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Kettlebell "I Achieved S & S Simple! Here's My Story"

Steve Freides

Senior Certified Instructor Emeritus
Elite Certified Instructor
If you've achieved the Simple goal from Pavel's, "Kettlebell: Simple & Sinister," we loved to hear about it! We'll keep this thread visible near the top of the Kettlebell forum.

Please tell us a little about yourself, when you started and when you achieved Simple - and whatever else you like because this is your story in your words.

And please be kind enough to post a review of S&S briefly describing your experience with the program.

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42 year-old bloke. I've been big all my life but by two years ago I was up at 140 kg, at 1.85 m not a good place to be at all.

Six months of dieting, jogging and going to the gym got me to 125 kg and left me realising: 1) I prefer my own company when exercising 2) I cannot stand waiting for resistance training machines 3) I can't plan or log a workout.

Internet research led me to kettlebells by Easter 2014 and 'Enter the Kettlebell' - I still think this is the clearest description of remedial exercises for learning the swing.

I bought a 12 kg kettlebell initially (no confidence, should have started heavier) and set to work learning how to swing and get-up. I bought S+S and the simple everyday programme really clicked for me and I began doing it by the book at least 5 nights a week in my garden or garage. The jump from 16 to 24 kg was a massive shock and I scared myself once or twice with the get-ups. I went from 24 kg to 32 kg via 28 kg as a result.

Springtime this year I got interested in the writings of Phil Maffetone (someone in this forum called him the godfather of easy-running so I looked him up) and gradually tried to turn my S+S practice into a more aerobic event by using a heart rate monitor and longer rests. I still don't know if this helps at all with strength development but I do feel very good working like this. End of July 2015 I tested myself and ignored heart rate and nailed the simple goals every night of a week then took a two week holiday.

Bodyweight is currently at 102 kg with a resting heart rate of 48-50. On a good day I feel indestructible, and most days are good - swings, get-ups and not eating crap has completely transformed my life, although there is clearly some way to go. Only regret is that I should have done it 20 years ago!

I've switched to the Rite of Passage from ETK now as my press is weak (20 kg) and I have a long term goal of an unassisted pull-up (currently doing band assisted with the RoP). I am unsure yet if I will stay on this programme to a half body weight press - it feels frankly impossible to me and so far snatches are beating my hands up. But I will progress to ladders with 32 kg and see how I feel. I will come back to S+S and try to achieve the sinister goals.

Apologies for the long post but S+S is a great programme and I feel passionately about it (and yes, I have reviewed it on Amazon UK). This is also a great forum and as a KB novice I appreciate the advice (and attitude) of the community.
Awesome! I'm on the journey right now and it's encouraging to hear from those who got there from all sorts of starting points.

A similar story to yours (weight wise) but still pretty far short of the simple goal.

Could you elaborate on how you apply the Maffetone methods and your heart rate monitor in your swing sessions? I want to do the same but finding staying below the aerobic heart rate quite a challenge requiring backing off the kettlebell weight quite a bit. I think at my age (66) the calculated aerobic heart rate
Sorry, hit the wrong button. (I-pad challenged).

At anybrate at my age (66) I suspect the Maffetone aerobic heart rate might be underestimated. Using 70% of heart rate reseve seems to make more sense and is about 10 beats higher.


I try and do my 10 sets of 10 swings keeping the heart rate spike below 138 bpm (180-42=138 bpm). I can do this by resting down to HR 110 initially (sets 1-5 or so) - this is probably every other minute on the minute. However I need to drop to HR 95-100 eventually (sets 5-10) this gives me the headroom I need. The rest periods do get longer as the sets go on and it is still very much right at my limit. If I had to work to a much lower heart rate I would either switch to 20 sets of 5 swings or realistically I would just ignore heart rate and go again when I felt really fresh. I also just breathe through my nose throughout the session which keeps you in check as well.

As I said I am not sure I get much extra out of it other than feeling good. When I go flat out I feel it the next day, when I at least try and stay aerobic I definitely feel recharged rather than worked out. I rarely feel like I am dragging my a#@ through a session and I never have to drop down a bell size due to fatigue.

Al Ciampa would be a good guy to ask on this forum, he will have experience from training a much wider group of people.

I mainly use Maffetone's formula as a guide for when I do any endurance work (jogging or rowing) I like the philosophy on training for health (relevant to me) rather than just athletic endeavour (irrelelvant in my case, I don't aim to compete).


I did it again! "Fat Finger Syndrome"

Not feeling exhausted is exactly what I am looking for.

I'll contact Al. I had been considering that anyway.

Thanks - Jim
The story of my simpleandsinistercraziness….

Got the kindle edition in December 2013, read it, and once more, eventually starting 01.02.2014.

I noted in my log :
- swing 40kg – 10r x 10s (1hand) 6.oomin
- 1.30min rest
- get up 40kg – 1r x 10s 9.30min

It seems that I and my ego (which has expectations of some kind regarding weights, times…) already started somewhere between simple and sinister. To “be sinister” is reachable with more or less short period of time, I and my ego thought. So my sessions in the first year of s&s where in the 40k – 50k realm most of the time. 02/21/15 I had 41 sessions under my belt. I must admit, the repetitive character of s&s fits my simple mind to get single minded.

As much as I like to train, I like to read about training. I read Pavel’s masterpiece of the art of strength and conditioning again, and got focus on the breathing chapter of the book. Secrets of breath Mastery - When you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace –

I resumed s&s end of May and tried to incorporate the cues, especially to exhale slowly and fully. All of a sudden not the swings were that hard anymore, but resting, paradoxically. It really got awful. My urge to suck air when I only expired a little fraction of breath was almost unbearable. I got my lesson instantly: to be “simple” not to mention “sinister” is a process, which demands attention and awareness, which can only be attained with constant and longtime of diligent practice. My first swing session in this manner with 40k took me 21.30min.

I kept practicing and I got slowly “better at resting”. Breath mastery takes a very long way and I know I can’t force it. Try to force yourself to relax. It won’t happen.

By the end of 2014 I used the 32kg more frequently and wanted to “own” that weight and misinterpreted Pavel and did the craziness to perform the simple standards 5 to 6 times a week in Jan/Feb 2015 for about four weeks. I managed that with 4-7 breaths in between swing sets with burning glutes. By that time I made use of my old Polar hr monitor. I think that was the time were so many useful hints and cues about the different energy system came on the forum.

Then in February I was on Pavel’s from simple to sinister program for eight weeks and got the Maffetone formula on my radar. High volume of hardstyle swings with attention to my breathing while resting, without burning glutes.

Last week I finished the SF protocol520 with good progress and new insights, and resumed s&s one more time last Saturday. Today I finished my 206th session I plan to use the beast for the next times. Additionally I got a Polar H7 bluetooth belt, which enables me to keep an eye on my heart rate via my cell phone easily while swinging, getting up and resting. High tech meets low tech here, and I want to see what I get out of it to let my hr to go down below 100bpms to start a new set. The last three sessions (with warm up) took me 45 – 55min.

What really helped and still helps me to refine my knowledge and practice are all the great contributions and informations on this great forum. The big landscape is getting clearer through all the fog.

When I started the simpleandsinister journey it was a program of swings and get ups, now it is a program of swings, get ups and relaxation (rest). I have a long way to go, and I know it is worth each and every session. It is like putting a nice stone on a thread, that makes a wonderful chain over time...
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Karl, great transformation you are on. My practice seems to resemble yours. I let my hr drop below 100bpm. Half an hour ago I finished my session 47k for swings (4sets 2handed, 6s 1handed) 50k with the get ups. The swing and get up session took 43,10min 122avg/147max. And now, even the weights were heavy I feel recharged (it was not always so), because I left something in the tank. Time will show me if it works. Therefore I "only" have to be consistent By now I have some points of reference for myself and I am my own competition in this regard.

I think in the last year there was much clarification regarding simple and sinister. Practice perfect form, explosiveness with swings, smoothness in get ups, attentiveness to breathing and let the process happen. Patiently. Consistently. Faithfully. Now I can practice with all the accumulated experience and knowledge by the many tinkerer (and myself) here on the board. It is constantly developing. This is a very nice thing.

What I like about Simple and Sinister is that it must sound like heresy in the eyes of common fitness "knowledge". "Never train the same movements two days in a row" "You need constantly change the exercise" "You need a high amount of different exercises" "You need to rest at least 48h" "You need to do cardio""You need to feel the burn""You need a pre workout booster" "You need this and that"....
Pavel's and SF work is born out of experience from great tinkerers in the iron game, past and present, who knew what worked, and I can, as the saying goes "sit on the shoulders of giants" cool is that?

A similar story to yours (weight wise) but still pretty far short of the simple goal.

Could you elaborate on how you apply the Maffetone methods and your heart rate monitor in your swing sessions? I want to do the same but finding staying below the aerobic heart rate quite a challenge requiring backing off the kettlebell weight quite a bit. I think at my age (66) the calculated aerobic heart rate

You will need to cut back on weight and increase rest at first, but as you gain fitness, you will see much improvement even under your target HR. Also, I leaning towards exceeding the unadjusted MAF HR by 5-10BPM, as long you recover after the set. 5BPM would work in the beginning of the session, and 10BPM would work out past the 30min mark. All in all, I instruct to learn how your body's sensations correlate to your different HR values, and use this orchestra of metrics to guide your work & recovery sets.
achieved Simple Standards Feb 2015-here's my story:

summary (if you dont want to read the War and Peace version below) achieved Simple Standards after 1 year of focused training in S&S, with a good fundamental base of swings and TGUs for 2 years leading up to my S&S training.

general bio:
50yrs old, weight fluctuates between 190lbs-210lbs, height 5'6", played college sports at 175lbs, so i could afford to lose 15 to 30lbs. diet fluctuates between Warrior to EEUS (eat everything under the sun) lately i have been on the latter with great success though it's tough to consume so much. have a desk job where i stare at a computer 10hours/day aka death sentence, train in the morning, 530am, before slogging into work, train 5-7days per week.

was a barbell junkie/gym rat in HS, college and through my early thirties until family life and work absorbed all of my time and i made the unconscious choice of taking 10 years off from training. my barbell days consisted mostly of bodybuilding type routines though i did spend a good amount of time on presses, deadlifts, squats and cleans - enough to get decent numbers for a clean amateur in a consistently overtrained state - bench 365, dead 520, squat 475.

Started back into exercise in early forties, did a lot of trail running, mountain biking and open water swimming. started to lift things in the woods; logs, rocks, until i yanked my quadratus trying to pull a big root from the ground - stopped just about everything - worked with PT, got back to being able to walk without too much pain.

in Nov 2011 read Enter the Kettlebell and started working with kettlebells. Started with 24kg and program minimum, spent a year working on technique with 2H swings and TGU, intrigued by the 48kg TGU hurdle, so i made that my goal.

Bought a 32kg at beginning of 2013 and through out 2013 did the PM with the 32 and also did the 10,000 swing challenge, all 2H w the 24 and i did my own made up TGU challenge performing 500 TGUs in a month with the 32, always looking to improve technique in both lifts.

At end of 2013/beginning of 2014 i read S&S and started using the new minimum routine in S&S. i had never performed any single hand swings, so it took a while getting use to, back down to the 24. found transitioning to 1H swings with the 32kg to be very difficult, so i bought a 40kg in August 2014 and started to mix in 2H swings with the 40kg alongside my 1H swings with 24kg. Also started using the 40kg for TGU every other session. Within a month of this the 32kg 1H swings became manageable. it took a couple more months until about December of 2014 before i could even complete all of my swing sets with the 32kg, wasnt watching time, but it took roughly 10 minutes to complete 100 1H swings w the 32kg at this point.

during most of 2013 and still today i have been dealing with numbness and pain in the left shoulder and down the arm, working on trigger points in the scap area has helped calm the pain and discomfort for chunks of time, but at end of 2014 i made a concerted effort to work with a PT to fix it, got very close to 100% by Jan 2015 and the swings just fell right into place. felt very good with the 1H swings with the 32kg and started working in 1H 40kg swings. Within 2 weeks of adding the 40kg swings the Simple Standard was achieved.

Once the Standard was achieved i worked on moving into the 40kg for everything - TGUs have always been easier for me than 1H swings, so i had been doing 40kg TGUs very consistently and basically daily since receiving that bell. As i was working through the 40kg in the Summer of 2015 i became intrigued with KB Strong, mind you my goal is still to perform TGUs, 5 per side with the 48kg, but i dont have a 48kg bell and i do have two 24kg bells, so i began a modified KB Strong/S&S routine which i am working on today.

For the first two weeks i used the Simple Standard as my warm up to my modified KB Strong routine, so i would do 100 1H swings w the 32kg in 5mins and 32kg TGUs 5 per side, which takes about 7:45mins, then i would do Dbl C&Ps with the 24kgs for 10 sets of 3. Goal here was getting use to the Dbl C&P movement. This worked great for 2 weeks, then i started feeling some elbow issues coming on, so i dialed everything back and at the same time got involved in some home projects which needed to be completed before the winter months hit us in the NorthEast - fixing the cement foundation of the steps leading up to my house and then bricking them over. fixing the steps took 4 full days (Sat/Sun, Sat/Sun) of mixing cement and laying cinder block (im a complete amateur and it was bloody hot out) and i trained only 2 days/wk during the two weeks it took to complete. then took a vacation on beach, didnt touch a bell, but did morning workouts on the beach, sprints, broad jumps, slow burpees, planks, sun salutes. got back from beach and started up again with daily practice of sets of 10 1H swings per side with the 32kg, 5 TGUs per side with the 40kg and 3 sets of 5 Dbl C&Ps with the 24kgs did that for 2 weeks last wk of Aug, first week of Sept, then started to lay bricks over the newly fixed steps. this work is tough for me, so i trained only 2 to 3 days per week the past 3 weeks and did mostly TGUs with occasional sets of swings. now i get back to my swings/TGUs/Dbl C&Ps routine until i decide to purchase the 48kg bell (soon) and meet my TGU goal - it's been a great ride!!!
Awesome topic!

I started the Simple and Sinister program last year. It was a great program to do during ski season. We ski each weekend and it's nice to have a training program that leaves something in the tank for your 'job, duty or sport.' (as Pavel would say). Found it worked best to do S&S Mon-Thu, take Fri off, ski Sat & sometimes Sun. If I had anything left over on Sat, I'd do some light get-ups (practice).

Results were impressive. Got / stayed strong. Felt / looked great. Most importantly, I could finally ski 3 days in a row (w/ bumps even) and not have a sore back. This is a first for me.

As the weather shifted, my focus shifted to getting ready for hunting season, backcountry / high altitude hunting specifically. Incorporated 2-3 days / week of S&S into that program (along w/ some hiking and other activities). So impressed how 'swings and get-ups' helped w/ hiking / hunting.

Now, incorporating 3 days of 'swings / get-ups' each week into my 'pre-season' ski strength and conditioning program (along w/ hiking / other activities). Recently achieved the 'simple goal'.

Going to spend the next 4 weeks doing KB C&P and swings (similar to ROP). Just needed a little break from get-ups.

In January, as ski season begins...again, I'll be doing another 3+ month session of S&S. Can't wait. Love the program. Works great on it's own. Works great w/ other things too. Just wish I had this program while I was still in the Navy!
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