“Surfing” the 5 LEVEL Pyramid + “Incognito” LEVEL 5 programs

“Surfing” the 5 LEVEL Pyramid + “Incognito” LEVEL 5 programs

This 5 LEVEL Kettlebell Programming Pyramid is pretty cut and dry – 

Until it’s NOT.

The navigation key is understanding PROGRESSION.

And admittedly, that can be tricky.

For example, Isaac emailed me the other day with the following comment and great questions: 

“You’re on the money re: the Giant, I’m a BJJ practitioner and have been on the protocol for a month and the gains have been obvious not just to me but to my gym mates… I also recently got KSK – do you have any recommendations as to how I should cycle between the 2 protocols?

Also, wondering why these 2 are level 3 programs instead of 4 based on the chart you shared? [EMPHASIS MINE]”

So, before I answer his questions directly, I want to break this down so you can easily “surf” this pyramid, understanding what exercises and programs will work the best for you based upon your current situation. 

Here’s the principles for the safest, most effective (re: Fastest Results) way to “learn” or build out our training/workouts:

[+]  Technique/ Skill → Strength → Power → Strength Endurance → Power Endurance

[+]  Simple → Complex

[+]  Low reps → Medium reps → High reps

[+]  Low volume (work) → Medium volume (work) → Large volume (work)

[+]  Low effort (intensity – effort relative to max) → Medium effort (intensity – effort relative to max) → High effort (intensity – effort relative to max)

We could express it with the red arrow on the pyramid below:

There are some workout programs I have, like ‘THE GIANT,’ which confuse some people as to where it lies on this pyramid.

Hence Isaac’s question:

“Also, wondering why these 2 are level 3 programs instead of 4 based on the chart you shared?”

‘THE GIANT’ is both a series of SINGLE and DOUBLE KB programs.

It works great as either.

If you use a single KB, using the principles I just showed you, it starts as a LEVEL 2 program and progresses to a LEVEL 3 program.

And if you use a pair of KBs,  it starts as a LEVEL 4 program and progresses to a LEVEL 5 program. 


Again, it follows the some of the PRINCIPLES I outlined earlier:

[+]  Low → Medium → High reps

[+]  Strength/Power → Strength/Power Endurance

[+]  Simple (Single KB) → Complex (Double KB)

Hence my response to Isaac:

“’THE GIANT’ is: a LEVEL 2,3,4, AND 5. That’s because it’s both a single and double KB program. And it “surfs” the levels, starting with strength & power, and moving to strength-endurance and power-endurance.”

In fact, ‘THE GIANT’ can really be thought of as an “incognito” LEVEL 5 program – a LEVEL 5 program in disguise. 

And that’s because after you’ve progressed from ‘THE GIANT 1.0’ to 1.1 and into 1.2, you’ll be using your old 10RM for multiple sets of 9 – which is strength/power endurance work. (It’s really 18 reps – 9 Cleans + 9 Presses. OUCH.)

So, at the end of the day, all PROGRESSION is based upon SKILL.

How far you want to progress, and how well you “surf” the pyramid is completely up to you.

And the good news is, there’s no “wrong answer.”

Some guys and gals are perfectly happy with LEVELS 1-3. 

And others want to get to LEVEL 5.

Hope this makes sense and further clarifies these 5 levels.

Stay Strong,



P.S. If you like the idea of “surfing” up the pyramid with “just” one program, like ‘THE GIANT,’ you can check it out here.

P.P.S. And almost forgot: As far as mixing the 2 programs – KSK (The King-Sized Killer) and ‘THE GIANT,’ I recommend using a 4/3 cycle – 4 weeks of ‘THE GIANT’ and 3 weeks of KSK.

Here’s a review from “JamesPTA” about how he did it and how well it worked for him over on the StrongFirst forum:


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