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How Kettlebells Have Made Me a Better Royal Canadian Mountie

November 23, 2004 09:37 AM

I attended the RKC certification workshop in April 2004 and it benefited me in numerous ways. First of all, kettlebell training has improved my work life. I am a police officer and am posted to one of the most violent crime areas in Canada. Almost daily (and nightly) contact with, shall we say, 'goal-oriented persons' under a variety of conditions (environmental, lack of sleep, spur of the moment) makes physical conditioning a must. I do not operate in a controlled environment; there are no referees to step in, no time for visualization exercises and I cannot call 'timeout'. Being injured or otherwise is not an option; people depend on me. I have found that kettlebell training gives one the best all-round fitness. Strength, speed, power, stamina are all gained in a relatively short amount of time. My mental acuity seems to have sharpened as well.

I have compared my regimen to that of my co-workers. Unfortunately, the bulk of the law enforcement community still sees bodybuilding type barbell training as the way to go. In the past three years of kettlebell training I have not incurred an injury on duty. I attribute this to the conditioning gained by kettlebells. In contrast, my co-workers routinely suffer jammed hands, strained backs, and assorted muscle pulls and tears. This leads to my second theme of trying to convert the non-believers.

During the RKC certification course both Pavel and Jeff Martone made the time to discuss with me methods to help out others. Their level of professionalism, interest, and enthusiasm was much appreciated. I followed Jeff's advice and began using the kettlebells at work before or after a shift in order to attract interest. It worked. It worked so well that now my lunch breaks are usually spent training with my co-workers. Other units within our Force have expressed an interest too.

Another benefit of being a certified RKC is the instructor link provided on the website. Within days of it's posting I received several e-mails requesting information on training. I have met some very nice people and have found it to be an enjoyable experience to instruct. I tell them that I am a regular guy with family and work commitments just like them. If I can achieve a respectable level of fitness while trying to balance those commitments then they sure as heck can too. That's the beauty of kettlebell training -the portability, adaptability and simplicity. The truth appears to be a good selling feature. My clientele is growing rapidly and now they are on my commitments list! I view this as another challenge- how can kettlebell training and now instructing be balanced with family life and another job? It will be fun to learn how. I guess variety is the spice of life.

I alternate one month of kettlebell training with a Power to the People! workout month. When I train police colleagues it is usually done in groups of 10 or more. Since we have limited time and equipment the session consists of a circuit of three or four exercises. If we do three circuits then we will try for four exercises. If we do four circuits, then I will select three exercises. The group will be divided in half. One team gets a 16kg KB per officer, the other gets 24s. The very fit can use the 32kg kettlebell. The first people up complete a set, then jog a distance and return to their group but now use the other kettlebell. By this time they are up again for another set of a new exercise. The reps are generally in the five to thirty range and are alternated between high, low, and medium. Training to failure is not allowed. There is no waiting around; the constant movement does wonders for stamina.

The drills are selected to address our immediate needs. A workout will begin with swings -two-arm, one-arm, and alternating. This gets the guys familiarized quickly. Next are Turkish get ups. I consider those a great provider of functional strength and very particular to police needs. Tactical lunges are next. Again, that exercise simulates an aspect of our profession, being the need to quickly get down behind a barricaded position or perhaps to handcuff/hogtie a suspect. Sometimes a fourth exercise is added- either high rep snatches or clean-and-jerks. I gauge the implementation of a fourth exercise on the level of fatigue endured -if the group is spent, then there is no sense in burning them out.

We will do this type of workout about twice a week and strive to increase it to three times the following week, then drop back to twice weekly. A happy medium must be reached as many of my trainees are involved in other physical pursuits and are shift-workers. I find that the group is so eager that they want to attempt frequent sessions but I keep stressing that they have to build up slowly. Their enthusiasm is contagious.

As I complete the conditioning type of training with my groups, the remainder of my four or five weekly workouts is devoted to strength-building. This translates to low rep multiple sets of presses (bent, side, military), pistols, and one-legged deadlifts. Three to five minute rest periods between sets are taken and all exercises are completed in a circuit. Tempo and speed of the lifts are varied as are the lengths of the sessions. If I feel like doing more bent presses one day then I will but then I will scale back the number of sets of another exercise or just drop one.

The kettlebell month does wonders for my Power to the People! workouts. I continue to set new personal records in the deadlift. Kettlebell training seems to have improved my body awareness and I find that I have more muscular control than ever before. Additionally, my grip is continually improving and this translates into greater gains. I substitute one-arm presses for one-arm push-ups on some months. Again, steady gains are achieved.

To summarize, I find that mixing the high-rep conditioning workout with a strength-building component during the week meets all my needs. I am thirty-eight years of age and am in the best shape of my life. And next year I plan to be in an even better condition. The benefits are numerous; I feel confident at a physically demanding job and more importantly, have the time and energy to enjoy life with my family.

Jerome O'Charchin, RKC is a constable with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at