Total Tension Kettlebell Complex

No matter what your goals are—strength, mass, conditioning, or cuts—kettlebell complexes deliver. This is why they are so frequently featured in training plans by our best program designers like Master SFGs Geoff Neupert and Dan John.

I built the following complex to give you “a-ha” moments in total body linkage and tension. And build some serious muscle mass in the process.

You will be doing four exercises with a pair of kettlebells back to back:

Clean + Press + Squat + Renegade Row

The first three drills are standard in the SFG Level I curriculum. Instructions on the fourth follow.

Total Tension Kettlebell Complex
Jeremy Layport, Senior SFG

How to Do the Renegade Row

  1. Assume the top of the push-up position on top of a pair of large kettlebells, at least 70-pounders (Get rid of the plastic or rubber bases, if your kettlebells have them).
  2. Tense your whole body.
  3. Press down hard into the kettlebell with your left hand.
  4. At the same time, row with your right. Strict and slow. Do not allow your body to sag, twist, or pike.

You have only one rep per set to do; do it right!

If you are unable to row a 32kg bell, work one arm at a time. Rest one arm on a heavy bell or some stationary object and row the lighter one. Yes, this will slow down the complex, but it is a small price to pay for not making a face plant or breaking your wrist after losing balance on a small base of support.

Total Tension Kettlebell Complex

Here is the plan. On Monday, grab a pair of kettlebells you can strictly press 6-8 times after one clean, and pyramid the press while keeping the reps in the rest of the drills at one. Starting with a single, add a rep to your press every set until you can no longer go up without compromising form. Then work back down to one. Your sets might look like this:

1 clean + 1 press + 1 squat + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 2 presses + 1 squat + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 3 presses + 1 squat + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 4 presses + 1 squat + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 5 presses + 1 squat + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 4 presses + 1 squat + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 3 presses + 1 squat + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 2 presses + 1 squat + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 1 press  + 1 squat + 1 renegade row per arm

This is just an example; you might go up as high as six or hit the wall at four.

Why does the Total Tension Kettlebell Complex employ a pyramid instead of the vaunted ladder? For a change of pace and because we are trying to induce a lot of fatigue to stimulate hypertrophy.

The rest periods between sets are up to you. Short, long, or anything in between—you will get stronger no matter what, although for different reasons. Pop out 100 snappy swings in sets of 10-20, and you are done for the day. Go home and eat like a man and sleep like a boy.

On Wednesday repeat the procedure—this time pyramiding the front squat. You might end up doing:

1 clean + 1 press + 1 squat   + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 1 press + 2 squats + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 1 press + 3 squats + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 1 press + 4 squats + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 1 press + 5 squats + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 1 press + 6 squats + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 1 press + 5 squats + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 1 press + 4 squats + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 1 press + 3 squats + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 1 press + 2 squats + 1 renegade row per arm
1 clean + 1 press + 1 squat   + 1 renegade row per arm

Again, this is just an example. Climb as high as you can without contortions.

Wrap up with a five-minute snatch test.

Train Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, alternating press and squat pyramids:

Monday—Press pyramid
Wednesday—Squat pyramid
Friday—Press pyramid

Monday—Squat pyramid
Wednesday—Press pyramid
Friday—Squat pyramid

The Total Tension Kettlebell Complex is a so-called “step cycle.” You will be staying with the same reps for three workouts to solidify your gains. In the above example of the girevik making it to five reps in the first press workout, he will stay at five for two more workouts, or two weeks total:

Wednesday of next week—5

Then in press workout number four push as high as you can—probably to 6 or 7 reps. And stabilize for three workouts/two weeks once again:

Wednesday of next week—7

Then comes the third and final phase. You might end up doing:

Wednesday of next week—8

This is it. Six weeks from now, there be noticeably more meat on your bones and you will possess a much deeper understanding of linkage and tension. Unload with a week of fun, easy training, and you are ready for a pure strength program such as (1, 2, 3) ladders and new PRs.

To learn more about kettlebells, check out our SFG Level I Certification schedule—learn the skills of strength in Australia, Canada, Croatia, Israel, Italy, South Africa, South Korea, and the United States. 

SFG Level I Certification

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

120 thoughts on “Total Tension Kettlebell Complex

  • Hi Pavel

    I’ve noticed a few different double kettlebell complexes where the that involves the clean, squat and press that the press is done before the squat , curious to know why is it in that order rather than clean squat and press?


  • If I do the total tension complex 3 days a week,
    Can I do some get ups and some push ups on the rest days?

  • Is the squat in this program a double Kettlebell squat or goblet squat? With the same weight? 32kg?

  • I honestly must admit that I ignorantly disregarded kettlebells, considering my bodybuilding training superior. Then I educated myself, read Pavel’s fine publications, and tried it to supplement my calisthenics style training. Minus 20lbs of fat, a surge in speed and strength, I am converted. I still want to be big, once a bodybuilder, always a bodybuilder, but I realize now a house is nothing without foundation. Thank you, Pavel.

  • When doing the total tension complex 3 days a week,on the rest days can I do some Turkish get ups,maybe some push ups,dips?

  • Which workout is better in your opinion and please give reasons- Simple & Sinister– Total Tension Complex— Moving Target Complex?

  • I am halfway through this program with 24kg Kettlebells and now have no access to kettlebells for two weeks …can I
    attempt to continue with dumbells or should I just scrap it and do something else…What would I use for the front squat..dumbells or barbell??

  • First workout i did the clean, press, and squats with a 24 kg and the RR’s with a 32kg. Is that ok?

    Complex was performed with 28kg kettlebells. Initial bodyweight approximately 170lb.
    Wk1&2: Press pyramid – 1,2,3,4,4,4,3,2,1 = 24 total reps
    Squat pyramid – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 = 64 total reps
    Wk3&4: Press pyramid – 1,2,3,4,5,5,4,3,2,1 = 30 total reps
    Squat pyramid – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 = 81 total reps
    Wk5&6: Press pyramid – 1,2,3,4,5,6,6,5,4,3,2,1 = 42 total reps
    Squat pyramid – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 = 100 total reps
    Final bodyweight approximately 173lb.

    First, I want to thank StrongFirst for this elegantly simple yet superbly effective complex and 6 week program. It was just what I needed to further my strength as core tension was my weakest link. I ended the program significantly stronger with some added mass and well-proportioned musculature, and leaner. Some notes: 1) I found cleaning before every press rep was beneficial and allowed me to increase pyramid height (albeit a flat top pyramid); 2) I developed some nagging back-of-knee pain following squat days and am not sure if form is to blame or total volume and load I was asking of my joints.
    I am happy to have completed the complex with continued gains as intended and look forward to a new program following a week of much needed rest! My CNS is definitely fatigued and I realize why this is not recommended longer than 6 weeks if pushed hard. Any recommendations on the next cycle are appreciated – I would like to mix in some barbell work – but this has solidified my confidence in the kettlebell is my primary strength and fitness tool.

  • What to do if not I am able to add repeating after three trainings?
    In 3 workouts I do:
    MP – 6reps
    SQ – 7reps

    Should I extend breaks?

  • Writing on my samsung phone, so I’d keep it short. Started this game as a switch between enter the kettlebell rop 24 kg to 28 kg. Should I reclean befor each rep?
    Thanks! Sergej

    • I began recleaning before each press starting in my 3rd week and it helped me increase my maximum press reps significantly. I’m learning the importance of how good clean technique sets up a good press.

      • Thank you Cory L.!
        I do reclean before each rep doing squats and presses as well.
        I’m in the 3d week now. My double press of 2x24kg went up to 7 from 5 in the 1st week. The squat increased to 8 today. Each rep fully concentrated on proper technique. I hope to break the 10 on press and somthing about 11-12 on squat. The time will show.

      • Thank you Cory L.!
        I do reclean before each rep doing squats and presses as well.
        I’m in the 3d week now. My double press of 2x24kg went up to 7 from 5 in the 1st week. The squat increased to 8 today. Each rep fully concentrated on proper technique. I hope to break the 10 on press and something about 11-12 on squat. The time will show.

  • Could someone please elaborate on this sentence from the article: “The rest periods between sets are up to you. Short, long, or anything in between—you will get stronger no matter what, although for different reasons.”

    I’m currently finishing up week 2 of this complex with 2x28kg with press top at 4 reps and squat top at 8 reps. Sessions are taking me about 38 minutes and 50 minutes, respectively and the squat day in particular is very demanding.

    Should I be resting more and taking more time to complete? I know this only gets harder as the pyramid grows taller. Thanks for any recommendations.

    • Well, I’m working with 2X24 and start the 3d week now. Resting more with fast & loose drills lets me feel more fresh before each new set. Try to rest wit a timer 3 min. Stay strong!

  • I did this complex with 16s to help me get a 24kg strict press. Not being a fitness professional, I didn’t even really know if this was a realistic goal for me after a 6 week program.
    I took a few extra rest days here and there when life got in the way, so it took almost 7 weeks. Otherwise I did the complex as written.
    My press reps improved from 6 to 9. My squat reps improved from 8 to 11.

    This morning I tested the 24kg, and it went up smooth like butter on the right. Went up on the left too, with a little back bend – still fairly solid.
    Before the complex, I could only push press the 24 (badly) – so, I am very happy with the results. THANK YOU

  • This is just what I was looking for! Been doing boxing and wanted to start lifting again but wanted a strength/hypertrophy workout I could do and not slow me down. This had both and with 100 snappy swings I get my conditioning at the end. I will do this for 6 weeks and send pic updates! In strength!

  • Hi
    How to switch from 2×24 kg to 2×32 kg in presses ?
    I can do strict 8 – 12 2×24 kg MPs
    But only 1 2×32 kg
    Will this prog helm me ? Or what you suggest ?
    Thank you.

  • I’ve just finished week 5 with 2x24kg’s… it’s a really sweet program. I’ve noticed the Renegade Rows have caused some muscle growth in the chest and pretty much hits your entire upper body: chest, back, biceps, triceps, forearms, abs and my wrists feel stronger. Definitely one of my favorite new exercises and I’m looking to add them in my future workouts/programs too. I wonder what it can do when doing it for 3-5 reps in a row four a couple of sets, instead of just the one as in this pogram.

    Going to back off for a week or two doing S&S with a 24kg before I head back to a 2 day strength/1 day conditioning program… I miss my chins and pull ups!

  • How is better?
    Total Tension with lighter kettlebells, or Moving Target with heavier bells ?

    • Taro, it is a pointless question. Do one. Then spend some time on a lower rep/heavier plan like ROP, then do the other.

  • I’ve been doing this for about 5 weeks now and am loving it. I used to have shoulder and knee issues and originally couldnt do a renegade row, so for the first 3 weeks threw in a short plank and a bent over row. After 3 weeks i managed to build enough strength to throw in the renegade rows and have been loving it ever since. Simple Genius!

  • Pavel/guys

    I dont have heavy KB’s. COuld this be done with DB’s. What about a barbell if I had to?

    Thank you


  • Great Complex, Pavel! I have a question about rest between complexes; should I move directly after finishing Renegade Rows to the next complex or take time to recover before beginning the next one? Thank you!


  • Pavel,
    I bought your S&S book last week and came across this complex that I’d like to try. I’m 50 next month and I’m working on my first ring muscle up. I’ve been doing my ring work, monday, wed and friday, so last week I did swings and get ups on tuesday and friday. I have the strength to do a muscle up but just can’t get the transition nailed. So I’m switching my ring training to more skill training than strength and with that in mind I want to program my skill day as an active recovery.
    But I want to work on general strength too. So how does this sound – m,w,fri, kb complex, t and th, skill work and get ups with a light kb. As swings and snatches are part of the complex, I’d still be getting my swings in. Does this sound a good program to you? Looking forward to hearing your advice. Many thanks

    best regards
    scotland, uk

    • Alistair, many shoulders have been messed up with ring muscle-outs done improperly. I strongly urge you to work with a gymnastics coach. Let him make the call regarding mixing ring work and kettlebells. Easy with S&S; more involved with complexes.

      • Thanks Pavel. I’ve backed off already, as it was probably too much. Sticking to S&S for now until I get stronger. Doing get ups as S&S have made a big difference to my shoulder stability already, so I’ll keep the complexes for another day at the moment. Thanks for the advice – I’m getting some coaching and things are moving along at a steady slow rate!



  • Welcome to Pavel! This exercise has worked very well, I’ll take two squat exercises and one military press exercise each week. My shoulders are starting to get back lost muscle mass which girovoy sport exercises. And after each exercise session with a narrow push-up until the end of the biceps with dumbbells 2 stores in the same way and calves. Now I take every other week Hearing the styrene butadiene styrene push-ups and the other weights at 5 * 20, military press your weight on the stand and Hindu squats additional weights, the goal is to get the weight closer to 90 but lard, what do you say :)?
    I have tapped the 26v 95kg and fats was 10 per cent, will hindquarters of the same body but now we go even more old school style before the

  • Hello and thank you for this great “Total Tension” Complex. I am now 4 weeks in, so it is the time for the last level. I am using 16kg kettlebells and my press is gone from 5 to 7 and squat from 6 to 8 this far.

    But I have one question about breathing during front squats: Inhale when you go down, keep breathing when down and exhale when you come up? Or how?

    • Juha, you may inhale on the way down or before going down in the FSQ. Grunt to come up. Do not breathe on the bottom.

  • Ok final update. I started this with dbl 24s and as of this day the 24s feel like 20s used to, light. I have tested numerous weights. With the 24s I can hit ladders up to 10s in the press and beyond 15s in the squat. At the end I ran a test with 32s and ran ladders of presses up to 6 and ladders of squats up to 10. This protocol is phenomenal. It teaches the entire body to work as a unit and with reps in the bag and 6 weeks under my belt I can tell a huge difference when zipping up The DFS used to kill me, suck the life out of me with the 24s. With this protocol i no longer feel that way even when using 32s and even 40s. It will teach one that a solid foundation head to toe enables one to be stronger all the way through each movement. If you get loose at any point you will not like the outcome, especially when pushing the envelope with heavier Kbs. A really good protocol.

  • Here are my results from Total Tension Kettlebell Complex (which is by far one of the best protocols I have ever done).

    I worked with double 28 kg KBs through all the exercises (thats what i had at home). Unfortunately I did not finish the last two sessions of the protocol. Our son was born on that day and since then I’ve had other things on my mind.

    Level 1:
    – Press ladders to 4
    – Squat ladders to 6

    Level 2:
    – Press ladders to 5
    – Squat ladders to 7

    Level 3:
    – Press ladders to 6
    – Squat ladders to 8

    For me the presses are my weak point and in all the press ladders I more or less hit a RPE of 10 from the top rung and down. On the last press session i did I had to do 1,2,3,4,5,5,5,4,3,2,1 on the presses.

    The squats felt heavy too but I would say that my estimated RPE was around a 9 on the first set on each level and that decreased to 8 and then 7 in the following two sessions on that level.

    The results was awesome, I weighed and measured body fat all through the protocol and I gained 3,8 kg of lean body mass.

    Diet was as more or less as usual, except that I have been increasing it a bit in the evening meal and have been eating a few more eggs/day.
    Morning, 8 scrambled eggs fried with a lot of butter
    Mid day, 8 scrambled eggs fried with a lot of butter
    Evening, about 800 grams of ground beef with cabbage/tomatoes/and a few times some sweet potatoes…

    As I said, a really great protocol that certainly did what it claimed to do!

    What can I say, more than… do it!

    Thank you for this one Pavel!

  • I am mid week on week number 4. I started with double 24s and realized after the first day I needed to move up in weight for I was hitting 10+ on the ladders. I moved up to double 28s and worked that for the next 8 sessions. I decided to up the weight again on monday of week 4 to double 32s. I worked through 5 ladders on press day and left a couple in the tank. Came back and worked up to 5 ladders on squat day and left it at a very comfortable stop. I love this combination. I have never really worked doubles much but can honestly say that it has had a tremendous effect on my strength. I can front squat over 300 with a bar but the double 32s absolutely smoother me. This will definitely be in my training protocol at least four times a year for 6 week blocks. My long term goals are to hit this with double 40kg. Sad to say I am 47 and wish I had this 35 years ago while in high school. What a difference this would have made. I have been using kbs since 2001 and has been my secret protocol to blowing away the standards no matter what unit I have been with. Love StrongFirst, it just keeps getting better.

  • I am on the fourth week of the program. It does make you feel tension, especially in midsection. As a matter of interest I decided to test my Janda Situps and made set of fives, though never was able to do more than three…. Feels very similar.

    About renegate rows — I started with pair of 28s on RR, but my form was sloppy, so I moved down to 24s. It allowed me to properly suffer the tension without loss of form. With bigger bells and sloppier form it felt like wasted reps.

  • one the 2nd cycle of this program..I went VERY conservative as I’m still very new to double KBs, so 2x16kg kbs, and doing the renegade rows with 22kg dumbells. 1St max was a pyramid to 7 for press, 8 for the frontsquat. started the 2nd cycle on monday and raised my presses to 9, will do squats tonight, expect to go up 1-3 notches there as well. After finishes I do 4 sets of 3 reps of the hinge complex with 2 kbs (clean, swing, high pull, snatch) and a tabatha interval snatch session with a single 16kg KB (10 reps per 20s work, 10s rest, 8 rounds). Finish up with some toes to bar and stretching…feeling pretty good with this program 🙂 will revisit it early next year with double 20’s or 24’s


  • Great program! We really felt the practice of tension greatly improved all our lifts. The pyramid was a sneaky way of improving our strength over time. My presses with 24’s went from 8 rep max to 13. And my wife’s, with 12’s, went from 6 to 11. We were greatly impressed with our improvement. Thanks Pavel.

  • I am 53 years old and have been kettlebelling for a few years now. I did the program with 2 x 28kg bells, and started the shoulderpress pyramid at 5 reps, topping at 7; the double front squat at 6 and topping at 8. Must say it was a sneaky way of increasing total reps quite substantially over the 6 weeks and…it feels great. I now feel much tighter in the core, and stronger in the shoulders. I even walk differently – stronger, and am ready to start some heavy stuff (after my week of fun…) Did some seesaw presses earlier today with a pair of 32s (8 sets of 5 reps) and I thought I was going to launch them through the gym roof! I will definitely keep this sequence in my program. Thanks for sharing it.

  • I’m deployed in Afghanistan; unfortunately, the biggest KBs we have are 24kg. But I’ve worked up to doing this complex to 10 at the top of the pyramid for both presses and squats. It’s a great, compact workout. Although it’s hard to isolate the results from doing these complexes from the rest of the lifting I do, I will say that I attempted a standing ab-wheel rollout yesterday and did it WITH EASE. My one-arm pushups have also gotten much easier, and I’m finally able to do the one-arm/one-foot pushup. Can’t wait to re-start the complex with my 2-poods when I get back home!

  • I will be 58yrs old next month. I started your tension complex about 6wks ago. I”am using 20kg kbs. that 1st wk I could only do 1to 2 reps strickly because of an old rotator cuff injury to my rt shoulder. Last wk on my pyramid press day laddered up to 7 reps, and back dn strickly with no cheating/pushing. That is great progress for me, much thanks, jeff.

  • I built up to fives on the double press and sixes on the squat with a pair of 24s. Having eased off this week I am due to re test my military press with the 32kg.

    Last results were two left, two right.

    I do feel my tension has improved significantly. You have to really focus on the core when pressing multiple times and especially after you have reached the peak of the pyramid. I find although I am reducing the reps I have to concentrate even harder to maintain my form due to the fatigue.


  • I am doing these pyramids with my training partner 2 times per week. Tuesday: press pyramid to 5 (2x24kg), Thursday: squat pyramid to 5 (2x24kg). Rows @ 32kg.
    We had to skip some weeks because blah blah blah, so couldn’t progress to higher pyramids. So I cannot really say anything about the long-term effects. Of course, yesterday’s press pyramid was way easier than 4 weeks ago, no surprises there.
    However this complex is really great for tightness. After doing the pyramids it feels like everything in between the pecs and the knees is one big, connected muscle, no leaks at all. Right after the first time I did the press pyramid, my one-leg-bent front lever time went up 50%.

  • I’m a little late to the party here, almost finished week five of the program. I used two 16kg bells, I have two 24kg but a shoulder injury prevents me from pressing those, even for one rep. When I started I managed to get up to seven presses and 10 squats for the first two weeks, now in the final two weeks I’m up to 10 presses (that’s 100 total reps) and 13 squats (169 reps). Initially the rows killed my lats but I’ve since gotten used to the tension.

  • My enthusiasm over the years has provoked many injuries. I am trying to do better now at 56, so I scaled the Total Tension workout to keep it safe for my current condition. Presses with 12 kg bells and RR and front squats with 16 kg bells. I could start with just 6 presses, so my overall workout is lasting 30-35 minutes. Even so, this has been helpful and I have recognized improvements quickly. I slipped and banged my wrist during a RR row just once after I had become comfortable enough to lose concentration. That “reminder” was valuable and should keep me safe in the future.

  • So how feasible would it be to modify this into a single-kettlebell complex?
    Would you simply alternate sides each set, or do both sides and that equals one set?

    • John, not suitable. The complex was designed for doubles in mind, using the DFSQ’s tension promoting effect and the doubles hormonal boost.

  • Pavel, if there is a sizeable discrepancy between a girevik’s press and squat (squat being greater), do you suggest that they up the bell size for the squat pyramid? or would you simply recommend a much larger volume of squatting? i.e. pyramids up to 10+ for squats. thank you in advance.

      • Hi. I really live the program. Thanks Park.

        I have a follow up question like Caleb. My press ladder with double 24’s went on second week to 6 and it was really hard. Squats with 24’s went easily to 15 already in the first time. Firstly squat pyramids feel more like cardio than strength. Secondly I’m getting same reps of press through insane sets of one’s during squat days than during press pyramid days. It tires my shoulders too much and I’m not recovering till next press pyramid day. I have 4 alternatives to solve the issue, I’d like the experts to advise to choose from
        1) squat pyramids with 32’s and jerk instead of press (I’m not strong enough to press double 32’s)
        2) squat pyramids with 24’s but building pyramid with bigger jumps in reps like this 1,3,6,9,12… and back
        3) sticking to original program and doing insane amounts of squats (200+) with 24’s, but press only every other or third set
        4) sticking to original program

        Thanks in advance

  • I’ve tried this, but the difference did not 3,1,2 and repeated this four times in 32 kg giryalla, the best set of 7 times, and I was pretty worn out and back, but rather increased even though I did not do deadlift or chins :).
      32 girya is the old triangle-shaped handle and a thick yet. This page I’ve missed you my shoulder does not take a whole girya reeniä thus manages to snatch lc but not in the long run make good on my shoulders.
    I read in that yesterday pavelin the book and it had pictures of the old Russian force of men, and when I got a piece of body building background, then why not try to get the old school municipality of the body, that is, stones, rigorous and balanced and not pumped as all the new bodybuilders in any case, all credit to them and to the work which do, in fact I am not a man of the old school base

  • Can’t think of a better exercise for getting feedback on extension linkage/tension. The con is the bell size may be prohibitive for some.

    Thomas Aquinas says an argument from authority is the weakest kind of argument, but an argument nonetheless. The fact that you included it here says quite a bit

  • This will cover a lot of bases in little time, leaving no “too busy” excuses…wrap up with a 5 min snatch test!? The snatch test in of itself puts me on the floor for quite some time… would you calculate something like 70-80% of competition snatch test performance to shoot for at this point? (or do i just recognize that my conditioning sucks and work on it?)
    oh! this sort of pyramid or “up and down” ladder simplifies the math and record keeping. just square the “peak” number of reps 🙂

  • Dear Pavel, awsome program!
    My only “problem” is that I love pull pus. So much so in fact, that to paraphrase that famous line “Would you like fries with that?” – “Would you like a pull up with that?”
    Can I integrate a pull up in this programme? Perhaps I should stick to Grease the Groove or shall I abandon them altogether for the next 6 weeks?

  • Pavel,

    Since being exposed to “Kettlebell Muscle” and Scott Iardella’s “Shock & Awe,” I love double kb complexes and am looking forward to utilizing what you have presented here. One question: On the post-pyramid swings, are you suggesting double kb swings?


      • I’m not exactly Nora (as if that wasn’t immediately apparent), but I can personally say that a book on the proper and professional application of tension for a variety of goals – both stand-alone strength training and strength training for athletics – and why mastering it is important would be just awesome. I think it could also clear up a lot of confusion and misunderstandings in how to apply tension correctly in training, particularly for new lifters. Though I’ve known about the importance of mastering tension for strength training since I’ve started following your works, I can say it’s been a long journey for me to really start to “get it” and I’m still learning new things about it and applying it to my goals all the time. Any book on the topic would be phenomenal.

        Perhaps you could call it “Tension With Intention.” I would definitely read it.


  • Pavel,

    That program looks phenomenally productive. And hard! Looks like strength heaven, in other words.

    Ben Edwards

  • Pavel – this is a genius linking/tension sequence.

    Why is the RR not taught in the SFG curriculum?

    • Thanks, Sean.

      “Why is the RR not taught in the SFG curriculum?”

      Perhaps it should be.

  • Thanks for the great programming, Pavel! One question – what is the best way to practice this program with one KB of each size? I have one each of 35, 53, and 70. Should I do right arm clean/press/squat/row, then left arm? Or C&P right, C&P left, goblet squat, row?

      • Pavel- I pressed the 53 for a set of 10 per arm about 6 weeks ago before switching to a PTTP program, and pressed the 70 once per arm a few months ago after some time practicing the ROP with the 53.

        • Ben, if your technique is good enough, you can use different size bells: 35 and 53. You will end up doing twice as many sets: …Lx3 down,…Rx3… down, Lx4…

          If that kills you, do only the ascending half of the pyramid.

  • “Go home and eat like a man and sleep like a boy.”

    Probably one of my favorite lines I’ve read in a while 🙂

  • Hello,

    Should I supplement this complex for my SFG 1 prep? I’m registered for the Toronto Cert in November! I’m currently performing 3 routines a week. lots of swings, presses, snatches and mobility flexibility training.. Thoughts?

  • Awesome! I was going to start my own kettlebell complex program this week and then I seen this article. Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! This was perfect timing. Pavel thanks for creating programs like this and taking time to put this information out there for free for everyone here to use and to take advantage of that opportunity that you give us! You suggested a pure strength program after this. Would ROTK be a smart choice or would a lower volume strictly strength program be better?

  • mr pavel I am looking forward for any new book you will write for your own company strong first about strength – tension

  • Pavel, is this kind of complex something that should comprise the totality a daily training session, or can it used in tandem with barbell training?

  • This sounds like a solid complex. Can’t wait to try it this evening. Question: is there a reason we should never pyramid the renegade rows? Less bang for your buck?

  • Looks great! I’m starting this today. I can only strictly press dbl 20kg’s for 6-8 reps so I guess I’m gonna have to start with those, would that be ok? Or should I use 24kgs (heaviest I have) and just expect lower reps?? Thanks for the great program!

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