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4.9 out of 5 stars
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4.9 out of 5 stars
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on 16 April 2014
Please note, this is a review of the Kindle edition of this book.

I was introduced to the kettlebell, and Pavel Tsatsouline several years ago. Initially, a strong dislike of the marketing (and pricing) of Pavel's work by his original publisher meant that I dismissed his method. However, being aware that guys like Professor Stuart McGill (`Low Back Disorders', `Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance') and Gray Cook (`Athletic Body in Balance', `Movement: Functional Movement Systems: Screening, Assessment, Corrective Strategies') held Pavel in such high regard, I looked beyond the surface and found some genuine content in this `Hardstyle' system. It would have been my loss not to have done so.

`Simple and Sinister' (S&S) is published by Pavel's new venture, StrongFirst (SF), and is free of ad copy while been fairly priced. The presentation is highly professional. I noticed that Laree Draper of the excellent MovementLectures.com is the book's editor. These details matter.

For those familiar with earlier fare, there is only one set of photographs of Pavel baring his torso. However, they are not gratuitous, but are shown to make some points about muscle activation as a wired up Pavel swings a kettlebell in McGill's laboratory. Also, strong and capable women feature in the book. For instance, Karen Smith, a `Master' trainer for SF is shown in the detailed instructional photographs in the get-up tutorial. Therefore, this material is not just for hard men, or those who imagine themselves to be hard men.

Regarding `hard men', given Pavel's background in Special Forces physical conditioning and `applied karate', the book is full of references to those worlds. This begs the question as to whether S&S can apply to the general population. For what it's worth, I believe it can, providing that you're what Pavel terms `a responsible adult'. In my opinion, I think that Pavel's program is applicable to my fifty something demographic group too, regardless of the fact that he does not scale down the `simple' and `sinister' goals for differing age groups (though he does so for men and women).

S&S is, on the surface, a beginner's instructional and motivational manual. Its remit is one of general physical preparation with the aim of attaining `simple' and `sinister' competence in two fundamental kettlebell lifts, the `hardstyle' swing, and the (low sweep) get-up. For readers with little experience of strength or authentic kettlebell training, the goal weights may seem daunting. However, from my own experience, I'm now facing the financial implications of the program's success, that is, I need to buy some new and much heavier (and expensive) kettlebells. Thanks, Pavel, I think!

Having said that, readers are encouraged to use appropriately sized kettlebells on entering the program, in order to groove excellent technique, I'd just be mindful that for home trainers the financial outlay can be significant.

The program is designed to be compact and time efficient. Swings precede the get-up and the prescribed repetitions are modest. Once proficient, taking care of business should take just less than twenty minutes. Frequency should be between twice and six times per week. Beginners are given guidance in how to build to build technical proficiency before adding the modest volume. For anyone unfamiliar with the two lifts, BeStrongFirst's YouTube channel has a video of Pavel's excellent sidekick Mark Toomey demonstrating technique standards required for instructor certification, although I'd suggest that readers who have the opportunity to consult with an SF instructor should do so, there is a lot of devil in the detail.

Regarding `detail', Pavel has consistently talked of strength being a skill, that physical training should be conducted as a `practise' rather than a `workout'. He uses the term `recharge' in this book. Mark Vestegen (`The Core Performance: The Revolutionary Workout Program to Transform Your Body & Your Life') talks of `simple things done savagely well'. I cannot think of a better example of Verstegen's message than S&S.

Pavel's use of martial arts analogies throughout the book seems valid to me. The swing is viewed as a tameshiwari (breaking) drill and the get-up is presented as a kata practise. On a personal note, I'll add that my on-going love/hate relationship with the get-up continues to be as humbling as trying to master the intricacies of a kata.

Thinking of kata, I was pleased by the emphasis on breathing mechanics throughout the book. In my own training, I've been experimenting with nasal only breathing for some time and S&S has given me some new ideas to apply, in particular during swings, focusing upon the biomechanical breathing match, and breath-to-rep ratios for recovery.

In summary then, I believe that S&S fits in neatly with other sound, minimalistic, movement based methods such as MovNat or Primal Move, for example. In a lot of ways, I wish I was starting out on my athletic life, given the remarkable talent now available. That is, McGill has demonstrated how to `spare the spine' and has rescued the trope of `core stability' from the crunchers. Cook reminds us not to lose fundamental movement competency, and not to put `fitness on dysfunction'. MobiltyWOD's Kelly Starrett (`Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance'), despite his grating presentational style, has shown us how to perform basic maintenance on our own bodies. And Pavel, with wry humour and understated brilliance tells us that strength is a fundamental skill to be practised as such. For those of us who have embraced the minimalistic, low-tech/high concept approach, this material is quite simply manna from heaven.
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on 27 November 2013
I initially avoided pavels work. I found his constant references to special forces and martial arts masters slightly contrived.
But when I bought enter the kettlebell cheap to see what the fuss was about I was suprised. He gives a clear goal (rop) and challenges you to follow his program until you can achieve it. I took his advice 4 years ago and am now at 43 stronger than I have ever been. Since then I've been a fan of his methods and I've read most of his work.

If you are not used to his methods this program will seem to be too simple. But his programming excells on achieving the most with the least (time / equipment)and this book seems to follow a trend of simplification that he began several years ago.

Pavel has said in the past that his system is constantly evolving meaning his most recent works take precedence, making this the perfect place to start.

The program is easy to follow and the book is of a very high quality. (altogether 'tighter' than some of his earlier books) There is a clear progression to follow and guidelines are inculded for when and how to increase weights.
The program as presented should give you all you need to become very strong and stay there for most of your life all for a commitment of a couple of hours a week.
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on 17 March 2014
If you new to the kettlebell, an experienced user or somewhere in between, this is the book you need to read. And then do what it says.
It is simply brilliant, genius even. We live in a complex world why make exercise anymore complex than it needs to be. Can it be possible that just 2 exercises can give you greater strength and mobility gains than you ever thought possible? Yes, is the simple answer.
Simple & Sinister is a stripped down version of one of his earlier books Enter the Kettlebell (ETK). Another highly praised programme, if somewhat difficult to understand for the inexperienced, and similar in tone and humour, Pavel will detail 2 moves that feature in that book. You will only do these 2 moves - the kettlebell swing and the unusually titled The Turkish Get-Up, or as he likes to refer to it more simply, the Get-Up. He then tells you how best to implement them. You will then end up strong and if already strong, you will be stronger. It isn't just a stripped down version of ETK. It's refined, tweaked and carefully sculpted into a masterpiece.

I like to mix and match my activities and sports - I want to be fit to do stuff I enjoy doing but sometimes life can get in the way and something unexpected happens or the pressure of daily living takes its toll in the many ways that it can so often. Exercising then becomes another stressor, something else to think about - do I go for a run, workout, go surfing, play football - and if I don't I'll get out of shape and be back at square one. A dilemma common to anyone who embarks on a fitness pursuit. Like a dieter forever worried about putting the weight back once party time is upon them - when compromised, what gives? Simple & Sinister steps in and takes the pressure off. Even if used as a kind of maintainence programme - to stop the rot - you will realise it is more than that. A lot more.

I'm a reasonably fit 50 year old. No sod that, for a 50 year old guy I'm in pretty good shape thank you very much. I've been relatively fit for most of my life and have a wide knowledge of fitness related stuff to appease my inner geek. I stopped bodyweight training, at least trimmed it back and stopped running for a while. I'm not new to kettlebells and already knew the swing and get-up but I stopped using kettlebells too recently. A lot has been going on in my life so I scaled it all back and somehow, can't remember how, I coincidently came across Simple & Sinister. It seemed to fit the bill. It fits the bill alright as I've gained a lot more strength in these 4 weeks since buying the book than I bargained for. Mobility? Massive improvement too. Be warned though of hidden costs - you will need to buy a bigger kettlebell sooner than you think!
The programme works by steadily decreasing the time it takes to complete 100 kettlebell swings and 10 get-ups with a chosen weight on a daily basis or when your life allows. It can be factored in to other strength training days or fitness pursuits. It works. It just does.
I've read it now a few times and I dip into it a lot. It is a simple idea for a strength programme but there are so many gems of information on every page to keep the inquiring mind happy. There is one simple goal and once ticked you will have as much strength as you will need to achieve a solid foundation of strength that will have no limits. Go further? Then soldier on to reach the sinister goal.
To maintain a good level of strength when time pressured, this is the way to do it. To be as strong as you will ever need to be, this is the way to it too. Something for everyone then? Definately. A must read, must do. A work of brilliance.
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on 26 January 2014
I've loved kettlebells for a few years so a serious health problem last year was a double blow. Near death and goodbye to kettlebell training.

Or so I thought ...

After being given permission by the consultant overseeing my care, I put away the 32's and started S & S with a 7.5kg. I took a large slice of humble pie and followed the program as outlined, not really expecting much but glad to be alive and (at last) able to do something.

The results have been surprising. As I've increased the weight my muscle tone has returned, and as my strength has increased my confidence has grown alongside it. I have never felt tired - as I did when training previously - so five stars from me. S & S does exactly as promised.

Life is good.

Gary Chamberlain
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on 4 December 2013
Pavel has been on the cutting edge of fitness for years now, every time I pick up a book or an article by him I feel like I have learnt something new. :) This is NOT one of those books, this is a program for a person who has very little time to exercise,who is recovering from an injury or who lives a stress full physical life.

The program is the simplest and shortest a program can possibly be. It wont make you very strong, it wont make you very fast, it wont make you very flexible but it will give you a solid base from which to learn all these things if you desire.

On the other hand if you have an incredibly busy and stress full life then this program will help you to keep in touch with your body and help you maintain and improve your fitness despite everything else in your life going to hell.

A use full book to have on your shelf if you are a collector, a useful program to have in the back of your mind when life gets overwhelming. But nothing new.
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on 9 September 2014
Awesome.

It works - almost too easily - to build a rock solid foundation for health or any athletic endeavor.

It should be taught in schools...

Plenty of detail to not only get you started with the exercises but to greatly improve your performance by drip-feeding 'tips' as you progress. Qualified (RKC or SFG) instruction at first would be well worth the money.

If you have a weakness or injury this will strengthen it, making it ideal for rehabilitating back and shoulder injuries and bomb-proofing the entire body - seriously it is that good. As such it IS the preparatory programme for kettlebell training, indeed lifting in general, and is the only one you would ever need if your goal is to be simply strong, lean and healthy in 30 minutes a day, two-seven days a week.

The programme lays down two challenges, adapted for men and women, which is a great idea for motivational goal setting in both the short and long-term. Achieving 'Simple' will place you above most 'gym-goers' and 'Sinister' would earn you great respect amongst the fittest and strongest anywhere.

Invaluable - buy it, buy a kettlebell set and get seriously, functionally strong, fit and healthy - in your own home.
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on 21 April 2015
Having a workout that needs 20 pieces of kit, and a training partner to spot you, which takes 2 hours a day is fine for some people. S&S is for those of us who want results and to then get on with our lives. You are not going to see the same results as you would on a dedicated bodybuilding program (done well) but you will get a considerable fitness level in a lot less time. For me this is the epitome of functional fitness, it improves you but fits into your life and does not mean you are too exhausted to do anything after.
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on 18 December 2013
Being an office based schmuck with no real male attributes like physical strength, buckets of testosterone & earth shatteringly brutal musculature I was prompted by my devoted wife to "man up or get gone". I thought my marriage to my Welsh Dragon Queen was in peril so I scoured the heavens in search of an answer..........Pavel appeared to me in a vision and bellowed "comrade I am kicking your puny ass into shape with my own formula for strength & anti-fragility.....obey me & be King"....
Literally years later I can now do 1 pistol squat on each leg (with a 5kg weight) and my gluteus are like hardened steel. I never dared dream I would be able to dead lift a full 24kg. Children under 10 literally move to the other side of the pavement when I approach and yes I do occasionally have full intercourse with my Welsh Dragon Queen Wife.......the results speak for themselves.
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on 12 June 2015
Very easy and clear instructions especially so as I purchased the audio version along with the Kindle book. I definitely recommend the audio along with the E Book as it makes it easier to follow when working out and learning how to correctly do the two main excercises.

So, you've got three warmup excercises and the two main which are the swing and the Turkish Get Ups. I've canceled my gym membership and purchased a 16kg and a 24kg kettlebell. This programme is already producing results and is helping with the explosive power that's needed in my martial arts training.
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on 17 February 2016
after some time thinking about getting this I'm gald I did.

Really useful instructions and guidance on using kettlebells. Also the importance of stretching with is something i definitley need to work on.

If you are serious about getting stronger with KB's then this is certainly worth a read and to reference
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