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If you are like me, when it comes to exercise it isn’t just something that you do to stay healthy. It’s about a challenge, a tool for self-improvement.

Mentally I do much better when I am following a training program tailored toward a specific goal and over the past decade that goal has largely been to increase maximal strength on the main barbell lifts, the squat, bench press and deadlift.

I find solace in knowing that each session builds on the previous one and towards the next; that each exercise of the day has its place in building the main lift; that each week and month builds toward an overall goal.

So what happens when gyms are shut down and access to the needed equipment becomes impossible? Well to be honest it got me in a bit of a mental funk. A sense of feeling lost. However, living in that mental place is not helpful. It is a weak mindset. So I decided to pull finger and focus on what I can do and turn that into a challenge. A new, temporary goal during a temporary situation.

So here is the current plan, it’s called the 10,000 kettlebell swing workout. I came across it in an article on It’s a roughly 4-week program by Dan John, an elite level strength and weightlifting coach. All you need is a kettlebell (24kg for men and 16kg for women. You may have to just make do with what you have or a weight that you can manage. You can do essentially the same exercise with a dumbbell if you don’t have a kettlebell).

The workout consists of the following:

Set 1 - 10 swings

Set 2 - 15 swings

Set 3 – 25 swings

Set 4 – 50 swings

That’s one round, complete 5 of these. Oh and it gets tougher. Between each set of swings you perform a strength movement like a pull up, overhead press, front squat etc. With no other equipment you could substitute push ups, handstand push ups, use the kettlebell for overhead press and so on. If you are game to give it a go I highly recommend that you check out the original article here for more information.

During the first round of my first session I wanted to quit after the FIRST set of 50 reps but I stuck it out and it took me 42 minutes to complete. My forearms were fried and the last set looked bad. But two weeks in and I have cut the time down to under 22 minutes.

I am really enjoying the challenge of attacking the clock, strategising rest periods and trying to best my previous effort. Give it a go and let us know your times and what equipment you are using to improvise!

Dr James Mackay

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