Tag Archives: pavel tsoutline

Steady Presses – a kettle bell workout update

I have performed an experiment in simple fitness over the last several months.  This experiment determined what kind of results I would have by doing a very simple, stripped down, workout.  The workout that was performed was kettlebell clean and presses and swings or snatches.  That is it.

This workout was performed using the Russian ladder style workout presented in Enter the Kettlebell.  I did not perform any extra back movements such as pull-ups as suggested by Pavel.  

I began this workout using the smallest kettlebell I had to ensure that I put in the proper work and did not start off with a weight that was too heavy.  My intention was to work up to a full workout (5 ladders of 5 reps) on the heavy day. Then the appropriate amounts on the light and medium days.  I tracked these workouts and they can be found here.  

This workout allowed me to progress from a 44lb kettlebell to a 62lb kettlebell in a mere four months.  I am currently ready to move up to the 70lb kettlebell and I will be placing my order soon.  My press and general fitness has increased dramatically with this workout.

What did I learn from this simple experiment?  

On the positive side I learned that you can maintain a high level of fitness through a very simple workout.  This workout also allowed me to remain awake and alert, without any significant pain or soreness from the workouts.  As an example of a high level of fitness I was able to perform 94 snatches in 5 min with a 53 lb kettlebell.  I did this on a day when I was tired and did not feel like working out.  I was unmotivated at the time and I did this out of curiosity without any specific training for the snatch test other than my Wednesday snatch day.

As a negative I felt as though my back and legs/buttocks were lacking in progress.  This makes sense when looking at the workout.  In order to supplement these areas my intent is to continue the workout as above while adding in getups and deadlifts on Tuesday and Thursday.  I will perform getups in a 3-5 min window focusing on the movement and I will do deadlifts in a power to the people style workout for strength building.  This will include 2 sets of 5 lifts.  I am doing this in order to add strength to these areas.  I believe this workout will allow me the opportunity to workout 5 days a week without wearing me down to much.  

What are my goals in my future and how do I intend to get there?

I intend to use a 5 day template.  5 day a week strength workout that focuses on heavy pressing and heavy deadlifting.


Heavy kettlebell presses



Turkish Getup – Kettlebell



Light Kettlebell presses



Turkish Getup – Kettlebell



Medium Kettlebell Presses



My goal is to be able to press the 88lb kettlebell for 5 sets of 5 russian ladders and to deadlift 400 pounds in a year.  I would also like to be able to perform a Kettlebell Getup with the 106 pound kettlebell.  I maintain a weight of 165 and intend to stay near that weight throughout this year.  Therefore after this year I believe that I will be able to press a kettlebell that is approximately half of my body weight for multiple sets and a greater than double body weight deadlift.

In terms of diet I generally focus on intermittent fasting, and natural foods (mostly meats and vegetables).  

Cycling your workout: the key to continued improvement

This is the key that I have continued to miss throughout my time in the gym. It was always understood by me that if you wanted to get bigger and stronger then you had to lift heavy and you had to keep increasing the weight. I was never really told that I would plateau. Therefore when it happened it was an unexpected occurrence, and if it did happen then the answer was always to eat more, maybe rest a bit and keep on going. Therefore after about two months I would plateau and I would keep trying to go heavier without any success and this would then lead to over training and becoming generally worn down and ill. I have had times where I have gained 20 pounds in two months only to get sick and to lose it all. The reality of the situation is that if I had known then what I know now then I would have cycled my workout and been able to continue on with great improvement.

What is cycling your workout?

Cycling your workout is when you start your workout progression with a weight that you could perform easily and you continue to increase that weight until it gets to a point where you are no longer able to perform it any longer. At this point instead of becoming frustrated you simply drop that weight down to a lighter weight (but heavier than your previous starting weight) and work your way back up. This time you will find your new max to be heavier than your previous max. Through this cycling you are able to increase your weight over and over again without overtraining.

As an example we will take my current dead lift workout. When I began this workout I started with a weight of 200 pounds. I have added 2.5 pounds to each side every workout. I perform this 3 times a week, however you could do it upwards of 5 times a week. I continued to improve until I reached a weight of 245 pounds. At this time I had reached my max weight and was only able to perform 4 reps. I then dropped my weight down to 215 and continued to increase my weight in the same manner. This cycle brought me up to a max of 270. A very good increase. I was only able to perform 2 or 3 reps at this weight so I started over. I dropped the weight back down to 245 (my first max) and I have been increasing that weight steadily. I am currently in this cycle and have every reason to believe that I will sail right past my previous max. I’m currently at 280 and have every expectation that I will continue to increase.

I am doing this with my bent press as well except that I am adding 2.5 pounds to each side once a week instead of every workout. You can also do this with your cardio, in fact it is suggested. WIth the cardio you can cycle the time of the workout and the intensity of your workout by tracking your heart rate.

Two great books for more information on this are Power to the People by Pavel Tsatsouline and The Purposeful Primitive by Marty Gallagher. Power to the People is a great book to get you started and will get you very far and the Purposeful Primitive is a fantastic in depth book with loads of information that will suffice for years of training progressions and success.

I hope that this information helps you out and that you are able to continue to progress in your fitness. I know that it has helped me out tremendously with my current fitness goals.

Introductory Guide to Great Health and Longevity Part 3 (Training Philosophy)

Training Phiosophy

My goal now is to be fitter next year than I am now, and to do that without injury, feeling worn down or getting bored. It should be yours as well. I want to increase my strength and conditioning in a patterned, structured way. I want to train effectively and intelligently and I want to enjoy it. Also, I want to be able to enjoy my time between workouts without pain or complete exhaustion.

In order to do this I have switched almost completely over to kettlebell training. I follow the advice of a trainer named Pavel Tsoutline. His method is that of low rep ladders for slow strength and high rep ballistic movements for cardio and endurance training. This allows you to do as much work as possible while being as fresh as possible. The intention with kettlebells is to build strength and endurance without building an unreasonable amount of size. They will allow you to become stronger while maintaining functionality.

If you would like to use barbells he has a plan for you as well. Two sets of 5. As heavy as you can go while leaving one or two in the hole (i.e.…never going to failure). You must also use some form of cycling. Cycling is when you start out at at weight you can perform fairly easily and increase that weight. You continue to increase this weight until you are unable to perform 2 sets of 5 with a given weight. At this point, instead of getting stuck on a plateau, you drop the weight down to a lighter weight (but heavier than the original starting point). Then you work your way up once again, this time surpassing your previous plateau and continue training. This will allow you to build strength without injuring yourself or overtraining.

I am more interested in training for lifetime fitness and functional strength instead of looks. Here is a great part of an interview with Pavel Tsoutline.

How do you train soldiers differently than civilians? For example, how would the training of a soldier compare to the training of an athlete?

Pavel: Let us use strength as an example. An athlete can afford to be strong due to large muscles but a soldier or a Marine cannot. In wartime and even during exercises muscle rapidly melts away, thanks to malnutrition, sleep deprivation, and stress. A military man must gain strength by retraining his nervous system to contract his, even shrunken, muscles harder.

The above style of neural strength training is ideally done when the trainee is totally fresh. But a soldier must exert himself when he is exhausted. Therefore at least some of the strength practice must be conducted in a state of fatigue, sometimes extreme fatigue. In the Spetsnaz it is an SOP to initiate a new guy by putting him through all sorts of hell and then have him fight a few fresh and experienced guys hand to hand. Applied to neural strength training, you could hump ninety pounds of gear on uneven terrain or go for an ocean swim, and then do your pullups and kettlebell snatches.

To sum with an analogy, an athlete is like a racecar that performs like a clock on a perfect track, with top grade fuel and oil, etc. Pull it out of its ideal environment and you have got a problem. A soldier is a Hummer that will perform under most adverse conditions.

The above is from Girevik Magazine. http://www.powerathletesmag.com/archives/Girevik/First/interview.html

I would much prefer to be the Hummer with a social life than a racecar without one. In fact I just recently ran all over Enchanted Rock (Texas) with a light pack on with my girlfriend and dog at the tail end of a bout of illness without much difficulty. I am very pleased with the efficiency of my workouts. Ill continue to train with kettlebells and will probably add in free weights when I get a chance down the line.