McAfee Secure sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams
Share Print

You have not viewed any products recently.




Be a First-Class Girevik!

July 17, 2002 12:00 PM

For a beginning/intermediate girevik, I think the best goal you can set is to match the Class I numbers in The Russian Kettlebell Challenge. Get there, and you will enjoy better health and more energy than before. You will shed fat, especially if you reduce your carb intake (NOT eliminate?bad idea?but reduce). Your heart and lungs get stronger, to say nothing of your legs, back, and shoulders. To quote the Evil One, "What a stud!" And as your numbers climb week by week, you will have the pleasure of PROVING that you belong to the fraternity of tough-as-leather gireviks.

In the grand Russian tradition, you don't need much except some pig iron and a patch of ground somewhere. If you're serious about this, I say pony up and get the full set of bells and an extra 1.5 pood from the outset. But really, all you need is a pair of 1.5s and your own personal courage corner. And if it happens to be beastly hot there, that's even better!

Pavel has already written the book on how to train. Just follow the rules. And within that framework, here are some tools that you'll enjoy experimenting with:
  1. Long straight sets

This will give you a sense of accomplishment and teach you how very far you can go beyond what you thought.
  1. Tabata/compression

When the thought of even more high-rep-sets makes you start dreading your practice sessions (it will happen), that's a good time to go to Tabata or compression methods. There are variations, but in all of them, you stick to moderate reps for many sets, but with precious little rest. Search the forum archives for "compression" for Coach Reeves' excellent posts on this.
  1. Circuits

Pavel explains these in RKC, and I find they're a great fat burner.
  1. Drop sets

If you give these your all, they're murder. I don't even fear 70/70-rep snatches as much as these. Only do them once every two or three weeks. Work the 2-pood until your form starts deteriorating. Don't even count the reps, just keep pounding them out! You will pray for death, but the Party hasn't given you permission to die yet. Drop the 2-pood, grab the 1.5-pood and go! When your form is about to get wobbly, rest for a second between reps, and then concentrate and demand perfect form from yourself. You can probably bang out two or three more safe, quality reps that way. By this point, you are so far into pain that you are resigned to your misery. With Stakhonovite resolve, you pick up the 1-pood without stopping and keep those hips popping. This part is so white-hot-agonizing that you will have no memory of it later. You will only regain self-awareness after the bell drops from the mangled claw that you used to call a hand, and you notice that you can't straighten your fingers, which have turned purple. Congratulations. Now do the other arm.

Don't ignore your grind lifts; give them the place they deserve in your training. I like to do low-key presses, pull-ups, and overhead or front squats throughout the day, or devote a short practice session to them on days when I rest from the competition lifts. But just remember to take it easy with the grinding drills. From now until you make Class I, the snatch and C&J are your bread and butter.

Train by the book, and don't worry about testing yourself for a while. Make a lot of progress first, and don't aim just to meet the Class I numbers; aim to blast past them. And finally, you may find the C&J even harder than the snatch, but work it extra hard. When you finally test yourself competition style, your legs will be half-spent from the snatch, even after resting for 40 minutes. You want as much "cushion" as you can get to make sure you do yourself proud in the clean and jerk.

Here is what I recently accomplished at 166lbs. bodyweight:

1.5 pood snatch(R & L back to back, 1 sec. pause at top, etc.):
35 reps

--40 minute rest?

2-hand C&J with 1.5 poods (1 clean + 1 jerk, not the old-style "long jerks"):
23 reps

I've been "compressing" for a couple months with Coach Reeves' method, with a volume of 60 in the snatch and 80 in the C&J. I'd progressed to the point of doing 5 reps per minute (each arm) in both drills.

I draw two lessons from today:

1) Kettlebell weight classes are HUGE--10 kg. between classes. At 75kg. of real bodyweight, I have the bad luck to be right between weight divisions. I measured myself against the 1st Class 80kg requirements in Pavel's book and smoked them. (NB: Since I cleaned once before every jerk, I can't quite compare my C&J numbers to the table in the book.) If and when I do a real meet, I have to gain weight for a while so I don't give up 10 lbs. of bodyweight to the other comrades.

2) I'm satisfied with my C&J performance today, but I also surprised myself with how much leg strength I expended in the snatch. Check this out: I compression-trained with a goal of 30 continuous snatches, and actually exceeded that by 18%. However, I trained my C&J separately and aimed for 40 continuous reps, yet all I could pull out of the bag today was 23. (I'd say I was 3 reps from dropping them on my head.) So if you're aiming for certain numbers in competition, keep in mind that when you practice the C&J, you have to aim a lot higher than your actual competition goal to compensate for the energy you spend in the snatch. I know this is no big news, but you might be surprised just how much leeway you need.

3) I'm one healthy comrade, and everybody I know envies my energy. This is NOT the old me.

4) I can be as lean as I want to be. Training with KBs, I can eat anything I please and not balloon. In the springtime, to lean out some, I just eat fewer carbs, and I get nice and sleek.

5) I have the "look of power." Even when I'm fully dressed, my clothes settle into the creases of the muscles between my shoulders, traps, neck, and chest. Add to that strong-looking hands and forearms and a neck that's clearly used for something more rugged than watching TV, and sure enough I look like a strong man. Might not get me a second look in a lumber camp, but in graduate school, it sure sets me apart.

6) Visible abs.

7) Endurance. One of the happiest days of my athletic life was when I introduced a former Army Medevac pilot to KB snatches. He watched me crank out 60-some 1-pood snatches per arm and said, "Hell, I know a lot of Rangers who couldn't keep up." Gotta love that.

8) I haven't deadlifted in a year, but I know the day-in-day-out KB work is making my tendons and ligaments stronger than ever. I've got to believe that when I do begin another cycle of DLs, I'm going to set some easy PRs.

Before January, I did mostly LONG straight sets and drop sets. In a few months, I got pretty ragged from all the work, and switched to mostly Tabata and compression training. Not bad, but as I analyze my showing yesterday in my simulated meet, I think I could have done better if I had kept doing some long straight sets and drop sets regularly. Because of my prior experience with those, yesterday even when my arm began to get tired in the snatches, I knew for certain that I still had only used about 40% of my capacity. That confidence and self-knowledge makes for a good lifter who senses instinctively that he can push the envelope and reach way beyond his past record.