Kettlebells: How To Maximize Your Results In 2010.

I was thinking about how to maximize your results from your kettlebell training and your kettlebell workouts.

I came up with 3 easy steps:

Step 1. Pick a program and follow it to completion.

Step 2. Always focus on your technique over the quantity of your reps.

Step 3. Repeat steps 1 & 2.

Let’s break it down, because although it appears simple on the surface, it isn’t necessarily easy.

Step 1. Pick A Program And Follow It To Completion.

Follow a program with a successful track record.

Not all strength training programs are created equally. And the same is certainly true for kettlebell programs. You should pick a program developed by a local RKC or by Pavel himself.

The reasons are two-fold:

1. Your local RKC can’t stay in business if he/she’s not producing results with his/her current customer/client base.

Why an RKC and not somebody else?

Because the RKC is the original Kettlebell Training System. It was first and all others are essentially derived from it.

You can find an instructor near you here.

2. Pick a program by Pavel (or one of the books/videos on Dragon Door) and follow it.

Pavel has plenty of kettlebell programs for you to follow. They are very detailed and usually have accompanying videos. Enter the Kettlebell is THE kettlebell training primer. If you’ve never used kettlebells, or need to brush up on your technique, you owe it to yourself to have this in your library.

Follow the program the way it was written.

For example, if you have a very little time to train and want to push up your maximum strength, Power To The People would be an idea for you. It’s a program that’s based around the Deadlift and the Side Press. Now, if you decided that you wanted to do the same thing with double kettlebells, it would not be the same program at all. It would be something completely different. Different sets. Different reps. Different loading parameters. Bad outcome. If you did it this way, it would be easy to complain about the program “not working.” But, that wouldn’t be a fair assessment at all for the simple fact that you didn’t follow PTTP the way it was designed and planned.

And, if you didn’t complete the program, you have no way to know if it works or not, or it’s potential to fully work for you.

Pick a program suited to your needs.

For example, if you’re new to kettlebell training, you will want to start at the beginning with Enter the Kettlebell. Or, if you’ve been through ETK, made the progress you wanted, then you may want to try something else to challenge yourself, like Return of the Kettlebell. But, RTK would be unsuited to your needs if you were a newbie – too much information to assimilate and apply that needs to be learned in ETK.

Make sure your program is actually a program.

In today’s “training ADD” world, the “Workout of the Day” model is the trend. That’s a great model if all you were doing was working out one day. But, and pay attention here, a collection, or string of WODs strung together does not make a program. Here’s a hint about whether a program is really a program: It has a theme.

For example, Kenneth Jay’s, Viking Warrior Conditioning is a program. It’s theme is developing cardiovascular conditioning using a kettlebell. So, if improving your aerobic fitness is important to you, you would follow a program like Kenneth’s.

Step 2. Always Focus On Your Technique Over the Quantity of Your Reps.

Don’t fall into this trap.

This is a trap that many trainees, new or advanced, fall into. You get so focused on getting a specific number that you forget or just plain ignore the fact that it’s as much “how” you reach that number. If your form is sloppy, you’re pretty much setting yourself up for injury.

For example, when pressing, it’s easy once you get tired to forget about the basics. In order to get the kettlebell overhead many trainees forget to squeeze their gluts. Not only does this rob you of the power you need to press the bell successfully, but your pelvis now tips forward creating sheering forces on your lumbar spine. Over time this hyperextension of the lower back will hurt you.

Not only that, you have just installed a program in your brain (your neuro-software if you like) that essentially tells your body to relax your gluts and hyperextend your lower back every time you get tired when pressing. The more you do this, the more you will do this and the harder it will be to correct your technique. (Here’s a depressing thought: Noted Physical Therapist Shirley Sarhmann has discovered that for every 1 rep performed incorrectly, it takes 3 to 5 reps performed correctly to overcome the old motor pattern. Take home point? Do it right the first time, every time!)

Guarantee faster results.

Another example: 99 out of 100 people fail to realize when they start training that proper technique, although slow at first to acquire, will produce faster results in the long run than short cutting it with sloppy form. The proper technique allows you to train safely, keeps you from expending too much neural energy and frying your nervous system, and allows you to train more frequently for faster results.

You should always cease training with any particular exercise when your form fails. Give yourself one more rep to get it right. If you can’t, you’re done with that exercise. Move on to the next exercise. If your form is off on that exercise then you’re tired and you’re done training for the day.

Focusing on technique over quantity of reps is one of the keys to long term sustainable progress.

Step 3. Repeat Steps 1 and 2.

This seems like a no-brainer but some will always ask “then what?”

That’s fine. But essentially these are the only two variables you need to be successful with your kettlebell training or any training for that matter.

Of course, Steps 1 and 2 don’t just apply to a kettlebell training program.

They apply to anything in life you are trying to master.

Give them a shot and let me know how you’re doing this year compared to last year.

15 comments… add one
  • Josh Hanagarne Jan 6, 2010 @ 15:16

    I teach kettlebells at a Crossfit Gym, although I don’t do Crossfit. I’m always surprised at how baffled people are when they finish a swing workout and are not completely wrecked. It’s not until I show them some numbers—of how much work they just did–that it clicks. “But I don’t feel like I want to die,” is a common theme. Hard is not better because it’s hard. Better is better because it’s better. Better and hard is perfect.

  • Gary Horn Jan 6, 2010 @ 16:49

    Great advice about the technique. And Josh, your description of the swing workout is dead on correct. I recently did 80 reps of 7 swings every 30 seconds with a 24k kettlebell over a 40 minute period, and I was so jazzed that I was not wrecked but finished strong! Technique is of primary importance!

  • Neghar Fonooni Jan 6, 2010 @ 19:50

    Great blog, Geoff. I love that you touched on the difference between a workout and a program. That is such an integral part of being an effective coach and trainer.

  • Philippe Jan 7, 2010 @ 11:01

    I agree with the above. It is so important to convey this to the masses who have a short-sighted approach to training and feel that only an ass-whooping yields desired results (it does yield results, but so is dropping a kettlebell on your foot, which doesn’t constitute a workout).

  • Mark Wilson Jan 7, 2010 @ 11:48

    Great article Jeff. This should be mandatory reading for all newbies to the kettlebell workout world.

    Josh – “Hard is not better because it’s hard. Better is better because it’s better,” another great quote.

  • Anna Dornier Jan 7, 2010 @ 18:18

    Hi Geoff, love this post! It talks about very basic stuff but most of the time, it’s what people need in their training (and/or nutrition). Master the basics first and then you can move on to the next good thing. The problem that seems to be quite common these days is people always want the new workout program or the new fitness equipment when they haven’t even mastered the previous one yet or gotten good at it. Just my 2 cents.

    Thanks for the post.

    Anna D.

  • Betsy Collie Jan 8, 2010 @ 7:39

    Great Post! I see it time and time again with folks. It is amazing to me the mindset that we as a society have fallen into especially in the fitness industry. Why anyone ever thought fitness was “mindless” or not focused on technique is beyond me. Any elite athlete knows this. That again is what sets apart the elite from the average. Mind and body working together and mastering the BASICS. I know this first hand too, not just from my profession as a kettlebell instructor, but also from my formal dance training. Any good dancer knows this. Even as a dancer masters the most intricate choreograpy a dancer will STILL train the BASICS simultaneously.As you pointed out, the RKC and system and manner in which we teach kettlebell training based on body mechanics and good form is key to providing lasing results without injury or overuse of the wrong muscle groups,etc.

    As a society too often we are attracted to the “wow” of the movement, you know “shiny things”…. Get back to the basics, go for quality everytime and you will succeed at meeting your goals. It works as RKC instructors we guarantee it.

  • Dustin Lebel Jan 9, 2010 @ 10:30

    Good post, Geoff. I’m in a similar mindset right now myself. I went back to ground zero, spent the month of december doing nothing but swings and get ups, and now I’m doing the Rites of Passage as written. I’m enjoying the discipline and simplicity of actually following a plan and sticking to it.

  • Russ Moon Jan 10, 2010 @ 21:09

    another month of Swings and Get-ups for me
    Tested to see more results from Dec. Prog Min
    Beast 1 arm swings went from L 6 R7 to LR 12

    So going to give the program another solid month and just try to hone technique.

  • Russ Moon Jan 11, 2010 @ 15:06

    16kg 5 reps TGU continuous alternating arms 5 reps each arm
    24 kg 1 arm press 224 reps total – 112 each arm

    TGU focused on staying vertical w bell
    Press focused on total tension, proper rack and working on cleaner vertical upward path while keeping the Arnold Press feel.

  • Russ Moon Jan 12, 2010 @ 15:43

    1 arm swing 16kg
    3 x 100 for left and right arm
    600 reps total

    Sucked my shoulder in socket harder, locked the elbow harder, lightened my grip pressure from press “crush it” to more fingertips. No higher than parallel to keep lat engaged. Those were my form keys for today.

  • Russ Moon Jan 13, 2010 @ 16:13

    1 arm swing 24 kg
    600 reps

  • Russ Moon Jan 14, 2010 @ 15:53

    TGU 5 reps ultra slow l/r 24 kg
    TGU 2 reps 32 kg Press to Elbow left arm
    Failed on right arm
    TGU 5 reps 16kg Press to Elbow right arm

  • Russ Moon Jan 16, 2010 @ 14:36

    TGU 1 rep w 32 kg L/R arm

    2 sets standing dual kettlebell french press w 24kg w wrist flexed toward the palm (10-20 degrees) ..hope this helps str and stabilize wrist for TGU.

  • Russ Moon Jan 19, 2010 @ 17:41

    Jan 18th alot of sleep and protein

    3×10 ladders of 2 arm swing w Beast – 165 reps

    Jan 19th

    2 arm swing Beast – 220 reps

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