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The Rounds Workout For Rapid Fat Loss and Muscular Endurance

By Mike Mahler

I had a great time this past weekend teaching a fun kettlebell workshop with top strength coach and kettlebell instructor Steve Cotter ( Steve brought up a great point about workouts sets. Often when a trainee has a repetition goal for a set they end up doing less reps than they are capable of. Steve gave an example of a trainee doing fifteen kettlebell snatches. Since fifteen reps is the trainee’s goal, mentally the trainee will get tired the closer he or she gets to fifteen reps. However, if the trainee forgets about counting the reps and just focuses on doing one rep at a time, he or she will blast right through fifteen reps. I have had this happen many times in my own workouts and have seen it happen with my clients. One personal example is when I hosted a Kettlebell Clean and Press contest for charity in San Diego several months ago. Steve Cotter counted the reps for me and all I had to do was focus on doing one rep at a time. I hit eighteen pretty easy reps and then it hit me that eighteen reps was more than I had ever done before. Right at that moment I barely finished off rep number nineteen. Once I got focused on the number, it was all over. Another personal example is when I worked up to hundreds of Hindu Pushups. I never started out a set saying I am going to do five hundred reps. I would simply put some music on and go for it for forty-five minutes or more. I counted the reps but I was not focused on the reps that had not come. In other words, when I finished rep one, I was only thinking about rep two, not rep one-hundred or five hundred.

While having set goals is important with training and for that matter life in general, it is good to use methods that leave some room open for unexpected progress. Having a training partner count off reps for you so you can focus on what you are doing is one method. Another method is to get over the concept of always doing reps and sets and focus on time. This is what Charles Staley brilliantly did with his EDT program ( Instead of focusing on sets and reps, Charles focused on how much can be done in a designated time frame. For example, the amount of total reps that can be achieved in fifteen minutes. Another program that is great for strength conditioning and muscular endurance is the “rounds workout.” Top Strength coach and kettlebell instructor Steve Maxwell ( is a big fan of such workouts and I have seen him put his students through some brutal training with the rounds system.

For a basic strength and muscular endurance program, do three full body rounds workouts based on five exercises per week. Start off by spending one-minute at each exercise. Set a stop watch for a minute and do as many reps as possible per exercise in the one-minute time frame. If you have a training partner have him or her count the reps for you. Do not have them count out the reps for you out load. Just have them tell you how many reps you got at the end of the round or workout. Your goal is to do more reps at the next session. If you do not have a training partner, then you will of course have to count the reps yourself. No big deal just focus one rep at a time. When you are on rep ten, do not think beyond rep eleven. If you need to put the weights down or stop during the set for a breather, feel free to do so. Take one-minute breaks in between each exercise. You may need more in the beginning so adjust the program to your needs. Here is a sample Kettlebell training “rounds workout.”


  • Round 1: Double Kettlebell Clean and Press (do Military press or push press)
  • Round 2: Alternating Bent-over Row
  • Round 3: Turkish Get-up (30 seconds left and 30 seconds right)
  • Round 4: Double Front Squat
  • Round 5: Double Swing


  • Round 1: Pull-ups
  • Round 2: Kettlebell Pass Between The Legs
  • Round 3: Alternating Floor Press
  • Round 4: One-arm Front Squat (30 seconds left and 30 seconds right)
  • Round 5: One-arm Swing (30 seconds left and 30 seconds right or switch hand with each rep and count one rep as one completed with both arms)


  • Round 1: Double Kettlebell Clean and Jerk
  • Round 2: Double KB Bent-over Row
  • Round 3: Turkish Get-up (30 seconds left and 30 seconds right)
  • Round 4: Double Front Squat
  • Round 5: Double Snatch

Once you get comfortable with one-minute rounds, go up to 90 second rounds per workout. When that gets do able go up to two minute rounds per exercise. When you can do two minute rounds, switch to heavier kettlebells or harder exercises and start with one-minute rounds again. Now another option is to do the rounds in antagonistic fashion and do multiple rounds. Here is an example:

Antagonistic Rounds Workout

Before starting the rounds do 1-2 sets of the Turkish Get-up or Windmill to get them out of the way.

  • Round 1: Double Clean and Mil Press
  • Round 2: Double Bent-over Row
  • Round 3: Double Clean and Mil Press
  • Round 4: Double Bent-over Row

Take a two minute break and then do:

  • Round 1: Double Front Squat
  • Round 2: Double Swing
  • Round 3: Double Front Squat
  • Round 4: Double Swing

The possibilities are really endless with Rounds workouts and I will be sure to go over more options in future magazine issues.


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