Workout Finisher: Kettlebell Swings + Ascending Burpees

10 minute Workouts

Today’s workout finisher is retro-style, but remains one of the most difficult finishers I’ve ever come across.  If I recall correctly, this finisher could be one of the first end-of-the-workout challenges I ever attempted, back when the only equipment I owned was a couple of kettlebells.

It’s a potent mixture of two exercises:  kettlebell swings and burpees.  

Burpees have been making headlines frequently over the last 5 years or so, and for good reason.  A well executed set of burpees can pure magic for conditioning, fat loss or entrance to heaven.

Here are the details of the workout finisher:

Equipment needed: kettlebell (sub-max weight that can be swung for 15+ reps)
Time required: 8 minutes or less
Exercises: 2 (kettlebell swings, burpees)
Rest: None (continuous work until finished, rest as needed to maintain technique)
Total Rounds/Reps: 10 rounds/ 100 kettlebell swings, 55 burpees


*** Note:  The workout is finish after round 10, which will have you doing 10 kettlebell swings and 10 burpees.  The above snapshot misleads a bit, only showing 5 rounds and burpees up to 5 repetitions.  The end point is 10 rounds.

For kettlebell weight, choose something you can swing for 15 reps with ease.  For males, 24 kg (53lb) will feel light in the beginning and torturous toward the end.  For females, 16kg (35lbs) may feel the same.

Feel free to keep a lighter kettlebell nearby if you need to decrease weight.  There is no shame in dropping down in weight if you need to.

This workout finisher will leave you gasping, and also degrade your kettlebell swing technique faster than hell.  When swinging a kettlebell while under high fatigue, you must proceed with caution.  It is your duty to monitor your technique during this challenge.

To train smart, rest when you feel fatigue start to overpower technique.  Just like any other exercise, it’s possible to predict when the next swing is going to be below average.  You can sense the slop coming from rep to rep.  The reaction time is decreased, but you can feel it.

Below average technique with kettlebell swings can wreck your body.

I’m an advocate for pushing the limits against fatigue, with boundaries.  Fatigue is a well-known exercise technique killer.  A body exerting in sub-par positions can result in injury.

Personally, I advocate shutting down the work-set until energy is restored.  Some people will not agree.

My guide is a simple question:  Is resting 30 seconds worth saving yourself from exercise related back or shoulder surgery?

For me, it is.  For you, it may not be.  Know thyself.

Cautions given, get after this workout finisher and let me know how you did.





Workout Finisher: 250-meter Row + Burpee + Overhead Slams

10 minute Workouts, Workout Finisher

I whipped up this potent workout finisher to end my training session on a high note yesterday, and it turned out to be fantastic.  Workout finishers provide a fresh take on traditional cardio training without the nauseating time commitment (aerobic) and a nudge to burn body fat.

Prior to the workout finisher, I had spent roughly 30 minutes time pounding away on some controlled strength training:  single-leg deadlifts, unsupported pistol squats, kettlebell over-head presses and weighted inverted rows.

Leading up to the workout finisher, it was these 4 simple strength exercises to address everything:  upper body push, lower body hinge/pull, upper body pull, lower body push.

Since tweaking my back, I’ve made a dedicated (and difficult) effort to address core control and rebuild my hips, which is why I’ve been hammering away on slow, controlled strength training.

Admittedly, it is difficult to ween off of the metabolic style training sessions and into strict reps coupled with even more strict rest periods.  It’s probably how a NASCAR driver feels driving 30mph around town in a Prius after hardcore racing at the Daytona 500.

To be honest, I had no intention to include anything more than my strength training.  My last set of pistol squats found me wanting a challenge, so why the hell not?

Here are the details of this workout finisher…

  • Equipment needed: slam ballrowing machine
  • Time required:  10 minutes or less
  • Exercises:  2 (“burpee + over head slams” are counted as one exercise)
  • Rest:  None (continuous work until finished, rest as needed for technique)
  • Total Rounds:  4 


What?! That’s it?!

Yes, keep it simple here.  Cycle back and forth between the 250-meter row and burpee+over head slams for a total of 4 rounds.  Do not stop until you’re finished.

Each burpee will be completed as a 3/4 burpee, with no push-up at the bottom.  Adding the push-up would disrupt the flow because the slam ball would be positioned too far in front of the feet.

Instead, you’ll lower your hands to the floor, kick the feet back into the top of the push-up position, then quickly snap the legs back underneath to the bent knee athletic position (similar to the start position of a deadlift).  From this position you’ll lift the slam ball from  the floor to a fully extended overhead position and slam.

Again picking the slam ball off of the floor, do so with the same technique that you’d use to deadlift or clean a barbell.  Keep the slam ball close to your body on the way up.

In all, you’ll be rowing 1000 meters and completing 40 burpees and 40 slams.

Unplanned efforts have their place.  Not everything in a workout, or in life, needs to be by the planned and by the book.  Breaking free, going for it when your body has the energy to do so is liberating.

Planned for 8 reps but able to get 10 reps?  Go for it.  Cardio not originally part of the day’s workout?  Go for it.  Not scheduled to workout today but feeling awesome?  Go for it.

Know thyself.


Give this workout finisher try, let me know what you think…





Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie and Adding Burpees to My Kettlebell Complex Workout Kicked Ass

Quick Tips


Burpees and I have a love/hate relationship, and I’m sure that most of you probably have similar feelings.  

On one hand, full burpees are as close as it gets to being a complete bodyweight exercise.

Burpees are ridiculously effective for elevating heart rate and recruiting a large amount of muscles.  Large muscular recruitment is a beautiful thing.  Burpees require little to no space, zero equipment and you can perform them anywhere.  Indoors or outdoors it does not matter.  Burpee workouts are a perfect alternative to traditional running or biking.

On the other hand- the hand that despises every aspect of the burpee- burpees are the red headed step child of my workouts.  When I see them on the docket for the day, I cringe.  I cringe because they test me every single time.  I cannot think of a single workout where burpees felt easy.  If there was a workout where burpees were enjoyable like a walk on a white sand beach on a hot Summer day, that would be a major red flag that I didn’t design my workout properly, or I was leaving something in the tank (aka:  Half-assing it).  Burpees are the vegetables of the workout world.  They require very little thought and are quite monotonous when performed for high reps.

But, when weighing the likes and dislikes toward burpees, I know full well that slipping burpees into a workout can crank up the overall impact of the workout.  The training effect if you will.  In other words, I’ve never felt worse (physically or mentally) after performing burpees at the end of a circuit or as a workout by themselves.  

Burpees deliver every single time.  

ImageShakira’s hips don’t lie and neither does my heart rate monitor.

So while I started thinking about different sub-maximal activities that I could integrate into my complex workouts- to keep my heart rate elevated in between rounds- burpees were one of the first exercises that came to mind.  It seemed like slipping them in between rounds could deliver what I was looking for.  Preferably, the filler exercise needed to be ground based and something that kept me in a vertical standing position.

So, here is what the workout evolved into:


Again, the goal here was to add another 5 minutes of elevated heart rate and exertion to my training session.  I know from extensive experience that the kettlebell complex displayed in the snapshot typically takes 12-15 minutes to complete in full, so my goal was to extend the workout to 20 minutes or longer.  The addition of the burpees between complex rounds successfully did just that.

Overall, I enjoyed the addition.  I’ve added timed jump rope intervals to my complexes before, and they worked quite well.  But since I can’t seem to find a jump rope that can live longer than 2-3 months before breaking, I was forced to use burpees.  The key to adding filler exercises to tough workouts is to choose exercises that require low technical know-how.  When you’re sucking wind, trying to gather yourself before the next bout of exertion, this is not the time to be messing around with movements that have high technical difficulty.  

In fact I will just come out and say it… it’s stupid.  The risk doesn’t even come close to matching the reward.  Avoid it and you’ll put yourself in a better position to avoid injury while reaping all of the good that can come from a workout like this.

Closing thoughts…

The majority of my workouts are by design.  I rarely walk into a workout without knowing what’s about to happen, which is why I think I have adhered to this physical lifestyle for so long, and why I will remain committed to moving aggressively and intelligently for years to come.  It’s habit now, fully engrained into my life.

Each workout (or entire program) follows a general training template that I’ve got embedded in my mind.  Early in my strength and conditioning education, I consumed book after book and realized that everyone was using the same general approach to designing effective workouts and long-term programs, so I began adapting and experimenting with slight variations to these time tested principles.  

My personal preference is a system wide, total body approach to exercising, so I know that I like to see all of the major movement patterns represented in each training session (ex: squat, pressing, pulling, hip hinge, etc).  Body part splits are not for me.  I get bored.  Working a squat pattern four different ways on the same day is un-interesting to me.  But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a great option for your fitness endeavors.

I also have a crystal clear distinction between what I classify as a purpose driven workout, and what I classify as a recreational activity.  Playing ice hockey on Wednesday nights is recreational.  Kettlebell complexes are a workout.  My approach doesn’t downplay the positives of recreational activities (because they do matter overall), but I feel that there is a major difference between “the workout” and pick up basketball.  

At the end of the day, movement in any shape or form adds up, and there is no denying this.  Any way that you can engage in it, it’s a bonus.  We can debate the details all day long, but the bottom line is make an effort to sit less and move more.  That’s a recipe worth following.

Here is a great video that diagrams how dramatic even the smallest shift in movement can have on health.  



Cheers to adding burpees to the workout…



The 5 minute Kettlebell Swing + Burpee Challenge

Quick Tips

I love metabolic challenges, especially ones that incorporate kettlebells and burpees.

If you didn’t get a chance to check out the burpee challenge from a few days ago, I suggest that you do.  It’s a tough workout that will definitely get your heart rate up.

—>  Metabolic Challenges/Finishers Over Boring Cardio

I favor metabolic challenge workouts, sometimes referred to as “finishers”, because they test your mind and body in a controlled setting.  The movements and reps/sets (aka: volume) should always be structured to YOUR own physical abilities, not someone else’s.  Nothing during a metabolic workout should be forced.

It is crucial that a high tempo work capacity style training session have progressions and regressions.  One size does not fit all.  The workout should be scaled to fit each of us on an individual level.  This will decrease the likelihood of injury while promoting physical transformation and improvements in performance.

Once you have proven that you can move efficiently without pain and have acquired adequate strength, stability and mobility to execute basic exercise like squats, push-ups, chin-ups, lunges and planks, it may be time to consider mixing in some metabolic work.

Remember this picture from a recent post?…

Strength Cardio Movements

I use “cardio-strength” and “metabolic” interchangeably…

At the very least, you can mix in some short burst finishers toward the end of your strength training session.  Adding finishers to the end of a workout will shift the way that you think about conditioning.  I know that it did for me.  It was a game changer.

There is nothing wrong with traditional activities like bike and hill sprinting, but to be honest, I find it painfully boring.  I know for a fact that I do not sit alone with these feelings.  Boring cardiovascular training can actually do more harm than good.  If you dread boring cardio to the point that you choose not to workout at all, that’s bad.  It shouldn’t have to be this way.

Boring Cardio Hamster Wheel

Do you ever feel like this while working out?

You don’t have to be a fanatic about your training habits, but long-term adherence to a life full of movement requires that at the very least you find some amount of enjoyment from your workouts.

The main point is that you have great alternatives to the long, slow, boring treadmill trot.  Finishers will keep your training fresh and challenging.  The return on investing in finishers is large.

I will always encourage beginners, novice and even advanced trainees to continue to make conscious efforts to improve strength and power.  This will never change.  So much good comes from building basic strength.

In a normal training session, after working through a complete warm up, strength and power work should be next on the day’s agenda.  Most workouts will require anywhere from 15-20 minutes to work through 2-3 tri-sets of strength/power enhancing movements.

—>  Kettlebells and burpees collide

Lifeline Kettlebells

Lifeline Kettlebells…

I am a huge kettlebell fan.

Kettlebells changed my perception of working out.  Kettlebells brought  the importance of strong, stable, free-flowing movement back into the fitness equation.  You have to be 3-dimensionally strong to lift, swing and carry a kettlebell.  My gym sessions transformed from a of time devoted to the typical big lifts- squats, pressing and pulling- to ground based movement sessions that built strength and stability using in greater ranges of motion.

I now have a level of stability, mobility, and functional strength that I didn’t know was possible for me to have.  Kettlebells aren’t a miracle, but the shift that they caused in my views on what an effective workout could be certainly make them one of the most influential pieces of training equipment I have ever used.

Kettlebell training is represents true movement.

The Turkish Get Up


Next, the reason that we’re gathered here in the first place.

—>  The kettlebell swing + burpee metabolic challenge

I cannot remember where I first saw a version of this challenge posted, so please forgive me.

Credit belongs to someone out there, so take it if you’re deserving of it.

I’ve adapted it to fit my needs over the years, as I do with most everything related to training.


Tools needed:  To complete this challenge, you’ll need a kettlebell that you can swing for about 15-18 reps continuously for multiple sets.  I use a 24kg or a 28kg kettlebell for a finisher like the one described below.  Have some kind of timing device on hand.  I always go with my trusty GymBoss.

You’ll also need an open space of about 8ft x 8ft.  This should work just fine.  You can get by with less- and I have- but the more the merrier.  The ceiling of the space you are training in should be high enough to avoid hitting the top of your head when jumping.  If you’ve got clearance, you’re in business.

Here is how the challenge is formatted…

kettlebell + burpee workout

Make sense?

Take note of how each round accumulates burpee reps while the kettlebell swings remain the same.  It’s a very simple format to remember.  Two exercise finishers work great because they take very little thought.

The weight of kettlebell used will vary from person to person, but in general I would go with the following:

Females:  12-16kg

Males:  24-28kg

Of course there are going to be those of you who can use heavier kettlebells than what I suggested, but these are common weights for each gender.

The ultimate goal is to finish in 5 minutes.

I won’t p that I “think” a beginner, novice or advanced trainee should be able to finish a challenge like this in.  That’s not the point.  The goal is to finish in 5 minutes, end of story.  Anything longer than that indicates that you have a goal to work toward.  Sound good?

Stop Sign Warning

—->  Mandatory warnings to this workout

If you have never swung a kettlebell before or you aren’t proficient in swinging kettlebells for higher volumes or while under fatigue, this is not the time to test yourself.  Work up then work in.

Lastly, technique breakdown automatically initiates rest until technique can be maintained.  Fatigue kills exercise technique.  Leave your ego at the door when you train, it will save your body from injury.

Work smart and hard, not smart and reckless.

Give it a shot, have some fun and post how you finish up…

Cheers to the conditioning without boredom!


How Fast Can You Complete the 100 Burpee Challenge?

Quick Tips

ImageThe Burpee.

I’ve been obsessed with work capacity style workouts for quite sometime now, and I have a love/hate relationship with burpees.  Burpees have been a main ingredient in many of these workouts, and for damn good reason.

Burpees are one of the greatest work total body conditioning exercises known to man.  

Transitioning from a standing position down into a pushup then immediately back into a full squat jump is fatiguing as all heck.  Incredibly fatiguing.

If someone gave me the choice between burpees, kettlebell swings, Schwinn Airdyne sprints or hill sprints as a work capacity conditioning session, I am going to choose all three of the latter before I choose burpees.  Sorry burpees.  Sometimes the best exercises are the ones that we dread the most.  This is one of those cases for me and many others out there.  

However, since this is a love/hate relationship, I have to admit that the burpee can drastically improve a person’s cardiovascular conditioning while accelerating body composition changes.  

In other words, if you keep working at burpees and get really good at them, you’re going to put yourself into a state of great physical shape and see some serious changes in the mirror.

I wouldn’t never build an entire program around burpees alone- or any exercise- but I would build an entire workout or a solid “finisher” around the burpees.  “Finishers” are sequences of exercises grouped together at the end of a workout to elicit a large metabolic training effect.  They are designed to test your mind and your body, and well, finish you.

If you enjoy leaving the gym feeling highly fatigued- and lets face it most of us do- the 100 burpee for time finisher is a fantastic challenge.  

Here is how it works:

—> The Rules for the 100 Burpee AFAP (as fast as possible) <—

  • Full burpees only (push up and squat jump included).
  • Take breaks as needed but remember you’re racing the clock.
  • Stop if you experience nausea or dizziness.

That’s it.  Set the clock and get to work.  

Now, I know that not everyone is at a fitness level to perform burpees for the full 100 reps.  You may not be able to finish 20 reps.  If this is the case, adjust the challenge to fit you.

Here are some general guidelines for different fitness levels:


If you’ve never performed a single rep of burpees, you’re a beginner in my book.  Sorry, but you are.  You might be physically fit but you’ve never experienced a single burpee.  Nothing wrong with that.  Never a better time to start implementing the burpee.

What I really like about this challenge is that it requires zero equipment, can be performed anywhere and can serve as a conditioning test that you can continue to re-test to see improvements in fitness.  It’s no different than testing how fast you can run 2-miles.  

One of the keys to work capacity style workouts and finishers is to avoid letting your mind cash checks that your body can’t cash.  

The best work capacity workouts keep the trainee in complete control of their body and the weight being used.  Of course, it’s every person’s responsibility to pull the plug at his or her own discretion.  You’ve got a brain, don’t be afraid to use it, even if it means swallowing your pride and falling short of your goals for the training session.  

If reps get sloppy, stop the set and regroup.  Grab a drink, take a breather, gather yourself.  If you still cannot finish the set after a break in the action, stop.  Done.  Finished.  


Don’t be afraid to pull the plug.

Grinding out one more rep with horrific form isn’t worth the torn rotator cuff, slipped disc in the lower back or tweaked ankle.  There’s no glory in it.  None.

I’d like to think that much of what I advocate on this blog is high tempo, yet safe.  There will be no circus tricks done for high reps just to burn you out and get you fatigued.  Safety is a real concern here.  

Push it hard and to the limit, but in a safe manner.  If you keep that balance, you’ll be able to sustain a life full of physical activity, not just a few years of glory until ligaments and tendons start giving out.  

Building your fitness and preserve your body.  It’s a balance.

Give this challenge a real shot, either as workout in and of itself or as a finisher after a strength training session.  

Submit your time in the comments section!


Cheers to 100 beautiful burpees in a row…