Kettlebell training is different from what most people are used to. Ballistic movements and relentless grinds need power, athletic control, grace and utmost attention. You can’t daydream. You must be present in body and mind.
“HIIT” training and “no pain, no gain” mentality are marketing tactics used by the fitness industry. As a result, people believe the more reps they do, regardless of skill or technique, the better the workout.
As a result, we don’t learn how to move with skill or strength. We never take time to address our weakness and movement dysfunction. We don’t develop functional movement relevant to our lives and sports. Instead, we train our bodies and minds to perform more and more of the same poor quality movements.
We’ve become so concerned with how much we move that we’ve forgotten to ask ourselves how well we move. In “chasing the burn” and falling for exercise fads, we’ve forgotten that there is pleasure in moving well.
The irony is that moving well provides us more than the intensity we crave. Give me one Turkish get-up with a good weight and crisp technique. You will sweat. Your lungs will burn. Your shoulders will scream. You will work. But you’ll also develop strength, quality of movement and athletic awareness.
If physical energy were money, why not invest that energy into training that makes you better. Would you burn money to get rid of it? Then why are you exercising only to burn calories?
If an elderly student of mine slips on the ice, we’ll both be glad we practiced get-ups. How much more value does this have than cranking away on the recumbent bike or elliptical?
The kettlebell’s strength is that it demands your attention. You’ve been sleeping while training. We can break away from the “chase the burn” mentality, and bring a mindful awareness to all our activities.
My Five P’s of Kettlebell training is by no means exclusive to kettlebell training. They form a solid ethic for all forms of training in opposition to the current fitness culture.
So, without further ado, here they are:
What images come to mind when you think of the word, “workout”? I imagine toiling and sweating until my body is a quivering pile of jelly on the floor. I imagine anything but poise, strength and mastery. “Workout” is a terrible word altogether.
Strength is a skill. Let’s replace the word “workout” with “practice”. We must shift the focus towards quality of movement and skill mastery. Even better, “quality practice”.
Practicing to failure is practicing to fail. So, your practice should be frequent, fresh and flawless. Train often and with the motto, “last rep, best rep”. Finally, finish fresh enough that you can practice again tomorrow.
As with learning other skills, the real benefit comes from mastering the basics. This requires patience and keeping your ego at bay.
You must never be in a rush to master movements. You only develop quality practice by mastering the progressions on the proper order. If you are uncomfortable with the kettlebell deadlift, it makes no sense to progress to the swing.
Even if you are comfortable with the swing, you can learn more by grooving basic deadlift.
I’ve been training with kettlebells for over 10 years. Yet, I still keep coming back to the basic two-handed kettlebell swing. As a professional musician will still practice scales, I hone my basic skills. For most people, mastering the basics is enough for a lifetime of strength practice.
You don’t need a lot of moves. You need patience, a learning mindset, and consistency.
Find pleasure in the pursuit of mastery, not variety and novelty. You will never achieve “perfection”, but mindful practice will get you closer to it. In other words, do less, but do it better.
The fitness industry must always provide new training fads to keep you buying in. Training methods come and go, but the science of the body does not change. What has worked for the fittest humans in history will work with you too.
Practice and repetition of the basics are the keys to mastery. Avoid hype, novelty, and distraction. Instead, explore the endless depth of the fundamental movements.
Ego is the biggest barrier to learning and the number one reason people get injured in training.
A professional never abandons skill to please his or her ego. When a professional powerlifter fails a lift, she may exert unrelenting effort and still safely drop the bar when the lift is beyond recovery. She will never break technique or form to complete the lift.
The novice might let her knees cave in and her back to round. She may grit her teeth and start trying to hitch the bar. She has lost technique, poise, quality of movement and safety.
You must always strive to be professional. Never attempt a lift with a weight you are not confident in your ability to complete.
Avoid failure at all costs. But if you must fail, never cheat a movement. Fail like a professional and let go when you must.
Kettlebell training is practical and useful. It is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.
Train to improve at a sport, develop and maintain strength and quality of movement as you age. Moreover, train to become better for your family and community.
Maybe you are an athlete, a first responder or a busy mother. Strive to apply your strength to something greater than yourself. This means saving energy in life for the things that matter.
As a coach, diligent and intelligent work impresses me. Burning yourself out does not. Leaving everything you’ve got in training is a luxury for those with no greater purpose.