The “Revolver” Kettlebell Program

The revolver of the old West had six revolving chambers each holding a ballistic round of instant karma. The legendary six-gun or Colt Single Action Army Revolver, was the handgun of choice of many of the gunslingers of the American wild West. Be they bandits, outlaws, or lawmen, everyone relied on the six-shooter and the speed of the draw for survival.

The Revolver is also fitting name for the following kettlebell program that features six moves done in a revolving and random nature. To be completely poetic the Revolver would ideally only consist of ballistic exercise selections, but I threw a few grinds in for good measure, after all even Wyatt Earp had to reload once in a while.

The Bullets

Each exercise or “bullet” will be assigned a number and a workload as follows:

  1. Double Clean and Jerks (5 reps, every minute on the minute)
  2. Get-ups (continuous alternating between right and left hand)
  3. Double Front Squats (5 reps, I go/you go style*)
  4. Crush Press Sit Ups ** (3 reps, I go/you go style)
  5. Snatches (10 right, fast and loose for 30 seconds, and then 10 left)
  6. Swings (20 reps, fast and loose for 30 seconds)

*“I go/you go” refers to when you are training with a partner. While you work your partner rests and recovers, as soon as you are done, you rest while your partner works. It amounts to one part work one part rest. If you are training alone simply imagine you have a partner and rest the amount of time you think it would take your virtual partner to finish their set.

**This exercise may not be familiar please see the accompanying video.

The Gambler

Another character in the wild West who often found himself on the wrong side of the six-shooter was the professional gambler. He will show his face in our training session, as we will use a pair of dice to determine how much time we spend on each move.

Example: roll a pair of sixes (boxcars) and you will be doing twelve minutes of bullet #1 (double clean and jerks). Once you finish the jerks roll the dice again to determine how much time will be spent doing get-ups. Work your way through all six bullets this way. 


What Caliber?

The most notorious in the old West was the .45 caliber. In sticking with the gunslinger theme we will limit our work session to 45 minutes. Warm up any way you like and then start the timer. Some days you may run out of time and some days you will finish really early. If you are lucky enough to roll all snake eyes (double 1s) every time you will finish the whole session in twelve minutes. This is O.K. (corral)!

Which Cylinder?

This is where things really get wild. Your starting move will revolve every training session.

The order of exercises changes or revolves each session. Each blend will be uniquely hard. If you run out of time before you finish a given session move on and follow the next sessions order. Do not start where you left off. Example: on session one you rolled really high numbers and finished with move number four. When you start session two, start at bullet two not five.

What Bell Size?

The Revolver program was written for most strong people to use snatch test size bells. However, this is a very demanding program and you may want to start a size lighter. Don’t feel you have to be the “Stranger with the big iron on his hip.”                

For Even More Variety…

Once you run the program as written above and want even more mileage and variety you may determine the exercise order by the roll of one die at the outset of the session. Example if you rolled a 5 your order would be 5-6-1-2-3-4. If the next session you rolled a three your order would be 3-4-5-6-1-2 and so forth.

Give the Revolver a Spin!

Like the Colt Single Action Army Revolver it is tried and true.

“I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.
I aim with my eye.
I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.
I shoot with my mind.
I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father.
I kill with my heart.”

―Stephen King, The Gunslinger

Jon Engum
Jon Engum is a StrongFirst Certified Master Instructor and a 7th Dan Kukkiwon Certified Grandmaster. Engum is the author of Flexible Steel, Creator, Chief Instructor of the Flexible Steel System, owner of Engum’s Academy, Engum’s Taekwondo Association, Jon Engum’s Extreme Training and is a Vice President of the Minnesota Taekwondo Association. He has presented and lectured on several continents and teaches Workshops, Courses and Instructor Certifications worldwide.

12 thoughts on “The “Revolver” Kettlebell Program

  • I love this! I’ve always been a fan of the revolver more than a semi-automatic. Keeping it simple with 6 exercises and only varying the order and times allows so many different varieties within this program. Great stuff!

  • Looks like a great program. To confirm, on the C & J, is it 1 clean followed by 5 straight jerks or 1 clean followed by 1 jerk, 5 times in a row?

  • Jon, this looks like a six-killer program! I never saw the crush press-situp before. Thanks for laying out this program. Trace

  • Hi,
    great workout, need to try. Just have one question to snatches:
    Snatches (10 right, fast and loose for 30 seconds, and then 10 left)

    Does it mean that I shoudl go 10 right snatches in 30 seconds and then 10 left in another 30 seconds or 20 (10 right/10 left) should be done within 30 sec? Is there any break between series?

    Thank you

  • Interesting plan! The most probable session length is 42 minutes, btw, as two-dice throws revolve around the number 7.

    See for example this chart

  • “Snatches (10 right, fast and loose for 30 seconds and then 10 left)
    Swings (20 reps fast and loose for 30 seconds)”

    Can you expand on the idea of “Fast and loose” some? Also, is it rep count or time, OR is it targeted reps in that 30 second time.

    Thanks and this looks awesome!

    • Hi,
      Fast and loose refers to just shaking your muscles trying to get rid of any tension. It is an active recovery tech. So 1O snatch’s and then 30 second of rest and recovery and then 10 more snatches etc.

  • Thank you for sharing this program, I look forward to trying it soon. How many sessions per week would you recommend with this program?

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