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

Steve Freides

Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
A reminder to everyone who has completed Simple - please post a review on amazon.com.

Thank you.


Kalle Videnoja

Level 5 Valued Member
As a background information I’m a 38 years old male. I have been practicing martial arts and strength training since my early/mid 20’s. Family life and sedentary academic job have been taking their toll, however, and during last ten years I have gained some 10kg of fat, being now 185 cm tall with weight of 95 kg.

I injured my neck in December 2015 and had a pinned nerve that took my left lat out of the game for half a year. I couldn’t do a single pushup, perform a single straight punch, or play guitar. The pinned nerve was eventually released, but I had lost a great deal of strength and conditioning. In Jan 2018 my lat activation was still a bit weaker on the left side and my pushups had went down from 60+ to 20. I was, however, able to carry on my normal life pain-free and I was able to continue MA practices. Simple and Sinister seemed like a great back-in-to-game protocol.

I started simple & sinister January 2nd 2018 with a 16 kg kettlebell. I never did S&S exclusively but trained also kickboxing and krav maga a couple of times a week, and tried to nail 10 000 steps daily.

On January, I did Simple and Sinister 27 times. This was quite easy for the 16kg bell felt really light and I could do the exercise on my lunch break without breaking much sweat. I noticed quite early on that my conditioning got much better and sparring rounds didn’t wear me out as much as earlier.

After a month, I moved to 24 kg on both getups and swings. The fatigue started to cumulate and I had to keep one or two days off weekly from any exercise to be able to recover. The exercise took longer time with the 24 kg bell and there was a tad too much sweat to do it in office at a lunch break. I started to notice some development in my forearms, biceps and triceps. Not any great hypertrophy but my arms felt more solid.

In early March I proceeded gradually to using 32kg bell for getups. By the end of March, I did the time test successfully with 24 kg bell. I noticed I had a small stability issue with the packing of the left shoulder when the kettlebell was moving downward. That made me quite cautious of moving forward to 32 kg bell in swings.

In late April I suffered a small setback by having an inflammation in my left bicep tendon. I think this was due to improper hip drive in swings causing me to overcompensate the pull with upper body. I let the arm rest and only did four exercises in May. I continued with other activities like MA, bicycling and running, though.

In June the tendon started to feel quite good again and I went right to 32kg sessions. The arm was quite ok as long as I focused on the hardstyle hip drive. I did the first full 32kg session on June 14. The 32kg bell started to feel quite comfortable quite fast. On July 11 I gave the S&S simple test a try on my 94th S&S practice. I was still somewhat tired from last night's MA training (and S&S). I completed the time test quite easily, even though I wouldn’t have passed the talking test between the swing sets. Does this count as passing the simple test?

All in all, I didn’t lose weight,but my waistline got smaller whereas my glutes got a bit bigger. There were definitely some strength gains. Especially my grip and mid section got much stronger making grappling much easier.

Now, I'm wondering whether to continue with S&S until I feel I really own the 32kg bell or to take a few weeks' hiatus with another program. Hector Gutierrez Jr.'s more hypertrophy based double kettlebell programs are quite tempting.

Edit: typos
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Kalle Videnoja

Level 5 Valued Member
Thank you, Anna! Of course, there's always a further subjective element in evaluating the swings. The book says they have to be performed strongly. I find that especially challenging in the biweekly continuous swings where my technique seems to drift towards the GS style swings when the fatigue sets in. All in all, I've found a new joy in kettlebell training with the StrongFirst principles. I've been training with the kettlebells for 10 years, and just now practicing with the S&S protocol and finding this forum it struck me that kettlebells can be used to train not only muscular endurance but power and strength, also.


Level 5 Valued Member
As a 35 year old male, 192 cm/91 kg, I have been training for quite a few years. As an adult, my focus has primarily been martial arts. I read stuff like "Poer to the people" years and years ago, but more or less lost my passion for lifting heavy iron (as in 1rm) rather early in my twenties, mostly because of numerous injuries.

Still, I have been doing different types of strength and conditioning work to get "fighting fit". As I have reached my mid 30's, longevity has been more and more of a concern when structuring my training, but I still experience unparalleled benefits from training combat sports. Through experimenting a bit, I have convinced myself that barefoot running (often with my dog) and calisthenics are excellent for both staying in shape and preserving joints etc.

Even so, this summer has led to injuries. First in my wrist, then in my left foot, severly limiting my ability to train as I wish. Whilst planning to train around those injuries, my interest for kettlebells suddenly reappeared, and I bought "Simple & Sinister" to my Kindle. I already had kettlebells at home.

The benefits of actually paying detail to technique and performance when doing swings, were obvious from the first session. I had done a lot of swings before, but rarely put much cognitive attention to how. After my two first workouts, grip fatigue and wrist stability were no longer a concern when working one handed with 20 kg. I then started doing the sessions with 24 kilo, and had a competent instructor, wh I happen to work tih, "fixing" some details in my get-up at one point. Again, the benefits were obvios immidiately.

After two weeks, I tried to do the workout with 32 kg. It went very well, albeit I obviously spent a lot more time breathing between swing sets than what I subjectivally experienced, as I had spent close to seven minutes doing the sets. Not that I was aiming to do them quickly, it just suprises me how fast five minutes went. Getups with 32 kg actually felt suprinsingly easy. Two days later, I did a timed session, and reached a "simple" with comfortable margin!

WTH effects: I have only been training S&S for a few weeks, mind you. Even so, my wrists are clearly strengthened stabilized. My hips are also "opened up", which I find significant, considering the fact that I have competed in kickboxing for years previously. Regret is rarely useful, but I really wished that I had acknowledged the value of stuff like "prying goblet squats" many yeras ago.

My main priority is training for an MMA fight the coming fall, but as long as my foot injury prevents me from conventional training, I shall be aiming towards achieving sinister. :)


Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Stats: 41 year-old male, 6 ft, 185 lbs (183 cm/ 84 kg)

Background: pretty active lifestyle but more focused on endurance than strength. Desk jockey. Have spent significant time cycling, trail running, ultimate frisbee, downhill / telemark skiing and backcountry touring, stand-up paddling, rock climbing and others. Have not spent much time in the gym since high school weightlifting for football.

Picked up a kettlebell for the first time in November 2017. We have a gym facility at my work with some group training sessions and one of the coaches is an SFG1 and was running kettlebell classes. Learned a ton of technique, mostly swings & get-ups, but definitely did a variety of other KB exercises as well. I was pretty instantly hooked on the kettlebell movements -- the dynamics of the KB movements are much more interesting to me than straight bar-bell exercises.

Training: Set the goal to achieve the Simple standard at the beginning of 2018. Goal was to work out 5+ times per week. 3 days at the KB class (variety), and S&S practice the other days. Aside from some business travel and recovery for some small injuries, met the frequency goal, and have averaged more like 6-7 days per week of workouts or other physical activities (skiing, etc).

Started working with 16kg in December, and started my transition to 24kg in mid-January. Worked with that until mid-March, when I started to gently work in the 32. Get-ups progress much faster than the swings -- I credit that to a lot of focus on slow, deliberate GU with the 24 to lengthen time-under-tension (sometimes 1 min per side). Went a bit to aggressive with the swings at 32 kg and got injured in April and had to rest for about 2 weeks (pulled back muscle between scapula & spine).

Back to 6+ days / week in May, and restarted my 32 kg incorporation, being careful to only add 1-2 sets of swings at 32kg per week. This worked like a charm and was at full 32kg swings by the end of May. In June, started incorporating a max swing day with the 24kg bell (2 x 100 OAS). Doing this just once actually brought an amazing jump in my grip strength on the 32kg swings -- looking back at my notes, I say "this is genius!" with the after-effects the next week. In general, June was S&S at 32 kg with swings EMOM. Also, started Hector's 701A program in June -- so was doing that M/W/F, and S&S the other 3-4 days.

July continued with the 701A program and S&S on the other days. On the 24th, I had very limited time for a workout, so just started swinging every 30 seconds to see how many sets I could get in. Got to set 6 and still felt reasonably OK, so kept going, and made it to 10x10 on the 30 second pace, and was quite winded. The first set of get-ups was brutal, but, as those are stronger for me, was actually recovering better and they got easier as time went on…was able to finish on the time standard. Don't own the swings yet, but feels good to hit the benchmark.

WTH effects:
  • Stand-up paddling -- technique. I hadn't been out paddling on my board since I started S&S training, and finally got out a couple of weeks ago for the first time this year. I've worked on technique before, but the shoulder-packing and core engagement from swings & get-ups dramatically affected my technique -- my body just snapped into more efficient positions and my core and shoulder engagement was both stronger, "safer" and just natural.
  • Trail running -- have sporadically ran a few times and really haven't been sore.
  • Skiing -- used to always get a sore lower back, but had no issues this year.

What's next:

  • Daily go-to will continue to be swings and get-ups to fully own the 32. May see what the 40 feels like, but not in any rush to get there at this point. Learned my injury lesson on the 32 transition.
  • Snatches. Not sure the goal or program yet, but really enjoy both single and doubles.
Lastly, in addition to the book, I've really appreciated all the info available on the StrongFirst site and in this forum. Very solid info and sustainable philosophies. Engaging in this has really opened my eyes to strength, the impact it can have on everyday life, and the resiliency it provides.

Caleb McCain

Level 1 Valued Member
I tested and achieved the Simple standard in mid April 2018. I tested and achieved Simple again in June 2018 (following on the heals of a three week cold). Today I achieved Simple without even meaning to do so. Every time I have hit the Simple standard it was unplanned and due to a time constrained situation.

I am a 5'9", 155lb, 35 year-old, married, father of four (ranging 8 years to 11 months). I work more than full-time. I have been a life-long runner. My longest run to-date is a 31 mile mountain run a few years back. I had never seriously trained for strength until picking up a kettlebell a few years back. I have gone through the Rite of Passage with a 16 kg without trouble. Being too weak for the 24 kg Rite of Passage -- I tried to do a modified version with a clean and push-press for several months. That was not a good idea. I have always had a strong posterior chain -- shoulders and arms not-so-much.

In February 2018 I started S&S with the 24kg. I quickly moved up to a 28kg and then purchased the 32kg. I thought there was no way I would ever complete Simple with the 32kg. I could barely eek (sp?) out 20 reps with poor form. I then bought some chalk. Chalk was like a power-up. I then began swiftly adding sets / reps with the 32kg until I hit Simple in mid April.

I follow the book and practice almost daily as in the teeth brushing example. I feel stronger and more energetic than ever. I tell my wife that I feel like running twenty miles and then getting in a fight. The best descriptor I can use is a Biblical phrase: one feels much more "well knit" after just a few days of S&S. I am confident my health and mobility will be greatly serviced by the kettlebell as I grow older.

I am very grateful for coming across kettlebells a few years ago, and I am very grateful for S&S.

Thank you Pavel. Thank you StrongFirst.


Level 5 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Hello everybody,

I did it : I reached simple standard this summer.

Here is a flashback in my personnal story.
I’m a 36 years old, BJJ teacher. So I’m in good shape but not an advanced practitioner in strength training. My weight : between 66 and 69 kg.

I bought simple and sinister and my first kettlebells in april 2016 : first a A 16kg, a 20kg, and after one month a 24 kg and a 28 kg (that I didn’t use at that time).

I trained a few month with 20kg for the swing. It was faster for the TGU. During the summer of 2016, I tried to swing the 24kg, but my technic was awful, and I was not symmetric. So I decided to come back to the 16kg and I took a video of each training. After a few weeks, I corrected most of the critical errors and came back with the 24kg.

In aout 2016 I bought the 32 kg bell for my TGU (the progress were fast compare to the swing). The transition to the 32kg was very hard ! (heavy !!!)

Until the end 2016, I used the 24 bell for the swing and the 32kg for the TGU, then I started to use the 32 kg for the swing.

I reach the simple standard for the TGU at the beginning of 2017, So I bought a 40kg bell in march and started training with It for the TGU. it was heavy but curiously It was less difficult than the transition from the 24kg to the 32 kg.

Until that time, I trained with the help of the online video, and I spend some time to compare the video of my training with the strongfirst videos to correct myself. After a short time of reflection, I decided to participate in a strongfirst course : 40kg was heavy (my weight was 67 kg) and I didn’t want to hurt myself with a bad technic. I participated in two training courses with Alexey, in june and in october. It was very very interesting and helpful.
Then I continued with the 40kg for the TGU (for all the rep of each sessions, except for light sessions of course) and the 32 kg for the swing. (90% of my training was simple and sinister)

In february 2018, I had a little problem, due to my BJJ practice : an hygroma in the knee. Not very critical but impossible to do a correct TGU. So I decided to move to the ROP (even if I didn’t reach the simple goal in the swing).
I reach the simple standard of the swing in an ROP session in june (YES !).

After 6 month of ROP, I started Soju and Tuba press program (I started last week). Then I will come back to simple and sinister at the end of september (my hygroma is healed but it took a lot of time !).

Las week, I tested myself in the conditions of a simple and sinister session (just to be really sure that I have really reached the simple goal !).
A 5 minute swing test, and 10 TGU (32-40-40-32-32)

And YES I did it ! 4minutes and 50 seconds, 100 crisp swings.

The s&s effects in my BJJ practice : a very very strong grip in BJJ without training it specifically, a method that increase my strength a lot in my practice without tire me. A lot of strength in my hips movements.
And maybe the more important : this method is really compatible with a the rest of my life (professional life and family life). It’s simple, doesn’t take two hours in a fitness room… I can do it during the lunch time and come back to work.

Thanks a lot Strongfirst !


PS. Sorry for the mistakes in english... (that's the problem of a lot of french people ;)

Steve Freides

Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
A reminder to everyone who's achieved Simple and beyond - please post a review of S&S on amazon.com.

Thank you.



Level 5 Valued Member
I first learned of kettlebells in 2013 right before my daughter was born. A personal trainer (Nick from March Wellness) who had taken a strong first course taiught me swings and get-ups. Then parenthood.

Fast forward and I no longer play recreational soccer (had been my motive for training) and my second child was born in 2015. It’s 2016 and some semblance of normalcy is returning to life. I look up a trainer and find lance coffel on this site. He and I meet a couple of times and get things moving. It summer 2016 and I’m routinely working with the 24 kg then I injure my shoulder (related to picking up kids NOT kettlebells).

I turn 36 in November 2017 having participated in PT and getting “cleared”. I find lance has moved and locate Industrial Strength here in Portland. I worked with Holly slightly less than every two weeks (my work and life schedule is erratic) combined with doing simple on my own more than half the days in the new year and I hit the mark with the 32 kg (4:57 swings, 1 min rest, 9:22 TGUs, total time 15:19) slightly more than 9 months after beginning the journey.

For the record I’m 5’11 and 188#. I was 183# when I started and that 5 pound gain isn’t due to chips and salsa.

Couple things I love: it’s the same everyday so I don’t feel bad is I miss 2-3 days I a row. I can “wave the load” going heavier when feeling good and backing off when I’m having an off day (or just tired).

I look forward to chasing “strong”and a 1/2 BW press by 40 y/o.

As to WTH effects I did 7 strict pull ups (could do 2 last fall) and now press the 24 kg x 3 (couldn’t even consider pressing it before starting). Also, I can touch the rim on a basketball hoop (again).
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