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Sunday, July 20, 2014

One Event at a Time

You mean "one GOAL at a time," right?
My first 12kg Snatch set at a comp, 2011.

No. One event.

A long-term goal keeps us in practice, gives us inspiration and drive. But if there is one common sense rule in Girevoy Sport (aka Kettlebell Sport) it's work on that goal incrementally, one competition, one training cycle at a time.
Click this link for my previous post explaining GS.

Here are two vital aspects of GS training that help measure improvement through short-term successes. First, growth happens over time, and second, technique improves with effort.

Growth over time

More than one World-Class athlete/coach has pointed out the time required for goals such as Candidate for Master of Sport (CMS), Master of Sport International Class (MSIC) ranks, or breaking world records. Some of us have the goal of completing the 10-minute set with zero No Counts.

In any case, preparation for a single competitive event requires a training cycle of two to four months. Most athletes are able to train effectively three to four days per week with control sets every two or four weeks.
After four months of training with a focus on increasing total time, speed or weight load the nervous system, tendeno-muscular structure and emotional body require an "all stop" for recovery. Well planned periodization will prepare an athlete for a peak performance just before overtraining occurs.

My third 20kg Snatch set at comp, 2014.
If a training cycle is planned for longer than four months a peak performance day, which may coincide with a competition, is placed somewhere in the middle to allow the athlete's body to go through a recovery phase before continuing with a higher goal.

Note on increasing the competition load

It has been mentioned that ramping up a lifter's competition weight load requires a minimum adaptation phase of one month per 2kg increment. This means that an athlete wishing to increase the Snatch Only load from 20kg to 24kg will need two months of a training cycle to physically adapt to the increased resistance. After a lifter has gained strength to use the heavier load he/she may begin a productive training cycle with short sets (2 minutes, for example) at the goal pacing.

For lifters training with double kettlebell loads, one step up adds 4kg to the total load. An adaptation period of four months or longer is realistic for an increase from 2x20kg to 2x24kg. Meaning this is when a lifter may be capable of short training sets at the goal pacing. This implies that it will take more than one training cycle for a lifter to increase the competition load and complete an entire 10-minute set when increasing the load with doubles.

This does not take into account the inevitable technique adaptations, nor increased cardiovascular demand of double loads, which may require extended rest periods in the training cycle. A 5-minute event with the higher load is one way to allow completion of a micro cycle and get a control set before the athlete needs a rest phase.

Post-competition rest from GS training could be as short as 3 days and as long as 4 months depending on the physical, psychological and emotional demands of the training cycle. Most coaches require 1 week of rest before an athlete resumes GS lifting.

These rules are flexible, yet in my experience attempting to step over them yields less-than-favorable results. Each time I have attempted to train outside these guidelines I am reminded of a constantly repeated statement: Girevoy Sport builds humility, patience and mental discipline.

Constantly improve technique

As a sport that is gaining popularity outside Russia, many coaches are hard-pressed to find correct and efficient ways to introduce GS lifting to the American audience. The workshop environment is the most effective method I've experienced so far for both teaching basic form and improving technique. Even though I've been current with at least one certification since beginning this sport, I take the opportunity whenever possible to attend training events.

Coaches themselves are constantly evolving. For example, at my first IKSFA Level 1 training (Nov. 2011) the main teaching was quite different from the most recent IKSFA Level 1 where I assistant instructed (Dec. 2013). The way each lift was presented, particular points of each lift, physical dynamics and specific assist work was emphasized differently. At both events I gained volumes.

Ivan Denisov's impeccable shoulder mobility.
I have attended several training workshops run by similarly prolific instruction organizations. They all cover the same aspects of each lift. However there are unique tools and specific methodology used by each certification group. For example, IKFF directors have martial arts backgrounds, so incorporate unweighted flexibility drills as core warm-up elements. At OKC they emphasize Functional Movement Training-style elements and swinging Indian Clubs to support correct joint preparation. But do not expect all the tricks to come out at any one training. Each individual event will be different based on who shows up. When I attended OKC certification in 2013 we were instructed by none other than Denis Vasilev! Denis is known for his specific form refinements and post-work stretching. Clearly there is no one way to teach Girevoy Sport. The way it is learned is entirely based on the athlete.

For athletes who have previous experience with gymnastics, wrestling or possibly yoga, the shoulder and hip flexibility demands are minor. For anyone endeavoring to master the sport, if you cannot already do a full bodyweight rotation around your shoulders, you may run into some lockout and fixation issues. Apparently any Russian playground is equipped with monkey bars as primary apparatus, thus many Russian athletes are already mobile in this joint from a young age.

Actively learn the lift while preparing for an event

Every time I've really succeeded with an event I continually shaved off inefficiency from my technique and put extra effort into lift-specific mobility. I put time into studying the performances of high-level athletes and visualized my own lifts with more efficient patterns. I did the tedious work of taking video of warm-up sets to confirm that I had included technique nuances, and watched my training videos as if I were my own judge.

The first week of a new training cycle is the most opportune time to evaluate previous performances for necessary corrections. Especially if the new cycle involves a lift that has not been practiced for some time (ie. the lifter is switching from Long Cycle to Biathlon), this first week is ideal for making tweaks before the training gets intense.

These rules are not flexible. As it has been said many times by many experienced teachers, you will perform the way you have practiced. Technique improvement is the real art in Girevoy Sport. We need our coaches and fellow-lifters to help us see where improvements are necessary, but in the end anyone who really wants the results will forge his or her own lift.

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