Functional Fat Loss with Kettlebells
By John Davies Founder of Renegade Training | Wednesday, November 25, 2009 12:05:02 PM America/New_York
However, in the strangest set of circumstances in the last decade, there has been a backlash by parts of the market to return it to its former glory with more of an "athletic based" training model. Within our group of professional trainers, " Team Renegade," we have seen the demand for athletic-based training grow exponentially and I take great pride in seeing the measures I developed over a lifetime used across the globe. During a short ten-day span this past summer, I've visited with a hard-nosed NCAA program getting ready for the upcoming football season, watched young training professionals plying their trade in the northeastern United States before visiting a special boot-camp in London and my own "Le Renegat" sessions in Paris. If "proof is in the pudding," then the fact is the public is desperate for quality athletic-based training and the task is for the industry to respond accordingly.
Yet the biggest hurdle in dealing with the public's demand is not cultivating interest but developing training professionals with a sound knowledge base in using the tools of the trade properly. Given that I have been alluded to by many as the "father of the functional movement," I feel it is my responsibility to make sure the public and training professionals understand proper training guidelines to not only assure maximal results but their safety. Returning to the aforementioned notion of "fads," this brings us back to the changing mediums in the "iron-game" and our topic of fat loss programs through the use of kettlebells.
Though steeped in the history of the exercise field, the kettlebells waned in popularity in the 1960's and disappeared from mainstream exercise catalogs the following decade though it is quite obviously a highly transportable item as well as versatile. Thankfully, they have recently crept back into the spotlight. More remarkable than its resurgence in the last decade is that kettlebells in the new millennium leapt from the hard-core set to a more diverse crowd and are now often used for classroom settings and fat-loss boot-camps.
With this new-found demand, the supply side of well-versed teachers has been lacking and unfortunately a number of highly questionable approaches have crept into the marketplace and need to be squashed. While the public gobbles up marketing copy that is laced with tough-guy, albeit laughable, bravado and makes claims that kettlebells are the key to "toughness" or "fat reduction" (ie "your fat-burning inferno"), they are not. They are a very good tool that should be a part of every training professional's repertoire and can be an extraordinary asset to all fitness enthusiasts, but if used incorrectly can cause a multitude of problems that will cause the user to fall short of their goals.
In considering common errors in kettlebell for fat loss programs, th e first major flaw is technique. Within the broad exercise industry, I cannot think of any medium that is more consistently taught with poor technique and without regard for the general user. As an example, it is quite unfortunate to note that in many circles, exercises such as the Snatch lift are taught with propulsion being driven from the back as a lever as opposed to the hips, hamstrings and glutes. While users may "feel" it, what they are routinely "feeling" is inflammation of the lower back and exercise-induced injury that could cause lifelong problems. I have been called into many situations where individuals have been injured because of this approach and sadly I know they are looking down the barrel of long, costly rehabilitation. At the same time, it should be obvious that an individual in a "fat loss program" is implicitly carrying excess weight and often more prone to postural concerns while fatigued. This effectively creates a predisposition for injuries because the individual is unlikely to be "fit enough" to maintain a correct body position while training in techniques they are not prepared for. Point one should be loud and clear as proper technique must always be maintained and trainers who do not understand this key point should not be teaching kettlebell training.
Secondly, the notion of infinite high repetition sets-often with subjects hoisting a cannon-ball with a handle ("kettlebell") over their head-shows a lack of understanding of the science of exercise, opening the door for repetitive stress syndrome. This might be controversial to those who espouse the notion of endless repetitions, but if the world of kettlebell training is going to take a leap forward with more professional trainers, this nonsense must come to an end. While I warrant it is "fatiguing" to do a few hundred reps of clean and jerks, I cannot imagine who would recommend such a thing with a barbell and the body knows no difference with the medium. Furthermore if you are performing one hundred reps, with the final third of the set the most difficult and challenging, you are effectively using your time poorly and could have found a far better way to induce a hormonal reaction which is the rationale behind long duration sets.
First and foremost within the use of kettlebells for fat loss goals, you must understand the client's needs. Though there is no difference to this point with any client, I personally feel a responsibility to note this given the two fundamental flaws in its teaching. At all times technical form must be watched and clients should not perform movements when they cannot maintain proper posture. With this in-mind it is easy to create long duration sets using a combination of general bodyweight callisthenics and my personal favourite, rope skipping (Rope Skip ). The key is "cascading" the set down such that the client's pulse eases and the session allows them to regain mental and physical composure before commencing the next major set of kettlebell lifts.
While the training plan must always recognize the general order of Focus and Supplemental lifts, as previously noted in the Renegade Concepts of Training, it is very easy to build a well-balanced training day by utilizing one of the key kettlebell lifts (see "Kettlebell Training") followed by a round of callisthenics / rope skip (see " Fitness the Old-Fashioned Way" ) for a very high energy set. Should those physical demands be too taxing for the user, certainly the rope pattern could be dropped to a single minute, which would allow a greater amount of total "cascading" sets. To optimize this plan I further suggest adding the introductory RED2 program ("In Search of Power, part 2" ) prior to the main section of the days work and follow with the early postural holds in DMC