by Lisa Shaffer
10,000 swings in 30 days…… Really? Why? This was the reaction I received from some people when I announced I would be doing a 10,000 swing challenge in the month of January. My response was “Give it a try and find out”. Of course I pretty much knew what my results would be from doing 10,000 swings in one month. How does a smaller butt, slimmer hips, a flat stomach, thinner thighs, unreal strength endurance and increased overall strength sound to ya? Did that get your attention? I hope so because this is one of those things that actually delivers the results. Just know going into it that you are going to have to pay a price to get it.
During my 30 day journey I took some notes along the way. I’m passing these tips on to you to make your journey a little easier. Let’s call this the 10,000 swing challenge survival guide. There are 8 main points you should know to help you get through this challenge successfully.
First let me start off by saying that this is a difficult challenge both mentally and physically. You will definitely walk away knowing what you are made of, and if done correctly you will reap all the benefits mentioned above as well. It’s worth it. Trust me.
Make a plan: Let’s do the math. 10,000 swings in 30 days is roughly 333 swings every single day. You need to think about how this will fit into your life because quite frankly, in the month of January all I did was think about how I was going to get my swings in for the day. It will consume you. I knew there would be days that my busy schedule with the kids would not allow for a workout. I also knew that if I didn’t take some days off I would be completely over trained in record time and never finish. So my plan was to do about 450-500 swings a day. That way I wouldn’t be faced with double the reps the next day.
Get ready for life to throw a curve ball at you. If you do have to take some extra days off don’t be discourage if you have extra reps to make up. Just add a few extra reps in every workout and get it done. It happened to me a couple of times. Here’s how I handled it mentally. I only focused on my reps 100 at a time. So if I had 6-700 reps to do then I just focused on 100×6. Even though I didn’t do 100 in one working set, it was easier for me to do 100 and then think; now I only have 5 more to go. Break those big numbers into smaller groups and you’ll breeze through it.
I kept an index card on my desk and recorded my swing reps daily. After analyzing it I noticed a pattern. Three days of hard work was good for me then I need a rest day to recover. On my rest day I either did very light swings as active recovery or I took the whole day off. Just listen to your body. If you need a rest day then take it and adjust your numbers accordingly.
Choose the appropriate weight: I find myself talking about this in just about every article I write. To get the most out of this challenge you need to use the appropriate size kettlebell. You need a bell that is challenging but not so heavy that you over train every time you workout. I would call it a medium heavy weight. Of course that will vary for everyone. To give you some reference I’ll explain my kettlebell choice for the challenge.
The bulk of my reps were done with the 16kg/35lb kettlebell. That is 32% of my body weight. 35 pounds felt light to me for sets of 10-20 but it gets challenging for sets of 25-50 reps. On a heavy day I would use the 24kg/53lber or the 20kg/44lber. On a light day or active recovery day I used an 18lber for sets of 200 plus. That means that with the light weight I needed to do at least 200 reps without setting the bell down.The 18lber is so light that it would not be a challenge for me at all to do 10,000 reps with it and I would not have seen the great results I did. I also used the 26lber for one arm swings only on a light day or in between the heavier sets for active recovery during the workout.
Please don’t think that if you can’t swing the 35lber for that many reps you won’t see any results. Just use whatever weight is a challenge for you.
Be aware of over training: There is no doubt about it, some time within this challenge will be over trained. Watch for the signs and then adjust your plan appropriately. If you are feeling fatigued, irritable, and/or very sore then you are probably over trained. There were a few times that I would not feel those symptoms but when I picked up the weight to start swinging my body started screaming at me. My central nervous system was burned out and my body just didn’t want to work. Depending on the severity of it I did one of 4 things.
- Worked through it. After a few sets if I felt a little better then I would just push through.
- Backed off completely. After doing a few sets if it made me feel worse then I would just call it a day and rest.
- Lighten the load. After doing a few sets with the heavier weight if I felt irritated and
on edge then I would lighten the load to get through the workout.
- Eat more calories. You are burning so many calories with swings that you will probably need
to eat a little more than you think. Definitely don’t restrict calories during this challenge.
Nutrition: Let me be blunt here, cut out all the crap from your diet. You know what I’m talking about, cookies, chips, soda, crackers,…. any processed foods. You are demanding a lot from your body with this challenge. It’s imperative that you feed your body healthy and nutritious food. Do not take the attitude that since you are doing so many swings that you can eat what you want. You’ll never be happy with the end results if you follow that thought process. You can’t push your body to the max and expect it to respond when you are filling it full of over processed food, sugar and salt. It just doesn’t work like that. Your body composition will suffer and so will your strength and endurance. Once you feel the difference that fresh healthy food makes you won’t go back. This is a perfect opportunity to clean up your diet and make a permanent change for the better.
Hand care: Like them or not, calluses are your friend. Just be sure to keep them low. They are more likely to become very sore and even rip them off if you have really thick calluses that stick up. I keep a pedicure file in my shower and file the calluses down every few days to keep them low. Cornhuskers lotion works very well also.
Another way to take care of your hands is to change your grip on the bell. Use a forefinger/thumb grip instead of holding the handle with your whole hand. This works just fine with one handed or two handed swings. To relieve some of the stress on the hand, release your grip at the top of the swing. It gives your hand a break.
Protect your joints: 10,000 swings is a lot of pull on your joints especially your shoulder and elbow. You can protect your joints by leaving a slight bend in your elbow when you swing the bell up. Don’t pull the bell with your arms just engage your lats and a slight bend will naturally occur. Once you get into the high reps sets you’ll notice your body will automatically start relaxing to get through the set. Just be sure to keep your weight on your heals for the back swing and even rock back with the weight slightly.
Rep scheme: Do what works best for you. I provide these reps schemes as a guide or just to give you some place to start After only one week into this challenge you will know what works best for you. I personally liked sets of 25, 30 or 50. This made it easy to keep up with all the reps. As I mentioned before, I focused on 100 at a time. While I did my set I wouldn’t count to 25. I counted to 10 two times and then 5. It was easier to get through the sets toward the end if I only had 10 or 5 reps to do at a time, mentally.
Combine one arm and two arm swings in one set. 10/10 x 2= 40 swings then 10 two arm swings as a finisher. You get 50 reps in before you know it.
Swing ladders with multiple size bells are also a great way to get a lot of reps done in one set. For example; 44lb bell x 10, 35lb bell x 15 and a 26lb bell x 25 = 50 reps in one set.
Swing ladder using one size bell. 10, 15, 20, 25 = 70 reps in one set. You do 10 reps with a small break (10-15 seconds), and then do 15 reps with another small break, etc.
Play around with it and come up with some reps schemes of your own. Be sure to share when you come up with something good.
Support: I mention this last but it is definitely not least. Getting through this challenge with a support system is a must. It will also be a lot more fun. When you know somebody is watching or counting on you, you will be more likely to do it even when you don’t want too. It’s a lot easier to blow off when you are the only one who knows you’re doing it. Don’t make that mistake. If you take this challenge then tell everybody. Find a friend either in real life or online to take the challenge with you.
Post your workouts on your Facebook account or on Twitter. We used the hash tag #10kswings on Twitter. There are still people using it for the challenge today and I also check it every day to provide support. You may also want to check out thekettlebellconnection.com forum. It’s a great place to keep your training log and you will also find many people there who did the challenge and will offer you support.
If you take this challenge feel free to email me if you have questions. I’d also love to hear your feedback.
Best of luck on your journey to increased strength, endurance and a better shaped body.
I asked some of the people who took this challenge with me in January to provide some advice or feedback from their perspective. Take a look at what they accomplished:
“In January I took part in a 10,000 Kettlebell swing challenge. I did not know what to expect but it seemed to be a tough one and I did not know if I could make it. I got a late start on the challenge starting on the 4th of January. As I started I could see this was going to be challenging. What really helped was the support I got from the other people who were in the challenge. Each time I posted what I did that day I would get messages from the other participants. They would offer encouragement and would inspire me to keep going. I finally finished on 1/28/10. I was very excited and happy to finish. This challenge taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to and that if you keep up with something worth while you get amazing results. I got stronger as the challenge went on and gaind more muscle and even lost a few pounds. This challenge was alot of fun and I was able also to meet some great people durring it over Twitter.”
“On the 30th of January, I had 600 swings left in Lisa’s 10,000 swing challenge. My hands were blistered underneath layers of thick callus, bleeding through a layer of bandage and athletic tape. It was about 8 p.m. Saturday night and a nasty cold rain/snow mixture was falling outside. I was alone in my studio here in Idaho, and all sensible folks were out enjoying their Saturday evening.
I re-read the quote from Mark Rippetoe I’d written on my dry-erase board:
“Only people willing to work to the point of discomfort on a regular basis using effective means to produce that discomfort will actually look like they have been other-than-comfortable most of the time”
Then, I got to swinging my 70lb kettlebell. Every one of the 600 reps hurt, but every one made me stronger. There is beauty in basics, and there are some lessons only lots of reps can teach.
No matter how many thousands of times I’d told myself to contract the abdominals and glutes, lock the knees and relax the arms, nothing drove those points home more than simply lots of reps under fatigue.
When you do enough swings, with enough weight, you have to do them right.
I could go on about how it has helped my technique, or how one month of nothing but 6 days a week of 400-500 swings has helped my martial art, but none of that will convey the depth of the lesson the past month has.
To see what I mean, pick a month, do 10,000 swings and feel the difference. Enough talk. More swings.”