30 Jul Are We Being Too Technical With Kettlebells?

kettlebellsI have a question for you.

Are we being “too technical” with kettlebells?

Let’s take the kettlebell swing, for example.

Should we just focus on swinging the kettlebell without all the corrections and technical aspects?

I mean, it is just swinging a kettlebell isn’t it?

What about the Turkish get up?

Wasn’t that originally done by just getting up with a kettlebell by whatever means possible wihout all the specifics, details, and transitions?

Isn’t the get up just “getting up” with a heavy weight?

What makes me ask these questions is because I recently heard someone say “I just swing a kettlebell for conditioning and don’t worry about all the technical stuff.”

The guy said that while he admitted he had no certifications or formal training with kettlebells whatsoever, he thought it was a good tool, but viewed it strictly for conditioning.

He also didn’t mention anything about gettting stronger with kettlebells, but that they were best for building muscular endurance, not hypertrophy or strength.

As he was getting ready to demonstrate an exercise, he stated his technique would probably “get torn apart” by the typical kettlebell community for not being “proper technique” but it didn’t matter because “it’s just for conditioning.”

That observation made me think and ask the question, are we being too technical with kettlebell training?

The answer is “it depends.”

It depends if we want to maximize the tool or not.

It depends if we want to seek skill proficiency for the best results or simply “dabble” in something.

It also depends if safety, efficiency, and a wide application of results are important to us or not.

Yes, I’m being a little sarcastic here, so let me further explain.

One of the things that attracted me to kettlebells in the beginning was the proficiency in movement and the techical skills required to get better, safter results with the exercises.

Until I took my first kettlebell workshop with proper kettlebell instruction, I literally “didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

So, are we being too technical with kettlebells?

In my experience and honest opinion, not at all.

To get the best results in the safest way possible, we should be technical with our approach.

Kettlebells are about movement and strength, not just conditioning.

There are many benefits of kettlebell training, once the fundamental exercises are established with reasonable proficiency (reasonable meaning safe and efficient movement).

And, once reasonable proficiency is established, then it becomes a journey and refininement of movement, stength, and skill development for those committed to getting better and getting better results.

Kettlebells, like barbell training, offer massive benefits such as strength, power, movement, muscle building, and an enormous list of other physical attributes.

Let’s take a look at a simple kettlebell program, with 4 of the fundamental exercises to further demonstrate the case here.

A simple, but effective strength and conditioning program with a kettlebell could look something like this:

  • Swings
  • Turkish Get Ups
  • Presses
  • Squats 

Let’s say training session 1 looks like this:

A) Turkish Get ups with appropriate size KB (let’s say 24kg) x 8-10 minutes continuous, rest as needed.

B) Double hand kettlebell swing 10-15 minutes, performed with rest as necessary.

This training session is done twice per week and is progressed with weight through the duration of the program.

Training session 2 looks like this:

A)  Kettlebell ladder presses, which look like this (performed with a 5 RM kettlebell):

1 rep right, 1 rep left

rest

2 reps right, 2 reps left

rest

3 reps right, 3 reps left

rest

4 reps right, 4 reps left

rest

5 reps right, 5 reps left

rest

Then repeat the “ladder” up to 2 more times.

(The kettlebell ladder, by the way, is an extremely effective way to build strength).

B)  Kettlebell Front Squat, done in the same ladder sequence as above.

This training session is performed twice per week, as well.

So, there’s a simple 4 day a week program that could be followed for 4 – 12 weeks with progressive overload built in.

Would “technical proficiency” be needed to get the most out of a program like this?

Absolutey, especially if safety and effectiveness are highly important.

This is a simple, simple program that is anything but easy.

And, it does a hell of a lot more than just “conditioning” although conditioning is certainly a component of this.

Another benefit to this type of program (with proper coaching and guidance) would definitely be improving the skill development and motor control with these kettlebell exericses.

Are we being too technical?

If we want to ‘dabble’ and not get the best results from our training, then yes, we’re being too technical.

But, if we want to train the safest way possible to maximize movement, strength and so much more, we need to be technical.

I should mention that just because there are technical aspects, small tweaks and refinements can be made over time that DOES NOT overly complicate things.

A great coach will make the complicated simple and break things down in an easy to understand system of progressions.

Again, once reasonable proficiency is established, then it’s an exciting and rewarding path to refine our skills and get better.

We should demand to deepen our technical skills for optimal results, period.

This is a journey of continuous improvement to get a better result and minimize the risk for injury as we get stronger and train at a higher level for the goals we want.

Remember, what makes the “elite” is that they are better at the fundamentals compared to everyone else.

That statement should pretty much answer the question.

If you like this, please share it or comment below.

5 Comments
  • Mark de Grasse
    Posted at 17:41h, 30 July Reply

    Nicely said! I think that people can go over the top with technicality when they discriminate against new kettlebell techniques or applications, but the basics of form are almost always the same (and they’re completely necessary). There’s also the issue of liability when it comes to training others, and causing someone else’s injury is MUCH different than causing your own (especially in California where we have more lawyers than people). Well done.

    • Scott
      Posted at 20:55h, 30 July Reply

      Hey Mark,
      Thanks for the comments and great work over there at MMM, great stuff!
      Yeah, observed something recently that made me ask the question, but staying true to what I believe here.
      Definitely, there can be a point of “over the top” and that’s where great coaching comes into play to avoid that approach altogether.
      Just little tweaks here and there as skills develop.
      Thanks again Mark!
      Scott

    • Gary McGhee
      Posted at 22:21h, 30 July Reply

      Well said Mark. Like Scott, I also appreciate the work you do at My Mad Methods. Sometimes, within the kettlebell community, I think the issue can also boil down to KB traditionalism versus ingenuity with the tool.

  • Christopher Wishnie
    Posted at 17:49h, 30 July Reply

    Interesting proposition, Scott. Of course I agree completely with your conclusion. Striving for technical perfection in kettlebell training is the only correct mindset for the serious practitioner.

    • Scott
      Posted at 20:50h, 30 July Reply

      Thanks Chris! Hope your training is going well, my friend.

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