Friday, December 25, 2009

Jeff Martone

Since I've only mentioned Pavel thus far, I thought I should write about Jeff Martone as well. He has some great video clips available for free on the Crossfit site, and he also has some advanced kettlebell DVDs on his own site. I've learned things just from the free videos.

Pavel gives you all the basics, and it could be reasonably argued that you don't need anything else. However, I think Martone's work is important for several reasons.

First of all, despite the fact that Pavel's name is almost synonymous with kettlebells in the US, he's marketing various fitness products, many of which have nothing to do with kettlebells. However, Martone seems to specialize in kettlebells.

Secondly, while Pavel's instruction is very high-energy and motivational, Jeff's teaching style is more casual and informational. He provides nuances that Pavel doesn't even mention.

Also, Jeff Martone mixes it up, giving little variations to keep things interesting. With Pavel, you can design a perfect workout for life. With Martone, you can easily make every workout a little different, which keeps it interesting. Don't let me give you the impression that Jeff gives you a bunch of new moves and complicates things. Rather, he explains minor variations in the same exercises, and I think that makes them more fun and less repetitive.

I haven't yet seen any of his DVDs, but the video clips I watched were great, and his teaching style was excellent. It could be that the videos were of him teaching other personal trainers and not end-users, but I really felt like I was getting all the in-depth info.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Kettlebell Posture

Okay, so I'm getting the hang of this kettlebell thing. (I refuse to make the easy joke and say I'm 'getting into the swing' of it.) One thing I wanted to report, as I continue to get comfortable with the basic moves and work on perfecting my form is that a kettlebell will improve your posture.

I'm a sloucher. I'm slouching in my chair right now. But you won't catch me slouching after a kettlebell workout. That's because keeping a straight back during the exercises is essential, and afterwards (and the next day), it feels better to keep your back straight.

Interestingly, that changes the way I walk, and improves my balance. As Pavel likes to say, Americans tend to walk by falling forward and catching themselves on their feet, and Russians lead with their stomachs, whether they have them or not.

He also said that his instructors frequently receive the comment from students that "you guys all stand the same way." His response is "so will you." I believe it.

So, just one more plus for kettlebells. In addition to having workouts that actually directly translate to movements you might be called upon to do in an average day of playing with your kids or grocery shopping, it also improves your posture. Time to sell my dumbbells.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

First Swings

Well, I finally got a kettlebell this Monday. I don't have too much to report because I'm taking it slow. Pavel advises a new kettlebell user to "practice," rather than "work out" for at least a couple of weeks. It is vital to hone proper form as a beginner, because when you move onto the more complicated moves or higher repetitions, the chance for injury increases if the foundation isn't in place.

I have taken a number of swings and shot video to study my form. At first it was pretty ugly, but I think I'm getting the feel of it now. I'll be on vacation from work next week, and I intend to put in some quality time with the kettlebell and expand my exercises. Thus far I've only done the basic swing and the one-handed swings. I want to start working on the cleans and presses.

I'm still doing research into various diets. And by 'diet' I mean permanent eating habits, not "lose 10 pounds in 10 days" kind of stuff. I'll report on that stuff another time.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Kettlebells and Kung Fu

Well, I've been reading all about kettlebells and I've watched some video online. I'm getting more excited every day about getting started. However, I still don't have a kettlebell. That should all change tomorrow!

For now, though, I wanted to point out how much overlap there is between the rules of working with kettlebells and the rules of kung fu. By kung fu, I mean my limited experience with Wing Chun and Yang-style taiji.

* A solid foundation is vital. Without it, no progress can be made, and injury is possible.

* The core of the body is used for all basic motions. The arms may have their place, but everything is about the hips and waist. There is no body strength without a stable center.

* The centerline is key.

* Everything is based on making connections with the floor.

* It's all about the physics of the human body. Proper positioning of the joints creates strength and power. Incorrect body mechanics results in strain and injury.

* The kettlebell is gripped using the heel of the hand and forearm when held up, and by hooked fingers the rest of the time. Never in a death-grip. In kung fu, a tight fist means slow, stiff movement.

* A kettlebell, like an oppenent's fist, can cause damage very easily when in motion. A kettlebell swing packs more punch than any fist, and the same basic techniques apply to neutralizing that force in both disciplines.

* If you get hurt, you were doing it wrong.

* Both are practical. Most workouts and exercise equipment train muscle groups, but very few things teach the entire body to work together, and almost none directly duplicate physical actions people are likely to need to perform on a daily basis.

* Properly-executed movements keep everything close to the body. This is for balance and to keep all force under control with body structure, not individual muscles or joints. Over-extending is trouble.

That's all for now, although I could probably come up with more parallels. I'll be posting more once the workouts start.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Enter the Kettlebell!

My new book arrived today: Enter the Kettlebell. I'm pretty excited about the kettlebell training, although I don't have a kettlebell yet. However, it should be arriving early next week. That's fine; it'll give me time to watch the kettlebell videos on Crossfit and read the book.