I’ve recently destroyed my home gym bench and had a very limited exercise choice. The cold days of winter coming in, working out outside was getting harder. Being on the verge of moving out, I didn’t want to invest in more home gym equipment or a membership at a local gym.
Luckily, I’ve been reading some of Pavel Tsatsouline’s work lately. Good timing, because in Kettlebell Simple & Sinister, Pavel explains a simple and minimalistic workout. So simple it has only two movements.
Being already equipped with several kettlebells, the workout was easy to implement. More surprising than the easiness to do the workout was its results.
In this article, I’m here to report about my experience, after 2 months of training this way.
You’ll have to read the book for a full understanding of the details but here’s the gist of it.
The warm-up is composed of 3 movements.
The first is sitting at the bottom position of a goblet squat to open your hips. Add some double handed curls and move your butt around to open up your hips and warm your knees and ankles and you’re done.
The second is a glute bridge while squeezing your knees. From my experience, it’s amazing for pelvic realignment.
The third is a basic halo to warm up the shoulders and trigger some core stabilisation.
Ok, time to sweat. You only have to master two movements: the swing and the Turkish Get Up. I’m not going to teach you those movements in a blog post. Even if there are plenty of good resources out there, I’d recommend you go grab a professional coach to learn those moves. Things can go really wrong with a bad form of either exercise.
You can have a look at this StrongFirst (Pavel’s company) video:
The beginning describes the two exercises I talked about (Swing and Turkish Get Up).
The protocol I follow is something like that:
- 1 TGU on each arm
- 2 x 10 swings
I repeat this 5 times and I’m done.
Now, to spice it up I add variations to the swings. Doing it one-handed or switching hands, etc. I’m also increasing its difficulty by accelerating the kettlebell fall. This increase the resistance — from kinetic energy — at the bottom of the swing, much like a plyometric exercise.
And that’s all. I mean really, nothing more gets done.
There are many benefits of working out. I’m not here to talk about all of them. Different people in different situations will find different benefits. I was looking at a way to stay in shape and maybe improve posture. Working out also acts as a pressure relief valve.
Below are other benefits I got from this training.
I’ve paid no attention to my nutrition lately. I didn’t go completely off-rails but I wasn’t really counting my macros or anything.My body composition didn’t seem to move much — according to bioelectrical impedance analysis scale. However, my back — especially my upper traps — seems more defined. Even though there’s a lot of straight arms involved, I also experienced some congestion on the triceps and biceps.
Now, a workout like that is obviously not aimed at hypertrophy. Not watching my nutrition, I wasn’t expecting anything in that department either. However, I’ve been extremely impressed by my running performance.
My running regimen is really light. I just like running on weekends, when the weather is not too bad (meaning, not too cold and too rainy which isn’t often the case this time of the year). I had no other training than those HIIT swings and TGUs and yet I managed to consistently improve my timings. I was running around 8km roughly once every two weeks — so not a lot of specific training going on.
Other Performance Gains
TGUs are amazing at core strength and I feel more stable in many ways but it’s hard to measure and quantify so I’ll leave it at that.
As for the swings, I’ve definitely refined the motor skill involved here. Even adding speed to the kettlebell going down, lifting it up American style is really easy. The American swing goes all the way up whereas Pavel Tsatsouline’s style — the Russian one — stops lower. Prioritising the hips and transmitting power from the ground up is really a second nature now.
Practising the on/off switch
It’s been one of my underlying preoccupation lately. It’s still early stages but I’m according more and more attention to being completely on and completely off at times. This translates into many other domains than workouts and it first came to me in a business context.
Those workouts are an amazing opportunity to be “completely on”. It’s 30 minutes where I’m “all out”. Even the TGUs that are slow by nature require my full attention, leaving me completely focused on one thing only.
The hidden gems
Here are some things I really like with this workout regimen.
All you need is a floor mat — you could do without it — and kettlebells. While progressing, you can even sell the previous kettlebell to help finance the new one.
I can get the full workout done in less than 30 minutes.
The idea here is that you can train everyday as you’re not killing yourself or a particular muscular group during the workouts.
This reduces the likelihood of injuries and also allows you to train every day, which is nice to settle into a nice routine. Even though I’m used to working out, I still need to make room in my schedule to do so. I find it easier to workout every day or weekday at the same time rather than hitting the gym every other day, it just becomes a habit.
So here you have it. Is it the only workout you need? I don’t think so and I can’t wait to go back to more variety in my workouts. However, if you have a very limited amount of equipment and surface to train, it’s probably the most ROI I’ve experienced from a workout regimen.
Very limited costs and risks, very good results and feeling, I highly recommend.