Workout #1: “The Kettlebell Got Me”

This weekend has been an exciting fitness extravaganza – I got to cycle in Times Square with Cycle for Survival, which I find to be one of the most inspiring and rewarding events that I’ve had the pleasure to participate in.  I was introduced to it by Gustavo Caicedo, my awesome trainer/swim coach (awesome in no small part because he taught me to swim as an adult where many before him had failed!).  He also trained Jennifer Linn, (one of the co-founders of Cycle for Survival) who was first diagnosed with sarcoma in 2005, and passed away in 2011.  As the CFS site says, her indomitable spirit and extraordinary legacy live on through Cycle for Survival.  I absolutely love being able to raise money for cancer research and prevention and to see firsthand survivors who have benefited from clinical trials funded by Cycle for Survival.  It truly is exhilarating to be part of something that has such a positive impact, and to do it with so many people who were just as fired up about curing cancer, all while in the heart of NYC on one of the most beautiful days.


My weekend of fitness continued today with a leg lift with one of my best friends, and will end tomorrow with yoga and an arm lift with one of my other best friends.  Doesn’t get any better than having people to motivate and help motivate when a workout gets tough.  And today’s workout was definitely meant to be challenging.  I only focus on lifting for legs one day a week now, so I like to make it count.  This usually means … heavy … weight.  People have preferences for all types of weight ranges, rep counts, and rep speeds.  My personal belief from years of experimenting with different styles is that there are benefits from just about every combination – explosive movements in the medium rep and weight range, slow and controlled movements in the heavy range, isometric holds, higher reps with a lighter weight… The list of possibilities is endless, and combining and changing between these options often produces the best results.

Personally, I like to semi-stick with a routine for a few weeks so my muscles can acclimate to the workout and progress to a deeper range before I switch things up.  I pick a weight and stick with it or something close to it for 3-4 workouts, adding a rep or two by the end of the 3rd or 4th workout if possible.  I’ll pick a rep range and a cadence and try to maintain it while improving my form for the basic moves in the workout.  However, to keep my muscles guessing a bit, I will make small tweaks — like alternating the stance between wide or narrow legged squats or deadlifts, or moving from a reverse lunge to a forward lunge.  After a month, I switch the reps, the order, the weight or the basic moves that I am focused on.

This month, the workout has been a 5-10-20 rep workout, with a round of explosive moves after.  I got this idea partly from a Muscle and Fitness Hers about 7 or 8 years ago, and it has always been one of my favorites.  I think squats and deadlifts are crucial to any leg program, and lunges really hit the hamstrings and outer thighs best for me.  I also have a *love affair* with kettlebells (and the BOSU, but more on that later), so I try to add some squats with kettlebells into the mix to round things out.  Today’s workout was geared more towards the outer thigh (last week was inner thighs), so we kept the stance narrow for all moves:


Start with 3 rounds of 5-10-20, plus the “kill it” move:

(1) 5 “heavy” back squats, narrow stance (weight in the heels, back should be as straight as possible).  I used 185 lbs, but start light and add weight until you feel like 5 reps are difficult but not going to make it impossible to keep going.

IMG_1605      IMG_1613

I know, I know, my face in the second photo *does* make it look like it will be impossible for me to keep going, but it wasn’t!

(2) With no rest, 10-15 reps of narrow, stiff leg deadlifts (knees should be slightly bent, legs about hip distance apart).  The weight should hover about 3-6 inches off the floor at the bottom, and arms should be engaged and shoulders pushed back at the top.  I used 70 lbs, 15 reps, but adjust based on what feels tough for you:

IMG_1626    IMG_1625    IMG_1622

See, I smile, I promise.

(3) 20 reps of side lunges, one dumbbell in each hand.  Keep back straight and as upright as possible.  I used 20’s.


(4) And here’s why I am sneaky – any one who has ever worked out with me knows I love the “kill it” move (an extra surprise move at the end of the set) – 10 pop squats, getting the feet as high off the ground as possible and landing in a squat.


Rest 1-2 minutes between rounds, then move to the “Explosive” set:

3 rounds of

(1) 20 Russian Kettlebell Swings – I used 24kg.  Weight should be in the heels, the bell should come back near the glutes, and should explode up to shoulder level using the hips and glutes:

IMG_1649    IMG_1650

(2) 10 Kettlebell Goblet Squats, same weight:

IMG_1664  — Make sure to get nice and low!

(3) 10 Squat to Upright row – I dropped the weight to 16kg for this because I have a nagging shoulder injury, but the super hardcore may want to use the same weight.


(4) Finish with 10 box jumps, making sure to land “soft like a cat” (not heavy like a cow) and extend straight at the top.

IMG_1678    IMG_1685

Rest 1 minute between sets, then finish it off with 1 set of 20 reps (with breaks if necessary) of leg press:

IMG_1690    IMG_1694

As Lydia said when we got to this station, the kettlebell got me.  This is TOUGH but was worth it.  Highly recommend our post-workout recovery: 10 minutes of slow walking to re-warmup the muscles before foam rolling, stretching (including pigeons and hip openers with the BOSU), sauna, and massage.  As someone who normally works out alone, I also have to say that laughter with friends makes any work WAY BETTER!!!

Stay tuned — the next post will be all of my recovery tips…

3 thoughts on “Workout #1: “The Kettlebell Got Me”

  1. Pingback: Workouts with friends | Steaks, Squats, and Sundresses

  2. Pingback: Workout 29: 5X5 Legs (with Video!) | Steaks, Squats, and Sundresses

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