Excerpt from The RKC Book of Strength and Conditioning book
This workout consists of combining a Snatch, reverse lunge, and shoulder Press from a kneeling position into an intense, highly effective full-body workout that burns calories, increases muscular endurance, and translates to meeting real-life physical demands.
The workout is appropriate for intermediate to advanced kettlebell practitioners. It is designed as a blueprint, so you can add or take away elements, personalizing the workout to suit your fitness level and goals.
Half Viking Salute
The 53-pound kettlebell is a good weight to start with for the Half Viking Salute if you’re a male who is in good shape, experienced, and weighs between 165 and 195 pounds. If you’re over 195 and mean, start with a 62-pound kettlebell. Hard women will want to start with a 26-pound kettlebell; others will be plenty challenged with an 18-pounder.
Take a kettlebell in your right hand and do a Snatch. With the bell still in the overhead position, elbow locked, step back in a reverse lunge onto your left knee. From the kneeling position, left knee and right foot grounded, lower the kettlebell to the rack position, hit your power breath, and Press the bell. At the top of the Press, take another power breath and stand up, stepping forward with your left foot until it’s even with your right, all the while with the kettlebell arm locked out overhead. This entire sequence counts as one rep. With your feet shoulder width apart, repeat the entire sequence for the desired number of reps (see workout variations section below for suggestions) with the same hand. Then switch seamlessly to the left hand and match the number of reps.
Note: When performing this technique, we lunge backward onto the knee that’s opposite the Snatch arm, so that the forward, grounded foot is the same side as the Pressing arm, because this supports the core optimally.
Full Viking Salute
The progression from Half Viking Salute to Full Viking Salute definitely increases the intensity and the required skill level of the exercise. The 35-pound kettlebell is a good weight to start with for Full Viking Salutes if you’re a male who is in good shape, experienced, and weigh between 165 and 195 pounds. If you’re over 195 and mean, start with a 44-pound kettlebell. Most women will start this technique with an 18-pound kettlebell. Everything in the Full Viking Salute is the same as Half Viking Salute, except at the top of the Snatch, instead of letting the bell flip over to rest on your forearm, you end up gripping the kettlebell in the bottom-up position. With your kettlebell arm locked out, do a reverse lunge, lower the kettlebell arm to a bottom-up rack position (elbow against the ribs, thumb not touching the chest as it would in a standard rack position), and perform a bottom-up Press, locking the arm out at the top. With the kettlebell still pressed overhead, stand up and repeat the sequence for the desired number of reps, using the same hand. Switch to the opposite hand and match the number of reps. As you perform the sequences of Full Viking Salutes, the fact that you are holding the kettlebell in the bottom-up position forces you to move slowly, deliberately, and smoothly; stack the kettlebell with optimal efficiency; focus on proper breathing; and maintain overall body tension.
There’s far more than one way to skin a cat, but as far as program design, here are a few options for incorporating these two techniques into a workout.
Viking ladder with pull-up
This variation alternates Half Viking Salutes and weighted-foot pull-ups in a 1- to 5-rep ladder. If you are right-hand dominant, start with your left. With the appropriate weight as outlined above, do one rep of a left-hand Half Viking Salute, and transition seamlessly into a right-hand Half Viking Salute. Then, after no more than a 60-second rest, do one weighted pull-up with a kettlebell anchored on one foot. For a 165- to 195-pound male, use a 35-pound kettlebell. For a mean male 195 or over, a 44-pound kettlebell is ideal. Most women will want to begin with no weight and can modify this with a Cybex pull-up machine, chin-ups, or assisted pull-ups, or they can simply omit the pull-up. Continue up the ladder, performing two Half Viking Salutes on each side, followed by two weighted pull-ups, until you’ve completed the fifth set of each exercise. At that point, you will have done 15 reps of Half Viking Salutes on each side and 15 reps of weighted pull-ups.
Once you’ve mastered this ladder, you can work your way through another ladder of 5 reps for both the Half Viking Salutes (both sides) and the weighted pull-ups, or as far up as you can without hitting muscle failure. You can also do the same ladder workout as above, but instead perform a Full Viking Salute, as described in the previous section. Keep in mind that because of the added intensity that compromised leverage brings to this variation of the exercise, doing the bottom-up Full Viking Salute is going to seriously challenge the neuromuscular connection of your non-dominant-side grip strength.
Standard Viking workout
Another option is to do three sets of five reps of either Half or Full Viking Salutes (same weight specifications as above), with 1 1⁄2 to 4 minutes of rest between sets. Because of the increased reps and sustained intensity of each set, this option is perhaps more demanding than the ladder system. For that reason, there are no pull-ups in this variation. To increase the difficulty, you can add sets and/or weight, as well as decrease your rest time between sets.
Heavy Viking Salute Workout
If you want to push heavier with the goal of making strength gains, simply add enough weight so you are only able to do one to three repetitions of Half or Full Viking Salutes for two to six sets, with 1 1⁄2 to 4 minutes of rest between sets.
Take a kettlebell in your right hand and do a Snatch.
From the kneeling position, left knee and right foot grounded, lower the kettlebell to the rack position, hit your power breath, and Press the bell.
At the top of the Press, take another power breath and stand up, stepping forward with your left foot until it’s even with your right, all the while with the kettlebell arm locked out overhead. This entire sequence counts as one rep.
High-Intensity 10-Minute Viking Salute Workout
If your goal is to push your endurance, decrease the weight so you’re able to do 20 or more reps of Half or Full Viking Salutes on each side. Crank out as many as you can in five minutes, rest for 30 seconds to a minute, and repeat. Build progressively until you’re able to reach the 10- minute goal.
FOR THE TOUGHEST WARRIORS
If the above variations don’t meet your criteria for pain, add two kettlebells into the mix: double-kettlebell Snatch (either regular or bottoms-up), reverse lunge, double kettlebell Press (regular or bottoms-up), stand up, and repeat.
Most of my clients hate Viking Salutes because they are grueling and require the full attention of your mind and body. But if you’re looking for a full-body workout that delivers results and translates to real-world challenges and adventures, look no further. Viking Salutes pay big dividends.
– Gus Petersen
GusPetersen, RKC, CICS, owns ProEdgeKettlebells in Denver, Colorado. A 20-year fitness veteran, Gus started using kettlebells in 2003 and has never looked back, using exclusively kettlebells with his highly satisfied clientele. Gus is the creator of the Kettlebell Athletic Training (K.A.T.) Fitness System, available on 5 DVDs from DragonDoor.com. He may be reached at Gus@proedgekettlebells.com.
Gus shares a heart-stopping story about his recent stroke… and his quick recovery. Read Gus’s electrifying interview on Dragon Door!