Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun with the Double Kettlebell Deep Six

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One of my favorite kettlebell drills of all time is the “Deep Six” by Master SFG Instructor Jon Engum. The Deep Six gets it’s name because it features the six fundamental kettlebell techniques taught by Pavel Tsatsouline performed in the form of a complex, as originally written it uses a single kettlebell (12-16kg for women, 20-24kg for men) and asks you to build up to completing 15 minutes of work without setting the bell down.

The beauty of the Deep Six is that it creates a simple and challenging way to drill all of the fundamental kettlebell skills taught to and by SFG certified instructors with a single bell while building strength and endurance.

Jon Engum has written an excellent article on how to program and progress the Deep Six which can be found here:

Here’s a video of 13-year old performing the deep six for a single round.

A few years back I entertained the idea of completing the Deep Six with two kettlebells and gave it a shot and was pleased to find the kind of heart pounding challenging it provided. Performing all six techniques with two kettlebells really changes things and drills strength and endurance on a different level. During the single bell version of the Deep Six one arm is always resting… but during the double bell version you get double the load, neither side of your body has anywhere to hide. It’s double the pleasure and double the fun.

Even an accomplished & strong kettlebell practitioner will find completing just one round of the Deep Six with two kettlebells challenging, not to mention completing three or more rounds. Here’s the sequence.

The Double Kettlebell Deep Six
Using two snatch test size bells complete the following techniques without setting the bells down.

  1. 5 swings,
  2. 5 cleans
  3. 5 presses (sometimes I just combine 2&3 into a clean & press combo)
  4. 5 squats
  5. 5 snatches
  6. 1 get down/up.

Rinse & Repeat until strong(er).

TIP: You may want to start with lighter bells than you snatch test weight and take time to build up.

If you’re familiar with these techniques you’ll likely feel comfortable performing double swings, cleans, presses and squats so I will not go over them here, but for the average person the double snatch and getup needs some addressing:

The Double Kettlebell Snatch

The double kettlebell snatch is performed the same way as the single kettlebell snatch with the exception of lowering the bells to the shoulders between reps.
The reason I do NOT recommend dropping the kettlebells directly into a hike pass from the overhead lockout position is that this complex will put you in a state of fatigue and I have found that hiking directly from the overhead lockout leaves too little room for error plus you run the risk of the bells colliding with each other and/or your knees on the way down. Hiking the bells from the racked position is much simpler and safer.

Inhale and brace strongly during the hike-pass phase.
Push your hips back far enough to generate maximum power during hip extension.
Take a moment or two to rest in either the overhead or rack position.
If absolutely necessary, set the bells and collect your strength before performing the snatches and realize that completing several or even one round of the double deep six does not need to be rushed and conquered the first time out, but should be built up to wisely by working within your limits instead of trying to exceed them.

The Double Getup

Version A)
Double Kettlebell Getup (both bells overhead)
In this version both bells are held overhead throughout the lift.

Because it impossible to wedge yourself off the ground while holding two bells overhead the double getup only bares a resemblance to the single kettlebell version in that you are holding a weight overhead. It requires a combination of creativity and flexibility to complete. It looks like a sequence of an overhead weighted situp to a hurdler stretch to a tall kneeling overhead lockout to standing and back down again. HOWEVER, when performed as the finale of the double deep six it is performed in the reverse order from standing to supine back to standing, so once your on your back and gravity is no longer your friend, the hardest part of the maneuver remains.

The problem with this version of the lift is that it is difficult to maintain a neutral spine through the “sit-up” portions of the lift. Keeping a braced midsection and neutral spine is CRUCIAL to performing the lift safely. So, the only way to really do the lift is by bracing your midsection, stabilizing your spine then throwing your legs to gain enough momentum to rock into a seated position.

Version B)
Getup into a Two Hands Anyhow

In this version of the lift you will set one bell down for a portion of the getup then pick it up again. This allows you to avoid using momentum to rock into a seated position, BUT it requires even more thoracic mobility PLUS the ability to curl one kettlebell into position. Because you are only maintaining one bell overhead for the entire lift you then face the dilemma of making things symmetrical. Instead of adding an extra rep to balance out I suggest using the other arm then next time you perform the sequence or keep track and save it for another day.

Conquering the Deep Six
There are many ways to skin a cat an no single approach is THE answer, but one approach to conquering the Double Deep Six is to approach it in parts.

Take several weeks to train the most challenging parts, maintain the easier ones then put it all together in the end.

A DAY (A program minimum of sorts)

Warmup/Rehearsal: Practice the full Double Deep Six with lighter bells and reduced reps if necessary. Avoid fatigue.

Snatches & Getups
Practice 5 minutes of Double Getups
Practice 10 minute of double snatches

Do not go all out.
Go at a 50-80% all out pace and just drill perfect reps.

B DAYS (Everything Else)

Warmup/Rehearsal: Joint Mobility and Practice the full Double Deep Six with lighter bells and reduced reps if necessary. Avoid fatigue

Perform the following sequence with double snatch test size bells

Swings, Cleans, Presses, Squats, Loaded Carries, rest & Repeat
1 to 5 reps of each lift + one to two minute of carries. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

Sometimes use a combination of heavier bells and lower reps breaking the sequence into to smaller chunks:

For example a man who snatches a 24kg would use two 28s or 32s a woman who snatches the 16kg would use 18s or 20s and do

Several sets of Cleans, Presses & Squats, Rest, Repeat
I recommend keeping the reps low on the presses, and hitting the cleans and squats the hardest. A sequence Master SFG Dan John uses sounds and feels about right: 2 cleans, 1 press, 3 squats.


Several sets of Swings & Loaded Carries, Rest, Repeat
keep the swings in the 5 to 10 rep range. Do two sets of swings, rack the bells and go a nice walk. Repeat this sequence several times and keep increasing the number of sets and increasing the amount of time you can walk without setting the bells down.

Every few weeks test yourself by trying to complete the entire sequence and see how far you’ve come.
I’d break the challenge down like so.

Goal #1:

1 swing, 1 clean, 1 press, 1 squat, 3 snatches, 1 getdown/up.
repeat 2-3x.

Goal #2
Gradually increase the first four lifts in the sequence to 3 reps each.
3 swings, 3 cleans, 3 presses, 3 squats, 3 snatches, 1 getdown/up.

Goal #3
3 swings, 3 cleans, 3 presses, 3 squats, 5 snatches, 1 getdown/up.
repeat 2-3x.

Goal #4
Gradually increase the first four lifts in the sequence to 5 reps each.

5 swings, 5 cleans, 5 presses, 5 squats, 5 snatches, 1 getdown/up.
repeat 1 to 2x.

Goal #5
Gradually increase the first four lifts in the sequence to 5 reps each.

5 swings, 5 cleans, 5 presses, 5 squats, 5 snatches, 1 getdown/up.
repeat 3x.

Here’s a video from a few years back where I nearly conquered the Double Six for a single round with two 24kgs, but I was unable to complete the second half of the double getup as that’s always the most difficult part.
(There’s a video somewhere of me completing it, but I can’t find. I’ll need to film it on another day)

One comment on “Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun with the Double Kettlebell Deep Six

  1. Reblogged this on The 9th Soul and commented:
    I recommend this blog for SFG enthusiasts. Performing with two kettlebells is not simply doubling the load but also doubling the effort and the gains as well as the excitement of working out new challenges for kettlebell fans.

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