Kettlebell Sport’s Tactical Application

Many of you have written to TACFIT HQ to request a briefing about the benefits of kettlebell training to tactical preparedness.

The classic kettlebell sport lifts (the snatch and the clean-and-jerk) are all about efficiency and endurance. Conditioning is only ever specific, and so the motor skills developed through sport lifts only have specific enhancements in the tactical arena. That being said, one particular meta-skill developed through kettlebell sport does carry over into the tactical operator’s realm: the grinding discipline of refining one skill to mastery. This briefing presents a program which will build that discipline while at the same time improving your kettlebell sport performance.

Thousands of people have used my One Arm Long Cycle (OALC) kettlebell program to successfully improve their numbers in this complex exercise. I used the same program to complete 100 repetitions of the OALC with 32kgs kettlebells in 10 minutes, with one hand switch. I trained with kettlebells for no less than 6 minutes and no more than 20 minutes every day for 3 months to achieve this goal.

The full program is outlined at the end of this briefing.

Here’s a video tutorial on the technique I use for the OALC:

Many people enjoy competing in classic kettlebell sport, just as many enjoy competing in powerlifting, bodybuilding, olympic lifting, and in more recent sports like the Crossfit games. Inherently athletic activities like these – and like martial arts, swimming, running, kayaking, and biking – all offer health and fitness benefits. If you enjoy a recreational sport such as kettlebell lifting, why not progress efficiently within it?

I’m giving you this program (outlined below) for free because I want you to experience success at your sport in the fastest and safest way possible. However, if you’re looking for the most effective way to train with kettlebells as a tactical athlete, you should know that the way the Russian Spetsnaz trained was very different than the training done by kettlebell sport world champions.

The thing to remember is that “sports” aren’t the only way, and are not even the optimal way, to train as a tactical athlete. Tactical athletics isn’t meant merely to augment performance on the track or in the gym, but rather to  specifically prepare you for crisis response.

Participation in fencing, rugby, football or any other combat sport will have an indirect and marginal carry-over to your performance in mixed martial arts, just as participation in the sports of powerlifting, bodybuilding and Olympic lifting will have an indirect and marginal carry-over to boxing. Without specific training, these sports will only contribute minimally, and they may even hinder your performance in fighting.

Training must be specific. The one overriding goal of tactical athletics is to help you navigate your vocational demands with ease and imagination, so you’re able to do your job and get home safely.

I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a lot to be learned from sport champions! You will certainly increase your precision and efficiency by participating in ISSF pistol shooting events. However, all of those skills fall to pieces under the friction of imperfect circumstances, and under the fog of combative pressure. You need scenario based training that is specific to your intended zone of conflict in order to have access to your shooting skills under pressure.

So, too, with your strength conditioning. As a tactical athlete, you must perform a variety of tactically-specific movements that increase in sophistication as you progress, movements that emotionally acclimatize you to the physiological stress arousal state, and which allow you to both prime and compensate for the rigors of tactical engagements.

We employ a tightly-packaged, consolidated approach to this, which we will release soon as an additional plug-in to your TACFIT armory. Stay tuned – but remember to keep your eye on the ball and stay focused on your current mission.

Scott’s Murphy-Proof Progression for classical kettlebell sport.

  • The progression is quantitatively sequential. As soon as you lock down one score, you can advance to the next on your next training day.
  • Keep advancing in the progression until you can’t complete the current step.

Stay with the incomplete step until you can complete it. (It often takes 2-3 sessions to progress through any one step, though you may advance faster if you use proper 4 day intensity waves, mobility warm-ups and compensation cool-downs.)

The world kettlebell champions I’ve trained and traveled with have suggested that it’s possible to train every day, but remember that this suggestion came from their background of being professional kettlebell lifters rather than fighters. When you’re not a professional kettlebell competitor, and especially when you’re a professional warrior like the guys and gals I teach, you don’t have the luxury of training sport full time. You must tailor your conditioning schedule to ensure adequate recovery for operational readiness.

Milestone 1: Complete one 10-minute session at base reps per minute with 5 rep hand switches

  • Begin your OALC non-stop for 3 minutes, with hand switches every 5 reps.
  • Find your base reps per minute (RPM); it’s usually around 8RPM when you’re just beginning this type of training. Pace is important for progression, so once you find your RPM stick with it.
  • When you can keep the same RPM for 3 minutes, add one minute for 4 minutes total.
  • NOTE: Here’s where things pick up speed for a while. It looks as though you’re developing very fast, but I believe this is actually just your technique catching up to your level of conditioning as a tactical athlete. Don’t be fooled – stick to the progression.
  • Keep adding one minute per session for as long as you can keep the same RPM, until you can complete one 10-minute session.

Milestone 2: Complete one 10-minute session at 12  reps per minute with 5 rep hand switches

  • Drop back down to 6-minutes but add one RPM to your base RPM.
  • Repeat the above: add one minute per session until you can complete one 10 minute session at your new RPM pace.
  • When you’ve reached 10 minutes, drop back down to 6 minutes and add another RPM.
  • Repeat the above until you can complete one 10 minute session at 12RPM.

Milestone 3: Complete one 10-minute session at 12  reps per minute with 10 rep hand switches

  • Drop down to 6 minutes and 8RPMs (or whatever your base pace was), but perform one hand switch every 10 reps rather than one switch every 5 reps.
  • Work back up the progression and complete a 10 minute session at 12RPM with hand-switches every 10 reps.
  • NOTE: Remember that you reached the first two milestones by staying at the incomplete level until you could complete it successfully, and then advancing immediately to the next step.

Milestone 4: Complete one 20-minute session at base reps per minute

  • Here’s where you move up in total duration. Drop down to 10RPM, but add one minute for 11 minutes total, switching hands every 10 reps.
  • Next, go to 11RPM for 11min. Then increase to 12 RPM for 11min.
  • Drop down to 10RPM and go for 12min. Then increase to 11RPM for 12min. Then to 12RPM for 12min.
  • Work up to and complete a 20 minute session at 12RPMs, switching hands every 10 reps.

Milestone 5: Complete one 10-minute session at base reps per minute

  • Drop back down to 6 minutes and perform a 5 minute session with no hand switch, followed by 5 minutes with the other hand – you’re doing this to find your base RPM.
  • Add one RPM per session until you’re up to 10RPMs for 20 minutes with one hand switch – in other words, 10 minutes straight per hand.

You should know that this progression is not always constant. When I went through it we did a lot of jumping around, and we were also adding the 32kg kettlebells into the mix for overload training. But it did allow me to work up to 100 reps in 10 minutes of 1-arm LCCJ with the 32kgs with one hand switch.

Be warned: The 32kgs kettlebells will beat you up, and you may become slow. If you’re taking too long to recover or are feeling banged up, drop down to the 24kgs, and within a couple weeks you’ll be back on velocity with no aches or pains.

This progression might sound complicated but it’s really pretty simple, and there’s a lot of flexibility to it.
Finally, you should also know that as tactical operators there’s no “strict rule” to your rate of progress because your occupational and recreational stresses will be competing with your training stress and recovery. You can and should tinker with the program based on how you’re feeling that day. Your base goal is simply to train as much as possible for just 6-20 minutes per day. That’s what will get you to the 100 rep goal.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

tom Sweeney June 8, 2010 at 6:51 am

Just turned 70, almost into second month of seed implant for prostate cancer; lifelong fitness buff; currently alternate a.m.s of either yoga or strength training with dumbbells/35 pound kettlebell (try to mix up routines, mostly go through circuits with little rest to get HR up; also do 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest for 4 minutes of, e.g., two-hand KB swings); p.m.s either walk/run on golf course hitting as many hills as possible; or high intensity intervals on exercise bike; once per week I run 6-7 miles.

Goal: run 20 mile mountain ridge run in Bozeman, Montana a year from this July; stay lean (5′ 9.5 “, 145 pounds); and keep up with grandkids. I’m running 10Ks and 7 mile trail races, but times have dropped slightly due to radiation. But I keep on keeping on, no matter what.

What is One Arm Long Cycle (OALC)? Can I find a video of it and other moves? Any other suggestions for a guy in my shape, age, and goals? MUCH APPRECIATED


admin June 8, 2010 at 6:59 am


Check out the video in the blog above for a demo of the OALC.

Get on a specific program. Without routinized scheduling, it will be impossible to track your progress. If you can track it, you can improve it.

Who Dares Wins,
Scott Sonnon


Sam Boydston June 8, 2010 at 7:22 am

Hah! Those wiley Russians!


Steven Sierra June 8, 2010 at 9:31 am

Coach Sonnon or anyone on the Admin Tacfit staff: On the exercise for the rocca forearm & the bear squat in Mission 2-Recruit; I had trouble the first time. The first time my hand kept slipping on the matt & my lower back was bent. Today I used a concrete block with my hands so they wouldn’t slip on the matt and I used the block to back my feet into so I wouldn’t bend my lower back on the rocca forearm.
Is this method ok? I tried it today and it was much tougher than the first time I tried the exercise.


Herman June 8, 2010 at 9:46 am

I love your attention to detail Scott–second to none.


Julian June 8, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Just completed Recruit Mission 3 and about to start a 28 day Mass Assault cycle before moving on to Grunt level – I’ve made fat loss and strength gains, but I struggle with the dietary side of things and can’t help feeling my results would be even better if I could just nail the diet.
Nutrition seems like a minefield to me with countless approaches and differing professional opinion – can anyone recommend a comprehensive nutritional resource that’s compliant with the TACFIT ethos? – I’ve been following the 4 day diet wave, and although I generally stay the course, I have to admit to occasionally straying from the path and have had the odd beer on the weekends or a sweet on occasion.
I could really use some help with recipe idea’s etc. to help keep things on track – I appreciate Coach Sonnon included some recipes in the diet section of the manual, but it’s not always clear to me which are for protein, balanced or high carb days? – I tend to eat quite a lot of fruit, but am I to believe this is not ideal due to the high fructose content? I think it’s just a case of educating myself further in the nutritional field, but there’s so much data out there it’s hard to determine which is the right approach to follow – can anyone point me in the right direction please?
Also, when switching to any of the plug-ins such as Mass Assault or ROPE, are we still to comply with the 4 day diet wave?
Any input much appreciated Commando’s.
Best regards,


Roberto June 8, 2010 at 6:53 pm

You say the Russian Spetsnaz trained with kettlebells differently than kettlebell sports lifters. In what way? What exercises? Do they also use timed sets, or is the focus on volume/reps?


chuck June 18, 2010 at 8:08 am

Where can someone go to get a quality kettlebell certification? What are the quality certification programs in the United States?


Marc June 20, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Coach, thank you for posting these videos. This will help me a lot in cleaning up my technique.


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