3 Reasons You Should Try Kettlebell Sport
In kettlebell sport a lifter can compete in the snatch, jerk, long-cycle (clean & jerk), or biathlon (jerk + snatch) events. The lifter has 10 minutes to complete as many repetitions as possible in the event. There are rules surrounding this but that is the basic premise. If you’ve watched Olympic Weightlifting then you understand the goal of completing one repetition with a barbell at a maximum weight to test maximum strength. Kettlebell Sport is a strength endurance sport. So while the weight moved is sub-maximal, strength is still required to move the weight and endurance required to continue moving the weight over a considerable time period. Since I’m often asked why someone would want to participate in such an event, I’ve put together three reasons of why I believe it’s a worthwhile pursuit.
You can work multiple fitness qualities simultaneously using the kettlebell sport lifts. The movements are full-body movements that cover multiple patterns. For example, in long-cycle there is an obvious hinge, squat, and press. There is also a pull from the clean and rotation/anti-rotation for those competing with one bell. As I already mentioned all of this requires strength AND endurance elements. If you’d like to read more about why kettlebell sport is efficient at training multiple fitness qualities there is a great blog post here.
PROGRESSION AND ACHIEVEMENT
Competitors achieve rank in the sport by completing a specified number of reps outlined on the ranking table. The reps required is determined by the lifter’s body weight and weight of the bell that he or she is using. Progression is key to kettlebell sport. I’d also argue that it’s one of the most neglected aspects of many people’s workout regimen. If you’re not tracking your progress odds are that you are spinning your wheels in the gym and not seeing results. Kettlebell Sport forces you to look at your performance numbers each workout and ask questions about progress. All of the elements in training should be measured: which weight did you use, how many reps did you achieve, what was your pace, how long did it take you, how long did you rest, etc. This allows you to clearly see your progress, even from one workout to the next, which is sometimes much more vague and difficult to measure with other types of training.
The element of personal achievement should not be overlooked. To start, the kettlebell sport lifts are high skilled movements. Simply learning the lifts and continuing to refine the technique is an achievement in itself, not to mention progress from training and especially the achievement of competing at an event. If your nutrition is dialed in you can even simultaneously make progress in other areas such as muscle gain or fat loss.
Much is talked about the mental aspects of kettlebell sport, and with good reason. Ten minutes of lifting can be brutal. Not only does it take physical preparation, but a strong mind is needed to lift in front of others and push through when things get tough and it would be easier to quit. Kettlebell Sport is a great way to learn about yourself and how to keep calm in times of great stress. You are forced to examine your positive or negative self-talk and make decisions that will either help or hurt the outcome of your event. Needless to say, you can apply the lessons learned in the gym to the way your operate in the rest of your life.
I think it’s important to examine opposing sides of arguments so here are a couple of points that I once thought were against kettlebell sport. The first is that the training can be monotonous, especially if you are training for multiple events in one year. I know that after our first competition at Cypress no one wanted to look at another kettlebell for a few months after. Actually, that’s not entirely true, we simply shifted focus to other aspects of kettlebell training. While there is some monotony in the training, I’ve noticed that many kettlebell lifters supplement their training with more variety and fun then I’ve observed in many general training programs. It seems like every time I turn around someone from the IKFF is introducing a great new tool or protocol into their training. These include bulgarian bags, the mace, and the HIRTS trainer. If anything, competing in kettlebell sport forces you to cycle your training, which is another thing that many programs either lack or do too much.
Finally there is the aspect of safety. I’m always skeptical about competing using an exercise, but kettlebell sport is a very controlled competition compared to some other types of lifting sports. While injuries do happen, they are not very common in kettlebell sport. In fact, grip fatigue or fatigue in smaller muscle groups usually causes the lifter to terminate a set before reaching a point where injury is imminent.
If you’re interested learning more about kettlebell sport you can attend the 2014 New Orleans Kettlebell Sport Championships at Cypress Fitness on July 26 to see firsthand what it’s all about. We also teach a kettlebell seminar at Cypress that can get you started on the road to competing. It’s important to learn the fundamentals of these movements and develop skill and technique before applying the intensity required in a competition. However you’d be surprised at how fast you can progress with practice and consistency. We have an incredible community of kettlebell lifters both at Cypress and as part of the larger IKFF community. Honestly, more than anything else I’d say it’s the relationships that you build along the way that will keep you motivated and coming back for more.