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Kettlebell Challenge Workouts

Best Beginner Kettlebell Workout

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Doctor Krayevskiy, the founder of the St. Petersburg Athletic Club, 'the father of Russian athletics', and 'Russian Lion' Hackenschmidt's coach, trained religiously with kettlebells. The doctor took up training at the age of forty-one and twenty years later he was said to look fresher and healthier than at forty.

Many Russians throw their KBs around non-competitively, just for health. Vasiliy Kubanov, from a village in the Kirovograd area, underwent a very complex digestive tract surgery at twenty-nine years of age. He was in such rough shape that the Soviet government, not famous for being too nice to anyone, offered to put him on disability. Vasiliy refused, started exercising with dumbbells and finally kettlebells, and even earned his national ranking four years after his surgery! So powerful was the girevoy sport's effect on Kubanov's life that he ended up getting the job of a physical education instructor at his collective farm.

A popular 'kettlebells for health' movement was started by Evgeniy Revuka who used to be a proverbial ninety-eight pound weakling, plagued by various illnesses. Following some serious KB training Revuka said good-bye to his sickness and became one of the top gireviks in the Ukraine. Inspired, Revuka organized a kettlebell club at his factory, Ukrelectorchermet. The comrades who joined boasted a long list of maladies—but not for long; kettlebells cured them.

Many Russians successfully rehabilitated hopeless back injuries with kettlebells. Vladimir Nedashkovskiy from the city of Uzhgorod received a bad back injury back in 1969, but rehabbed himself with kettlebell lifting and even earned a national ranking! The most inspiring story is that of Valentin Dikul. A circus acrobat, Valentin took a bad fall and broke his back when he was seventeen. Dikul said no to the wheel-chair and painstakingly rehabilitated himself, largely with the help of trusted kettlebells. But he did not stop there. He proceeded to become a great circus strongman juggling 80kg balls. Recently, at the age of sixty, Valentin Dikul pulled a semi-official All Time Historic Deadlift of 460kg (I say semi-official because it was the Guinness people rather than the International Powerlifting Federation who certified it)!

Valentin Dikul

If you have a back problem, make sure to check kettlebell or any other forms of exercise with your doctor before starting. No doubt, kettlebell lifting has a lot to offer to your health but it could also destroy you if you are not careful or took it up against your doctor's advice. It is an extreme sport, don't you forget it, Comrade.

Repetitive ballistic loading of KB snatches and C&Js appears to be highly beneficial to your joints—provided you do not overdo it. Drs. Verkhoshansky and Siff state in Supertraining, "...joints subjected to heavy impact are relatively free of osteoarthritis in old age and those subjected to much lower loading experience a greater incidence of osteoarthritis and cartilage fibrillation." After a long list of references, they continue: "Dr. Mark Swanepoel at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, pointed out that, as one progresses up the lower extremity, from the ankle, to the knee, the hip and finally to the lumbar spine, so the extent of fibrillation increases at any given age. It appears that the cartilage of joints subjected to regular impulsive loading with relatively high contact stresses is mechanically much stiffer and better adapted to withstand the exceptional loading of running and jumping than the softer cartilage associated with low loading. Thus, joint cartilage subjected to regular repetitive loading remains healthy and copes very well with impulsive loads, whereas cartilage that is heavily loaded infrequently softens. the collagen network loses its cohesion and the cartilage deteriorates (Swanepoel, 1998)."

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Through mutual friend, powerlifting champion and WashingtonPost.com columnist Marty Gallagher, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Len Schwartz, M.D. The inventor of Heavyhands® is a man who—at an age when most guys consider reaching for the remote to be heavy exertion—can knock off one arm chins and other equally impressive feats. Len sports a GQ physique, to boot.

Dr. Schwartz conducted in-depth research at the Human Energy Laboratory, University of Pittsburgh, on the training effects of what he calls Panaerobic® exercise—where you combine hand weights with walking and various other forms of movement.

Dr. Schwartz reported spectacular fat loss from his type of exercise and rightfully referred to his method as "the premier method for controlling body composition". Again, it makes sense that kettlebell lifting has the same effect. No guesses here; I have seen it time and time again in the old country. It works just as well on this side of what used to be the Iron Curtain. Comrade Jason Clower recently reported on the dragondoor.com forum that his metabolism went through the roof with near daily kettlebell training. The desperate chap could not get enough food, especially meat, and was asking what he should do 'to feed the furnace'.

The fat loss power of kettlebells is explained by the extremely high metabolic cost of throwing a weight around combined with the fat burning effect of the growth hormone stimulated by such exercise.

The author of Manly Weight Loss, top strength coach Charles Poliquin, explains:

"Here's the idea: If you generate a lot of lactic acid during your weight-lifting sets, your body will then produce more growth hormone. Growth hormone helps your body release fatty acids from your fat cells, which you then use for energy. Result: You get muscle from lifting weights, and you lose fat. For most guys, the net result will be lost weight, without having to run a mile or take a single

Spinning class. To make this work, though, you have to rethink the way you lift. If your idea of a workout is going into the gym and pushing out a few bench presses, then dissecting the latest ballgame with your buddies between sets, you'll find Poliquin's workout techniques a total shock. To generate enough lactic acid to promote fat loss, you have to extend your sets to about a minute, then rest for a minute, then move on to your next set. (Nobody said it was easier than aerobics.)"

One of the effects of Dr. Schwartz's combined exercise was a remarkable decrease in the trainees' heart rates. Even in experienced runners whose RPMs had stabilized decades ago. As for untrained people, their resting heart rats plummeted by 25 BPMs after only five weeks of training! Dr. S' own motor beats a bare 35 beats per minute. It stands to reason that high rep kettlebell drills have a similar effect.

So, why bother?

I recall dozens of minivans with lousy four cylinders waiting for a tow in the mountains and deserts when my wife Julie and I drove from Minnesota to California. Meanwhile V-8s cruised by without overheating. By the same token, people with a high heart rate are at risk of 'overheating' while many studies and common sense suggest that a slower heart rate is a healthier heart rate.

Dr. Schwartz explains that "a slow heart rate is a more effective heart-muscle supplier and safer than a fast heart. Why? Because the heart muscle fibers receive their oxygen-rich blood between beats; essentially, a slower hear rate means more opportunity for the heart itself to receive life-giving oxygen. If you choose a fast, sedentary heart rate over a slower trained one, you're also opting for a dangerously fast heart if you should forget yourself long enough to chase a bus!" warns the author of The Heavyhands Walking Book.

HHY KETTLEBELLS?

Before embarking on a KB program, naturally you have to get a pair of kettlebells. The detective from a popular Russian thriller decides to become a better man, buys a kettlebell, and tries to sneak it into his office so he could work out after the hours. As he is huffing and puffing up the stairs, another cop sees him and raises his eyebrows: "Evidence?" —"No, private property."

Ironically, this property is hard to come by in the American land of milk and honey. As Dr. Randall Strossen, the editor of MILO: A Journal for Serious Strength Athletes, observed, it is easier to find honest arm measurements than a kettlebell. Not any more. Dragon Door is now offering kettlebells cast off the original Russian molds.

There are plenty of reasons to choose the K-bells over the mainstream equipment and methods, or at least to add them to your regimen.

K-bells are a greater challenge than dumbbells and barbells, not even to mention the wussy machines. Try to balance that mean hunk of iron— especially if you tackle the bottoms up drills!

KBs are suitable for men and women (we are planning to manufacture 8kg and 4kg kettlebells for ladies), young and old—as long as they are tough and have no health restrictions. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Champion Steve Maxwell's son Zack started kettlebells at age twelve. Last time I looked, my father was sixty-four— and still going strong with his KB's.

Valentin Dikul

Kettlebells are perfect for individual or group training, for example in military and law enforcement academies or athletic teams.

Giryas give the 'working class' answer to elitist weightlifting. You do not need expensive weights—an Ivanko barbell can cost as much as a motorcycle— platforms, and expert coaching. Just a 'people's' kettlebell, this book, and a few square feet of space.

Kettleweights are also the working class alternative to plyometrics.

A KB is a great tool for improving an athlete's ability to expertly absorb shocks. When that thing flips over you had better have your act together! Or else.

Obviously all these benefits make kettlebells the logical choice for any sports, football, basketball, even soccer. A soccer player commented on one-arm snatches on the dragondoor.com discussion site, "This has been a terrific exercise in respect to adding snap to my movements and ability to absorb contact."

Giryas are outstanding grip developers, especially if you do plenty of repetition snatches and add the bottoms up cleans and presses to your regimen.

"Nobody does it better, it makes me feel sad for the rest." The James Bond theme song might as well have been written about the kettlebells' effect on promoting shoulder and hip flexibility.

They may be uncompromisingly hardcore, but kettlebells are still the best bet against traditional chrome-plated equipment, for building best-at-show muscles, like biceps and pecs.

The KB is a highly effective tool for strengthening the connective tissues, especially in the back. Many bad backs have been fixed with this deceptively crude looking tool, including the broken back of the man who would become one of the world's strongest. Remember to get your doctor's approval first.

Kettlebells are much less expensive than fancy-schmancy treadmills and home gyms. They are virtually indestructible and take up very little space. More importantly, although many pieces of equipment claim to promote 'all-around fitness' only the K-bells deliver: strength, explosiveness, flexibility, endurance, and fat loss without the dishonor of dieting and aerobics, all in one tight package.

Last but not least is 'the dinosaur factor'. Kettlebells—as brutish and unforgiving as Stonehenge rocks—are your escape from the sad world of soft hands and namby-pamby, lesser men.

In a1930s classic Russian novel, The Golden Taurus by Ilf and Petrov, two small timers after a quick ruble search through the modest household of a man they suspect of being a millionaire. Finally the dorks steal his kettlebell and saw it in half hoping it is cast of pure gold. There is no gold inside the kettlebell. Only raw power, android work capacity, and an immortal's ability to tolerate physical punishment. Moscow trusts no tears.

the PRDGRRin minimum

When the Communists were plotting their coup on the verge of the XX century, they had a program maximum, for total domination—and a program minimum, for the most important and immediate concerns.

You may be set on rippling muscles and global domination. Fine, when you succeed, I insist you appoint me your Minister of Pain.

But if you will settle for:

• a heart and lungs that would make Dr. Cooper proud

• and bones invincible to osteoporosis and most other ailments then, here is your program-minimum.

Get a light dumbbell, say ten pounds for an average lady and two to three times as much for a gentleman, and do one arm snatches two to three times a week followed by ab work and back and hamstring stretches. Do as much as you can stand; the sets, reps, and rest periods are up to you. Just make sure to have your heart checked beforehand and slowly ease into the program. And do not forget to synchronize your breathing with your movement, otherwise you will wilt in no time flat.

The one arm snatch will work as many muscles as a single exercise could. It strengthens the back, from the tips of your traps all the way down to your butt, every bit as well as the deadlift.

If you were to pick a second exercise, make it the bent press or a similar drill. I agree with York Barbell Company founder, Bob Hoffman who wrote before World War II, "To build a superman, slow movements and quick lifts are required. I have a fondness for two particular lifts. The two hands snatch and the bent press. The two hands snatch. is the best single exercise in existence when practiced as a repetition movement in various forms [read the one-arm snatch —P.T.]. The bent press brings into play every muscle of your physique and builds superstrength through all the body.

"...if you desire improved strength and better bodily proportions," continues Hoffman forcefully, " these two lifts should be part of your training regime. If no other exercises were practiced, just the bent press and exercises that lead up to it [read the windmill, the side press, etc. -P.T.], and the two hands snatch and exercises which build proficiency in its performance [such as snatch pulls -P.T.] you would become a superman. For men who practice these lifts are superpowerful, possess great bodily strength and all around athletic ability.

There are many good exercises. Most of them have merit. But a man could build a beautiful body, ideal proportions, and great physical ability if he did nothing in the exercise line except the bent press—and exercises which lead to proficiency in it and the two hands snatch—with the exercises that build ability in that quick lift.

I can't urge you too strongly to include both of these lifts in your training program."

Comrade, if you are ambitious and not afraid to flex your muscles and your brain, the kettlebell program-maximum will be revealed to you in the next chapter.

You'll own an awesome physique, ready for almost anything life could throw at you—even the authentic Russian sport of wrestling bears. No joke, it was huge in the XVI and XVII centuries until Tsar Alexis Romanov outlawed this first extreme sport by a special decree in 1648. A small space was surrounded by a wooden wall and then by fans. A bear was released into the enclosure. Then a man would join him and start irritating the beast with a drum or some annoying, ethnic musical instrument, until the bear got mad and attacked. According to scientists A. Vorobyev and Y. Sorokin, who researched ancient chronicles, more often than not the man won.

THE HUESIRfl HETTLEBELL

EHRLLEflGE UIDRHDlJTs THE PRDGRRin-niRXiniUni

To make the individual uncomfortable that is my task

—Friedrich Nietsche

"I mistrust all systematizers and I avoid them," wrote Friedrich Nietzsche. "The will to a system is a lack of integrity."

The German philosopher would have hit it off Trofim Lomakin, a world champion weightlifter from the 1950s. A square jawed Siberian, Lomakin would barely show up at the gym once or twice a week, mostly to check in with his boss. Then, three months before a USSR or a world championship, TL would kick up his training into high gear—and win. Lomakin remained world class for ten years, well into his thirties. "I have not met another athlete with such an animal instinct for the load," recalls his teammate great Yuri Vlasov. "Lomakin was not interested in spread sheets and charts but picked ideal training loads without fail. He made fun of my calculations and of everyone who participated in my experiments. Tete-a-tete he would always say, "Get them away from you!.."

Who is right? The bean counter or the wild card? Lomakin was a great athlete, so was Vlasov. "Science does not begin until you start taking measurements," said Russian chemist Dmitriy Mendeleyev, the author of the periodic table of elements. Yuri Vlasov, who teamed up with the great scientist Dr. Leonid Matveyev and coach extraordinaire Suren Bogdasarov, took this wisdom to heart. In 1958-1962 they paved the high road for Russian power sports by giving them a mathematical foundation.

It is hard to say what is right for you. If you prefer a structured routine, you will find more than one elsewhere in this book, from the simple armed forces schedules to the highly complicated ones from the Weightlifting Yearbook. If you are more of a free spirit or your lifestyle does not allow for a well planned out routine—I will give you my free style program borne out of necessity when I was in the military. Sometimes I would train in the aforementioned frozen cave. At other times it was ninety-degree heat in the sushilka, a room dedicated to drying boots and foot wraps (the low-tech alternative to socks that the Russian army digs)—with but two hours of sleep.

Obviously I had to adapt my training to the surprises life in uniform would throw at me. Following is a set of flexible guidelines that worked very well in spite of the terrible training conditions.

«su The Top Ten JSgf^ Russian Ketttebell HP^ Challenge Training

Guidelines

1. Train 2-7 times a week. Try to complete your workout in 45 min or less. Vary the length of your workouts, for example Monday 30 min, Tuesday 45 min, Wednesday 20 min, Thursday off, Friday 35 min.

2. Each session do as few or as many exercises as you wish but do not work equally hard on every one of them. For example, on Monday do a lot of sets of the bent press, on Tuesday skip the bent press or take it easy and work hard on snatches, etc. Do not be overly pedantic about the order. Just do not do one pet feat at the expense of everything else all the time. Also, do not be afraid to make some workouts relatively easier than others.

3. Perform your exercises in a circuit. Allow at least a few minutes of rest between the sets; do not rush if your focus is strength. Compress the rest periods to favor endurance, muscular and cardiovascular, over strength. Do not practice exercises which require great coordination, e.g. the bent press, if you choose brief rest periods.

4. The order of the drills in the rotation is up to you but it is a good idea to alternate harder and easier (for you) exercises and/or sets. For example, do a set of five reps in the difficult military press, then ten reps in the relatively easy two-arm snatch pull.

5. Start your practice with the most technically demanding exercises, e.g. the two hands anyhow. Do not engage in any endurance activities before your kettlebell practice.

6. The total number of sets is up to you, anywhere from three to as many as twenty sets per exercise are acceptable but should be varied.

7. Never go to failure but vary the difficulty of your sets. For example, your estimated best in the side press is four reps. Some sets do one or two reps, others three. Play by the seat of your pants.

8. Generally perform no more than five reps per set in various presses and side bends. It is better to increase the difficulty by upgrading to a heavier kettlebell, selecting a more difficult press (e.g. the military rather than the side press), moving slower, pausing at different points of the lift, compressing the rest periods between the sets, or performing more sets of five reps. Use the above techniques by themselves or in any sensible combination.

9. Snatches, cleans and jerks can be performed for any number of repetitions, from one to hundreds. Leave all the sets of more than ten reps for the very end of the workout to avoid their negative effect on your presses. The exception is when your presses have become too easy and you have not saved up for a heavier kettlebell yet. Understand that performing strength drills on the background of pronounced fatigue is only marginally effective.

10. Periodically speed up or slow down the movement from the comfortable pace. For example, snatch at the limit of your explosiveness or at a near stall. When pressing, lowering the kettlebell fast but lifting it slow or vice versa is an option. If you have been following the Power to the People! workout, alternate a 2-4 week period of kettlebell training with a PTP cycle.

4 few explanations are in order.

1. Train 2-7 times a week. Try to complete your workout in 45 min or less. Vary the length of your workouts, for example Monday 30 min, Tuesday 45 min, Wednesday 20 min, Thursday off, Friday 35 min.

Most gireviks train three to four times a week but you have some leeway. You can make great gains on just two weekly workouts. But if you are in the military or law enforcement or you are a serious athlete you will be better off training daily; you will get a lot less sore. Naturally, do less than you would if you trained less frequently.

Regarding the duration, in the beginning you may be shot in less than ten minutes, so obviously ease into it. You do not need overuse injuries in your shoulders, elbows, or elsewhere. Use your head. Breaking up the length of your sessions makes it easier to adapt your training to the surprises of your day-to-day life and your well-being. It also serves as a tool to stimulate progress. Manipulating the length of a session is an indirect way to manipulate the training load. Varying the latter from day to day helps to make quicker progress, according to Russian scientists, such as former weightlifting world champion Prof. Arkady Vorobyev. Besides, it is easier on your head to have an occasional killer workout in the midst of lighter training.

Do not freak out about training the same movement or the same body part for two or more days in a row. It is a standard operating procedure among Russian athletes. For example, the Russian National Powerlifting Team benches up to eight times a week. The key to successful frequent training is constant variation of the loading variables: weights, reps, sets, rest periods, tempo, exercise order, exercise selection, etc.

Do not be afraid to push into slight overtraining and then back off with lighter workouts. As a Lithuanian saying goes, "A river with a dam has more power."

A controlled state of overtraining followed by easier training is THE most effective tool of strength development if used wisely. Most of the credit for this radical approach of concentrated loading goes to Prof. Yuri Verkhoshansky. Just make sure to carefully monitor your body's reactions and have the sense not to dig too deep a hole. Ludvig Chaplinskiy wrote in the Russian magazine Hercules in 1913, "Kettlebell lifting more than any other sport relies on nerve strength; its sensible practice strengthens the nervous system, mindless practice destroys it."

2. Each session, do as few or as many exercises as you wish but do not work equally hard on every one of them. For example, on Monday do a lot of sets of the bent press, on Tuesday skip the bent press or take it easy and work hard on snatches, etc. Do not be overly pedantic about the order. Just do not do one pet feat at the expense of everything else all the time. Also, do not be afraid to make some workouts relatively easier than others.

Difficulty variation is also encouraged within a workout. Here is what Hermann Goerner from Germany, one of the all time strength greats and a great fan of kettlebells, used to do:

".He would usually start by working out through what in Germany we call "Die Kette"—The Chain—but this is no ordinary chain." writes Edgar Mueller in Goerner the Mighty. "Down one side of the gymnasium is a row of [paired off] kettleweights... The kettleweights were placed in a row on the floor of the gymnasium, and working "Die Kette" (or The Chain) meant that Herman would start out by taking the first kettleweight in the right hand and swinging it to arm's length overhead. After swinging it, the weight would be lowered to the shoulder and then pressed up again and from there to the "hang" and then curled to the shoulder, then pressed overhead again and finally lowered again and replaced on the floor. He would then repeat it with the next kettleweight, using this time the left hand. The whole length of The Chain would be worked in this manner."

Goerner had access to nineteen pairs of KBs ranging from less than 30 pounds to over 115. You can do just as well with three sets of kettlebells and a bit of Russian ingenuity. Perform whatever drill you have chosen, including mighty Goerner's combination snatch/press/clean, for the prescribed reps. Start with the lightest kettlebell or bells (16kg). After a few seconds of rest—Goerner was "working fast all the while and not pausing to "natter" during his training session"—repeat the drill for the same number of reps with the next kettlebell up, or 24kg. Then 32kg, and start all over with 16kg. We called this powerful technique lesyenka, or 'the ladder', in Spetsnaz.

Note: you are not supposed to pyramid: 16, 24, 32, 32, 24, 16! Drop straight to the bottom right after reaching the top rung of the ladder: 16, 24, 32; 16, 24, 32; 16, 24, 32... You may rest a bit longer between each weight ladder.

Stick for the same rep count—Goerner favored sets of two reps and rarely went as high as six—for the light, medium, and heavy sets; do not rep out with the light bells. It goes without saying, five repetitions with 32kg are twice as hard as the same with 16kg, but that is intentional.

Constant loading and unloading is easier on your head and spurs greater gains. You can think of the ladder as a miniature power cycle compressed from weeks to minutes. Russian scientists such as Prof. Matveyev concluded that periodic gain and loss of sporting form is a law of physiology and it dictates a cyclical organization of the training process. The ladder, a highly effective power tool with serious science hiding behind the plain façade, brings periodization down to the smallest units of training—and delivers.

The number of ladders is up to you. One option is to separate your ladders with some other exercise or exercises.

Changing the exercise order, periodic elimination of some drills from the workout, and the introduction of unloading workouts is also encouraged.

Hermann Goerner "did not have or follow what might really be termed a 'set' training program," continues the old book, "he always varied his workouts and mixed his work so much that one could truthfully say that he never worked through exactly the same program twice. At other times Herman would work through the Chain and vary the method of working out—for instance, he might

perform only Swings with each arm—he might do Swings with both arms, taking a pair of kettleweights at the same time—he might Swing a pair of the bells singlehanded grasping them both in one hand [take out a fat life insurance policy if you choose to try it. -P.T.]—he might Swing the weights held on the palm of the hand—Swing them from between the legs or outside the legs—again he might work through doing the Two Hands Anyhow, sometimes Swinging each weight, sometimes Pressing each weight overhead. At times he would practice also Cleaning and Swinging on one leg with either hand in turn, starting with the right leg when working with the right arm and vice versa with his left arm. Throughout the Clean or the Swing, he would be balanced entirely on one leg until the bell was replaced on the floor."

As you can see, the variations are endless. If you get bored training with kettlebells, you have no imagination whatsoever.

If you wish to add Power to the People! or some other exercises to your kettlebell regimen you have a couple of choices. One is to plug your deadlifts into your kettlebell sessions and make them play by the same ten rules as long as you keep your reps to five and under. If you wish, you could add a couple of other exercises—one legged squats and pull-ups are Spetsnaz favorites—to your kettlebell regimen on the same terms. This applies to the exercises from the Bullet-Proof Abs program as well.

3. Perform your exercises in a circuit. Allow at least a few minutes of rest between the sets; do not rush if your focus is strength. Compress the rest periods to favor endurance, muscular and cardiovascular, over strength. Do not practice exercises which require great coordination, e.g. the bent press, if you choose brief rest periods.

High motor density, or the amount of work performed per unit of time is an important component of effective endurance training. Going from one exercise to another enables the trainee to handle a greater volume of training, thanks to the phenomenon of fatigue specificity. An athlete's ability to repeat the drill he has just performed recovers a lot slower than his ability to do other exercises, even if the same muscle groups are involved. In other words, a change of activity is a form of rest.

The important thing is not to rush from one drill to the next. Generally, allow up to two minutes of rest between sets. Otherwise you will fall into the old circuit training trap of beating the clock—and will seriously compromise your strength gains.

One option is a circuit, or going from one exercise to another after one set. Another, is to do a few sets of a drill, then do something else, and then come back for more. The practice of doing a few sets of squats, then some cleans, and coming back for more squats is pretty standard among Eastern European weightlifters. The Russian National Powerlifting Team usually starts their training session with bench presses, then works squats or deads, and finishes with more bench work.

There may be another reason why not doing many sets of one drill in a row— something called the spacing hypothesis—may boost your strength, but I'm not going to extrapolate on this quite yet.

4. The order of the drills in the rotation is up to you but it is a good idea to alternate harder and easier (for you) exercises and/or sets. For example, do a set of five reps in the difficult military press, then ten reps in the relatively easy two-arm snatch pull.

No comments.

5. Start your practice with the most technically demanding exercises, e.g. the two hands anyhow. Do not engage in any endurance activities before your kettlebell practice.

Again, common sense.

6. The total number of sets is up to you, anywhere from three to as many as twenty sets per exercise are acceptable but should be varied.

These are very rough guidelines. Listen to your body. Do not be embarrassed to start with one set; it is going to be rough.

7. Never go to failure but vary the difficulty of your sets. For example, your estimated best in the side press is four reps. Some sets do one or two reps, others three. Play by the seat of your pants.

I dedicated a whole chapter in Power to the People! to the many reasons why training to failure is a dumb idea, so I will not repeat myself.

Varying the set difficulty or relative intensity manipulates the load for greater gains. For instance, you could test your limit (stop a rep before failure) on the one arm snatch but do only half the reps you could do with the pedal to the metal on the military press (50% relative intensity).

Consider the 'rep ladder', another Russian Special Forces favorite, as a fine technique of varying the relative intensity. It does not require multiple kettlebells.

Do a rep and set the weight down. Rest for as long as it would take another comrade to do what you just did. Then two reps. Then three... When things get really ugly start all over at one or move on to the next exercise. As an option, you may terminate the ladder at an earlier chosen rep count instead of fighting till the bitter end.

8. Generally perform no more than five reps per set in various presses and side bends. It is better to increase the difficulty by upgrading to a heavier kettlebell, selecting a more difficult press (e.g. the military rather than the side press), moving slower, pausing at different points of the lift, compressing the rest periods between the sets, or performing more sets of five reps. Use the above techniques by themselves or in any sensible combination.

Once again, please see Power to the People! if you want to know the rationale behind very low reps for slow exercises. Although many Russian kettlebell programs, including those quoted in this book, do recommend higher reps, I stand by my conviction that very low reps are safer and more effective for drills like presses.

9. Snatches, cleans, and jerks can be performed for any number of repetitions, from one to hundreds. Leave all the sets of more than ten reps for the very end of the workout, to avoid their negative effect on your presses. The exception is when your presses have become too easy and you have not saved up for a heavier kettlebell yet. Understand that performing strength drills on the background of pronounced fatigue is only marginally effective.

Ballistic drills, at least with kettlebells, can get away with much greater numbers; it is a lot easier to keep your technique in the groove.

10. Periodically speed up or slow down the movement from the comfortable pace. For example, snatch at the limit of your explosiveness or at a near stall. When pressing, lowering the kettlebell fast but lifting it slow or vice versa is an option.

Russian researcher S. Lelikov discovered in 1975 that strength programs that vary the exercise tempo are much more effective than those that do not. * _

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