I once did a strength experiment – on purpose.
I say “on purpose” because I also did a similar experiment
a couple of years previously “by accident” – after a bike
accident where I separated my shoulder.
I experienced great results – achieved my goals, but looking
back, it’s inappropriate for most people, unless you modify
it (which I’ll show you how to do in a minute).
Here was the experiment:
I decided to see what would happen if I did nothing but
squats and only 3 days a week.
No upper body work.
No MetCon – or as we called it back then – “conditioning.”
And the protocol was very simple:
5 sets of 5 reps with a given weight, 3 times per week,
repeating each workout twice before adding weight to
Because it’s a time-tested and proven scheme for getting
strong and big at the same time, and…
Honestly, I didn’t know program design like I do now.
I had built up a base and could do 315 for a 5×5, so I started
My ultimate goal was 405 for a 5×5, which I eventually got.
(With 2 minutes of rest between sets – that’s what my first
weightlifting coach recommended as the optimum rest
period between sets.)
You know what happened?
I maintained my bodyweight – 208lbs, but I actually got
My legs got bigger, my press went up, my bench went up,
my work capacity increased in the Olympic lifts, and my
conditioning improved – it was easier to ride my bike across
town to classes and work.
Not to mention my resting heart rate was 42 bpm, down from
The problem with that program however was two-fold:
1. It used a barbell across the back – which, if we are brutally
honest, most desk-jockeys have no business doing – it’s
too tough on the shoulders, hips, knees, and lower back.
The kettlebell, or a pair of kettlebells is a MUCH better choice.
Because the KB is held in front of the body, on the body.
And the compressive nature of the KB “forces” your body to
automatically (in most people) contract your abs, which
will in turn protect your lower back.
Properly performed KB front squats, especially with a pair
of KBs (not just the Goblet Squat), also have a profound
“loaded mobility” effect.
You can actually create space in your hips and your ankles
from doing double KB front squats due to that reflexive
(If you’re not feeling your abs, you’re doing something wrong.
Learn how to double KB Front Squat correctly and safely
This of course makes your whole body stronger by restoring
natural ranges of motion and strengthening those lost ranges
2. The loads should’ve been waved from workout to workout.
Since that experiment, I learned about what has to be my
all-time favorite method for getting strong – waving the loads –
Where you change the sets, reps, or weight each workout –
Sharp, seemingly random contrasts in loading.
I compare that experiment with one I did the following year
under my coach’s watchful supervision – where I went on to
squat 415lbs for 13 easy reps – pre-exhausted –
Meaning I did a bunch of exercises pre-squat to fatigue the
legs and recruit new muscle fibers.
We also squatted 3 times a week, but the loads were waved.
What does all this experimentation have to do with you?
Instead of doing a bunch of ballistics all the time like swings,
why not challenge yourself with something different, equally
as hard, and more beneficial like a cycle of double KB front
It’ll be more taxing and more challenging to your body than
swings because you’ve already been doing a ton o’ swings.
You’re conditioning will improve.
If you don’t turn into a chowhound, you’ll most likely get
You mobility will improve along with overall body function
and probably health, if you believe those studies that correlate
the ability to squat with health.
And your whole body will get stronger without you even trying.
Leaner. Stronger. Healthier. And more mobile.
From one exercise.
What’s not to like about that?
Seems like a no-brainer to me.
P.S. My recommendation is that you make sure your front
squat technique is spot on before you do this type of workout.
I cover the “best” techniques for front squats, plus their common
mistakes, and corrections in the “Kettlebell STRONG!” DVDs and
P.P.S. Regarding the whole “waving the load” thing – when you
get your copy of “Kettlebell STRONG!” just use the “STRONG!”
program – sub out the Clean + Press (which you can do later)
and use the Front Squat instead.
Several people have done this and reported back excellent
results – in line with my results from my experiment.