4-Weeks to a Stronger Press

When it comes to getting stronger people are more familiar with slogans like “No Pain, No Gain” or “Go Hard or Go Home”and less familiar with the concept of “Minimum Effective Dose” and adequate recovery.

Just last week a private student who typically trains 3 days per week  returned after one week, did a negligible warm-up then proceeded to absolutely smash personal bests in multiple lifts. She didn’t train during her time off, she relaxed and enjoyed herself. The new personal bests were the result of reduced stress and sufficient recovery. She got stronger by doing enough work, then recovering from it.

To some degree getting stronger is a matter of knowing the numbers and doing the math… If you knew for an absolute fact that the correct dosage for increasing your bench press by X lbs is to perform exactly 300 reps with 75% of your 1 rep max over the course of 4-weeks, then getting stronger becomes much simpler, doesn’t it?

In this regard Strength training is similar to following a recipe, if the recipe sucks or you have the wrong ingredients, trying harder won’t the meal taste any better.

The problem with programming, is that one-size does not fit all.
Every person is unique in terms of strength, experience, technique, stress levels, recovery, time available to train and so forth. When you know your student it becomes possible to write a program that actually works with less reps and total time training than one would think.

The following program was designed for the one arm kettlebell military press, but it has been used successfully with the double kettlebell press as well.  It was intentional designed to be low volume, low stress.

Typically it used to turn a 3-rep max into 7-rep max in 12 workouts over 4-Weeks while using as few as  10 to 35 reps a day.

Over the course of one-month it only uses 250 total reps over the course of one month which keeps the stress very low and the training easy. Additionally, the program only assigns a total number of reps to accomplish each day and leaves the number of reps per set or ladder up to you, so depending on how you feel you can do or more less reps per set that day.  Like I said… it’s easy.  In fact, it so easy that both participants reported on more than one occasion that they didn’t believe it would work. ;]




The following low-volume pressing program was originally designed for an individual with the following considerations

  • A three-rep max of 24kg in the one arm military press (OAMP). 
  • Low volume, and low stress. 
  • A set of kettlebells that included 24kg, 26kg and 28kg bells.

The original program took his 3-rep max and turned it into a 7 rep max.

Since then, I’ve created modified versions of the same program for other individuals based on their 3-rep max with equal or better success.


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7 Ways to Accomplish More with the Same Reps and Sets

The typical solution to making an exercise or given weight harder is to do more reps, run farther, workout longer, etc. The problem with this approach is that there comes a point where you can only spend so much time training per day, and the ‘more is better’ approach eventually leads to running out of time and or overtraining/injury.

There is an elegant solution that requires far less time while providing a higher return for your investment.
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The Best Kettlebell Move for a More Awesome You


When it comes to general fitness on a tight schedule the Kettlebell swing (specifically the Hardstyle swing) is one of the simplest, most beneficial and accessible movements for the general population . It’s a one-stop shop for fat-loss, power production, strength, endurance, improved posture, a strong healthy back and more.

If you’re not familiar with the hardstyle swing it involves setting up behind a kettlebell as if preparing for deadlift, hiking the bell behind you, standing up, hiking again and repeating until strong. The entire movement is driven by the hips while maintaining a braced midsection and neutral spine. Performed properly, the swing is beautiful, graceful and powerful thing to behold.

OEKB User Course Technique Cheat Sheet SWING-04

Benefits of the kettlebell swing include

  • The ability to burn insane amounts of calories (I once measured myself as high as 26 calories per minute)
  • Safely accomplish tremendous workloads (just this morning Sarah performed 9,856lbs of kettlebell swings in 14-minutes)
  • Practically Zero-Impact Training that is extremely friendly to high mileage knees
  • Improved posture and athletic performance by strengthening of all the postural muscles that most people ignore including the butt, the hamstrings, the hip flexors, the lats and upper back.
  • Improved athletic performance by high-repetition practice of generating tremendous rapid force production with the hips, legs, glutes, lats and abs.

Here are some tips essential to unlocking the transformational potential of the Kettlebell swing
Getting Started
Before swinging it is essential for safety to achieve the following fundamentals:

  • A straight legged toe touch with your heels together, before swinging.
  • Learn to perform a safe deadlift with a neutral spine.
  • Build up to deadlifting a barbell equal to 2x to 3x  the weight of the bell you want to swing for the same amount of reps. E.g. a complete novice  who can deadlift 100lbs for 10 reps is generally safe swinging a 25lb kettlebell for 10 reps.
  • Understand how to properly breathe and brace your midsection during both the standing and hike phases of the swing.
  • If possible invest in learning from a StrongFirst certified instructor – StrongFirst is THE source of Hardstyle Swing. Also consider attending or hosting a StrongFirst SFG User Course , the quintessential one-day, 8-hour kettlebell workshop.

Maximizing The Swing

  • Stretch your hips before. If your hips are tight you’ll be using a limited range of motion, generating less power, and likely using your back or reinforcing poor posture.
  • Stretch your glutes after in order to restore flexibility to the muscles that swing tightens.
  • Combine your swings with some sort of active rest between sets to speed recovery and keep performance high.  You’ll recover faster, improve faster and stay safer.
  • Keep your eyes forward & never look around while swinging.
  • Swing no higher than chest height or parallel to the ground. The focus of the swing is producing power with hips forward. The upward trajectory is just a by product of the fact that your arms are connected to your shoulders.
  • Never go to failure. In the swing there’s no such thing as a 1 rep max and there are no spotters, if your technique goes out the window you are risking injury.
  • For maximum force production swing a kettlebell equal to approximately 1/3rd your bodyweight. This comes from some awesome research by Brandon Hetzler
  • Strive for power production, not energy conservation. By doing so you guarantee more result for less swings.
  • Synchronize your breathing with each and every rep.
  • Keep the kettlebell high when hiking the bell back between the legs. The lower you swing the bell, the more load you take off your hips and shift to your spine.
  • At the top of each swing be sure to reinforce the posture you want to leave the gym with (stand tall, proud chest, do not slouch, tight glutes, etc.).  We become what we do repeatedly.
  • Always focus on quality over quantity. Simply chasing reps for some twisted concept of glory is recipe for injury. Treat your training sessions as the practice of perfection, not an attempt to destroy yourself.
  • Stay Fresh: Find the combination of the right weight and work to rest ratio that allow to accomplish as much work as possible with as much power as possible while maintaining the best form possible.
  • Finish your workouts when you can no longer maintain pace, breath control or form.
  • Set the bell down safely as if preparing for another rep, a.k.a. “like a professional”


  • From experience individuals new to the swing are safest swinging a bell that weighs up to 1/3rd of their best deadlift, while more experienced students can swing much heavier relative to their deadlift as their skill improves.
  • When beginning a program it’s generally a good idea to start with 1/2 the total amount of reps you could do per set when fresh.
  • Build your daily, weekly and monthly volume gradually.
  • An average daily workload of 200 swings seems about right for a well trained individual.  Periods of extreme volume must be balanced with extreme rest.
  • Over time vary your weights and techniques.
  • Before adding reps per set focus on increasing the number of sets you can do or decreasing the duration of your rest periods.


  • Never slouch or bend over between sets.
  • Never swing facing downhill or wearing shoes with a cushy elevated heel.
  • Never swing a kettlebell in an area where people or pets are likely to run in front of your bell’s trajectory.
  • Preferably train on a surface where it’s ok to drop your bell.




Here’s a little cheat sheet on the how to perform the swing properly.


OEKB SWING Technique Cheat Sheet poster-05.png

A Sample Swing Program

Determine how many swings you can perform in 5-minutes with a given bell, then from this  determine how many reps you average per minute.  Divide your avg reps per minute by half. This is how many swings you will perform per minute. Your “goal pace”. Note: if you can easily perform more than 100 reps in 5-minutes, consider a harder variation such as one hand swings or a heavier bell.

Goal  1: Build up to keeping your goal pace for an average of 10-minutes of swings per day. Some days more, some less. Example Monday 8 minutes, Wednesday 12 minutes, Friday 10 minutes. Each week yet to increase the average minutes per day by 2.

Goal 2: When you can perform an average of 20 minutes or 200+ reps per day, start over  at week one with more reps per minute at an average of 10 minutes per day, and build back up to 20-minutes or approximately 200 total reps.

Goal 3:  Perform another swing test with the same bell to test improvement or  a heavier bell, or one-handed swings then repeat the same steps.


Variety is the Spice of Life

Improve your kettlebell swing with the following “Same-but-different” variations.

Note: Whatever you do, don’t call it  “muscle-confusion”, it’s muscle education… after all nobody wants a confused muscle. ;]

Common Swing variations

  • Two Hand Swings: Both hands on the same bell
  • The power-swing: park the bell between each rep
  • Continuous swings: 2 or more continuous reps at a time.
  • Towel Swings
  • Side Stepping Swings
  • Walking Swings
  • “Look Ma No-Hands” Swings ( Swing with the bell attached to a weight belt)
  • One-Hand Swings: one hand on the bell
  • Double Kettlebell Swings: a kettlebell in each hand
  • Hand to Hand Swings: One-Handed swings switching hands at the top of each rep
  • Partner Spiked Swings: Your partner accelerates the bell downward.
  • Banded Swings: The band accelerate the bell downward

Swing User Course

Want to swing like a pro? We can help

We offer Group Classes, Semi-Private Lesson, Personal Training and Workshops

We are also a provider of the one-day StrongFirst(TM) Kettlebell User Course. Contact us to host one at your facility.


Kettlebell Juggling: Omaha Elite Kettlebell - John Scott Stevens SFGII


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A Stronger Press with this One Simple Trick…

If you love pressing heavy weight overhead and want to press heavier, here’s one sneaky way to pressing nirvana with the added bonus of strengthening your midsection and keeping your shoulders healthy. All it requires is one simple tweak to a standard kettlebell move.  If you work with kettlebells and haven’t thought of it before prepare to face-palm…


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How to Lose Inches by Doing Less


What’s even better than training hard and losing inches? Doing less and losing inches and getting stronger! (Special Offer!)

Do you want to lose inches, get stronger, and accomplish more in less total training time?Despite what many will tell you the answer doesn’t involve trying harder,  eating less, box jumps, obstacle courses or more heroic workouts.

The truth is most people  don’t realize that with the right combination of appropriately selected exercises, safe technique, gradually progression and appropriate dosages it becomes not only possible, but easier to gain muscle, lose fat (“inches”) and improve performance by spending less total time training, doing less cardio, eating more, resting more and being pain free.

If you live in the Omaha area and like the sound of that then allow us to help.
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Get Stronger For Life!


If you like the idea of getting stronger, increasing your metabolism, moving better, feeling better and learning skills that will empower you to kick butt for the rest of your life…
If you’re tired of trying harder, but only getting injured…
If you no longer measure the value of a workout by how sweaty or sore you are…
If you value quality over quantity…
then you’re in luck.. Continue reading



Bridging the Gap Between Kettlebells in the Rite of Passage

Pressing 1/2 bodyweight for men or 1/3rd bodyweight for women overhead with one arm is the goal, the journey is not always a direct path and shortest distance between two points is NOT always a straight line, instead your personal bests or peaks will be followed and necessitated by valleys. While higher peaks and heavier PRs will come, sometimes it takes a little creativity to chart the course based on what’s available to you.

Programming can be a bit more complex than this, but doesn’t have to be. If you can press one kettlebell for 5 ladders of 5 rungs, but can’t quite press the next kettlebell size for 5 reps yet and you’re just too bull-headed to stay with the lighter bell and build volume or density… then this is one approach to try

This article is for those who are familiar with the Rite of Passage from “Enter the Kettlebell” by Pavel Tsatsouline. It’s Required Reading.
If you haven’t completed the Rite of Passage pressing program with a given bell, then… as Pavel would say “burn the following material before reading”.

Using two different kettlebells

  • Kettlebell A = the bell you’ve previously completed the Rite of Passage with or can press for 10
  • Kettlebell B = the next heavier bell is the bell you CAN press for 2 reps but CAN NOT yet press for 5 reps.

Use the following principles to create your own 3, 4 and 5 Rung ladders that are appropriate for you. Continue reading

Kettlebell Training: A Perfect Start

When it comes to kettlebell training people have many questions. Some are uninformed and unsure where to turn, some are misinformed and others simply misunderstand. Some have had bad experiences with unqualified trainers using kettlebells improperly as if they are nothing more than oddly shaped dumbbells, missing the point entirely and never getting to experience their unique potential and benefits.

I’ve written this post to answer the following questions:

  • What is a kettlebell?
  • Why do people train with kettlebells?
  • What makes the kettlebell special?
  • Are Kettlebells Dangerous?
  • How do I start to learn how use kettlebells properly?


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Kettlebells are hand held weights shaped like cannonballs with a handle.  They have been around for hundreds of years and in the last 10 years or so have returned to the spotlight due to the teachings of Pavel Tsatsouline and the kettlebell revolution he has inspired. The kettlebell’s unique design allows for a wide variety of standard lifts as well as extremely powerful specialized lifts which are unique to the kettlebell.


The beauty of kettlebell training is in it’s elegant simplicity, versatility, freedom and scalability.

No other single piece of equipment will allow you to accomplish so much in so little time, can be used or taken anywhere and can be made as challenging or as easy as necessary.  A young teenager can learn to safely swing a 24kg, a strong athlete in his or her prime can be challenged and made to sweat bullets with a 12kg kettlebell or a 70 year old grandma can learn to safely deadlift the massive 48kg.

Dumbbells and Barbells are unquestionably powerful & effective tools and the barbell is the undisputed king when it comes to lifting very heavy weight, but the kettlebell’s unique design gives it the following advantages:

  • Kettlebells are small, portable and versatile.
  • They can be taken anywhere, and require minimal space
  • They allow you to perform all the lifts and movements used with barbells and dumbbells, plus they allow you to do many things that can’t be duplicated with dumbbells and barbells.
  • They can be passed from hand to hand
  • They can be held in different ways manipulating leverage.
  • They allow for keeping a safe neutral wrist position while lifting.
  • They are great for stretching with.
  • They allow for greater range of motion and more degrees of freedom.
  • They can be swung between the legs and safely accelerated during the negative phase for a powerful training effect.
  • They allow for safely executing high repetition quick lifts.
  • They can be stacked, thrown, dragged and even juggled.
  • The off-balance center of provides an extra degree of challenge strengthening stabilizers and forcing the entire body to work together as a single unit.
  •  Additionally, the kettlebell’s versatility makes it the perfect tool for learning the principles used to make you safer, stronger while training so you can then apply them to any other modality including the barbell, dumbbell, bodyweight, TRX and more.

If you want to escape the gym, the combination of bodyweight and kettlebell training gives you the freedom and the ability to train anywhere, on your own terms and only requires a small amount of space.

If you seek a versatile tool that allows you to train for strength, flexibility, power, endurance and fat-loss, no other single piece of equipment does it better. Kettlebells allow to perform the same lifts as dumbbells and barbells + many powerful lifts that can only be performed with kettlebells.

If you want to burn calories, kettlebell ballistics which burn over 20 calories per minute are hard to beat.

If you love variety, the kettlebell’s unique design makes it possible to perform an endless variety of exercises, combinations and complexes without the need to change equipment, set the bell down or wait in line at the gym.

If you want to be challenged, the simplest kettlebells workouts have proven to humble the strongest athletes.

If you seek simplicity, look no further. Thousands of people have experienced amazing results (losing 100lbs?) from programs consisting of only one or two kettlebell techniques.
As powerful as kettlebell training can be, it’s not about the kettlebell.

The kettlebell is only a tool. Without the proper expertise it’s nothing more than an oddly shaped dumbbell… or a doorstop.

Powerful and effective kettlebell training is first and foremost about moving well, then matching the right techniques to the individual, combining that with intelligent programming and the application of proven principles. This can be difficult or impossible to learn on your own through books, videos and internet forums. There is a proven process to follow, but more on that later.


Kettlebells are like any powerful tool, the magic is in HOW you use them and they are firm adherents of the “garbage-in-garbage-out” principle. When used properly and expertly they can produce amazing results … and when used inappropriately, inexpertly or irresponsibly the results can be less the optimal at best or catastrophic at worst. The internet is full of people who put down one form of exercise over another as dangerous or stupid, but what the best trainers understand is that context is key. What determines the safety or appropriateness of any given exercise technique or tool is knowing how to match the right movements, techniques, tools and loads to the individual.  No single technique is appropriate for everyone, the best instructors know this, and investing a great deal of  time and resources  learning how to properly assess and progress each trainee as a unique individual.


In order to train with kettlebells safety and effectively or train others responsibly you will need three things

  1. Live, in-person, expert instruction. Nothing will accelerate or ensure proper technique like immediate feedback, technical subtleties and hands-on corrections that personal attention from a StrongFirst certified instructor provides.
  2. A proven system and a set of principles to follow (such as StrongFirst provides) that keeps you safe, guides you down the right path and allows for growth. The StrongFirst system we utilize is known for making novices strong and champions stronger.
  3. A Community of like-minded individuals to support, challenge and encourage one another.  Through the StrongFirst community you will join a world-wide family.



The one-day StrongFirst Kettlebell User Course is the perfect opportunity to be introduced to all three.

Whether you are an absolute novice, experienced with kettlebells but have not had qualified instruction, or a trainer who wants nothing but the best for your clients, the StrongFirst User Course is a perfect place to start.


Our next StrongFirst Kettlebell User Course is Sunday April 24th in Omaha, NE
“The StrongFirst Kettlebell User Course is the 8-Hour Kettlebell Workshop – Perfected.”
[Reserve your spot today: Space is limited to 10 participants for this course.]

Register Now


Alternatively, you may consider our 8 class / 4 week beginner’s course, private training or group classes.