Specificity and Kettlebells

Shoveling snow isn't fun, or at least it didn't used to be! Here in the Northeast, we were recently hit by a semi-heavy snowfall that necessitated a good deal of shoveling. The snow was actually half sleet and rain, not the fluffy powder that you can just push around.

My next door neighbor, the one with the snow blower, was away on vacation enjoying the warmth and splendor of Disney World. Being the good neighbor, I was obliged to take care of his property as well as my own. After two hours of heaving the slushy, snowy mix, I began to think about the connection to what I was doing with the set of kettlebells I'd done that morning. I started dabbling in a new program that featured 2-Arm Long Cycle. Check out Valery Fedorenko doing 2-Arm Long Cycle in the video below.

For those of you who haven't been exposed to the one true way of kettlebell lifing, Long Cycle is one of the premier lifts featured in the American Kettlebell Club training methodology. Whether with one arm or two, the bell is swung from between the legs to shoulder level (rack position), and then jerked overhead. The Jerk is kind of a press using the legs to launch the bell upward, then jumping under the bell to achieve elbow lockout.

It was my first day on the new program, and I did a six minute set at six reps per minute with two 20kg kettlebells. For me, an aggressive beginning, but I'd been doing 1-Arm Long Cycle with the 24kg bell for a few weeks now.

I thought about how using the legs and back to clean the bell (lifting the bell to shoulder level or rack) made it possible to do it dozens of times, while if I just lifted the bell with my arms in a sort of curling motion, I'd be spent in a five or ten reps. This was an explosive effort, powerful, athletic, requiring timing and coordination.

I tossed another shovel full of wet snow. I was working my way up my neighbors walkway moving snow like a mini-plow, bending at the legs and back, exploding back up, propelling the heavy shovel over my shoulder.

It took about 3 hours to get the job done, but I actually enjoyed it. My body never got overly tired, stiff, or sore - I just kept plugging away. Over the last two years, since becoming a coach with the AKC, I've personally experienced quite a few magnificent physical improvements.

This has translated specifically into making shoveling snow quite easy. Even tossing heavy, wet snow over a six foot fence was something I could keep up for hours. My strength, endurance, resiliency, and most surprising, flexibility, have skyrocketed. These are relative observations, judging by what level I was at prior to my association with AKC, and after 22 years as a New York City firefighter.

My blood pressure is now 110 over 64, (dropping 10 or 20 points) with a resting heart rate of typically 54. But the main point of this article is that I can use what I gained in the gym to make my life easier, richer, more productive. Shoveling snow is just one small example of this. Staying active in sports, running for the bus, playing with the kids, building a house, all spring to mind.

Real fitness and work capacity, flexible healthy joints, enhanced cardiovascular efficiency, are all specific benefits of training with kettlebells with high rep, timed sets.