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Kettlebell Simple & Sinister Paperback – November 20, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 341 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


An incredibly simple guide to creating sinister workouts that really work. Don't mistake simple for basic. The instruction in this book is exactly what you would learn were you to train with Pavel himself. I know, because I have had in-person coaching from Pavel who is recognized around the world as the master of kettlebell training and am a student of his methods. --Adam Campbell, MS, CSCS, Men's Health Fitness Director

Pavel has done it again! In Kettlebell Simple & Sinister you get the secrets that the experts of all experts in this area has uncovered… here you have it all in a highly functional package that without a doubt will take you to the next level! --Timothy DiFrancesco, Head Strength & Conditioning Coach, Los Angeles Lakers

Kettlebells were not featured in my musclebuilding routines years ago. If I had this snappy book in my hands at the time, my training would have been different. There's tough joy in those kettlebells, and Pavel and his sturdy friends clearly prove it. --Dave Draper, Mr. America, Mr. World, Mr. Universe

About the Author

Pavel Tsatsouline is a former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor, currently a Subject Matter Expert to elite US military and law enforcement special operations units. Pavel introduced the Russian kettlebell to the West in 1998 and started the kettlebell revolution. Dr. Randall Strossen, one of the most respected names in the strength world, stated, "Pavel Tsatsouline will always reign as the modern king of kettlebells since it was he who popularized them to the point where you could almost found a country filled with his converts". Pavel is the Chairman of StrongFirst, Inc. In addition to the gold-standard kettlebell instructor certification StrongFirst.com offers user courses internationally in kettlebell, barbell and bodyweight training.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ StrongFirst, Inc. (November 20, 2013)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 102 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0989892409
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0989892407
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 12 ounces
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 341 ratings

Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
341 global ratings
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Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on December 3, 2017
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5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive entry program for kettlebell lifting
By Sean M on December 3, 2017
*** Update 10/31/19: Immediately below is my review of the first/original edition. See below for a review of the Revised and Updated edition released on Kindle on 10/30/19 ***
I committed to begin exercising 15 months ago, nearing age 30 and being out of shape and at a threshold weight and amount of body fat that I knew would be much harder to lose if I waited any longer to address.

I had seen an article about kettlebells on the Art of Manliness blog a few years ago, and another book (“Eat Bacon, Don’t Jog”) got me really interested. It didn’t take long to come across Pavel Tsatsouline, StrongFirst, and “Simple & Sinister”. I started in October 2016 with a 16kg kettlebell, reached the time standards with a 24kg bell in February, and reached Simple proper (32kg) in August. I trained 3-5 days a week, following the book exactly (warmup, swings, getups, stretches) in about 45 minutes.

I can’t speak highly enough of this book. The program is simple but effective. It requires a shift in your mindset from “working out” to “practice”, for “Strength is a skill”. A “blue collar” mindset where your job is 15 goblet squats, 100 swings and 10 getups done hard enough to get it done quick, but not so hard that you can’t do it again tomorrow.

The progressions, warmups, drills, exercises proper, and cool-down stretches are thoroughly illustrated. One small criticism is the dark clothing against a dark background makes it harder to see than something like a gray background.

If you follow the program as written, you WILL get stronger, guaranteed. This is a “general physical preparedness” program, not designed to specifically improve a sport or something like powerlifting (though it likely will). It is in essence a “minimum effective dose” foundational strength and conditioning program.

I lost 30 pounds, developed forearms like Popeye (stabilizing 70 pounds overhead while moving underneath it for 60 seconds, 10 times a day, 5 days a week, will do that for you), stronger abs and obliques (the anti-rotation effect of heavy one-arm swings), and mobile hips (goblet squats).

This is the definitive starting point for kettlebell training. Attaining the Simple standard is your passport to other great kettlebell training programs, such as the Rite of Passage from Pavel’s previous book “Enter the Kettlebell”, which adds the snatch and clean & press (focusing on the press).

*** Update 10/31/19: Review of Revised and Updated edition ***
It has been six years since the original Simple & Sinister was published, and three years since I first read it and began practicing the goblet squat, swing, and get-up.

This thorough revision is a necessary and superb update to the original. It retains all the best parts of the first edition and makes clear what was unclear in the original.

The most beneficial changes are in clarifying the weight progression via step-loading - you start with a 10 x 10 swing and 5 get-ups per side weight, practice them regularly for 4 weeks, then add weight to just one set (10 per side or 10 x 2 two-arm for swings, and 1/arm for get-ups) for another 4 weeks, etc. until you are back to 10 x 10 and 1/5 (1 rep/arm for 5 sets) at a new, heavier weight.

The second major shift in focus is on what is dubbed "Timeless Simple". Previously, the goal was 10 x 10 swings in 5 minutes followed by 1/5 get-ups in 10 minutes. Now the standard is ownership of a weight (24kg for women in the swing and 16kg for the get-up; 32kg for men for both movements) for that volume but without a specific time constraint; owning the weight means you can do the 10 x 10 and 1/5 any given day without worrying about it. When you have reached that level, you may choose to continue building up weight while training for the time standard (the "Simple Challenge") with the next-size lighter kettlebell for only one session at the end of the week. Men who work up to 48kg for the designated volume (regardless of time) and women who work up to 32kg have achieved Timeless Sinister, and for a select few they can achieve the Sinister Challenge of those weights in the 5:00/10:00 time challenge.

These two changes - a clear, logical, proven progression scheme, and a focus on competency with the specified weights focused on strength and power - reinvent the program into something that will even better serve practitioners.

For me personally, I did not have trouble working up from 16kg to 32kg in working weights over 5-6 months; but it did take me 3-4 more months actively working on compressing the rest periods with 32kg to achieve the time standard. This was time that would've been better spent continuing my strength development, whether with heavier kettlebells or (as Pavel explains near the end of this book) with a "detour" to barbell work before revisiting the Simple or Sinister Challenge. After Timeless Simple, cut practice back to two days per week as a base/maintenance program for any other kind of fitness or training program you want, or to just live life more fully with a solid strength, stability, and power base.

I recommend this edition to anyone who read S&S in the past and didn't work up to 32kg (for men) in working weight - the progression to get there is now much clearer, and "the main thing" (strength and power development, expressed as Timeless Simple) is re-oriented to be "the main thing". I am thankful for these revisions because it makes it easier for me to describe and "sell" it to my family and friends who may be interested in getting generally stronger, more powerful, and move better, without an undue fixation on a time standard.
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Reviewed in the United States on January 13, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on June 6, 2017
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Reviewed in the United States on August 22, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on July 16, 2019
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Top reviews from other countries

Chris Ekers
5.0 out of 5 stars A minimal program with maximal results
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 13, 2017
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12 people found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good read!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 30, 2018
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2 people found this helpful
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2.0 out of 5 stars Nothing wrong with the content but full of irritating typos.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 25, 2020
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2.0 out of 5 stars Lots of filler and useless anecdotes.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 3, 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 5, 2017
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7 people found this helpful
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