McAfee Secure sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams
Share Print

You have not viewed any products recently.




Brutal Minimalist Fitness

June 14, 2006 09:15 AM

One of the things I like the most about kettlebell training is the variety. The number of exercises and variations are limited only by your creativity. With a kettlebell or two and a handful of drills you can get a top-notch workout that will cover all of your strength, endurance and flexibility needs. It has been said that if you get bored training with kettlebells, you have no imagination.

Of course, the other side of the variety coin is the minimalist approach of taking one or two exercises that cover the entire body and doing them at the exclusion of everything else. This kind of training can be great for beginners or for the development of mental toughness.

A couple of good examples of this kind of bare bones thinking are the1000 rep snatch challenge, where you work up to completing 500 16kg kettlebell snatches per arm without stopping and the Department of Energy Man-Maker workout (developed by Bill Cullen, RKC) which alternates sets of high-rep swings or snatches with less intense periods of jogging. You can find detailed descriptions of both of these in the articles section at

In The Russian Kettlebell Challenge book, Pavel outlined what he called the program minimum, which consisted of the snatch and the bent press. The idea behind it was that you could build superior strength and fitness using only these two exercises.

In his constant quest to make things more simple, the Evil Russian came to the realization that both the snatch and bent press require quite a bit of technical proficiency and that the original program minimum could be stripped down even further and made more user-friendly. The result was the revised program minimum utilizing only the Turkish Get-up and the swing.

While toying around with ways to make my clients more miserable I came up with a kind of program minimum/man-maker hybrid that would be simple to implement yet provide powerful results.

The Turkish Get-up (TGU) is an excellent drill that works virtually every muscle while teaching balance, body awareness and whole body tension. The swing is the foundation of all ballistic kettlebell drills and cannot be practiced too much. It works the hamstrings, glutes and lungs like no other exercise. I added Hindu squats, a favorite of MMA fighters and grapplers, to the mix and the Brutal Minimalist Fitness or BMF workout was born.

Do the BMF workout three times per week.

Begin with the Turkish get-up. Perform three sets of three reps for each arm. Rest a minute or so between sets. When three reps become relatively easy, add a fourth rep, then a fifth, so that you are doing three sets of five. Over time, work up to five sets of five reps.

After you complete the TGU sets, the real fun begins. You are going to alternate swings and Hindu squats in ascending and descending ladders while periodically thinking of how to find me and beat me with a stick.

Take hold of your kettlebell and perform 50 swings. You may do one-hand, two-hand or a combination of both. One possible rep scheme is to do 15 reps with each hand and then 20 two-handed. Or you could do 15 per side and then ten per side. If you want to be really minimalist do 25 per hand or just 50 straight with two hands. With as little rest as possible (no more than one minute) do a set of ten Hindu squats.

After this it is back to swings for a total of 40 reps. Again, it doesn't matter if you swing with one hand or two. Then with as little rest as possible do 20 Hindu squats.

Next, do 30 swings and 30 squats. On down the line to 20 swings and 40 squats, then finish with a final set of 10 swings and 50 squats.

Keep track of the time of the workout. Gradually compress the rest periods between the swings and squats until you are going non-stop. When you can complete the swing/squat section of the workout in less than twelve minutes your endurance will be approaching mutant status.

Brutal Minimalist Fitness (BMF) workout:
TGU- 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps
Swing x 50
Hindu squat x 10
Swing x 40
Hindu squat x 20
Swing x 30
Hindu squat x 30
Swing x 20
Hindu squat x 40
Swing x 10
Hindu squat x 50

If this is too much for your present level of fitness, begin with 3x1 per side in the TGU and ten rep sets of swings and squats. You can also cut the total volume in half, doing sets of 5-25 on the swings and squats. Just keep with the ascending/descending ladder concept and gradually add reps until you are at full-blown BMF status.

Editors note: Ease into the Hindu squats (some knees don't respond well to the Hindu squat) ? or find a suitably miserable substitute ? Burpees for example.

David Whitley, RKC is a kettlebell instructor, strength coach and massage therapist in Nashville, TN. He is the first American-born man to achieve CMS rank in Girevoy Sport and was the US Long-Cycle Clean and Jerk champion in 2005. Whitley is the author of The Power Circuit Workout, a follow along DVD that combines the brutally effective Russian kettlebell with classic bodyweight calisthenics into an easy-to-follow program that is guaranteed to breath new life into your training available from

Kettlebell Power Circuit Worout David Whitley

David conducts kettlebell workshops across the country and trains clients privately in the Nashville area. He is also available for online personalized training and phone consultation. Contact him by email at and visit his website.