Thoughts on S&C Training: Undertaking the 10,000 Swing Challenge (2016)

DISCLAIMER: This is published quite some time after the actual events. I’ll explain my reasons for holding this one back in the post.

2016-03-31: Just went through my first 10,000 swing workout. A couple days ago, I finished reading Dan John’s Book „Can you go“[DJ2015] and now I’m into „Before we go“. Most of that stuff I already read at some point, mostly on [T-Nation] or similar sites. So really, there wasn’t anything really new in the book, Still, for some reason I’ve decided to give the 10,000 swing challenge a shot.

You see, my life is rather turbulent at the moment, to say the least. I won’t be going into any detail here (as Pavel Tsatsouline pointed out, oversharing is a dysfunction of our society [TF2015]), but suffice to say that I’m having a rough time in many areas of my life. The good thing is, that as I’ve pointed out in the disclaimer, I’ll publish this a long time (~5 Weeks) from now, so things might be better then.

Anyhow, the point is that I cannot put too much thought into any fancy programming when it comes to my own training. As Dan points out „the coach who coaches himself has an idiot for a client“. Also, the whole 1-2-3-4 assessment thing made me think about what I really need and what I do most of the time. Now I pass all of those test with flying colors. According to Dan, that makes me a 6 – someone who needs mobility and strength. Glad to hear, as that’s what I do, most of the time. Trouble is, I actually need bigger lungs and a more efficient cardio-vascular system. Not getting younger here. In sparring, whether we’re talking striking or grappling here, strength isn’t much of an issue for me. Most of the time, I’m strong enough. As for mobility, enough is enough – I can do pretty much everything I need to do, both in the gym and on the mat. What’s holding me back, really, is my sub-par (for my standards) cardio (is that over-sharing already?). I noticed this last saturday when sparring with Dominik. I couldn’t hold the pace and hence, gave away quite a few opportunities to connect.

Now there’s a growing community of S&C coaches that propagate that you probably need slow long duration cardio (SLD) . Mike Robertson says it [MR2013], and so does Joel Jamieson [JJUMMAC]. From a personal experience, I could tell you about Elias, who built up tremendous work capacity and a horse-like heart with tons of low intensity outdoor activity. On the other hand, studies show that the aerobic system greatly benefits from HIIT style training. Dan said something along the lines of „…I think if your heart’s beating because of exercise, i think it’s, you can throw it under the world of the word cardio“ [FC350]. I agree. As we know, foam rolling is cardio as well… Also, the ability to sustain high power outputs isn’t necessarily improved through SLD. Now I’m certainly somewhat Dan John heavy, just having read one of his books and currently working through the next, so forgive me if I paraphrase him again, but: „Lifters lift. Fighters fight. Keep the goal the goal.“ In a fight, I don’t move slowly a lot. Rather, it’s all about violent bursts of all-out efforts, interspersed by short recuperation periods where the aerobic system works overtime. Sounds a lot like HIIT to me. This consideration is going to be important later on as well.

My lifestyle allows me for quite some time in the weight room. After all, doing a session before and/or after teaching a class drastically improves my time efficiency (think about it – I have to go there anyways, I’m pretty much warmed up after teaching the class…). Hence, high frequency programs such as Simple and Sinister [PT2015], PTTP [PT2000] or the ETK ROP [PT2006] work pretty well for me. The 10,000 swings challenge seems to qualify for that category as well. I already spent quite some time on Simple and Sinister. Also, I’ve taught a kettlebell class for a while now (check out [this] article), where we’d do stuff like 200 swings or 200 high pulls over the course of 10 to 12 minutes on a regular basis. So, I believe I’m pretty well prepared for the challenge. I expect the increased volume to actually do a thing or two for my work capacity. We’ll see.

Dan John advises to judge a program only after you’ve completed it. I agree. Still, the idea of doing a continuous set of 50 swings doesn’t sit well with me. In Simple and Sinister, Pavel points out that max power output cannot be sustained in sets that consist of more than approximately 10 reps. Also, my remark on the structure of a fight comes into play again at this point. 50 swings will take around a minute and a half. You can’t go all-out for that long and also, in a fight, you seldom have to. Therefore, I’ll be changing the rules of the game a bit. Instead of doing sets of 10 – 15 – 25 – 50, I’ll implement the Simple and Sinister protocol of 10 swings in 20 seconds, followed by a 10 second break, for 10 rounds (i.e., 5 minutes). This has – on a smaller scale – worked for me in the past, so I’ll give it another shot. On a sidenote, I might be doing 50 rep sets 6 weeks before a fight to get the lactic system up. On another sidenote, I just re-listened to Episode 350 of the Fitcast [FC350], where Dan actually says something along the lines of „we just do 35 – 15 now, because the 50 are too hard on the grip and you’ll compromise and go lighter“. Severely paraphrased, but that’s the gist of it.

As for strength movements, Dan recommends doing 1-2-3 ladders. Again, I’ll deviate from that one and shoot for slightly higher rep ranges. Specifically, I’ll start with 5 reps and work up from there. This way, there’s some prgressive overload in terms of volume. This is – again – opposed to what Dan suggests. He suggests using a weight that is „challenging in the beginning and easy in the end“.

Now you might understand why I don’t post this at this time. If I can go through with this for the next five weeks, I’ll post everything I’ve written down over that time at once. If I have to stop before that, I won’t judge the program – after all, I won’t have completed it. Then, all this writing would have been in vain. Now if that’s not an incentive to actually do this… Keep in mind that in no case I’ll be judging Dan John’s program, as I don’t do it and probably won’t. (On a sidenote, Dan is changing details of the 10,000 swing challenge from time to time.)

So how does my plan look at this point? Well –

  • train four times a week. Five is too much and would most definitely interfere with my specific training.
  • do five rounds of 20-10 intervals. In the 20 second work period, do 10 swings (single hand, two hands, hand to hand, towel, band resisted… same but different). This takes five minutes.
  • Rest for a certain time. Start with five minutes in weeks one and two, then reduce the rest period by one minute every week. In week five, rest should be down to two minutes. Increase rest periods if explosivity suffers.
  • during the rest period, do a heavy strength move and a lighter one. The heavy strength move is either the press (with a 24kg kettlebell) or some type of rowing (need yet to decide on that one). Do a set of five (on both sides where applicable) in the first week and add a rep every week. In week five, it should be up to nine reps. There’s a reasoning behind this, but this is outside of this article’s scope. The lighter strength movement is either some core strength exercise or joint maintenance. Think TYI rows and the like.

Well, now that’s the plan. Then again, as Mike Tyson said: „Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth“. Hence, I reserve every right to make adjustments and changes on the fly. Probably doesn’t count as „completeing a program“ if I adjust, but that’s fine with me, as long as I get stronger and fitter along the way. If I can handle those next five weeks, I’ll let you know how everything went. If not, you’ll probably never read this. We’ll see.

: Just finished my second Workout of the 10,000 swing challenge. 10% done.

I pretty much stuck to the plan. Today, I did TYI rows and TRX fallouts in between rounds of swings. Hand care is going to be an issue on that one.

So far, I’m feeling good about finishing this (big deal after two workouts ).

2016-04-04: Finished my third workout of the 10,000 swing challenge. Grip strength is an issue. I had to do the last 20 reps with a two hand grip as my left hand wouldn’t properly control the bell anymore with single arm swings. On a side note, the socks trick that Pavel proposes in Simple and Sinister works like a charm. I’ve actually been suggesting this to clients ever since I read about it, but never actually used it myself (yes, I do know that’s a no-go. Then again, I guess you can’t really go wrong listening to Pavel when it comes to Kettlebell training).

Strength-wise, I stuck with double KB presses in sets of five and TRX TYI rows for triples. Weighted pull ups just aren’t an option at this point because of the high demands they place on grip strength. The TYI puts you into a physical disadvantage and therefore creates a high training stimulus with comparably low loads. Also, it’s not a bad idea in terms of shoulder health to give the lats a break and emphasise the rhomboids for some time. Tomorrow, it’s going to be weighted push ups and some high yield ab work.

This is going to be a fun week.

2016-04-05: Finished my fourth workout of the 10,000 swing challenge. I’m now 20% through.

Doing this stiff for two subsequent days is freakishly hard on the grip. I had to do most of today’s sets with a two hand grip. This is less than ideal, as I cannot really grip our competition kettlebells with both hands – the handle is just too small for that.

Strength-wise, I did single arm push ups and landmine rotations. Now I haven’t done the latter in quite some time and I have to say, I’m not necessarily a fan. Maybe that changes after a couple sessions, though, so I’ll keep it up.

Next workout is on Thursday.

2016-04-07: The fifth workout of the 10,000 swing challenge lies behind me. According to my heart rate monitor, I spent just above 630kCal in those 50 Minutes. That’s around :

1,9 kg of broccoli
7 Bananas
350 g of steak
2 Legal Cake Brownie Protein Bars
2 Cheese Burgers
3 cans of beer

Now even if the calorie count is vague to say the least, this nicely shows that abs are built in the kitchen. If your diet is out of whack, even 10,000 swings will probably not get you ripped.

Still, if you’re following a reasonable diet, as Dan John[] calls it (remember: water, veggies and protein), that workout should put you in a caloric deficit for that day. Hard to have 3000+ calories in a clean way.

While grip was still an issue, I did the first three hundred reps with one hand. My goal is to do all five hundred that way. I love the anti rotation component the single arm swing introduces. Also, add I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I have big hands, so gripping a competition bell with two hands is hell. At my gym, I have non-competition bells with bigger handles, but I work out at the Shinergy Base after my Athletics classes and well, there we have competition bells.

My fourth set I did two-handed and hated it for the above reasons. On the last set, I switched to one hand again, only this time I used straps. Sue me.

It takes me roughly one minute after five minutes of hard swings to recuperate back to a point where low rep strength training becomes possible.

Hence, if my plan is to up the reps on the strength moves and simultaneously decrease the time in between my swing bouts down to as little as two minutes, I’ll have to switch from doing two strength exercises to one. By the way, I did sets of six reps on the single arm kb press and sets of four on the TRX TYI row today.

Dan John proposes anywhere between 15 to 25 reps per exercise. With five sets of nine reps (that’s what I’ve planned for the last week), I’ll be well above that figure. Three sets are just about right, though (not exactly low rep anymore, but that’s another issue). Hence, I’ll be doing three sets of presses and two sets of pulls on my „push“ days and just flip that ratio on my“pull“ days. That’ll give me plenty of „rest“ (remember those 200 swings in between two sets of presses? ) and allow me to use enough weight.
For now, I’m fine with a heavier push and a lighter pull or vice versa between swing bouts, though.

Next workout is due on Saturday.

2016-04-09: Just finished my sixth workout in the 10,000 swing challenge. I did sets of four one arm pushups and five landmine rotations as my low rep strength moves. Grip is still an issue. Maybe I’ll have more insights or remarks next time.

2016-04-11: Today’s swing session was awesome. I somehow messed up my rest periods and did 4 minutes instead of 5. Big frigging deal, you say? Maybe, maybe not. After all, that’s a20% decrease. I was still able to accommodate both single am KB presses  (with heels touching, this time) for sets of six reps and TRX TYI rows for sets of four reps in between bouts of swings.

Also, I did the first 400 swings one handed without straps. Probably could have done the last 100 reps that way, too,  but I’ll be swinging again tomorrow, so I decided not to overdo it.

Anna announced to join me in my Thursday session, „just to experience the madness“,  as she put it. I’ll probably take a video.

2016-04-12: Today I had to deal with quite a few distractions, so my swing session took me significantly longer than I had planned. On a positive note, I did 400 single arm swings before switching to using straps for the last at. For grinding strength, I did sets of four on the single arm push up and sets of five on the ab wheel. Two weeks done, three more to go.

2016-04-14: Anna joined me on today’s session. For the first time, I did all of the 500 swings in a one hand, one bell fashion without straps. Kudos to Anna for accomplishing this on the first try! In between swings, we took fun 4 minute „breaks“, full of KB presses and TYI rows.

’nuff said, just watch the video below.

Next session is due on Saturday.

2016-04-16: I’m down to 75 kg. Now I’m pretty sure that this is mainly due to the fact that my current lifestyle (whatever that means) doesn’t allow for more than one or two small,  infrequent snacks over the course of the day. In the evening, I’m usually too wasted to eat a lot, let alone cook it. Need to invest some more time in meal prep again (now where would i take that time from, though? ).

Still, I’m sure that the 10,000 swing challenge plays a certain role in my weight loss as well. How would it not?

Today, I had to revert to two-hand-swings for the last 100 reps. Also, I only did four (instead of five) sets of five on both the single arm pushup and the ab wheel. After all, I still have the classes to teach today, amongst them a sparring session on which I usually participate.

2016-04-18: Grip strength actually seems to be improving. No issues on that today. Nice.
I did five sets of TYI rows (5 reps / set) and four sets of single KB presses (7 reps / set). That’s 25 pulls vs 28 pushes and hence is close enough to a 1:1 ratio.

Tomorrow’s the last session of week three, so I’ll be 60% through the challenge after that.

2016-04-19: Just hit the 60% mark. Since I was a bit tight on time, I reduced „rest“ periods  between swing bouts  (aka the time allotted to low rep strength) by one minute. This left me with three minutes after each five minute block of swings. Interestingly, the workout wasn’t particularly hard. Guess my lungs and grip strength have already improved. Then again, my swing form might just have gotten much more efficient. I don’t know.

Having said that, I also skipped the last low rep strength block, so I only did four sets of five (instead of five sets) on the single arm pushup and the ab wheel. That still adds up to 20 repetitions  (per side where applicable), which is enough.

Two more weeks to go.

2016-04-21. Anna joined me again in today’s session. All went according to plan. I’m now entering the fourth out of five weeks.

2016-04-23: Ok, grip strength definitely seems to be up to snuff. I’ll try and incorporate some heavier pulling (probably bent over barbell rows ) on my next „pull “ day. Today, I did three sets of eight on the TRX power pull and two sets of six on the ab wheel. In between bouts of swings, I took three minutes.

: Had to do my Monday session on Tuesday this week. Hence, I’ll be swinging the days in a row this time. I was in a pinch for time again, so I reduced rest periods down to two minutes. Worked like a charm. Three sets of eight kb presses and two sets of TYI rows between swings.

2016-04-27: Second day out of three in a row. I finished my swing session at around 10:00 pm today, next is due tomorrow at 09:30. That’s less than 12 hours. Nice. Today, I mixed in two sets of high bar squats and three sets of bent over barbell rows (both for eight reps per set) in my two minute „breaks“. Yes, I was in a pinch for time again and had to cut the time in between bouts of swings from three minutes down to two. Tomorrow I’ll be doing the full three minutes again.

2016-04-28: Today I entered the fifth and last week. Hence, I’m 8,500 swings into the challenge. Swinging three days in a row is hard on the grip after all. Might as well be mild sleep deprivation, though. In any case I had to switch to a two hand grip for the last 40 reps or so. Also, two minutes is actually short for sets of nine reps on single arm pressed. Done at a 301 tempo, that’s 36 net seconds per side, i.e. 72 net seconds for both sides. Add the time needed to switch sides and take a sip of water and it’s time to go again. Same thing for the TYI rows – 7 reps per row add up to 21 total reps. Done in a controlled manner, that takes some time. Well, at least Anna joined me again, so I didn’t have to do it all alone. Community does make a difference in the end.

2016-04-30: Today, I hit the 90% mark. For some reason, this session wasted me. I ate like a madman and still lacked energy to do just about anything. Could be connected to a slight sleep deprivation and a stressful day as well, though. 1000 more reps to go. (3×8 on barbell bent over rows, 2×8 on high bar squats today)

2016-05-02: Second last swing session. One more to go. Yesterday I taught an advanced kicking class at team obsession’s free running bash and I definitely still feel it in my bones – even worse, in my hips and knees. Doesn’t matter. Last set of presses was awful today. Also, on the TYI rows, I couldn’t do more than six reps per set without compromising form.

2016-05-03: Well, I’m done. Today I did my last session of the 10,000 swing challenge. I interspersed my swing sets with bent over barbell rows and high bar squats. Both were done for sets of nine reps. I’m stiff, somewhat sore and frankly, I quite happy this is over. After a couple lifestyle-caused deload days, I’ll dive right into a modified starting strength

Give me a couple of days to reflect on the whole thing, then I will post my conclusion and recommendations in case you wish to take on the 10,000 swing challenge.

So long,

don’t get hurt



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