The Controversial Kettlebell

Wow! One little article stirred up a pretty big discussion in the kettlebell community. In my previous blog, "The Evolution of Kettlebell Lifting In America", I gave a brief overview of some kettlebell legend as well as recent history - no big deal.

This led to a discussion on the appearance of kettlebells on the American fitness scene, with an account from a trainer's prospective. The blatant difference between the way kettlebells are lifted in Russia, and the way they were first taught in America is indisputable.

Two years ago, I got caught up in all the hype, and read everything I could get my hands on about kettlebells. I was looking for a better way to get results - to prepare every day men and women to become firefighters. For me, this wasn't about getting the big and strong, stronger. My results eventually fell flat.

I was never angry, just disappointed.

A typical young man that had been an avid "weight lifter", could come in and master the program. Strong as hell, he'd press out five reps of anything I had. Jerks and Snatches were difficult to teach with the techniques presented, so that left swings for endurance. Swings with a stiff and straight back that tapped into much less muscle than the potential of an AKC swing. Sorry to say, this guy was usually not the best firefighter candidate. Typically, he'd be too big, too stiff, too winded whenever we crossed over to hose pulling or other firefighter-specific stuff.

Now... along comes Valery. He presents to me a system that's existed for years. Does it matter if it's 40, 50, or 100 years? Russian athletes and coaches, perfecting every detail, have been at it competitively since 1948. That's pretty much public knowledge.

What those Russian athletes perfected doesn't show up in Pavel's books - period. I'm not accusing anybody of anything other than that. Valery, on the other hand, has given us nothing but what he and his coach developed over his stellar kettlebell lifting career.

I personally have put this to the test on non-athletes - regular, every day people; a money manager, a judge, a nurse, and some really out of shape wanna-be firefighters. I've also used the same system, at a different level, on myself and Ashley.

Results on both fronts were amazing. The first thing I tell my firefighter clients preparing for a test is that once they can Jerk and Snatch for ten minute sets, everything else seems easy. And it's not necessary to have mastered these two moves to start training. On day one, push presses and swings get the job done.

My overzealousness comes from wanting to level the playing field. For example, a friend of mine called last week to say that there were "kettlebells" on the TV show, Extra. I'm not sure what it was all about, but it surely wasn't ten minute Jerk and Snatch sets.

So why can't we just leave it at that? AKC is AKC, and RKC is RKC. The answer is simple, and an example of what American advertising is all about. Reality is not as important as perception. It's not fair to the American public (or Valery and all his coaches) to keep AKC kettlebell lifting from them with a sea of mis-information that's not kettlebell lifting, but perceived as such.

No bashing, no discrediting, no taking away from anyone's accomplishment. RKC just needs to move over. But like Steve Cotter pointed, without a solid foundation the empire is sure to crumble. The AKC is built on the solid bedrock of truth.

Mike Stefano