I Did 150 Kettlebell Swings Every Day for 150 Days And Here’s What Happened
Was it worth it? Would I do it again? And why the hell did I do it in the first place?
The challenge was simple; 150 kettlebell swings a day for 150 days. Make it happen no matter what, how, or when. That was the only rule.
I could break the swings up or do them all at once, which happened 95-percent of the time. The weight varied from 70-pounds in the beginning to 53 lb. towards the end. Nothing too heavy, nothing stupid light.
The burning questions are “was it worth it,” and “would I do it again,” and “why the hell did I do it in the first place?” And we’ll get to that. But first, here’s what happened, the good and the bad.
Swing Over Sleep (bad)
There were days I had to force myself to swing after dinner and a full day’s work. Days where I didn’t make it into the garage until after 10 pm.
Part of me loves training while everyone else sleeps, working while others rest. Still, another part of me just wanted to fall asleep reading The Overstory. And coming from a guy who struggles with sleep anyway, I know more time under the covers is what I need most. But the mission was 150 swings, so we do 150 swings. Because like John Cusack says in ‘1408,’ “we don’t rattle.”
Improved Grip (good)
One of my best friends is the size of a Cave-Troll from Lord Of The Rings, complete with a giant noggin and overcooked sausage links for fingers. If he closed his hand around a frisbee, it’d disappear. The kind of guy that can turn screws with his fingers and shatter dreams with a handshake.
Sadly, I’ve never been that guy.
But 150 kettlebell swings every day does strengthen your grip; of that there is little doubt. I noticed it on the barbell, hanging from the rig, and yes, when I didn’t have a wrench and used my delicate digits to do the job.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (bad)
So this one was wildly unexpected.
Picture how the kettlebell swing works — close grip, lots of repetitive activity with the hands, taught shoulders, and all that. Now imagine doing that every day, for no less than six solid minutes. If you said overuse, you nailed it.
At about the three-month mark, my right-hand starting going numb at night. Specifically, my fingers. At first, I blamed my mattress. Then it started burning, and I had to make sure I slept with my right hand lower than my heart.
And it only got worse.
The numbness started happening throughout the day. I persisted, mainly because it was more annoying than painful, plus I wanted to see if it was really the kettlebell or causing the discomfort or something else.
Since the test ended, the symptoms have subsided. But unfortunately, they haven’t completely disappeared. Good lesson in overtraining. Expensive lesson.
Improved Lower Back Endurance (good)
I really wish I could say my deadlift improved, but that didn’t happen. Lower back endurance, however, did.
What is lower back endurance? Well, to me, it’s the ability to run a 5k without back pain, snatching without defaulting into flexion, and never having to take a break a workout because my back is just too blown up — all things I would attribute to the experiment.
Lack Of Motivation (bad)
I like to train. I believe exercise is an end to itself, not a means to an end. I like the results, but even without them, I’d train anyway. I exercise for exercise’s sake.
That being said, I started to dread those freakin’ swings. Mainly because they got boring. When I switched it up and added an Assault Bike between sets or included them in conditioning, it was ok. But overall, the challenge just started making me hate training and miss variety.
Lack Of Motivation (good)
I said I didn’t like the boredom, the monotony, that watching baseball and Nascar feeling. But I did like the shift in perspective. Now I have more empathy for people who refuse to fitness, along with a tactic for getting after it anyway. One that Dilbert creator, Scott Adams, preaches all the time.
“The starting point for good health is diet,” Adams says in his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. “Once you get your diet right, your energy level will increase and you’ll find yourself in the mood for exercise.”
Basically, Adams focuses somewhere other than exercise, exactly what you have to do if you hate fitness, but want to get healthy anyway. Instead of focusing on the 150 swings you hate, or the morning jog, or the evening gym time, focus on food. Focus on sleep. Focus on creating healthy habits everywhere else that make it easier to do the things you hate. Then go through the motions. It won’t be sexy, but it’ll get the job done.
Would I do 150 swings a day for 150 days again?
Nope. Too many and too long. But I would do 50 every day for 50. Less volume and overall time commitment, I imagine, would make the whole thing a million times more palatable. But the question is why?
Why did I do the challenge to begin with? Simple. One day a voice came from somewhere I can’t explain — similar to Socrate’s Daemon — and told me to. Now I’m not schizophrenic — at least I don’t think so — but I do try and listen to “sparks of genius.” Especially when they appear fully formed and ready for action.
But if I had to nail my swinging experiment down to a single lesson, it would be this: Experiment more. Keep what works. Toss what doesn’t.
“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” — Bruce Lee