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Sometimes, All You Need Is A Little Reboot For Your Workout

A wise man once said to me, “The body is like a computer… the skeleton and the muscles are the hardware, and the brain and central nervous system is the software”. Though I have much respect for this man and all that he says, he must have seen the “here we go” look on my face as well as the eye roll, so he continued. “Think about this…whenever you learn a new skill, it’s like installing a new program into your computer. Sometimes that new program runs correctly the first time; other times, it conflicts with existing software, and the bugs have to be worked out.

I train new kettlebell “victims” all the time, so I can draw on personal experiences with this, that even with no weight in their hand, most people have a very difficult time with the muscular coordination aspect of the Turkish get up. There is a lot going on there. Most people can’t get their body and brain on the “same page of music”. They flounder around like a wounded animal.

So I thought about what he said for a while, and, just like that, I had an epiphany (that is a 10 dollar word for “it just dawned on me”, but with a little more drama). Skill…software. Body… hardware. It was all starting to make sense. As we all know, strength is a skill that can be taught and learned…or, perhaps, installed.

I am writing this article because I have seen and experienced this theory first hand. Anyone who has trained with any type of conventional resistance programs, and then has tried kettlebells, knows exactly what I am talking about.

Would you snatch a 16 kg bell differently than you would a 32 kg bell? The answer should be no. Yes, the weight is different, but the fundamental movements should stay constant. Would you position your feet differently? Would you take up a different grip on the bell? Would you load your body differently? It’s “no” to all of those questions. The movement of the exercise doesn’t change… EVER.

It is fairly easy to show someone how to bench press (let me preface this by saying that I am not here to bash the bench press, nor am I anti-bench press. I am only using it as an example because everyone can relate to it). You show them proper technique, hand placement, then you set the weight accordingly, and pretty much everyone can bench press pretty efficiently on the first time out. Though bench-pressing very heavy does require lots of muscular strength, it doesn’t require a lot of muscular coordination… and this is where things get interesting.

Now on the flip side of things (or should I say, on the kettlebell side of things), lets talk about someone’s first attempt at the swing, the snatch, or the Turkish Get-Up. I think you will agree it’s quite a different outcome compared to teaching someone to bench press.

I train new kettlebell “victims” all the time, so I can draw on personal experiences with this, that even with no weight in their hand, most people have a very difficult time with the muscular coordination aspect of the Turkish Get-Up. There is a lot going on there. Most people can’t get their body and brain on the “same page of music”. They flounder around like a wounded animal. Why? The answer is fairly simple. They don’t have the proper “software” in their computer to get it going, but the fix, or “getting the bugs out”, can be fairly simple with proper instruction and a step-by-step breakdown of the exercise movements. For example, check out Anthony Duluglio’s “Minute of Strength” newsletter and in the archives. He has an awesome breakdown of the Turkish Get Up in one of the older editions. Also helpful is repetition, also known as “greasing the groove”, a theory you can read all about in Pavel Tsatsouline’s book, “The Naked Warrior”. Simply follow those steps and everyone eventually gets it.

Reset Your Thinking

Reset Your Thinking

This concept can be applied to all kettlebell training and movements. Take the swing for example, the foundation movement of the kettlebell realm. It is a very simple movement, yet very few people nail it first time or second or even third time out. Yes, people are swinging the kettlebell, but few are doing actual proper swings. But, as stated above, eventually that new software kicks in, and it just clicks.

I know there are people out there who, after reading this, will say, “I nailed swings first time out” or “I got the Turkish Get Up on my first try”. I am not saying there aren’t people who haven’t been truly successful on their first try, but in my experience, I have yet to see it. There are exceptions to every rule, no doubt… but like Senior RKC Trainer Brett Jones once said, “you are not the exception”. Just get used to it… you and I will just have to work harder.

Pavel and I were talking once and he bestowed this pearl of kettlebell wisdom on me. He said, “The more you press, the more you press”.

This concept can also be applied to when you are progressing to a heavier bell. Say you want to snatch the 32 kg bell, and you have been training with the 24 kg bell for a while, putting up respectable numbers with it, with good form. No doubt, you have built a decent strength base in the snatch. But it is almost a certainty that when you attempt your first snatch with the 32 kg bell, your effort will be “shaky” at best. Not very crisp. Not very clean. Why? Because there is no “software” for the “32kg snatch” in your brain yet. But, again, through repetition and proper technique, you will write that new program to your brain in a short amount of time.

Remember to go through the proper progression of exercises, so that you get the bugs out of your new software before trying the new heavier bell. Swing it, clean it, high pull it, and then snatch it. Another thing to remember when progressing to a larger bell is that, no matter what the weight of the bell is, the exercise remains the same. Would you snatch a 16 kg bell differently than you would a 32 kg bell? The answer should be no. Yes, the weight is different, but the fundamental movements should stay constant. Would you position your feet differently? Would you take up a different grip on the bell? Would you load your body differently? It’s “no” to all of those questions. The movement of the exercise doesn’t change… EVER. Only the weight changes.

So, the moral of the story is: Don’t get down on yourself, or question your training, just because you don’t nail a certain movement or a new sized kettlebell on your first try. Stick to your training, hone your technique, and “grease the groove” all the time.

Pavel and I were talking once and he bestowed this pearl of kettlebell wisdom on me. He said, “The more you press, the more you press.” Think about that statement for a while and see if it “clicks”.


Kettlebell.com staff writer Anthony Grokaitis is a fire lieutenant with the 500 member Worchester, MA fire department.

A certified level 2 RKC kettlebell instructor, Anthony regularly trains first responders, so that they can be in better physical shape to serve their community.