Eat The Big Elephant First: The 10k Kettlebell Swing Challenge Done in 7 Days (Finished!: Full Write Up Posted)

Hey Folks,

I originally posted this topic while I was in the middle of the challenge, and that is what you’ll read below, but if you want to jump straight to the full write up, here is the link


Going to do something a little different: I’m going to do a program write-up AS I’m doing the program. Primarily because this is just a 7 day run, and I finished day 3 today, so it won’t be super tedious at this point, and I feel like getting live feedback from the community would be awesome.

If anyone follows my training log, they’ll know that, on Sunday, in a conversation with @SvenG, I ended up talking myself into taking on @Dan_John ‘s 10k kettlebell swing challenge in the span of 7 days.

For those unfamiliar with the challenge, here is some awesome reading on it

It is, originally, 10000 swings to be completed with a 24kg bell over the span of 28 workouts.

However, I am psychotic.


But along with psychosis, this was actually my deload week between two 5/3/1 Programs (BBB Beefcake, which I recently did a write up, and 5/3/1 for Hardgainers, detailed here, which I’m excited about)

During my run of 5/3/1 BBB Beefcake, I tore a muscle in my tricep/teres minor, and was experiencing frequent popping in my left bicep, leading me to believe a tear was on its way. In turn, I needed something to keep me grounded during my deload, as I have a tendency to self-destruct when left to my own devices. The kettlebell swing was one of the few movements I could do that wasn’t bothering some of my various accumulated injuries, and given that the muscle tear was preventing me from deadlifting heavy, being able to drill the absolute hell out of my hip hinge appealed to me.

Plus, I’m an absolute and total @Dan_John fanboy, have always wanted to run this program, and found a great excuse to do so.

Since I only had a week to get it done, I broke out the trusty calculator and realized that, using a round-based approach (as in, do X many swings per round), 22 swings for 65 rounds each workout would get me 1430 swings per workout and end up being 10010 swings in 7 days. That seemed like it could actually work!

I also just want to point out that “Eat the Big Elephant First” is a play on some advice Dan gives in “Mass Made Simple”, a combination of “eat the elephant one bite at a time” and “if you have to eat a plate of frogs, eat the big frog first”. I felt this was VERY fitting.


Here are the videos documenting my experience so far

It’s been pointed out to me by MANY kettlebell aficionados that my swing is HORRIBLE and weird. That about sums up my technique on EVERYTHING, so the swing isn’t special that way. But I’m heading down that road to Hell with good intentions, as I’m making sure I snap to the top and rip the bell back down. Over the course of 1430 swings, there’s going to be some junk reps, but, as you can see, toward the end of each video, I am, in fact, beat to Hells, so I’m doing SOMETHING with this.


Before the first official workout, I did a pilot workout, that consisted of 20 rounds of 22 swings, performed Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM), filling the remainder of the minute with a variety of bodyweight exercises (dips, chins, ab wheels, etc). I found that I had about 30 seconds of rest after the swings were done with each round, and at the end of 20 rounds had achieved a solid training effect, but it was survivable. I was NOT going to train between swings with the full blown approach, so I factored that in.

Through that pilot run, I picked up a few tricks.

  • Armor: Despite running “Armor Building Complexes” every day for 5 minutes for the past several months, I needed some REAL armor to get through this. I could tell that swinging the bell that much was going to tear up my hands, and that ANYWHERE I had touch/contact points with my body needed to be adequately covered with material to keep from tearing the skin apart and suffering skin rashes. From review I’d read of the program, skin issues were the most common one. So, that day, I sprung for a 3 pack of mechanics gloves (you can see them in the video) and ensured to wear my fight shorts (a tip I got from Brian Alsruhe) on top of my traditional strongman shorts, in order to keep my inner thighs covered and prevent my forearms from chaffing the hell out of them. I also took to wearing my strongman belt, to keep my lower back warm and give my elbows something to brace against…plus it gives me something to play with between rounds. I went with my No Bull trainers, because they were close to what I deadlift in, and I ultimately wanted this experience to build my deadlift. And I kept my headband, because it’s awesome, and keeps the sweat out of my eyes.

For the very first workout, I went with an EMOM approach, getting 65 rounds in 65 minutes…and was honestly a bit bored. Those 30 seconds of rest gave me a LOT of time to think…so I thought “How do we make it faster?” Two immediate options were more swings per round, or shorter rounds. I ultimately settled on the latter, because it meant I’d keep at 10010 swings total vs going higher than that, because f–k me if I’m going higher than that.

So workout 2 was 55 seconds per round, which shaved off 5 total minutes and had me at about 25-26 seconds rest per round. This was less boring, but there was still more.

With workout 3 today, I cut it down to 52 seconds per round, and suddenly REALLY appreciated the value of 3 seconds. My rests per round were now down to 18 seconds per round, which I still can’t figure the math on that, and the workout as quite miserable. I’m not sure what insanity I plan to do tomorrow, but I am appreciating having a gradual improvement through this.


  • I’m still training at around 0350, and I’ve taken this on fasted. I’m using this deload as a mini diet break and enjoying NOT force feeding myself. And after 1430 swings, I’m hungry, so no force feeding necessary.

  • With that being said above, once the workout is done, I head into my kitchen, down a protein shake, come right back out to my garage and do some more Dan John inspired insanity with something I call “TABEARTA”: The Tabata Protocol using Barbell Bear Complexes. For those unfamiliar with the Tabata Protocol, it’s 8 rounds of 20 seconds on/10 seconds off, for a total of 4 minutes which, if done right, feels like absolute hell. Some more awesome reading on it

  • The bear complex is a barbell complex (yet another fantastic idea from Dan John Rebuild Yourself with Complexes) that consists of a clean to a front squat to a press overhead to passing the bar to your back to a back squat to a behind the neck press to the front. That’s 1 rep. You can run it fasted by running it as a Cluster (clean into a thruster, the thruster itself a front squat into a push press) to a back thruster. That’s what I do here (With TABEARTA done to open)
  • And lemme just say: doing TABEARTA AFTER 1430 swings is QUITE an experience. I’ve never redlined so hard. I finish up with some band exercises (pull aparts and pushdowns), some light curls to rehab that bicep, some ab wheel, some reverse hypers, and then 5 minutes of burpee chins: another big metabolic and conditioning hit.

  • Much like how the Velocity diet is a shotgun blast of fat loss, I feel like these swings paired with TABEARTA and the burpee chins may, in fact, be a fantastic 1 week “fix” for conditioning…because I am reaching some new levels here.


  • I’ve got 4 more workouts to go. So far, the plan is to stick with 1430 a day, and keep slashing rest times as possible, but when the weekend rolls around I may have to get a little more creative to maximize family time and minimize training time. We’ve all been there.

  • Happy to have anyone follow along, thanks for reading, and looking forward to any questions or comments.


Well, that’s amazing. Wow.


Whelp, now, no matter how this topic turns out, I just hit a goal I never thought I’d manage. You made my week Dan!


@T3hPwnisher you are one amazing athlete.
@Dan_John I’m thrilled to see you’re here! I had heard rumors…


@jdm135 Thanks man! On the “athlete” side of the equation, I’m honestly pretty subpar, which most folks can tell from just how crazy my swing looks, haha. The video I’m about to post with TABEARTA will confirm that as well. But I try to embody this quote from Jim Wendler


Definitely don’t have that talent, but I’m in shape!

Here is the video of day 4s swings, putting me at 5720/10000, over halfway done

And decided to take some video of “the rest of the workout”. For perspective, I finished that final swing, sent the video to upload, went into my house and mixed up a protein shake (I use egg whites and a splash of cashew milk as my liquid base), chugged it, then came right back into the garage to do this. Total time passed was about 7 minutes

This is “TABEARTA” (the “Bear Complex” done in Tabata intervals) w/95lbs where the goal is 3 complexes per round. 3 complexes per round is HONEST work. You are SMOKED when it’s over, which you can observe as I then meander through 50 band pull aparts, 25 pushdowns, and then what I dub “Chaos Curls” as part of my rehab for my popping bicep. I’m trying to find the painful spots in the ROM and just mash the hell out of them while focusing on contracting the bicep.

Once I get through 100 of those, then 20 standing ab wheels, I transition to 5 minutes of Burpee Chins. I was moving a bit slow through them today out of fatigue.

Ideally, sometime today I’ll do 50 dips, 30 GHRs, 40 reverse hypers and some neck work, but if not I’ve “trained enough” for the day.


Must restrain self from nerding out……

I can’t help it

The title “Eat The Big Elephant First” reminds me of Yujiro Hanma from the anime, “Baki”

The dude kills an elephant and eats it… lmao.

Following. Today I finished day 5 of the challenge as written by Dan John. Surprisingly my non-swing lifts (I’m doing weighted ring dips, modified pistol squats, one-arm overhead press, weighted ring pull-ups) have not suffered from anticipated fatigue from rounds of swings.

I started this on a whim after your suggestion of the program to a poster inquiring about home workouts. After that I saw your condensed version of the challenge on your channel, I think a day later.


@tlgains To be legit, it needs to be a plate of elephants, haha.

@BrickHead Great to have you along! Glad you’re finding it challenge beneficial. 500 swings a day is definitely a solid marker, and I imagine would allow for quite a bit more rep quality than what I have here, haha. This has been quite tonic for me. Getting lots of healthy restorative bloodflow going.


Day 5 of 7

7150 down. Went 50 second rounds, 22 swings per round for 65 rounds. It boiled down to some real interval style training: 35 seconds of work with 15 seconds of rest between rounds. It’s definitely fatiguing. Was able to get 3 complexes within all 8 rounds of TABEARTA following on, and 43 burpee chins in 5 mniutes. My abs have returned back to “anatomy chart” levels and I’m seeing veins everywhere: this is a pretty crazy 1 week post-bulk detox.

The final 2 days are the weekend, so I’m most likely going to utilize a different protocol moving forward, so I can maximize family time.

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This is pretty awesome, @T3hPwnisher. We’ll be featuring this thread in our Weekly Dose newsletter this weekend. No pressure or anything…

Sneak peek:


That’s outstanding! Really appreciate that @Chris_Shugart

And in doing so, you brought all 3 elements of @Dan_John 's “Frog, Elephant and Alpo” diet together. THIS is my can of Alpo: if I biff it now, I gotta chow down!


I assume you have read this, but posting here in case you have not:

A few interesting notes:

  • 1000 swings per day is described as “maximum survivable volume.” You, of course, are doing notably more than that
  • People who completed their daily 10000 swings in 1 or 2 workouts appeared to see better body composition changes than people who spread them out throughout the day. You’re doing 1000 swings in like 45 minutes.
  • They discuss using “breathing ladders” to make the sessions more tolerable, and then hypothesize that doing so inhibited body composition changes. By the same logic, doing the whole workout as a brutal HIIT session with short rests is probably more effective, but much harder to tolerate.

All this to say: you’re once again pushing the boundaries of what people would think is possible (or, at least, tolerable). Excited to read your write-up once you finish.

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Dude, thanks so much for sharing that article: can’t believe I missed it! Lots of great stuff in there, and I’m experiencing a lot of it. Love the nod to Bud (RIP).

This really means a lot from you dude: I don’t take it lightly. Great to have you following along and in my corner.

@Panopticum requested a physique update in my training log, and I figured that’d actually be a fun thing to share. I didn’t start this off with any sort of goal like that in mind, but it’s hard to refute that transformation IS occurring despite this being a deload and only 6 days of work. Here is where I was 2 weeks ago

And here is this morning, post 715 swings

Definitely tightening up

And, on that note: this mornings workout OF 715 swings in a little over 20 minutes

Shook out as

250 swings
30 seconds rest
50 swings
30 seconds
30 seconds
30 seconds
30 seconds

Since it’s the weekend, gotta balance some family time, so I’ll be chunking the workouts today


You know you’ve been on T Nation for too long when you see a forum post and go “huh… that reminds me of that one article from 2012”

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Hah! Totally relate. There’s SUCH a good backlog of stuff here. I love whenever I “discover” something in my personal nutrition, only to find out Berardi wrote about it in 2004. “G-flux” answered a question I had for years…before I even thought to ask it! And @Dan_John came up with assigning workouts to a die before chaos was ever my plan, haha.

Got the second workout done just a few minutes ago: 715 unbroken swings in around 18.5 minutes

In between that, I got in a TABEARTA workout after 90 minutes of lawn mowing and then 47 burpee chins in 5 minutes while taking the trash out through the garage. I might get in some more general physical activity after this, but this is “enough” trianing.

That 715 swings was a LOT of lies told to myself. Funny enough, I realized at rep 50 I wasn’t wearing my headband and thought to myself “I’ll put it on when I set the bell down”. Yeah…so much for that.

I am HUNGRY. That article was right: this will really turn the metabolism into a furnace.


To me, the most impressive part of this all is that you’re able to keep one-upping yourself. You keep taking obscenely difficult stuff and making it worse with no apparent end in sight.

Doing the challenge as written is impressive.

Doing it inside of a week is extremely impressive

Doing it inside of a week, as a deload, mostly before 4AM, with extra conditioning afterwards, is psychotic.

I don’t even know what to call this.

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It’s like the worse game of HORSE ever, haha. Appreciate those words from you my dude, as you’re setting an amazing standard of your own.

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Gotta document the nightly feast that helps power the training. My pre-bed meal


Had some extra time this morning, so I ended up doing 800 unbroken swings

This puts me ahead of the game now: only 620 more to go. 9380 down. Appetite is STILL nuts.


It’s over folks. 630 swings this afternoon, followed by TABEARTA, because of course

I’m going to spend some time doing a full on write-up later, but wanted to share while it was fresh.