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Thursday, December 18, 2014

A few thoughts for those new to Kettlebell Sport

Because Girevoy Sport, a.k.a. Kettlebell Sport, has been named one of the fastest growing sports I'm feeling some responsibility toward new lifters to offer a reality check. This sport is not currently sponsored or funded by any major corporation. There is no pay-out for athletes at any typical competition in the US. With few exceptions, we who invest our sweat, time and money into the sport do it for the love of the sport.

Even still, it becomes a lifestyle for those who let it. This is an endurance sport, and as such attracts athletes with ridiculously strong will power. Most coaches are remote/online, and suggest 3 to 4 training days/week to prepare for a competition. This necessitates quite a bit of video and communication via email or other remote means to get the best out of a training cycle. Many athletes create home gyms or work in spaces separate from other gym activity. Meaning many of the aforementioned hyper-willed KBSport lifters do so alone.

Thanks to social media, many Kettlebell Sport lifters have access to community and training opportunities that simply would not have existed 15 years ago. If at all possible, a beginner needs to get one-on-one training from an accomplished coach/lifter. Workshops are very cost effective and worth the money.

Here are a few thoughts that may or may not be outlined at a workshop but will eventually become part of any serious athlete's training:

1. Endurance does not mean destruction
Do not push to failure in Kettlebell Sport training. Save it for the competition. It's not bodybuilding. We are not attempting to hypertrophy muscle groups. We are building cardiovascular and muscular work capacity through periodized training stages. Every Kettlebell Sport exercise is a full-body effort therefore overtraining it will result in full-body shut down.

2. Discipline includes the patience to develop new skills
Some of these skills are physical motor skills, such as the coordination of breath and movement for the Jerk. Some of these skills are mental, such as the ability to quiet the mind when the second hand seems to be moving backward. Some of these skills are emotional, such as knowing when to use nervous energy and when to calm it. Every lifter knows that we only grow with diligence and consistency and can not grow without adequate nutrition, rest and guidance.

3. Flexibility and mobility are valuable athletic qualities
When applied correctly to the technique, these assets are far more valuable than strength. For example, a lifter who has developed thoracic mobility will absolutely last longer than a lifter who relies on upper body strength in the rack position. Another example worth mentioning is the lifter who has developed shoulder mobility will get more rest in the overhead position than someone who is hoping his/her arm strength will endure. All high-level athletes put special effort into maintaining flexibility in KBSport. Just a hint.

4. Lack of efficiency is the greatest weakness
If you watch a World Champion lifter, then watch a beginner, you will see one glaring difference: the World Champion is doing nothing extra, every part of the lift is stripped down to maximize efficiency for the entire 10 minutes. Everyone begins with the idea that this is hard work, so correct technique becomes secondary. Hundreds of repetitions are practiced with extra movement and extra tension but no relaxation. Saving energy is key in endurance sports.

The right guidance at the right time can make all the difference in a training cycle. I hope these words of advice support new athletes and coaches in preparing for upcoming competitions.

I am happy to offer online coaching and mentoring for all who are willing to work remotely (or in person if you are in Boulder, CO!). Please contact me at for more details.

Best wishes for your lifting goals!