Developing capacity

In the broader scope of strength and conditioning training with kettlebells, we regularly mix the dosages and durations of the sets. We may wish to go very, very fast for a shorter period of time, to train power, or more slowly for a more extended period, to train muscular stamina and cardio-respiratory endurance.

The interesting nature of kettlebell training is that you can go from slow to fast (i.e. pick up the pace later in the effort), but you cannot go from fast to slow. You have to learn how to go slow first. This is very important, because, going very fast out of the gate will deplete your energy stores quickly, and once this happens, your set is over. On the other hand, by pacing yourself you can sustain your output over an extended period of time. As your conditioning improves, you will be able to increase the rpms for the period of time that you are working, but you are already accustomed to working, at some level, for the duration. Even if you are training for longer-duration sets using a fluid style, it is certainly possible to move at a much faster pace for shorter sets, when you want to optimize power output. There is a definite place for that approach in the context of circuit and general fitness training. If you can work for six minutes at 20 rpm, for example, you will also be able to work for one or two minutes at 26 to 28 rpm. But if you only practice working at a fast pace for short durations, it will be very difficult to make the leap to longer-duration sets. There is a very specific quality of endurance and stamina that can be developed only by doing longer sets.

The kind of lifting I'm talking about is not taking a heavy kettlebell and doing something one or two or five times. That is exercise, yes, but it does not lead into anything beyond that. This is why it would be referred to as a feat of strength. It shows that you can do some things, but it doesn't say anything about how good you really are with kettlebells. As kettlebells are primarily a strength-endurance tool, and not for maximal strength development, it is appropriate to start slow and build the volume through pacing rather than through maximal effort in each rep. Those feats of strength can be done with anything—a barbell, a sand bag, even a person. Learning how to go slow and relax between reps is the key to excellence.

To the casual observer, an elite kettlebell lifter will appear to move very quickly and very powerfully. It will look as if there is no resting at all because of the pace that is maintained. For example, the world record for jerks in the men's competition is 175 jerks with two 32kg bells. This was accomplished in a period of 10 minutes. We RS hiP overextension know that this is over 17.5

rpm, or one rep every 3.42 seconds for ten minutes straight! The numbers are astounding. That is a gross measure of 11,200 kg (24,640 pounds) of overhead lifting in one set.

That example uses the best lifter in the world, so it doesn't relate to you or me personally except as a point of reference. Yet, this lifter, Ivan Denisov, like all the best lifters, actually relaxes between reps. So it is a period of intense explosion, followed by a complete relaxation. In effect, each rep is the same as the previous. The athlete stops because the clock stops. He doesn't rest for long, but you can see that he is recharged before he does his next rep. That is the only way to accomplish such workloads.

The same level of control is possible at whatever your current level. By approaching your kettlebell training with a FS approach, focusing on relaxing as much as possible and training to time and not just reps, you can build a wide and solid endurance base and improve your performance of the basics. Don't be in a hurry to rush through your sets. Spend some time working on holding on to the bell and breathing through the movements.

There are two sides to work capacity. Developing the ability to generate force is an aspect of training that we are all aware of; learning how to control and sustain that force via pacing is an equally important aspect of becoming a skilled athlete, but one that typically garners less attention. This is what the relaxation properties of FS kettlebell lifting teach. Let's start paying closer attention.

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Steve Cotter is a renowned kettlebell instructor who teaches his unique blend of Full Kontact kettlebell training throughout North America, Asia, and Europe.

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