It’s taken me about a week to get caught up with things since Orlando, but now it’s time to get back to some kettlebell training. I took last week off entirely to allow my hands to heal and to let my body recover from a gruelling RKC weekend.
Now, my blisters are gone, I’ve shaved some callouses off, my hamstrings don’t hurt (although they’re still pretty tight) and I feel refreshed and recharged.
To say that I learned a lot about kettlebell training over the Orlando RKC weekend would be an understatement.
It was overwhelming. My mind was exploding with information and my body was sore from cleaning up my technique that I was completely over-stimulated. Nonetheless, I ate it up.
I went into the weekend with a "sponge" mentality ready to soak up every bit of information that I possibly could.
So, based on my experiences, here are…
9 Kettlebell Training Lessons Learned Over the RKC Weekend
1. The lats are EVERYTHING.
I broke a PR by cleanly pressing a 32kg all by learning how to use my lats. Previously, I just worked my lats as an afterthought at the end of a workout where I’d try to do as many chin-ups as I could. But coming to the understanding of how they play a huge role in pressing and shoulder stabilization was an "a-ha" moment for me. Previously, I had to contort and twist my body in "Exorcist-like" ways to get a heavy weight up. Now, understanding how to tighten up and use my lats has made things so much easier.
2. The hips are EVERYTHING ELSE.
Hip drive is crucial in all ballistic kettlebell training exercises and in grinds like the Get-Up and Squat. Master the hip drive and you’ll easily get that "float" effect on your bell that allows you a split second to relax and rest before you tense up again to power through a swing, snatch or clean.
3. "Rooting" through the ground and driving your feet through the deck will make you more stable in your kettlebell training.
Another "a-ha" moment for me was when Antonio, one of the assistant instructors from my team, told me to drive my feet through the floor at the top of my swing when I drove my hips through. Immediately after I heard this I was able to use my glutes more, brace my abs harder and get rid of that annoying backwards lean when I was swinging.
4. Not to get all philosophical, but kettlebell training is a lot like life where you go through constant phases of tension and relaxation – both within the exercises and within training programs.
I’ve always been curious about Eastern Philosophy, so when Pavel dropped this little bit of knowledge – where he likened the swing to the wave of a circadian rhythm – a lightbulb turned on in my head. With the swing, as I mentioned in Lesson #2 above, you experience a point at the top of the exercise where the bell "floats". This only occurs if you properly drive your hips hard enough to give the bell enough momentum to allow it to get that float effect. During this phase of the exercise you can completely relax your body to give yourself a momentary break. This is a small but significant way to conserve your energy prior to tensing your body up again to receive the bell and proceed to swing it again.
5. Speaking of the swing, EVERY ballistic exercise is routed from that one foundational movement.
Think about it, snatch or clean, vertical jump or throw, the majority of athletic movements are routed from that one driving motion that you get from your hips when you swing a kettlebell. Master RKC Brett Jones, who was my team leader during the Orlando weekend (that’s him on the right), said that he has yet to experience a "perfect swing". This coming from a guy who has been kettlebell training since 2001 and has achieved the highest possible ranking in the RKC.
6. With the swing, you project your energy forward. With the snatch, you elevate it.
This was another little revelation taught to us by Brett Jones. Generally speaking, the swing would be ideal for track athletes and those whose sport requires them to travel horizontally. The snatch would be ideal for those athletes whose sport requires them to project themselves vertically (as in jumping).
7. Kettlebell Training has a certain aesthetically pleasing athletic beauty to it.
Yes, another cheesy kind of analogy, but this in fact was the biggest "a-ha" moment for me the whole RKC weekend. The problem with how I was performing the exercises initially was that I was over-thinking things – am I driving through my hips, am I "rooted", am I leaning back, etc, etc. So when Brett said to not over-think things and to perform your exercises like you would the movements in a sport – with a certain rhythm and flow – then things really started to click. The fact of the matter is that everyone has a different squat pattern and everyone’s got a a different groove when they press a bell overhead. Finding your unique patterns and grooves and maximizing the tension-relaxation techniques that you learn will ensure success and make things look a lot better and a lot more natural and effortless.
8. Think of the kettlebell as an extension of your body.
Once I understood this concept, snatching, swinging and cleaning the bell became easy. No more bent elbows and no more banging the bell on my forearm when I was cleaning. Things just started to flow and it felt good.
9. PRACTICE, don’t TRAIN.
Exercising with a kettlebell is an art. Like traditional art, the only way you get better at something is to practice correct technique. What this means is that as soon as the quality of your training starts to diminish (as soon as your form starts to go), then you stop. You place an emphasis on getting quality reps and forcing your body to learn things correctly. You manage fatigue and get back to practicing only after you know that you can do things with 100% proper form. If you veer off this path, then you run the risk of your body over-compensating and learning things the wrong way which will 1) not be aesthetically pleasing and 2) often get you injured.
There were many other lessons that I learned durning my RKC weekend, but these were the most prevalent and had the most impact for me. I’m honored that I was able to participate and know that now I can really help you (and me) take our kettlebell training to the next level.