inch waist pant size, down to a 34. My shirts are looser across my midsection, but tighter in the shoulders and arms. At 42 years old, I am feeling better and moving better than when I was 22!
—Carlton W. Dingler
I first read Simple & Sinister several months ago. I was training for the SFG Level One certification and thought it would be a good reference guide for my training and preparation. Prior to the cert in April, I read the book in its entirety twice and have read several sections many times over. Even though I had been training with kettlebells seriously for several months, the clear and concise instruction was extremely helpful.
With the certification behind me, I once again revisited Simple & Sinister. It became very clear while earning my Level One that the swing and get-up are the foundation of kettlebell exercises, Yes there are many more exercises and complexes, but all one really needs is to explore and dive deep into the swing and get-up. I decided this would be my post-cert approach for as many months as it takes to get really strong.
Eight weeks in I have achieved the “simple” goal of 10/10 one-arm swings with the 24 kg kettlebell in under five minutes and 5/5 getups with the 16kg kettlebell in under 10 minutes. Simple—yes, easy—no. The funny thing, is I don’t want to stop. Even though I have been doing essentially the same practice for eight weeks, I know I’m scratching the surface of where this program will take me. I will achieve the “sinister” goals!
There is a lot of complicated programming out there. You don’t need it. Buy this book, learn these exercises and see how strong you can get.
Simple & Sinister, the book, is well written and presents the material in a clear, concise and lively manner. As a 20-year veteran of the marital arts, I am someone used to breaking down movements to their finest points and understand the true power in any movement is in the details and cues. I am often frustrated by the typical exercise books that show the start and end position and say, do this. By contrast, Pavel’s teaching style is refreshing. His text is both Spartan and comprehensive, and goes into enough detail to allow the reader to really understand the techniques.
Simple & Sinister, the workout, just plain works. The program is short and refreshing but is densely packed with hard work. I found I could squeeze it in different parts of the day and not miss a beat. Once you get into it, you can motor through it in less than 25 minutes, day-in, day-out. I also found that it did not spike my appetite like more aggressive programs often do, so my weight stayed where I wanted it to be without feeling hungry or having to worrying about my consumption.
My personal experience: I am a 40-year-old desk jockey who has been doing various forms of resistance training for the past 10 years or so with limited results, and kettlebells for about a six months previous to Simple & Sinister. I did Simple & Sinister for 8 weeks. I started with a 20kg for all movements and met the standard of 5 min for the swings and 10 minute for the get-ups, but could only perform a couple of sets with the 24kg. By the end of the 8 weeks, the 24kg seemed like a toy, and I was mixing in a healthy amount of swings and get-ups with the 32kg, well on my way to the “Simple” goal. I put on some muscle, especially my back, and felt a lot more solid through the mid-section, especially when I started working with the 32kg. To me and others who like variety, it is a great training plan that helped me plug some gaps in my tension and strength and was a nice break from more aggressive training programs. One of the benefits of this plan for variety junkies is that you can not screw this up or mask lack of progress in variety, because there is none, the results just come. I plan to revisit this training program from time to time for 8-12 week training blocks to continue to make progress.
My wife is 6 months in on the program. She started swinging the 8kg and is now is using the 16kg, get-ups went from 4kg to 12kg. She is a mom, career woman, runner, martial artist and this is the first strength program that she has been able to plug into, stick with in a very long time. The convenience of such and effective workout in your living room has got her hooked.
A former rugby player, I was conditioned to participate in a, now with hindsight, rigid lifting program. Over the past two years I have been converting my workouts over to kettlebells, primarily in the form of double front squats, deadlifts, C&P’s, TGUs, etc. However, I was always nervous to stray away from traditional methods of lifting more out of habit than anything else. Well, 3 weeks ago I jumped into S&S with a 24kg bell and I can’t believe the results already. I just purchased a 28kg bell this morning, as the 24kg bell feels as light as the 16kg bell. I have noticed an increase in my double front squats and C&P’s, never mind the snatches, on my free workout days (guess I will never fully break the habit of slightly doing more than I should). I have been doing S&S four times a week, one day of a free workout, and then Uechi Ryu Karate mixed in as well. I truly haven’t felt better, stronger, or more excited to work out then I do now. Old rugby injuries, especially in the shoulders, lower back, and wrists, have improved immensely with the TGU. Great eye opener for a creature of habit like myself.