Kettlebell - Simple and Sinister (hereafter referred to as Simple and Sinister or S&S), is the latest offering from Pavel Tsatsouline, formerly head of the RKC, and now head of StrongFirst. It is available in paperback, kindle, and audiobook format. I read it on my Kindle.
Disclaimer: I am an SFG under StrongFirst, and do a great deal of my training at Skill of Strength, a StrongFirst affiliate. Clearly, I have a pro-StrongFirst bias. Read this review accordingly.
Simple and Sinister is aimed at the kettlebell novice. In a sense, this is the latest evolution of Pavel's entry-level kettlebell writings. The original Russian Kettlebell Challenge was filled with tons of exercises and programming ideas, many of them quickly glossed over and with no particular focus. Enter the Kettlebell focused on six exercises, and offered two main programs (the Program Minimum and the Rite of Passage) for the aspiring kettlebell enthusiast. Simple and Sinister cuts things down even further, for good or for ill.
In a nutshell, Simple and Sinister presents the latest version of Pavel's "Program Minimum", a minimalist training regime designed to fit into the lifestyle of almost anyone. It's appropriate for someone looking for a single workout routine, or something to supplement another physical activity. Unlike some of Pavel's other works, Simple and Sinister leaves nothing to the imagination. The whole program, including warm ups and cool downs, is laid out over the course of the book. There is no guess work. Three mobility drills done in a circuit to warm up, one-arm swings and Turkish get-ups to workout, two or three stretches to cool down. Shower, rest, repeat.
There is good and bad in this. The good, of course, is that it is very, very, straightforward. If you read this book and don't know what to do next, I would be deeply concerned. It's all laid out, plain as day. The bad, of course, is that there is just one thing to do. If you want more options, you will have to buy more books.
The writing is classic Pavel. All of the drills and exercises are explained clearly, and accompanied by pictures for reference. There is a logical progression for learning these exercises, and you'll get the whole progression, start to finish, in S&S. I saw one reviewer who complained about the picture quality, but it seemed fine to me.
Classic Pavel also means a lot of references to Russia and use of the word comrade. If you didn't like Pavel's writing before, you're still not going to like it. Just warning you.
Who is this book good for?
If you are interested in learning how to use a kettlebell, but aren't sure what to do with it, this is a good starting point. It gives you a very simple, direct, and easy to follow program that you can use to get your feet wet. The program is simple enough that you could follow it (on a modified schedule), while continuing to participate in other activities.
If you're a kettlebell instructor, you may be familiar with most of the concepts in this book (particularly if you are an SFG). This is a solid review of coaching cues for some of the core StrongFirst exercises, and if you want to see how StrongFirst teaches their mechanics, this would be the place to look.
[An aside: one thing that I really liked in this book was that Pavel credits every idea that he's taken from other people back to the source. That includes people who have long since left his organization, like Steve Maxwell (who I think he credits both for the halo and the turkish get up). Pavel could have said nothing about anyone, but he shares the name of every person who gave him an idea, a quote, or an exercise. That's cool.]
For the Martial Artist
Honestly, if you're a martial artist, you could do far, far, worse for your strength and conditioning then to follow the protocol outlined in this book. If you're a man and get to the point where you can complete this program with the "beast" (a 48kg kettlebell), on top of your training, you will be in damn good shape. A professional competitor should seek a more comprehensive program, but for the hobbyist, this would work pretty well.
If you are new to the kettlebell world, and looking for a place to start, this is it. If you've been around for a while, you not get quite as much out of it, but the book could still be worth checking out.