March 18, 2015

Full-Body Conditioning Simplified: Run, Swing, Repeat.

Simple, full-body conditioning. ASAP!

One of the primary reasons people get sidetracked or discouraged in any exercise program is the massive number of exercise variations and the tidal wave of information available online.

Ideally, you should have your week or day’s training already planned out, because random “workout of the day” formats only get you so far. But, sometimes a break is in order, or maybe time or equipment is short for that day. You still have to train, though.

Here is one of my simple workouts for a little extra conditioning and some strength work. I have found that a good mix of basic kettlebell exercises and bodyweight movements are absolute gold for body-composition, mobility, and conditioning.

You will need a single kettlebell, a stopwatch or timer, and an open space.

2-Arm kettlebell swings, jog, burpees, jog, repeat.

Take a single kettlebell to an open field, park, or parking lot.

Pace out about 100 strides, or just eyeball an object in the distance approximately 100 yards away.

Set the bell down, set the timer for 10,15 or 20 minutes. Do a hard set of swings with the bell, in few enough reps that the last rep of your set is just as explosive and fast as your first rep.

Slow jog to the pre-determined spot in the distance. Drop down and do 5-10 burpees. Try to do them as fast and powerfully as possible. I know there are 100s of burpee variations out there. Don’t overthink this. Just pick one and do it.

Jog back to the kettlebell. Repeat for the allotted time. Count rounds if you want, but I usually don’t. I just work for the allotted time and don’t worry about the numbers.

Remember that the run is supposed to be an easy, recovery jog. Take it easy, so that you can put as much speed into your swings and burpees as possible. The idea is not to let those movements get slow. Remember, they are both power movements, which means speed is important.

What kind of swing?
For me, I generally just do the low-tech 2-arm swing for this and drag out either a 40kg or 48kg bell. 8-10 swings per set seems to be the sweet spot for sustained power production in this exercise for me with these weights. Any more and they start to slow and power production starts to drop. I would choose a weight you can manage 15-20 perfect reps with at a maximum, and then only do 8-10 reps per set to make sure every rep is perfect.

Just because you might do competitive kettlebell sport, you don’t have to ignore the 2-Arm “Hardstyle” Swing as an exercise. It’s OK. Relax. The kettlebell gods won’t strike you down.

It is a different exercise than the 1-arm GS Swing designed to improve your snatch or long-cycle numbers, but it is still a great conditioning movement. I see it on the same level as the burpee, and probably has as much to do with your sport numbers as the burpee does (which is little). This is about getting in a few minutes of good conditioning with a little strength built in. No skill involved, just work. This might be a good addition to add after high-skill movements like the jerk or snatch.

The heavy 2-Arm Swing will build conditioning unlike nearly any other exercise. The swing works the entire posterior chain, but special emphasis is placed on the glutes, hamstrings and mid-line stabilization muscles (core).

The 2-Arm Swing is a perfectly symmetrical exercise. You can’t favor one side. If you do, you will know about it real fast.
Since the swing is primarily focused on mid-line stabilization – in synchronization with explosive hip and knee extension – its carryover into sports activities and other functional movement is incredible.

In plain English, this means that it will help you lift heavier, jump higher and run faster. Or, simply do these things easier and with less risk of injury.

In theory, you could take a group with some kind of body-composition goal and have them finish out 20-30 minutes of strength training with 10-15 minutes of this a few days a week.

Low-skill. Easy on the hands.
One of the benefits of this type of training for a martial artist or kettlebell sport competitor is these low-skill movements are easy on the hands. If you’ve been drilling the snatch or long-cycle for timed sets, your concentration can be a little fried and the hands might need rest. Short, heavy sets of 2-arm swings don’t put a ton of wear on the hands and are safe enough and low-skill enough that they shouldn’t interfere with recovery or risk injury.

Listen to your body, and don’t be afraid to scale back.
This basic workout is simple, but not easy. It is designed to be low-skill, and not interfere with recovery time. It should also challenge anyone if you use the right bell and move fast enough. The simplest way to up the ante, if needed, is to simply reduce the length of your recovery jog. Reducing it to 50 yards instead of 100 yards is actually a huge increase in difficulty.

There is no reason to risk injury if you are new to training, either. If burpees are not possible, then just do pushups, or maybe even a plank hold instead. If swings aren’t on the table yet, then kettlebell deadlifts or goblet squats are a good substitute.

I have used this exact training for senior citizens and extremely de-conditioned individuals, using plank holds, a one-minute brisk walk, and kettlebell deadlifts in place of swings. Whatever you choose, just make sure your first rep looks as good as your last.

Get off the computer and get moving!
Quit looking for a magical workout or exercise. Just get moving with a few simple movements. Enough thinking and reading. Work!

-Jim Beaumont
Idaho Kettlebell Strength and Conditioning

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