10 Dec The Minimalist Guide to Strength: Simple and Sinister

Simple&SinisterI just finished reading Pavel’s new book, Simple and Sinister.

This is the first book by Pavel in some time and I wanted to provide my perspective on the value of this book.

If you prefer to skip my review and just know whether or not I recommend the book, then click here to get it immediately because I absolutely recommend it.

But if you want to know why, then keep reading.

Let me start with this.

If you are a strength athlete of any kind or just a fitness enthusiast looking to get better, you need to read and apply the material in this book.

As the great Bruce Lee once said, “Absorb what is useful. Reject what is useless.

This book truly represents what is useful.

It’s foundational for beginners and it’s mandatory for the advanced.

In today’s world, you’ll find a ton of programs with loads of exercises that claim to “shock” your body and “confuse” your muscles by doing a whole lot of…well, I don’t know what.

The reality is that the simple programs and the fundamental exercises are what’s most proven and effective.

Do we really want what works or not?

Simple and Sinister is very simple and very sinister in it’s approach.

The title of the book is extremely appropriate.

It’s a minimalism approach to strength training and performance.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t suggest it’s only for beginners, because it’s not.

If you truly want to sort through the “fluff” in the fitness industry, get the book, learn the movements, and do the program.

The end result will be achieving a fitter, stronger, and more athletic body.

Let me say again, it doesn’t matter whether you’re new to kettlebells or advanced in your training.

If you’re advanced, then you already know that we can greatly benefit by returning to the fundamentals.

How does this book differ from Pavel’s renowned book, Enter the Kettlebell?

If you have “Enter the Kettlebell,” should you still get this book?

Yes, as this book is a much deeper dive in the foundational principles of kettlebell training with a laser like focus on the most important exercises (the swing and the Turkish get up).

But, there is so much more perspective and insight in the book than just covering a few exercises, although the extensive detail on them is outstanding.

Let’s not forget mobility.

The mobility program is also very simple with just a few of the key mobility exercises you’ll need to maximize performance (the halo, prying goblet squat, and hip bridge).

Again, it’s not an exhaustive list, but a simple, effective approach.

It’s important to know that since the book Enter the Kettlebell was written, kettlebell training has much evolved.

That’s were this book is a great update as the technical standards of the exercises are clearly outlined.

Simple and Sinister is a foundation, a framework, and a set of standards.

Is the book more for beginners or advanced?

As I mentioned, it’s for both.

While this is undeniably the essential book for beginners, it’s also for the intermediate and advanced kettlebell enthusiast.

Personally, I bought this book because I can always learn more, get better, and improve my own training and performance.

We can all get better in some way, no matter what kind of background we have.

And, just so you know my background with kettlebells, I’m a StrongFirst Level II kettlebell instructor and have spent countless hours training, reading and learning, and attending seminars and workshops to develop and deepen my own skill set.

So, was this book valuable for me?

Absolutely it was and I’ll tell you why.

I learned a long time ago that if you can take away one big thing from any book you read, then that book was totally worth your time.

Let me repeat that so you remember this important point:

If you can take away one big thing from any book you read, then that book was totally worth your time.

Understanding this, there are several take aways from this book.

One of the big things for me was to NEVER underestimate the value of the fundamentals and simple programming (such as the Simple and Sinister program minimum).

What exactly is Simple and Sinister?

Bruce Lee QuoteThis is the foundation of kettlebell training.

It’s the most important kettlebell exercises in a simplistic approach that provides significant benefits.

This book is what is useful, so we need to absorb what it offers.

As I’ve mentioned, it’s a deep dive into the swing and Turkish get up, so if you’re looking for a book covering the extensive list of kettlebell exercises and a bunch of “variety” programs, this definitely isn’t it.

But, if you want serious results with the fundamentals and want to either begin kettlebells the right way or greatly enhance your understanding of the principles of strength, this is the book to grab right now.

I believe that no matter where we are in our training, we must focus on fundamentals.

Fundamentals are where it’s at.

The quicker we realize that, the better, faster results we’ll achieve.

It took me a long time to figure that out, but it’s the truth.

That’s why this book is so valuable for every reader, no matter the background or skill level.

How is the book organized?

The book is divided into 2 parts.

The 1st part of the book covers kettlebell history, rules for training, benefits of the exercises, complete technical aspects of the exercises, and the new program minimum.

I need to remind you NOT to be deceived by the simplicity of this program because of the scalability (how you advance or adjust the program based on where you are).

You’ll have to check it out, to see exactly what I mean, but it’s much deeper than what it appears on the surface level.

The 2nd part of the book goes even further into the principles of training, programming, rationale of the program, and some impressive case studies on the effectiveness.

While the book is only 90 pages, it’s not light on the content at all.

As a matter of fact, it’s extremely content rich.

Depending on your background with kettlebells, it will be an extremely comprehensive read or you may find yourself focusing on the details, as I did.

It’s the details that make the difference, my friend.

The book drills down deep and sets a better, stronger foundation not only for kettlebell training, but for the principles of strength.

How should you use the program?

Here’s the beauty of this.

It can be used as a “stand alone” system, it can be easily integrated into a current strength training program, or it can be used as a “recharge” and refresh between programs.

And, it can be used over again and scaled for progressions.

The program can be used for short duration or longer duration, depending on training goals and training background.

The bottom line is that there are many possible ways to use this and it’s not complicated or confusing on how to apply it.

What should you do now?

Here’s the deal.

If you’re comfortable with where you’re at and if you don’t want a super simple, highly effective training system, then don’t get this book.

If you see this as just a book on just a few exercises and a simple program you may already know about, then don’t get the book because you’ll probably fail to recognize the details that can truly elevate your training (remember, the difference is the details).

But, if you want to do more with less, own your skills, refine your techniques so that you get even better results, then I encourage to get the book right now (click here).

It’s an easy read, but a valuable resource to apply and refer back to.

I would not endorse the book (or take the time to write this) if I didn’t absolutely think it was a valuable book that would be helpful for every reader reading this.

But, it’s up to you.

For the true fitness enthusiast and for the athlete, the book is a valuable resource and a return to fundamentals.

Get the book, do the system, and experience the benefits.

The truth about Simple and Sinister is that it’s a great book, so check it out now if you haven’t already.

And, let me know what you think.

(Note: the book is available as a Kindle book, paperback, or audio book).


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  • Lior
    Posted at 08:34h, 11 December Reply

    Thanks for a great review Scott.

    Would you recommend this program to an unathletic 12 y.o kid?

    • Scott
      Posted at 21:29h, 11 December Reply

      Hey Lior,
      Well, yes, but… It’a a GPP program (General Physical Preparation), but for a non-athletic 12 year old, I’d recommend 1-instruction 2-patience in teaching 3-make it fun (so maybe not do the full rep count in the S&S program, for now.)
      Just work on getting a baseline skill set for a while and keeping things loose, but progressive.
      THEN, if the skill set develops reasonably well with the exercises, then consider to progression to full S&S program. That’s my take…
      See how it develops, but if can get a decent base, think it could work out very well.

  • Greg
    Posted at 04:59h, 19 December Reply

    Dear Scott,

    thanks for a nice review. I have just finished listening to the audiobook for the second time and fully support your opinion!

    I have a small question though… breathing — Pavel says that it is optimal to maintain 2:1 ratio of swings to number of breaths (i.e., 10 swings – 5 breaths), while we typically try to exhale explosively when going up in each swing. How can one get into such a breathing rhythm?

    Thanks for your insight!

    • Scott
      Posted at 20:19h, 19 December Reply

      Excellent question!!!
      What Pavel is teaching here is a slow, controlled breathing pattern.
      This requires a lot of practice to get conditioned for that 2:1 ratio he mentions and it will vary depending on conditioning levels.
      To be honest, I have not practiced it that way DURING the swing, but I do use the slow, controlled breathing as a recovery method and it works fantastic.
      If you do the 2:1 method, then technically that would take you out of a “biomechnanical breathing match” (exhale with bell forward, inhale in the way back).
      So, I think it’s fine to stay with exhalation with explosive hip drive, but may experiment with the technique he mentions. Either is correct, but I would say
      the way he describes is “Breath Mastery” and more advanced, in my opinion.
      Great question and you got me thinking about it…

      One more thing,he mentioned it’s “reasonable” but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “optimal” and that will be extremely
      difficult in high volume work, so just something to keep in mind.

      Cheers! Scott

  • Staffan
    Posted at 03:53h, 21 December Reply


    Thank you for this book tips, I have listen to it twice now. Im at the last week on a 12 week kb program.

    And I have fallen in love with kettlebells so I think that I will use the simple & sinister program for a couple of weeks then start over with the 12 week program and try to use it together with the simple & sinister program because I would like to improve my Turkish get up.

    Thank you for a great blog and podcast. I have learned a lot from it and its great inspiration!

    Have a nice holiday!

    • Scott
      Posted at 09:15h, 21 December Reply

      Thanks Staffan!
      Appreciate the comment and Happy Holiday!
      Best, Scott

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