Whats in a typical kettlebell training session?

 Had a busy weekend teaching several one on one personal training sessions back to  back on Saturday and Sunday, and it was great for me to be around people who all  took their own personal training goals very seriously. It also meant I slept very  soundly Sunday night!

Since some of my blog readers may not have had any kettlebell experience before, I  thought I would take the time to explain what a typical class with me consists of.

The first thing I tend to address in my kb  and conditioning classes are the existing  state of health of the client, any pre-existing injuries, general lifestyle and overall  body mobility.Whether the client is a professional athlete or your average 9-5’er, it  is critical with kettlebells that these points are addressed before working out and  designing a course. You have to know the raw materials you are working with, or it  can potentially lead to disappointment in the student when they cant achieve their  goals or get frustrated by existing physical limitations.

Here in Japan, most of my clients don’t stretch enough, partly due to extremely busy lifestyles and long work hours here in Japan. I generally try to give them a simple routine that they can do daily, at times fitting small exercise/stretching sets into the existing day job when breaks occur and there is time to remind oneself about posture and tension. Men and women that end up sitting at a desk 8-10 hours plus a day are going to have tight hips and stiff lower backs, so oiling the system regularly with some easy stretches makes a big difference in their overall physical experience, especially as they get older.

Starting a serious/ steady exercise routine will ultimately expose any injuries and /or medical history that the client brings with them. I can thank Steve Cotter and his IKFF methodology for a comprehensive and holistic approach to client care, since we tailor each class to the student existing abilities, and work from there. Some clients may end up getting a steady diet of stretching and band work as an integral component of their training, and bring in the kettlebell work gradually. Those with pre-existing injuries will definitely be pointed at band work initially and then body weight exercises to rehabilitate the muscle and encourage once again the body’s true natural function, and gradually start on the path to rehabilitation. Once a level of stability is achieved, weight is added gradually with the kb’s ( I like to call this phase yoga with weights) until we get to the client’s working weight. By that point, the client has been given all the basic and necessary tools to sustain and maintain themselves on their training journey.

All students this week were really serious about their own personal goals and could define quite clearly what they wanted to achieve and the amount of time they were willing to commit regularly to getting there.

Once the arm up and confirmation that the body is ready to go is done, then its time to hit the bells, where we do a lot of work and transition between exercises without putting the bell down. This saves us time for one, and helps keep the conditioning aspect of working with kb to the fore.

I will video a student performing exercises to give them a before and after sense of their lesson, and mix the intensity of the workout with regular stretching throughout to relieve any muscles that are tense of tired. This makes the training session much more enjoyable for the client, who generally push themselves harder than they expected initially.

The end of the class usually involves a revue of work done, and suggestions for home workouts and things to watch out for as they progress.

The general recommended frequency of kettlebell routines normally starts at two or three times a week, and develops from there. Rest is important, as well as diet and what other exercise/activity the person does to support their training goals. Depending on the level of the student, we can go fairly quickly into competitive type lifts, or focus on single arm kettlebell work and conditioning and mobility. Its really up to the client.

I must say that from each student, as I teach I learn a little bit about myself at the same time. Instilling a sense of confidence in a person that they can achieve their own goals is vital, and that some kind of moral support and encouragement is there from me when they need it.

The relationship between trainer and student is symbiotic; often the student gets as much out of it as I put into it.

Enough said 😉

Kettlebells 101: What’s in a handle?

I have been meaning to write this for a while, as I get a lot of questions from people as to the right kind of kettlebell to use. Here in Japan (and anywhere in the world for that matter), if you jump on the internet, you will most certainly find other brands and types that are cheaper than the ones I use. A kettlebell is a kettllebell, right?

Wrong.
The design of this device is critical to your ultimate success and progress as an athlete. And perhaps most critically of all, the design of the handle is key.

Today I will take the time to explain. I will use the types currently available in Japan as a guide.

The Bad

Ouch! Buyer beware!

Extreme Triangle handle type, bevelled grip. – The cheapest available. My answer- ouch. Definitely designed by someone who has never done kb work. Thanks to the sharp angles of the handle, this thing is not going to move smoothly in your hand if you try anything beyond a kettlebell swing. More than that, in order to hold it, you will find yourself compromising your natural wrist position almost immediately, leading you closer to potential injury. If its of any size/weight, you will find turkish get ups and any other big movements a chore as they just dont “sit” naturally. Finally, the textured grip of the handle will act like sandpaper on your hands, rapidly wearing away your skin as you try to clean or snatch it. Try a five minute set of snatches….not.

My advice- regardless of how cheap they are- don’t buy them. And dont say I didnt warn you :).

Goldilocks still wouldnt be happy.

The Bodymaker– aka- “the copy”. Is exactly as described ( ie, a copy), but a poor one at that and made by someone who has obviously never really swung a bell for any length of time. The handles are roughly finished, with mould seams under the handle waiting to cause you pain and rips when you try to snatch it. The handle design is too short, still too triangulated and too close to the handle, causing difficulties when cleaning the bell to the chest and not allowng the bell to move freely around your grip as you move in more complex movements.

And the Rubber handle version bell- I am not going to even bother telling you anything about this baby 🙂 Next!

The Good.

RKC workhorse. Solid.

The RKC type bell– This is your base, reliable, workhorse bell. Its made to RKC standards which are high, and ensures that the handle is smooth and the bell sits well in the main positions – enough room in the handle for two hand swings, sits well in the “rack” position, and moves well enough around your arm when doing more complex movements, snatch, tgu etc.
Many people are happy with this kind of bell and get great results with them. All your RKC certifications are done with them- that speaks volumes in itself. They were the first bells I ever owned.
The only disadvantages that I can state personally are in the handle design for long cycle/ competition style sets, and the fact that the bells are different sizes according to weight, which means that as you move up, your body has to re-learn the position of using the weight in position/ rack etc. But for many, this isnt a problem- it all depends on personal taste.

The Sportsman.

The pro- series bell– exactly as it says- this baby can do it all. One common shell size means that once the body has gotten used to moving and holding the bell in position, all you need to adjust to is extra weight as    you go up.
The handles are taller and squarer than the other types of bells, finished to a high buff smooth surface and more roomy. This allows the bell to move extremely freely in your grip and rest comfortably against your body in all positions, which is critical for all advanced movements like competition style lifts and timed sets. Want to do a ten minute set of swings? No problem- this bell will move smoothly in your hands and wont get in your way at all. They are designed to help you just focus on the task at hand, hence at any major girevoy competition, this is the standard bell in use. Ten minute long cycle sets, snatch records and the jerk- this is the basic tool.
You do need to keep and eye on the handles, and “condition” them once in a while to keep their smooth surface ready for work.

Any other bells out there are variations of the theme above. Good and bad- look before you leap and don’t get cheated.

The choice of course is always yours, but my advice is, if you want to do things properly, get the right equipment to help you achieve your goals.

Cheers

Kettlebell methodology comparison, Hard style and Girevoy sport methodologies compared

SteveCotter

Steve Cotter

Great article written some time ago but still relevant today on the differences between the two methodologies. Informative and succinct, Steve Cotter walks you through the different styles and objectives and explains a lot of initial misunderstandings about these two popular paths.

A Performance-Based Comparison of Kettlebell Methods

Download the pdf here:

Cotter_Kettlebell_Methods

read and enjoy!

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In the beginning..

image_0093There was a quite overweight and unfit 43 year old who had been sitting at his japanese company desk for ten hours a day consistently for the last year and a half. What had once been a lean and trim physique had gone by the wayside in my feeble attempts to handle my job stress and personal lifestyle (for more information, read my other blog).
Being posted to Europe five months ago was a blessing and a curse, for I ultimately realised that whatever fitness endeavours I undertook, they needed to be sustainable and applicable when I was back in Japan; in fact, just about anywhere.

As Pavel Tsatsouline would say, enter the kettlebell and bodyweight exercises….

And I have not looked back since. With a daily exercise regimen that combined elements of bike riding, hill climbing and body weight exercises, and the gradual introductionof the kettlebell into my daily life, I dropped 10-12 kgs in body weight. So much so that my in Japan could barely recognize me when I got back.

This blog will be both part diary and hopefully a contact hub for other westerners and gaijin interested in exercising in these techniques, and not necessarily relying on the gym environment to do it in.

 Much more than isolating body parts and exercising them, this complete body exercise regime trains your core muscles first and ultimately shows the relationship between your total body musculature.

Its definitely worth a good look at, once you get beyond the initial ‘what the…’ stage.

So, heres to fitness, anywhere, way, any how. Learn through me, my personal journey of success and failures as I master this lifetime discipline.

Heres to the pood!

Cheers,

Markeu