The 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge in 15 days
Bottom Line Up Front: I completed the 10,000 kettlebell swing challenge in 15 days. I did it to challenge myself and experiment with some kettlebell strategies. The following is the explanation, history, and detailed execution notes from the after action review.
If you don’t know what the 10,000 kettlebell swing challenge is, you can refer to this article I wrote after I did it the first time a few years ago. In a nutshell, you swing a kettlebell 10,000 times over the course of 30 days. Generally, this is done with 500 swings on 20 days of the month, giving you 10 rest days. For men, a 53lb (1.5 pood) KB is the standard.
I did this twice (months apart) before I then decided to try it in 20 straight days with no rest. Wasn’t that much harder except for the time. There were days I didn’t have normal workout time or days when I had my morning workout time taken up by mandatory Army group exercise. I did my 500 per day after 30-60 minutes of additional PT many times. I am very proficient at the kettlebell swing after two decades, so this wasn’t as much a physical as temporal (time) issue.
So I was looking for a short-term physical challenge to spice up my life a little and it happened to be March 1st. It was the perfect time to do something in a month or during this month. I decided to take it up a notch and do the 10k KB swing challenge in 15 days this time. No rest days and averaging 666.66 swings per day.
Method of Execution
In the past I did my swings in 5 giant sets of 50-25-15-10 reps (100 total) with 30-90 seconds in between sets. Alternatively, what I found successful was sets of 35 then 15 repeated. Largest issue is hand/forearm fatigue not lower back, hams, or glutes. The only real hard set is the set of 50 with the 53lb. Once you “rest” your grip on the 25s, 15s, and 10s, the 50 is then easy again.
I decided this time I was going to mix it up. I was going to do longer sets, use different kettlebells, and use alternate rep schemes. Here are some of the ones I used:
- Sets of 100 or more. In the interests of time, there were a few days I had a small window to do these short of right before bed or at 4 AM. I opted for 7 sets of 100 reps with a 30 or 35 lb KB (at work we have 30, 40, 50 but at home I have 35 and 53). I did some long sets of 150 with the 35lb KB as well.
- One arm swings. The 10k challenge uses the two handed swing. I decided to integrate one arm swings. It actually gave my grip a rest because it put my forearms in a different angle. I did 100 alternate hand swings many times (left, right, left, right, etc.). The side to side rotation is also very function and gets you out of the normal sagittal plane.
- Varied weight in the same round. For example, 50 swings with 40 lbs, 25 swings with 50 lbs, 15 swings with 70 lbs, and 10 swings with 88 lbs. With this kind of change in the weights, I did these with no rest in between for all 100 total reps (50 then 25 then 15 then 10, then rest and repeat). It is also great to swing those big KBs. Requires so much more power and hip extension.
For many of the workouts, I still did strength or cardiovascular endurance work in between sets of swings. For example, 50 swings, then 1-3 heavy back squats. Repeat 14 times for 700 swings. I did swings then burpees and swings then double unders with a jump rope as well.
I did no additional core work at all. No one direct abdominal/core/chassis exercise. My abs and obliques felt like iron the whole time. I really came to value how much the swing puts the core to the test on this challenge more than others.
Observations and Way Ahead
Doing the 10k challenge is not for everyone, even in 30 days and even with a reduced weight. I do think it is for most people though, if you are familiar with swinging a KB. Teaches you resilience and commitment. For me, I may try 10k in 10 days next but it will be basically the same with another 30 minutes a day added to what I just did. At this time I do not have a plan to repeat this.
I did have kind of a revelation though and that is to swing a kettlebell every day. The reason, for me, is that once I swing a kettlebell probably 100 times (at 53lb or more), I would consider that a workout. So I will go through the motions of putting on workout clothes, warming up, blocking out time, etc. If I do just 100, I will probably do more exercise because I am already in the middle of it. If I were to never walk into the gym, even if I had the time and energy, I wouldn’t work out on some days of the week. More isn’t always better, so I am not too worried about exercising 7 days a week. But with just 100 swings or maybe more like 250, I will at least go through a good warm-up and short workout with a brief cooldown. You can make the swings much easier or harder based on how you do them and with the weight you use. Some swings and then some carries for 20 minutes is such a great workout.
This is a classic behavior modification technique, which is just to make something mandatory that isn’t very difficult and it then leads to something great. For example, it could be just 5 minutes of writing every day for a writer. On some days, a writer may not write at all and others, they may write for a long time. Then when they do just 5 minutes, even on days when they don’t want to, they may get 5 great minutes or it may turn into something much longer and more productive. The mandatory 5 minutes just opens the door. I am thinking of doing at least 100 KB swings each day or at the least doing some swings every single workout, no matter the goal. We’ll see.
Post thoughts/replies/ideas to the comments below.
18 March 2017 @ 22:35
Great article! Thank you for sharing your experiences with the challenge.
I’ve done the 10,000 in 30 days and I’m thinking about doing it again, maybe later this year. I really like the idea of setting a daily minimum of 100 swings just to “open the door.”
19 March 2017 @ 04:38
Fred, thanks for the feedback. Let me know if you implement some daily swings and how it went. About to go do some swings right now myself! Thanks again.
15 June 2019 @ 19:20
This is interesting and thanks for sharing.
Tempting to do this but I think starting point, at least for me, is probably around how this fits into overall fitness goals. I like the idea of just adding a little extra work of probably one of the most beneficial exercises around. That said, adding a little extra here and there does add up, and that’s what I grapple with when it comes the these types of “challenges.” Just because someone decides it’s a good target, does not make it right choice for another person. This is not meant to be critical, just to mention the challenge sometimes with coming up with right programming…
16 June 2019 @ 06:13
Marcus, totally agree with your point. This one specifically isn’t for everyone. The idea of the “challenge” though is to surge on a specific thing for a short period of time, usually because it’s unpleasant. Scaling it or making your own challenge are, of course, OK. Maybe 50 swings a day challenge or 1000 swings in 30 days. Or maybe the takeaways from this is simply that frequently swinging kettlebells is a good staple strategy. I hope the article makes people think about the concept of challenging yourself to do something difficult. Thanks for the comment and feedback! I appreciate the discussion.