Sgt. Maj. Steven Burkett joined the Marine Corps in November 1994. Little did he know at the time that he would gain some notoriety in military circles as Instagram’s Sergeant Major Kettlebell. He’s currently stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and is the School of Infantry – West Sergeant Major.
How did you find a niche with kettlebell workouts?
I deployed to Iraq in 2017 and brought a single 53-pound kettlebell with me. I began training with it every single day during the deployment and learned a lot about functional movement and kettlebell basics on my own.
What does a typical kettlebell workout look like for you?
Much of my training centers around building capacity for high repetition/volume kettlebell swings. I currently hold three world records for the most weight lifted via kettlebell swing in one minute, three minutes and one hour.
A typical workout may be a one minute or three-minute effort with the heaviest bell I can swing for that timeframe. I call this workout a “max unbroken” – basically, the most swings you can do in a row before having to put the kettlebell down. I do these workouts with kettlebells ranging from 97 to 141 pounds.
A longer workout, when training to build longer capacity, involves doing a certain number of swings each minute for 20-30 minutes. Typically, 25-28 per minute with a 70-pound kettlebell for 30 minutes.
How do you react when people recognize you in the military community as Instagram’s Sergeant Major Kettlebell?
I enjoy creating content and putting forth a positive message but am cognizant to not become “Sergeant Major Kettlebell” to the Marines I work with day in and day out. They need a sergeant major, regardless of outside interests. Most of the Marines I work with know I am the kettlebell guy on Instagram, but I try to keep that in the background and not be the only thing they think of when they ever think of me.
What did it take to become a four-time kettlebell world record holder?
What I learned is that if you want to be the best at something, you must commit. Your time, effort, and a great deal of thought. I am 47 years old and weigh about 195 pounds. If you told me years ago that I would be a world record holder in kettlebell lifting, I would have thought you were crazy.
I have methodically built myself into an elite kettlebell swinger by relentlessly practicing, trying new things and dramatically revamping what is accepted as the correct form to perform the exercise. Sometimes, you must pick something and stick with it. Humans differentiate because it leads to better results.
What is the biggest benefit to kettlebell workouts?
Kettlebell workouts are incredibly efficient and build power, strength and endurance simultaneously. With one kettlebell, I can work my entire body, taxing multiple systems in a relatively short period of time. Also, once someone buys a kettlebell, they have freedom in that they oversee their own fitness. They are not tied to the availability of a gym or a multitude of equipment and weights – one kettlebell and a basic bit of knowledge and gained experience gives someone freedom to workout when and where they choose.
What advice would you give to someone who’s new to kettlebell training?
Do not be afraid. A new apparatus may seem intimidating, but kettlebells are simple to use as you build your experience over time. I’d start with basic movements, such as goblet squats, lunges, swings and overhead presses. Add to your kettlebell collection over time, with various weights as you get stronger and more proficient, and you will never have to worry about fitness availability ever again. Finally, there are a few tenets of kettlebell training which are unique, such as tremendous grip strength and endurance. When someone begins, their limiting factor will often be their grip; this will improve greatly over time and will culminate with them having the strongest handshake out of their circle of friends.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am not formally trained in kettlebells, but I have probably done more kettlebell training than anyone on the planet over the last few years. To me, if anyone wants to train and get better with kettlebells, I will help them, free of charge. If anyone has any questions or wants to talk further about kettlebells and what may be right for them, they can contact me @sergeantmajorkettlebell on Instagram.Read comments