Making the Transition to Kettlebell Training

Over the years I've experienced just about every type of fitness modality known to man. Nothing has been as exciting or productive as genuine kettlebell lifting, the way the sport is approached in Eastern Europe.

Gone are the inefficient movement patterns, excess tension, and sets that last 30 seconds. Kettlebell lifting, in it's purest form, features sets of up to ten minutes (sometimes longer) with as many as 200 repetitions on certain lifts. All limitations on strength and endurance are blown past with this remarkable system perfected by Russian athletes over decades of training.

A system that utilizes relatively low resistance, has no negative phase, with all full body movements can be easier on the joints and connective tissue. The high reps and light weight balance tendon strength with muscle development, allowing greater levels to be reached within a much safer progression.

Forget Everything You Know
Kettlebell Lifting, a fitness diamond in the rough, does come with a small initial price tag. Kettlebells mandate that you put aside most of what you know about weight training. This can intimidate many athletes, preventing from taking the first step, or worse yet, embracing a less favorable kettlebell-technique that's nothing more than the same old tension-filled body building in disguise - NOT kettlebells!

Real kettlebell lifting can represent a difficult transition for anyone that's built a certain level of expertise in other areas (IE: bodybuilding or powerlifting). The body, totally accustomed to years of moving a certain way, now struggles to let go of its stiff and tense movement patterns.

Mind Over Matter
The mind, as well as the body, can also sabotage progress in more subtle ways. Excessive pride and ego can prevent an althete from venturing into the uncharted territories of kettlebells, where his skills at first may lag. Kettlebell lifting forces you out of your comfort zone, sometimes weathering a few storms of frustration, before reaping the abundant rewards.

The powerful ego can close your mind like a steel trap, making you refuse to look at new information no matter how logical, practical and REAL it may be.

In the past three years, I've become somewhat adept at performing a virtual kettlebell fitness de-briefing, and have done so with dozens of individuals. Many of my students initially come in with specific goals, not necessarily kettlebells, but before long most are embracing kettlebell training as the fastest track to the results they want.

You can help yourself to let go of old ways and take the plunge into the real thing by following the five rules below.

The 5 Rules of Transition
1. If possible, find a qualified coach / trainer near you who's trained in real kettlebell lifting and take a few lessons. In the US that means exclusively World or American Kettlebell Club (WKC/AKC) certified, period! Beware of all the bull$!*/ out there, as most of what you'll find is nothing more than body building, exactly what you're leaving behind. If you want to learn to lift kettlebells, avoid it like the plague.

2. If a local AKC coach or trainer isn't an option, get involved with the American Kettlebell Club's website. Sign up for their newsletter and frequent the site. Training aids will be forthcoming in the form of books and DVD's. If at all possible, take a road trip to the nearest coach. Getting at least one real time session from an experienced coach will be worth the drive. The AKC can provide you with a list of coaches closest to your our area.

3. Practice or train daily (five or six days per week). Go back to square one and allow yourself to relax into the training. No longer will exercise feature forced tension, awkwardly added. Move the way each exercise calls for, with a moment of explosive contraction, followed by complete relaxation.

4. For now leave the pride and world records with the barbells. Kettlebell lifting is about time and reps, not heavy weight. Real life work capacity is center stage, with no direct attempt to hypertrophate muscle. Work hard, but don't be greedy, so as to be able to train again tomorrow.

5. Listen to whatever your AKC coach or trainer has to say. Ask questions, as it's healthy to have things explained, but don't invent your own methods. Valery Fedorenko's and the AKC's methods have stood the test of decades. Passed from coach to athlete, every subtlety of kettlebell lifting has been tweaked to extremely high levels. Just listen to your body and do the work.

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