Kettlebell Conditioning Ladder | Death by Swings

by Marianne  - September 5, 2012

Hi everyone,

This is a workout ladder of death LOL. Normally a ladder will ascend with reps on a “rung”, so it might look like 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 for a set. And you may do that set a few times, resulting in a ton of volume.


I wanted to experiment with keeping the reps the same, but changing the load each rung. It was also a double exercise ladder, as you’ll see.


Basically, death.


NOTE: To make it possible to do with only 1 or 2 weights available, I’ve added another way to do this ladder by keeping the load constant, but changing reps each time.


The Workout

The video really explains everything, but what I did was 4 rounds in total, resting 2-3 mins between rounds:

Rounds 1 and 2

  1. Goblet Squat x 10 reps     <== or: 3-4 (sets/rounds) of 4-6-8-6-4 (keep load the same but do these reps)
  2. Two-Handed KB Swing x 10 reps  <== or: 3-4 (sets/rounds) of 5-10-15-10-5  (keep load the same but do these reps)

I did it with 16kg, 20kg, 24kg, 20kg, 16kg

Rounds 3 and 4

  1. Two-Handed KB Swing x 10 reps
  2. Burpees x 5 reps <== or if you want to add burpee in: do 2-4 (sets/rounds) of 4-6-8-6-4 (do push-ups in all rungs, or just some)

Again, 5 stations.

The 5 burpees seem easy in your head … not so, once you get to the 24kg :-/

This workout took about about 15 minutes.

Have fun – and I’ll be back soon with more more more 😀




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  1. I’ve been following you for a long time but didn’t have heavy kettlebells. My gym has now heavy doubles (the heaviest ones are 24 Kg), so I was finally able to start doing your workouts. This was my second one, the first one was the ladder workout you made for the JK Conditioning. I just loved both of them! Can’t wait to try more, thank you very much for excellent workouts, keep them coming, please 🙂 Cheers from Germany!

  2. I am an intermediate beginner but fairly new to kettle bell but would love to try this one out. I currently swing 8kg and sometimes 10kg I use the 10kg mostly for leg work. If i were to do this would you suggest going with a ladder of 6,8,10,8,6 or 8,10,12,10,8 and maybe do 5 reps with the 12kg.

    I would love to hear what your opinion is or anyone out there who has some advice.

      1. Thanks as soon as I get myself some gym gloves this will be the one to try next. I teared skin under my fingers at pole dancing.

      2. I did the 8,10,12 kg in the ladder workout and found that by the time I got to the end of the first round 8kg felt really light. I suppose that is what we want so that I can built more strength and get used to the heavier weight.
        I did feel a tiny ache in my back after the workout but wasn’t sure if that was because of bad form or kinda normal. It no longer hurts this morning so it probably wasn’t because of injury.
        What do you think?

        1. It sounds like your back was just fatigued, not injured. It feels like an ache, rather than pain? I would focus on some more glute strengthening exercises to help relieve the low back during lifts. It might just be that your back fatigues due to over-use of the muscle as a prime mover – when the prime mover is the glutes (during any hip extensions exercises). Hope that makes sense 🙂

          1. Thanks, I think that I just need to practise also because when its the first time swinging the heavier weight. I did glute bridges on the swiss ball also which help with the core stability as it is very wobbly to work on.

          2. Melissa, I would advise you to do the glute bridges without the ball. If your body is concerned with stability, then the strength aspect will lack. If you want a strong core, strengthen the glutes. You will be able to focus better and get better range of movement if you take the ball away. Hope that makes sense 🙂

  3. I did this workout twice last week (with the modification we talked about earlier) and I loved it! I’ve hit a wall weightloss wise and i’m chaning up my diet and REALLY trying to be a beast in the gym so i’m following your lead and changing it up to get back on track for 30 days. Thank you, sometimes it is so hard and your website motivates and educates me a lot!

  4. Yet another fab workout!! Thanks marianne!

    I did 12, 16, 24kg swings – missed the squats on the 24kg bell – not quite strong enough yet
    But totally loved this!!
    Will add it on to another work out when I have more time but last night I had to dye my hair, priorities!!!


  5. Thanks for sharing openly and honestly! I’m in exactly the same boat as you…frustrated with where I’ve let myself get to (no injury for me!) and wanting to lose my extra inch or so all around and get down about 6-7 lbs to where I feel fit and most alive! I don’t always feel like I CAN talk about it as a personal trainer (people say, “You must never struggle with that!” and so on), so it’s great to read that others feel the way. I really connect to how you’re feeling and am going to use your motivation and fire to get me back on track too! 😀 Thank you! (definitely going to check out the workout too!)

    1. Thanks Bonnie. It’s true, as trainers or “fitness folk” we have an added pressure never to feel like this, or struggle with the same things as everyone else. The good thing now is I have 100% faith that I can do it – and these methods actually work, instead of being back in the mill of desperately trying every fad diet and quick-fix routine that has all the promises in the world. At least now I can be more patient, because I know it should take time to lose the weight I gained 🙂

  6. I found you on You Tube. I started KB’s with Pavel.When you are doing the Indian push-ups you don’t come back up the way you went down is there a reason for that?,also when you do swings u don’t go all the way back down before u come back up? Is that for any physical reason or…? New Fan John

    1. Hi John. I’m confused. I think you mean the dive-bomber push up (which I am not doing in this workout), but it requires you to push back the way you came. The Hindu/Indian Push Ups require you only to “dive” down and then you place your hip back in the air (downward dog). As for you question about my swing – I’m not sure what you mean? Can you describe it again? The swing is like a pendulum movement, not an up and down; it should go back, then front following an arch. There is no physical reason for this – this is how to swing using the hip hinge. Do you have a video of someone doing the swing as you were taught it or a video of you doing the swing? I might be better to look at that so see what you mean 🙂

      Which video was I doing the Indian Push-Ups?


  7. Hi Marianne,
    I saw this workout when you originally posted it and added it to my list of “must-do” KB routines. I’m currently deployed and have little else to do but workout to get strong, lean, and lose my thickness. I normally do cardio on the stationary bike in the AM so I can easily get back into biking when I return and I do CrossFit WODs in the afternoon. I love CrossFit most days but LOVE KBs even more! On my “off days” I try and do lighter or cardio workouts with KBs to work on my KB routines, form, and get some PRs so I have been using your site for tons of ideas to help me improve. You are amazing and I want to thank you for being such an inspiration.

    Here’s the ladder workout I did on 9 Sept 12 with a few modifications:

    10xGoblet Squat
    *2min Rest

    5x Burpee
    *2min Rest

    10xOneLeg DeadLift (5ea Leg)
    *2min Rest

    5xPull-up (Strict/Good Form)

    I used 12kg, 16kg, 20kg, 16kg, 12kg and even though I realized 12kg was waaay to light after round 1, it still kicked my butt! I didn’t time myself but I believe it took me around 20min or so to complete. Because this kicked HIS butt so bad, my gym partner said that he’s never working out with me on our “rest” days again ;-D Thank you Marianne for helping me kick a fellow (in shape CrossFit WODer) military member’s butt!

  8. I just completed your KB ladder workout and it was fantastic, although I might not be saying that tomorrow when I can’t get up the stairs! I managed it in about 20mins and that was in a pool of sweat! I find your workouts are a great challenge and have directed my fellow netball team mates to your site to show how weight training is not going to turn them (as they quote) “bulky”!!!! Keep up the good work! Thanks

  9. This only takes 15 minutes? You’re kidding right? I didn’t time myself, but on just vaguely looking at the clock, I think it took me more like 30 minutes with the 7 minutes of rest total that I took.

    I used 14, 16 and 20 kg bells. And yes, the burpees were the clincher! This has to be one of your most challenging workouts yet! (Which means, you being evil and all, you’re gonna make an even harder one!) On my old rating system, I would say HR 1.75 Sweat 1.75 Face red.

    Hey have you seen the crossfit burpees? No pushups, but you have to get your hips touching the floor and you have to jump up 6 inches above your highest standing reach. They have a 7 minute burpee challenge, and those are HARD.

    Thanks so much for keeping us in line!

    ~ Gillian

    1. I think it only took 15mins. I didn’t formally time it, I just kept checking the clock. It might have taken a bit longer, I did end up running late for my lunch date LOL! But it didn’t take as long as 30mins. Maybe it was closer to 20??? Not sure. Maybe I said it only took me 15 mins to make more people try it !!! *evil laugh* 😛

      Haven’t tried the Crossfit push ups, and they sound typically Crossfit LOL, aka killer!

      Good to hear from you 🙂

  10. I want to thank you for the Awesome workouts you post. My kettlebell instructor moved earlier in the year and I am on my own now. My husband and I have made our own kettlebell gym in the garage. I lost 35 pounds in 5 months with the help of my instructor. I was eating clean and training with kettlebells 5-6 times a week. I stopped everything once my brother passed away from cancer. I slipped back into old habits. I gained 15 pounds back. Once the kids went back to school,( mom to four kids) I realized I needed to get back on track. And I want to let you know you have helped me do just that. I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last two weeks and I have been using your workouts to train. I can’t wait to do this workout today!
    Thank you so much for being an inspiration to me and so many others.

  11. Wow, Marianne! You killed me, or shall I say, the kettlebells killed me!
    Did this at the gym today with my friend. She hates me now…chuckle chuckle! We made it through dripping with sweat! Yippee!
    Thank you so much for making such fun and challenging workouts! I brag about your stuff all the time and bring your workouts to the gym as an addition to my “bag of tricks” notebook!
    Kettlebell swings…death by! ;o)

  12. all i can say is, wow. i can tell i have not done one of your conditioning workouts forever. i got through the first two rounds ok, with squats and swings, however on my heaviest weight which was 40lb, i could only manage 5 reps of squats the last round.

    i only did one round of the burpees /swings, as my elbow was hurting. But this is definately a do when short on time workout. love it, thanks again.

  13. I like this one a lot I’ll have to change it up a bit because I don’t have a 24kg so will have to double up the squats with 2 12kg and do single handed swings with the 16kg.
    I know what you mean with those burpees, they add up. I am working on my run speed so I think this one is short enough that I can run for 25 minutes after. By the way I am doing well with my side of the challenge.


      1. Ok I did this one with modifications due to the fact that I am working on being able to run 10 plus miles at a running not jogging speed.
        goblets 3 rounds
        15 with 12kg 15 16kg 5 2 12kg

        swing one handed 3 rounds 15 each side with 12kg
        then 10 with 16kg and 20kg 3 rounds

        20 push ups x2
        2 mile run @ around 6 Mph to 9Mph

        I was sweating like a pig. this is my ideal workout. I will be trying new ones in the future would love to add rows and turkish get ups to this.

        Thank you Marianne and stay away from those fast food joints

  14. Quick but killer- my favorite!! 🙂
    I wanted to add another “keep it up”! The reason I love your site is because I can identify with you- it’s how you speak about goals, set-backs, etc. The fact that you are not perfect- and are so transparent about it- is so awesome! We all *know* in our heads that everyone (including the most buff and in shape) have crap days and are disappointed in themselves every now and then. But to hear you talk about it, your feelings and plans to “get back on track”… That make the rest of us feel normal, AND it models to us that it’s not the end of the world.
    I will put it like this- I first started watching your videos because I needed some inspiration and guidance on KB workouts… I found you through a YouTube search. I came back because it was a damn good workout out. I keep coming back because of the quality content and because you cuss yourself in the videos- and don’t edit it out. LMAO! Seeing you pause and mutter under your breath and keep going, shows me to just pause- don’t give up on the entire round (like I used to)- and keep going. I see your *30 day challenge/back on track*- the same way. 🙂
    I appreciate and love the transparency. Please keep it coming!

  15. As an regular visitor here I got your first message loud and clear and have joined you in the challenge. (I too felt I needed to regain some focus and it was nice to hear even a professional like you loses their way (like me) sometimes!!)

    Anyway – I LOVE the IF. Never done it before but it is an amazing way of gaining self control and seeing where you were needlessly snacking your Kcals before (no time to snack in 4hours!) Just healthly meals and lots of exercise ( oooo and plenty of good sleep!!). I was scared to fast before but after the challenge I think I will make it a once (maybe twice) a week habit!!

    1. Agreed, except when alcohol is added to the mix! Last night I went to Nora Jones and had a few Magner’s … I was starving after the concert, but there was nowhere “healthy” open for food … we ended up in Burger King haha! OOPS! But it was GREAT! One blip won’t do me any harm 😉

  16. Wow! I just got done doing your ladder routine. That was awesome. I need to get heavier bells. I’ll be doing that again. Hopefully my new bells come soon. I just ordered 20, 24, 28 kilo bells. The WKC style of swinging bells makes it a little easier. You’re right the burpees were very challenging specially after the third set. I was drenched. Thanks Marianne.

  17. Im not good at burpees, my push ups are still the girl push ups. I usually substitute like 10 burpees with 10 push ups on my knees and 10 jumping jacks. Is this an okay substitute?

  18. Great workouts, Marianne! I will definitely incorporate them into my routines.

    In your narrative above, you mentioned weighing yourself. How often do you do this? I’ve heard different stories about this and was wondering what your opinion was.

    I want to get leaner and lose my belly fat (6-pack perhaps?) and I know that this routine will help me get there.

    Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

    1. Garry, honestly, I almost never weigh myself. I hate my emotional reaction to my weight (still affects me to this day after years of weighing obsessively). A healthy way to include the scales is do weight yourself ONCE a week (on the same day), measure every 2 weeks and take progress pictures every month.

      As long as you don’t become emotionally attached to the news the scale delivers, you’ll be fine 🙂

  19. Love the ladder workouts. Its a great example of how a simple workout can kick you in the butt. Congrats on last shift for 3 weeks too! I hope you have some fun plans in the next couple of weeks. Take care! (Im down to my last couple of days, final push so I can totally relate…=)

  20. Looks like another great challenge! I’ll be using this one on our new workout buddy! I like to torture him. muahhhh!
    Keep doing what you’re doing!!

  21. Nice. I think I will do that today. I did a ladder yesterday with kettlebells but from snatch, high pulls, clean and press, squats, clean then swings. starting with 1 to 4 then back down. I thought my arm was going to fall off. lol

  22. Looks brutal! With Tough Mudder 10 months away this looks to be an excellent addition to a training regime. Did a 5k mud run recently and the training I was doing before was not on par with where it needs to be. On a side note, it looks so green and breezy there! Colorado is awesome but it can be a touch brown and bland at times.

  23. Great post Marianne! I just wanted to let you know what an amazing job you do at inspriring those around you–but sometimes being a role model puts you in a tough spot, doesn’t it? It seems like you’re not allowed to mess up, let alone give a voice to your struggles. I for one am happy when you fess up–it’s nice to know that you’re still one of us “normals” who deals with the same body, food, training issues as the rest of us. I’m glad that you don’t put on a false front of always doing everything right 100% of the time! Just please keep being you, keep posting these great workouts (they’ve helped change my life, truly) and keep letting us know how you’re doing. Your strength in the gym, with the kettelbells and in dealing with all the challenges life throws at you are very inspiring. Stay strong, girl! 🙂

    1. Thank you Jennifer, this means a lot! You’re spot on about what you say; it is a challenge to know what’s best sometimes. Like, I wonder “should I say this?” a lot. But, then I remember, that I will never be able to please everyone, or be liked by everyone, so I may as well just be myself and say what’s on my mind and in my heart. Otherwise, I’ll be nothing but fickle by trying to do the popular thing.

      That being said, I didn’t want to confuse any new readers, which is why I amending my post and explained in more depth what I meant in the first place … my bad! 😀

  24. Love these “pain chains” going up and down the weights! Training for HKC, applying a similar approach to Jon Engum’s Deep 6 RKC training: Turkish get-ups, presses, cleans, goblet squats, swings, and snatches, but each round on a higher bell, and then coming back down the ladder. Brutal, but effective.

  25. ok i only have 3 sizes of kettlebells, if i don’t count my forty and i can’t use that right now. so i guess i will add one more round of swings. this looks like a killer workout.

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