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Hamster to HardStyle: A Kettlebell Transformation

March 24, 2010 12:39 PM

Kettlebells inspire transformations.

There have been many incredible testimonials that we have all read, proving that using kettlebells can assist in weight loss and in altering body composition. We have also read about the rehabilitation aspects of kettlebell training, and how individuals have regained mobility and movement that had been lost to them for years. Without a doubt, kettlebells are a SUPERIOR tool to use in attaining the physical transformations that you might want.

Equally important though are the TRANFORMATIVE effects kettlebells can have on the MINDSET of the girevik wielding them. In the journey for physical transformations, it is easy to neglect the mental aspects of training, and the profound changes that our state of mind undergoes. Sometimes, the transformation of mind can OUTWEIGH the physical.

When I started thinking about this article, one particular instance of an impressive transformation came to mind almost immediately, though there are many. I was approached by Bill—(the name has been changed to protect the girevik from any further cardio embarrassment)—a year ago, who was looking to change his current workout schedule. This workout schedule consisted of 15+ hours a week on the seat of a road bicycle, while also juggling a family, and a very successful business. His hope was that kettlebells would be able to cut down on his time spent working out.

Bill had read many of Pavel's books – Naked Warrior, Enter the Kettlebell, Power to the People – and he was skeptical that short, sub-maximal sets could get him to any strength or conditioning goal. Coming from a man who for years felt that any cycling ride under two hours was not worth his time, his skepticism was not shocking to me. However, he was eager and open to learn, and that made the difference.

Bill was a perfect model of a cardio junkie. To say that he was obsessed with cycling would be an understatement; when I first began training him, he was insistent on cycling in addition to the kettlebell workouts, sometimes for up to an hour after training, so worried he was that he would lose his cardio endurance. It didn't matter that I assured him this wouldn't happen – Bill had had many years to ingrain this concept in his mind. Up to this point, Bill had never been concerned with strength; everything he had ever pursued was cardio-based. The concept of tension was not even in his periphery. Introducing these concepts that are utterly foreign to an individual who has maintained a very particular mindset for so many years can be daunting, and is often a slow, meticulous process. Most transformations are not instantaneous, though.

After about two months, I noticed the first spark of revelation and comprehension during a swing / goblet squat combo. Using a 16kg kettlebell, the workout consisted of give goblet squats, twenty swings, five times through without a break. At the end of the fifth set, drenched in sweat, Bill looked down at his ever-present heart-rate monitor and was excited, though shocked, to note that his heart rate was as high—if not higher—than it would be at the top of a 6-8 mile climb on his bicycle, after "attacking" the hill on his Tour de France-style bike at 10-12 mph. This was the day I knew that Bill was starting to understand the benefits of HardStyle kettlebell training.

Almost a year later, Bill has reduced his workout time to around 5 hours, while still working out six days a week. His workouts are limited to kettlebells and bodyweight exercises solely. While he is still as fervent as ever, he now channels this incredible energy into increasing his strength and conditioning. Though just a year ago Bill was completely focused on cardio, he now understands the importance of strength, and the essential balance between them. As a result, Bill's overall health and posture have improved dramatically, and where he struggled with pressing the 16kg kettlebell for a single rep, he can now press the 24kg bell. An impressive improvement; at 130 lbs. though, it's an even more remarkable feat. I'd also like to add that Bill rarely cycles anymore, and that his Tour de France-style bicycle has been collecting dust for many months now.

Though changing habits can be among the most difficult tasks a person can do, the benefits are often huge. Beyond the commendable physical achievements Bill has reached, his mental transformation is something to be admired. Despite having lived and trained within a fastidious routine for many years, Bill's comprehension of the benefits of HardStyle kettlebell training allowed him to undergo a remarkable mental transformation that took him beyond his hamster-on-a-wheel type training.

Just another example of how kettlebells inspire remarkable transformations.

Doug Nepodal, Senior RKC