The Kettlebell Swing Sandwich: Build Muscle, Lose Fat, Save Time

For years, kettlebell instructor Missy Beaver has been placing a set of swings between sets of everything else. She has had great success with her students who range from professional athletes and fighters to celebrities. All have seen impressive improvements in performance and body composition.

Missy Beaver advocates the swing sandwich
Missy Beaver advocates the swing sandwich.

Or consider Master SFG Dan John’s hit workout that calls for alternating very low rep sets of “grinds” and high, up to fifty, rep sets of light swings. Among its many benefits is training one’s ability to quickly recover from many brief alactacid efforts aerobically — a valuable asset for fighters and team sports athletes.

The Science Behind the Success of the Swing Sandwich

This “swing sandwich” has also built a reputation for rapidly improving one’s body composition. It builds the muscles targeted by the exercises done between swings and burns fat at the same time. The hypertrophy seems to be the result of a hormone spike promoted by the swings.

Some Russian sports scientists, such as Prof. Victor Selouyanov, advocate sandwiching sets of full-body exercises like squats between sets of upper-body muscle building exercises to benefit from this spike. Kettlebell swings appear to have the same effect.

How to Properly Prepare a Swing Sandwich

If strength is important to you, do not train this way exclusively. There is no way of avoiding multiple heavy low rep sets with plenty of rest between them. Keep up this type of pure strength work once or twice a week and add “swing sandwiches” on two or three more days.

On your heavy days press a 75-85% 1RM bell for many sets of 1-5 reps and a plenty of rest.  Total 25-75 reps per arm. Ladders are strongly recommended. In other words, it is the heavy day from the Rite of Passage from Enter the Kettlebell!

On your swing sandwich days press a lighter, 60-70% 1RM, kettlebell for sets of 4-6 reps, totaling 25-50 reps per arm. Keep the rest periods down to a minimum. It is up to you to select the swing loading parameters: one- versus two-arm, weight, reps, rest periods.

Some options for your weekly military press and swing schedule:

 

1

2

3

Mon

Swing Sandwich

Heavy Military Press

Heavy Military Press

Tue

Swing Sandwich

Swing Sandwich

Wed

Heavy Military Press, Swings

Thu

Swing Sandwich

Medium Military Press

Fri

Swing Sandwich

Swing Sandwich

Sat

Swing Sandwich

Sun

Option #1 is the least effective — but most efficient. Note that on Wednesday you have a swing session following the presses. As an option, feel free to add an additional swing workout on Saturday.

Option #2 adds an extra swing sandwich day for those prioritizing muscle building. You may swing after your presses on Monday.

Option #3 is the preferred one for most experienced gireviks. On the medium press day do what you did on the heavy day but reduce the volume by not climbing your ladders as high — the ROP medium day. Feel free to add an additional swing workout on Saturday and perhaps another one on Wednesday.

Enjoy your sandwich!

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

18 thoughts on “The Kettlebell Swing Sandwich: Build Muscle, Lose Fat, Save Time

  • I have read this over about 10 times since it came out. I just realized how it is going to be implemented for me (I am slow to inspiration but quick to implement once it occurs). This is perfect for the end of the year (now through January 1). It emphasizes body composition over “feats”, but still makes you strong (and healthy and injury free), yet still fits in with holidays, kids soccer, the inevitable plays, and so on. It is also perfect for staging for the first of the year where I like to spend the first quarter focused on strength (when I am snowed in).

  • I need some help with this. For now I have a 16kg kb only, and I could probably clean and press it for 6-7 or more times. So how would my swing sandwich look like on option two, or other options if they are more suitable?

    I am asking since I lost it at RM percentages and stuff, I thought that with kettlebells those are gone.

  • Strongility
    First off, the snatch is an excellent exercise. But the swing in my opinion has much more carryover to a lot of other activities.
    A few examples…You can use more weight in the swing. Hence the potential to get stronger. Some elite powerlifters have increased their deadlifts by just using heavy swings. You also get an incredible lat workout during proper swings. The snatch can’t give you that. Atleast not to the same degree. I have personally gained the ability to do a front lever after a few months of S&S (heavy one arm swings). I guess it was the lat contraction and the ab tension from the power breathing at the top of the swing that contributed to that. The swing also leaves your shoulders fresh for more targeted work like presses or get ups. The list goes on. But once again the snatch is still an excellent exercise. Just inferior in my opinion. I guess it depends on why you workout or for what. I would recommend you Google an article by Max Shank called The snatch: not and advanced swing. Pretty good one

    • Dustin,

      Thanks for your comments, I will seek out the recommended article. I do recognize that the “Tsar” is a different exercise than the Swing. Perhaps I need to try heavier swings with fewer reps…

    • Dustin,

      Thanks for your comments, I will seek out the recommended article. I do recognize that the “Tsar” is a different exercise than the Swing. Perhaps I need to try heavier swings with fewer reps…

      PS: congrats on your front lever!

  • I like the “sandwich” idea, and I have benefitted tremendously from Pavel’s fitness acumen; however, I am about to commit SFG/RKC heresy: why is everyone so obsessed with kettlebell swings? I have found snatches to be much more effective. I have honestly tried to ‘get’ why the swing is so popular, but I have not in nearly a decade of doing them experienced the near-mystical results that everyone raves about. I find that the basic pattern of the swing simply is not as mentally engaging as the more complicated snatch. Swings in my experience seem to lead to overuse injuries. Any other swing apostates out there?

    • As soon as I was snatching the 24kg… I hated swings. Never did them (unless I had to for demonstration or technique testing) for like 3 years. Three years without swings! All snatches. While I cannot corroborate your experience with overuse injuries, I do agree that snatches were more fun, interesting, mentally engaging…

      And then finally, maybe it was for an Easy Strength program — small sets of heavy swings, and suddenly, they were interesting (and fun) again. Finally! They’ve been back ever since… ;] (But I still hate two-hand swings, one-hand always.)

      • I suspect that “small sets of heavy swings” would not lead to overuse injuries. However, starting with ETK, I often see very high rep swing sets recommended; this is what has been, in my experience, deleterious. I’ll give them another go…heavier and fewer!

    • If you are not getting good results from swings but instead getting injuries, review technique. If it is boring to you, once again, refine technique. Even advanced instructors find and make small tweaks to their swing as part of a continual process, and this mindful purposeful practice approach separates the amateur from the professional.
      The swing is held in such high regard because when done correctly, it improves so many qualities and movements, including the foundation for the snatch.

  • It is absolutely incredible the amount of super quality free info that we receive from the SF organization on this site.
    Thanks Pavel. I love this idea. Can’t wait to put it to good use

    • From what I understand it’s using the swing as an active rest period or at the start of it. Instead of taking 3 minutes of rest, start swinging for any number of reps you choose after your set, then take a rest (maybe even shorter).

      So a set would look: MP-SW-rest a bit and start over

  • GREAT article! Thank you for posting this. Ironically, it’s similar to what I have planned for my clients with some of our upcoming training. However, how would one implement other exercises within this format such as Goblet/Front Squats, Get-ups, Chin-ups/Pull-ups, Cleans, Snatches (using single or double kettlebells), etc.? Would you do those exercises on “variety” days or within a “Swing Sandwich” for muscle building and fat burning? Thanks!

    • Could someone list some good examples of a Swing Sandwich using different exercises as I posted above? I’m trying to get an idea of how to use this following the templates above for muscle building and fat loss.

      For example, would you do something like this:

      Swings x 10-20
      Goblet Squats x 5-10
      Swings x 10-20

      Repeat for a certain amount of sets or for time? And then move on to another Swing Sandwich with a different exercise between swings?

      Thanks!

      Nate

      • Nate, I’m sure your plan would work fine for
        Fat loss.

        I’ve recently have started a template with
        The sandwich ideas. A sample day is below

        A. Deadlift – ladders
        B.1 horizontal press 5-8 reps
        B. 2 swing 15-50 reps
        B. 3 Lunge variation 5- 8teps
        3 sets

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