Combo kettlebells, box jumps, and sprints build muscle, endurance quickly

By J.D.

If you’ve followed Survival Legion for some time, you know by now that we use a lot of combination exercises in our high-intensity workouts. There are reasons for that and they don’t have anything at all to do with ‘looking cool.’

In a nutshell, high-impact combo exercises are among the best ways to get into peak physical shape and then stay in peak physical shape, which is, of course, the objective.

In this particular combo workout, we chose: Kettlebell swings (60lb); box jumps (on a concrete ledge), and sprints (45 yds.). Here’s why:

Kettlebell swings: This exercise has been around for some time but many people are only just now beginning to discover it and the potential it holds to help transform your fitness level.

“The kettlebell swing works the muscles in the hips, glutes, hamstrings, lats, abs, shoulders, pecs and grip,” writes fitness ace Tracy Reifkind, wife of Mark Reifkind, a former competitive bodybuilder and training partner/coach of pro Mr. America Scott Wilson.

She picked up the kettlebell 10 years ago and is now known around her gym as the “queen of swing” an author of the book, “The Swing.”

“The kettlebell swing is ideal for weight loss because it’s no impact and it torches fat like no other workout can. Yet it also can build some solid, no-nonsense muscle while improving your cardiovascular strength and endurance,” she continues. “It’s a simple and fast way to incorporate a very athletic movement into a routine safely while burning a ton of calories. The kettlebell swing is the perfect way to increase fat burning without sacrificing hard-earned muscle mass, as you do with regular cardio.”

Reifkind says kettlebell swings burn more calories in a shorter period of time than running a six-minute mile, which most people can’t (and don’t) do. Also, she notes there are a number of different kettlebell workouts to choose from, all of which are kick-ass and will shave inches off your physique will blasting your endurance levels past anything else you’ve done. Check some of them out here.

Box Jumps: As you’ll note in the video below, I didn’t use a “box” for my jumps but a concrete ledge. No matter; the action is the same.

Some trainers shun box jumps but others believe them to be extremely valuable in building muscle and, importantly, endurance.

Krysta Stryker, author of “The 12-Minute Athlete,” is a box-jump believer. “Jumping increases your strength and muscle tone, and builds both upper body and lower body strength like crazy. Box jumps force you to jump high enough that you’re forced to use every single muscle in your legs (as well as your arms) to propel you up,” she notes on her website.

“When you jump, your body burns 800 to 1,000 calories an hour (compare that to 200 to 300 calories burned per hour while walking),” Stryker continues.

“And since high intensity jumping such as box jumps stimulates changes in mitochondria (where fuel is converted into energy), your body will burn fat before carbohydrates— good news for anyone trying to lose weight.”

She also says these can be done “equipment-free” — which I proved as well when I was filming our latest workout video.

How tall/big should your box jump be?

“If you’re wondering, I typically use a 20″ box. Depending on your level, most women should start with a 14″ or 18″ box, and guys should start with a 20″ or 24″ box,” she says.

Sprints: One of the fastest ways to build leg muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness and endurance is by sprinting — not fast jogs or running, balls-to-the-wall sprinting, as in, running as fast as you can for 40-50 yards.

Strength-and-conditioning coach Katie Chasey says very few exercises other than sprinting “will give you the same overall results for tone, fitness, explosivity, speed, and the physique…”

“Sprinting does two great things for fat and abs. First, high-intensity sprint work increases the rate of metabolism and, second, it makes it last. In other words, calories continue burning long after a sprint session is completed,” she continues, meaning long after sprinting sessions are over your fat-burning and endurance-building continues.

In addition to sprinting, there are several speed drills you can add to this routine to spice up your uber-endurance-building regimen. Check some out here.

J. D., a former paramedic, firefighter, and 15-year military veteran of OEF, is co-founder of Survival Legion, a vet-owned company that stresses functional fitness and draws it’s uniqueness from the Roman Legions.


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