A Minimalist Kettlebell Program for Busy Professionals

I often describe that my personal training career took a fortunate turn in the road when I attended my very first kettlebell level 1 certification back in 2009. I had already been training for a number of years, held several nationally accredited certifications, and was three years out of grad school with a master’s degree in exercise science. I felt like I had seen a few things and had a firm grasp on how to help people with solid principles. When I was taught how to leverage all that kettlebells had to offer, I found that a whole new world opened up which skyrocketed my personal training business and my own strength/conditioning results. When I attended Strong EnduranceTM in 2017, I felt like my career took another significant fork resulting in astounding results for me and my personal training clients. 

I have tried several programs from the Strong EnduranceTM manual for myself and led groups of clients and other StrongFirst instructors through a number of the protocols, but the protocol known as 044 is by far my favorite. Pavel references this program in his latest book, The Quick and the Dead. This snatch protocol, in my experience, is the absolute king in minimalist training.

I am drawn to minimalism training both personally and through necessity with the training most of my clientele require. I live in a busy metropolitan area and train working professionals who have demanding jobs, families, and hectic schedules. I have found that offering a minimalistic program where individuals can accomplish strength, vitality (energy improvement), and body composition change in one program, has been a solid answer for my business.

Below describes a typical 6-week minimalism program using the 044 protocol. This assumes my small group or individual client has a base level of strength. For this program, we use completion of multiple sets of ten one-arm swings with an appropriately sized kettlebell. They must also have competent snatch technique.

Most weeks I train twice a week, with two of the six weeks adding a third training day. 

Many coaches use dice to program series, but I prefer a progressive plan. The focus as always, is power development and constant improvement of skill acquisition. I change up both load and volume and many of my students respond well to progressing both of these variables. 

A series consists of 20 reps on one hand, comprised of either two sets of ten or four sets of five. So, in training session one of week one below, it’s just a total of 40 snatches, one 20-rep series left-handed, one series right. On training session two in week one, it’s 60 snatches, 20 left, 20 right, and then 20 left again. 

On training session two in week two, we introduce heavier snatching. Where strict adhesion to 044 would use the same bell size on days with either sets of 5 or sets of 10, I like using a heavier bell for some days when sets of five are on the menu. In this example, the series with sets of five would be five reps every 30 seconds for a total of four rounds completing a series of 20 reps. That makes a total of 60 reps with a heavier bell: left, right, left.

I prefer using ten reps over five for a couple reasons. The main reason is that using the five rep protocol demands a higher skill for people to get the most from the full power expression. Many students need the sets of ten to establish a work rhythm. Still, it’s important to introduce a heavier load and reducing the reps is a great way for students to begin to understand that they can do this. I only use the five rep scheme three times in the 6-week program. So just once every two weeks or so, and with a heavier bell to “force” the hips to really have to work.

As I mentioned, this is a minimalistic approach to programming. I train (as do many of my students) just 3 x week. I try to have these sessions last under 45 minutes from start to finish. After a brief warm-up, we focus on power first, then strength lifts twice a week, and then a steady state cardio day for a third day which I will detail in a follow-up article soon.

Given so many busy professionals are ruled by sedentary lives, I encourage my students to be as active as they can. Walks in the evening go a long way for total health. If I can see students twice a week consistently following the above program and they do the third day on their own (some get-ups, the 044 protocol when applicable, and some cardiovascular variation work), then by the end of a short six week period, they become drastically stronger, leaner, and healthier. 

Brian Wright
Brian is a StrongFirst Certified Team Leader, StrongFirst Elite. He lives in northern Virginia and works throughout the DC metro area. Workhorse Consulting and Training focuses on coaching for individuals, research study groups, StrongFirst Courses, and distance coaching. He can be reached at brianwrightpt@gmail.com

15 thoughts on “A Minimalist Kettlebell Program for Busy Professionals

  • Hey Brian, I’m curious if I’m reading/understanding this protocol correctly… so on session two of week one you would do 20 left, 20 right and 20 left? Do you do that on purpose in terms of having more volume on one side v the other?

  • The central minimalist idea from Pavel – a hinge and a push – or the “twofer” that is the KB snatch – is pure genius for so many people and goals. People can warmup and then go hard at each pattern for about 10 minutes and be out of the gym in 30 minutes – and become beasts in year or two. I think it is the best idea that has come out of the strength game in 20 years.

  • Thank you for your article. Can you expand on what your mentioned at end of article about doing “strength lifts 2x a week” and cardio on third day? Are these lifts(deadlifts, squats etc) being done on same day after your snatch routine is completed or on the other days? Same with the cardio, is that being done after your 3rd snatch session or on a day by itself?

  • Awesome! I’m also experimenting with a more minimalist approach. The snatch seems to have elements of both push and pull making it an ideal stand-alone kettlebell move. At the moment I’m favouring the clean and press…

    It is always fantastically gratifying to read experts’ opinions jiving with mine on the enormous importance of simple walking for overall health and wellness. To me, weights + walking makes for a strong, natural physique and even psyche.

    • Great stuff. The clean and press is always a great choice. There have been some great programs using that as well as the clean and push press/jerk. Keep up the smart training!

  • Great article!
    I have not taken the SE course however I love 044 as well. I sometimes use it for swings with a heavier bell which I like. But For the past several months I have been doing 033 twice a week (Tues & Thurs) and 044 w a heavy bell once a week (Sundays).

    The Q&D programs really helped me shave off time on the snatch test. I used to finish by the skin of my teeth previously using volume/density plans. But utilizing Q&D, now I finish w 15seconds to spare. Appreciate the write up.

    • Outstanding
      It’s amazing how the power training helps with the conditioning! Everything is easier when you’re stronger!!!

    • We typically do a 4 week program where we de-emphasize ballistics and focus more on SLDL, get ups, and cleans and presses and squats.
      I like the moving target program a great deal!
      We then will run this 044 back again
      That’s 16weeks!

  • Do you continue with OTM through all the series you do that day or do you add a minute or two of rest between series?

    • We follow the protocol where we rest the 2-3 mins between series. Depends on how the group dynamic goes, but this rest is important for maintaining power on the remaining sets.

    • Great question

      Swings series are on the hips, not on the arms, therefore it’s not a requirement to be “even”.

      Additionally, there’s value in doing 1-2 extra sets on the non-dominant side to help bridge the neurological coordination gap. Think of it as a little extra grip training

  • Two years ago after watching the physical decline of aging family members and recovering from a few injuries of my own I started using the Quick and the Dead. My wife and I are busy professionals with two young kids so it fit my lifestyle. Fast forward to Covid where I am laid off from my 15 year cozy office job to an on your feet all day manufacturing startup. I come home tired every day but my body is strong and able to handle everything life has thrown at me. I 100% attribute the success in this new career to the principle you guys teach here.

  • Thank you for the article. It is indeed works like miracle – 3xweek snatches, 2xweek TGU and maf run is the core of my training this year, and so will remain. Amazing choice.

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