I completed the 10,000 swing kettlebell challenge! It was an ass kicker and I didn’t have many warm feelings towards kettlebells and crossfitters by the end, but it was a great challenge and I got some great results out of it! Here’s my breakdown.
Part 1: Program Layout
First off, to lay out the challenge, you would perform 500 kettlebell swings for 20 workouts, totaling 10,000 swings. You have the option of doing a Work-Work-Rest-Work-Work-Rest-Rest 7-day format, which would have you finish in 34 days, or just doing Work-Work-Rest repeat for a 6-day week, which would have you finish in 29 days. I chose to do the 6-day week, and finished in 30 days since I took an extra day of rest towards the end to set myself up for a time PR on my swings.
The original format for the 500 swings was laid out as follows:
10 swings, strength movement x1
15 swings, strength movement x2
25 swings, strength movement x3
50 swings, rest 3-6 minutes
If you do the 6 day/week format, then one day each week you do just swings. The strength movements recommended were goblet squats, dips, pullups, and OHP, and you rotate through them.
Part 2: How I Ran It
I wish I could say I followed every single thing to a T. I didn’t, though. I did normal lifting days at least 2x a week while doing this, and work long hours as a foreman in a machine shop, so my hands are always beat up anyway, and I had to choose my strength movements based off of how I was feeling. I had some days where I would do diamond pushups, some days where I did regular pullups, ring pullups, OHP, dips, goblet squats, etc. I think I did OHP and dips the most since they didn’t require extra grip in between sets. I also got sick, and took a vacation to New York while doing the challenge, so I bought a 50 lb KB and just did swings. I probably did just-swings 8 times instead of the 4-5 recommended.
Furthermore, I’ve seen people say they couldn’t do the 50 rep sets and they gave up. Well, for the first 2 workouts I didn’t complete the 50 rep sets unbroken – my hands were too sweaty and my forearms felt like they were going to explode, so I had to drop the kettlebell for a second and shake my hands out before picking it back up again, rest-pause style. After the third workout I was able to complete the 50 rep sets and only had to stop once more during the rest of the challenge.
Finally, when I first read the challenge and decided to do it, I was an idiot and skimmed the article. As such, I missed the work-work-rest-work-work format, and thought it was a 5-straight-days/week program. I started on a tuesday and did 500 swings tuesday, wednesday, thursday, friday, and saturday, and was barely able to open my hands, plus I gave myself what feels like a stress fracture in my ring finger on my right hand that I had to deal with the rest of the time. I re-read the article that weekend, wondering how the fuck I was going to do 5 straight days again, and realized I didn’t have to, so I took 2 rest days and jumped back into the work-work-rest format. Stayed there the whole time until the end, where I threw in an extra rest day before the last workout.
The program seems to be written as if you should just get your swings in and bust out strength movements to keep your strength up, but I ran it as a conditioning program and tried to beat my time every day.
Part 3: My Results
This is the part a lot of people come for. Well, for those of you who came to see how much my deadlift jumped, don’t hold your breath. I’ll update this next leg day when I do RDLs and see how much my grip has improved, but I just don’t deadlift much, and I don’t pull much more than 405. I’ve also been hamstring dominant my whole life with my quads being the limiting factor on squats, so I don’t expect to see much of an improvement there either.
The big limiting factor of this program is grip. On those 50 rep sets, your hands hurt and your forearms are screaming. After that first 50 rep set, it’s a real mindfuck knowing you have to do it 4 more times. My grip, despite being pretty painful right now, has markedly improved. I notice it at work, I noticed it holding weights at the gym, I noticed it during sets of pullups. It feels like I can hold on forever.
My time to complete the 500 swings started at 48 minutes. I eventually started separating time PR’s for strength movement days and swing-only days so I could more easily track where I was at, but long story short, I finished today at 22 minutes. My plan was originally to take even one MORE rest day and shoot for a sub-20 time, but I’m not sure that would have made a difference. I improved times almost every day for the first couple weeks, and hit a wall on vacation and when I got sick, but busted out a nice 2-minute PR today to finish strong. That’s a 26 minute improvement in time, and means that since I did 500 swings in 22 minutes, I was averaging a swing every 2.64 seconds for that entire time. The difference was clear as day.
My posture has improved as well. I have always had posterior pelvic tilt, but when you really learn to do a PROPER kettlebell swing, you are forced to correct PPT. A lot of people (myself included, previously) do KB swings squatting down low and using their shoulders too much. In reality, the KB swing is just a hip hinge, and a hip snap. In fact, I think the KB snap is a more appropriate name, since people end up aimlessly swinging kettlebells and fucking their backs up. If you do the hip snap properly, you can actually let go of the kettlebell ¾ of the way up. If you’re dying on those long sets, the top of the movement is where you can relax your grip ever so slightly. But be careful! The harder you snap your hips, the harder you have to grip at the bottom. I have a much better hip-tuck and lower ab recruitment when walking around now.
Perhaps the most drastic improvement – my weight and waist size. I lost at least 1.5 inches off of my waist, and lost nearly 19 pounds in 30 days. This is not something people should expect. I ran the entire program in a caloric deficit, adjusting it lower every time I saw the scale stop moving. Got in about 200g of protein (I weighed 225 to start) a day, and tracked very little else except making sure to keep carbs and fat pretty low and get lots of greens in. I had a few drinking days and a couple cheat meals, but I ate very fucking clean this whole time. I also did 19/20 workouts fasted (8+ hours after last meal), drinking green tea before each one. I also went on 1.5-2 hour bike rides 1-2x a week during this program. The bike rides sucked, but only because I forgot how much fucking grip you use to lean on the handlebars the whole time.
Part 4: Thoughts + Recommendations
If you get your own kettlebell for this challenge, research the handle width. I realized after I got my kettlebell and brought it to new york, that the handle was like 1.5x as thick as the one at the gym – and the one at the gym is STILL thicker than a competition KB, so when I did swings with my own KB, it was like holding an axle bar, and my fingers couldn’t all fit in, so my stress-fractured ring finger was doing way more work. On that note, read the program and don’t do 2500 swings in 5 days. It’s not a good idea, and the program wasn’t written that way for a reason.
LOOK AT VIDEOS OF KETTLEBELL SWINGS. I said it before, but I’ll say it again. IT IS A HIP HINGE AND SNAP. I liked to do them in front of a mirror because it was easy to start leaning in one direction or not hinging enough if you couldn’t see yourself, but make sure you’re not cranking your neck up at the bottom to keep looking at yourself – let your eyes track, not your head.
Maybe I’m out of line here, but I would recommend people do what I did with the strength movements, ESPECIALLY if you have a physical job or any history of back issues, and play it by ear! If you are having a sore back day, and just want to get your swings in, there’s no need to do OHP that day if it’s what you’re on schedule to do – you can fuck yourself up leaning back or to the side too much, and trust me – you’ll be fatigued as hell from the swings, so form breakdown is almost inevitable.
If your goal is to lose weight and drop a waist size, do it in a deficit and do the workouts fasted. Not everyone will get the 19 lbs in 30 days that I got, but I guarantee if you eat a shitload of crappy food, you’re not going to be very impressed with what happens. I was pouring sweat everywhere, every workout. The conditioning aspect is INSANE. Every time I leaned over, a stream of sweat cascaded off my chin. I had to clean the kettlebell sometimes because it was so slippery. So, if your goal is to lose weight, take advantage of this conditioning, instead of working against it with a crappy diet. It’s 30 days. Embrace the suck.
Finally, if you get injured or something, then obviously, don’t just power through and kill yourself. But if you’re sick of doing the swings and bored, then go read my log. By the end I was waking up literally furious that I had to even look at a kettlebell. I was super positive for a while, but doing 500 swings over and over and over again is fucking miserable, so just expect to be bored and miserable by the end.
Here’s my log, starting at the first workout: