Over the past ten years Kettlebell Training has gained a great deal of popularity with the fitness and health industry. The resurgence of Kettlebells as a training medium is nothing short of a marketing miracle as while they have a very long history in the iron game, they haven't seen this type of mainstream use at any time. However just like the term "marketing miracle" would suggest, there has been a lot of mysticism attached to a very simple training medium. My efforts in teaching proper Kettlebell techniques are to eliminate the over-hyped (and over-priced) mysticism so that professional trainers and coaches can teach it correctly and the public can make use of this highly effective tool. Prior to getting started with our strength training work I strongly urge you to review Kettlebell Training for a solid background in proper exercise technique. Lifting with Kettlebells is not complicated at all but needs to be learnt properly. One of the enormous problems I see within the exercise industry is that even the self-appointed "experts" promote common errors as it relates to movement generation, posture and truly make this a much more complicated medium then it is. As it relates to " strength development", with KB's we have a peculiar series of twists to navigate that you don't have with other training mediums. With all other mediums you can simply increase the load as you develop but obviously as a fixed-weight our options are severely limited. In-fact for advanced lifters the use of KB training becomes extremely difficult in planning as it for the most part is relegated to generalized fitness work given that the resistance is not a sufficient demand compared to other mediums. However there are a variety of options for the advanced lifter and the new lifters for true strength training with Kettlebells that I use with great effectiveness. Step one is to ignore the notion of simply doing more reps. Within my private practice I have consulted with numerous individuals who took the advice of others and increased their rep counts to incredible proportions (given the relative ease) only to find a series of serious long-term injuries set-in. By increasing your rep count infinitum you are merely doing "more reps" and sometimes more is simply more and not better. This occurs because individuals are performing exercises as their energy system tires and they become prone to a break-down of optimal or proper movement patterns. Equally by increasing rep counts to seemingly no end the ability to mathematically balance a program properly becomes an impossibility feat and the checks and balances of program design by professionals are eliminated.
With that said there are numerous options that I have used for strength training with Kettlebells. I have used them for myself and very advanced lifters. First and foremost is the use of "doubles" where you have KB's in each hand. The use of Kettlebells in each hand jump-starts this concern of strength-development like none-other in this medium. For those of you who watched my KB DVD "Deuces Wild" you're accustomed to the advanced stimulus this provides as well as how it can be used in highly imperfect settings (lifting with ocean waves striking) for incredible results. I'll be quite honest with you, as you follow the technical guidelines in the introductory article, with proper development of the legs and posterior chain, the hoisting (i.e. a Snatch Lift) of one of the heavier KB's (i.e. 70 " 85lb) will be relatively easy. However one in each hand is radically different and while not "scientific", I have found that with "doubles", a individual is generally able to use 125-150% of KB weight when performing similar compound movements with a barbell. This is not a precise measurement and there will be variances depending upon level of expertise and experience but for the majority of individuals who would find a 250 lb Power Clean a solid goal, using KB doubles is a noteworthy option that equally provides training in a safe, controlled environment that is cost-sensitive and transportable.
Secondly, in KB strength work the use of training complexes, where typically doubles are used with "shock" (depth jumps) type training immediately, is extremely influential in development. Depth jumps induce reactive strength development by basically switching (reducing time in the "coupling" phase) from the eccentric to concentric phase. Typically I'll use an eighteen inch box height with a one or two foot step or leap off to a "stick" landing. There are a number of variations that we'll go through at a later date with specific training days.
Thirdly is the incorporation of "dive starts" where the lifter responds to a coach's / trainer's auditory call to execute the lift. With kettlebells on the ground (or box) and the incumbent in a "ready" position, upon a clap (or yes, a coaching whistle) the movement is executed with speed, power and precision.
Three great protocols for Strength Training with Kettlebells for your use. In the next installment we'll look into the planning stages of KB strength work and the inclusion of important body-weight movements as well as "imperfection" training to increase the effect. Thank you.