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Bell Babe: Embodying Kettlebell Training

Bell Babe: Embodying Kettlebell Sport

Written by
July 16, 2014
Updated April 12, 2018
Category: Fitness

I was first introduced to Kettlebells about nine years ago by a trainer at my gym. more into the fancy health club amenities rather than their workout; long before Crossfit became all the rage near where I live. As soon as I saw the Kettlebell in action, I instantly became fascinated with the versatility of this tool’s ability to create such intense cardio and strength sessions. I began working with this trainer, and did so for many years. 

I instantly noticed that his training style was different from anyone else I had seen at the time. He’s Russian and had an intense look of dismay at what was going on in this gym. He would watch the people in the weight room and offer advice or demonstrate the proper way to execute a particular lift. I witnessed him walk up to someone’s loaded barbell and proceed to do a one- arm snatch.That was it! I walked up to him,beyond excited, and told him that he had to train me. In the beginning he taught me the fundamental Kettlebell movements: Swing, Clean, Snatch. We started with strength training – 5×5’s with bells, 1 bell, 2 bells, presses and windmills. It was such a unique and unconventional workout and so different from anything I had ever experienced. I couldn’t get enough of this style of training.

Enter Kettlebell Sport: The Start of Real Training

Almost immediately after the start of my Kettlebell training, I noticed significant physical and mental changes. Instead of breezing into those fancy health clubs for the “obligatory” 30 minutes of cardio, I was quickly becoming more of an athlete than a recreational gym rat. I didn’t care about the social aspect of working out. I didn’t want to socialize to use my workout time as a catch-up session with friends. Instead, I wanted to work – real work that pushed me way beyond my limits.

Those early days of training were daunting. I remember anxiously approaching the gym some of those mornings, concerned and wondering what kind of torture he would unleash on me. However, at the same time, I was so invigorated by these new training methods. Sure enough, my initial anxieties faded quickly and my passion for Unconventional Training was born!

Since those early starting days, I have refined my workout programming. This change came about when I was fortunate enough to attend an IKFF CKT certification in 2009. Since then, I have become an IKFF CKT (Certified Kettlebell Teacher) Levels 1, 2, and MKS (Modern Kettlebell Sport) – a role that I love and that inspires medaily. I had been a fan of SteveCotter and Ken Blackburn for some time, and this workshop was literally down the street from my house. Although, with this new association came changes. I had to relearn all of the lifts as if they were totally different – a more competition-style lift, for lack of a better term. The competition – style of lifting was something I had never experienced. This is the only sport where the competitor is under load the entire time.

The Two Main Factors of Competitive Kettlebell Sport

The two main factors that I initially found most difficult to acclimate to were the demands of strength endurance and the mental aspect of this sport. Strength endurance is the ability to exert force under load, and have the endurance to resist fatigue while doing so. In essence, you want to be conditioned to be strong as possible for the duration of a 10 minute set. Training your mind is equally important. I like to call it “mind endurance,” the ability to stay calm, focused, and find moments of relaxation during your set. This takes experience and hard work; you need to visualize your end result. See it, believe it. If not, you will give into the discomfort you are feeling. It’s a natural instinct to flee when you’re feeling discomfort, pain, etc. Just like strength en- durance and conditioning, you train your mind to survive the set – this comes when you learn to work efficiently, exerting the least amount of energy and force per rep, finding those moments of relaxation, and using your breathing to control your heart rate.

I really took note of these differences I was experiencing with the training, and I realized I enjoyed the evolution of knowl- edge from advanced lifts, pendulum swings, double bells, mobility, and animal move- ments to connect with how we are supposed to move in our natural state. The continual knowledge that IKFF’s Steve Cotter and Ken Blackburn bring to all their CKTs was so inspiring that it propelled my passion for this type of training to a whole new level.

Today I compete in Girevoy Sport, (Russian for “Kettlebell sport”). I am also a member of the IKFF Blackburn Kettlebell Sport Team. I feel beyond fortunate to have Ken Blackburn of the IKFF as my coach. He is a genius at creating a program that is perfectly suited to my athletic ability, from the weight of the bell to the rest prescribed in between those sets. His training methodologies and continual education are constantly evolving as he continues to share his knowledge with his students.

Bell Babe: Embodying Kettlebell Training

The Start Of Kettlebell Sport

I became a Kettlebell Sport competitor upon completion of my IKFF Level 2 CKT in 2010. At the end of the course, Ken Blackburn said I would be great at this sport. I was taken aback by this compliment, but so proud and excited that I immediately asked Ken if he would be my Coach. Although I had competed before, I was extremely nervous, especially since I didn’t know anyone who was doing this type of sport. To get up on a platform in front of spectators was a very scary realization for me. However, I trusted Ken completely and knew he believed in me. After a few discussions of what my goals would be,he began my programming. With an ambitious goal of CMS (Candidate of Master Sport). I got right to work, and achieved this goal on my first competition. My passion for this type of training only grew more intense.

There are three lifts in the Kettlebell Sport: Long Cycle (Clean&Jerk), Snatch, and Jerk. Traditionally, one competes in long cycle, biathlon (Jerk & Snatch), or Snatch only. The goal is to complete as many reps as possible within ten minutes.

Initially, it took months of hard training and pure will to endure so much as a three minute time set of Kettlebell long cycle with a light bell and only a one hand switch; but with time, I grew stronger. I have since achieved many ranks, including Candidate of Master Sport (CMS), Master of Sport (MS), two-time Master of Sport International Class (MSIC), which is currently the highest rank achieved in the United States. This ranking system is based on the Russian Athletic Ranking System. I have also set two World Records and I am the first female to compete in North America with a 28kg bell.

Some people fail to consider the mental aspects of this training; sometimes they can be as difficult as the physical demands. I firmly believe quitting due to discomfort will leave you far worse off than pushing through those obstacles and completing the task at hand. I would suffer through my set with torn hands rather than put the bell down because I was uncomfortable.

A Typical Day Of Kettlebell Sport TrainingBell Babe: Embodying Kettlebell Training

A “typical day of training” begins with mental preparation. My warm-up sets are where I focus on technique and get acclimated to weight, I then move on to my main work-sets where I build my strength and endurance. These main work-sets are pretty intense due to technique, breathing, focus- ing, the high volume load, and how your mind your body is responding. After a short break, around 4-7 minutes, I then move into 9-11 minute cotton glove sets with a lighter bell to build up my grip endurance.

The theory behind glove training is that the glove makes the bell feel somewhat slippery, thus training your grip by making it very difficult to hold on to. It will also smooth out your technique. I believe this to be a vital piece in my programming, as I’ve struggled with grip issues until recently. During GPP (General Physical Prepared- ness) is supplemental training incorporating and strengthening different muscles and movements to back up all the Long Cycle specific work. During GPP and cardio, I will some times add an Elevation mask to condition and strengthen the lungs, thus gaining more increased lung capacity and endurance. I also add a weight vest to increase the intensity by adding in some extra resistance.

In my workouts, I incorporate tires, sleds, battling ropes, Bulgarian Bags, throwing dummies, rowers, air dyne bike, Kettlebells in varying weights, weight vest, pad work, and an elevation mask (just to name a few); nothing that is too out of the ordinary and all things that have been heard of before. However, the true gem is how you put it all together. Be creative with your workouts. There are no rules. For instance, if you happen to be short on time, it’s easy to put something together. In 20 minutes, you can feel as if you put in an hour’s time with the right combination. For example, 10 rounds of 10 burpees, 10/10 Kettlebell snatches with a light bell, and 20 wrestler’s twist with a barbell – you’ve just done a total body workout in minimal time with minimal equipment and probably more work than your buddies at the local hangout, otherwise referred to as “the gym.”

How to Recover From Kettlebell Sport Training

As recovery, I like to do hot yoga. Kettlebell sport is taxing on the CNS (central nervous system), and I find that hot yoga is a great way to calm it down. Beyond the stretching and other health benefits of hot yoga, you learn to calm the mind with breathing and meditating, and those are techniques that can be helpful in other areas of life as well, not just working out.

I have heard some people refer to me as “intimidating.” I’ve heard them advise others not to train with me because I do things “that regular people can’t do;” to me, THAT is the furthest thing from the truth! I don’t do anything that cannot be done by someone who is determined and wants to free him or herself from those machines at the gym. Go deep inside yourself to see how much your body is capable of! Dare to be different, find the fun, and let your training take you to a whole new level – another realm of possibility – to introduce you to the person you are supposed to be. My advice and what works for me, is training both my mind and body. This will ensure success. Be passionate. Set goals. Choose tools that excite you. Be Unconventional. Get out of the box. Experience anything and everything. Train for yourself

Sample Kettlebell Sport Training Plans

Sample Kettlebell Sport Workout #1 (Advanced):

A1: Kettlebell Snatch – 5 Minutes (light weight)

Group B As many rounds as possible in 10min

B1: Mace Rotation – 10 reps (each direction)
B2: Burpee, Tire Flip, Tire Jump In/Out – 6 reps
B3: Evil Wheel – 5 reps
B4: Farmers Walk – 50m
B5: Heavy Bag Alternating Shoulder Throws – 5 reps 

Sample Kettlebell Sport Workout #2 (Beginner):

As many rounds as possible in 15-20min

A1: Row – 250 – 500m
A2: Burpees – 10 reps
A3: Bulgarian Bag Spins – 10 each direction

Sample Kettlebell Sport Workout #3:

Set A: Perform 3 rounds for time.

A1: Pull Ups – 10 reps (Beginner – add resistance bands for assistance)
A2: Box Jumps – 15 reps (Beginner – Jump Squats or Drop Squats)
A3: Heavy Bag Throws – 15 reps (Beginner – use slam ball)
A4: Weighted Sled Push & Pull – 50m

Set B: 30 sec on, 30 sec rest. 5 sets each side.

B1: Kettlebell Sprints

Set C: 10 sets of 30-45 sec sprint, 15-30 sec rest.

C1: Battling Ropes

Sample Kettlebell Sport Workout #4:

As many rounds as possible in 15-20min.

A1: Power Snatch – 10 reps
A2: Burpees – 10 reps
A3: Bulgarian Bag Spins – 10 reps (each direction)
A4: Mountain Climbers – 20 reps
A5: Bulgarian Bag Squat Swings – 20 reps
A6: Tire Flips – 8 reps

Sample Kettlebell Sport Workout #5:

Perform 3 rounds in 10 minutes or less.
A1: Bulgarian Bag Spins – 10 reps each direction (Medium Bag)
A2: Box Jumps – 10 reps
A3: Horizontal Handstand Wall Walks – 10 reps
A4: Heavy Bag Sit Ups – 10 reps

Donica is a Certified Performance Enhancement & Physique Transformation Specialist, a NFPT (National Federation of Professional Trainers) Certified Personal Trainer and the owner of Bad Ass Training & Gym. She teaches several strength and conditioning disciplines including Russian Kettlebells, Olympic Weightlifting, Body Weight Conditioning,Integrated Flexibility & Joint Mobility. She holds certifications in Elite CrossTraining (The Underground Gym),NFPT, IKFF CKT Leve l and Level 2, RKC Instruction, Master of Sport, CMS,Underground Gym Olympic Weight Lifting and Kettlebells. She also competes nationally in IKFF competitions several times a year and has received six gold medals. Just recently, Donica received her MSIC with an amazing 96 reps! Last November, she placed first in the IKFF Nationals Women's Professional 54kg-24kg Kbell.Originally from California, she resides in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ with her husband and three boys.
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