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Kettlebell Training for Performance Sports

August 20, 2007 02:47 AM

Wow. Seriously. You want to know how a fifty-year old man trains? Basically, I train in an intelligent fashion: I take advice from Alwyn Cosgrove and Pavel Tsatsouline in weight training. I listen to Brian Oldfield, John Powell and Bill Witt in the throws. I take advice from Andy Bloom and Ethan Reeve and a few others, too. I also get feedback from Lonnie Wade, Greg Henger and Mike Rosenberg. I listen to Ben Thuma. I also review almost daily what Dick Notmeyer and Ralph Maughan taught me.

That is crucial: listen to smart people. A brief review:

I always warm up with Haloes, Windmills, Bootstrapper Squats. I just pick up a kettlebell and don't worry about reps. A heavy kbell=less reps. It's not really a warm up, just some "Kettlebell Yoga". I warm up simply to break me from work to "play." I used to dive right in, but I will still be focused on the Rig Veda or something like that for the first ten minutes. My mind needs a break from the day. I am a disciple of Enter the Kettlebell! Option Two (the ROP). During the fall and winter, I do Alwyn Cosgrove's Afterburn II program, but when I am throwing I need a workout that just keeps me going. This first thing is the one arm clean and press and pullup ladder. I do five ladders of 1,2,3 reps.

Between ladders, I spend some quality time shaking out my limbs. You can see this in Pavel's DVD Fast & Loose or just read Bud Winter's "Relax and Win."

The shaking out of the muscles really is something I like to do during throwing the season: it is how the athlete should and loose.

On Mondays, I then do ten right arm snatches, followed by ten left arm snatches, rest a minute for about three to five sets.

If I've already thrown, then I take an ice shower and hot tub. While I hot tub, I am doing Pavel's "Frog stretch" (see the Summer 2007 "Hard Style") and my hip flexor stretches. I don't like to stretch too much before I lift or throw, but after seems to be the ticket.

I'm trying to throw more on Tuesdays. So, originally I planned to simply do heavy Snatch Grip DLs in one of the following schemes:
Six singles
3 sets of 3
But, lately, I have been doing the Snatch "Drill" of
  • One Power Snatch and Overhead Squat
  • One Hang Squat Snatch
  • One Full Squat Snatch
As I write this, I am wondering why I don't do the Drill more often... About 8 sets of the Drill is about right.

Don't forget the "Fast-Loose" stuff.

In between sets, I do carries (Farmer Bars or Slosh Pipes (I will have an article on the slosh pipe in t-nation soon), some sprints (see my Litvinov articles on, or throw. Basically, I love throwing the Turbojav between sets of is fun and seems perfect outside with the river and the ducks and the dog and the...

Big throwing day: long time in the ice shower.

Same as Monday, except I will do lots and lots of Swings. I like Mark Reifkind's take on this...see his blog on the Internet...where he strives to get up to two minutes of swings for SETS.

Thursday is morphing into "Tuesday Part Two" for me. The original idea was to do heavy Clean Deadlifts, but combined with a lot of Highland Game throwing and discus and javelin and shot put and hammer and weight...something had to go. It was my back! Too much twisting and heavy deadlifts are a rough combo to figure out. Basically, I either do more snatches now, or some of Alwyn's complexes. I'm still strong enough to pull 555 in my garage without training on Deadlits very much, so I would rather do something "tonic" like snatches or clean and jerks.

No lifting, but I am trying to throw a lot.

In the ETK system, this is the heavy and hard day. If I have a track meet or HG, I just skip this day. At one time in my career, I would move this day to Sunday, but I don't fret about missing a day here or there.

So, more reps ("rungs" is the actual name) in the Clean and Press/Pullup combo and a serious swing workout.

On paper, I take the day off, but I often do a bunch of stuff that is open ended.

Sometimes, Mark Twight and the Gym Jones crew will come over and I will end up training five times as hard as usual!

Lots of sleds and carries on these days...lots and lots.

I try to get in a fair amount of throws each day with a variety of implements, but I don't throw hard very often. I do try to figure out what moves complement the other throws, so I often do an HG event like the 56 WFD with something like shot putting. I have found the Heavy Scottish Hammer a great complement to the javelin and, no, I don't know why.

So, there you go...a typical week.

To sum:
  • Stretch what is stiff.
  • Strengthen what is weak.
  • Lift weights to hold the implement back.
  • Smooth goes far.

Dan John has been lifting, throwing and competing since 1967… actually before that too. He has competed in Olympic lifting, powerlifting, Highland Games, track & field, girevoy sport, weight pentathlons, wrestling, football, and…well the list goes on.

An active strength and throws coach since 1979, Dan continues to find ways to learn more about the art and craft of sports. Currently, the Head Track & Field and Head Strength Coach at Juan Diego Catholic High School in Utah, Dan also writes for a number of periodicals and continues to be humbled by his wife, Tiffini, and daughters, Kelly and Lindsay. Dan's website is His 3-part DVD Everything's Over My Head is available from