You go backwards like you just chucked an anchor off a motorbike!!!

I’ve taken about 6 months off kettlebells, and this blog, mostly because of a change of location, a change of employment, leaving the gym and also just to shake things up. I’ve stayed active, but mostly through endurance CV activity, with little strength work at all. I expected to go backwards but my word, boy do you lose it fast!

When I last went through a kettlebell pentathlon I was using the 20kg and 24kg for all of the exercises, maxing out most and putting together a pretty decent score for a 47 year old who had spent the first 43 years of his life as fat and lazy. I came back to the pentathlon with a 16kg and only managed to complete 4 exercises, I gave up on the final Push-Press because I knew I was beat and that’s when injuries and accidents happen.

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t hugely disappointed with that, but that’s the nature of strength and conditioning – use it or lose it! I’ve picked up a bell a few times since then and it has felt easier and more “in the groove” each time, but I’m going to have to find some time and effort to get back what I’ve given away.

I had another run-through of our “alternative” Kettlebell Pentathlon this week and managed to extend my high score. The “alternative” or”penta-cardio” pentathlon operates on very similar lines to Valery Fedorenko and the WKC’s pentathlon, but subsititutes in swings and squats to try and make the workout a little more accessible, and a little more conditioning, and less strength.

My stats were as follows:

150 24kg 2H swings done in 25 reps/min over 6 mins (Score=450 pts/Total=450pts)

120 24kg cleans done in 6 minutes (Score=360 pts/Total=810pts)

150 1H swings done 13R/12L reps/min over 6 mins (Score=450 pts/Total=1260pts)

60 24kg racked squats done in 6 minutes (Score=180 pts/Total=1440pts)

5 minute breaks between exercises. Total was 1590pts. Next target is 1621pts, but even upping the C&Js to 24kg will only yield 1620pts, one exercise has to be done with the 28kg to get to the “extreme” category. Not happening anytime soon.

I had another attempt at the WKC Kettlebell Pentathlon today. My previous score was 1141, working with the 20Kg on all except the half-snatch (16kg), and missing reps on the Jerk (12) and Push Press (38). Clearly room to improve on those rep counts, but I also felt that there was room to pick up points with some heavier cleans, so I went as follows:

120 cleans @24kg to give 360pts

60 long cycle clean & press @20kg to give 150pts (total=510pts)

114 jerks @20kg to give 285pts (total=795pts)

108 half-snatches @16kg to give 216pts (total=1011pts)

At this point I was exactly 250 points short of reaching the much-coveted “extreme” points score. The 16kg kettlebell could yield only a maximum of 240pts, so, greedily perhaps, I started the push press with the 20kg kettlebell, needing 100 reps to give me the 250pts needed to get me into a new category. Unfortunately, it was not to be and I managed to reach a push press total of 83 reps and 207.5pts.

Rounding this down, gave me an overall total of 1218 points, a marked improvement on my previous best of 1141, but still with plenty to go to reach the “extreme” category at 1261pts.

OK, that’s not the best name, but it’s the best I can come up with right now.

I’ve really enjoyed doing the WKC Kettlebell Pentathlon, but it’s not for everyone. There’s a lot of overhead work and, notably, no swings. That’s not surprising, really, as it is supposed to be a gentle introduction into the Girevoy Sport way of doing things, but it does work really well for those of us who like goals, preferably *numerical* goals, and scoring systems. So, my other half and I wondered, “could we devise a similarly structured workout, but with less overhead work and incorporating swings, something more conditioning and less strength?”. And the answer is yes, yes we could, and I tried it out for the first time today.

The structure is the same as the WKC pentathlon: 5 exercises lasting 6 minutes each, separated by 5 minute breaks. Count your reps, up to the max rep limit, multiply them by your kettlebell weight factor, sum them over all five exercises and get your overall score and see how you do.

The Penta-Cardio Kettlebell Workout

Exercise (1): 6 minutes of two-handed swings. The maximum rep limit is 150, if you can manage more, choose a heavier kettlebell. You may set the kettlebell down on the floor as many times as you wish, but you must complete at least ten swings between each set-down.

5 minutes of rest

Exercise (2): 6 minutes of cleans. The maximum rep limit is 120. You may not put the kettlebell on the floor. You may rest in the rack position.

5 minutes of rest

Exercise (3): 6 minutes of single-handed swings. The maximum rep limit is 150, if you can manage more, choose a heavier kettlebell. You may set the kettlebell down on the floor as many times as you wish, but you must complete at least ten swings between each set-down. You may change hands on a swing or via a set-down. You may not do hand-to-hand swings continuously, you should aim for an even distribution of swings between left and right sides.

5 minutes of rest

Exercise (4): 6 minutes of racked squats. The maximum rep limit is 60. Thighs should be brought to a position parallel to the floor during the squat, knees should not be allowed to travel forward excessively (i.e. past the toes). The knees should lockout on the upward part of the squat. You may switch sides as often as you wish. Switching should be done on a swing, the kettlebell is not allowed to touch the ground. You may rest with the kettlebell in the rack position.

5 minutes of rest

Exercise (5): 6 minutes of clean and jerk. The max rep limit is 60. You may rest in the rack position. The kettlebell is not allowed to touch the floor. You may switch sides as often as you wish. You may switch on a swing or on a backswing.

Kettlebell multiplication factors are as follows:

8kg=x1.0

12kg=x1.5

16kg=x2.0

20kg=x2.5

24kg=x3.0

28kg=x3.5

32kg=x4.0

Scoring for men is as follows:

Men’s Standards

Less < 810: Low

811- 1080: Average

1081- 1350 : Good

1351 – 1620 : High

1621 – 1890 : Extreme

More > 1891 : Superhuman

Scoring for women is as follows:

Women’s Standards

Less < 540: Low

541- 810: Average

811- 1080 : Good

1081-1350 : High

1351 – 1620 : Extreme

More > 1621 : Superhuman

FTR I ran through the workout today with just the 24kg kettlebell, but it was a bit too much for me today and it kicked my butt as I severely faded at the end. Stats were as follows:

150 reps of 2-handed swings.

120 reps of cleans

130 reps of single-handed swings

58 reps of racked squats

A miserly 21 reps of clean and jerk

I was totally pooped by the end, but this still gave a score of 1437 and a comfortable “high” rating, which is in fact quite similar to my conventional pentathlon scoring.

Now, I just need some victims and some feedback … 🙂

No. 3 attempt at Kettlebell pentathlon, and a slight improvement – 1141, compared to Friday’s 1106. Stats were as follows:

120x20kg Cleans – 300 points (20s spare)

60x20kg LC Press – 150 points (45s spare)

108x20kg Jerks – 270 points (12 reps short)

108x16kg HalfSnatch – 216 points (5s spare)

82x20kg Push Press – 205 points (38 reps short)

Clearly I struggled at the end, only managing 82 Push Presses in the final set, but annoyingly, I am still working too fast for the first two exercises, the Clean and the LC Press. Trouble is, I am not actually convinced that slowing down those two exercises will result in increased energy levels later on. It should, I suppose, all things being equal, but my instinct tells me that it isn’t going to happen. I am actually tempted to go heavier on the cleans, to 24kg, in the hope that that may slow me down, but not sap me too much.

In general though, I am loving this workout, the ability to “score” your workout is terrific for comparison purposes, and for looking for improvements, and failings! Will probably take a few days away from it now, my upper torso and arms are definitely feeling it after three runs through it in recent days. Hopefully I will be able to come back to it a little fresher, and maybe a little stronger, next week.

Two days after my first attempt at the Kettlebell Pentathlon, I got high. More specifically, I managed to increase my score to 1106, which puts me safely in the “High” category (1081-1260).

My strategy was to use the heavier 20kg kettlebell for the initial set of cleans, then drop back down to the 16kg for the other exercises, but to try to max out the rep limits. That’s not quite how it worked out. I maxed out the 120x20kg cleans but I was still too fast and had 28s to spare at the end of the 6 mins. I then did 60x16kg LC Presses, but I was too fast and had 66s left to spare! Next, I did 120x16kg jerks and finished with 33s to spare. At this point I was a bit annoyed with myself for not timing the sets better, but when I then did the 108x16kg half-snatches I only managed to finish the set with 3s to spare, and to be honest I was certainly feeling the cardio at that point. The five minutes of rest til the start of the push presses flew past in what felt like about 90s and I started on the push presses. This hurt. Only 16kg still, but I was really feeling this and was heaving like an old steam engine by the time I finished, with a total of 115 out of the 120 limit.

So, barring the missing 5 reps on the push press I had fulfilled my strategic plan of using the 20kg for cleans and maxing out the other exercises, but I could not help but feel disappointed with my poor sense of timing on the earlier exercises. Completing 60 LC presses with over a minute to spare is daft, I should have either gone heavier, or simply slowed down to save energy – I would either have gained a better multiplication factor for using the heavier bell, or had a little more energy at the end to squeeze out the missing 5 reps on the push press! It’s a matter of getting that balance right between getting the reps and going up a notch in weight, but I suppose the answer is pretty obvious to me – if I can only gain 10 more points by adding those missing 5reps of push press, any significant increase in my score is going to have come from increasing the weight of the kettlebell for at least another exercise, or to increase the weight of the cleans to 24kg. Looking at the numbers, it would seem to suggest that the most likely candidate for increase is the LC press, but then since that is on the lowest limit of 60 reps, the weight increase actually gains me the least points gain in total, assuming I am still maxing out the reps.

I think maybe I’ll actually just try to do some 20kg LC presses and 20kg Jerks as 6 minute sets on their own, not as part of a pentathlon workout, and see how that feels.

For reference, the next strength category target points score is 1261, and bumping up weights in BOTH cleans and jerks would not be sufficient to achieve that, so my next personal target needs to be more points-focussed rather than “category-focussed”. Not saying I wouldn’t like to be in a higher category, obviously, but to be realistic, the numbers don’t suggest that it’s going to happen any time soon.

Today I tried the new Kettlebell Pentathlon from Valery Fedorenko and the WKC.

It’s a simple enough system of exercises done to a specified timing and scored according to your number of reps completed and the weight of kettlebell used.

You can see the video of VF describe the pentathlon here:

The five exercises are performed as follows:

1) 6 minutes of Kettlebell Cleans, to a maximum rep count of 120

5 minutes of rest

2) 6 Minutes of Longcycle Presses, to a maximum rep count of 60

5 minutes of rest

3) 6 minutes of Kettlebell Jerks, to a maximum rep count of 120

5 minutes of rest

4) 6 minutes of Kettlebell Half-Snatches, to a maximum rep count of 108

5 minutes of rest

5) 6 minutes of Kettlebell Push Presses, to a maximum rep count of 120

You may switch hands as many times as you like and all exercises are carried out with a single kettlebell. You may use different weights of kettlebells for each exercise; each weight of kettlebell has a different “multiplier” for your overall score, so it’s a matter of balancing between using a heavier bell to maximise your score, or maximising your reps with a lighter bell, but with the maximum rep counts in place for each exercise you can only score up to a maximum level with a particular weight kettlebell. That is, to get really high scores you must use heavier kettlebells as you cannot increase your rep count beyond the limits set by the WKC.

Your total score is given by multiplying your kettlebell weight multiplication factor for the kettlebell used by the number of reps achieved for the exercise and then summing these totals over all five exercises. Multiplication factors are shown below:

12kg=x1.5

16kg=x2.0

20kg=x2.5

24kg=x3.0 etc etc etc for the higher weights.

This means that if you use the 16kg kettlebell for every exercise, as I did, and max out the reps for every exercise, which I didn’t, your maximum score is 1056. WKC have a general scoring table which is as follows: (also shown here: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150286705988123 )

Men’s Standards

Less < 720 : Low

721 – 900 : Average

901 – 1080 : Good

1081 – 1260 : High

1261 – 1440 : Extreme

More > 1441 : Superhuman

You’ll note that the best you can do with a 16kg is “Good”.

I set my Ultratimer app on my ubiquitous iPhone to handle the 6/5 minute periods and set off with my trusty 16kg kettlebell in hand. I had no problems at all achieving 120 cleans with 20s to spare for the first exercise. Similarly, no issues achieving 60 reps of longcycle press, indeed with 30s to spare. This exercise is performed strict, no bend to the knee when pressing, or rotation to the torso (at least I didn’t!). On the third exercise I maxed out again at 120 reps for the Jerk, but this time with only 3s to spare. The fourth exercise was my least favourite, the half-snatch. It’s not an exercise I ever really do an my muscle memory tried to take over a number of times to convince me to either do a press on the way up (because I had racked on the way down), or a full drop from the locked top position because I had snatched it all the way as normal. It was coming together by the end of the exercise and I notched up 96 reps out of a possible allowed maximum of 108. Finally, the fifth exercise was the Push Press, where the key is that the knees may be bent to start the kettlebell moving into the press, but the heels must stay rooted to the floor. I was heaving a bit by the end of this and recorded 106 reps out of the maximum of 120.

As I said, I used the 16kg kettlebell throughout, giving me a multiplication factor of 2.0x my number of reps (which was 502), giving a score of 1004, firmly in th “Good” rating above 🙂 What I like about this is that I know that IO cannot achieve a “High” rating by simply maxing out my reps, that’ll only get me so far, I HAVE to do at least some of the exercises with a 20kg, or higher, kettlebell to achieve a score high enough. Good incentive to progress, I think! Clearly, with the first two, maybe even three, exercises there’s room for me to up the weight and still max the reps, particularly the cleans, so that, along with trying to max out my reps for the half-snatch and Push Press exercises will be my “way forward”. With the increased multiplication factor of a 20kg kettlebell I need only achieve 96 out of the maximum 120 reps to equal the score of 120 reps with the 16kg. (or 48 reps instead of 60 for the Longcycle press).

Overall I really enjoyed the workout, though I found the 5 minute rests a bit long for the first couple of exercises, though I was then glad of them for the later ones. Think that just means I need to go heavier.

Finally, I posted my score on Facebook and tagged Valery Fedorenko on the status update. I was pleased to see this soon after, all very encouraging and inspiring 🙂

Today’s kettlebell workout was a back to basics job. On a 30s work/30s rest basis: 2mins of DH swings, 2mins of SH swings, 2mins of clean & press, 2mins of snatches. Once through with the 20kg then once through with the 24kg, 16 minutes in total. Done.

Push-ups are not my favourite, having a dodgy wrist is only part of my excuse, however somewhat ironically the discomfort in my wrist caused by such exercises can be alleviated by using balls, despite the fact that it does actually make the push-up physically harder. Essentially, having the ball under my wrist allows me to transfer the pushing motion more directly on to my radius and ulna bones (teh two major bones of the forearm) rather than via the smaller scafoid-type bones (which give the discomfort).

Today I managed to do a few controlled push-ups while balanced on 4 medicine balls: