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A Case for Becoming a Girevik (Kettlebell Lifter)

December 29, 2006 12:42 AM

"Okay, Okay, I have heard all about Pavel and this kettlebell lifting deal. But, do I really want to lay down my hard earned cash, only to be burned by another charlatan pandering yet another gimmick?"

Well my friend, it is my intent that this aids in your decision to undertake the journey and serve as a guide once you have begun. Along the way you are sure to find new found physical and mental prowess. You may also just discover the physique that you have been looking for all along.

The first question facing the prospective girevik (kettlebell lifter) is; will kettlebell lifting honestly deliver the results that I am seeking? If improved athletic ability, explosive strength, spectacular endurance and a physique akin to that of Greek statue are among your goals, then you would do well to make the girevoy (kettlebell) your implement of choice.

We as humans tend to equate glitter and flashiness with value. Do not be fooled by the simplicity of the tool itself. While the kettlebell is simple in form, the actual practice of kettlebell lifting is infinitely complex. Herein lies its power to transform you and your body.

Let's explore this issue of complexity, and discover why this makes kettlebell lifting so effective.

While the gross motor movements needed for rudimentary performance of the lifts may be quickly learned, there are countless nuances with regard to proper body mechanics, tension, and breathing to be continually refined. Thus providing endless opportunities for improvement, if one is so inclined.

Many activities are marketed as a way to improve focus and concentration by engaging the mind and body, so much so that it has lost its power as a selling point. In the case of martial arts, the mind may easily wander while throwing punches in the air, or as in contemporary bodybuilding, while mindlessly cranking out rep after rep while encased in the safety of a machine. These cases are particularly true of the neophyte. This is not so with the kettlebell. The nature of the lifts requires one to truly engage the body and mind as a unit. Something about a heavy ball of iron suspended over your head DEMANDS your undivided attention. Let your mind wander to events of your hectic day at work or other life issues and it is likely that the kettlebell that you were supporting will smack you in the head, abruptly returning your focus to it. Both ways the kettlebell wins and your focus is improved, if only for an instant.

Kettlebell lifting calls into play every part of your musculature to complete a lift. It is this very attribute which gives rise to the next question and its subsequent answer.

Why will kettlebell lifting succeed where contemporary bodybuilding and aerobic exercises and routines have failed? Conveyance (or carry over).

Kettlebell lifting with proper technique requires that all of large muscle groups of both the upper and lower body participate to move the resistance through the desired range of motion. Hamstrings, glutes, hips, quads, abs, chest, shoulders, traps and lats, not to mention every arm muscle are taxed, particularly during the ballistic movements. The ballistic, high repetition movements also build the tendon and ligament strength and thickness that is neglected by other contemporary training methods. Tendon and ligament strength is superior to pure muscular strength when it comes to athletics and real world applications. I have heard this referred to as "old man strength" (named in honor of your old man). If you have ever experienced the following scenario then you know what I mean by "old man strength". You are all pumped up from bodybuilding yet you are unable to open a jar or turn a bolt with a wrench, when you enlist the help of your father or other elder. He takes the jar lid or wrench in question and breaks the seal or turns the bolt with no more effort than it would take to pluck a petal from a flower. You shake your head and wonder: how can it be? I will tell you how: the years of repetitive manual labor requiring repeated maximal contractions have strengthened and thickened the powerful tendons and ligaments of his hands, arms, shoulders and back while yours have been withering away in the gym.

The high repetition ballistic drills also tax the cardiovascular system along with the musculature. The only remotely comparable exercise that I have done is carry a training partner up a 45 to 60 degree incline that was about 50 to 60 yards in length.

Specificity to varying degrees applies to virtually every activity. In other words, if you train as a runner and then jump in the pool for a few laps, you find yourself breathing as though you had not been training at all. Isolating your biceps on a preacher bench is little help to you on the field, court, or mat: not so with the kettlebells. By simultaneously engaging every fiber of your being more than perhaps any other activity, kettlebell lifting makes all other activities pale in comparison. The Dragon Door discussion site is filled with accounts of those that have discovered how the strength and/or cardio benefits derived from kettlebell lifting conveys or carries over. Not only does this apply to their chosen sport, but also amazingly to activities that they have never tried, or have not tried in a very long time.

The attributes of Complexity and Conveyance yield a system that is Complete in nature. Webster defines Completeness, as a state in which there is no deficiency; perfect. While there may not be a perfect strength and conditioning system, kettlebell lifting is damn close. Armed with only a kettlebell or two and perhaps a chin up bar, you will have available to you, an infinite variety of exercises and all of the tools necessary to enhance your performance in your chosen athletic endeavor and transform your physique. All of this in the time it would take you to drive to your local health club. Of course you must provide the desire and the sweat, but be assured that the kettlebells and Pavel's training wisdom will meet you halfway and deliver iron solid results that are uncommon in today's world of plastic, infomercial gadgetry.

Once upon the path, perhaps the greatest challenge that you will face is a major shift away from the popular strength and fitness paradigms. While you may have decided to undertake the kettlebell journey, you are sure to carry some of your old training beliefs along. You may be tempted to incorporate too many and/or conflicting training methodologies at once. I myself tend toward this extreme, and when I do, a state of over training and it's ugly companions are my only rewards. Stick to the straight and narrow Comrade!

While writing, I am continually reminded of a phrase on an inspirational print that went something like this: "Are you willing to give up that which you are, in order to discover that which you may become?"

Well, are you?

David Finley

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David Finley is a Canton, OH based certified Russian Kettlebell Challenge instructor.

David is available for private and group training;

Inquire at