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

Martine Kerr

SFG-TL, Elite
Team Leader Certified Instructor
To "make a long story longer" as my uncle used to say, I've got nerve damage in my middle and ring finger of both hands - limited sensation in the top two thirds of each finger. Adding insult to injury, my FMS palm length is 16cm. So I pretty much hang on to a kettlebell with my index and pinky fingers plus the center and meaty top part of my palms...yeah, right at the callus line. I've never really thought it was a big issue, rather just one of life's annoyances. We all have our issues. I still remember Pavel shrugging at my torn palms during my original certification. My sentiment exactly.

So rather than just not do S&S, I flipped it around...looking to boost my TGU to 24kg and do my swings with an 18kg. Did I mention that I weigh in at about 52kg? Yes yes, I know that 18 is one of those shunned 'weird' weights. Too bad. Since I started with a 10kg, going up by 4kg increments meant 14, 18, 22, 26. I have them all :).

At first, I had to take 16kg swings out to the garden, to feel comfortable enough to let the KB fly if my grip gave out. It took a while but with 5 regular days a week practice, I hit MY simple goal. Moving up to the 18 was a different and very sinister feeling story. First attempt - complete failure. It felt so heavy - pulling and yelling at me - that I followed that one swing with 99 two-handed ones. I got over that the best way I knew how - by going back to the basics: hike backs and power swings. For 30 days, I worked on keeping tight as I hiked the kettlebell back. Gripping enough to hold on but not too much to kill my hands. Learning the difference between the two with what funky nerves I had left. It was cool to discover that while my grip is definitely compromised, I still do have some strength in the fingers even though I don't feel it. So with practice came the confidence that I could actually hold onto the darn thing one swing at a time.

Loving ladders, my next step was obvious: Day 1 = 1x 1H + 9x2H. Day 2 = 2x1H + 8x 2H...and so on. I did these at first without a timer, regressing or staying put as needed. Once I could do the volume, I set a timer for the first 5 sets only, then took my time for the last five, progressively increasing the timed sets until I got to 8. I knew I was getting excited here so took a week to change things up: 5 sets of 10/10, on the minute. Ohhhh boy did I love those! You see my hands were the problem, not my hips! So much that I started to bump up the sets from 5 to eventually 10. Back to the program, on that last day, those 100 1H swings with an 18kg felt great. No, not easy, but awesome.

S&S for me was about dealing with my weakness - mental and physical. It's quite possible that I'll never hit it with a 24kg...maybe not even with a 20kg. But it doesn't mean that I can't use the lessons learned to keep improving. My TGUs are still at 24kg - that 28 feels like it's going to break my forearm like a twig. One day, it'll go up to more than a floor press. I'm in no rush. I'm here for the long haul.

I'm writing this about a year after I hit my 18kg 100 1H swing goal and I can report that the 20kg is still too much for my fingers/hands. But my power swings are feeling awesome! Not to mention my 12kg snatch test.

This January 2016, I'm on a strength endurance and volume cycle...10K swings. Last time I did it, I used a 14kg. This year, it's my trusty 18kg. I'm 5550 swings in since January 2nd.

The moral of my story is that it all starts with one. One deadlift, one hinge, one hike, one swing. And then there were two...
 

Keep Lifting

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
"... it all starts with one." - this should be the lead line for every article in every facet of life. congratulations on your journey.
 

jef

I am a student of strength.
Certified Instructor
After a few month of downgraded S&S (more on this below), one month of consistent nearly daily practice, I celebrated today my 40th birthday with a session with 32 and 40 kg kettlebells.

I just finished the session with 8 one-handed swings at 32 kg, 2 sets with a mix of two-handed and one-handed with the bulldog. I wait till my HR goes under 120 before starting the next set, so it usually takes around 8-10 min. When I push it a little, a session does not take more than 5 min.
It was the third time this week that I did all getups with 32 kg. Still not in 10 minutes, but improving fast. First one lasted 25 min, second one 17, today 14.
I deloaded yesterday and used the 24, with a slight change : all the 5 left getups, then all the 5 right. Felt surprisingly easy.

To make the story longer...
After sucesfully building a basic level of strength with barbells (starting strength) about 4 years ago, I did not really progress anymore, mainly due to various work assignements where training was never optimal. For a couple of years, I basically regularly did again a linear progression with the big lifts to get back where I once was without really increasing my "all-time" bests.
I always had an issue with my bench (at one point, my 5-RM was a ridiculous 70kg at 80kg bodyweight, while I over-head pressed 60kg!). After seeing a coach this summer, it was (what a surprise) a extremely bad positionning of my shoulders. So I added S&S in August to complement my 3-times a week barbell routine, with light weights : 16 kg for getups to really learn to pack these shoulders, and the swing with 24 kg because it just fell good.
I started getups with the 24 after 2 weeks and was at 5 sets end of september. At that point, I attended a SFG course, which was great to improve my technique (and convinced me to register to the cert).

Then a new assignement prevented me to do any barbell work or kettlebells during the week. I focused on a progression on OAP and pistols and did 1 to 2 S&S sessions on weekends from October 5th to 18th december. Surprisingly, I did not regress. My getups stayed the same, and I started introducing the 32 kg for swings at the end of november, and quickly managed 10 sets. I guessed it is because the 24 kg was not that heavy for me, so the 32 was a reasonable challenge.
Then came the time to focus. From 19th December till now, I have been practicing nearly daily S&S, and nothing else. As mentionned, I swing almost all days the 32, while starting to introduce the 40, and I am compressing rest time in the getup with 32. Progress were quick.

Did I achieve the simple standard? Not yet. But it is definitively in sight, something I would not have believed after my first fluffy attempt to do a getup at 24 kg in August!

I will stay there a few more weeks before transionning to ROP. I need to practice the other basic lifts to be ready for the cert.

My impression overall : I do not think this is a program I would follow for more than a few months. I like deadlifts, overhead presses and some olympic lifting, so I will eventually come back to these, and just keep practicing getups and swings here and there. Nevertheless, progressing up to 32kg made wonder to my shoulders, my ability to KEEP THEM IN THE SOCKET, and staying tight. And this 24 kg kettlebell just feels so light now... :)
 

rickyw

Level 7 Valued Member
I started S&S one year ago, beginning of Feb 2015. I have previous experience tinkering in gyms for years, but never with much direction. I eventually gained an affinity for the deadlift and had deadlifted 2x bodyweight when I finally got into kettlebells. I started working towards the Simple goal one year ago, but was pushing it and didn't really understand what it meant to own the bell. This eventually humbled me and I started over in May, really going over the S&S text and following it closely. Doing this made my swings much more explosive, and harder, I might add. It felt like starting over.

I am 28 years old, 164 lbs. I feel more flexible than ever. I am stronger than ever. I haven't gotten huge. This program doesn't do that. The best way to describe it is it makes you look and feel incredibly athletic. Nicely defined shoulders, abs, back, legs, arms, etc. Aesthetic is the best word for how it can make you look. This program makes your body one piece, and it's great for the low back.

I skied 13 runs today, then came home and handily hit the Simple standard. I am an ex alpine ski racer and even though I was in chiropractic school not skiing much at all, I have still been able to get out on the mountain and ski hard for some hours at about 90% of my ability because of this program. Throw in some front squats/pistols and a week or two on the mountain and I could be 100%, because my general strength & conditioning is already there.

I have barely tapped the surface of kettlebell strength and am excited to continue the journey.

Thank you Pavel. Thank you Steve Freides for gracefully moderating the forum. Thanks to everyone else for making this forum community a place of fellowship and learning.
 

rocketdog22

First Post
Pretty simple story:

I had a shoulder injury for about 6 months that was very limiting. I could do very little pressing and no overhead work. It was never professionally diagnosed and stubbornly I never gave it the proper amount of rest. I believe it was bursitis.


I bought S&S for a read and decided to see what I could do. Because of the injury lack of flexibility had really kicked in which made the TGU near impossible. I decided to take a round of ibuprofen for anti-inflammation. As a result I was able to start the TGU with a 10lb dumbbell. After a week my flexibility had improved and I was able to use a 16kg KG to TGU.


I was able to bang out the 100 swings within 5 minutes fairly easily with a 24kg.


Within a month I was able to complete the 5/5 TGUs with a 32kg within the7- 8 minute range without much effort.


Swings however were proving to be more challenging. I was working exclusively with the 32kg and I was using a strap because my hands were getting so sweaty in the summer and I was really after the conditioning affects. I also bought a 36kg bell thinking this would help. I did not use the 36kg that much because it tore my strap on a swing and ended up going through a cabinet door. Anyway, I tested myself a number of times over this 2+ months of work with the 32kg and the closest I came was getting 80 swings in the 5 minutes. It was also kicking my a#@ when I tested.


Around this time I read a review of the Geoff N. One program and decided to try heavy 2 handed swings. I bought a plateau buster and hated it at first because I had to keep my feet set a lot wider than I was used to. I decided to stick with it and over the next couple weeks treated my 2 handed swings more as a practice. Once comfortable, I started the One program loaded up at 90lbs. After a month I added another 15lbs. for another month. Note: I was not using straps with the plateau buster.


Out of boredom I decided to see where I was with the 32kg one handed swing without a strap. I came in at 4:45 a bit winded but this destroyed my previous best. I have been doing this 3x a week over the last couple weeks and am averaging the 100 swings at 4:30.


And that’s my story,

-RD
 

Fossil

Level 4 Valued Member
I started S&S today with a 12kg bell as I am a bit of a wreck (45 yrs old successive surgeries ,injuries etc ) This thread is great for motivation and guidance I think kettle bells will be a significant part of my fitness regime
I like the fact that I can work more than one aspect with the one simple tool
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
@Fossil, please start a new thread to tell us in more detail about your background, injuries, and your goals.

And welcome to StrongFirst!

-S-
 

1FG

Level 3 Valued Member
I achieved S&S simple today!

I started back on S&S in late December with the 24kg. My first workout with the 32kg was on 1/15/16. That's less than a month of practice before hitting the simple goals. I'm far from owning the 32, but I am very happy with this quick progress.

It seems that using a timer and swinging on the minute has really benefited my practice. This makes things even simpler for me. EMOM was easy so I moved to every 45 seconds. Then today I decided to let it rip with 30 second rounds.

I will continue practicing with timed rounds and add in a 40kg soon.

Here's a look at what I've been up to.

1FG's Not So Simple log
 

Stuart Elliott

Level 6 Valued Member
At the time of writing this, I'm a 40 year old desk jockey with a family and very little free time, however I’m fitter, stronger and more 'antifragile' than ever and all thanks to KB’s and S&S in particular. Here’s my ramble.

Where did it all go wrong…..Like most people with an interest in weight training I started out (18years old) with a barbell/dumbbell set, some form of bodybuilding type program and a complete lack of understanding as to what I was trying to achieve, aside from 'big guns'. For the next 10 years, I mostly stuck to this type of program and playing lots of sports (soccer, rugby, cricket, etc).
By the time I hit the early 30's my body had had enough and I literally would seize up whilst playing sports, I had the turning circle of a super tanker and my knees were shot. I stopped playing all sports bar cricket and resigned to being stiff and immobile for life. Looking for any kind of answer I found ‘Crossfit’, wow it seemed great, a WOD, everyone looked a million dollars and there was even a Crossfit type Olympics I could train for, this was the promised land. Things were going great (around 2007-8), I was looking very trim, I was enjoying the WOD's, however I hit a wall, I had no energy, no strength and only more questions. By the end of 2010 and a short diversion in to CrossFit Football I was no nearer where I wanted to be, strong and mobile.

In August 2011, I came across Pavel (on DD), this was life changing. Within 2 crude PM style KB session’s my mobility had returned.....a light bulb moment! There’s something clever going on in those KB’s and I wanted to find out more. In 2012 I purchased ETK and have never looked back, PM and Rite of passage taught me many things about the benefits of the different KB movements for the sports I was playing, ROP out of season, PM in season (TGU's are unbeatable for agility). I stopped ETK (using 32kg) in 2013, due to tennis elbow, had a short spell with a BW HIT program (injured my shoulder) bad idea. Missing those KB’s, in 2014 I started KB Strong and completed Strong and Strong/One with a pair of 24's, I loved this program but I noticed my agility when playing sports wasn't the same as when focusing on PM so around October 2014 switched to S&S.
Coming off the back of KB Strong, I felt strong (hey it works!) so went straight in with the 24's for S&S, another bad idea. My TGU technique had regressed and I irritated and old knee injury (poor form on the reverse lunge), so eating a large piece of humble pie I popped a shoe on my fist and started from scratch. I kept pumping out the S&S sessions almost daily and reaped the movement, strength, fitness benefits. When playing sports I’m moving quicker, hitting harder, have greater sustained energy than I can ever recall, I'm 40 but feel 20! Around the home dad’s the guy to pick this up, open that and carry the kids to bed (all at the same time)!
I reached Simple standards around August/September '15 and have been slowly working towards the 40kg. I'm solely using the 40kg (bar some recent sleep issues) for swings and managing 2-3 TGU's per side. My goal is Sinister, with family and work commitments it will take me a while, but I guess I’ll just have to keep putting up the benefits :)

When I started out using KB's in 2011 I would never have dreamed I'd be comfortably using a 40kg KB and reaping the strength, mobility and energy gains I see today. S&S is a great program (as we all know) and whatever program I follow after S&S I’ll always cycle it back in.
 

somanaut

Level 5 Valued Member
Stats: 38 year old male. Clinical massage therapist. Numerous failed attempts at strength training (couldn't focus on it to make proper gains). Martial arts until I was 30 (mainly kendo), switched to yoga (ashtanga). Quit at 37, picked up S&S. Got serious with it summer of 2015. Completed simple goal in january 2016. Lower back pain (unknown reason, x-ray and MRI doesn't show anything) since 2003, now gone.

S&S is the only program I have ever stuck with. I think it's the simplicity and no-exscuses approach that works for me. I had the typical workout mentality. And it too a while before I understood and even liked this kind of training vs. workout, I thought training had to be a workout. Now I understand (better at least) that it is a skill and as such it must be practiced (love that quote!).

I couldn't even complete a single TGU with the 16kg at first, now I actually think I could do a single 36-40kg on a good day (one day the TGU with a beast will be possible).

1 hand swings were the hardest to learn and increase in weight (maybe cause of my body comp, 179 cm tall and started at 64kg). But mixing in low swings (basically just hinging and then plank up, with the bell swinging between the legs, not all the way back and just around waist level) help me transition.

I recommend S&S to all my clients that will listen to me. And some have even bought the book, and some of those a kettlebell.

Next goal is the transition to ETK's ROP. And after that SFG I (was unsure if I wanted to aim for the SFB first, but have settled on the way of the girya). And after that...

Thanks Pavel for a life changing program. And thanks to all the SF staff and community members for making this a thriving forum.
Best Regards
Jesper
 

RobbieF

Level 4 Valued Member
I'm 21 year old male. I started doing S&S at the very start of year with a 24kg bell for the swing and get up. I planned to do S&S for 40 workouts and wanted to be able to own the 32kg bell on both exercises. I did not care for timing my workouts to get under that 5 and 10 minute barrier. As someone who is pretty competitive that would drive me to try and hit these numbers every time, irrespective of form. What I was seeking for was technical mastery of these lifts - trying make every rep powerful and in control. Although I would not say I achieved mastery - my technique is still needing adjustments, I can now perform the 1 arm swing and the get up with the 32kg comfortably for the allocated sets and reps. It took me about 30 workouts to be able to perform the allocated sets and reps with the 32kg. I was really happy with the quick progress I made.

Physical Improvements
- My grip got a hell of a lot stronger
- My glutes feel more activated when I go to perform other lifts
- My shoulders feel stronger and less achy.
- My shoulders and forearms look more defined
- As for other areas of my body I did not notice a difference in size
- My quality of movement felt better - I could move better

The Downsides
-
When I went back to deadlifting, my upper back felt under-activated and not as strong
- It did not increase my aerobic/alatic capacity: although I suspect this is my fault as I was not trying to hit the allocated time


Overall
I loved S&S, it does exactly what it says on the tin, it will not get you superhuman strong, it is a general physical preparation program and it certainly hardens your body for any training you do after it. The simplicity of this program taught me massive lessons: namely, that strength is a skill and should be practiced frequently if you want to see results. As a wrote that there, it seems so obvious but when I look back at my training I did not follow this advice! The other massive take-home-point is a training session should be a practice not a workout. More often than not, in my previous training I would push my limits and be really fatigued and sore, which would ultimately lead to nagging injuries where I would have to take days off training and my gains would stagnate. I trained 5 days a week for the 40 practices I did not feel massively fatigued. Penultimately, it highlighted how "cluttered" my other training programs were. I performed a plethora of exercises in my workouts and from what I can work out they did very little to improve my strength, power or endurance capacity. When I performed S&S, I included exercises such as: suitcase walks, ab work and roll to elbows as part of my warm up to better my swings and get ups, I realised when training for strength the goal for every exercise in your training should increase your main lifts.

I loved S&S and I would recommend anyone to try it for at least month, even as a challenge to see how it impacts not only their body's but also their training philosophy.
 
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MarkSch

Level 6 Valued Member
Hi everyone. I'm a mostly desk-bound IT male, age nearly 50, five feet seven inches, about 173 pounds / 78kg. Previously, I had worked on ROP, eventually stalling out at 24K in the press for 5x5, with accompanying pullups. I'd manage a single 32k press with my stronger arm at the end of this training, but it never felt very stable. The idea of a single-hand 32k swing was so ludicrous upon starting S&S that I didn't really consider I would ever make it, and I was fighting a lot of golfer's and tennis elbow as well. Here's how Simple went for me-- I have also updated the Amazon review page with an abbreviated version of this post.

-I began S&S in April 2014 and completed it in April 2015.

-TGU always came much easier to me than swings or snatches. One possible theory is that many previous years of aikido and suwari waza (knee-walking techniques) prepared me for moving and keeping tight appropriately while getting up from the floor.

-For swings, I couldn't make the 24k > 32k jump with proper power, so I had to work at fully owning an improvised 28k: a 24k with a 7.5 barbell plate strapped to it. It eventually paid off.

-As my 32k swing work came along, I moved up to some sets with the 40k for TGUs, but had a lot of pain and numbness where it contacted my forearm. Grip work, going back to 32k for more technique, and focusing on goosenecking the wrist really helped me, and forearm pain is no longer an issue.

-Since achieving Simple, I tried the Total Tension workout with a mix of 16 and 24 K pairs, but only completed 5 weeks, though I really had positive effects. After that, I took a week off and returned to S&S.

-Since returning to S&S to work through the 40k, I've had two major setbacks: First, after 9 weeks I developed terrible headaches while practicing, probably from too much pressurizing breathing done poorly. I took a week off and came back very soft and careful, and that cleared up. Second, about 12 weeks after returning, in the middle of a normal set of 40k swings, I developed utterly excruciating back pain in the course of two swings. I was sure a disk had erupted out of my back and was afraid I had seriously hurt myself, but a doctor's visit diagnosed me with 'only' severe muscle spasms. Again, I laid low for about a month, took prescribed muscle relaxants, and by the end of 2015 was back to S&S again, swings 3,4,6 at 40k and TGUs 3-10 at 40k with no further issues.

-In 2016, I've completed Total Tension, to the letter, all the way through, with much better success, but that's another post.

To sum up:

-My physical appearance didn’t change dramatically overall: I've basically always been pretty doughy looking. My diet is decent, but I do like to eat and drink, and I haven't really worked at reducing while doing S&S. I was leanest while working on the psuedo-28k, down to about 163 pounds-which I liked- but I'm closer to 173 pounds now with the Total Tension work.

-However, I am far more solid all over, and I feel firm and compact all the time now, in a very good way. I've had numerous WTH moments, in that things that would have been awkward or heavy to move or lift before are now trivial, and awkward lifts don't bother me.

-My conditioning is much improved, and I feel like I have a lot more energy when needed. Unexpected or greatly increased exertion doesn’t leave me sore afterwards.

-I should have done more grip work from the start. My grip held me back for a long time, but easy, relaxed GTG with the Captains of Crush 1 and a slightly lighter gripper was very helpful for my swings as I honed in on the Simple goal.

-Golfer's and tennis elbow haven't been a concern for months, which is a nice plus.

Simple and Sinister is a great program for me. It gives a really good basic level of strength and conditioning, and has done wonders for my confidence, stability, and ability to move intelligently and appropriately. It's a perfect no-fuss workout: I just show up 4-6 mornings a week, 'punch the clock' for 25-30 minutes, and get on with my day knowing I've done plenty for all around fitness. I really like the focus on doing two exercises very well and consciously, with extreme focus on technique and safety, and trusting them to carry over to daily life.
 

Abdul-Rasheed

Level 6 Valued Member
My physical appearance didn’t change dramatically overall: I've basically always been pretty doughy looking
Why do you think this is? I would think a dramatic shift in your appearance considering the amount of time you been training and the prodigious weight you have been using.
 

MarkSch

Level 6 Valued Member
@Abdul Rasheed

I honestly don't know. I began S&S as a supremely unimpressive specimen, and improved to...unimpressive? My diet is fair to middling-I try to eat clean and minimize junk, but I don't watch it obsessively. Maybe I should have taken before and after pictures for some more objectivity. I can tell you that no one has commented on any physical changes, not even my beloved and observant girlfriend. Even the TTC didn't produce much in the way of visible gains. I might just be fated to visual mediocrity, as per Immortan Joe.

In any case, I feel great and have improved my performance past what I would have thought possible - I could barely move the 40k with both hands when I first bought it. As I stare down 50 years of age, maybe S&S just held off my decline. That's fine by me.
 

MattM

SFG1
Certified Instructor
I bet you don't look as bad as you think. I've never seen someone who can 1 hand swing a 40kg decently that looks like crap
 
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