Over these years I have run MANY programs, including, but not limited to: Strong lifts 5×5, Starting Strength, Texas Method, PHAT, Paul, PPL, Grey skull LP, Multiple variations of 531 and Shake, Greg Nichols programs, the Bulgarian method, and many others, including my own variations or personal concoctions. Somewhere along the line I modified 531 into a variation that became stupidly popular.
In 2017, I herniated a couple discs in my lower back, this put an end to low bar squatting and dead lifting for quite a long time for me. I took some time off of training, then switched to front squats, and messed around with cleans and rows for quite a while.
By September 2019 it was 445×6, in November I started taking my running more seriously, I also hit dead lift rep PR of 405×17 around this time. In December, I ran my first half-marathon and dead lifted 425×17
In March, with the onset of coronavirus, and gyms shutting down, I knew I was going to have to make some changes to my routine. I have a home gym, but I live out-of-town so I do the majority of my weekday training at a local gym in the city.
This meant more commute and less gym time for weekday training sessions. Knowing this, I came up with the harebrained idea to dive headfirst into the shallow end of the pool with the full 13 week Solo program, for dead lifts, and to pair it with a bunch of running.
For inputs, I had a 670 estimated max from my highest calculated set, and used an 87.5% training max, to bring it down to 585 (I had never actually pulled 585 sumo). As a side note, my metal plates are not officially calibrated, and range from 43.4 to 48.1 pounds each, I have weighed and marked them, also the clips are a bit under a pound each, so you may notice that sometimes the weights listed seem strange (for example the 468×16 or 592×1)
Week 2 Day 1: 2×2 @ 495 programmed, I rounded up to 500 — video So that wrapped up the introduction cycle, nothing too crazy or interesting.
Week 4 Day 3: 7×5 @ 485 This day I was feeling good, I did the first 5 sets of 5 as programmed, and then instead of doing two additional sets of 5, I hammered out a single AMAP set of 12 reps at 489 for a new all-time rep PR which calculated out to a ~684 estimated max Week 5 Day 2: 5×7 @ 468 This day I set my highest rep PR of the entire program, with 468×16 after 3×7 at 468, an estimated max of 717
The last week of the base cycle was probably the hardest part of the program mentally. This is the first time I sumo dead lifted 6 plates, with 592×1 video
It wasn’t the smoothest rep, there was a lot of leg shaking, but it moved quickly. The switching phase was by far the most fun part of the program.
Max Effort Partial Rom (Block Pulls) Dynamic Effort Speed work (dead against bands)
Week 7 day 1: 746 lb sumo Buffalo block pull video Week 8 day 1: 733 lb ACTUAL block pull video
There were still 5 weeks left, but the base cycle was over, and now it was time to drop volume and pull some heavy reps. I also pulled 530×1 with a strapless double overhand grip (no hook) for an extra rep on this day video
I also crushed my toes on my right foot on the first rep of the last set here…. I took the 18th off from lifting and then started week 13 a bit early
I warmed up as normal, 135, 225, 315, 405, etc. After 495 I made a smaller jump to 560 which moved superfast. I was originally planning on hitting this for reps but it moved so fast I decided to go heavier
I jumped up to 633... And failed video I think I tried to lock my legs a bit too early. The Heaviest weight touched 746 Buffalo block pull video
Mileage breakdown: 63.93% treadmill, 22.59% road, 13.48% track Whenever I see Solo discussed online, it's usually paired with people talking about how terrible it is, I am too much volume, it will injure you, etc.
This was a lot of fun, it forced me to work hard on my pulls on a regular basis. My form is more dialed in than ever, and I am confident in my ability to hit 6+ plates for reps basically any day of the week.
In my opinion the only part of the program that is really tough to get through are the 7×5 and 10×3 days of the base cycle. A: There's even more to say on this subject, but the most frequent answer in this sub is the “Simple and Sinister” program designed by popular kettle bell instructor Pavel Tsatsouline.
It is described in his book Simple and Sinister (which you should buy if you intend to follow the program), but the basics -- enough to get started -- are detailed below. But I think there are several reasons why good quality kettle bells are worth springing for.
Good quality kettle bells have smooth handles of uniform thickness and comfortable texture. And, they won't have molding seams making them wobbly or hard to hold.
With that in mind, here are a bunch of brands of kettle bell you won't regret buying. Kettle bell Kings offers 'free shipping' in the US; in other words, the cost of shipping is flat regardless of how far you live from their Austin, TX headquarters, and added into the price of the bell.
2021 Update: in the last few years (at least since COVID-19) KB Kings prices have gone up dramatically. A 35 lb powder coat kettle bell is currently $165 (perpetually 'marked down' from $195) with free shipping.
CFF offers 'free shipping' in the US; in other words, the cost of shipping is flat regardless of how far you live from their warehouses (in Lancaster, PA and Phoenix, AZ); and added into the price of the bell. A 35 lb Powder Coat kettle bell from CFF is $78 shipped as of this writing.
Rogue is the brand of choice for many high-end CrossFit gyms/boxes, and their bells are built to take daily abuse. Anecdotally, Rogue's bells have a slightly 'rougher' finish than CFF or KB Kings -- a little easier to grip when sweaty, good with chalk, but a little more 'coarse' on your hands.
First Place offers free shipping on orders over $45, but charges a surcharge ($10-$30) on heavier bells Frustratingly, VF currently only offers FedEx Ground for kettle bells, making their shipping costs significantly higher than other brands, particularly if you live farther away.
Again Faster is a company I don't see mentioned much around this Subreddit; but I personally own several kettle bells of theirs that I really like, so I'm putting them on the list. The finish in their kettle bells is smoother than Rogues, but still drippy; and have a very high-quality feel.
Here is a recent video comparing Kettle bell Kings to Rogue and CAP. (Summary: he thinks Kettle bell Kings are the best, but recommends Rogue as good at their price point.)
If you think you might be on the outer edges of the bell curve, either because you're an experienced weightlifter or because you've been sedentary for a while and are maybe of below-average strength, you've got a few options. Strong people will still find 20 or 35 lbs useful for learning form and aerobic work; and people who aren't so strong will get stronger quickly while learning the techniques.
If you're still unsure, you can head to a gym or store stocked with kettle bells, or even dumbbells. One metric is to choose the heaviest kettle bell (or comparable weight dumbbell) you can comfortably overhead press for reps.
But if it is frequently recommended for beginners (and experienced athletes new to kettle bell training as well). It's built around only two exercises, so there is a lower skill barrier to getting started than programs with more movements to learn.
If it's between spending half an hour doing your first SAS workout, or half an hour reviewing different programs trying to decide, my recommendation is to start with Simple and Sinister today, and shop around for your ideal beginner program tomorrow. Gradually reduce rest until you can complete 100 reps of 1-handed swings with perfect form in 5 minutes.
Eventually, you'll become strong enough to take 10 minutes to do your 10 reps (5 per side), maintaining a roughly 1:1 work:rest ratio (alternating 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest for 10 minutes). The book is absolutely worth buying, because it goes into incredible detail about how to perform the movements safely, and how to be smart about progressing up through the program.
(2020 note: The Revised Edition of Simple & Sinister presents a routine that is very similar to the above, but incorporating a progression that is even more effective than what I've described. Rather than update my post to share the revised ed, which feels like plagiarism, my suggestion for a beginner is: feel free to use the above as a starting point, but buy the book as soon as possible to get the most up-to-date version of the program.)
In the simplest terms, Hard style focuses a little more on explosive power, and shorter sets with heavier weights. Competition kettle bells typically use a uniform color scheme to distinguish different weights.
Hard style kettle bells are often black, sometimes with weight-distinguishing colored stripes where the handle meets the bell. What kind of kettle bell you buy depends on what program you decide to follow.
I wrote a post a few years ago meant to answer the most frequently asked questions in this Subreddit at that time. The FAQ is a great list of resources, but it is maybe a bit overwhelming for someone coming in for some super-basic advice.
(If you find this post helpful, I'd selfishly love it if you shot me a one-sentence message to let me know. If you have thoughts, suggestions, or find broken links, feel free to reach out as well.)