Moving Target Kettlebell Complex, Part II

Several months ago, StrongFirst published Moving Target Kettlebell Complex, a workout we sometimes put the students through at the SFG Level I Certification. I asked the readers with program design experience to build a four- to six-week training plan around it. Following, is one of your solutions.

Before I present it, I want to stress that you must organize a plan of such a length in a way that enables you to progress at a sustainable manner to reach the limit on the last week. You must use some form of cycling: linear, step, or wave. Light and/or medium days are indispensable with linear cycles; optional with the other two types.

With that in mind, take a look at one of the solutions offered by Dave T.

Moving Target Kettlebell Complex: Dave T. Plan

“For this progression use bells closer to the 8RM. 6RM may be too heavy to progress. Do the workout three times a week. Add a rep to the top set of each 2, 3, 5 movement every week. Week two it would be 2, 3, 6. After five more weeks you should be at 2, 3, 10. Take a deload week doing 2, 3, 5 again. Start your next week at 2, 3, 5 with heavier kettlebells.”

A smart move to start light, with 8RM, to gain momentum.

A three times a week frequency will work for most.

Adding a rep once a week means Dave chose a step cycle with no light days. Very well.

Let us take a look at the rate of progression. Is it realistic for one to press his old 8RM ten times after six weeks of such training?—A piece of cake for any intermediate. Even on the third rung of a ladder?—Yes, because Dave has kept the bottom rungs low: 2, 3, 10. They will only make your top set stronger instead of pre-exhausting you, as a taller ladder like 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10 would. The 1:1 work-to-rest ratio might be a problem, so take extra rest between rungs the last couple of weeks.

Well done, Dave!

Breaking Down This Programming Approach

The author did not specify whether you are supposed to do one or two series. If it is one, you are looking at 50 presses per week. Complexes do give an extra anabolic stimulus that enable you to reduce the press volume—but not that much. So let us agree on two series, about 100 weekly reps.

If you run into trouble on the top rung of the press ladder in the second series toward the end of the cycle, simply finish the set in a rest/pause fashion. E.g, you did 1 clean + 9 presses + 1 squat in the first series. In the second, you are running out of gas after 6. Do not push to failure but park the bells, shake off the tension for about a minute, then re-clean the weights, do three more presses and one squat. You already made your target in the first series; in the second, all you need to do is get in the volume.

Moving Target Kettlebell Complex

If you are an experienced girevik who has met the SFG Level II military press standard, you are likely to find a step cycle without light or medium days too tough to handle. You will need sharper load changes and regular deloading. That means either a wave cycle or an introduction of light and or medium days. Following, is a simple implementation of the second option:

Make Monday your heavy day, Wednesday your light day, and Friday your medium day. There are many ways to make that play out. Since we do not have much room to maneuver with the already low volume, intensity or density will have to give. Try this: on Wednesday reduce the intensity, while keeping the 1:1 work-to-rest ratio. In other words, if you were pressing a pair of 24s, drop down to 20s. On Friday, maintain the intensity (stay with the 24s) but lower your work-to-rest ratio to 1:2. In practical terms, it means three gireviks going through the training, rather than two, with the bells never resting.

After five weeks, the author has suggested: “Take a deload week doing 2, 3, 5 again. Start your next week at 2, 3, 5 with heavier kettlebells.”  That I would not do. Your body and your mind would appreciate switching to a low rep, long rest pure strength program. Deload with a week or two of Kettlebell Simple & Sinister. Then scale S&S back to twice a week and “grease the groove” with military presses, single or double, and double kettlebell squats for three weeks.

In the near future I will analyze other effective programming solutions to this complex offered by our readers. Meanwhile, you have something to keep yourself busy with for six weeks.

Pavel Tsatsouline
Pavel Tsatsouline is the CEO of StrongFirst, Inc.

11 thoughts on “Moving Target Kettlebell Complex, Part II

  • This is a fabulous post, Pavel and David. Chief, I really like your reasoning and explanation behind the things you would change or do differently. Any chance you might write a book on programming considerations when programing for different goals and outcomes with barbell/kettlebell/bodyweight?

  • Joel, Geoff Neupert has a number of effective single series programs.

    As for your suggestions, while neurological strength training benefits from spreading the volume over more days, hypertrophy focused programs that aim for an endocrine response usually prescribe less frequent training.

  • Pavel,

    Thanks for picking my program to analyze for this blog post. I take it as a great complement that you did. I learn a lot reading the posts on this site and I hope to attend an SFG cert one day. Like the “give a fish vs. teach to fish” analogy; other sites give workouts, here you can learn how to plan a complete program. Still learning a little more with every blog post and really eagerly awaiting that next book you have hinted about.
    Thanks again.

  • Pavel,

    This looks great. I can’t wait to try out some version of this complex after I finish the program I am on now. A request though: in one of the future posts would you kindly discuss a way to make this work with one series? My life generally allows me only about a half-hour at a time to practice and I expect that doing the series twice would take me longer than that, especially as the reps get higher and I need more rest. I could, though, probably manage a fourth day to add some volume and I may have enough time for two series once a week.

    I suspect that many in the StrongFirst community face similar time constraints, so a post about how best to program this complex for one series would probably be helpful for others too.

    After reading this post, I had two ideas to tweak this to add volume but allow for (mostly) one series per practice:

    1. 4 days per week. 3 days per week at one series, once per week do two series. The two series day could also be the heavy day, with two medium days and a light day spread throughout the week. (Su heavy, Mon light, Wed medium, Fri medium etc)

    2. 4 days per week, 1 series per day, but add one more rung to the ladder so it would be 2-3-5-5 week one, 2-3-5-6 week two and so on.

    Would either of these work? Or should I just wait for one of your next posts on this complex?

    By the way, I hate to be one of those folks who want to mess with a well-designed program, but since one of the objects of this exercise is to educate us about program design I figure this is fair game.


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