Tailpipe: A New Concept

Troy Anderson Kettlebell Cossack Squats
About 30 years ago, kids had to read The Grapes of Wrath in high school. That’s when I picked up a wonderful little word: jalopy. If you don’t know what a jalopy is, watch an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies on TV Land. Soon you’ll see a vivid image of an old dilapidated car—the kind you can’t pass fast enough—spewing exhaust and fumes.

About two or three years ago, I started to really look into what the guys over at Gym Jones were doing. They are undoubtedly one of the few places with an innate ability to mix strength training, high output conditioning, and one of my favorite things—mental toughness.

If you like training hard, then you’ll think they’re doing some pretty awesome and smart stuff. Gym Jones worked with the actors from 300 and The Man of Steel.

When I found the workout they named "Tailpipe", I instantly loved it because it engaged and challenged so many different areas of the body and mind:
  • Conditioning
  • Core
  • Mental fortitude
  • Upper back strength
  • Commitment
For reference, here’s the Gym Jones version of "Tailpipe": https://youtu.be/HLEcUxQKLi4

But, I had one problem with the original version of the workout, I didn’t have a Concept 2 rower. So, I started my quest for a full body drill, preferably a bodyweight exercise that I could perform with good technique even when highly fatigued.

I also needed to standardize a rep count that allowed me to use roughly the same time it took to complete a 500-meter row.

The drill I chose is controversial and may be viewed with skepticism, but it fits my criteria for this workout and is incredibly effective. It uses a full range of motion, can be done for time, and correct technique can be maintained under fatigue. Yes, I chose the burpee.

The other thing needed for this workout is a matched pair of kettlebells. We’ve always used a pair of 24kg/53lb kettlebells, but use what you have so long as they are not tiny.

For my first version of "Tailpipe", you will need a training partner or a training group. This will dramatically improve your performance, since you'll have someone to work with and against. If you don’t have a training partner, keep reading for my second variation below.

While the burpee is a kickass conditioning drill that will really get you breathing, there are some underlying components worth mentioning.

Let’s start with the concept of "breathing behind the shield". Pavel talks about this concept in his 2006 book, Enter the Kettlebell. Holding both kettlebells in the rack position produces this training effect particularly well—especially when combined with burpees.

Usually, just standing while holding kettlebells in the rack position would seem boring, but that all changes when you are trying to catch your breath! All those wonderful "breathing muscles" automatically fire.

For proof, try just one round of this workout in front of a mirror. Those "breathing muscles" will be visibly working. Being engaged and standing at attention in a loaded plank will be a fairly new position to many. But, I’m not sure a more "functional" position exists.

So, if you are ready to feel like you are inhaling the exhaust of a 1930’s jalopy—while getting the training effect on your 2016 body, then try this super accessible version of "Tailpipe":

Perform 3 rounds for time:
  • Partner #1 x 20 Burpees, Partner #2 x Double Kettlebell Rack Hold
  • Partner #2 x 20 Burpees, Partner #1 x Double Kettlebell Rack Hold
If we are working in groups, we always shoot for a head to head victory. We aim for a standard of 8-10 minutes to complete three rounds with zero kettlebell drops.

If we’re training as a two person team or if the groups get a little too competitive, then we shift the focus towards beating your own previous best time. We also count the number of times the either partner has to put the weights down.

So, there are a few ways to progress with this workout model without risking that the rack position or burpees turn into total slop. This next variation works if you don’t have a training partner—or if you have one who might "blue falcon" you on the burpees.

I’ve been using this solo version of "Tailpipe" for the past month, and it is a real monster. It might even be worse than the first version because you will spend an even longer time in the rack position—nine minutes total! This is approximately twice as long as in the first version, but you also have the reward/non-reward of not doing any burpees. But, I promise you’ll pray for burpees after you’ve been holding kettlebells for three minutes straight!

"Eggnog" Workout

Again we’ll use a pair of 24kg/53lb kettlebells for this workout.
  • Double kettlebell front squat x 4 reps with 20 seconds rest
  • Double kettlebell rack hold x 20 seconds
  • Double kettlebell front squat x 4 reps with 20 seconds rest
  • Double kettlebell rack hold x 20 seconds
  • Double kettlebell front squat x 4 reps with 20 seconds rest
  • Double kettlebell rack hold x 20 seconds
  • Push-ups, as many as possible in 1 minute.
Rest as needed and repeat for 2 more rounds.

Holding the load in an anterior position provides an outstanding full body training effect. However, when we thoughtfully combine holding kettlebells with something like burpees, squats, or even rowing, the workout becomes exponentially more valuable.

The burpees, squats, or rows simply prepare us for the valuable work of the double kettlebell rack hold. Without these exercises, the double rack hold would be mundane and boring. This workout requires psychological endurance and the will to compete. Most will think it’s horrible, and a few will call it damn good training. I suggest you try it and make up your own mind.

TTroy Anderson, RKCroy M. Anderson, DVRT Master Instructor, RKC is a farm kid driven to spread the good word of accessible FarmStrong training with kettlebells, sandbags, bodyweight exercise, and Unapologetic Living. Creator of Alpha Kettlebell. Get access to over 200 free kettlebell WODs at: https://alphakettlebell.leadpages.net/kbwod/