Aleks “The Hebrew Hammer” Salkin outlined an 8 week kettlebell and bodyweight minimalist program on 28 February that caught my attention on Facebook. The plan is simple: train five days per week. Alternate days of kettlebell get-ups and swings with days of pull-ups and crawling. This works out to doing kettlebell work 3 days of one week and 2 days of the next week, while doing bodyweight work 2 days of one week and 3 days of the next. I started on February 29.
I have stopped warming up on crawling/pull-up day. I go outside, walk down the street to the bottom of the hill that my house sits on, put on my gardening gloves, start my iPhone timer that is set for 10 minutes, and crawl up the hill until I have to stop. Today I leopard crawled all the way across the front of my property without stopping. Then I walked back down the hill and started again, but this time spider-man crawling. I had to rest about 2/3 up the hill on this trip. When I reached the top, I repeated walking down and crawling back up two more times. My timer went off when I was about 10 or 15 yards from the top of the fourth trip up, but I kept going because I wanted to complete four full trips.
I was spider-man crawling every trip, but threw in a leopard crawling segment last week and found that my upper legs burned more from leopard crawling. So now I am leopard crawling until the burn gets intense and then I switch to spider-man crawling. Today it was one segment of leopard and three of spider-man.
After one or two minutes of rest, I started doing pull-ups on the bar mounted inside my garage. I started with one set of 4, then completed two sets of 3, then I cranked out singles. I am doing serious dead-hang pull-ups where I jump up to the bar, hang, lift my throat to the bar, descend to the bottom under control and, if I am doing multiple pull-ups, hang for a second before lifting my throat to the bar again. It took me roughly 15 seconds to do the first 4 pull-ups. Today I completed 31 pull-ups before the timer stopped me. I probably could have gotten 32, but my record on Tuesday was 30, so I thought I would save 32 for next week.
Aleks did not program it, but I decided to add suitcase carries to my workouts every time I am crawling and doing pull-ups because I am using the crawling as my warmup. Today I set my timer for 10 minutes, picked up my 24 kg bell with my left hand and walked down to the bottom of the hill. I set the bell down, picked it up with my right hand and walked back to my garage. I completed this trip three times with the 24 kg bell and then completed three more with the 20 kg bell. I walked a little farther on the last trip to run out the timer.
Yesterday was kettlebell get-up and swings day. I warmed up for 10 mintues by doing some calisthenic stretches, 8 sets of kettlebell halos, several sets of short-bridges, 10 reps of Original Strength style rocking, and 10 reps of a Cobra stretch. Then I completed 10 get-ups, alternating left and right, with the 20 kg bell before the 10 minute timer stopped me. After a minute or two of rest, I did 10 sets of one-handed swings, alternating left and right, with the 24 kg bell. I still had some time, so added two sets of 10 reps of two-handed swings before the 10-minute timer stopped me. The weather was so perfect, I added 10 minutes of kettlebell suitcase carries like those I did today.
Today was day 4 of week 3 of this program for me. Here is what I have noticed so far. My pull-ups are progressing nicely. Before beginning this program I was finishing my workouts with 4 sets of 3 pull-ups for a total of 12. It was only a few weeks before starting that I was doing 3 sets of 3 and then adding 1 to get 10 pull-ups each day. I got 26 pull-ups on my first day of 10 minutes of pull-ups. It is pretty cool to have added 5 pull-ups to my PR after just 3 weeks.
Even though I have trained through level 2 with Original Strength, I had not been crawling for months before beginning this program. I backed off of crawling because I had injured myself by trying to progress too fast when I started and suffered with sore arms/wrists for months. I was surprised at how comfortable crawling was when I came back to it. I feel good about making it up the hill four times today, although I made it up the hill four times the first day of crawling with this program. However, I am crawling more slowly now and stretching my legs out more fully. In the future, when this program is over, I might start every workout by crawling 5 minutes as my warmup.
My get-up form has improved, but I was doing get-ups with the 24 kg bell before and am using the 20 kg bell now. The reason is that I can get 10 get-ups in 10 minutes with the 20 kg bell, but I need about 15 minutes with the 24 kg bell or my heart-rate goes over my ideal training rate of 127. I have done 2 or 4 get-ups with the 24 kg bell to start on days when I felt strong, but then I am really going over 10 mintues to finish 10.
My default training this year has been Simple and Sinister. I completed 100 one-handed swings with the 32 kg bell for the first time on 13 February 2016, but cannot handle 32 kg for daily training yet. I got my first two get-ups with the 24 kg bell on 11 February and then completed my first set of 10 on 13 February. I plan to achieve 10 get-ups with the 32 kg bell by the end of this year. I might need 30 minutes to do it, but I think I will be strong enough by December.
It may be time for me to do at least some of my one-handed swings with the 32 kg bell. I don’t think I can get 100 swings in 10 minutes, but I can do 20 or 40 and then convert to a lighter bell to finish.
There are two other fitness related things in my daily routine. 1) I do 5 slow push-ups before every shower I take. Mostly than means I do 35 slow push-ups per week, but sometimes it means 40 and sometimes just 30. I’ve experimented with shifting to 10 push-ups, but 5 is easy and 10 feels like a workout. 2) I walk my German Shepherd puppy Kurt around the block once or twice per day. Each trip takes about 15 minutes and I walk faster than I like at least half of the trip because it is easier to go fast with Kurt than to slow him down. I’ve toyed with adding a weighed pack to my walks with Kurt, but he still trips me occasionally and I don’t want to face that with even just 20 pounds on my back.
Overall, I like how this minimalist program is working for me.