Kettlebell Sport, 5 Obstacles / How to Overcome Each One

Without question, Kettlebell Sport is one of the toughest athletic events on earth. The lifter is required to put up as many repetitions as possible, within a 10 minute time frame, without ever setting the bell(s) down. At the professional level,  kettlebells used weigh as much as 32 kilograms or 70 pounds. Male lifters must also work with 2 kettlebells in 2 of the 3 competitive lifts (Jerk and LongCycle, but Snatch is always done with one bell). In Russia and Eastern Europe, kettlebell sport is usually introduced at relatively young age (I started at 47), and the lifter learns sound technique and logical progression that gets built into their nervous systems early. Most Americans did not have that luxury, and this blog will help you quickly overcome these obstacles, and lead to more productive workouts.

First realize, 10 minutes and 70 (or 140) pounds might not sound like a lot as you sit and read this little blog, but working with that much weight is an enormous task that can take years to achieve. There are common obstacles that some American lifters need to overcome to have any chance at continuous progression and success.

Overcoming Obstacles

Obstacle # 1 Muscling the Kettlebell(s)
In this instance, when we say muscling, we're talking about using too much upper body, and not using the full body as a unit to move the kettlebell. In Jerk, Snatch and LongCycle, realize there is no place for muscle isolation, or intentional muscle contractions (a wide receiver diving for a football, wouldn't make sure he squeezed his glutes before he dove). Just move the kettlebell with sound biomechanics, which leads us to obstacle #2.

Obstacle # 2 Developing Sound Biomechanics
Learning the "right" way to lift is a subjective matter, and this article isn't about the best way to Snatch, or whether you should use a finger lock or not (however, I believe the finger lock is best), but find a real coach and devote yourself to one brand of learning. Do not become a YouTube addict who wants to do Ivan Denisov's workout every day. It will kill you. Learn how to use the body as a unit, and how to rest on your bone structure (in rack and lockout). I could write volumes on the proper biomechanics, but we'll save that for another article (Kettlebell Course Live and Online).

Obstacle # 3 Getting Greedy
Most Americans don't have the patience necessary to build the foundation on which heavy lifting can be done safely. Kettlebells are not just about how big your pecs and arms are, but the strength of your connective tissue that takes much longer to develop (tendons and ligaments are much less infused with blood). This is vital if you plan on hitting the big numbers with heavy weight. The feet, ankles, hips, knees, back, shoulders, elbows, wrist, neck, all need TIME to get acclimate to being under the kettlebell. Work your way through the bells, but don't jump too fast too soon to heavy. Be guided by rank numbers established by the AKA as reasonable goals. If you stay consistent, your numbers will rise faster and that leads us to the next obstacle.

Obstacle #4 Missed Workouts
We need to ask a question before we can jump this hurdle. Why? The equipment necessary is minimal, so that can't be an excuse to not train.  Are you getting hurt in the gym and need extra rest (overuse injury slowly building), or are you overcome with time constraints, or just plain lazy? Injuries can be easily avoided by following the guidelines above (Obstacles #1 through #3). Avoid getting too intense too soon. And most of all, don't get even more intense because you missed a workout or two. That's possibly the worst thing you can do. If workouts are missed, resign yourself to the fact your have to step back, rather than add insult to injury (literally). If time is your issue, the problem is priorities. If you need to work 16 hours a day to pay your mortgage, your kettlebell lifting will suffer, and that's just a fact of life. Laziness, on the other hand, is just a habit, three months of consistency will break that! Missed workouts and injuries are major setbacks, and what you're truly competing against. Get through the first few months without injury and you'll be on the road. 

Obstacle #5 Frustration
There can be many reasons for frustration as we make our way through our workouts - uncomfortable in rack or lockout, not advancing quickly enough in reps or strength, an ache or a pain that just won't go away. All frustration is teaching you something. It's screaming at you that something needs to change - or you might simply need to do 10,000 more reps before you can expect expertise from yourself. The most important thing is remain mindful and aware of proper technique, even if at first you can't execute it. Eventually, the neural pathways will be developed in your central nervous system that will allow you do anything you set your mind to. In the meantime, stay light. A recent discovery in the world of  neurology, known has neuroplasty, simply means you can build new brain cells at any age, and learning a difficult skill, such as kettlebells, requires just that. Give it some time to work.