Kettlebells For Speed: What I Wish I Knew In College
The term “kettlebell” was foreign to me when I picked up my first weight of any kind back in the early 90’s. I was a high schooler at the time; running cross-country and track for the high school’s team. I remember enrolling in our school’s “weight training” class, which consisted of learning the techniques of back squats, bench press, and various dumbbell movements. At the monstrous size of 5’2’’ and under 100 pounds (I didn’t break three digits on the scale until my senior year in high school), I was quite strong for my size. I held the school record for lifting the most for my body weight. I loved lifting heavy. I was the petite, female, Indian version of a “meat head”. At the end of track practice, we had mandatory “weight training,” which again consisted of bench press, back squats, lat pulls, dumbbell flys, and whatever else our track coach thought might make us “faster” on the track. Because I took a weight training class during the day though, I was allowed to sit out during this portion of our practice. I lifted and lifted and lifted, and ran and ran and ran. I ended my high school career as a fairly decent middle distance runner and was excited to continue to run in college and continue to see my times go down.
Fast forward to college, where I ran cross-country and track at University of Maryland. I was running on average eh….40-60 miles a week with mandatory weight room twice a day. Our strength coach was also a strength coach for the football team, and in hindsight, I’m pretty sure our strength program was the same as theirs. I never questioned, however, why I was told to back squat 145 pounds or do a 115 pound one-rep max on bench as a distance runner. Nope, I never questioned it. Surely, the strength coach of a Division I team must know what is best for me to perform better on the track. So as my bench max and squat max continued to climb, the opposite occurred on the track. In fact, my times on the track continued to get slower, and slower, and slooooower than what I was running in high school. I was frustrated, angry at myself, depressed. I could not wrap my head around how I was blowing this. I had a Division I program training me, day in and day out, and I could not perform. What was going on? After graduating, I continued to run a lot and lift a lot. I ran a few races here and there, but my times never got significantly better. I eventually got tired of running and focused on other cardiovascular exercises that I saw other people at the gym suffering through; elliptical, stair climber, etc. I quickly got bored with those as well. I had no goals. I was working out just to work out. I saw no gains in my performance, and no changes in my body composition. Then around 2009 I was introduced to the kettlebell. I had no idea what it was or how my life would be forever changed by a cast iron weight that dates back to well before any of us existed. I began training with the “bell” and quickly became hooked. I wanted to learn everything there was to learn about this little bell. I was in love! Five years after picking up my first bell, I can look back on my track career and fully understand now why my performance on the track suffered from the strength program I was given. I understand now why performing a stationary movement, like a bench press, equates to absolutely nothing on the track. In order to gain speed, which I needed as an 800m runner, I needed to perform explosive, ballistic movements in the weight room. It wasn’t what I was doing wrong on the track that was slowing me down! It was a defective strength program that was slowing mynae down. If only I knew then what I knew now, I would have been a completely different collegiate athlete. I finally got it. The it being why athletes from high schoolers to professional athletes see their performances suffer at the hands of strength coaches that somehow think that increasing your bench max is somehow going to make you perform better in any sport.
To further illustrate my point of the kettlebell being THE key to train athletes to be more explosive, gain speed, and be better conditioned overall, I will tell you this. I mentioned that I stopped running a while ago. I ran here and there, five miles max, but definitely not consistently. Back in March, I was asked to run a ½ marathon…..the following weekend. I agreed, and then quickly freaked out. I hadn’t run more than three miles in the months prior to the race. The only thing I had been doing consistently is kettlebell training…and a lot of it. I decided to jump into the race and put no pressure on myself, except to finish. I ran the fastest time for the half that I had ever run in my career, averaging around 7:10/mile. There is no doubt in my mind that training with kettlebells had prepared me for that race. Nearing my 35th birthday (yikes!), I can absolutely with no hesitation say that I am in THE best shape than I have ever been in my life. Even better than when I was running 40-60 miles a week. There is no comparison to what a kettlebell can do for you. Don’t believe me? Pick one up and I guarantee it will change your life.
5 Tips To Improve Your Health in 2015
Even though it’s just a single hour that separates this year from the last, a new year can help to create a fresh mindset that can be empowering. With this mindset comes the common practice of making a New Year’s resolution. One resolution that I’m sure a lot of people have made is to “eat better” or “eat healthier”. But what exactly does this mean? It’s hard to change your ways of eating just because you flipped the calendar page. It takes time, practice, and developing habits over time.
Changing the way you eat should not mean going on a diet, and you shouldn’t feel like you’re on a diet either. Rather than expecting to make a complete 180 with your diet and sticking to it, make a goal to make small changes everyday. These changes should move you closer to your ultimate goal. They need to be sustainable, aligned with your values, manageable within your lifestyle, and over time become second nature. Otherwise, you will just fall back into your old habits that weren’t working for you in 2014. So, what are changes you can make that will help you reach your nutrition goals? There’s so much misinformation out there that make it seem complicated, but it really shouldn’t be. Here are five things you can practice starting now that will immediately improve your health.
1. Eat whole foods. I know you’ve heard this one before. Easier said than done… and what are whole foods anyways? That’s a whole topic in itself, but we can start with a few key concepts that you can master over the next few weeks.
a. Get rid of processed foods. These are products in a bag or box with a long ingredient list (which you can find at the bottom of the nutrition label). Did you know we’re the first generation facing an abundance of food that’s not even real? In fact, 80% of the food available in grocery stores didn’t exist 100 years ago. Keep this in mind to help you decide what to throw out of your kitchen. This pantry overhaul will help you with the next step too.
b. Avoid processed trans fats and vegetable oils, conventional dairy, wheat and other gluten containing ingredients, and soy. They are inflammatory, processed, and recognized by the body as toxins. They also don’t give us the most nutrient bang-for-your book that you want with everything you put in your mouth. These aren’t “rules” to follow of eat this, not that, but simply guidelines to figure out what works best for you.
c. Eat vegetables with every meal and throughout the day. Shop at a local farmers market and stock up on veggies to sauté, roast, or throw in salads.
d. Eat protein from quality, well-sourced meat and seafood. Websites www.eatwild.com or localharvest.org can help you find farms and farmers market in your area. Knowing where your food comes from guarantees that it is treated well and minimally processed.
e. Eat healthy fats from nature. Fat will not make you fat, and eating more of it will help you stay satisfied and full for longer, preventing you from eating a ton of carbs and processed food.
2. Drink more water. Seems silly and cliché, but dehydration can lead to so many health issues that can be resolved simply by drinking enough. Aim for half of your body weight in ounces. Buy a fun water bottle to carry with you and make it a goal to refill it throughout the day.
3. Chew your food slowly. Sit down and enjoy your meal without any distractions. This helps send signals to your brain.
4. Don’t count calories. Eat real foods in reasonable quantities that make you feel satisfied. If you are chewing slowly and allowing your brain to receive the signals that say, “hey, I’m getting the nutrients I wanted and I’m starting to feel full” you should be able to eat an amount of food that works for your body.
5. Prepare foods and have them on hand so you don’t have to rely on willpower. Get rid of the box of cookies and make sure you have healthy alternatives that still taste delicious, but are from whole foods with nutritional value. This one does take planning and preparation, so just remember it is about practice and progression, not perfection. If you focus on these five key changes you can produce large results without causing you unnecessary stress.
Stick to the basics and the details will fall in line with your preferences and lifestyle. Reaching your healthy eating goals in 2015 should be made simple. Embrace the simplicity and experience the results for yourself.
Kettlebells = Powerful Glutes + Mobile Hips = More Velocity and Power
It is very important to have a “Why.” Being tuned into your Why clarifies decision making and keeps you on the path towards whatever it is you seek. Without a Why, people drift and move in response to the forces around them. Athletes and those that train them are no different.
Why do we swing kettlebells? A big reason we do it is because we recognize the kettlebell protocol as a very efficient means of helping our clients develop powerful glutes and mobile hips. We are improving the chain of muscles responsible for delivering force in rotational sports like baseball. Rotational sports involve the rapid turning of torque-producing joints. The faster the rotation, the greater the force to be delivered. The measurement of this rotational movement is called angular velocity.
“The (baseball) athlete should be coached to strive for proper trunk rotation as well as strength and flexibility in order to generate angular velocity within the trunk for maximum ball velocity.” (Journal of Applied Biomechanics, Volume 17, Issue 2, May 2014.) We won’t dive deeper into the world of kinesiology here. All agree that the hips are vital to creating rotation in the trunk and on up the chain of body parts.
Whether it is pitching or swinging a bat, rotation of the hips leads to rotation of the trunk. You want more power at the plate? Rotate the hips. One of the key muscle groups to getting forceful hip rotation are the gluteals. Take a look at the postures of the players below. Even in still shots it’s not hard to see the glutes being meaningfully engaged.
Swinging a ketltlebell trains glutes to become powerful and the hips to be mobile. If you want to throw the ball or hit the ball with great force, develop the glutes and mobilize the hips! When you do, performance will change for the better along with posture, confidence, and overall health. Speaking of using glutes and hips, DSP is now offering swing training lessons on Saturdays at 11:00am to noon. The cost is $50 per session. Jack Breheny will teach players how to leverage their new found gluteal power and hip mobility into a swing that few youth players have, one that is explosive and on plane with the pitch. The result will be more contact and deeper drives. Many of our DSP clients are now physically capable of hitting the ball over the fences but have never been told how to do it. Jack will teach them.
If you are interested in attending these sessions, please contact Darius via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) prior to each Saturday. There is no long term commitment, although we do advise that clients continue to attend with some regularity until they are proficient in performing the new swing.
As always, let us know how we can help you.