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.......For over 5 years, Andrew Stemler and Crossfit London has been teaching people, like you, how to use kettlebells.
in the meantime, grab yourself a free copy of my ebook: a basic introduction to some basic kettlebell moves
The Crossfit London HQ and Personal Training Centre is at
9 Malcolm Place
London E2 OEU
( about 7 minutes tube and walk from the Centre of London including a 2 minutes walk from Bethnal green tube station)
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Here is a picture of the very 1st, ever, REPS accredited kettlebell masterclass that we ran jointly with London kettlebells back in ( was it ) 2005
So What is all This kettlebelling lark about?
The kettlebell swing is the rock upon which the advertised magic of kettlebells is based. This one move combines phenomenal increases in cardio vascular endurance. If you learn one thing about kettlebells, learn how to swing it.
Basically it combines a squatting motion with the energy of the rise being transmitted to the kettlebell in your hands, raising and lowering it in the sagital plan with straight arms. If you compare the move with a garden swing, the kettlebell is the seat, the ropes the arms, where the rope ties to the cross bar or tree bough is the shoulders. But this swing is not powered by a push from behind by your mum; the energy comes from squatting down to load the muscles, then standing up and projecting the energy through your body.
The potency of the swing is partially based in a form of training called "peripheral heart rate training". In essence the heart is required to pump blood to the legs to fund the squat, and then immediately push additional resources into the torso and arms to maintain and control the upper body swing.
With the swing it is important to assume a wider squat stance. This will allow the kettlebell to pass between the knees without any risk of injury and also allow more momentum to be generated on the up part of the swing action. The feet can be parallel or slightly angled out and at least shoulder width apart with the knees placed out above the feet. To reduce stress to the back region, aim to sit and stand rather than lean and use the lower back to swing the kettlebell. When picking the kettlebell up from the floor, just use the legs as in a deadlift. Prepare with a partial swing to hip height to reduce the risk of straining or over exertion, then continue to head height. The kettlebell should be fixed in the hand/s so it does not move about during the swing action. The grip is tight/loose/tight to reduce fatigue - relaxing slightly between the top and bottom part of each repetition. Once the two handed swing is mastered, the one armed swing should be attempted.
UPPING THE WEIGHT YOU CAN HANDLE
I have little doubt that sometime in the future, most gyms will not only have a kettlebell rack, but in that rack will be nicely stepped weight sizes, not just the "quite hard to handle" leaps from 16k to 25k to 32k that we seem to have at the moment. But lets say you can snatch a 25k, but the 32k seems awfully heavy. What am I saying!
A 32k kettlebell is awfully heavy.
How do you make the leap?
Of course you should build up the amount of snatches you should do with the 25k, and if you come to one of our seminars we will show you a host of drills to nail the snatch and the clean. But its not always enough on its own. So my trade secret, get some 1k ankle weights and tied them around the handle. Convert your 25k into a 27k, or a 29k in seconds. You may wish to wrap a bit of gaffer tape around to be safe (but it's a bit ukky when taking it off, but safety first)
We got a set of ankle weights from our local Argos for about £4.
The aim of a clean is to get the kettlebell to rest on your upper body so you can practice front squats, or be in a position to press the bell overhead. The clean is complete when the bell rests on your forearm which lies diagonally across your body (elbow points down, fist rests on the upper chest) the wrist remains strong. The finish position is frequently called the racked position. To begin the move, a wide stance is important to prevent contact with the knees during the exercise. The aim is to pull the kettlebell from between the feet to a resting point on the front of the upper body. Two tips for this are to use a partial squat to generate momentum and also a shoulder shrug action to assist with this momentum. When the kettlebell reaches chest height, quickly tuck the arm close to the body with the elbow touching the lower ribs and the hand in the centre of the chest. It is important to displace the weight in this way to prevent tendon damage to the shoulder and elbow. Like the swing the body is upright and the legs are used rather than the lower back. Grip should be maximal to pull the kettlebell, relaxed to allow it to rotate while the arm tucks tight to prevent the kettlebell making forceful contact with the forearm.
When teaching kettlebell skills, I always notice that the clean is the one thing very few people get first off. In the masterclasses that I have given, people get the swing, snatch the press but struggle on the clean. I must point out that a two-handed clean normally gets the bell in the right position. Look at the following clip, and use a mirror
But, the kettlebell clean as an exercise is not a patch on cleaning an Olympic bar: frankly, it's a bit of an insult to have the same name.
Interestingly, Crossfitter James makes these points
The snatch is an exercise where the kettlebell is lifted from the ground to the overhead position in one smooth action. As with the other ballistic exercises, the preliminary action is to squat, maintaining a straight back with a tight arch, swinging the kettlebell between the legs. In one explosive action the bell is pulled upwards in as straight a line as possible. Once it reaches head height the lifting arm "punches" through towards the sky and locks the bell overhead. When punching through, it is advisable to drop into a quarter squat to help lower the body under the Kettlebell. This is essential when snatching a heavy Kettlebell close to your strength limit. There is a variation of the snatch that is technically less challenging but presents a greater strength challenge. The "swing" snatch. In this variant, the snatch is initiated exactly the same way as a one armed swing. However, instead of allowing the bell to come to a halt and descend, the swing continues until the bell flips over the hand and ends up locked overhead. A dip into a quarter squat can be a useful tool to absorb the impact.
Once again, a great exercise, but shouldn't be confused with the Olympic lifts: kettlebell snatching, does not prepare you for snatching an Olympic bar.
Feel free to contribute to the debates on this page email email@example.com with comments observations, great injuries... whatever
here are a few more snatch hints
is it time to give up on kettlebells?
I quite like my kettlebells, but, as the hype begins, I wonder if its time to pop them into the back of the wardrobe with the other expensive stuff and forget about them. When the Daily Mail writes (July 10 2006) "Enter the kettlebell, the latest Hollywood trend and an express route to turbo-charge fitness and some serious fat-burning... They now come in woman-friendly sizes (about 8kg) and everyone from J-Lo to Penelope Cruz, Kim Cattrell and Kim Basinger has been swinging, snatching and pressing with them"... it has to be bad news.
On the whole it's very difficult to loose weight by exercising: it's better to stop shovelling loads of crap into your mouth (which is easy to say, and sometimes not so easy to do)
Kettlebells In General by Crossfitter Gary Dickinson
Forget the hype!
Kettlebells are not the one stop solution for speed, power and fat burning as I've seen claimed over the last few years. I seen a claim recently that a seasoned power lifter added 50K to his deadlift by doing nothing but kettlebell swings for three months. I tried and was sadly disappointed. I find that my grip is worked harder doing snatches with a dumbbell and Turkish getups with a barbell. In fact when I went back to doing these exercises after a few months with kettlebells, my wrists and forearms were sore for a few days and I'd lost 5K from my best dumbbell snatch. Any Crossfitter who has tried Grace or Izabel knows the effect of high rep weightlifting so kettlebells aren't unique here either.
What I've found is that kettlebells seem to work the core harder but safer than anything else I've tried. I've suffered back problems since my early 20's and now in my mid 30's I've been without pain for the last 2 years. Kettlebells lend their selves perfectly to complexes i.e. a few exercises grouped together in a giant set. I find clean and press variations more of a challenge with the Kettlebells.
Hand to hand drills are brilliant for explosive strength and hand to eye co-ordination and pretty much impossible with other forms of equipment. Kettlebell training is great fun and can drag you out of a rut better than anything else I've tried. Kept in context kettlebells can be a worthy addition to any ones training equipment.
Top news today (Jan 2012) is a new report out by Jason Lake in
Mechanical Demands of Kettlebell Swing Exercise
Lake, Jason P; Lauder, Mike A
They compared a kettlebell swing to a back squat and jump squat . In the onlineabstract they said "These findings indicate a large mechanical demand during swing exercise, that could make swing exercise a useful addition to strength and conditioning programs that aim to develop the ability to rapidly apply force" About time we had some proper science.