Well it’s time to post Episode 2/Part 2 of our Kettlebell series. In our last article we heard from human wrecking ball athlete Skylar Pond on the benefits he’s seen in his strength and conditioning since dedicating to the Clubs principles of a program heavy with Kettles. If you missed Sky’s article take a second to Click Here and catch up with the Green Goblin and his recent competitive successes.
Now today’s article is from another source. This is again an athlete and again a force of nature wrecking ball. But this particular athlete doesnt draw from natural skill or strength to do what she does. It comes from a Iron will that leaves people with a lasting impression of what a truly relentless attitude can produce in a athletes performance win or lose its rather unforgettable.
Today RedNose Chick Marissa Luchau will share why she think you should have your competitive CrossFitters working with Kettlebells.
2011 Northwest Regional Championships. I had placed somewhere in the mid 30s in The Open and going into the 4th workout of the weekend I was sitting in the top 14 (they only took the top 14 to the final day). Some of you may remember that workout: 100 pullups, 100 kettlebell swings, 100 double unders, 100 overhead squats. I got through the first 3 parts but somewhere in the 30s of the 100 OHS it happened, I wasn’t aware of it at the time, all I knew is that I couldn’t support the barbell very well overhead. My legs wanted to squat, my shoulders just wouldn’t support it, I somehow managed to get somewhere in the 60s pretty much just doing one rep at a time since that’s all my shoulder could seem to handle. At the end of the day I was in 15th at the time I was just upset I was only one spot away from moving on to the Final Day, but once the adrenaline and the emotions went away the pain started to set in. A couple of months and two MRIs revealed that I had severely strained my subscapularis. I couldn’t even support a barbell overhead, but what I did discover was I could still kettlebell. And this ladies and gents is when I fell in love with kettlebelling.
I thought my crossfitting may have come to an end but 3 months after the regionals where I had demolished my shoulder I competed in my first Kettlebell Meet. There I earned my Candidate for Master of Sport in the 20kg Long Cycle (Kettlebell Clean and Jerk). I was hooked, I could still keep moving and continue to get stronger and work on my conditioning with the use of bells. I continued to train kettlebells since I still was not able to train much overhead with a barbell and two months after getting my “CMS” in the Long Cycle, I went to Nationals in pursuit of achieving a “Master of Sport” ranking. Now if you’re not familiar with Kettlebell Sport, a traditional set is a 10 minute unbroken set, in my case with the Long Cycle it meant that I had to do 106 clean and jerks with a 20kg (44#) kettlebell without ever setting the bell down, only getting 1 hand switch and you can only “rest” in the rack position or overhead. I hit all of the reps I needed to and received “Master of Sport” ranking and in the world of kettlebelling that is a pretty big accomplishment.
Anyways, during this whole time I didn’t solely train kettlebells but through the advisement of my coach I used them to supplement my CrossFit training where I couldn’t train with a barbell and as I could start re-introducing barbell work I still kept kettles in my training. Why? Because the more I was able to get back to “traditional” CrossFit the more I realized how much I had benefitted from adding so much kettling into my training. How so? Hmmm well I could probably write a novel on this, but I’ll get pretty straight to the point. One of the things that I found competitive crossfitters could learn from kettlebelling was breathing, but I already wrote an article on that so for that CLICK HERE. Below I will list a few of the main things and a short breakdown of each aspect:
As I mentioned in the beginning, I severely strained my subscap (part of my rotator cuff) after Regionals I couldn’t even overhead squat a barbell without severe pain and my shoulder giving out. By rehabbing with Kettlebells somewhere around 6-8 months later I could triple 185# on my overhead squat. Not only was there no pain, but my shoulder positioning and stability had improved 10 fold. Competitive crossfitters beat up their shoulders, it’s just the nature of the sport, look at Regionals this past season 50 Thrusters, 30 Pullups, 3 Rep Max Overhead Squat, 30 Burpee Muscle Ups, 100 WallBalls, 100 Chest to Bar Pullups, 100 Dumbbell Snatches, Toes 2 Bars, Handstand Pushups… all extremely shoulder intensive. Training with kettlebells can not only rehab past shoulder injuries CrossFit related or not but also prepare your competitive CrossFit athlete and help keep them safe. Using kettlebells to train the smaller stabilizing muscles is a huge benefit I cannot stress enough that comes with kettle training
You hear it all of the time, “my grip gave out”, “I would’ve had that lift, but it slipped out of my hands”, “that blew up my forearms”… I could go on and on but you all know what I’m talking about. You can’t ever have a strong enough grip, especially if you are or are wanting to be a competitive crossfitter. Take The Open for example AMRAPS full of grip intensive movements; pullups, toes 2 bar, oh lets make you do those movements and also hold onto a barbell for multiple reps, how about muscleups after doing 150 wallballs and 90 double unders. I’ve heard numerous athletes talk about how it was their grip that got them. Want to train your athlete’s grip without making them beat down there bodies with a lot of heavy farmers walks (don’t get me wrong, I love farmers walks) or reps upon reps on the bar? Add kettles into their training. Traditional sport you only get one hand switch and as Zach likes to say if you put the bell down, “that’s it, thanks for playing, set’s over.” Now you don’t have to throw them into traditional kettlebell sport sets (although I think that helps too) but you can take aspects of a Kettle Athlete’s training since they have to have a rock solid grip or they won’t succeed in the sport as far as Snatching and Long Cycle. Gloved snatch sets, low overall impact on the body but extremely grip intensive is one thing that I’ve found extremely beneficial for competitive crossfitters. The stronger the grip the longer you can hang on the bar for those reps that matter in the open, the more weight you can pull from the deck, the longer you can go without having to stop and rest your forearms.
Now this is the big one! “Athletics are 90% mental and 10% physical” I’m sure you’ve all seen this saying before in one form or another. You can have the most physically talented athlete in the world but if they don’t have the mental game they’ll never be the best. As a coach and an athlete I’ve always seen coaches struggle to get their athletes mentally tougher and one thing I’ve found that’s helped myself as an athlete and people around me become mentally tougher and that’s by training kettles. No, I don’t mean just adding swings into training, I mean kettle sets. Take the unbroken aspect of the sport combine it with some sort of kettle set and make your athlete go through a set. And they’ll learn what it means to be mental tough. Kettlebelling is not a comfortable sport and it pushes a lot of athletes past their breaking point but it also can show an athlete what he or she is capable of doing. Myself for example, the other day I did my first 10 minute kettle set since I dislocated my ribs last December. I was doing a 10 minute Long Cycle set with a 53# bell, the first minute no big deal, but it go real pretty quick, those voices that tell you to stop kicked in pretty quick, from minute 1-4 I had a battle with myself, every excuse popped in my head just telling me to set it down and boy did I want to, but at about minute 4 I realized that making excuses wasn’t going to make the set any better, stopping and setting the bell down would mean my set was over and although I wanted that, quitting wasn’t acceptable so I had to toughen up and get through it. I needed that, I needed that wake up in that kettle set, that “attitude adjustment” in my training in general because the last couple months of training have mentally been tough due to being hurt, but that set got me back into it. I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t set the bell down, I wasn’t going to be comfortable but the bells were going to make me mentally tougher. And they have ever sense I started training them with some sort of sport application. I put my success in the Open on kettles and the mental toughness they’ve given me. This last season I placed 5th in the region in The Open, while taking a top 7 finish in the world for 1 workout, and winning 2 workouts in the region (even with some ribs out of place). The year before I placed 6th. What led to this? The mental toughness I’ve gotten from training with kettles. The Open is all about being miserable but being able to keep moving the whole time to get that extra rep, very similar to the sport of kettlebells.
There are so many aspects of kettling that I believe directly correlate to making your CrossFit athlete more successful. I’ve seen it in my own athletics and I’ve seen it in those around me. I’ve also seen the effects of not having as much kettling in my training and I can tell you I am a much better CrossFit athlete when I have kettles in my training. It keeps me strong in a multitude of ways: physically and most importantly mentally. I highly recommend kettling to all competitive CrossFit athletes.
Article by: Roo “MegaTron” Luchau
About the Author:
Marissa has been training in the fitness industry for 4 years; she is the assistant Head Coach at the Clubs home Gym Morgan Junction CrossFit and travels to assist with Old Country Iron’s Kettlebell and Strength and Conditioning Seminars as well as CrossFit’s KettleBell Instructors courses. Roo or “MegaTron” as many of us call her is also the only other individual to carry the rank of a I/C Head Coach and is the Clubs lead RedNose Chick Instructor. Roo’s athletic achievements speak for themselves and you can follow along with her training for future events on her Training Blog RedNose Chick Click Here to View whats going on in this athlete and coaches world.
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