The 10,000 swing kettlebell workout challenge sounds promising, at least on paper: in only four weeks, it can 'reveal your six pack' and 'increase grip strength and work capacity'. To good to be true? We tested the 10,000 swings kettlebell challenge to see if it delivers on its promise. Can you get fit and lose belly fat using only the best kettlebells? Is four weeks enough to tone up and get a six pack?
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Being a fitness writer and a person interested in challenges, I volunteered to do the workout and dedicate four weeks to this kettlebell workout. At the end of the day, who wouldn't want a six pack by swinging a metal orb with a handle for half an hour a day?
And to make sure I follow through, I even roped in a few friends and family members who were interested in the 10,000 swings kettlebell challenge. As we all know, the best motivation is seeing others suffer through hours of gruelling workouts with you, am I right?
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10,000 swing kettlebell challenge: how it all started
To give you a bit of a background, I'm 6"1 and around 12 st 10 lbs (185 cm / 81 kg, respectively). By no means I'm a big guy and although I used a 24-kilo kettlebell for my kettlebell swings before, I wouldn't call myself a kettlebell specialist. That said, I workout almost every day, I most usually do some sort of resistance training and/or run/cycle.
Before I started doing the 10,000 swing kettlebell challenge, I decided to do one strengthening exercise along with it: overhead presses. This is mainly because I wanted to build arm/shoulder definition and thought this 'push' exercise would compliment the swings, a 'pull' move.
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10,000 swing kettlebell challenge: Day 1
Overall, I learned a lot about form and pushing my body to its limits by doing the 10,000 swing kettlebell challenge. As expected, it was extremely tough to do the daily workouts, especially at the beginning. By the 300th swing on the first day, my forearms were on fire and my will was dwindling. How will I be able to do 500 kettlebell swings, five days a week for four weeks?
Even worse, I underestimated the strain on my core and managed to pull my back straight away on Day 1. As I mentioned, I did swings with the 24-kilo 'bell before but doing 500 swings plus 75 overhead presses in one day was too much for my lower back. I could tell by the end of the workout that there will be trouble the day after.
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10,000 swing kettlebell challenge: doing it the right way
After giving myself a week off to recover and reconsider my approach, I restarted the challenge with the 20 kg kettlebell and opted in for doing kettlebell floor presses as opposed to overhead presses as a complimentary exercise. Lying on the floor in between the swings gave my lower back a much needed break at the beginning.
It took only me two days to do the whole workout with the 24 kg kettlebell and a week to start doing overhead presses again. This was my first takeaway: you can't rush things. You must give your body some time to adjust to the increased load, but it will get there quicker than you think.
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10,000 swing kettlebell challenge: improvements
A bit over a week later, after doing 3,500 swings, I wrote this in my workout diary: "Felt great improvements in grip strength, recovery time between sets and general endurance. Shaved off quite a lot of time compared to last time. Looking forward to seeing how the K/B press session will go (expecting some time savings there too). Had less than a 2-minute break after the first set."
One thing I noticed quite early on was the improvement in my endurance. I needed less and less time between sets and even when I did a different type of workout on rest days, they felt less demanding. It might have been only a mental block that was torn down but the difference was very noticeable.
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10,000 swing kettlebell challenge: how about the six pack?
Needless to say, as time went on, the workouts got shorter and less demanding. By the end of the challenge, I shaved off over ten minutes of my total workout time and my grip was much better too. I also noticed the upper back and especially the traps – the muscles on the side of your neck – being bigger by the end of week 2.
On the other hand, my abs were pretty much the same size and I didn't lose much weight either. The kettlebell swing is praised for being a 'semi-cardio' exercise, meaning it will burn plenty of calories and keep your heart rate in the 'fat burning zone'. However, notice that the claim was that the 10,000 swing kettlebell challenge will 'reveal' the abs, not build them.
You will use your abs a lot to stabilise the swings but it's not the same as actually working them with targeted exercises. Not to mention, following the right diet is still important if you wish to lose belly fat. This challenge can help people shift some body fat but if you haven't got abs in the first place, doing the 10,000 swing kettlebell challenge won't help getting them.
10,000 swing kettlebell challenge: the verdict
Would I recommend doing the 10,000 swing kettlebell challenge? I wouldn't for people who are planning on building muscle and wish to do it in four weeks doing this workout. If anything, I lost some of my push strength by the end of the challenge and my pull strength was down too.
I would still recommend the 10,000 swing kettlebell challenge for people who work out often and would like to freshen up their training routine. Having four weeks off your usual workout routine might just provide enough variety for your body to get out of the progress-rut you are in, and doing so many kettlebell swings will certainly build upper back muscles, which could improve posture. Just make sure you go easy at the beginning.
10,000 swing kettlebell challenge: my tips
- Go easy on the first week: Even if you have a bulletproof core, doing the same hip-hinge move will put a lot of pressure on the lower back.
- Be flexible: If you are feeling tired, have an extra rest day, even if it means you will finish the challenge a few days later than expected. Let your body regenerate in between workouts as much as possible.
- Don't count on others: I had two people starting the challenge with me and none of them lasted longer than a couple of weeks. At the end of the day, you're doing this challenge for yourself and the results are going to be yours only.
- Don't forget to stretch: do yoga or pilates on rest days and do some stretching in between sets. I recommend the cat/cow pose, the baby pose, the child yoga poses and the dumbwaiter pilates move.
- Take notes: writing a workout diary can help you appreciate the effort and results even more. Jotting down how you felt after the workouts and possible ways to improve weaknesses can help you be more mindful about your workouts.
This is part of T3's Fit for 2021 programme, which will be running throughout January. We aim to bring you tips on diet, lifestyle and exercise that will help you shape up for what is certain to be a difficult year. One thing we can guarantee: it WILL be better than last year. And hopefully we'll help you get the most out of it.