In the summertime of 2017, Marine Sgt. Maj. Steven Burkett was all set to change into the world champion in most weight lifted by kettlebell swings in a single hour.

After coaching persistently for months, the 5′11″, 192-pound sergeant main felt assured he may break the Guinness World Document, which captures the overall weight swung by a male in repetitions throughout 60 minutes.

The CrossFit gymnasium in Carlsbad, California, close to his base of Camp Pendleton, turned his try and set a brand new document right into a small spectator occasion.

“We had cameras, we had judges, there have been like 100 folks within the room, the entire 9 yards,” mentioned Burkett, now the highest enlisted Marine at College of Infantry–West on the similar base.


A kettlebell is a ball-shaped weight with a sturdy deal with connected to it. To swing a kettlebell, weightlifters deliver it between their legs after which hoist it above their heads.

The document captures probably the most weight swung cumulatively over the hour. His purpose was to finish 950 swings of a 53-pound kettlebell in an hour, to interrupt by a large margin a earlier document that equated to 892 swings.

Nicely into the document try, the pores and skin on his arms ripped, slowing him down. He fell in need of the document by about 50 reps.

Embarrassed and demoralized by his failure, he didn’t contact one other kettlebell for months.

“I fell into feeling sorry for myself,” Burkett mentioned. “Like, ‘Oh, it simply wasn’t for me. I may have set the world document, although.’ Just like the dudes who’re like, ‘I virtually joined the Marine Corps.’”

When he moved to a brand new unit, in embassy safety, Marines there who had seen the video of his document try requested him if he deliberate to attempt once more.

“These youthful Marines have been, virtually, calling me on my bullcrap,” he mentioned. “They have been like, ‘Actually? You got here that shut and you probably did all that coaching, and also you’re simply not going to do it?”

Burkett mentioned his Marines’ obvious disappointment in him spurred him to begin coaching once more.

In 2018, on the Marine Corps birthday of Nov. 10, he set the document for many weight lifted in an hour — though the pores and skin on his arms ripped once more.

When he received despatched to Guantanamo, Cuba, different troops there came upon about his ardour for “jacking” kettlebells, as he calls it. Burkett shaped the Guantanamo Kettlebell Membership and hosted coaching classes that at instances included greater than 100 folks, he mentioned.

Whereas in Cuba, he came upon about two different kettlebell information: most weight swung in a single minute and three minutes. He shifted his coaching away from endurance and towards pure energy, and knocked out these two information.

In the meantime, another person broke his hour document by a number of reps.

Burkett knew he wished to reclaim the document. However he didn’t need to eke out a brand new document by a bit bit, just for it to get damaged once more weeks later.

As an alternative, his mentality was, “I have to put up a quantity so massive that no person ever tries to even try the one-hour document once more.”

So he did.

He has now amassed a wholesome Instagram following at @sergeantmajorkettlebell, greater than 11,000. When he met then-Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, the overall requested him, “Are you the kettlebell man?”

Each time somebody asks Burkett that, his response is, “Yeah. Do you need to raise some kettlebells?”

The now-70-year-old Neller took him up on the provide and, in response to Burkett, was “tremendous sturdy.”

Burkett additionally not too long ago garnered official Marine Corps recognition, profitable “2022 Male Athlete of the 12 months” for the Camp Pendleton, California, Marine base. He’s additionally a finalist for the Corps-wide title.

Now, he’s partnering with an train physiologist to put in writing a e-book, referred to as “Jacking Bells,” about his story and coaching methodology.

However Burkett wasn’t all the time a star athlete. In highschool, he mentioned, he was a “nondescript common soccer participant and observe man,” the type who began on the varsity staff however solely in senior 12 months.

He enlisted within the Marine Corps in 1994, in response to his official bio. He signed an open contract and ended up in provide administration, he mentioned.

A number of years later, he went to Marine Safety Guard College and was assigned in Paris and Ankara, Turkey, in response to his bio. He has had a number of deployments as a employees noncommissioned officer, together with to Iraq and Mongolia.

As a Marine, Burkett saved himself in form, optimized for the working and pullups that the Corps expects of its troops, he mentioned.

“From all appearances, I regarded like I used to be Marine Corps wholesome, however I might all the time have little again accidents at any time when I might carry gear — simply little issues,” he mentioned. “I simply don’t really feel like I used to be very sturdy.”

However whereas stationed in Washington state in 2013, Burkett joined a CrossFit gymnasium on a whim and realized there in regards to the ideas of weightlifting.

As he ready for a deployment to Iraq in 2016, he wished to remain in form, however there wasn’t gymnasium tools the place he was going. So he packed a single 53-pound kettlebell.

His purpose was to do 300 swings every day. At first, he needed to do them in units of 15 or 20, unfold out all through the day. However because the months handed, he grew to become in a position to knock out the 300 swings in a single exercise.

At one level, he talked about to one in every of his exercise buddies again in California that he had completed 500 swings in beneath half-hour. The good friend requested if there was a world document for kettlebell swings.

“That was like the primary second it even entered my thoughts that there was a world document,” Burkett mentioned.

Recommendation from ‘Sgt. Maj. Kettlebell’

Burkett mentioned his strategy includes doing bigger units to construct energy over time, somewhat than throwing plenty of energy into every particular person swing.

Don’t practice simply by swinging kettlebells, he mentioned; additionally contain them in squats, lunges and presses. You don’t must relegate these workouts to the gymnasium — Burkett mentioned he retains one or two kettlebells in his automotive always.

Type issues. Think about there’s a laser beam popping out of your chest: That beam shouldn’t contact the bottom. Holding the chest up is a solution to preserve strain off of the again, Burkett mentioned.

When a exercise will get uncomfortable, focus in your aspirations, and push via

Break lengthy exercises into shorter chunks in your thoughts. Quite than pondering “I’ve to make it to half-hour,” concentrate on making it to 10 minutes, then 15.

“I believe that’s a great precept for Marines,” Burkett mentioned. “Should you take a look at your total four-year enlistment otherwise you take a look at a whole deployment otherwise you take a look at a complete coaching subject op, that’s onerous. However can you concentrate on this subsequent factor that you simply’re doing or the following little mini accomplishment that you may give your self?”

Burkett mentioned there’s one other lesson for Marines in his kettlebell journey. The usual recommendation that mainstream kettlebell organizations provide is to maintain the variety of reps low in coaching, in response to the sergeant main. Burkett has completed the other, and it helped him smash information.

“It’s vital once you’re setting out in life that you want to have mentors and individuals who can information you,” he mentioned. “However in the event you simply comply with another person’s recommendation or playbook, you possibly can solely do both what they’ve completed or what they’ve supposed for you. You’ve received to set out your individual path in life.”

Irene Loewenson is a employees reporter for Marine Corps Instances. She joined Army Instances as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams School, the place she was the editor-in-chief of the coed newspaper.

By Editor

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