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Marty coaching Phil Scarito RKC Team Leader

Want To Make “The Beast” Feel Lighter? Try A Dose Of Free Weight Barbell Training

February 18, 2011 04:46 PM

The 100 + pound kettlebell called "The Beast" has created a lot of consternation for those seeking to lift it in some manner or fashion. I have been quizzed repeatedly by RKC adapts seeking to press this unwieldy chunk of iron. In every instance my suggestion is this: to conquer The Beast try a dose of free weight training, specifically the two-hand overhead barbell press.
In the universe of kettlebell training, The Beast is Jaws. When viewed from within the finite universe of kettlebell sizes and poundage The Beast is the Big Fish – my contention is that The Beast is a big fish in a small pond.
Let me outline the typical scenario: a kettlebell adept intent on pressing The Beast overhead for a single rep works their way upward through the various bus stops of kettlebell poundage: they master the 70, 80 and 90 + pound kettlebells, but for both physical and psychological reasons, they cannot successfully lift Jaws. They keep banging their head against the same wall and as we all know insanity is described as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. My solution is to end the insanity by stepping outside the orthodox box. My suggestion is to take up the two hand overhead barbell press.
The first order of business is to establish ratios and relationships: when apprentice Beast Tamers make their way to my gym for a consultation, I want to determine their current ratio between single arm kettlebell pressing strength and two arm barbell pressing strength. I conduct what I call "report card day."
The apprentice Beast Tamer comes to my Purposefully Primitive garage gym and I have them start off by working up to a crisp, clean overhead press maximum using the kettlebell: let us, for illustrative purposes, say that they successfully clean and press the 88 pound bell using crisp technique. After ample rest (I want them completely recovered) I will have the apprentice Beast Tamer work up to a crisp single in the two hand barbell press.
I have them face the squat rack, dip under and take the barbell out of the rack as if they were going to perform a front squat. Lock out the legs and glutes, tense the torso and drive the light poundage overhead using just enough lean back to clear the face as they press the barbell overhead. I eliminate the tricky barbell clean as this muddies the technical water. I will work them upward, starting with the empty 45 pound barbell, using small poundage jumps, until we hit a nice, clean single rep maximum in the two-arm overhead barbell press with no grinding, contorting or excessive back bend.
Let us assume that our hypothetical Beast Tamer presses the 88 pound kettlebell cleanly – but with little left – and then presses a 165 pound barbell overhead – but with little left. 88 pounds is 53% of 165 pounds. The literal poundage difference between 165 and 88 is 77 pounds. Thus we have created the requisite ratios. Now the task is to, over time, drive the two hand barbell press upward.
Our goal is to, over time, increase the two hand press maximum to 200 pounds x 1 rep. Why 200? 53% of 200 pounds is 106 pounds. I construct a periodized (preplanned) overhead press regimen designed to add 35 pounds to the current 165 x 1 barbell press maximum. Typically I might proscribe a menu of 1-5 rep sets and look to bump up 5 pounds per session for nine or ten successive sessions. Here is how one possible template might lay out: after warming up thoroughly perform the following work sets….
Session 1 135 for five sets of five reps
Session 2 140 for four sets of five reps
Session 3 145 for three sets of five reps
Session 4 155 for five sets of three reps
Session 5 160 for four sets of three reps
Session 6 165 for three sets of three reps
Session 7 175 for three set of two reps
Session 8 180 for two sets of two reps
Session 9 185 for one set of two reps
Session 10    200 for one set of one rep
This approach is guaranteed to make The Beast feel lighter. Those further down the poundage feeding chain can use this augmented approach to tackle whatever kettlebell poundage they choose. A small dose of barbell training can be used to make big fish into smaller ones by obtaining a bigger boat. Best of luck!
Marty Gallagher is one of the world’s leading strength theoreticians and coaches. As an athlete, Gallagher has won seven national titles in both powerlifting and Olympic lifting as well as the world championship in the master’s division of three separate organizations. As a coach, Gallagher guided Black’s gym to five national team titles and served as team coach to the United States squad that beat Finland, Russia and China to win the 1991 world team title in Orebro, Sweden. You can visit his weekly column here: Marty Gallagher’s Primitive Synergy – Iron, Mind, Cardio and Nutrition