The 9-Minute Kettlebell Complex From Hell

by Pat Flynn on April 24, 2013



Complex creation is a delicate art. If not constructed thoughtfully and with a proper understanding of the primary function of the thing itself, you will not have a complex. You will have tapioca. You will be assiduously chugging your way through, sweat beating off your brow, optimistically thinking you’re going to make it, and then, out of nowhere, it hits you with the double snatch and there you are.

I employ kettlebell complexes for the singular function of augmenting metabolic capacity, and I would argue that that is how everyone ought to employ them.

Fatigue is not desired when training strength, as we’ve come to know. But when conditioning yourself, metabolically or otherwise, fatigue is nearly inevitable. To understand this is to know that if we wish to increase the efficient delivery of the metabolic pathways, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, we must then impose a demand upon them blah, blah, blah, blah, blah , law of adaptation, blah, blah, blah. That is, if we wish to NOT get tired so quickly, then we have to make a habit out of tiring ourselves, from time to time.

And it is here that I admit even Crossfit has gained an elementary understanding. What they have failed to understand, however, is that capacity training does not need to be so complex or cluttered to be effective. There are perilous cracks in the system, you see—the inclusion of high rep Olympic lifting is demonstrative of this, and is in large part why I am naturally hesitant to encourage anyone to partake in a Crossfit WOD, less I have something against them.

So, if fatigue is generally unavoidable with capacity training—which it is—then we ought to construct our complexes from movements that are not of such a high technical skill. But this is not to say from movements that are easy—oh no, no, no.

Let us take the swing for example. It is a relatively low skill movement, is it not? I mean, you throw your hips back and then blast ‘em forward like you’re really getting after something. But would you call this an “easy” movement? I certainly would not—even after all these years I still would not call it an “easy” movement. To this very day the swing still presents me with a considerable metabolic challenge. But, since it is of relatively low skill, proficiency may be maintained well into the higher repetitions. Thus, it makes for a safe and convenient component for complex construction.

The same can be said of all the fundamental kettlebell movements, really. Yes, even the snatch. While the “czar of all kettlebell lifts” may be technically more demanding than the swing, it is still a relatively low-skill movement—particularly when compared to something like the barbell snatch.

This is why I fancy the kettlebell for metabolic training to the extent that I do. The movements are comparatively “low-skill” yet remain “high-demand”, not to mention friendlier on the joints than say kipping pull ups or box jumps (both of which are rubbish for capacity training, if you ask me).

Remember, the objective of metabolic conditioning is simply to keep the system as a whole under a prolonged period of stress (the heart, lungs, kidneys, etc) while cycling through various muscle groups and energy systems. This takes a special kind of conditioning to endure, specifically, it is what Arthur Jones referred to as “the metabolic condition”. This is to say that it takes metabolic conditioning to develop “the metabolic condition”. And what I’m saying is this can be achieved conveniently, cleanly, and safely through kettlebell complex training.

I have over at my website a library of metabolic conditioning complexes. I have even put together a free eBook of 101 of my favorite kettlebell complexes for blasting fat and boosting muscle. If you’re into this sort of thing, you may download it HERE.

But today, I wish to share with you one particularly heinous invention of mine.

Did I say invention? Because I did not mean to. No man is truly original—it is an impossible task, can’t be done. We are, in fact, congenitally incapable of origination, not a singular fleeting thought has ever truly been our own. We are ultimately all a function of our outside influences. Through these outside influences we may then make new associations and connections—if we are so able—and turn out innovation, but never, ever origination. We just can’t do it.

So I hereby concede that this is not my invention, simply my innovation. It is merely the consequence of what results when you enter the bathroom with Enter the Kettlebell in one hand, Dante’s Inferno in the other, and read them both in the very same session.



There are a few prerequisites to this complex. The first of which, is that you must own the technique of the all the collective kettlebell techniques individually. That is, you must have proficiency in each movement by itself before you even think about stringing them together. Actually, that’s pretty much the only prerequisite.

There are also a few rules to this complex. The first is unbreakable, and that, of course, is to maintain safe form at all times. If form starts to go, put the bell down at once and rest for as long as necessary. The second is to maintain consistent form; meaning, as you grow more and more fatigued, you must diligently fight the urge to cheat reps—namely, cutting depth in the swing or the squat. I’d rather you rested and continued on with consistent form when you are able than to push through sloppily and disjointedly. Thirdly, work at a REASONABLE pace. Do NOT make an attempt to squeeze as many reps in per set as possible, as this will only lead to some really crappy movement. The idea here is not to try and set any records, just to keep moving the entire time with good form.

For the average male a 16kg or 20kg kettlebell will do fine. This may seem light, but just take my word on it for now. For the ladies, I’d recommend an 8kg or a 12kg.

The complex is as follows:

 The one arm swing (30 seconds left + 30 seconds right)

The high pull (30 seconds left + 30 seconds right)

The clean (30 seconds left + 30 seconds right)

The snatch (30 seconds left + 30 seconds right)

The reverse lunge (30 seconds left + 30 seconds right)

The military press (30 seconds left + 30 seconds right)

The two hand swing (30 seconds)

Four point plank (30 seconds)

The two hand swing (30 seconds)

Four point plank (30 seconds)

Push Up (30 seconds)


Hey, I guess that’s really only eight a half minutes. Go figure.


*The source of this complex at present remains unverified. It is likely that it is not actually from Hell as the author claims.




Pat Flynn is the founder of Chronicles of Strength, publisher of the Chronicles of Strength Newsletter, and chief contributor to the Chronicles of Strength Inner Circle – a membership site dedicated to helping others grow strong(er) and get lean(er) through kettlebell training and primal fitness approaches. Pat is also the co-author of the upcoming book tentatively titled Paleo Fitness for Dummies.

But that is not the worst. Pat Flynn is also a certified Russian Kettlebell Challenge instructor, and other things of the sort. He talks mostly on how to chop fat and build muscle through kettlebell complex training.

He has an unrivaled capacity to think hard about himself for hours on end – and when at last he is exhausted of the subject matter, he is then in a condition to watch Matlock.


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