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The Russian Kettlebell is the Answer!
Everywhere you look in America whether at the local health club or the newsstand you will see the stronghold of “body building” mentality that has permeated our society for decades. Until September 2003 I was a victim of that kind of thinking and didn’t know any better until I met the man known simply as “Pavel”. Russian Master of Sports Pavel Tsatsouline has taken America by storm with his simple but effective training methods that have been widely used in Eastern Bloc countries for years. This explains why so few people are open to “the Party’s” (including Pavel’s students) methods. Most Americans are too selfish to think that any other country would have the answers to OUR LIFESTYLE. Russian kettlebells are THE ANSWER to America’s health problems!
Have you ever had a friend throw off their back tying his/her shoe or picking up a box or a child? Each of us has either experienced this ourselves or vicariously through a friend or relative. Could you be ‘trained’ to prevent that particular injury? I don’t necessarily have the answer to that specific question, but as a general rule I have found it to be true with practitioners in the kettlebell world including friends, clients, colleagues and myself.
The problem is that we LIVE in a three dimensional world, but most traditional fitness methods have everyone training in ONE plane of movement. We carry groceries from the store to a car to counter cupboards while bending, twisting and stooping and doing it subconsciously. We grab and hold our children usually on our dominant side. We mow and rake the lawn, dig the hole for the new tree, move furniture and do thousands of other daily activities that we never “train” for. If that’s the case, why would we stick a bunch of people on some hardware machines that have a predetermined range of motion and make them do mindless exercise in ONE plane of motion? Our society has been wrongly programmed through all mediums to seek the ever elusive BODY IMAGE instead of seeking FUNCTION. Society has forced us into a continuous mission to achieve the “perfect look” versus “functional development”. Let me define the difference between the two.
The “perfect look” is the model in the magazine who has perfect genetics, perfect tan, perfect hair, perfect eyes, etc…, etc… Now enter plastic surgery, airbrushing and a few THOUSAND dollars. That’s what the average American strives to become all in the name of massive marketing (or advertising) dollars, right? When will Americans realize that every time we try to achieve the “perfect look” we are contradicting “functional development”, which is the essential component needed to complete everyday tasks?
The ideal development would be to blend strength, cardiovascular, and mobility/flexibility so that we could MOVE through everyday life with ease. A type of “condensed training” with a “dynamic feel” that translates to PURE movement. Add mental concentration, remove weak links and past injuries that hinder our movement, become more durable in the process and you have found exercise in its intended form.
Kettlebells defy almost every “rule” of traditional “fitness” culture where the focus is training the MUSCLES. Common rules in traditional weight training include:
1) Don’t use more weight, your form will suffer.
2) Never squat below parallel at the knee joint.
3) Use a weight belt to protect your back.
4) Wear tall boots or shoes for ankle stability. (They go great with green sweatpants.)
5) Never drop the weights.
6) Always check yourself in the mirror for proper form. (Or to flex your biceps.)
7) Break down your body into muscle groups to achieve the ‘perfect look’.
8) Always do ‘Beach Muscle exercises’ such as biceps curls as much as possible.
Anyone who has spent even a few days at the gym can vouch for these unspoken rules of the fitness world.
Conversely, kettlebells teach the body MOVEMENT by default. Let’s examine the rules of the kettlebell world.
1) The more weight you use the better your form. Kettlebells force your body to adapt to the most efficient way of movement to properly perform the exercise.
2) With kettlebell Front Squats you are encouraged to squat “ass to ankle” thus developing a full range of motion.
3) Ditching the weight belt will force your body into proper compression breathing and stretching techniques that will dramatically strengthen your core naturally.
4) When working with kettlebells, you want to ‘feel’ the ground for maximum effect. Proper footwear includes flat-soled shoes (ie indoor soccer shoes, Converse Chuck Taylors, etc…) or just bare feet will do.
5) The ideal place to train with kettlebells is outside on some kind of surface that you don’t mind damaging – grass, sand and dirt all work well because you are encouraged to drop them or forced to drop them (enter the first session. of hand-to-hand juggling exercises). That way you don’t have to apologize to your wife for putting a fingerprint on your living room floor or in the concrete in your garage.
6) Kettlebells rarely require the use of mirrors during training. The main reason is because you will be more concerned about the “feel” of the movement instead of how “pumped” you are.
7) Kettlebell exercises are rarely done for a split body part. Rather, they exploit movements that require multiple muscle groups as well as multiple energy systems to work simultaneously, and therefore reign supreme as the exercise of choice.
As you can see, kettlebells successfully defy traditional American fitness culture, but let’s explore them a step further.
Kettlebells also challenge your brain for some of you—for a few reasons. One reason is that you are throwing an unbalanced weight through the air that requires your full attention at all times. The second reason is that the weight moves through different planes of movement at the same time requiring your ENTIRE body to command communication and awareness. Let me give you a contrasting example. In the common bench press you use a number of muscles – chest, shoulders and triceps being the main ones. I know there are others for those of you who have been properly influenced by ‘the Party’, but bear with me. Now let’s take the kettlebell grip. Name one muscle that was not affected by this movement. You probably can’t. If you can, you haven’t tried kettlebells.
Your body must be BOUND from toe to toe to avoid dropping the weight on your head as well as control a pendulum-driven weight swinging dynamically through the air. This is not only a reprogramming of muscles but also of the nervous system. Our nerves are responsible for the balance of our body, consciousness and operating the coordination of our muscles. A good analogy would be a fish in the water versus out. A fish blends into water, its natural environment, and ebbs and flows with the current and its surroundings. If we catch the fish and bring it to the land, it floats around mindlessly until it dies. Translate that to people and movement. If you study toddlers between the ages of 1 ½ and three, they are not afraid of falling. However, quite early in life, children are constantly programmed to “Watch yourself, don’t fall” and “Be careful.” Our bodies want to mold and adapt to our environment. The American way is to avoid hurting ourselves in what “they” think is protection when it is the exact opposite of training your body to handle the bumps and bruises of “life”. Look at the geriatric population and tell me if they move the way the two year old does. They do in the Eastern world because they discovered that BREATH AND MOVEMENT prolongs life. A large muscle bodybuilding collection of body parts type of training shortens life.
Kettlebells are not the “everything” exercise answer. However, they handle more than any other single exercise tool on the market and they will not become the traditional American wardrobe for two reasons. One reason is that they are too close to the floor and you don’t want your coat on the floor. And the second reason is that they are TODICANTS! Once you choose one and understand the principles, you will have a hard time finishing your workouts. Go ahead, buy one. You will not be disappointed.
Now it’s your turn to experience the Kettlebell Revolution!
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