One free weight to rule them all?

asian-strongmanKettlebell myths and hype:

“Kettlebells develop amazing god-like jaw strength, and unbelievably large gonads!”

Following some conversation I had with powerlifters, it appears that kettlebells are largely misunderstood in the strength community circles. And with the hype and far-fetched claims of unrealistic proportions one reads on the internet, it is no wonder they just run away for cover when you mention the name…
Therefore I decided to write a little article that I hope will clear out a few things.

I’ll say this once, kettlebells are just another strength training tool.

The ultimate tool?

Personally, I love my bells, but a lot has to do with the way I use them and my own goals. Keep that in mind.

Guys who work out with big weights do not understand what they can get out of training with kettlebells. Surely if they can bench and squat 200kg, what is 24 or 32 kg kettlebell going to do for them (apart from give them android capacity and mutant strength, yeah right…)?

First off, when swinging the weight, torque can generate forces up to over 4 times the actual weight. Increase the range of motion and speed, and you have a serious weight to stabilize with one arm.
Then I say, how many sports events last under 30 seconds?
Kettlebell sport is classified as heavy athletics. It is a strength endurance sport of military origins, and kettlebells also happens to be a conditioning tool.
If your only training goal is just setting new 1RM or get freaky big, I’ll be frank, kettlebells probably won’t offer you a whole lot in the strength and size department.

Yet, I was training in Latvia, I saw all competitive weightlifters using kettlebellsĀ (I’d be willing to bet they never heard of Dragon Door) for warm ups and assistance work after their practice. They obviously saw benefits in them. And those guys front squatted 150kg + for reps, not singles…

How many sports involve pushing or pulling in a linear fashion?
If you miss flexibility, range of motion and coordination (inter-muscular or eye-to-hand) just to name a few, regardless how strong or big you are, chances are you will be a crap athlete.

Sport performance depends on several skills and motor abilities.

Here’s the primary purpose of kettlebells: to develop an efficient Central Nervous System (CNS) through high repetition complex ballistic moves, such as jerks and snatches.

What is high reps? As Tatania Potemkin says ” 16kg is not weight, 10 repetitions not number”. About a year ago, she cranked 470 jerks with a 28 kg bell in under one hour and half.

And if you want to use kettlebells in a more conventional way, you can do that too. Knock yourself out.
The ways you can lift and throw them around are only limited by your imagination. People who lift kettlebells tend to use unconventional odd lifts just for the fun of it, something you’ll rarely see in a modern gym.
How efficient those old time lifts are can be argued all night long, but one thing they do is provide variation, challenge and fun. Does your program do that much?

The truly heavy kettlebells, over 32 kg up to 70kg are used by kettlebell athletes for assistance work to develop strength.

A good kettlebell training program targets explosive power, strength endurance, general endurance, mobility, flexibility and strength.
As with many sport, we use other strength training tools and methods as well, including heavy weight training with barbells.

Amongst a few things, kettlebells can help develop strength and power endurance. These are things that are also useful in daily activities.
Does the bricklayer only carry one heavy cement sack a day?
Does a soldier stop fighting for a break after 1 minute?
Does a firefighter only need to be super strong or actually need to last the whole rescue operation, carrying his heavy gear?

These days, heavy strength training and high intensity interval training is the Mecca of sport and fitness.
Yet there are many other variables involved in top performance, and other training methods often are overlooked and forgotten.
If all it took to be the best athlete was to be super strong, it’d be relatively easy for lots of people to win gold medals. A fact that people easily overlook…

Strength endurance has its place
in training and is well related to daily activities and work, but these days it has almost gotten a bad reputation as being useless.
No doubt we still need to be able to move fast for short bursts, and lift heavy things.
But try this. Pick a heavy suitcase, something over 30 kg. You will lift it off the ground without problems. Now, go for a walk with it. Shortly that same suitcase becomes heavy and hard to hold. Which activity reflects your day to day life? Picking the suitcase once, or carrying the suitcase from A to B?

So, stop looking at kettlebells as a conventional tool and method to get big and strong. It won’t help you if you are already strong to start with.
Instead look at it as a sport in its own right, and as an alternative training method to develop other important and valuable athletic abilities for top performance.

To make a story short, oranges are not better than apples. Do you just only eat one or the other based on the fact one has more fiber and the other more vitamin C?
They’re different, so why try to compare them?

Hopefully I lifted some of the shroud of mystery and misunderstanding that surrounds kettlebells.
Now, after having removed the bullsh*t, I believe you’re free to make an informed choice and decide for yourself.

Is it something that can have value for you?

Or you can keep doing what you’ve always done before, that is fine as well.

I’ll leave you to reflect upon the words of Arthur Saxon , legendary strength athlete , from his book “The development of Physical Power ” published in 1905.
“If a man has tremendous arms and chest and weak legs, then he is only half a strong man. If he should have strong legs and arms and weak lungs or heart , then again he is by no means entitled to be called a strong man , and some day the inevitable breakdown will occur…”

To finish, here’s a list of records for men in the over 95kg category. Bells are not allowed to touch the ground during the 10 minute event.

Jerk 2x32kg 175 reps
Clean and Jerk 2x32kg 110 reps
One arm snatch 32kg 220 reps, switching hands only once

Do the math, and I’ll see you at the next Kettlebell competition!

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Filed under Kettlebell training, training ressources

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