Getting Fitter and Stronger the Easy Way

IMG_8186I don’t always lead the way in our strength programs. Giving clients the option to choose their strength movements gives ownership to that move, to making it their move.

In our latest program we chose two main lifts, an upper body strength move and a lower body movement.

We developed these over 8 weeks without straining and stressing and supported the program with other exercises. We simply expanded our comfort zones – no maxing out, crying or vomiting!

‘This was perhaps one of the most relaxed, chilled out programs we’ve ever done.’

Below I’ll demonstrate some of our key chosen movements (not instructional) and then talk briefly about how they were trained and how they tested out this week.

Swing

Elevated Rock

Kettlebell Press

Rocking Push Up

 

The key component of each target movement and indeed, the other movements employed in a training sessions was NOT to max out, not to strain, stress and grind out the reps. This was perhaps one of the most relaxed, chilled out programs we’ve ever done. We put faith in a fresh understanding of high intensity training that I talked about here.

At the start of the program, session one was used to identify baselines for the two main movements. What weights were considered light, medium and heavy for the swing, how many push ups / elevated rocks were considered moderate and what was considered a medium weight to press.

This was all based on trialling sets with progressive intensity until medium was felt. I’ll not go into details about how we conducted this as it’s not the purpose of the post but needless to say, we identified medium.

From here we backed off to 70-75% of medium on the pressing movements and gradually waved the volume of the sets from just 1 rep to ladder of 1,2,3,4,5 over the 6 weeks and the swings and elevated rocks we kept at 10 seconds per minute for 10 minutes per session. We gradually used heavier kettlebells in the swings. Really quite simple stuff.

Anyway, the good stuff – the results.

The Swing was tested with the 100 swings test – the goal, to swing 100 times in under 5 minutes. Even though we never encountered 100 swings in that kind of intensity (the most we would do over 5 minutes was 35 swings) everyone has tested out with 100 swings in well under 5 minutes and interestedly, finished fresh and not huffing and puffing! We have carried out swing tests like this in the past, but for everyone, they used much bigger weights.

The elevated rock goal was maximum reps in 5 minutes. Probably tougher than the swing 100.

The elevated rock tested out with a total of 70 in 5 minutes. This is quite a feat – I dare you to try this one!

Pressing. On testing the single arm press, everyone finished with a personal record weight for reps.

The overarching goal of the program was to demonstrate how we can indeed increase our work capacity or fitness if you want to call it that and increase strength too but without ever working ‘hard’. Maybe it also demonstrates that you could still accomplish training goals when feeling kind of tired some days. If all you have to do is turn up, do the stuff and go home.

Turn Up, do the ‘Stuff’, go home, repeat. Simple!

Kettlebell Complexes

Our programming has been building up in 2019 to tackle some of the best ways of training with kettlebells. Whilst carrying out individual exercises in sets of a circuit is great, carrying out Kettlebell Complexes is both immensely fun and beneficial. January we worked on setting up the year with a very healthy start. February we worked on developing strength endurance which leads up to this months strength capacity.

What’s that you ask? 

Strength capacity is simply defined as the amount of strength work you can conduct in a given time. By the end of this month, most gym members and online trainees will be carrying out considerably more work per complex without really having to get seriously out of their comfort zone.

The ​Kettlebell complex​ is perhaps one of the more popular methods of programming for a some very clear and concise reasons. You take 2+ movements (3 to 5 being best) and string them together to execute each movement back-to-back. Simple! 

Without going into too much details, Complexes:

  • Have been proven to increase body fat oxygenation.
  • Are very time efficient.
  • Increase conditioning and strength.
  • Are great fun… albeit a rather twisted kind of fun!
  • Make use of just 1 or 2 kettlebells.

 

‘No matter what your goals are—strength, mass, conditioning, or cuts—kettlebell complexes deliver. This is why they are so frequently featured in training plans by our best program designers like Master SFGs Geoff Neupert and Dan John.’

Pavel Tsatsouline

Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 2.58.35 pm

Screenshot from our Program menu within the Online Membership site.

 

Over 4 weeks we’ll be progressing from simple to somewhat more ominous sessions.

Online members and gym members do get the option to personalise these should there be need, but in every case we’ll work on adding a little bit of volume per week, so subtle it’s practically unnoticeable.

 

One Complex we’ll be employing comes from the library of fantastic workouts from Dan John – the Armour Building complex.

Here’s a quick demo.

 

For all those enthusiastic Bodyweight trainees who are choosing to leave complexes for another time, I have built a routine of short and interesting bodyweight flows. Essentially a complex and a flow are the same thing. One just refers to using an external load while a flow is bodyweight.

Here’s a quick demo of one of our bodyweight routines.

 

If you’d be interested to join in, head over to our Online Membership site and sign up for the month.* It’s only $1 a day! Oh, you’ll also get access to e.v.e.r.y other program on our site during the month including all the teaching videos and resources.

ONLINE MEMBERSHIP

Got any questions, just ask me below:

 

*Join for 1 month for just $30 then cancel as soon as you want.

Kettlebells in Brisbane

Brisbane is an extraordinary place. People living in this part of Australia venture out in search of great days out, great food and new experiences, often finding the bizarre, the intrepid, unusual and down right clever. I’d like to propose the Kettlebell as one of those in the intrepidly clever category.

Since first sight to westerners, the cast iron ball with a handle has raised both fear and intrigue. Many gym goers, bootcampers and new year new body resolutionaries have all ventured into the perceived territory of the hardcore to use the kettlebell (often referred to as the cattle-ball or kettle-ball… sigh). Most without instruction have ended the day with an ache or an injury or a reassured impression that the Russian weapon is indeed dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

Sadly, the same can be said for those who have received ‘instruction’!!! Instruction is probably not the best word to use because these poor victims were subjected to hardship and torture rather than intelligent teaching and instruction.

Most ‘trainers’ who use kettlebells in their classes and activities have in most cases, not been taken through a vigorous program of learning how to teach the common kettlebell movements. Instead, trainers have chosen to use this wonderful device as a tool to beat people up with to show-off how cool a trainer they are for making them work so hard.

(I probably should not have written that last paragraph but it is the honest truth so I’ll leave it there.) 

In order to sell courses for the CEC chasers, course designers have packed multiple movements into their courses to keep them exciting with various movements and exercises. It’s an unfortunate trade off. Cut back on the opportunity to truly learn the essential moves for brushing over way too much to learn.

The real joy and down right cleverness of kettlebell training is not just in its simple shape but in that the tool with a single handle lends itself to performing an essential package of exercises without hassle. The way in which you learn to hold and move with the kettlebell provides feedback between your limbs and the kettlebell. It is in affect, a self teaching tool and yes, this does mean you can hurt yourself if you don’t know how to perform the moves and read the feedback.

IMG_5824

Correct Grip

I’ve had consultations with prospective clients who have seen the line of 36 kettlebells against the edge of the gym and declared their feeling – usually of hate filled past experiences with poorly educated trainers. What a shame.

Look, don’t get me wrong. I am NOT putting down other trainers. We all have to start somewhere in our careers but it is so important to know our scope of practice and to truly take our time to learn how to use our tools before starting to teach others the same.

My process is to teach clients how to move better first-off before loading up with weights. By the time we are ready to use weights, there is a level of trust between us and getting onto using the kettlebells is just the next logical step.

I mentioned course writers eagerness to entertain earlier, with way too many options. Options are fine and perfectly acceptable where required but any good training program should include these essentials:

  • Carries – carrying one or two kettlebells in various positions to develop breathing under tension and torso control / bracing.
  • Squats.
  • Hip hinges, like deadlifts, swings and such.
  • Pushes and presses.
  • Pulling actions.
  • Explosive actions, like the swing, clean and snatch.

The average population training 2 to 3 times a week does not need much more than the above. Add some daily walking and some aerobic activities, good sleep and nutrition and ‘whammy’, there’s a great recipe for health and fitness.

There’s a greater chance of a trainer getting bored than a client getting bored using this short list of moves so professionally, there is not reason to keep swapping exercises every week. Repetitions, sets and loads vary over time as do how the list of moves are ‘packaged’ together in the session. But keeping it simple wins e.v.e.r.y. time.

If you only work with a short list of roughly 6 movements, how well do you think you will progress, get to know the movements, get stronger and more confident? Very well most likely. At the other end, if you work with 20 to 30 variations, how well will you progress and learn how to perform each and every one of them over your 2 to 3 sessions a week? Probably not so well I’m guessing. Keep it simple is the rule.

Confession Time!

I can actually speak from experience. My first kettlebell certification in 2009 was a two day course with roughly 30 different movements that we spent roughly 15 minutes on each with lots of other fluff thrown in too. Would you trust an instructor who had 15 minutes of ‘professional’ instruction on an exercise??? I know I wouldn’t be too confident.

I did spend time over the following 2 years playing frustratingly with some of the moves and all but gave up until in 2011 I saw a Russian Kettlebell Challenge instructor certification was coming to town, well, Melbourne, but that was close enough.

The RKC was the Black Belt of Kettlebell Certifications (and the precursor to StrongFirst), renowned for its strict conduct and roughly 35-40% of candidates failing to pass the testing at the end of the 3 day certification.

The reason the certification is so strict is for some very professional reasons.

  • The association wants to ensure its instructors will conduct themselves professionally and represent strongly.
  • They want to ensure their instructors are able to demonstrate proficiently and safely.
  • They want to make sure their certified instructors are committed to teaching the kettlebell movements and system and not just wanting another CEC.

The experience candidates will encounter will be like no other fitness instruction certification that exists. It will be deep, intense, involve lots of demonstration and practice, skills and tests throughout the 3 days culminating in a tough instructor testing procedure… and that’s prior to teaching a volunteer to demonstrate teaching competence!

If successful, an RKC or a StrongFirst certified instructor will offer their clients a professional experience when they attend training above and beyond the average PT session in a high-street gym. If you want cheap, you can find it everywhere, but if you want a quality experience, look up your local RKC or StrongFirst instructor.

Gearing up for re-certification

As thorough as the certification process is, it is advisable that instructors re-certify to stay on top of their teaching skills and abilities with the kettlebell.  I am in that stage this year, polishing my skills. Perhaps part of my writing this today is an act of accountability. “I am telling you all that I will undertake re-certification this year”. Mmmmm, hopefully that will work.

I am confident my weekend as a student not just a trainer will be fun as usual and that I will walk away excited to share my experience with my clients.

What about you?

I do run ongoing private workshops for people who want to experience a little bit of the Hardstyle Kettlebell world. My own Kettlebell Fundamentals program was launched in 2013 for budding enthusiasts who wanted to learn how to properly use their shiny new black kettlebells. Many attendees came for the workshops and have stayed on as clients, so bitten by the kettlebell bug were they.

If you are interested in experiencing the feel or real Kettlebell training, please do consider a visit to FitStrong.

FitStrong Kettlebell Fundamentals

IMG_6456 3

 

Want to chat? Get in touch below.

Fitness Confusion!

The all new ‘HIIT Keto Yoga Spartan Spandex Warrior Training Program’ is WHAT YOU NEED RIGHT NOW!

Eeeeek!

Okay, a slight over exaggeration there but yikes, doesn’t the fitness industry seem like a field of land mines to battle through?
Who can blame those who just run screaming for their exercise.

And you know what, I am probably part to blame too. I get such a short time with each person per week that it can be hard to put across the honest truth about what a balanced exercise program should look like.

I have spent quite some time this winter putting together a package that maps fitness. It’s not quite ready to share just yet but it’ll be a nice Christmas present to everyone once it’s done.

In short, it outlines the shape of an average weeks complete fitness plan. It’s not for the extremists or specialised sports people. It’s aimed for all of us who want to use exercise to enhance out health, strength and fitness now and going into the future.   

In the video below I talk, yes rather excitedly about this.
This was in response to a question from a member who is time-stuck and wanted to use high intensity training in what time they had in their stress-filled week.
What they wanted to do and what they should do couldn’t be further apart.

 

It does not actually matter how you get in your aerobic training or strength training. Find what you enjoy and do it. Walk, cycle, roller skate, climb, hike – just find what you enjoy and can sustain and repeat.

At the gym these days we practice strength training with bodyweight movements, kettlebells, some barbell work and for others, they get to use the parallette bars too as well as the more progressive bodyweight system called Animal Flow.

Both Kettlebell Training and Animal Flow training have proven their value but what often holds people back is not knowing how to use them.

Heading into Summer, I’m looking to add a few people to the roster and to make on-boarding easier, I’ve set up times for people to learn how to use Kettlebells and the Animal Flow system.

If you or someone else is interested in learning either of these, follow the links below to check out dates and times.

Animal Flow Introductory Classes (facebook link)

-> https://www.facebook.com/events/254622681922592/

Mondays from 5th November at 10am to 10:45am 
Fridays from 9th November at 9am to 9:45am


 

The Kettlebell is practically a complete gym in your hand that allows its user to transition smoothly from one movement to another cutting out time and hassle… providing you know how to safely use it.

I’ve been using and teaching Kettlebell Training since 2009 and it’s transformed my health and fitness and my outlook on strength and fitness training.

Over a series of classes, learn the Swing, Squat, the Press and other great kettlebell movements.

I teach in the Hardstyle method as taught by the RKC and StrongFirst with whom I certified in 2012. The method of teaching is second to none, simple and effective.

The course will include online homework with videos and lectures to compliment the ’in-gym’ training.

Each weeks lessons will be offered on a choice of a:

Wednesdays at 5:45am or the Saturday at 10am.
*** Starting Wednesday 7th ***

Link => https://www.facebook.com/events/2227912690783686/

Note: this beginner course is set-up to allow for a permanent class to continue from January 2019.

$20 per class or $100 for the complete 6 week course per participant.


 

Finally…

My number one goal as a trainer is to help people. It really is that simple.

Whether you want to move better, get stronger, learn more about healthy nutrition habits or you want to know how to use kettlebells properly… I want to help.

I think I do a pretty good job too but your feedback is always welcomed.

To reach out to more people who might like what we do here, I’d love your help by referring friends, family or other business owners.

In particular, I am very keen to work with small groups, 2 to 3 people who would enjoy exercising together.

To thank and reward you for any successful referrals I want to give you a lovely dinner voucher for our local Portabella Restaurant or if you’d prefer, a Westfield voucher.

To refer someone, please direct them to this website to have a look around. Once there, it’s really easy to get in touch with me directly, pretty much from any page.

https://fitstrong.com.au/

Thank you for spending time reading my thoughts today.

Any suggestions – just shout 🙂

Jamie

8 Week Metabolic, Muscle & Strength Program

8 Week Metabolic, Muscle & Strength Spring Program

A Fusion of Kettlebells and Bodyweight Training

INTRO

The FitStrong Spring Program is a simple fusion of both strength focussed training and metabolic enhancing training using Kettlebells and bodyweight movements..

The three days that we will rotate between place demands on two different energy systems.

Day 1: One pure power and strength

Day 2: Endurance and muscle building.

Day 3: Vital ‘Other Stuff’

Now, you’re probably not going to turn into Arnie overnight or even after 8 weeks but creating the stimulation for maintaining muscle hypertrophy helps immensely in creating more favourable conditioning for increasing muscular metabolism and hopefully fat loss.

To simplify, one session you’ll lift heavy with lots of rest and the other session you’ll push a little longer and get a little out of breath.

At FitStrong we heavily promote moving better as well as developing our strengths. With this in mind, the program does include elements of mobility and bodyweight movements also.

4 x 10

This program is built with four (roughly) 10 minute sections, finishing with a 5 minute cool down (either static stretches or repeating some of the warm up mobility movements).

Why? Oftentimes I hear frustrations that, “I’ve not got time for a 30 to 45 minutes training session”.

This program is slightly unique in that you don’t have to complete each of the four sections and that if stuck for time, you build your daily routine to meet your time budget. Only got 10 minutes? I’d recommend just running through the warm up mobility routine. Yep, if stuck for time, guaranteed you’ll be slightly more stressed too. For that reason your body does not need more stress in the form of muscular stress. The body when under stress needs a reset. The warm up will offer just that.

Got 20 minutes? Do the warm up then any of the 10 minute blocks that you’d like to do. Keep it simple.

Of course, you might find that once you start, that you might find it easier to squeeze in one more 10 minute section…. go for it.

 

Each training session emphasises pressing and rowing to develop the shoulders and arms in general. We play with various leg movements and both days use the kettlebell swing to enhance power and fat utilisation using tried and tested StrongFirst ‘Strong Endurance’ protocols.

But here’s the caveat – I’m not a believer that exercise is a good tool for body fat loss. Yes, strength exercise helps to boost the metabolic rate but pales in comparison to dialling in our nutrition habits.

So, I will be providing just ONE Nutrition Challenge to accompany the exercise component. We’ll get to that soon.

I do have an online version of this to be released on my Teachable platform, but if you prefer a slightly more low-tech access to the program, for $20 you can have the PDF version with workable links to video demonstrations. Yep, if you print the PDF the links don’t work!

At the checkout, once you completed the purchase the receipt page will include the link to the download. But, if you don’t want to go through that, once you’ve paid and I receive confirmation from paypal, I can email you the PDF too. Your choice.

Want to keep busy, fit and strong up to Christmas?

Just A$20  Payment Link (redirects to PayPal) 

Any questions or do you want access to the high-tech online version? Just shoot me a message below.

 

Short on Gym Time?

We all get those times when we had planned to train but life just got in the way… hey it happens. No drama.

Most of us know how to carry out most of the popular exercises without too much technical jargon or direction but, the ‘no time’ excuse will always raise its ugly head.

I had one of those days today. Sinus headache all morning on top of two online lectures to study left me with 20 minutes roughy to do something before heading off to get my daughter from school.

Once you cut away the fluff that can bulk up a training session you get left with what’s important to get done.

For me today that was some single leg practice and some rows to balance off my main program on the other days.

 I just rotated through step ups, single leg deadlifts and rows.

 Simple. Check it out.

 

 

If you happen to know that you know you should train often but don’t and you know some exercise technique basics too, maybe you know you need some guidance!!! Ye know?!

Maybe consider signing up for early registration for my new online membership program.

  • Weekly programs and workouts with kettlebells and bodyweight exercises
  • Monthly technique tune ups
  • Mobility / flexibility routines (you want to move better too don’t you?!)
  • Occasional challenges
  • Ongoing online support
  • Just $1 a day!!!!

More information will be released early September 2018, but if interested to learn more, just fill out the basics below 👇🏻

Tour de Swing

I don’t follow many sports – I know, how bizarre! A trainer who is not actually a big sports guy?!

Anyhoo, some may know my introduction to exercise was with cycling which led to a short career as a racing cyclist. Great memories of days spent with aching lungs and legs and a face covered in countryside muck!

The pinnacle of the year as an observer was the Tour de France when I got to watch my heroes of the day. Yes, I know, as we all do that most of them were souped up with a pharmaceutical pick’n mix to boost their abilities… sigh!

But, the sport has been cleaned up considerably like many other sports in recent years.

To celebrate the commitment of three weeks of gruelling physical power, strength and endurance I’ve come up with the Tour de Swing.

Not a single bike will be needed as this 3351km challenge, if you hadn’t already guessed, is a Kettlebell Swing challenge.

The goal is to swing for reps what each stage of the tour will cover in km. Simple. A total of 3351 swings over 3 weeks.

If the stage is 200km in length, you do 200 swings.

Click the Pic below to access a PDF with each and every stage of the 3351 swings / km challenge laid out for you.

Tour de Swing

If you’d like to share the time each stage takes you, record on the PDF printed out or share on our Facebook page.

Good luck and keep swinging.

 

12 Week Challenges

Many trainers will agree that a training year has seasons. There’s a season for pushing forward towards a specific goal and other periods where training kind of takes a back seat, when just the basics get maintained. Both are vital actually. For physical and emotional / mental recovery, down periods of just turning up, ticking boxes and heading home, are just what the doctor ordered.

Our 12 Week Challenges are designed for those other periods where you’ve got fire in your belly and target in sight.

The two challenges I have laid out last 12 weeks each but can in actuality, last much longer. Both are built with blocks of specific outcomes, from basic skills of strength and endurance to more advanced levels. Each block may be repeated until the trainee feels properly armed to move on.

The challenges

The Bodyweight Challenge is a simple and great fun program that allows you to explore a variety of bodyweight strengths, motor skills, mobility and dexterity – in other words, get awesome ownership of your own body.  This program is suitable for trainees with a basic understanding and experience of moving their body on the floor. If you can squat yourself down and up and hold the plank position – this will suit you.

Minimalism is a key component of the challenge. You’ll need very little time and just a comfortable space to move around. On that note, you’ll not really need too much space, just a safe space to crawl a little and allow your arms and legs to move freely without knocking over ornaments or the TV!

The 12 week program is built with 4 blocks of 3 weeks each.

Each week you’ll ‘play’ with three different movements only. I don’t want you to get overwhelmed by too many exercises. The aim is to get really immersed in the minimal necessities of the challenge and push yourself.

Each week will see you progress the movements with an optional time progression should you want to intensify the sessions.

Each block too will progress your skills and strengths until we get to the final block where we really get to have fun. In this block everything you’ve covered and learned will be tested with each session being a flow of 3 or more movements. Flows are a superb way to exercise in a non-restricted manner. No restraints – just moving through the movements you’ve practiced over the weeks.

The challenge will be presented via a downloadable PDF that you can either print out or refer to on your smartphone or wifi connected device. There will be video links with demonstrations to highlight the key forms and techniques.

Should you opt to carry out some of the sessions during your PT, you will be guided through the steps.

Throughout the challenge, email support will be unlimited. Any questions about regressions, progressions or substitute moves will be dealt with swiftly.

12 Weeks DONE FOR YOU Bodyweight Training Program

For just $20 this 12 week program is yours – interested? 

 


The Kettlebell Challenge is magnificent Strength, Power and Muscle program that allows you to develop a deeper array of motor skills, strengths and mobility – in other words, an awesome functioning body.

This kettlebell challenge is designed for experienced kettlebell users. Although reference will be made to good techniques, specific tutorials are not part of this challenge. If you need guidance please get in touch.

Minimalism is a key component of the challenge. You’ll need little time commitment and just one, two or maybe three Kettlebells to play with – don’t worry if you only have one kettlebell, this whole program can in fact be carried out with great affect with just one kettlebell. More variety would be better, but not essential.

The 12 week program is built with 3 blocks of 4 weeks each.

Block one

Builds a foundation of functional hypertrophy with the important strength moves. During this phase we also build a strong midsection and lower back.

Block two

The focus is on starting to master the skill of strength. The principle goal is not to get out of breath but get stronger.

As a secondary component, we do introduce more power movements in this 4 week period too to optimally recruit every muscle – so your fitness won’t leave you.

Block three

We take all the skills and strength we’ve developed over the past 8 weeks and let them shine in this 4 week block. Sessions will be a little shorter but you’ll be using the time wisely with explosive routines accompanied by secondary conditioning elements.

The challenge will be presented via a downloadable PDF that you can either print out or refer to on your smartphone or wifi connected device. There will be video links with demonstrations to highlight the key forms and techniques.

Should you opt to carry out some of the sessions during your FitStrong Brisbane PT sessions, you will be guided through the steps.

Throughout the challenge, email support will be unlimited. Any questions about regressions, progressions or substitute moves will be dealt with swiftly.

12 Weeks DONE FOR YOU Kettlebell Training Program

For just $20 this 12 week kettlebell program is yours – want to start?

 

Is the Kettlebell the Optimal Tool for Minimalism?

Training, practice, working out, getting exercise or whatever you call it can take oh so many shapes.

cartoon network tgu 1Compared to 50 years ago when the choice of health and strength came down to gymnastic endeavours, calisthenics or barbell routines, today we have bodyweight calisthenics, parkour, dumbbells, barbells, machines galore, kettlebells, bands, straps, balls, shake-weights (!?!?!) and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few but you get the picture. There are so many choices today.

One area that has taken the health, strength and fitness arena by storm (if I may say so myself) is that of training minimalism.

Championed by the likes of Pavel Tsatsouline, Pat Flynn and Tim Ferriss to mention but a few, the premise that you should spend your training time on the activities that yield the majority of the results is the way to go. Using a minimum affective dose approach is similar in concept to the Pareto principle or what some refer to as Paretos Law. The principle also known as the 80/20 rule states that 80% of the outcomes derive from 20% of the causes. In other words, 80% of your training results comes from 20% of what you put into it.

Think of it; how much of a standard 1 hour gym session is actually worth the time and effort? All the fiddling around with one body part movements take up valuable time instead of just completing one big compound exercise. You might think that more is better in regards to calorie expenditure, however, if you whittle away your energy on the small ‘stuff’, that have little impact on the metabolism, how much energy do you have to commit to the big ‘stuff’ that has the potential to really impact the metabolism.

Majoring in the minors is one sure way to fail at most things in life.

Talking of minimalism, let’s jump in and look at the Kettlebell and other tools. Is it really the optimal tool for exercise minimalism?

Let’s first consider the important ‘majors’ of any good training session.

  • We need to move those big body parts with compound movements like Squatting, Hinging aka the Deadlift, Pushing, Pulling, Bracing that aids in developing strength and maintaining muscle mass.
  • We should nearly always include power moves or quick lifts.
  • Time efficient.
  • Should relate to your human function – you want to move better for a long time, yeah?
  • Should develop movement skills – related in ways to function.
  • Influence the bodies metabolism favourably.

These are the majors, the important stuff that training is used for.

To address these important qualities you could go to a gym hugely populated with barbells, dumbbells, strength machines for every body part, treadmills, cycles, stepping, thrusting, vibrating gadgets galore…. I said you could, but how much time is that going to take, never mind figuring out what does what.

What we’re looking for in a minimal training mindset is lack of fluff, no hassle, just get in, get the work done and go home to recover, spend time with family or get back to work.

How about the good ol’ dumbbell?dumbbells

While a dumbbell can be used for pretty much all the compound moves it is pretty much limited to just doing the strength moves. Try doing an explosive move with a dumbbell and you’ll figure our how hard it is to manhandle and hold onto. Maybe not the optimal tool to get everything done hassle free but a close contender.

 

What about a barbell, you can do near everything with a barbell?

barbellI spent many years with a barbell and truely love the feeling of training with a barbell. It’s best suited for developing maximum strength in all the big moves and it can be used for quick lifts. With over 20 years of training people I don’t often get to work with someone who is comfortable with a barbell for every big movement. Why? They lack the movement skills to use the bar. They can’t hold the bar on their shoulders to squat. Pressing with both hands often doesn’t work due to shoulder limitations and the same goes for the bench press. Deadlifting is the most common go-to that works fine but as for most other movements, most people, most of the time struggle to use the barbell affectively. Whilst mobility training can address the deficits in some occasions, the very strict linear and bilateral (two limbed) nature of barbell training often causes niggles, tweaks and injury. I love the barbell, but for minimal training it isn’t the best tool for most of the people (in my opinion anyway).

On that note, who are most of the people? 

Most trainers start off with aspirations of working with elites, athletes, hot, toned specimens of human evolution. The reality is that most trainers spend most of their time working with mums, dads, grandparents, people who work 40+ hours a week at work, then supporting their families, they’ve household chores to get sorted, grass to cut and meals to prepare. Most of them want to feel stronger, less tired and achey and probably want some sense of achievement as they escape to their training.

Do you think training minimalism is suited to them? Hell yeah!

 

Enter the Kettlebell. 

rkc bell

Look, I am biased as I start to talk about kettlebell training. Funnily enough, when I first signed up to a kettlebell certification back in 2009, I did so with a sense of disbelief regarding all the hype. It’s a ball with handle on it – ‘what’s the big deal’?

I learned very quickly however, what a gem the kettlebell is.

When I start working with a new client I make it clear that we train movements. When it’s time to load those movements we do so. We still train movements though. The load is just added to keep progressing.

The dealio with the kettlebell is with it’s shape. Plain and simple. There is no magic woowoo Russian secret, it’s just an old agricultural weight that found its way into the training world – because it gets a job done.

The handle, the compact size, the ability to do all the compound lifts, the ease at which you can transition from a compound grind lift to an explosive lift, just makes the kettlebell a good all-round tool to use. Having a kettlebell in one hand at a time or a kettlebell in each hand allows users to do a range of movements without the restriction of a straight bar or a wobbly dumbbell.

To save time and hit all the requisites of an effective training plan, the kettlebell can be used in a complex. A complex is simply a number of movements strung together and carried out non-stop. Training is this manor allows for training strength, explosiveness and metabolic improvements, oh, and a session can be done in under 15 minutes if you like.

You can use a bar or a dumbbell or even bodyweight moves for a complex, but for ease of use, the kettlebell wins. And yes, you can mix in bodyweight movements – no hassle is the game at foot, so less is fluff is more win!

Here’s an example of a very simple kettlebell and bodyweight complex that even an exercise newbie can learn to do in a number of sessions:

  1. Push Ups x 5
  2. Goblet Squat x 5
  3. Swing x 10

Do 5 rounds with adequate rest between rounds.

That’s it. Short, sweet and done in no time at all. The majority of the moves we need are there.

An alternative could be:

  1. Clean and Press
  2. Squat
  3. Row

5 rounds or fit in what you can in 10 – 15 mins. Be your own chef!

Use any rep range specific to your goals. Heavy and short reps for strength. Medium and longer reps for muscle building.

Complexes can be built for many areas and sure, you can still do circuits or pair off movements. The complex is just one way to tick that minimalism box.

Of course technique is vital like in using any piece of equipment, but there are good kettlebell trainers available via StrongFirst, the RKC and other reputable training organisations.

My point here today is this. If you want to pursue training minimalism, I whole-heartily recommend getting to grip with using the kettlebell.

Got any questions? Shoot them my way.

What is it with kettlebells anyway?

I’ll soon be teaching a kettlebell user workshop (June 2017) with a friend and fellow kettlebell lover. We totally see the curiosity in some people who want to learn how to use these odd-looking handle-embellished cannon balls. But, as I promote the workshop I want to prepare myself for the usual eyebrow raisers who question the kettlebell. Let me share with you some of my feelings and those of the superstar coaches involved with kettlebell coaching.

What is it with kettlebells anyway?

People ask me all the time, “Why kettlebells? Is this type of training really any different from a dumbbell, barbell or other gym exercises?” Every time I’m asked that question, I start to feel the passion build and I have to contain myself. Kettlebell training is radically different from any other form of training I’ve personally experienced in my many years of weight training.

Surprisingly often, many people just have ONE kettlebell to start with and you know what, one kettlebell is all you need for a surprisingly good training program. Because of its shape, the kettlebell lends itself for fast, propulsive movements like the swing, clean and the snatch. These torch calories and turn the power muscles of the body into overdrive.

The kettlebell proves a great tool for pressing, squatting, hip hinging movements and rowing. It’s a take anywhere gym.

Without wasting time fluffing around all the other things you could be doing in a gym, a minimalist approach with a kettlebell encourages you to do what needs to be done, without distraction. Swing, squat, press, pull and carry.

Here’s what other have to say.

There is a real need in this industry for “One Kettlebell Workouts”, and I love them. I enjoy driving to a park, meeting with friends, walking a bit with my kettlebell, training, and then enjoying a nice picnic. I keep this tradition alive every weekday morning when people join me to workout at 9:30. – Dan John

Primarily because of its offset handle, a kettlebell, makes your body work harder by recruiting more musculature and increasing ranges of motion.

In the first example, holding a kettlebell over your head is a much different feeling than holding the same sized dumbbell over your head. A dumbbell will pitch side-to-side since the weight is evenly balanced in the hand. A kettlebell will pull your arm backward, because the majority of the weight is below the handle,  and in doing so, will force your shoulder musculature to work harder.

In the second example, increasing ranges of motion, we can take a look at the Swing, an exercise where the weight is passed between and underneath the legs. The offset handle increases the lever arm pushing the hips further back, and stretching their muscles to a greater degree than with a dumbbell. And you can’t even do that with a barbell. – Geoff Neupert

 

The kettlebell swing is a perfect example of the uniqueness of kettlebell training. Why? As Tracy Reifkind, RKC and author of the great book The Swing puts it, it’s a two-for-one exercise. It combines the benefits of resistance training and cardiovascular conditioning in one very powerful exercise. There isn’t an exercise that addresses so many things at once as does the kettlebell swing. – Scott Iardella

In Russia, the kettlebell traditionally has been a training tool for tough people. When I started teaching kettlebells to Americans, I saw the same pattern; my early students were military operators, fighters, and other hard men.

What pleased and surprised me over the years is how this hardcore tool went on to appeal to people from all walks of life. My teaching goals used to be narrow: Make the tough even tougher. Today they are broader: Enable regular folks to join the tough. Finally become the man or woman you used to want to be. – Pavel Tsatsouline

If you would like to learn more about kettlebell training, please get in touch now.