“The Iron Ore believes it is being needlessly tortured as it passes through the Forge. The Tempered Steel looks back and knows better.” -Japanese sword-makers proverb

The very first “Swing Challenge” I remember was the original 10,000 swing challenge that Dustin Rippetoe threw out back in 2010, before I had my knee surgery and could not swing for myself.

“Tamer cannot swing…..we shall swing for him…” I am still moved by that, thank you brother.

Thankfully, I have been able to enjoy the exploration of higher-volume work with swings for the better part of 3 years now & now to see all these permutations of “swing challenges” that are popping up…….well…. I got an idea for a swing challenge….one that has been brewing for a while. I asked Dustin of help with the name and he came back with the Forge.

This is as much a breathing and mind control challenge as it is a swing challenge. The truest test will come not during the swings, but in between sets, during the rest breaks. This is NOT about pushing yourself to do “one more rep!” This is about having the control and discipline to slow down your breathing, on purpose, during high-stress physical activity and owning the ensuing panic. Doing a few hundred swings is relatively easy.

I first heard about breathing ladders many years ago from an article written by Rob Lawrence.  They have been a part of The StrongFirst approach for longer than I have. For some reason though, they are often overlooked.  What follows is the first four weeks of a progressive plan that I have mapped out as far as six months. I believe it to be a superior conditioning protocol,  both for the physiology and also for the mental/psychological side of things.

The kettlebell is the hammer. The breath is the bellows. The swordsmith is your WILL. The iron ore being forged into steel is YOU.

This plan assumes you are already proficient with swing technique and can perform diaphragmatic breathing while standing and moving around. Men use a weight between 16-28kg. Ladies use between 12-20kg. I recommend you use the same size kettlebell for all 12 sessions. Feel free to throw in some getups, Simple and Sinister style, or some form of pressing ( I am partial to the Bent Press, but that’s a story for another time). I wouldn’t do any other work on day 3 of each week.

All reps are written in even numbers per set, so you may choose to do one-hand, two-hand swings or a combination of both. All the ratios are written as Swing:BreathFor example 10:1 is 10 swings followed by 1 controlled breath. 20:2 is 20 swings followed by 2 controlled breaths and so on.

Week 1

10:2, 20:4, 30:6, 40:8 = 100 total swings, 20 controlled breaths

Day 1- 2 times though 200:40

Day 2- 3 times through 300:60

Day 3- 5 times though 500:100

Week 2

10:2, 20:4, 30:6, 40:8, 50:10 = 150 swings, 30 controlled breaths

Day 1- 2 times though 300:60

Day 2- 3 times through 450:90

Day 3- 5 times though 750:150

Week 3

10:1, 20:2, 30:3, 40:4 = 100 total swings, 10 controlled breaths

Day 1- 2 times though  200:20

Day 2- 3 times through 300:30

Day 3- 5 times though 500:50

 Week 4

10:1, 20:2, 30:3, 40:4, 50:5 = 150 swings, 15 controlled breaths

Day 1- 2 times though 300:30

Day 2- 3 times through  450:45

Day 3- 5 times though 750:75

Over the course of 12 sessions (4 weeks), you will complete 5000 swings and 750 controlled breaths, if you follow it as written.

I encourage you to track your sessions with a heart rate monitor and maybe a high quality method of recording like the StrongFirst app on iTunes.