Back in November of 2014 I decided it would be a fantastic idea to do some sprints in the dark with my 160 pound Great Dane before bed to wear him out.  Nissan my dog also agreed that this would be a great idea so we grabbed the retractable leash and went out to do a couple sprints under the street lights on our dead end cul-de-sac.  All was still except for the deer that darted out in front of us mid sprint.  I had all the weight on my left knee as my freight train of a dog pulled me straight to the right.  Even before the shock wore off I knew something wasn’t right because I felt a pop in my left knee and it felt unstable.  It was so violent that my glasses flew almost 20 feet into my neighbor’s grass. I went to bed with ice on the knee as I had to wake up and teach a continuing education course to 70 doctors the next morning.  In the morning the unfortunate feeling of “not right” and “unstable” were confirmed when I fell 3 times in the shower getting ready to go teach.  I had 70 doctors there to assess my knee and the concensus was that my ACL was not torn but my lateral calf, ligaments on the outside of my knee and my meniscus had seen better days.  I got through the weekend hooked up to an ice machine like a dialysis machine but my hopes of running my 50k trail race at Bandera 2 months later were off the table.  Any squatting, rotation or uneven ground send debilitating shocks through my knee.  Even stepping on my treatment table cord sent jolts into the calf.  There was a fork in the road where I would either sulk and feel sorry for myself with beers, ice cream and television or I could make a list of things I could actually perform without it feeling like my knee was going to explode.  Even though I couldn’t do a squat I could hip hinge and even deadlift with very light weight on the barbell.  My upper body was feeling fine so upper body movements that didn’t involve me dropping off of a bar or set of rings were fine.  Since a kettlebell swing and a deadlift are the same movement I decided to research some kettlebell workouts that I could do until my knee rehabbed and felt healthy enough to return to full activity.  This was when I came across an article by Dan John titled “The 10,000 Swing Kettlebell Workout”.  My thought was “I have kettlebell swings and upper body work or feeling sorry for myself.”  I chose to do 10,000 of the right things and stop feeling sorry for myself.  To preface this I was not a newbie calling them “kettleballs” because I got my Russian Kettlebell Certified Instructor training with Max Shank so I felt confident in maintaining proper form and not injuring myself during the challenge.

Let’s go into the details of the 10,000 swing challenge:

  • 20 workouts spaced out over 4 weeks with 500 swings per workout.
  • Pick 2 strength movements from the list of press, dip, goblet squat, pull up
  • 2 days on then rest a day
  • Strength movement A on the first work day then strength movement B on the second work day
  • Rep scheme: 5 rounds of 10 swings/1 strength movement rep, 15 swings/2 strength movement reps, 25 swings/3 strength movement reps, 50 swings
  • Men use 53 lb kettlebell.  Women use 35 lb kettlebell.
  • All swings must remain unbroken so you cannot break the set of 50 swings into 30, 15, 5.  This requires some strategic rest to recover grip.
  • This is a timed workout so you can track your power output and work capacity as well as how much you are able to trim rest periods down (gives you a picture of your grip endurance).

The two strength movements I picked were deficit handstand push-ups (hspu) and weighted pull-ups.  For the deficit handstand push-ups I used bumper plates with an ab mat on the floor, and for the weighted pull-ups I hooked a medicine ball on the top of my feet.  You’ll see from my results recording that I played with weights and amount of deficit to spice things up a bit.

Here are the results:

  1. 48:24 pull-ups
  2. 33:38 goblet squats
  3. 39:10 (45/25/10) deficit hspu (used 45+25+10 for single rep, 45+25 for double, 45 for triple and reset for next round)
  4. 37:00 pull-ups
  5. 38:28 deficit hspu (45/25/10)
  6. 36:30 weighted pull-ups (10#)
  7. 42:26 deficit hspu (45+25 all 3 sets)
  8. 34:25 weighted pull-ups (12#)
  9. 31:36 deficit hspu (45+25 all 3 sets)
  10. 32:45 weighted pull-ups (14#)
  11. 31:28 Deficit hspu (2×45)
  12. 27:25 weighted pull-ups (14#)
  13. 26:38 Deficit hspu (2×45)
  14. 58:20 1,000 (1/2 hspu 1/2 pull-ups)
  15. 29:34 weighted pull-ups (14#)
  16. 30:47 hspu hit muscle failure at set 5 (paralette)
  17. 29:28 weighted pull-ups
  18. 22:56 deficit hspu (paralette)
  19. 40:40 with pull-ups and 70lb kettlebell

You’ll only see 19 days because on day 14 I was feeling adventurous and did 1,000 swings in one sitting.

Some things I noticed after the first couple days of this workout is my lower back was SORE!  The first couple days I was getting in and out of chairs like I just exited a prison shower and was beginning to take my mind off my knee and wonder if I made a huge mistake.  After the first rest day and jumping back in my lower back and hamstrings had never felt stronger.  Being a manual therapist I pride myself on having crushing grip strength but this workout humbled me fatiguing my grip down to nothing every workout.  The last 12-15 reps of the sets of 50 are pure hell and you have to mentally force yourself to dig in and not drop the kettlebell.  As you can see my times went down even with adding more deficit and more weight to the pull-ups.  At the end of the workout I had lost some body fat percentage, improved my grip strength and my deadlift went up 30 pounds (I had been stuck around 395 for 2 YEARS!).  It is very empowering when the alternative could have been to cancel my gym membership for 2 months, feel sorry for myself, get fat and make excuses.  Use injuries as opportunities to work on weaknesses, be creative and resourceful with your training and try new things.  It’s hard to look on the bright side when you’re injured, but I now do this workout once or twice a year and never would have discovered it if it were not for a midnight sprint session with the dog that blew my knee apart.  Live Unbroken ladies and gents.

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