First off - why get strong?
Simply put, when you’re stronger, everything else you do will be easier and less of an effort. Got It?
It may be heresy in most gym training circles to write this, but believe it or not, there is more than one model of training to get stronger, fitter and more mobile and external loading with a bar or kettlebells or machines is irrelevant. Seriously, the body doesn’t know what it’s being loaded with when an external load is piled upon it.
But here’s the difference. Life entails movements that are not just linear, not just static i.e. seated or stationary on a machine, we are required to use our strength through a myriad of directions - not just up, down and when needed, to resist multi-directional forces applied to us.
Strength training should reflect the physical challenges we do and will encounter.
Machine training offers very low level entrance strength training. Due to the limited control of movements whilst using machines, the carry over to a fully functioning life is so very minimal.
Barbells are fantastic - I need no convincing of that as a former powerlifter but, whilst barbell lifting strength can be impressive and a challenge unto itself, the carry-over to life's needs are limited. Most bar lifts for the most-part are two handed and two legged - life doesn’t work that way. Don’t get me wrong, barbells are great and I run training sessions and workshops often with barbells, but my goal in this challenge is to demonstrate the real-life strength we can develop with just one tool - the Kettlebell.
There are many reasons to use a kettlebell - its compact size, it is multi-purpose but my number one reason for choosing to use a kettlebell is its self teaching attributes. The shape of bell make your body work harder to maintain position and posture. If you don't, you wont be comfortable and you wont move so well! The off-centre position of the bell when sitting on the forearm forces the stabilising muscles to maintain your position. No gym machine will do this. The handle too, allows the user to transfer from a grind movement like a press into an explosive move like a clean or a swing with immediate affect. Convenient - yes?
Whilst the commonly followed training methods are smash and trash, guts and glory, balls the wall, go hard or go home style workouts, there are other routes to success and results without pushing the margins of safety, sanity and building an unhealthy relationship with strength training.
‘Push your body and it will push back even harder!’
For a limited time you can smash your body, session in and session out and get away with it. You can take yourself to the point of collapse, to muscle failure to the point that walking to the bathroom to throw up will be near impossible. The thing is, well, one of the things is, it’s pretty darned impossible to progress from max effort all the time. Yeah, it might feel great that you survived, but wouldn’t thriving be more enjoyable?
In many of our programs trainees comment how they never really strain, even in the final weeks of a program. They just find that the increase in volume stays within their comfort zone and increased strength just happens!
That is the goal of course, to get strong with ease.
This concept of strength training has many deeper ins and outs that I’ll not dive into on this paper, so let’s move on.
Considerable study, trial and error with 1000s of trainees was conducted in the former Eastern Block in the 70s and probably earlier (mostly for Olympic lifting but the principles apply to all strength training) surrounding training periodisation. Periodisation is simply put, framing training into blocks of weeks where particular aspects of training variation (like reps and loads) are cycled, with the desired outcome being increased power and strength. This is a very simplified description. Among many things learned, it was observed that the average intensity of the most successful programs over a training year averaged around 70-75% of maximum effort. There were brief periods below and above these intensities during layoffs, and then competition build up and the competitions themselves.
Anyhoo, the 75% is an important detail of this page, well for me writing the challenge program.
Many successful training systems build their programs from a 75% effort and in ‘one way or another’, gradually increase the volume load (number of accumulated load per training week). The ‘one way or another’ is referred to as waved variable volume.
Without getting too far into this rabbit hole, by waving up and down the volume, the trainees comfort zone increased by default. By increasing the volume gradually with a comfortable 75% loading the trainee gets stronger just by default. Simple and easy(ish)!
This forms the basis of all of our strength training programs. We establish a training technical maximum often by anecdotal knowledge i.e. you’ll probably be pretty aware of what weight of a kettlebell you can carry out 10 reps or 5 reps of a particular movement.
To determine a 75% stress with kettlebells we move down one or two kettlebell sizes or we’ll use that 10 rep max weight but only work up 7 reps (70%). Read that last bit again... simple!
Here’s the take-away:
-> Always stay within your comfort zone - work reasonably hard, not maximum.
In the following 3 blocks of programs I will help you figure out what sizes of kettlebell to use.
And, if you only have ONE kettlebell, don’t worry, there are ways to use the kettlebell to make it feel heavier!!