Building a Stronger Body in 5 Minutes
This 5 minutes will build your cardio and strength — it has mine
I’m fitter, stronger and have greater functional strength than at any time in the last 15 years.
However, like many others at the gym, I had been working hard but not doing the “heavy lifting”. I found that I had frittered away 2 years without any significant progress beyond the improvements I initially obtained.
That’s because I didn’t follow a pattern of combining the right intensity with continuous improvement.
I recently took up the challenge, and it had almost immediate effects on my overall body strength.
It may do the same for you, and it only takes 5 minutes of hard work.
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Focus on lowering your body age
I’m fitter and stronger because of two things:
- Paying attention to “progressive overload”; and,
- The power of kettlebells.
My sole aim in exercising at the gym is to lower my body age. In any test of body age, I can now record between 15 and 20 years younger than my chronological age (72 years old).
I’ve always focused my exercise on incremental gains — to go harder and heavier — I mean sensibly, and little by little. That’s a safe thing to do once you have developed good body awareness.
That’s how I have become functionally fit and strong and athletic over the last 20 years.
I notice people from the Bodypump classes I did 10 years ago who are still doing Bodypump and still using the same weight on their bars.
That’s why they don’t get better and their bodies don’t get any younger.
Progressive overload means that you keep adding more resistance and keep making your whole body adapt in response to stress. Without progressive overload your body becomes too efficient at doing the same thing and your muscles are no longer stressed. And, therefore will get not bigger nor stronger nor lower your body age beyond a certain point.
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Kettlebells, used properly, build great functional strength. I’ll make a claim here, which is based on 15 years observing others at gym, and me using kettlebells for 13 years.
No other single piece of equipment develops functional muscular strength and gives an overall balanced body as well as kettlebells, for the ordinary gym goer.
I’ve experienced over the years that the ballistic nature of kettlebells enables you to quickly build both functional strength and endurance.
And unlike using gym machines kettlebells strengthen ligaments and tendons and develop all muscle groups delivering a balanced physique — not just a collection of accentuated body parts.
I was working harder but avoiding heavy loads
BUT, although I pushed endurance and variety with my kettlebell routines, often up to 30 minutes of non-stop exercises comprising one long set, I was avoiding the heavy loads.
My routines varied between 12kg (26lb), 16kg (35lb), and 20kg (44lb) kettlebells, but in the main, the most dynamic sequences were with 12kg.
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I think I was secretly thinking that what I was already doing was so hard that I might fail at something which required a consistently heavy load.
I decided that I needed to do something intense, and which improved core strength, stability and posture. That meant the kettlebell swing.
Why the kettlebell swing? Because it builds power endurance in the posterior chain by requiring the repeated and consistent generation of power over a period of time.
It builds cardiorespiratory fitness and has been shown to increase VO2 max more effective than traditional weight training circuits.
And, it improves hip mobility and hamstring flexibility through a dynamic stretch of the hamstrings and glutes.
The day came
The day came, I warmed up for 10 minutes, picked the 20kg bell, sat it at a swinging reach length in front of my feet, shuffled my feet in just a smidgen closer, feet parallel, took a few deep breaths, and looked up at the clock. I wondered if I could do it.
I let the second hand slip by the 12 o'clock mark, avoiding the start.
I contracted my hamstrings and glutes, hinging my butt back and executing a few “faux” swings. As the second hand swept around and back to the top I sat back, reached out, clasped the bell in my hands, and swung it back between my legs. Now there was no turning back.
I was off, paying attention to my form at every point — working the hips, core and arms, keeping the bell as an extension of my arms, timing the ballistic contraction of the glutes and hamstrings at the reversal of the swing, applying power only at defined points, and letting the tension flow away while also channelling the dynamic forces into a mindful alignment of my body.
And, in the back of my mind fearing the loss of form from tiredness — and potential injury.
Five minutes and 45 seconds later, and 150 swings, it was over.
Exhausted, it passed my mind that I might need to take a seat for a quick breather, but I didn’t.
I didn’t sit but I wasn’t up to doing anything else — no more energy. I took deep breaths, put the kettlebell back, and warmed-down stretching for 15 minutes and then headed home.
Wow! I’d done it, and even better the next day I felt nothing except some minor muscle soreness. From that first time, I continued once a week as a supplement to my other routines. I was less exhausted the second time, and less again the third time.
In fact by the third time I had enough energy left to follow the swing set with additional kettlebell exercises.
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My back and lower posterior has already become stronger, after just 3 weeks (3 times).
I am now breathing easily at the completion of the swings.
The weight that I can now deadlift took a lift to 150% of my body weight and the weight I can clean and press jumped 10kg to 135% of my bodyweight.
What impressed me most was how quickly my aerobic capacity developed to be not puffing at the end of the swings — to be breathing deeply but not heavily, and ready to do other exercises.
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The 5 Minute Routine
The target is 150 swings in 5 minutes. My achievement so far, while impressive to me in terms of results, is still outside of this goal.
The routine is as follows, I warm-up for 10 minutes and stretch after for 15 minutes:
- 30 two-handed swings
- Complete within 60 seconds
- Start again at 60 seconds
- Repeat 5 times.
At the moment it takes me 45 seconds to complete 30 swings with a 20kg kettlebell, and I start again at 75 seconds — I don’t recover enough at 60 seconds to go again.
Therefore the 5 repetitions take 5 minutes and 45 seconds to complete 150 swings.
The progression is to increase the kettlebell weight or to hit the 60-second repeat target to achieve the 5 minutes.
I plan to first increase the weight to 24kg while maintaining my current time and then to go back to 20kg and achieve the 5-minute target.
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How to choose your best starting weight
How do you choose your starting weight? Simple, choose one with which you can do 30 swings in less than 60 seconds and still maintain complete form and technique with no danger of overtiring and injuring yourself.
Always listen to your body and know when to back off.
You will get satisfaction from improving the total exercise time, aiming for 5 minutes, and by increasing the weight — easy measures to track.
By the way, if this exercise doesn’t feel good to you, or hurts, then stop doing it and look for something else. There are always other ways to achieve what you want.
Feel the results
The kettlebell swing is simple but develops real body strength, and this challenge is a real power endurance exercise which for me, quickly had noticeable results.
To me, it’s astounding how I can quickly feel the improved body strength from such an intensive short exercise. If you are ready for it, it may do the same for you.
WARNING: don’t try this at home! Please, if you have not been professionally instructed in how to use kettlebells don’t do this exercise (or any other kettlebells for that matter). You can quickly seriously injure yourself and in particular your shoulders, lower back and hamstrings. A “professional instructor” is not your Les Mills Kettleworx class instructor nor your favourite PT with his 12-week certificate from the Acme Fitness Institute. Seek a person specifically trained and certified in kettlebells to a national or international standard. Don’t make poor choices and end up injured.
I’m Walter Adamson. I write about life, health, exercise, life and cognitive fitness to help men and women over 50 live longer better.
Follow me on Quora and Reddit for more health and fitness tips. Friend me on Goodreads. Let’s keep in touch: firstname.lastname@example.orgUse these resources below to understand what type of exercise might suit you best, and consult your health professional:
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