Sunday, February 16, 2014

10K Swings Post-Mortem

Completely unrelated, but I was up in Seattle for the Super Bowl, though less for the Super Bowl and more because my favorite bar is closing, so they were holding a special event.  Moon Temple, you will be missed!  The really cool part about the trip, though, was the vibe.  Everywhere I went, you could feel all the goodwill from the fans, it was awesome.  So to the 12, I say, thank you for sharing such positive energy.  On the (very tiny) downside, since I was travelling that Monday and sick most of the following week (funny how I get better just in time to go drink myself stupid), I had to break from my scheduled post, the second in the Mapping Your Space series.  Instead, I started putting this together, my long overdue post-mortem of Dan John's 10,000 Swing Kettlebell Workout.

    This post got a little long, so feel free to jump to any specific section if there's a particular observation you're just dying to get to right away:

    I mentioned in one of my last posts before the new year (10,000 Kettlebell Swings In The Air).  I won't rehash the entire post, but to recap (not so) briefly, most years, I try and do a cut between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day to help me finish the year out strong and slingshot me into the new year (and give me an excuse to skip Christmas/Holiday parties), which I call "Turkey-To-Tree", or T2T.  For 2013, I chose to do The 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Workout for a few different reasons:

    First, there's the absolute simplicity of the program.  I had planned a pretty hard cut for 2013, so I wanted something that wouldn't require a ton of mental commitment, something I've learned from past experience.  Also, given the fact that T2T period is also pre-CES crazytime, the simpler, the better.  That in mind, having to only do a single movement seemed like a pretty sure bet, and I figured the structure of the clusters wouldn't require too much concentration, even in my mentally-impaired-by-low-caloric-intake state.

...I mean, how hard can one thing be?

    Second, there's no disputing that kettlebell work is great for fat loss.  When you consider everything that goes into a proper kettlebell swing, which, having done this program, I can confidently say I can do now, it's basically your core, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, grip, pretty much all points extreme and in-between getting hit like a...whatever the unholy spawn of a raging bull and runaway freight train would hit like, pretty much knocking the fat off of you.  I've done tons of different fat loss programs, and when it comes to bang-for-buck, I really gotta give it to the kettlebell swing, yes, even over the thruster, burpee, and any sort of tabata.  Your results may vary a bit on that depending on how experienced you are with kettlebells, but I really doubt they'll vary that much, seriously (if fat loss is your goal).

The kettlebell swing in creepy, disturbing, cartoon form.

    Third, I wanted to do kettlebell work specifically because I've been paying quite a bit to mobility since I injured my knee last August.  My posterior chain lost quite a bit of strength and stability while I was rehabbing my knee, and as I've mentioned wanting to do some powerlifting meets this year, I needed a way to address these concerns while also losing (massive amounts of) fat.  Yep, I figured I'm would try to proverbially "ride the two (or in this case three or four) horses with one ass."  Look, I get why internet says it's not a good idea and all that, but I'm not the run-of-the-mill trainee looking for a quick fix (more on that in a future post).

    Finally, I wanted to see if I could just do it!  I'd been planning my content schedule and all my activities therein for a bit leading up to the launch this year, but I have a bad habit of letting work and life derail stuff.  I'll be honest, T2T 2013 wasn't just about finishing and starting strong, it was about Crushing Demons, and one of those demons was the aforementioned letting life and work derail.  Training is part of my life, so I figured if I could stick with this, it's a step towards re-integrating and re-framing training in the context of life.  I know that sounds a little feel-goody-new-agey-hippy-dippy, but hey, it's honest.  So that all said, let's talk some specifics.

...coming to get you, Demons...

What I Didn't Like
    Full disclosure first, I am both a huge Dan John and kettlebell fanboy.  That said, there's nothing about this program I didn't like.  While there are a couple of points that could be potential stumbling blocks, I'm going to put them down as Things To Consider more than dislikes; they really aren't negatives so much as things to keep in mind before you start or in the event that you're programming this for someone else.  However, if I were absolutely pressed, I would say I have some issues with the T-Nation article, but you wouldn't really know of its "shortcomings" if you weren't an obsessive researcher like me, and this is another Thing To Consider I'll address below.  But first, let's talk about what I liked.

What I Did Like
    What I liked best about the program can be summed up in two points: Simplicity and Time.  Like most kettlebell workouts, this one is simple enough that you can pretty much do it wherever there's a kettlebell, but the way the template is presented allows for enough customization to keep "simple" from being "boring".  Coach Dan suggests a few different strength movements to use with the program, but I'd think you could substitute any good full body pushing and pulling movements, or carefully measured intensity/sprint work, which really gives you the opportunity to program either for general activity or tailored towards a specific goal.  Imagine doing TRX rounds, rope jumping, or bag work in between sets, or any sort of movement patterns that are relevant to your pursuits, and you start to see that the possibilities for this program are endless.

Make the tools fit the work

Things To Consider
    Now the moment you've all been waiting for, the things I sorta didn't like, but not really didn't like, but feel like they're worth mentioning so you'll be aware and hopefully make productive decisions if and when you encounter them.  Some of these are probably just conjecture based on my experience, so take most of the following points with a grain of your favorite savory food additive:
  • As I mentioned above, the T-Nation article leaves out a few very important points.  Lucky for us, Coach Dan included them in a post on his forum, and I highly recommend you read it.  It's probably safe to say that your progress won't suffer significantly if you don't read the article, but I will go so far as to opine that you'll develop better overall technique and progress faster if you follow the tenets in the post, and c''s Dan John, the dude knows what he's talking about, so you can't go wrong - Two Things That Didn't Make The T-Nation Article
  • Since you're pretty much doing the same movement 10,000 times, you'll adapt very quickly, so be honest with yourself.  Start heavier than you think you should, or be ready to move up in weight.  It gets pretty easy to get to a point where you can just sorta coast through, but I would suggest instead to go heavier and keep pushing your time as hard as you can, in fact, I would challenge you to cut your starting time by at least 30% by the end of the program.  That's actually the one thing I could've done better, keeping my intensity level up.  Next run, sub-24 minutes or bust...
  • Corollary to the above point, do not ignore or marginalize the following piece of advice: "This is a stand-alone program. If you feel you're able to do a second workout in the same day, then you are 'underbelled' – you're either not going heavy enough or not training with maximal effort."  I mention this because I've seen a lot of folks on various forums and workout sites using the clusters set as a supplemental workout to their "main" training, and I'll admit that even I was still hitting the mats, albeit on a severely reduced schedule, so no fight cardio days, no kickboxing or sparring class, just technique classes (Kaju, Silat, Systema, etc).  But that was all I did, there was no trying to hit my big three in the afternoon or alongside (which honestly, would be insanity).  In retrospect, even doing two cluster set sessions a day, which I did a few times to stay on schedule, is also cheating.  I know, I get it, it's a simple program and you'll be tempted to muck with it, or your ego will tell you that it's so simple, of course you'll have overhead for another workout, you're a member of that "trained population" the studies love to cite.  I say, in the words of Marsellus Wallace, "Fuck Pride", resist that temptation, check your ego, and go all out.  Use a 28kg bell if a 24kg is too easy, or heck, step up to the 32 or 48.  Do whatever you need to do to ensure that the program is challenging enough that you can do it at least 90% as presented.  I'm buying both a 28kg bell and a 32kg bell in prep for my next one, doing what I have to do to go as hard as I should be.  I invite and challenge you to do the same.

"...and I'm telling YOU, Marsellus, Fuck Pride and do the program right! So, we cool?"
"Yeah, we cool."

Through My Lens
    So I hope that I've come across as having an overwhelmingly positive opinion of this program, if not, guess I really need to work on my delivery, because, yes, I like and absolutely recommend this program.  I've already planned on doing a second run, with some tweaks based on my first go-around, and I've gotta say I'm pretty excited about it.  Having a reference for what kind of times I should be hitting, as well as what levels of physical exertion I should be reaching should make my second run even more beneficial than my first, provided I can figure out my calories so I'm not passing out tired and eventually stunting my fat loss, which, sadly, happened (although 18 lbs lost isn't that bad).  To summarize the rest of my thoughts:
  • The 10/15/25/50 cluster with a lighter bell makes a great general warmup; I'm using a 16kg for 2 or 3 sets to warmup for my heavier kettlebell work.
  • I'm pretty much convinced that the two-arm kettlebell swing is one of the most underused movements in training.  If you're like me and need to work on your mobility, you're doing yourself a huge disservice by not including kettlebell swings in your mobility programming.
  • This is a great program to introduce someone to kettlebell work.  I'm a firm believer that the swing is the first movement someone should learn, and the structure of this program, along with Coach Dan's notes on technique, makes it near impossible for someone to learn to swing improperly.
    Even if you're not a huge kettlebell fan, give this program a shot.  As I mentioned above, I'll be using it again as both another cut and to springboard me into a six month kettlebell training cycle, wherein I'll be prepping for StrongFirst Kettlebell Instructor Level 1 Certification in November.  Wish me luck, and if you have any more questions related to programming for this program, Email Me or post a comment below and I promise I'll get back to you. step down the new path.