Thef graze in peace on grass. You hunt on cement.
-Irwin Shaw, Bread upon the Waters
Since before the days of undefeatable Ivan Poddubny, Russian wrestlers have done a lion's share of their conditioning with kettlebells—do not believe for a minute that bodyweight exercises are all the wrestlers of the former Soviet republics do for strength!
Ballistic kettlebell drills have some highly specific applications for wrestling. The snapping-action of the hips and back, plus the radical strengthening of hands and all pulling muscles, made kettlebells the Eastern bloc wrestlers' natural first choice.
Extreme cardio action is another reason. Go out and compare one arm snatches with the Hindu squats favored by Western and Oriental wrestlers for 'leg and lung work'. High rep bodyweight squats are often used to prescreen the candidates for the no-holds-barred fighting circuit. UFC champion Ken Shamrock had to knock off 500 to get in on the action. It may sound easy but you had better believe, it is a feat. Nevertheless, as one martial artist commented on the dragondoor.com discussion site, "[One arm snatches] are evil. I can do 500 straight Hindus, but 25 reps with each arm of the DB snatch using a 45 pound dumbbell leave me completely whipped."
Skeptical? Then why not go out and try it yourself? Take a moderate sized dumbbell (a kettlebell will add another evil dimension, so a dumbbell will do for starters) and snatch it for as many reps as you can, passing it from hand to hand after every ten.
When you are done throwing up, drop me a line on the discussion site. My U.S Navy SEAL friend John Faas puked with German punctuality every time I put him through the snatch ordeal when we were getting him ready for the frogmen
And I bet doughnuts against dollars that he is a better man than you are.
Another super reason to choose high-rep kettlebell ballistics for your cardio is the fact that giryas constrict your ribcage, as happens when grappling. You will strengthen your respiratory muscles against resistance and get more wind on the mat.
Consider including Prof. Anatoly Laputin's special breathing shrug into your regimen. Stand with two kettlebells hanging in your hands. Inhale and shrug your shoulders up. Lower the bells as you exhale through pursed lips or slightly groan through your mouth. The key to this special shrug is not to elevate the weights with your traps alone, but with maximal ribcage expansion. Do the drill at a slow pace, otherwise you are apt to hyperventilate. You will develop great grip endurance in the process. Very high reps are in order.
Bruce Lee once said, "There are no wrists in boxing. (Experiment with this statement.) The forearm and the fist should be used as one solid piece, like a club with a knot on the end of it. The fist should be kept on a straight line with the forearm and there should be no bending of the wrist in any direction." Ditto with kettlebell lifts. A striker will develop unyielding wrists, in the process of fighting the kettleweight's determination to wrench them
And if you add military presses with a light kettlebell hanging on the inside of your forearm, off your thumb, you will strengthen your thumbs for that unfortunate occasion when the punch goes wrong, your thumb gets jammed, and you cannot make a fist for months without wincing.
Any boxer or kickboxer who takes up kettlebell lifting will also quickly appreciate his newfound ability to keep on throwing a snappy punch for many rounds.
Prizefighters are traditionally fond of pushups; they believe this exercise improves their punching power. Indeed it does, although not in the manner they believe it does.
Relaxed shoulders are critical to fluid transmission of power from the hip into the fist. Anyone who has put on a pair of gloves and climbed into the ring knows that holding your guard up for a few rounds exhausts the shoulders. A fatigued muscle is a tight muscle. Punches deteriorate into pushes when the shoulders get tired; a friend who caught me watching the tenth round of a kickboxing bout on TV could not believe that the men wildly swinging their stiff arms were professionals.
High rep overhead kettlebell lifts develop unusual shoulder endurance and are not likely to give you the overuse injuries so common among pushup fanatics. Brutal encounters with kettlebells also teach an efficient transfer of force from the feet to the hands.
Where strikers' shoulders need great endurance, grapplers' shoulders need strength and flexibility. KB drills like the windmill, the bent press, the Turkish get-up, and the like, strengthen the shoulder through an awesome range of motion and make it much less prone to injuries on the mat.
The official kettlebell lifts develop the ability to absorb ballistic shocks, which is a necessity for soldiers, fighters, and the comrades who deny America's greenhouse reality and choose to play it rough. The repetitive ballistic shock of KBL builds some serious tendons and ligaments in your wrists, elbows, shoulders, and back—with power to match!
A couple of years ago I learned of an unusual training technique by champion arm-wrestler Johnny Walker. He would press a ninety-pound dumbbell overhead with such an explosion, that it would fly a foot or two up in the air. Then Walker would catch it with one arm 'to train for the shock of the start'. If you want to develop your ability to take impact and your dental plan is not as good as Johnny's, try the official K-bell lifts.
Unless you have an Eastern European trained coach on your payroll you should choose kettlebell drills over plyometrics as a tool of developing power. Sounds like a heresy from one born and bred in the Motherland of plyometrics? Stay with me.
The application of plyometrics is widely misunderstood on this side of what used to be the Iron Curtain. And the typical Western definition of plyos, as any rebound drills, would appall the shock method's creator Prof. Yuri Verkhoshansky. I do not care to dwell on the details, just remember that the Party
is always right. Or refer to Drs. Mel Siff and Yuri Verkhoshansky's pointed criticism of the Western textbooks on plyometrics in Supertraining. It is better to leave a power tool alone if you have no clue how to use it.
Kettlebell snatches and C&Js offer a "people's alternative" to plyos. And to the barbell Olympic lifts. Weightlifting is a wonderful sport, but let's get real—it's an elitist sport like polo or sailing. WL requires state of the art equipment—a quality OL barbell set can set you back more than a motorcycle—and constant expert coaching. A lifter like Clarence Bass—who can achieve success on the platform, without the above—is a rarity. Girevoy sport, on the other hand, is a working class sport. Kettlebells are cheap, no platform is required, and almost anyone can master the skills in a short period of time from a book or a video.
If you have access to a deserted patch of soft ground your kettlebell will help you perfect your kime or focus. Throw your girya in every imaginable fashion: up, down, and sideways, with one arm and two, etc. By the way, Russians have kettlebell throwing competitions. My old man Vladimir Tsatsouline, a retired army officer, took the first place in his age group in the prestigious White Russian Winter Nationals a couple of years ago (and even got paid five bucks for it, old pro).
Make a point of exhaling forcefully to 'match the breath with the force' when you throw. And keep in mind that if you throw the KB into anything harder than sand you could break the handle; cast iron is hard but brittle. A great boxer, famous boxing and kickboxing coach, and family friend Andrey Dolgov has his 'bone breakers'—the nickname his prizefighters received in the international arena for their notorious punches—throw light rocks instead. It is important to throw varying weights, from heavy to very light, for optimal nervous system adaptation to speed. Shadowboxing and relaxation exercises in between will not hurt either.
The next great outdoor drill would not work with a rock. Steve Maxwell, the wrestling champion whose routines you can read about in the next chapter, ties a towel to his kettlebell and starts swinging it like a T&F hammer. A terrific workout for every muscle of the waist, states Steve. Needless to say, you can think of many variations of the hammer drill: slam the KB into the ground after a couple of spins, lower or raise the bell as it goes around you, do the drill with one or two hands, pass the towel from hand to hand, draw number eight...
Steve Justa, an inventive strength trainer from the heartland—and the author of Rock, Iron, Steel—likes to toss a kettlebell in front of his hips, from left to right and back. He states that this drill "builds tremendous wrenching power in arms, shoulders, and side muscles from head to toe."
An athlete from a rough sport cannot find a better power tool than the kettlebell, why Russmn lifters
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