One of the best speeches I’ve ever heard was Al Pacino’s in the movie Any Given Sunday.
It’s worth watching the whole thing, but I’ll summarize the lesson I took away, which is that the small choices in life are more important than we think. Every day we’re fighting for these inches of progress towards our goals. Al says,
“On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. Because we know when we add up all those inches, that’s gonna make the f%#@&! difference between WINNING and LOSING, between LIVING and DYING!”
That speech gets me fired up every time. It also reminds me of a quote by James Clear that says, “Successful outcomes are never the result of a single choice. They are built up through good choices over time. A fit body is never a choice, it is a series of choices.”
That’s why I’m doing the 10000 kettlebell swing challenge. Because every swing of that kettlebell will get me closer to the man, I want to be. It gets me closer to looking and feeling the way I want to look.
I truly believe that if we’re not pushing ourselves, then we’re slowly decaying. Rust never sleeps, so we can’t be passive about our health.
If you want to lean out, strengthen up, and finish something hard, then let’s dive into the specifics of the 10000 kettlebell swing challenge:
The Challenge Specifics
We’ll do 500 kettlebell swings per workout and aim for 20 workouts total in one month. I chose October to have more days to work with, but any month will technically work.
- The regiment is 2 days on, 1 day off
- The rep scheme is 15 x 35 x 15 x 35
- You’ll do 5 sets of 100 using that framework above
- After each set, you’ll do a few alternate exercises (I’ll list some below)
- You’ll rest 30 seconds between sets and 2-3 minutes between each set of 100.
A 55 lb kettlebell is recommended for men and 35 lb for women. This will vary, though.
There are some awesome kettlebells out there shaped like gorilla heads or skulls. They’re also pretty pricey, and since I’m determined to retire at 45, I opted for the Amazon special 35 lb and 55 lb kettlebells. They do the job just fine.
Here’s a sample workout:
|15 swings||1 push-up||30-second rest|
|35 swings||2 push-ups||30-second rest|
|15 swings||3 push-ups||30-second rest|
|35 swings||4 push-ups||2-3 minute rest|
Repeat this 4 times for a total of 5 sets of 100 to get to 500 kettlebell swings.
Adding alternate exercises help keep the workout interesting. I like to do a goblet squat or push-up, but you can get creative and do ab rollouts, pull-ups, or anything else you can dream up. I never do more than 3-5 reps of anything after each set, and I’m not going to failure.
Perfecting your swing form
Form is everything with this challenge. If you do it wrong, you can injure yourself. Also, it’s worth mentioning that I’m not a doctor, so definitely consult with one or get a trainer if you’re new to working out, have been out of the game awhile, or you have any underlying conditions you’re worried about.
I was first introduced to kettlebell training by Tim Ferriss, and he has some great videos on technique:
Pavel Tsatsouline has a great video as well:
If you’re not feeling great about your form, the folks over at r/kettlebell on Reddit welcome people sharing videos of their form to get feedback. Dan John said he’s fine if it takes you an hour or an hour and a half. If you want to watch TV between sets or check emails, you can do that. I’m gonna keep mine a bit more strict in the beginning.
I’ll start a timer at the beginning of each workout by tracking it with my Apple Watch so I can see how my time improves over time. If you don’t have a smartwatch, just set a stopwatch on your phone and stop at the moment you get to 500.
10000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge Pro Tips
I purposely chose this challenge for its simplicity. You only need a single piece of workout equipment, and you’re good to go. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use some advanced tactics to ensure you do it safely, effectively, and that you recover properly.
Here are seven tips that’ll change the way you train and help you feel fresh and energized for your workouts:
1. Stretch more than you think
Definitely stretch before the workout and loosen up a bit. I like to stretch during those 2-3 minute rest periods between sets of 100.
Doing the Cobra yoga pose (as seen above), in particular, will help tremendously since you’re stretching the hinge out in the opposite direction.
2. Pay close attention to your breathing
Breathing properly helped me hit my reps much easier. Breathe in through the nose as the bell goes down and breathe out as the bell goes up. Here’s a good video on some variations you can try:
If you hold your breath or have irregular breathing, you’re going to get gassed really quickly and run out of steam.
3. Know your limits
If you can’t finish your set of 35 in the beginning, that’s normal. Do as many as you can, rest 10-15 seconds, and try again. Repeat until you hit 35 total, then rest as normal and continue on. You’ll find after just 4-5 workouts, you’re closing the gap on the sets and are able to hit your 35 reps much easier.
If you’re not an experienced lifter, you can still do a variation of this challenge by either dropping to a lower weight kettlebell or doing the sets in whatever order you choose. Dan John has said many times that he’ll sometimes do this challenge and try to get to 500 in whatever order feels right to him.
4. Skip the heavy lifting for awhile
You shouldn’t need to do any other training during this time. If you feel like you have the strength to do more weight training, then you are “underbelled,” as Dan John would say. You need to move up a size on your kettlebell.
I’ll still walk on my treadmill desk during the day, walk my dog, and maybe do some lighter high-volume accessory work here and there. But you won’t catch me doing heavy deadlift, squat, or bench press exercise movements during this challenge.
5. Set the stage for peak performance
You’re going to sweat, you’re going to get thirsty, and you’ll start to feel hot. Putting a fan, water, and a towel nearby is highly recommended.
The towel will also help dry your hands between sets, so you’re not slipping on the kettlebell.
If you have some chalk for your hands, that can help a lot also. I also do them barefoot on a black yoga mat for extra grip with my feet.
6. Get ahead of the soreness
You’re going to be sore. That’s a given. The first week you’ll feel back pain, joint pain, and feel fatigued. That’s perfectly normal. Especially, if you’re not working out regularly before the challenge.
I like to be proactive about my recovery, so I don’t let it become an excuse for why I can’t finish the challenge. Here are a few recovery tips that’ll help you get through the pain:
- Take Epsom salt baths to calm sore muscles. I buy the big 19 lb bags to save some money.
- Do yoga every day. I almost always lead my day with Kassandra’s 10-minute full-body stretch.
- Get out and walk more. You’ll be tempted to sit still and rest, but I promise you that walking will help loosen up stiff joints and muscles.
- Take some painkillers if you have to. I do this as a last resort.
- Ice your lower back. I use this exact ice-pack because I can wear it while I sit at my office desk.
- Load up on anti-inflammatory foods like berries, fatty fish, nuts, and leafy veggies.
If you feel like taking an additional rest day, then fight that urge and tell yourself if you’re still sore tomorrow, you’ll skip that day. Procrastinate on skipping your workouts. Chances are you’ll feel better after you workout and the next day.
If you’re still feeling awful the next day, it could be your body giving you signals to rest. Take that day off but plan on getting back into it the next day. Never skip twice because you’re essentially starting a new habit of skipping.
7. Measure your progress
I write down all my reps and sets on a whiteboard which helps me feel a sense of accomplishment.
I also weigh in every morning first thing and measure my waist. Seeing progress is the ultimate motivator to keep going and finish the challenge.
What you’ll get at the end
Why swing a kettlebell 10,000 times? Dan John did a video on why, but I’ll summarize it below as well.
I’ve done it before and got up to 4,000 swings (moving cities got me out of the habit). For most sessions, I’d burn between 400-600 calories.
According to Dan John, most people drop a waist size or two.
Beyond getting leaner, you can expect to:
- Improve stamina
- Strengthen your back
- Improve your body’s hinge pattern
- Improve your grip
- Improve your kettlebell swing technique
- Full body strength and power will shoot through the roof
- You’ll find you can train longer and heavier afterward
- Noticeable ab and glute definition
Last but not least, when you finish, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. You finished something that’s challenging (I should know, I quit it once). That takes grit. It takes heart.
Gavin Peacock had some pretty wicked results, and he shared a video on his YouTube channel that’s worth checking out. Tim Ferriss only did one set of 75 swings twice a week and got to his lowest body fat percentage ever and now can swing with a 106 lb kettlebell. Being able to swing one of those is definitely on my personal goals list now.
Preparing For The End Of The Challenge
I’m fully expecting to gain some lean muscle mass, boost my fat loss, and improve my grip strength throughout this 10k challenge.
Once I complete the challenge, I’ll start doing at least 100 kettlebell swings as a daily workout. It’ll probably be my go-to warm-up, and I’ll toss in the random 500 swing workouts each month to help with ongoing fat loss.
I may get some heavier kettlebells as well to keep improving my grip strength.
Need More Resources?
- Check out the original Dan John 10000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge article on T-Nation.
- Check out the Men’s Health write-up on 10 Things They Learned Doing The 10000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge.
- Watch Dan John’s videos on his YouTube channel. There’s a whole playlist on the 10000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge.