Over the weekend I had taken part in my very first obstacle course in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This race was the XMAN race, and I’m here to tell you that this is NO easy feat. I would be lying to you if I told you that I didn’t have some sort of pre-race anxiety over the whole thing. Most of the terrain was uphill, and we had to do a total of 29 obstacles from start to finish (which of course included barbed wire, rope climbs, crawling through ice, etc).
On six separate occasions during the event (which is probably why my time to finish the race was 1:51 and not 1:35 ) I was asked if I had actively trained for the XMAN race itself. My response baffled a good majority of the people I had the chance to speak with too.
“Nope. I just swing kettlebells”
This particular response of mine was nearly the same response I gave my friend, a serious endurance athlete, when I crossed the finish line. Apparently my race time had blown her expectations out of the water 😉 . “You came in 45 minutes EARLIER than I had anticipated you to come in. That just proves to me that functional fitness has a very serious cross over effect with this sport. NICE WORK!”
There are a few reasons for this crazy conditioning effect from kettlebell swings. It has a lot to do with your VO2 max, overall endurance that comes from kettlebell training, and of course the “WHAT THE HELL?!!?” effect.
What the hell is the VO2 max anyway? The Vo2 max is the maximum volume of oxygen you can use. It is the threshold for when exercise intensity increases but oxygen consumption does not. It may be the single most important factor in determining where an athletes athletic performance plateaus when the intensity of an exercises increases significantly (God! I sound so scientific today).
The take-away points here are that we want to be able to consume as much oxygen as we can handle to keep up with the depends of intense exercise. If we are not breathing correct.y our oxygen levels will not satisfy the demands of our training. In the kettlebell world, we practice a technique called “power breathing” to enhance and increase the amount of oxygen we get when performing our lifts. If you’re doing high volume kettlebell swings, you are going to want to own this technique so you don’t fatigue too quickly. Oxygen is our friend, and without it well. .. we wont’ be swinging or living now will we 😉
Here’s the power breathing technique in the video below.
Endurance Training- How to increase your VO2 Max with kettlebells
Circuit training is normally my go to these days with all the more endurance like things I am getting involved in. You can train a base level of endurance week by week in as little as 10 minutes a day, and I’m going to show you just how to do that here below.
In order to increase your overall work capacity and increase how well you breathe under the pressure of higher volume of swings, you’re going to tweak your circuits week by week. I’m going to show you two separate training regimes for two handed swings and one arm swing.
Two Handed Swing Circuit Progressions
Week 1: 30/30 for 10 minute
Week 2: 35/25 for 10 minutes
Week 3: 35/25 for 10 minutes
Week 4: 40/20 for ten minutes
One Arm Swing Circuit Progressions
Week 1: 30/30 for 10 minutes
Week 2: 15/15 for 10 minutes
Week 3: 15/15 for 10 minutes
Week 4: 20/10 for ten minutes
Instructor Note: the split refers to the amount of time you are doing work and the amount of time you take rest. So, if you are swinging a kettlebell consecutively for 30 seconds at a time, you would take 30 seconds of rest during week one and so on.
Training at these capacities will eventually help you itemize your breathing under harder and harder circumstances to keep up the pace with your kettlebell swing volume. This kind of circuit training will help with your overall endurance too, which leads me to. . .
The “WHAT THE HELL ?!!?” Effect- Kettlebell Training and the Endurance Event
I finished the XMAN 7.5k obstacle course in 1 hour and 51 minutes. This is by no means some elite level of racing time, but the fact remains that I kept up with the entire race and even caught up with an earlier wave of runners having had very little experience with the world of obstacle racing at all. The method to the madness here can only be explained by my very own functional fitness modality. While the entire course had 29 obstacles that posed certain challenges on strength, it was a longer run that I normally do in practice, especially on top of all the obstacles. The conditioning and speed at which I DID complete the race must have been related to the carry over effect from the circuits style of training I add into my kettlebell routines. I have had several of my clients who are runners and avid bikers tell me the same thing. Their mile times and biking speeds have INCREASED from kettlebell training, and they blame this specifically on the demanding circuits. I encourage you to try some of the training I outlined above and get back to me. I want to know how fast your running, biking, hiking, etc.
This month at the studio we are training for our first ever endurance event here at the studio. We are working up our work capacity to complete as many reps of two handed swings as possible in 20 minutes. Each week we are tweaking the numbers and following a similar sort of circuit split outlined above in this post. My hope is that we, as a group here, can hit some personal records in terms of total reps completed AND keep up the pace as we push the limits of our own endurance. I am excited to unravel this sort of challenge and to dive head first into this sort of training alongside our clients here at Primal Fitness Pittsburgh. If you’re not a member, please email us at email@example.com so we can scheudle you a consultation and make you stronger, faster, and fitter than you ever though possible.
That’s it for today folks. Until next time. .
Master your instincts!
Janelle Pica is a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. After having suffered through an autoimmune condition, Janelle was able to significantly improve her health by making dietary and lifestyle changes that put her condition into remission. Janelle is a dual certified kettlebell instructor through dragon door and Strong First, and she teaches calisthenics through Ground Force Method.