Best 2 Kettlebell Exercises for Military

August 27, 2008 – 8:50 pm

Understanding the nature of your PT due to my background as a subject matter expert for various military units around the world, allow me to offer the following generalized recommendations.If choosing only 2 exercises to complement your extant PT work, select swings and jerks. I’ll explain.

Swings give you all of full bodily conditioning you need while maintaining the closed, packed position on the shoulders (biomechanically, the most stable position for the shoulders.) I’d normally suggest the clean, but because the clean can include an element of scapular elevation, the shoulders can come unpacked and with the high volume of pullups, you may face over-training.

The swing will also be a good complement to the running volume, since it is the functional opposite to your gait; and with good range of motion, will help you maintain balance with improved hamstring strength (due to the eccentric loading phase on the back swing.)

In addition, most people find the greatest difficulty in learning shock absorption without significant training of a proper swing (by proper I mean a swing which is mechanically designed as a building block for the clean and snatch, like Fedorenko’s technique.) As a result, most people accumulate external rotator trauma from repeatedly drifting the bell externally (as if someone was beating you in arm wrestling.) This can be brutal to high volume pullup athletes like crossfitters and climbers.

The jerk is my second recommendation. Normally, I’d suggest the Yawing Press, but because of the pullup volume, the press can be problematic since in both strict pullups and military presses, many people do not maintain shoulder pack, leading to rotator cuff strain (since the force transfers not to the load bearing structure, but to the soft tissue not designed to accommodate it.)

Here’s a free video tutorial on the Yawing Press:

The jerk, furthermore, is the functional opposite of the kipping pullup, and will contribute to the muscular rebalancing of your normal PT. I realize that you perform (primarily) strict pullups, but you still need to maintain structural counter-balancing. The jerk is the least intensive on the shoulder grind of the big 3 (press, push press and jerk), so I suspect it will be very helpful.

On the swings, I’d focus on heavy (32kg) and one-handed open switches to preserve your hands. That way you can maintain a modicum of strength while deployed. However, for the jerks, I’d suggest light (12-16kg), one-handed and view them primarily as a counter-balancing your pullups in order to prevent a future injury. Standard timed-sets apply, but we could discuss how to create a scheme which would progress upon your PT times if you wanted a bench-mark.

Daily Intu-Flow Joint Mobility is mandatory. Furthermore, you should incorporate a schedule of unloading, compensatory movement through Prasara Yoga.

Be Safe Out There!

Flow Thyself™,

  1. 12 Responses to “Best 2 Kettlebell Exercises for Military”

  2. What kind of kettlebells are you using in the demonstration? Where can I find them?

    By Paul on Aug 28, 2008

  3. Hey Scott, just what I was looking for. Now how would you work this in? Would it be along the lines of long cycle clean and jerk for fighters with the swings and jerks as supplemental?

    Also being a combatives instructor, what prasara product will suit me best for unloading and when should that be done? I have body-flow and would think that or grapplers toolbox reborn would be ideal, but I’m still learning.



    By Nathan on Sep 3, 2008

  4. Nathan,

    I would suggest a cycle of swings and presses for strength in the motor components. Follow this with a 2-3 week break of just kick-your-ass FlowFit. Then, a cycle of cleans and push presses. Another 2-3 weeks of just FlowFit and Intu-Flow for conditioning. Finally, a PR push of long cycle push press. Cool off with Prasara for 2-3 weeks before restarting with higher RPM, MPH, duration or weight.

    Go with Grapplers Toolbox Reborn or FlowFit II: Ground Engagement. The former is an encyclopedia format, and the latter a follow-along.

    Keep me updated on your progress, amigo.


    By Scott Sonnon on Sep 3, 2008

  5. Sounds good. Unfortuneatley I left my flowfit I and II in storage while I’m overseas. I do the Intu-Flow daily. On the kettlebell cycles are we looking at the Charlie Sierra Tango format? I guessing more along the lines of the LCCJ as is indicated by you saying higher RPM, MPH, etc. Just wanted to clarify.

    As an aside, would any of these be usefull as a structured combatives class warm-up? I noticed the second time going through level II that we used some of the exercises from Body-Flow.

    Thanks again for the reply

    By Nathan on Sep 3, 2008

  6. Nathan,

    That depends upon your current operational demands. If you let me know your current requirements, I can direct you to the appropriate resource.

    Yes, they were originally designed for combatives conditioning.


    By Scott Sonnon on Sep 3, 2008

  7. Right now operational demands are pretty much zero, so I have plenty of flexibility in training. Currently I’m prepping for a AFPT sometime in the next month while trying to rehab a strained piriformis(counterproductive I know). So most the info I’m looking for is future operations as I’m winding down on this tour. Modern urban combat along with it combatives applications, alongside that would be prepping for Afghanistan tours with it’s rugged fighting after climbing and elevation concerns.

    I’ll make sure to get a copy of the grapplers toolbox and see how the kids respond to those drills as a warmup.

    Thanks again for all the responses.


    By Nathan on Sep 3, 2008

  8. Nathan,

    Allow me to make an unpopular suggestion as someone who has been an SME in military PT for a long time.


    Never try to be as highly conditioned as possible for imminent deployment. We just aren’t designed for that. We evolve in waves of work and recovery specific to the variables adjusted.

    Regardless of imminent deployment, if you truly want to be as physically prepared as possible, then phase down metabolic and strength conditioning and focus on stretches of just yoga type PNG stretching (such as GTB, FF, Prasara, Body-Flow, etc). You just can’t run the engine that high without breaking down, especially at a hormonal level; the endocrine system fatigues, and then the wall of the immune system exposes you vulnerable to the biohazards around you.

    Change the entire nature of your training at least every 3 months, if not more often. You will be MORE effective and efficient because you’re fully restored, and you’ll ACTUALLY surpass sub-prime conditioning (most people go on ops sub-prime and under-restored because they try and maintain consistent S&C without variance or active recovery periods.)

    Be safe out there.


    By Scott Sonnon on Sep 3, 2008

  9. Totally agree actually. I found myself better prepared for missions doing only two sessions of roughly 30 minutes a week. Nobody beleives that it works of course, but between tossing around heavy equipment and the two sessions a week, I was pretty on the ball.

    I generally at a minimum take a down week every 3-4 months that’s consist of what I call intuitive work. It’s a week that I’m not allowed to lift anything heavy and I ban myself from the gym. Sports are preferred, but overseas climbing the concrete barrier walls is about the extent of a sport there is ;) I’ve surprisingly done exactly what you’ve said for awhile now, by switching things completely up every 3 months or so. But I do see some overtraining on the CNS. It may be different but we’re still going way too hard.

    It’s interesting we’ve come to the same conclusions on some things. For quite some time I was doing kb clean+thruster for 20 min sessions as my only metcon for MMA/combatives. It work perfectly combined with the MMA training, much like you’re team found with the LCCJ(Almost the same actions).

    Like I said much of this is for future cycles, I suck up as much information as I can, and I think it’s a clue that I’ve come to many of the same conclusions you have.

    Thanks for your time, it’s truly appreciated


    By Nathan on Sep 3, 2008

  10. Nathan,

    Great minds think alike. :)

    In all seriousness, it sounds like you’re doing a great job. I don’t know what else I can add. Just keep following your intuition. It’s the best coach.

    Take care, brother.

    By Scott Sonnon on Sep 3, 2008

  11. Thanks Scott, I’ve got you on my myspace page. I’m gonna get with you on some stuff in the next couple days if you don’t mind. Is that an easy place to contact you at?

    By Nathan on Sep 3, 2008

  12. Anywhere works. Here, there, facebook. I’m always around no matter where I am on the globe.

    By Scott Sonnon on Sep 3, 2008

  1. 1 Trackback(s)

  2. Aug 28, 2008: The best laid plans of men… « The Office of Common Sense (OCS tm)

You must be logged in to post a comment.