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INTEGRATION: Powerlifting and Kettlebells, The Perfect Match!

July 14, 2011 06:00 AM

DT ART 
 
When I started Powerlifting, there was so much to learn. The big three lifts to learn were simple, The Squat, The Bench and The Deadlift. There is really nobody that does these lifts correctly when they venture off into the world of lifting weights. I remember I had a poster of Bob Hoffman from York Barbell. It came with the weight set I bought from there. This was 1979! It had about 22 exercises on it and I just followed them all in sequence. I wish I still had that poster. You did every single power lift. However, it didn’t stop there. You did all the Olympic lifts too! Your right, it didn’t end there. After a super hard barbell course of steel, you were fed the side items of dumbbell work. This was the bodybuilding course that followed the Olympic lifts, which followed the power lifts. If Kettlebells were popular back then, it would have had them on there too! Today my training for world record Powerlifting lifts consists of five to seven total different lifts. There is one main lift. The rest is assistance work. Huge contrast compared to 22 different lifts on my lifting poster. Not to mention I nailed this poster to the barn wall. My dad and I put a reinforced floor in a barn on our farm. The barn was built in 1880! He never hinged the door, on the special weight room, that opened up to the outside pasture. So every winter the horses would get curious and knock the door over on me while I was trying to lift. Great times on the farm for sure.
 
Today, it is not that simple yet it is that simple. We have more gyms in our great country than ever before. Every High School and College is totally equipped with the latest in weight equipment. Most of us that graduated in the 80’s and under can remember a Universal machine at best. There was no strength and conditioning coach. That was left up to the in house dictator, our head football coach! Now enter the Kettlebell!! It is hard to find any training facility without them. So here I was and lifting since 1979! Lets go forward to 2003!
 
I meet Pavel. There was something missing in my lifting that I just couldn’t figure out. When I was playing football, I always got stronger during the season. The reason for this is all the speed work a football player has to do during the individual part of practice. This is about 55 minutes daily. We worked speed from our feet up to the tops of our heads. Then we went to team. So in 2003, I was ten years removed from football. With some major back injuries, I approached Pavel at the Dragon Door booth during an Arnold Expo. He showed me five lifts with the Kettlebell. He told me don’t worry about it improving my bench. But he guarantees it will work on my squat and deadlift. The swings he taught me would promote lower back fitness and over all proficiency! First was the One Arm Swing. Then the Two-Arm Swing. The Alternate Swing. The Swing Snatch and the Twist deadlift. He also added the one called spreading of the hips which is a game of brake-o / gas-o.
 
Immediately I went back to my compound and started my quest for Kettlebell greatness. Not only did I buy all the Dragon Door Kettlebells, I bought doubles of them. So I did all my swings with two Kettlebells. This went on for about four years and I had two separate days that I did only KB’s. I started to get over worked on them. With the demands of Powerlifting, I had to find another way to do them and still train heavy for my meets. This led to what I refer to as Integration!
 
Let me explain. I am a Pro Powerlifter. This means I wear the supportive Powerlifting gear to help my squat and bench to be higher. The squat suit and the bench shirt are very strong and unforgiving. You can hurt yourself for life if you mess up with either of them. The good ones will help you add about 300 pounds to your max effort lift. The trick is though; you have to train with the supportive gear on for a long time before a meet. It is like handing the keys to a top fuel NASCAR automobile to a kid. They stroll at a meager 200 mph on the stretch. If you are not a professional driver and have never driven a fast car like that, you will surely crash the second you are put in the drivers seat. Only professional drivers can handle a car like that. Not us. So, only the pros in Powerlifting should be tampering with supportive gear for the pro meets and record breakers. Everyone else should probably go raw with just a belt. Since the gear started taking a lot of my time in training, I had to do KB’s along with my regular lifts. So now during every training session I do Kettlebells for assistance work too.
 
This led to my Integration system of training. The heavy demands of meet training had to be supplemented with KB’s just right. Tuesday is my heavy squat night. So I pulled the most effective lifts for me to assist my lifting. Now this is what I have done for my lifting demands. It may be different for others. My squats take about two hours on a fast night. It is over an hour to get to my first set. The KB lifts following the squat late at night is my favorite, the Double swings sumo stance. I do the 40kg’s and get 3 sets of 8 reps. Next is the Twist Deadlift. I will usually use the Beast for this. I like to do this rotational work for 3 sets of 8 reps. Next on the docket is KB Front Squats. These used to be my least favorite. Why? Because they hurt! Using full range of motion I use the 32kg’s or the 40kg’s! Again, 3 sets of 8 reps. On my off day I always start with the One Arm Bar. I use no heavier than the 24kg. I actually put a magnetic timer on the bottom of the Kettlebell and set it for 35 seconds. I do three reps of 35 seconds each shoulder. This is great for shoulder fitness and helps the rotator cuff muscles as well as the labrum get strong. This is done twice a week.
 
My other lower body day is speed work. I do not use any lifting aids. No belt, no monolift. No straps. Just me. My speed squats are done rapid. I may do three reps or five reps. If three reps it is eight sets of squats. If five reps, then it is five sets. I try to keep my rep range around 24! Immediately following each set of squats, I run over to the 32kg KB’s and indulge in some horrific double KB swing snatches. Let me tell you something comrades in pain, it is awful. But I sneak in about 40 reps doing it this way. Then I rest for 2 min and commence with the squat again. Give it a try. Speed Deadlifts next. After five sets of deads, then my other favorite KB lift is up. The Dead snatch! I usually start with the 40k on this for 3sets of 5reps. When I go to the Beast, I try to stay with the five reps also. Speed is the key to this lift. If you are not fast, the Beast will Goliath its way to a thud on your inner arm. Yes it is painful. Yes you feel weak. Yes you learn a lesson. Be fast or be beat!! Literally. The swing snatch presses follow these. We like to do a 5-4-3-2-1 set snatch press. So you swing snatch the 32k’s up to forced lock out and a body that is like an oak tree! Now start doing the military presses. Make sure you externally rotate the KB on the way down so you are in the rack position. Do not cut this short. Next are the Bottoms Up press! It is hard. Make sure you chalk up for this one. The trick to a successful Bottoms Up is not to over swing it at the top. If you overcompensate like the swing snatch you will never stop that ball of steel! When you balance the KB at the top slowly lead with your elbows and bring the balanced KB down under some strict conditions. If you let your mind drift or do not try hard, you will not get one rep. There is no muscling the KB in this lift. Your shoulders and forearms will thank you for this. I try and do 3sets of 8 reps. If the KB flops, then it doesn’t count. This lift will humble you quickly if you do not give it your all.
 
For the last exercise with the KB’s I like the banded Double Arm Swing! I put the JumpStretch band through the handle of the KB and then through each foot. Then I proceed to motor the KB into position to hammer it with speed. Once it reaches the top, the band will throw it back down between your legs with a vengeance. This is one I like to do 5 sets with at 12 reps apiece. It is also performed at the end of my session. As you can see, I still do quite of KB work with my Powerlifting movements. These are the exercises that I personally chose to help me. Maybe you can use the same concept and exchange the various KB lifts to meet your requirements?
 
Integration is the key to a superior physical body! Does just weightlifting work for the elite level athletes? NO! Does Kettlebells only work for the elite athlete? Well it is close but no they do not! But if you integrate various forms of strength training in the proper sequence for you, the chance you have hit on peak perfection is inevitable. Do not do work for works sake. Have a plan.
 
Do the weightlifting exercises to get you stronger. Use the best choices or the best fit of Kettlebell exercises to enhance your strength. Use Mobility work to keep you fit to perform these tasks injury free and with optimum ability. Be efficient with your training program. Be proficient with your exercise choices!
 
I have seen trainers and coaches just choose various exercises to kill someone so they get real sore and can barely move. Many people think this is great! Wrong! It is not great to be so sore and traumatized that you can’t move. How will you train the next day and the day after that? The goal of any great athlete is to up the volume of training over the course of time and up the intensity prior to event performance.
 
If a Professional Football player had a game every Sunday for a solid year, there would be pieces of him here and there left at every stadium he attempted to play in. His output would be diminished after about 25 weeks and he would be an injury magnet! Leave weekly performance at the high levels to the Pro-Wrestlers! Sports Entertainment. But when you play for representation of your country or for pay, you had better come up with a strength program that delivers!
 
Integration is the key to performance.
 

 
 
Donnie Thompson works for Progressive Sports Physical Therapy in West Columbia, South Carolina. He is the Strength and Mobility Director for the company state wide. They have 22 clinics in the state of South Carolina. He insures the implementation of strength in the Physical Therapy programs. He also works with athletes and patients who opt for no surgery and patients post surgery. Many of the uses in his protocol include weights, Kettlebells, Jumpstretch bands and compression. Plus anything that works!!
 
Donnie has played football in the Arena Football League for 6 years. After his football career, he built and operated a commercial health club in the Columbia, SC area which he sold and is still operating today. In 1998, Donnie started competitive powerlifting and has not turned back. He has broken the Professional Powerlifting all-time total twice. Owned the powerlifting bench press record twice and now holds the all-time squat record of 1260lbs! His 2905lb powerlifting total still stands today. Pavel worked with Donnie personally in 2003, 2004 and 2005 which led to his victory at the 2005 Arnold Classic WPO Powerlifting Championships. Pavel was backstage when Donnie pulled the 821lb deadlift for the Victory. Today Donnie is wrapping up his powerlifting career with the chase of the 3000lb total and the 1300lb squat. His knowledge collected over two decades in Mobility and Strength have made it possible for him to continue with the heavy lifting to conquer these lifting goals. He can be reached at don.thompson@pptaccess.com. Donnie travels to many Universities and High Schools throughout the country teaching Kettlebell training and Mobility work to the football teams and coaches.
 
 

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