Muscles

The Kettlebell Beast Challenge Continues...

The Kettlebell Beast weighs 48kg, that's a whoppin 106lbs, of pure steel compacted into a cannonball shapped weight with a handle on it and painted a beautiful gold. All gold things are beautiful aren't they? Ok well maybe not the pic below. LOL

ANYWAY... Kettlebell Swings tie in every muscle in the body to work together as one. When coming up we squeeze our glutes (butt muscles) so tight we can crack a walnut between our cheeks. True Story! :)

Check out a couple Kettlebell Training warriors who took on the Synergy Kettlebell Training Beast Challenge. The challenge is Women need 50 or more Two Arm Swings and Men need 100 or more to qualify. Below you will see one Beast Tamer get it and one come so close.

Jim gave it everything he could today to tame the Beast and when he was done said he had a few more in him. Soooo next time he WILL live up to his full potential for sure!! :) Awesome job Jim!

48kg (106lbs) Kettlebell Swings are noooooo joke! Damien is a war machine!!!

Correcting Our Bodies & Making Them Better

Pictured are my 4 tools that go hand in hand to provide me with ongoing Kettlebell Sport skinny strong fun. My 2 in the background, clock n bells, are just as important as the 2 in the foreground, Risto Sports lifting shoes & foam roll. Most people think exercise alone is all that needs to be done. They're so set on getting in and getting out of the gym that they forget one of the most important aspects of overall big picture fitness well-being.

We want our bodies to work well for our entire lives. Some want their bodies to work at very high levels. No matter your goal it is imperative to do such things as mobility drills, static postures as in yoga & stretching, and finally regular massage and/or foam rolling, regular application of magnesium oil and/or Epsom salt baths.

Focusing on mobility drills and static postures while warming up and cooling down are extremely significant elements in Synergy Kettlebell Training programming. But what is usually pushed aside, because it's rather painful and tedious, is the foam rolling. This one action is something that removes a lot of toxins from the muscles as well as aids in bringing specific inflammation at bay within trigger points and achy areas. Compare it to mini-massages whenever you want them.

I remember when I first began rolling my illial tabial or IT Band along the side of my legs stretching from the hip down to the knees. WOW was that painful for a few weeks, and still is in a couple places, but I continued on to the point where my back problems have actually cleared up and never have any knee pain whatsoever. I rarely have to go to my chiropractor too. If anything springs up- which is usually an isolated case- I get right on the roller and 10-15 minutes on it typically resolves my issues. Chronic cases of neglect can often times take weeks and months of daily foam roll practice to finally resolve. Then once you get your body there simply maintain it with brief daily rolls and at the very least before and after your workouts. The IT Band is the first thing I look at when someone complains that their knees or back is hurting them. Correcting the IT Band often times corrects the other issues as well.

So what I recommend for you is to begin slowly and do it for only a 3-4 minutes before and after every one of your workouts. Then on your "off" days do it for about 5 minutes. Take breaks when you need to and build yourself up to about 10-15 minutes of post workout rolling as well as about 10 minutes a day for maintenance. Do it while right after every one of your workouts and at night before you go to bed while you're watching tv.

If you make mobility drills, static postures, and foam rolling part of your weekly, and maybe you have a necessity for daily, practice you will definitely notice the difference pretty quickly. Knock on wood I have been injury free for a long time and I have those 3 variables as direct reasons to acknowledge.

Kettlebells = Skinny Strong

This month at Synergy Kettlebell Training we're focusing on a series I'm calling "Skinny Strong". The goal is to get as strong as we possibly can and all without putting on any mass. In fact we want to get both skinnier and stronger at the exact same time. That's exactly the type of strength that Kettlebells give.

Most women, and more and more even men, don't want to bulk up. That's just not how most people want to be. Yeah sure when you're an 18-22 year old male looking to impress the ladies with your ripped abs, juiced biceps, and widepecs, but is that really complimentary to how life really is? Do beach muscles provide functional strength that can be applied to our every day living? Do preacher curls, pec decs, lat pulldowns, leg extensions, and elliptical machines do a body good? Is it cool having mere aesthetics without the full use of them and when asked to run across the street you get out of breath before you hit the curb? Is that really a good thing? Wellllllll I don't think so!

Of course BOTH genetics and your nutrition DEFINITELY play a HUGE part in how your body will develop, but when training Kettlebell Sport style you won't have to worry about packing on pounds or getting bulky. In fact added muscle and bulk is actually quite cumbersome to the movements: Snatch, Jerk, & Long Cycle. So being Skinny Strong is very complimentary to moving Kettlebells.

Problem: weakness and flab. Solution: Kettlebell Training = Skinny Strong and a super fit body that won't ever quit on you!

More to come on being Skinny Strong with Kettlebells in future posts. Next up is learning how to be Skinny Strong by playing with the Kettlebell Jerk. Ok I'll stay away from the mirrors. LOL

In the pics above you'll see one of my friends, and fellow Kettlebell Sport lifter (who achieved her Candidate Master of Sport ranking earlier this year), Johanna Funk and the Ice Chamber Girls.

Teresa's Got Big Guns!

One of the extreme pleasures I have as a Fitness Coach is to see my clients experience results. When they do it just culminates everything together perfectly why they've worked so hard and why I love helping them along the way.  So when Teresa came to me the other day and told me about how someone she knows commented on how awesome her arms and love handles were compared to how she used to be such a short time ago I knew I HAD to capture her excitement on video.  Teresa is so pumped up!

Awesome Job Teresa!!!

The Anatomy of Kettlebell Training: The Swing

Kettlebells Russia

The "style" of kettlebell training I practice is called Girevoy Sport or G.S. It is a fluid style where the body works as efficiently as it can to move the weight throughout the given range of the desired movement.  Our goal is to primarily achieve an overall strength endurance so we only utilize the necessary muscles without purposely and needlessly over exerting as taught  by other schools or styles.

G.S. has been the original and predominate kettlebell training style used by those who developed kettlebells in Russia and all other 'styles' of kettlebell training have derived from it.  I do believe in the Bruce Lee method of training which suggests to use what works and leave that which does not. So this is naturally how I practice and teach my methods.

When beginning Kettlebell Training, or any exercise for that matter, one must learn to crawl before walking and running. All too often we get "runners" from day one and then they get hurt and confused.

Slow down and learn the basics so that the advanced, when and only when, you're ready will be much easier to learn and manage.  Kettlebell training is, in my opinion, the best method for overall strength endurance, fat blasting, cardio endurance, toning, joint stabilizing, and so much more in the most efficient movement patterns inside each workout. One of those movements is the Swing.

 

The Swing is the foundational movement for everything standing up with the Kettlebell. The movement called the Clean and the Snatch all root directly to that of the Swing. So when beginning Kettlebell training it is vital to do hundreds and even thousands of swings so that you learn how the body is supposed to move and flow with momentum with the bell. To give you an idea, I'll go a bit further into the anatomy of the swing itself.  This is what I call: "A Lesson In Kettlebell Crawling".

The swing is but a supporting movement in order to strengthen the posterior chain (everything in the back of your body or what you don't see in the mirror when looking into it) primarily as well as the anterior chain to give support to the posterior. In the movement the body and brain become stronger and more efficient in lifting in that motion so that a natural progression to either the clean or snatch can be made quite effortlessly. Again it is entirely about efficiency and moving efficiently in these movements from one to the next. As long as you progress when you are ready each movement will flow into the next in such a way that there will be very little effort applied by the Crawler so that when beginning to Walk you'll have a strong leg to stand upon.

Swing Practice

The easiest way to picture the starting posture I would say to picture a football player who's about to hike the ball.

The legs do in fact bend- it may have been difficult to see in the baggier pants I was wearing. In the forward bending of the swing the spine remains nuetral in that my head follows the bell instead of looking up or straight. When that happens, as in other teachings, the cervical spine impedes. Instead of driving with the legs as in a push press, which recruits the quads a bit more than needed or desired, the hamstrings and glutes are actively recruited to move the bell throught the motion of the swing from between the legs to chest height. The hips are driven upward by these primary muscles as fast as needed in order to create momentum on the bell enough to get it to between chest and eye level height. The arms are used as little as possible and are only a support to the lower body in the entire movement.


Anatomy of the Swing

 

1. The Grip That Matters Most: When you start, have the bell about 1 foot in front of your feet. Grab the kettlebell in the opposite corner of the bell than the hand that is working with it. NEVER grab the middle of the bell- ever. So if your swinging with you're right hand you grab the left corner and if you're working with your left hand grab the right corner(as pictured) Make the "OK" sign with your hand and put the thumb over the top of the finger. Very, very lightly grip the Kettlebell with your forefinger and thumb- which is called the Lock Grip. The strongest part of your hand is between your forefinger and thumb so it's best to use that area. The other three fingers can be present on the handle, but just don't squeeze with them. By doing that the bell handle will not be aligned efficiently in your palm.
2. What Goes Up: To initiate the swing bring the bell between your legs touching your forearm to your inner thigh as high up on the groin as possible. As soon as your forearms touch your inner thigh move your legs and hips as you would to stand up straight. This will engage your hamstrings and if you do it fast enough the bell will move upward by the momentum of your legs. Imagine that you do not have arms, but only legs and the bell moves solely by the leg and hip generated momentum.
3. Must Come Down: When you go down allow gravity to bring the bell down without actively trying to get it there. Afterall it's going down on its own anyway so let it and simply use your arms to guide it where you want it to go. When it goes between your legs direct the bell so that your forearms again touch high on your inner thighs. This will look kinda like the stance football players get into when they hike the football. Then without blinking an eye begin your upward thrust of your hips again. Thrust your pelvis & hips upward, which will create the needed momentum to bring the bell up to just above chest height. When performing the swing never allow the bell to travel above eye level. So that being said, you will always have the bell travel between your chest and eye level on each and every Swing motion.
4. Idle Hands: You will do very little with your arms. In fact relax both arms and hands as much as possible. Don't have a death grip on it and when you move the weight up, from the thrust of your hips, ever so slightly pull the bell inward so your arms very slightly bend, but not too much. The bell should feel weightless in your arms and hands due to the momentum you generate from your hips.
5. Crack Walnuts With Your Butt Cheeks: When you thrust the bell up with your legs and hips be sure, and this is VERY IMPORTANT, that you squeeze your glutes(butt muscles) as hard as you possibly could. I mean squeeze those suckers so hard that you can crack a walnut between your cheeks. AND u can practice that with your friends for some weekend entertainment... SERIOUSLY though that's how hard you've gotta squeeze your glutes when you thrust the bell upward. That way your lower back turns off as much as possible and your core turns on. If you feel your back working that's okay. Remember we're primarily working the posterior chain and that's the back*. We just want it to work as little as possible compared to your hamstrings, glutes, anterior core, and upper back.
6. Final Thoughts: If you feel your lower back work a lot, first don't be alarmed cause it will be working, but just consciously squeeze your glutes harder. If you're a beginner in your Kettlebell practice don't be surprised if you feel your lower back working a lot and getting stiff after the first couple workouts. That's normal and I encourage you to remember that feeling and focus on cracking your walnuts so that the stiffness doesn't continue to happen. We don't want your lower back to be working predominately over your hamstrings, glutes, and mid-back/shoulders. Keep in mind that the bell should feel weightless in your arms and hands due to the momentum you generate from your hips.

To help you picture it better here's a couple videos by 2 men I very highly respect in Kettlebell technique.

1. AKC Master Coach Mike Stefano teaches the G.S. Swing

2. Honored Master of Sport Valery Fedorenko(who is what Tiger Woods is to golf and what Michael Jordan was to basketball, Valery is to Kettlebell Lifting Sport) performing the Snatch and you can clearly see the blend of the Swing and the Snatch flow together.

7. Suggested Perfect Practice: To get started with kettlebells, and build the proper mind/body connection as well as propell your strength onto new levels, my suggestion is to perform a routine of 100 swings each day for 30 days above and beyond your everyday activity. When you're done that will be 3,000 swings total.  The weight does not need to be a lot. Kettlebell training is about ongoing practice and movement efficiency.

What's Coming Next: In the next segment on the "Anatomy of Kettlebell Training" we will be breaking down the Snatch as well as the Clean and Overhead Lockout aka Long Cycle. This is my all time favorite Kettlebell movement and targets every single muscle in the body by incorporating 2 pulls and 2 pushes inside of the one movement. If there is one movement that you can do for the rest of your life that will give you the absolute best overall strength and fitness results Long Cycle would be it.

Elliptical Machines Are Not THAT Great

Elliptical machines are designed to limit the impact on the body so you can get a workout without having to stress your joints and muscles, but what they really do is something more. They cause certain mechanic inhibitors to occur that you probably will not notice right away; however over time this will cause some knee, hip, and low back issues.

In reality I'm sure that sounds like an oxymoron on how to achieve great physical conditioning because these machines are peppered along the cardio floor of your local big box gym.

Elliptical machines force you to run in sometimes an unorthodox way because the machine is typically measured for individuals of a certain height, stride length, etc. While performing the elliptical trainer your feet are essentially locked in place while the rest of the body is simulating a running pattern which in turn can strain the joints at certain points throughout the abnormal range of motion. The hip flexor/rotator is connected to your hamstrings which also pulls on the knees and right down to your achillies tendon. That being said, if you hip is out of wack- or it soon will be by continued elliptical use- it could be causing real problems for all the muscles in the legs as well as the knees and low back.

1. Cardio machines with swinging handles offer very little to no benefit than if you swung your hands naturally at your sides. You'll get a better workout by working your stabilizing core muscles.

2. Keep in mind the elliptical will make you better at 'elliptical' and burn some calories, improve general cardio- which is way better than being sedentary- BUT will most likely not translate to anything else that you do. ie. walking, running, stair climbing etc. It is very common that people can do an hour on elliptical, but have trouble running for 20 minutes.

In summation the elliptical trainer will help with burning some needed calories, but doesn't make you better at anything except itself. Personally I believe it is harder to get a good workout on the elliptical machine. It takes a lot more concentration to work hard enough to work up a sweat and it's very easy to make the elliptical an easy workout. It typically takes 3 times as long to burn the amount of calories you do with other exercise and cardio types.

It is interesting to note, an observation I have made at the gym over the years is that when you look at the people who regularly use elliptical machines compared to those on treadmills, stairs, or who interval train with weight resistance, is the people using the ellipticals are on average at least 20lbs. heavier and don't look nearly as fit. Food for thought...