Two years of kettlebells

I have been playing with kettlebells for two years, more or less this month. I thought I would reflect on my progress with my cannonballs with handles since this is somewhat of an anniversary for me.

I now have quite a collection of steel and iron, some of which I am in the process of selling. Like almost all of us, I started with the RKC hard style of training. Nowadays, I spend the majority of my time under the bells using the techniques and methods of the American Kettlebell Club. I still do some hard style workouts, mainly for variety. For example, today I went to the Kettlebell Club for a post-Thanksgiving session that combined a classic hard style circuit workout with some timed sets as a finisher. I am pretty smoked, and I don’t recommend doing this on a regular basis.

For what its worth, I do enjoy doing two arm swings simply because it feels good.

My first year and half with kettlebells was spent learning the techniques as I was taught, hard style. Swing, snatch, windmill, Turkish getup, press, and squat were the main exercises, with side presses thrown in. I made quite a bit of progress using those methods, thanks to Jay Armstrong and David Cogswell of the Kettlebell Club of Houston. I quickly learned how to press 28kg for reps and 32kgs on a good day – not bad for an out of shape desk jockey. I went from about 210 lbs to 195 lbs. The educational highlight of this phase of my kettlebell life was attending the Unlock seminar hosted by Dragon Door. It’s too bad that they won’t be hosting something like this in the future, as the weekend was a very educational, hands-on experience with stretching, joint mobility, and qi-gong. If you haven’t trained with Steve Maxwell, you owe it to yourself to do so.

The last 7 months or so, I have been playing with timed sets, AKC style, and cleaned up my diet a bit. Since I had a knee injury that took a couple of months of training away, I really have been only doing this for five months (three and two), and not as consistently as I should. The educational highlight of this phase of my lifting was attending the American Kettlebell Club coaches’ certification in June. It really opened my eyes to another way of lifting, which for me makes more sense with my goals.

Still, I went from 195lbs to 175lbs in about three months (ending with my knee injury), although my traditional Fall binge coinciding with football season and ending with Thanksgiving has put about 7 lbs. back on me. I’ll lose a bit of that before year-end. I am finally able to get some respectable time under the bells with the 16kg, and have realized that a good press or strength in general does not have direct carryover to the strength endurance required to put a lot of weight overhead for a long time. So beyond some assistance work, I have been playing with the 16kgs for awhile and have not done much with the heavy stuff.

I have made a commitment to do an experiment with timed set lifting until my 40th birthday in October 2008 and evaluate the results of my 18 month experience. I am sold on it, and I will let you know how I fare in a maximum press test with a weight to be determined and a 10:00 snatch test with the 24kg on that day.

Two years in, what are my thoughts?

1. Until shown otherwise, there are no jerks or asses in real life in kettlebells. Everyone I have met in person has been a real lady or gentlemen, generous to a fault with their time and insights.
2. I want to be like this guy when I am 62 years old, and in 23 years we’ll find out if I am.

Eduard Trusevich

3. I have ADD when it comes to training. “My name is Charley, and I have a problem…” I know I need to spend 95% of my training time with simple, timed set lifting to get where I want to go with this. I have not spent 5-6 days a week for a long period like I should.

4. Although the hard style of lifting has a place, for me, I prefer the AKC style of lifting for duration and the techniques as taught by the AKC. Quite simply, my joints feel better, I have lost some weight doing it this way, and I seem to recover more quickly and without supplemental work (long sessions of joint mobility, etc.) than I did doing hard style. The argument and internet war between the two styles, although highly entertaining, is simply irrelevant for me. Just lift – there is a happy medium and we can all get along!

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