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August 2020

Kettlebells are NOT for Sissies!

To use a kettlebell (or two) effectively, you are going to need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This means recognizing that there is a steep learning curve and settling in for a long period of time finding your "groove" with the basic techniques. Seeing that there are (at a minimum) six basic techniques with the Kettlebell, you are in for a long apprenticeship. Once you have started refining the basics on your own you are still going to need feedback on your progress and the help of someone to fine tune your technique in case you start wandering off the trail.

Now the you have a "handle" on the basics (that's a Kettlebell joke), you're going to need to start working on mastering the basics. "Mastery" is not something that happens overnight, so you can expect to spend... a lot of time working on them. The "how long" is different for every person, but I can guarantee that if you are in a hurry it will take you a long, long time.

Moderation In All Things

Two things you need to know from the onset: 1) fast weight loss schemes lead to fast weight loss and even faster weight gain and 2) training programs that drive you into the ground day in and day out lead to injuries and burn out.

Now that we have that out of the way we can get to the important stuff.

I can appreciate someone who leaps in head-first into a new training program and brings their best to every workout, every day. But I can also appreciate someone who shows up three or four times a week, year after year, and gets the work done and goes home.

One person gets in "shape" fast but also gets nagging injuries and other issues that keeps them out of the gym after a while.

One person gets in "shape" slow but steady and avoids nagging injuries that would keep them out of the gym.

It's really up to you. If you want to burn the candle at both ends that is completely up to you. But, if you are interested in setting a foundation of strength, coordination, mobility and endurance and maintaining it for the next couple decades... well, I'm anxious to meet you in person!

The Basics Will Set You Free

I come in contact with hundreds of athletes every year. Some are more experienced than others and all have a reason for training and working hard. A good number of the people I come across are trainers, coaches, PT's, etc. All of them are coming to me to get insight into how to more effectively use the Kettlebell, Mace, Indian Clubs, Bar, or Body Weight.

Unfortunately, not all requests are equal. Many are sincerely interested in learning the basics, the fundamental and foundational skills. Others are just interested in learning enough to shoot Instagram or YouTube videos and establishing some "internet creds". Unfortunately, what they end up doing is something akin to juggling flaming cats while riding a kayak off of a waterfall.

Instead of shooting videos of how well developed their Swing, Clean, Snatch, Press, Squat, Jerk or TGU is, they have to go all Cirque du Soleil... sometimes with disastrous results. So, if you are interested in learning how to safely, effectively and efficiently use a Kettlebell, look for someone who demonstrates a high-level mastery of the basic skills... and leave the flaming cats to the other guys!

More is not Better!

Do you know how much exercise you need? Do you know the correct composition of exercises that you need to maintain your strength, mobility and longevity? Do you know when enough is enough? I'm guessing if you don't, then the person who is "training" you doesn't know either!

Think about it this way: programming for exercise is highly individualized but also is pretty standardized. You need to have sufficient exercise to create adaptation but not so much that you can't recover from it in a timely manner and it leads to injury or illness. The program needs to have enough variety of exercises that the body is stimulated in a variety of planes of movement, but no plane can be over-emphasized (unless there is a specific purpose behind it).

This thought process is completely foreign to most trainers and almost all CrossFit gyms. High reps, heavy loads and heinous technique is on the menu seven days a week. It's no wonder that injury and burnout are rampant...

Something to think about is that you can make a tremendous amount of progress by limiting your training to a handful of techniques (within the realm of push, pull, squat, hinge, carry and other) and manageable and safe loads. How do I know this? Because I have twenty years of experience training people with this concept as the driving force and hundreds of clients around the world who are living advertisements for the effectiveness of this method.

Unfortunately, training in this common sense manner will exempt you from appearing in CrossFit Fail Videos on YouTube or making unexpected trips to the ER... but do you really want to be famous for that?

Goldilocks and the Three Swings

Once upon a time there was a personal trainer named Goldilocks. She had a ton of certifications but she just wasn't satisfied, so she decided to look into Kettlebells to round out her skill base.

Goldi did a Google search and found a bunch of Kettlebell trainers, classes and certifications to choose from. Not knowing any better she decided to go to the one with the cutest instructor and the most colorful advertising. Goldi paid her money and went to the cert and learned how to "swang" Kettlebells. Unfortunately, the soft and loose began to take its toll on her back and her clients started to complain that they were sore all the time and their joints were "talkikng" to them all the time.

Distressed, Goldi decided to try another certification, but this time she looked for the toughest one she could find, where everyone scowled, called each other "comrade" and had bloody hands at the end of the certification. Returning to her clients with her newfound hardcore mentality and knowledge, Goldi ran her classes like a Drill Instructor and drove her clients into the ground with too many reps and too much tension. Shortly, Goldi was standing alone in her once prosperous gym, all alone because her clients all bailed on her for a less physically (and mentally) punishing environment.

At the end of her rope, and still pursuing realistic knowledge relating to the Kettlebell, Goldi tried one last certification. This one was taught by an instructor who had over twenty years of experience using kettlebells and teaching others how to use them. He showed that kettlebell technique is built from the ground up and that reps; quality, sustainable and efficient reps; are best in low reps with appropriate tension and picture-perfect technique. Goldi spent two days relearning the basics and seeing tremendous value in focusing on the basics as opposed to the trash demonstrated on Instagram and YouTube by other "Kettlebell Experts". Returning to her gym, Goldi rebuilt her business by making the training sessions fun, educational and effective for everyone - regardless of age or experience level.

Goldi learned a lot about Kettlebells during her adventures. She learned that some technique is too soft, some is too hard, and that the best is just right (on a lot of levels). 

The End

Non-Disclaimer - persons and organizations alluded to in this post are intentional and are meant to be a warning to anyone thinking of pursuing an education in the Kettlebell. IF you have have been around the Kettlebell world long enough you can immediately put names to each of the instructors referenced... if you can't - try harder!

The Kettlebell Thruster

Out of all the techniques that you can do with the Kettlebell there is one that I have the highest regard for, both as an athlete and as a trainer. It's not because it looks cool or is particularly difficult to execute (even though it is). It's because it wraps up a host of athletic and strength attributes into one powerful technique and it does it in such a manner that there is no doubt in your mind that (when you do it right) you are in for the ride of your life.

The technique? The Kettlebell Thruster of course! While it is nowhere near as popular as the Swing or the Snatch, which are in and of themselves excellent techniques, they both pale in comparison to the Thruster. I can't tell you why the Thruster has been left in the shadow of the Swing and the Snatch, because in a lot of ways it is superior to both. It could be that when those who aren't in the "know" look at the Thruster all they is see is a glorified "Squat and Press"; or at least that's what a prominent Kettlebell "Expert" called it. He couldn't be farther from the truth...

In order to do a Thruster properly you have to develop the Clean, Squat and Push Press as well as how to reload the Squat and Push Press smoothly and dynamically. Doesn't sound to bad until you realize that you re going to have to invest some serious time and work on your overhead strength, systemic mobility, conditioning and transitional/positional strength. Still not convinced? Take a Snatch Test weight Kettlebell (53 lbs for men and 35 lbs for women) and do five Thrusters on the right followed by five on the left. If that's easy then do it again for four more sets of five on the right and left. Once you have retrieved your lungs from the floor and regained your eyesight... let me know what you think!

BTW - The Kettlebell Thruster is one of the techniques that we will explore in much more detail at the Beyond the Snatch workshop later this year...