Kettlebell Sport Practice 101: The Money $$$et

Kettlebell Sport Practice 101: Practice in thy movement improves thy movement. Forget the misc crap that wastes ur time. I used to be a HUGE believer in keeping things as simple as simple may be. In fact Lisa and I just minimized a bit of our lives by going through all our clothes, kitchenware, office stuff, electronics, etc and got rid of everything we either did not use or didn't need. It has actually been a super empowering and liberating experience.

In my 4 years of Kettlebell fitness training and short couple years experience in Kettlebell Sport specific training I'm finding that the protocols in the exact methodology of training is and should be quite simple. Often times people get in the mindset that they need to change things up so often so that their body stays "confused". There seems to be this bandwagon of fitness professionals who believe by varying day to day workouts on the extreme side is beneficial to the body in that it won't be able to adapt and be forced to change. In reality, the only thing that's doing is confusing the body from adapting to the stress load placed upon it in the practiced movements and prohibiting it from growing through progressions of any specific skill practice.

Look at any group of elite athletes and the one thing that is consistent between all of them is the simplicity of their training. In fact many of them have a similar training regimen for years and years. Their goal is to get better at one or two particular main skills.

If Michael Jordan didn't go out and shoot hoops every day and instead decided to ride a bike or play some lacrosse(nothing wrong with either) then he would never have been the amazing athlete that he became. If Michael Phelps didn't jump in the pool every day shave every hair from his body (optional thought here) to make him the best swimmer in the world by swimming lap after lap after lap after lap then he wouldn't be as good as he is. You can only switch up swimming laps in so many ways. The focus here is their consistent practice of the relevant basics of their desired skill in order to become better.

Kettlebell Sport is the same way. Our goal, first and foremost, is to train for and last 10 minutes on the competition platform. Along the wayside people, I was one of them, got sidetracked with training for reps before they can last the time. First is the time and then fill in the gaps with reps long before jumping up in Kettlebell weight.

When you can perform the reps, with the appropriate weight, in a comfortable range to survive 10 minutes then increase your pace. When your pace gets to such that you are performing high level reps for 10 minutes then you can progress to the next size bells. If you prematurely jump bells you will suffer not only physically, but also the timing and possibly technique.

Trying to force your body to give you more reps when all you can do is 3 or 4 minutes is not a good game plan. 3-4 minutes sets with the heavier bells can be tossed in here and there as assistance sets after your main practice, but first master the bells you can go 10 minutes with before jumping up. Always remember that 10 minutes is our goal. No one cares if we can do 3, 4, 5, or even 8 minutes. 10 minutes is what everyone wants to see and see us survive. That is a sign of a well trained and conditioned girevik. Once you get to 10 minutes fill in the reps from there.

As Gordon Gecko, in the movie Wall Street, would say: "Greed Is Good", but this is certainly not the case in Kettlebell Sport training. Personally, I had to eat some humble pie myself for a while and drop bell weight so I can get my pace and conditioning up. Once I did I am now more solid in what I'm currently doing. What I'm currently doing is 1 main Money Set every day for 5 days and never shorter than 6 minutes unless I feel lousy one day then I'll toss around for 5 min, but that's not gonna be too often. Focus on the main set as your bread and butter, work your butt off to give everything you've got left when that one main set isover, and after you're done with that set all you have is only bounced checks to write cause you have nothing left to give. That's the Money Set Training and it just works. When it's all said and done your specific Kettlebell Sport work should only take you 20 min or less, and the money set is only 10 minutes or less, with most days being 5-7 min. Beyond that assistance work and your cooldown. In my cooldown I literally spend 2-3 times the time stretching, yoga postures, etc than I did with my Kettlebell work. That is it. There are no secrets... just attention to simplicity and hard work. Do that and your results will come. Stop over-thinking it.

Learn From My Girevoy Sport Technique Mistakes

This past weekend I had the fun experience of Kettlebell Sport competing at the Mid Michigan Kettlebell Invitational in Livonia, MI. This was only my second official competition with my first being a month prior. I've learned quite a bit of technique in the past couple months of training. You see I've been training with kettlebells for about 3 years now; however moreover in a more fitness style and not sport style training. At the beginning of March, after this year's Arnold Sports Festival where I had a few athletes (my wife one of them), I decided it was time I through myself onto the platform. I've had a lingering lumbar spine disc protrusion for the past 3 years which I've allowed to limit me and I wasn't gonna let that happen any longer. So I jumped into the Girevoy Sport water and decided to swim. It's been a fun past couple months and my technique and strength continue to improve. By exposing myself to these Kettlebell Sport competition experiences I rub shoulders with some of the best lifters the U.S. has to offer. Some of them have been privileged to have training opportunity with top level Russian lifters and coaches. That being said, they have passed some of their invaluable knowledge onto me and exposed both my weaknesses as well as gaps in my technique. By correcting my mistakes, from what I've learned in one weekend experience alone just being around these amazing athletes, it has made me a much better lifter and coach.

In hopes that you too will learn from my own technique mistakes I have included pics of what they look like and what to look/feel for when you are training.

Mistake 1. Use Proper Equipment: Get lifting shoes from the start. Get your own here: Rogue Fitness "Do-Wins"

Mistake 2. Have Proper Body Alignment: Always keep your elbows in front when resting in the rack. Never lean to one side or the other as you see me mistakenly do in the pictures below.

Mistake 3. Proper Lockout: When the bells are locked out overhead count "one one-thousand" before bringing them down. This will ensure a good lockout. My picture directly below is NOT a good lockout and was the last one I performed in my set before setting down my bells. I received a "No Count" for it and rightly so.

Definition of a proper overhead kettlebell lockout: By AKC Coach Mike Stefano The feet are flat on the floor, knees, hips straight and strong. Back is arched, and gaze forward. The lockout arm extends straight up over the head with the bicep near the ear. The elbow is locked and shoulder is seated. The kettlebell hangs off the heal of the hand (hip of the palm) behind the head, wrist is relaxed. Ears, shoulders, hips, and knees line up vertically creating a skeletal stack to accept the majority of the resting load. The palm is angled slightly towards the face, not rotated out where the kettlebell spins out overhead. The kettlebell is completely still or fixated. From the side view the upper arm appears to be perpendicular to the floor as it rises up out of the shoulder joint. The elbow joint is fully extended (not hyperextended) and completely locked. This may result in a gentle backward curve in the arm. Don't confuse this with the elbow being bent. The arm should never be in front of the face from the side view, as this will require much greater muscle contraction to stabilize the shoulder joint. How far back the arm will go depends upon the flexibility of the shoulder joint. Many people have a tight anterior, rounding the shoulders, thus preventing the arm from getting to that parallel-to-ear position while overhead, preventing a stable rest position.

Mistake 4. Fixation: Fixation in a nutshell means being in control of the kettlebell. Fixate the bells overhead prior to lowering them back to the rack in the case of Jerks and Long Cycle or before tossing back into the swing in the case of the Snatch. Fixation means no overhead movement of any kind as well as no unstable footing. To have good fixation both your elbows will be locked, both your knees will be locked, and there will be full bodily control over the bell. You will not have any momentum or movement going anywhere. By ensuring fixation overhead you will have all the stabilizer muscles working and ultimately become stronger. Once you have fixation you are ready to return the bell whence it came whether that was the rack position or to re-snatch it.

These are the things I am working directly on and my encouragement to you is to do the same no matter if you're working with one bell or two in your own training sessions. Even if you have no desire to compete in Kettlebell Sport you are going to benefit from proper overhead lockout, fixation, and focusing on body stability in all of your movements.  Valery Fedorenko told me that fixation in the lockout is the key to kettlebell lifting whether for sport or fitness so that your body becomes strong, stable, and ensures chance of injury is greatly diminished. Having fixation means having control over the kettlebells. If you have control then you are able to better focus and succeed in your kettlebell training goals.