Some Observations After Three Years of Kettlebell Training

by Kilo on April 30, 2011


Adam T. Glass snatching a kettlebell

In June of 2009 I became a certified Russian Kettlebell Challenge instructor (RKC). Before that I’d probably been training on my own with kettlebells for about 16 months. Either way, I’ve now been slinging these goofy pieces of iron around for about three years.

I have swung from zealotry to mere fan and back up again at times. Sometimes I love them, sometimes I hate them. Sometimes they are the best thing for me, and sometimes I think they are the worst.

Below I’m going to lay out some observations I have made over the last three years.

  • They’re only the best tool for you if 1) you enjoy them above all other strength training or conditioning tools; 2) you want to be better at kettlebell lifting. If neither one of these describes you, I would simply ask if there is any exercise you enjoy more, and then I’d go do that.
  • There is some pretty silly politics in the world of kettlebells. I don’t know if there isĀ  a conversation that interests me less than “hardstyle vs. Girevoy sport.”
  • There is only one way to make the kettlebell you are currently using feel lighter: make a heavier one your working weight.
  • On that note, I wish I’d gotten into doubles kb work earlier. I have never put on more solid muscle than when I started into double long cycle work.
  • for me, the best use of a kb is juggling
  • No matter what the marketing says, there is limited carryover to other activities. Passing the Secret Service Snatch Test does not mean you are a good sprinter, or that you can swim well, or that you’re a fighter or a Special Ops wiz
  • Too many people are scared to go heavier, when in fact, kettlebells simply don’t get that heavy. I’m not talking about military pressing or snatching, but I’ve seen grown men swing a 24 for two years before moving on up to the non-formidable 32kg bell. There are 150 lb women in my class swinging bodyweight or above. These trainees all remind me of the man who bench presses 225 for three years every time I see him in the gym.
  • On the flipside, I’ve seen a lot of injuries because people pursue the next bell size recklessly and thoughtlessly, without listening to their bodies.
  • Most kettlebell certifications are extremely overpriced.
  • Certifications are just a starting point. They do not qualify us to say much more than “I have this certification.”
  • The kb world is a lot smaller than it thinks it is. Even with Jillian breaking them out on The Biggest Loser, they are still peripheral at best. I laugh every time I hear someone say “I’m an RKC” and then look shocked when the person has no idea what that is
  • Blind allegiance to a tool is not advised, even one as great as the kb
  • If I was starting over I would focus on more speed work than simply trying to get stronger and/or do more weight
  • I do not recommend following structured programs. If I could go back I would make more progress, much sooner.
  • The clean is a movement that absolutely confounds some people.
  • There are too many cues in kb instruction
  • If you need bells heavier than 48kilos you’ll probably have to go outside the United States
  • Many of the benchmarks in books of kettlebell instruction are extremely conservative
  • Writing this post has made me want to go do some jerks–I love this stuff.




{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

John Sifferman May 2, 2011 at 10:46 am

Good stuff, Josh. Could you point me in a direction for finding more info about benchmarks? I’ve seen a pretty wide range of standards, and am not sure if one has more weight than another.


Kilo May 2, 2011 at 1:33 pm

John, most of what I’ve seen comes from Pavel’s programs or from the various ranking requirements for the American Kettlebell Club.

So in the Rite of Passage from Enter The Kettlebell, you complete 200 snatches with the 24kg bell in 10 minutes and press the bell closest to one half of your bodyweight.

In Return of The Kettlebell it’s long cycle clean and jerks with doubles. I can’t remember what the formula is, but it came out to 22 clean and jerks with the 32kgs at my bodyweight. A challenge, but I hit it within a few unfocused months.

Here are the AKC rankings:

As to what has more weight? I can’t say. they all think they’re authoritative, and they all have followers who think that their benchmarks are the best, so they’re all the best to someone. Do you have specific kettlebell-related goals?


John Sifferman May 3, 2011 at 9:29 am

Not at this time. I’ve used KB’s off and on for years, but have never focused exclusively on them, and I haven’t worked with doubles consistently in a few years either. I was just curious if one standard is considered more legit than another, but I guess it’s still all wrapped up in politics.


Kilo May 3, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Nah. They all might be legit but they all sell their methods, so who knows?


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