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Kettlebell Muscle

August 9, 2010 06:38 AM



The main thing people have told me that they want from their training hasn't changed in 30 + years: they want to lose weight and get toned. This is by far the most common desire and everything else is way behind. And by get toned they mean LOOK like they have some muscle.

This is what most people mean by fitness. They want to look like they train. They want to look like an athlete.

People want to look good in their clothes and, with their clothes off. And, if they feel that they look good they usually feel better about themselves and eat better, train more and act more disciplined and focused in their life in general, because what mostly keeps people from doing what they know they need to regarding their training is lack of motivation.

Rarely do people lose motivation when they can see and feel the results that their training is bringing them.

This is why I was so excited to see the title of Master RKC Geoff Neupert's new book: Kettlebell MUSCLE.

As much as we disparage the current methods of bodybuilding in the RKC ( Pavel's "virtual muscle') the bottom line is that increasing one's muscle mass, as well as their strength has many, many real world applications and is vitally important, especially as we grow older.

In the important book "BioMarkers, the Ten Keys to Prolonging Vitality' (written by two Harvard MD's ) the Docs placed strength training and maintaining muscle mass way above endurance in importance as we age. Sarcopenia, or the loss of muscle mass, was much more detrimental to aging people than loss of Vo2 max or aerobic capacity.

The study discovered that loss of muscle in our older years played a huge role in preserving such critical functions as body temperature regulation, bone strength, insulin sensitivity, maintaining ones basal metabolic rate as well as giving grandma or grandpa the strength to do all the things that real life requires.

And that the ability to gain strength and muscle mass doesn't go away after age 50 as so many thought.

So, muscle, real functional muscle, is not only good, it is VITAL.

Captain Complex (Geoff's new nickname) has written a great book, taking the basic movements of the RKC and upping the ante by teaching us, in a well written, step by step approach, how to use two kettlebells and complexes and chains(get the nickname now?) to increase both muscle mass and strength .

Some might ask, if you are going to use two bells, and are interested in putting on muscle mass why not just use a barbell? Good question and there's nothing wrong with barbells but KBs still have many advantages that barbells can never give.

The first is the ability to swing the bells beneath the body creating larger forces through a bigger range of motion. Secondly, the double bells, although they are still a bilateral movement requiring the use of the entire body (" two kb and two hand swings brings your body back into symmetry, squared off", as my wife Tracy always says) STILL require huge amounts of stabilization and control of the individual limbs that barbells do not.

It's not possible to have serious side-to-side strength deficit (i.e. one side is way stronger than the other) and get away with it with two bells like you can with a single bar. You will find out very quickly which is your weak side when you try to handle two bells in any movement, especially with heavy (for you) bells. It's all easy "til it's heavy, lol.

Third, even though the top bells are "only' 106 pounds each that load is amplified in crazy fashion when they are used for complex movement and even more for complexes as Geoff prescribes.

Top squatter and RKC Donnie Thompson (can you say 1200+ lbs in the power squat?) finds double 40 kg bells kick his legs and butt in the strict front squat. That's a serious testimonial.

For the few that might be worried they will get "too big" just know this: muscle mass is hard to grow but very easy to lose. Anytime you feel you are too big, check on your food consumption. As long as you are not spending hours on the pec dec and leg extension you are in no danger of developing that type of muscle that is "all show and no go".

Developed and strong shoulders, arms, legs and hips, and the hallmark of all real strength athletes; the back, make one look fit, healthy and ready to work - especially when they are developed with tools such as kettlebells and compound movements. The basic kb swing, press, snatch and squat can create an athletic body with natural looking muscle because the body is working within it's primal patterns. Isolation exercise can create a very unnatural looking physique.

People with such muscle mass look like athletes, not cartoon characters, not that there's anything wrong with that, if that's your thing. I spent eight years as a competitive bodybuilder so I can't throw too many stones. But I did eventually come to my senses.
One can have both a well shaped, and developed physique along with a body that can actually do something practical and functional.

KBs will get the job done in short order, especially for women and especially for their arms and shoulders, particularly tough for women to build. So many women define the quality of their physique by whether or not they can wear a tank top and 'show' their arms.

BUT, some might not be ready for the intensity of Captain Complex's Complexes. So here's a transition workout to get you ready for the increased workloads in Geoff's Kettlebell Muscle book.

Workout One:

One arm swing
One arm high pull
One arm snatch
Negative press

Do 8 reps per exercise before going immediately to the next. When you finish each group transfer to the other side. Use a weight that is challenging for 8 reps per exercise but allows you to finish both sides without gassing too hard. Repeat for 3-5 sets.

Rest until your heart rate comes down to about 80% of its top level at the end of the set.

Finish the workout with double kb swings; using a weight that challenges you to do 8-10 rep sets and NOT lose your form. Hardstyle please. Do 5-10 sets taking as much rest as the time the set took you to do it. This will prepare you for the heavier bells to come with Geoff's workout.

Workout two:

One arm clean
One KB front squat
One KB push press
Negative press

Five reps per exercise before going onto the next. Repeat on the other side using weight that is challenging for 5 rep sets. Repeat for 3-5 sets. Do not turn the front squat/push press into a thruster move. Stop and hold after the front squat before doing the push press.

Finish with two kb cleans, again doing 5-10 sets but using weights that allow only 5-8 rep sets.

Repeat on the other side using just 5 reps per exercise.

The negative press, done after snatching the weight up or a push press, is done at a slower tempo, working the negative but not killing it. Take 3-4 seconds to lower the weight. One can lower more weight than they can raise and the increased time under tension will make you stronger (remember: strength= tension?). I got this drill from my wife Tracy who uses the negative press after snatching the weight up all the time and gets great results for herself and her students who are too weak to use the next bell size up.

Workout Three:

One arm swing
One arm snatch
Negative press
Front squat

On this series do just ONE rep per exercise, switch to the other arm and repeat for that side, THEN switch back and repeat again until one has done 3 reps on each exercise, total.

It will look like this:

One swing, one snatch, one negative press, one front squat, transfer to the other side, repeat, transfer back to the first side, again one rep per exercise until 3 reps are done.

Do this 3-5 times and finish up with two kb high pulls for sets of 10 again, resting as long as the set takes you for 5-10 sets.

Again, this type of sequencing is inspired by my wife Tracy's swing progressions. This type of constant switching allows one to do large workloads with minimal fatigue, perfect for the third workout of the week. Her female clients see changes in their arm tone (tone=tension= strength) after sometimes just four workouts!

I recommend doing this workout on alternating days (M-W-F) and then resting two days before restarting. This should get you ready to jump in Geoff's KB Muscle program smoothly.

So, go get his book and get started building some serious functional muscle, RKC Style!

Mark Reifkind, Master RKC
Owner - Girya Kettlebell Training, Master Russian Kettlebell Instructor.
136 Hamilton Ave.Palo Alto Ca.
Email: info@giryastrength.com
Blog: http://www.rifsblog.blogspot.com
 

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