Start Light and Train Right

article by Ashley Hughes
Kettlebell Master of Sport

I picked up my first kettlebell just about a year ago. As a typical American with the more-is-better mentality, I wanted to work as heavy as possible, when a little birdie whispered in my ear, "Use the 12kg (26 lb) bell." In reality, I wanted to crush the birdie and go with at least the 16kg (35 lb) kettlebell. My reluctance to training with a lighter weight stemmed not so much from having ego issues, but from the concern over whether I’d lose any “brute strength”. I also enjoy a challenge. Being slightly misguided at the very beginning, I considered the only real challenge to be a heavier kettlebell. Was I wrong!

Check out this video of Ash on just another training day...

Nevertheless, I checked my ego at the door. This took a bite of what one of our recent workshop attendees calls “humble pie.” I began learning proper technique with the 12kg bell. If the goal is to go longer, stay in the set, how can you advance with sub par technique?

So the question reveals itself, “How can one build good technique? The answer is simple, start light. While I did not have an extreme amount of upper body brute strength, my legs according to Mike, are tree trunks. As a result, I began with sets with the 12kg switching hands whenever I wanted so I could go longer and tap into my leg strength (especially in the jerk). Once my upper body caught up to my lower body, I then moved one to one switch. Within no time my skills improved, mandating that I move up to the 16kg bell. After some serious training and a few months time, I was able to complete a ten minute, one-hand switch jerk set with the 24kg (53 lb) bell. Low and behold working lighter for high repetitions actually built some brute strength. Who knew?

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. Looking back on the workout progression from this past year, everything makes so much sense. Lighter, slower, then longer, faster, and eventually heavier…Duh. It all seems so clear right now, but in all fairness I did have the luxury of the right people coaching me and the ability to put 100 percent blind faith in people like Mike and the AKC. In fact, they are a huge part of the reason why I am now Master of Sport.

In the end, the goal is to realize sooner than later that the real challenge in kettlebell lifting is not so much about going “heavier” as it is about going “longer”. The challenge is in the quality of every rep—every rep the same, every rep perfect. The challenge is to pick a pace and stick to it. The challenge is to have the mental staying power—the endurance both physically and mentally to get through a set. It’s about recovering from hundreds of reps and doing it all over again the next day. It’s about staying healthy and feeling better than you ever have on a daily basis.

Begin reaping the benefits and start light.

GO TO: EastCoastKettlebells.Com