Increasing Productivity with Technique Regression Ladders

Double 32kg Kettlebell Setup

I found the following workout in my journals from 2008 to 2010. Reading my notes made the memories and sensations flood back to me. The workout was so intense that I’ve never had the courage to repeat it as written. It was basically an experiment using my Polar Heart Rate Monitor to discover how I could burn the most calories in the shortest amount of time.

At the time I was inspired by a particular study that reported performing kettlebell snatches with a light bell could burn an average 20.2 calories per minute. I wondered to myself, “what’s possible if a certified kettlebell instructor really let it rip with heavier bells?” I tried many different exercises, combinations, weights and paces with some success, but then it occurred to me I should try double kettlebell complexes ( a series of techniques performed without setting the weight down).  Complexes are CRAZY hard, so I wanted to figure out a way to survive 15:00 minutes of double kettlebell complexes and came up with the workout that follows.

The intensity was pretty insane and I had to stop several times to let my heart rate come down to safe levels. According to my notes, my heart rate monitor calibrated for my age, gender, bodyweight and V02 max recorded a staggering average of 26 -calories burned per minute for 15-minutes; an all-time personal best.  To date, I’ve never attempted to repeat this workout in the exact same way. In fact, I think I may not have recovered from it yet.  This particular workout is definitely not the kind of thing I’d repeat often, if ever… it was just the right time for open the throttle and let it rip.

15-Minute Technique Regression Ladder Workout

(I apologize for the name. It’s a fancy way to say I used easier exercises and weights to keep going)

The concept was based on the use of ladders with a twist. Instead of manipulating the number of reps, or time for each rung of a ladder  I manipulated the difficulty of the technique used.  (If you’re not familiar with ladders and rungs, scroll the end of this post to get caught up, then come back)  What I ended up with was a series of five exercises arranged in descending order of difficulty so that the hardest technique is performed first and the easiest is performed last.  I basically started the session working as hard as possible with a pair of 32kg bells and as fatigue crept in I switched to easier and easier techniques in order to keep working safely. As fatigue approached, I’d start over using a lighter set of bells and keep going.  I’d string as many of the techniques together as possible without setting the bells down, then set the bells down only as long as necessary to feel safe and continue with good, crisp technique.

Requirements: 3 different size kettlebells or sets of bells.
Duration: Perform each exercise for 30-seconds per arm for single arm work or 30-seconds total if using double bells. Rest as necessary to ensure safety & quality.

Heavy Bell(s) 32kg

  1. Snatches
  2. High Pulls
  3. Cleans
  4. Swings
  5. Deadlifts

Medium Bell(s) 24kg

  1. Snatches
  2. High Pulls
  3. Cleans
  4. Swings
  5. Deadlifts

Light Bell(s) 16kg

  1. Snatches
  2. High Pulls
  3. Cleans
  4. Swings
  5. Deadlifts


if I were to do this workout over again I would take several weeks to progress in some fashion.

Applying this concept to other exercises

Obviously this concept can be applied to other techniques in addition to kettlebell ballistics.

Example A: Loaded Carries
First Ladder:
Round 1 & 2: Double Kettlebell Mixed Walk (One Bell overhead + One in the Rack) / repeat with other arm
Round 3: Double Kettlebell Walk with both bells in the rack position
Round 4 & 5: Double Kettlebell Mixed Walk (One bell in the rack, one held at your side) / repeat with other arm
Round 6: Double Kettlebell Farmer Walk
Second Ladder: Repeat with medium weights
Third Ladder: Repeat with lighter weights

Example B: Pull-Ups
First ladder:
Round 1: Weighted Pull-ups (hardest)
Round 2: Weighted Chin-Ups
Round 3: Weighted Flexed-Arm Hang
Round 4: Weight Dead Hang (easiest)
Second ladder: Repeat with a lighter weight
Third Ladder: Repeat with Bodyweight

Example C: Pushups
First Ladder
Round 1: One Arm Pushups (hardest)
Round 2: Diamond Pushups
Round 3: Standard Grip Pushup (easiest)
Second Ladder: Repeat rounds 1-3 with hands at higher elevation
Third Ladder: Repeat rounds 1-3 with hands at highest elevation

There you have it; an intense and powerful way to train while managing fatigue and literally getting tons of work done.  Remember… “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Use wisely & enjoy responsibly.

What are “Kettlebell Complexes”?

Kettlebell complexes are series of two or more kettlebell techniques performed back to back without setting the weight down. 

What are “Ladders”?
In the world of resistance training most are familiar with the terms “sets” and “reps”. But fewer are familiar with the use of ladders. Ladders are simply a way of making an exercise systematically easier or harder each round. Ladders are a great way keep the fatigue relatively low by occasionally performing a hard set alternated with easy and medium sets. This allows for faster recovery between sets and therefore allows you to achieve high levels of total work in a single session maximizing productivity. 

Rep Ladders & “Rungs”
A typical rep ladder looks like this: 1 rep, rest. 2 reps, rest. 3 reps, rest. 
Each set within a ladder is called a “rung” The example  above has three-rungs in a single ladder. 
A workout consisting of ladders may look like this
(1 rep, rest. 2 reps, rest. 3 reps, rest. ) start over & repeat for three rounds. 

Time Ladders
Another way to create ladders involves manipulating time.

For example, you can increase the amount of time under load for each rung of the ladder like so: 
10 seconds of work, 10 seconds rest, 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds rest, 30 seconds of work, 10 seconds rest. Repeat.
you can manipulate the amount of rest between rungs like so:
30 seconds of work, 30 seconds rest, 30 seconds of work, 20 seconds of rest, 30 seconds of work 10 seconds rest. Repeat. 

Reverse Ladders
Ladders are generally arranged to get progressively harder each rung before starting over, but the can be arranged in reverse as well so they get progressively easy with each rung. Both have their place .


Getups: Shorthand for Recording Progress

If you’re a fan of hardstyle kettlebell training then chances are you’re familiar with the Getup or the Turkish Getup.
The getup is an amazing exercise that takes students from the ground to standing and back again while holding a weight overhead. The benefits include mobility, stability, strength, overall coordination, focus, shoulder health and more.One of the beautiful things about the getup is that it can be broken down into several stages and depending on the individual or the weight being used you can work just a part or all of the getup. You can perform single reps or continuous reps. There are full getups from the ground up, or reverse getups from standing to the ground then back up again. You can combine getups with presses added at each stage along the way or make them part of a larger complex, etc… All variations offer their own unique sets of challenges and benefits.

However, this also makes it tricky when I’m comparing students’ training records or comparing my own training records to another’s. Looking back at my notes over the years I’ve been frustrated at all the different ways I write down progress for all the possible variations on full or partial getups. I may write down getup-situps or continuous partial getups, get-up to standing, full getups, etc. What one person writes down as a partial getup could mean just about anything.  Or 5 getups could mean the bell was set down between reps or done without setting the bell down. You get the idea.

Recently, I’ve been using the following shorthand and it’s working great, so I thought I’d share and hopefully some of you might find it useful.

Getups are indicated as “TGU”, then I add one or more of the following extensions to indicate how much of the getup was completed and may add another extension to indicate bodyweight, shoe, water bottle, etc..
TGU = Turkish Getup
.E = to elbow
.P = to palm
.K = to kneeling windmill
.L = to overhead lunge / half kneeling
.S = to standing
.F = Full
.R = Reverse (from standing, down, the back up)
.C = continuous getups (multiple reps without setting the bell down)
BW = bodyweight
Shoe = with shoe
H20 = water bottle getup
Theoretical Example 
This example shoes the progress made by a theoretical student over time
BW TGU.P x 3/5 = Partial Getups to the palm using bodyweight x 3 reps for five sets per arm.
Shoe TGU.K  x 1/3 = Partial getup to the kneeling windmill balancing a shoe for 1 rep x 3 sets per arm.
H20 TGU.F x 1/1  = Full getup balancing a water bottle on the fist or 1 rep x 1 set per arm.
16kg TGU.E x 1/5  =  Partial getup to the elbow with the 16kg for 1 rep x 5 sets per arm
16kg TGU.C.L-S x 5/3  =  Continuous reps from the kneeling lunge to standing then back for 5 reps x 3 sets
16kg TGU.S L, TGU.F x 1 = Getup to standing on the left (but not back down) then one full getup on the right.
16kg TGU.C.E x 5/3 = Continuous partial getups to the elbow with the 16kg for 5 reps x 3 sets per arm.
20kg TGU.F x 1/3  = 1 full getup per arm x 3 sets with the 20kg.
24kg TGU.S-P x 1  = The student stood up but only made back down to the palm before the spotter took the bell.
32kg TGU.C.F x  2/3  =   Continuous Full 32kg getups per hand for 2 reps x 3 sets per arm
48kg TGU.F x 1/3  = One Full 48kg getup for three sets per arm.
10:00 48kg TGU.C.F x 2/1 + 1/3 = In 10-minutes Two full continuous getups per arm, then 3 sets of 1 full getup per arm
There you have it.
Let me know you what you think.
Double 32kg Kettlebell Setup

Strong Coffee & Fast Workouts

One of the biggest obstacles (a.k.a “excuses) to fitness is finding time to train. One solution is learning to properly use kettlebells and bodyweight so you can efficiently train at home.
For example…
My Simple & Sinister Breakfast today involved alternating rounds of the following circuit with different aspects of preparing then eating breakfast.

Circuit =
Two 28kg Kettlebells x 10 Cleans & 5 Push Presses, + 3~5 One Arm Pushups/arm.

Put the coffee on & Turn on the stove
Circuit Round 1 + Cook eggs
Circuit Round 2 + put eggs on plate & pour coffee
Circuit Round 3 + Consume Eggs & Coffee

The best part…
No Gym Membership
No commute or traffic to and from the gym
No looking for a parking spot
No changing into gym clothes
No waiting for equipment
Breakfast & a morning recharge workout done inside of 15 minutes.

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Double 32kg Kettlebell Setup

What Does It Mean to Be Strong First?

The phrase “You can be anything you want… But you must be strong first.”  is a powerful statement written by StrongFirst’s Chairman Pavel Tsatsouline.

What does it mean to be strong first? 

Strength is not the only quality, but is a very important one that takes many forms and is not measured solely in pounds or kilograms.

The discipline to achieve  requires you first have strength of mind and character.
The ability to help others first requires you to be strong enough to help yourself.
Flexibility first requires you to be strong enough to achieve a position.
Posture first requires you be strong enough to hold a position.
Speed first requires you be strong enough to move your body.
Endurance first requires the strength to endure…
and the list goes on.

Since 2008 the way I have been taught in the original RKC by Pavel and now StrongFirst has always emphasized quality over quantity. I’ve always been taught that in order to become strong, I must first learn to move well, then learn to add strength to good movement. At the instructor courses I’ve attend and been fortunate enough to assist at I’ve consistently witnessed candidates being taught to emphasize form and quality  before emphasizing quantity of volume, intensity or load.
Repeatedly I’ve heard the message that strength is useless if you can not move your body well enough to use it efficiently. Finally, the instructor certification experience itself is built around requiring candidates to first become strong enough to perform the techniques well before teaching them to others.  Just as I’ve been taught these lessons by my team leaders, senior and master instructors, I too have striven to teach movement and quality first to my own students.

I believe…

A fast movement is inferior to an equally fast movement performed with more strength and therefore less perceived effort.
A harsh action performed from a position of weakness is inferior to a gentle action performed from a position of strength.
A beautifully executed movement is inferior to an equally beautiful movement that is also stronger.

I believe strength has a higher purpose.
Become strong enough to make life better… for yourself and others.


Here’s a simple & FREE kettlebell swing program that requires three different bells (small, medium, large) and as little as 5 to 10 minutes a day, 3 days per week.

You’ll arrange the bells in various prescribed orders and simply move to the next bell every round. Each day the total number of rounds change and every two weeks the order of the bells change. That’s it.


The idea is that the lighter weights teach you how to move the heavier weights and the heavier weights teach you how to generate power with the lighter weights. The goal is make every rep look the same regardless of the weight used.

It’s a very simple program that follows principles of waving the load by manipulating the most variable of variables… volume.
This program gives you one easy, hard and medium workout per week. Over the course of six weeks you’ll gradually increase the difficulty, back off, then build up again. By week six you’ll more than double the amount of work performed on week 1, day


3 Bells x 3 Configurations x 6 Weeks


Choose the heaviest bell you can perform 20 continuous swings with, then choose one lighter and one heavier bell.
Women can use 4 to 16kg jumps between bells, Men should use 8 to 16kg jumps between bells.

Women use  12kg, 16kg and 20kg or  16kg, 24kg, 32kg or  24kg, 32kg, 48kg
Men use  16kg, 24kg, 32kg or  24kg, 32kg, 48kg

You’ll perform the workout three days per week. e.g. M,W,F or Tues,Thurs,Sat for anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.

Every 30 seconds perform 10 reps.
Switch bells every 30 seconds.
Alternate which bells you use every set in such a way that you use the middle bell every other set and the first bell every 4 rounds like this (Left bell, Middle bell, Right Bell, Middle Bell, Left Bell, Middle Bell, Right Bell, Middle Bell….etc.)

Arrange the order of the bells by placing the LIGHT bell in the middle and the medium bell on the far left. Start round 1 with the leftmost/medium bell.
On Day 1 perform 10 rounds
On day  2, 14 rounds.
On day 3, 12 rounds.
On day 4, 16 rounds
On day 5, 20 rounds
On day 6, 18 rounds
Change the order of the bells by placing the MEDIUM bell in the middle and the light bell on the far left. Start round 1 with the leftmost/light bell.
Remember to use the medium bell every other round.
On Day 7 perform 10 rounds
On day  8, 14 rounds.
On day 9, 12 rounds.
On day 10, 16 rounds
On day 11, 20 rounds
On day 12, 18 rounds

Change the order of the bells by placing the HEAVIEST bell in the middle and the medium bell on the far left. Start round 1 with the leftmost/medium bell.
On Day 13 perform 10 rounds
On day  14, 14 rounds.
On day 15, 12 rounds.
On day 16, 16 rounds
On day 17, 20 rounds
On day 18, 18 rounds


If you already train three days per week, just perform this workout either after your normal workouts or on separate days. It’s time efficient and repeatable while featuring the most accessible, powerful and transformation kettlebell technique, the swing.
Now, go forth and be strong(er).

The Golden Rules of Training (What I Learned from Father Guido Sarducci)

Lately, I’ve noticed a trend in fitness related articles with alarming titles that warn about the top 5 or 10 things we should never do. The quality of these lists covers the spectrum from educational to contrarian to misinformed. While there is some good information out there, the thing that always bothers me about such lists is this: once I know a something is wrong… how do I identify what else to avoid, or better yet how do I use this information to find what is correct on my own?  Additionally, if you compile enough of these lists together and you’ll find that nearly every  exercise you can think has made it on the list of exercises to avoid leaving you with little to no options.  I view these sort of negative lists as the equivalent of taking a fish away from a starving man when instead you could either choose to give him a fresh fish or teach him how to fish and feed himself. 

Father Sarducci and The Missing Commandments

Back in the 1970’s and 80’s a comedian named Don Novello frequently appeared on Saturday Night Live playing a character named “Father Guido Sarducci”. I remember one skit in particular where the good Father shared some inside information and let the world know that there were originally more than 10 commandments from the Old Testament. According to Father Sarducci  when Moses came down from Mount Sinai and found his people idolizing a golden calf, he smashed the tablets in a rage. “He-a had a chip on his shoulder because of the cow incident,” Sarducci explained.

“There were actually more than ten (commandments), but Moses was old and grumpy, and after he broke the tablets he could only remember the negative ones. ‘Don’t do this. Don’t do that.’ The truth is, most of them were more like advice. The Twelfth Commandment, for example, was ‘Whistle while you work.’ (People think its from Disney, but Disney stole it from God.)

- Father Guido Sarducci, on The Ten Commandments

I remember there were a few other missing commandments along the lines of  “it’s all right to eat fried chicken with your fingers”,  “Wait 15-minutes after eating before swimming”, “Never give a chicken bone to a dog” and “When you use Q-Tips just go around the outside of the ear.”

In addition to being funny, the skit made me think a little more about the Ten Commandments. Prior to that day I had never really noticed how 8 out of 10 commandments were rules telling me what NOT to do. Furthermore, the “Thou shall not” commandments only forbade one specific act at a time such as “don’t lie” or “don’t commit murder”, which makes you wonder if it’s acceptable to merely wound someone instead of committing murder or avoid telling the truth instead of telling a lie. Conversely, the other two commandments tell us what to do, which seems to allow for an infinite numbers of ways to do good deeds. 

This lead me to think about the Golden Rule which seems to cover at least six of the 10 commandments in one elegant statement: “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them”(Matthew: 7:12). The Golden Rule tells us what to do in such a way that it becomes obvious what not to do, all you have to do is screen your action towards others with “would I want others to treat me this way?”  This one simple rule clearly forbids things like stealing, racism, murder, lying, extra marital affairs, disrespectful behavior toward your parents as well as things that never would have been thought of back in biblical times like running red lights, drinking while driving,  suicide bombings, posting rude comments on Facebook and more.

I believe the world is in desperate need of more minimalistic Golden Rules that tell us what we can do and fewer lists from grumpy authors telling us what not to do. After all, if one Golden Rule can cover the majority of something as important as the Ten Commandments then why shouldn’t we strive to create Golden Rules to simplify other things like fitness?

So… I decided to give it a shot and come up with a single golden rule for training (which proved to be impossible) and instead I ended up with two.  These two rules are intentionally very minimalistic, but they rule out a lot of stupid things like overtraining, high-risk exercises, bragging about injuries, poor technique, becoming a selfish gym-rat that hides from worldly responsibilities and so on. They also allow for a lot of things like choosing any form of exercise that appeals to you and gets the job done.


  1. Only use training methods, volumes and loads that do no harm.
  2. Regularly train, eat, drink, rest and live in ways that positively impact your ability to enjoy life and to help others.


There you have it. Two simple rules that tell you what you should do, and by deduction tell you what not to do. Let me know what you think.


If you happened to see Father Guido Sarducci a.k.a. Don Novello, tell him I said “Thanks”.

I was unable to locate any video of Father Sarducci’s Ten Commandments bit. However, I did find this  excellent clip of Father Sarducci explaining his brilliant plan for a “5-Minute University”. Enjoy.


To redeem our Groupon Offer:

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GET READY:  To Redeem your groupon offer please complete the following form and you will be contacted with instructions on how to register and reserve your class space.



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GET SET: Making Your Class Reservation
All class sizes are limited to 8 participants and you will be asked to reserve you spot in advance.
We offer a combination of Kettlebell classes and or private training 6-Days per week Monday through Saturday.  (You can use the link below)

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After reserving your class spot,  come to class wearing standard workout attire (shorts, shirt) also bring water and a towel.
During your first few classes we will ask a few questions, conduct assessments and gradually introduce you to fundamental techniques. Each workout with progress toward more challenging exercises and goals as you learn and improve.


Notice: Our studio is only open during class hours and visits are by appointment and class reservation only.

Omaha Elite Kettlebell 10-week Ballistics Challenge

10-Week Kettlebell Challenge – “Go Ballistic”

If the thought of all the good holiday food that’s coming around the corner has you stressed out, you may want to consider having your cake and eating it too. In other words, don’t deny yourself from enjoying the Holidays, just make sure you earn your just desserts.

Here’s a nice 10-week challenge to help you stoke your metabolic fire and keep your fitness progress moving forward.
When performed properly, with sufficient weight and power the techniques included here have the potential to burn over 20-calories per minute for the average individual.  In order to get the most of these techniques I highly recommend… no I INSIST on doing everything within your power to learn the technical subtleties that will allow you to safely squeeze every ounce of transformational power out these movement from a qualified StrongFirst certified kettlebell instructor in your area.

If you follow the plan and find a way to achieve at least 100 reps a day, three days per week for 10-weeks you will have accomplished 3,000 to 6,000 Kettlebell swings, high pulls or snatches and burned over 6,000 calories. You’ll improve your endurance and ability to generate power, ramp-up your metabolism and build muscle in all the right places.  After all that, go ahead and have a slice or four
 of pumpkin pie… you will have earned it.


10-WEEK PLAN Select a technique from the list below that you can perform safely using a kettlebell size which allows you to perform 10 to 20 powerful repetitions per set. Start with 100 reps in 5 minutes and build up over 10 weeks to 200 reps in 10-minutes. Perform the following training session for up to 10-minutes anywhere from 1 to 3 time per week. Keep a steady predetermined pace such as 10 reps per minute for as long as possible. When you can no longer keep the pace, either switch to an easier technique on the list that allows you to keep pace or end the workout for the day. Each week attempt to increase the total number of sets performed until you can complete all ten-minutes at your goal pace. Eventually build up to completing 20 reps per minute for all 10-minutes. When you can complete 200 reps of a single technique in 100 minutes, it's time to



10 Characteristics That Can Help You Fail or Achieve Your Fitness Goals

I often think about the many people I have had the honor to work with and I try to understand which characteristics determine whether a client fails succeeds or falls somewhere in the middle.
After some thought, I’ve arrived at the following two lists.

Characteristics of Clients Who Experience Lackluster Results

  1. Focus on short term results and immediate rewards.
    “I want to lose 10lbs before my High-School Reunion next month.” ” I saw or read a really cool workout I want to tryout.”
  2. They don’t value what is being offered… often seeking discounts, free lessons or shortcuts. Indecisive or reluctant to invest time and money into their long term health and fitness.
  3. Irregular and inconsistent training schedule.
    They have no idea if they will train today or tomorrow. They often take extended “breaks” from training all together, then return frustrated because they’ve fallen behind.
  4. Inconsistent effort and energy level.
    More often than not they allow their performance to be ruled by their emotions.
  5. Poor focus and easily distracted during training.
    This can mean bringing life’s problems into the gym, being excessively chatty during training time,  or being distracted frequently by new workouts or routines.
  6. They are blissfully ignorant of their own progress, personal bests, etc…
    They don’t keep a training journal. They never know what weights they are supposed to be using and have no idea what their 5 or 1 rep max is in a given movement.
  7. They make little to no effort to educate themselves on fitness and health outside of class.  They abdicate as much responsibility for their own fitness and health as possible onto others.
  8. They have no fitness integrity. In other words, the 3 to 5 hours of work they put into class every week is continually undermined by 160+ hours of lethargy, poor posture, lack of sleep and bad nutritional habits.
  9. They avoid objectively assessing themselves, avoid what makes them uncomfortable and either set unrealistic, unmeasurable or no fitness/performance goals.
  10. They network and surround themselves with people who are NOT passionate about  strength, fitness or health.

By contrast, this inevitably brought me to build a list of characteristics shared by students who are the most successful.

Characteristics of Clients Who Get the BEST Results

  1. They have a long term vision focusing on the big picture. Slow progress, steady and consistent work over months and years beats a short-lived unsustainable burst of intense effort.
  2. They seek out value and are willing to pay what it’s worth and take decisive action. This seems to be common among successful professionals and their family members who understand what it took to be successful themselves. They commit and put their own money and reputation on the line, then follow up with action.
  3. They know their training schedule in advance and train consistently and predictably, even when it’s inconvenient.  For example: every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at the same time, regardless of how much sleep they had the night before and notify their trainer or training partners when they will be absent.
  4. They consistently train with a relatively high level of energy and intensity. They take responsibility for their energy level and  aren’t easily ruled by their emotions. They approach their training with professionalism… even when they don’t feel like it.
  5. They have a high degree of focus while training. They are on task during training and have no problem sticking to a 10 to 12-week program.
  6. They know their personal bests and track and measure their progress.
  7. They have an active and almost insatiable interest in health and fitness and educate themselves on the topic outside of class. (Example: my best students are typically those who learn to eat healthy, are constantly reading willing to pursue extra-curricular learning opportunities or fitness challenge like the StrongFirst User Courses or Certifications or the Tactical Strength Challenge)
  8. Fitness Integrity.  A.k.a. They have learned to make fitness and health an important part of their everyday lifestyle and they train outside of class. In their spare time they enjoy hiking, biking, being outdoors, swimming, playing sports, participating in athletic competitions, playing with their kids, etc…
  9. They are continually assessing themselves and setting, objective, goals that address their own weaknesses as well as their strengths. They are no stranger to making themselves uncomfortable.
  10. They network with and surround themselves with people who are passionate about  strength, fitness and health. (Example: StrongFirst Certified instructors tend to network and train with other StrongFirst Certified Instructors  )

Don’t interpret these two lists as containers to place individuals in, because it’s rare that one list perfectly describes any one person.  Instead look at these lists as one set of ten characteristics, each characteristic with it’s own continuum or sliding scale.  If you were to score yourself on these 10 qualities daily there may be some fluctuation, but overall I believe most people would score pretty consistently over time. There are times in life when other things take priority or it’s difficult to stick to a routine… but then there are those who accept no excuses and either find or make a way. Individuals who lean toward the qualities in the latter list will tend to be those who experience the most successful results.  I personally believe all of the qualities listed are choices and behaviors that can be tweaked and learned over time.

Look at the above lists, determine your relative weaknesses and turn one into a strength over the course of several months and you’ll be a better or man or woman for having done so.

In other words… strength is a choice.

Are Kettlebells Better for Strength, Cardio or Toning?

Double Kettlebell Renegade Row Omaha Elite Kettlebell

“Are kettlebells better for strength, cardio or toning?” – The short answer: “YES”.  

The following post is a response to a question posted by Laura Spencer
“Anyone have any insight as far as kettlebell goes? Is it more cardio based than most yoga or barre? Does it compare in the toning you see from barre? I’d like to hear some input from people personally before doing a listless web search.”

I originally posted my response to her blog, but after further consideration I realize that there are probably MANY more people out there asking similar questions.


Kettlebells are simply tools that can be programmed and utilized many ways.

Put simply, kettlebells can be used to improve both strength and endurance. Of course, “it depends” on how your workouts are programmed, using the appropriate weights, reps and sets, rest, and safe technique.

Caution: There are a lot of fitness classes out there utilizing kettlebells run by instructors who know next to nothing about how to perform or teach kettlebell techniques let alone how to program a kettlebell workout. To find what I consider to be the highest calibre of Kettlebell training visit

Kettlebells are a form of resistance training, and when you think about it… so are Barre and Yoga. In Yoga and Barre you use your bodyweight and manipulated leverages as the main source of resistance while kettlebell training relies on… kettlebells. Any form of training that builds strength improves muscle tone. The more resistance you can learn to overcome by either adding an external load or manipulating leverage the stronger you will become and you will improve the “tone” of the muscles being worked.

Tone = Tension. Tension = Strength. Therefore, Strength = Tone
Muscle tone is partly due to the amount of resting tension your muscles have throughout the day.
Tension is strength. When you flex you are temporarily increasing the amount of tension in the muscles involved. So, to lift a heavier weight you need the ability to “flex” harder or generate more tension, which when done with a sufficiently heavy enough weight to elicit an adaptation response builds a stronger muscle capable of generating even more tension. The stronger a muscle is, the more tension it can afford to have at rest (consider the rippling muscles of Bruce Lee, a tiger or even a chimpanzee at rest… THAT’s TONE!)

Additionally, there are many unique kettlebell lifts that develop flexibility like the Getup, Cossack Squats, Pistols, crooked press, arm bars, windmills and Bent presses that many people like to refer to as Yoga with Weights.


A Kettlebell Workout that does BOTH Strength/Tone & Conditioning can be viewed on my blog

Simple examples of Kettlebell “cardio” workouts that melt fat to reveal the underlying muscle tone could be something like

– Using a light kettlebell you can snatch overhead for 15 to 20 reps and doing sets of 10 per arm with a 1:1 work:rest ratio for 15 minutes. A similar workout was shown to burn more than 20 calories per minute by the average person (study:

– Alternating 20 seconds of kettlebell swings with 20 seconds of goblet squats.
(20 seconds of swings: 10 seconds rest: 20 seconds of goblet squats: 10 seconds rest) x 8
Shoot for 10+ swings and 8+ squats per round.
(20 seconds of double bell Clean & Push Presses: 10 seconds rest: 20 seconds of renegade rows: 10 seconds rest) x 8

Key features of a kettlebell STRENGTH workout is that the rest periods are longer, the reps are typically lower and the weights are much heavier.

Simple examples of HEAVY kettlebell STRENGTH workouts that increase muscle tone
– 1 getup per arm per minute for 10 minutes.
– A pair of bells you can lift & squat for 5 reps: 2 clean & press + 3 Squats, rest & repeat. 
– Two VERY heavy bells you can swing for 5-10 reps and perform sets of 5  

As you can see, there are many variables you can manipulate in your kettlebell training to target the results you seek. 

Hope that helps. ;]”