Kettlebell 101

Another weekend, another workshop! Today I attended a kettlebell basics workshop given by one of my old mountain biking friends who’s now a certified kettlebell instructor. I’ve been wanting to work with kettlebells more, but didn’t want to dive in too far without proper instruction on form.

This workshop was exactly what I needed.

Deadlifts: I currently do deadlifts with barbells. They’re fine, but if I only do deadlifts with barbells they start to get boring. We spent some time going over kettlebell deadlift form, foot placement, back engagement, angles, breathing. It was good to come away with a good checklist.

Goblet Squats: I liked these because they’re similar to front squats, but I don’t end up strangling myself with the bar. (That’s entirely my own deficiency, not a knock on front squats.) I pretty much have the mechanics down from years of squats in general, so this is an easy one to add to the rotation.

Kettlebell Swings: I’ve done these here and there, seen people do them well and not so well, watched countless instructional internet videos on how to do them, and read more than a few articles on proper form. All of that doesn’t even come close to having an instructor watch and critique you for several reps. I came away with a list of tips to keep in mind, as well as a much tighter feeling swing.

For posterity, my list, transferred from a sticky note:

  • Start with kettlebell in front, handles tilted toward you.
  • Don’t start in a squat, you should feel tension in your hamstrings.
  • First motion is a pull back.
  • Drive with hips, not arms. (This is the only knowledge I came in with.)
  • Exhale hard on the drive. (I intuitively knew this, but don’t always remember to do it.)
  • Stop driving when you’re in a straight up and down plank, everything tight. Don’t lean back.
  • Keep your body straight as the kettlebell comes back down. Don’t preemptively bend.
  • End with a gentle landing in front, same as the start. A lot of people get hurt because they do this part wrong.

Turkish Get-Ups: This is definitely not a kettle basic, but we were curious about it, so we went over the motion, then practiced just the first part of it without any weight. It was HARD! This will be a fun one to learn someday.

Is it kettlebell day yet?

Update 2019-01-20 @ 1:12 PM

Slow motion video analysis of your form? So valuable.

Bloody PR

Warmup box jump.
Usual box jump.
PR box jump.

Ooh! I can do it!
Man, I’m juuust making these.
I wonder what happens if I miss…

My shin can tell you what happens if I miss. Sorry shin.

I did complete one more after I missed, before going to the front desk to ask for alcohol wipes and bandaids. You gotta let that box know who’s boss.

Trainer

When you’re between sets at the gym and someone asks if you’re a trainer.

Aww… that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.

Speaking of which, I used to joke that my dream career would be trainer by day, food critic by night. The dream is alive!

Rise and Grind

I’ve been doing straight-legged deadlifts for years now, but today I did traditional deadlifts for the first time. I love them! Happy to be adding these to my lower body rotation.

Also today, I did my squats and deadlifts without a mirror. I’ve been working on proprioception these last few months, and I trust it enough now to rely on it entirely. I actually enjoyed my reps a lot more this way. They feel more focused… and pure.

Also also today, I woke up way-early-for-me and went to the gym. I’ve been doing this for a couple weeks now. It used to be that I’d go to bed and wake up fairly late, drink my cup of coffee, and go to work. After my concussion last month, I stopped drinking caffeine, started going to bed earlier, and now wake up on my own around 6:30, feeling great. Rise and grind! I’ve been going to swim class, the climbing gym, and weight training before work. My new schedule makes me feel super accomplished by mid-morning.

Not having crazy late midweek hockey has helped at lot with the schedule shift. Total bonus.

I did enjoy a cup of pour over before the gym this morning because I’ve missed the taste. Now I feel kind of weird. Maybe that was too much caffeine. Sorry brain.

Purpose-Built

Went to the gym today. The new concussion recovery protocol says it’s good to get moving for more blood flow to the brain.

I got a decent workout in, but I felt… purposeless. I used to train for hockey. I’d do squats for more power, adductors to stave off groin pulls. Every rep was driven by a desire to become a better hockey player, a more formidable opponent.

What am I training for now?

I’ve always objectively understood why it’s hard for professional athletes to retire, but today I understand it a bit more intimately.

This wasn’t even my day job.

On a related note, I recently went through some of my hockey posts from over a decade ago. I suffered so many injuries back then. Some of them were outright comical: My hand bruised because it wasn’t used to pushing on a stick.

Today, my body is built for hockey. I could play most days of a week without issue. Tournaments are a cinch. I’m stronger, more efficient. Skating and stick work are like walking and typing. Better, even: I can’t walk and type at the same time.

I have more trouble accepting that the hockey fitness I’ve built will go away than I do with the fact that I won’t be playing anymore.

I suspect this won’t be a problem once I find a new passion to rebuild myself for, but this is where I am today.

What an interesting journey this is.

Sock Squats

My gym shoes at work are fabulous but more like track shoes and are terrible for things that require stability, like squats, so I squatted in my socks (barefoot would be really super disgusting at my gym) for the first time ever earlier this week.

Almost-barefoot squats, so amazingly stable. Why has it taken me so long to discover this?

Alas, the gym is really super disgusting and even with socks it’s still really disgusting, so I think that means I have some minimalist shoe shopping in my future.

Oh happy day.

Decompression

Today I find myself thinking about writing down everything I eat, realizing I don’t have to anymore, and feeling oddly conflicted about it.

This is not that different from how I felt after completion of 30×23.

This, despite spending the last few days looking forward to not having to write everything down anymore, similar to how I felt about not having to make videos all the time toward the end of 30×23.

Oh, habits.

Hulk Smash Episode 20

Session 20! This is the last of my sessions until I sign up for more.

Upper body madness today. 2 sets of everything, 15-20 reps each:

– kettlebell swing warmup: medium weight, push with hip, all the way up
– staggered stance barbell military press
– lateral raise
– dumbbell row
– wide plank with hands on a box, hands off the side, back up on the box
– stability ball pullover
– stability ball crunches
– dumbbell curl
– box dips

Today was weigh in day. I’ve been stuffing myself silly the last couple weeks: Vegas buffets, Nobu, House of Prime Rib, giant April dinner, pre-Thanksgiving potluck.

Somehow, that only earned me 3/4 of a pound.

5 weeks ago: 121 pounds, 17.8% body fat.
Today: 121.75 pounds.

I didn’t list a body fat percentage because the handheld electronic doohickey went missing. We tried the caliper, and I joked that it would register me at 30% body fat. It landed me at 23%, which is exactly where it landed me 11 years ago.

All that work, and I haven’t changed a bit?!

If we’d measured strength gain instead, I’m pretty sure we’d see a much bigger difference. But tracking numbers for every single exercise I did is too much data collection even for me. I know when I hit PRs, and that’s good enough.

I don’t think I mentioned it here, but I’ve been keeping a food log for the last 3 months. Here it is for posterity. If you click on the “Summary” tab you’ll see a couple graphs of calorie and protein intake over this 91 day experiment. There’s an oh so very slight upward trend on both. (That giant dip in protein intake around day 80? Vegas.) Changing eating habits is hard, but even though the slope is shallow I think it actually counts for a lot because those increases add up over time. (They add up fast. See one soda per day.)

So if the data show I’ve been eating more, why don’t I weigh more? Because strength training burns A. Lot. Of. Calories. Maybe not the training itself, but its overall impact on metabolism is pretty noticeable. At least for me. (A long long time ago, when I first started lower body strength training, I immediately dropped several pounds. O hai, leg muscles.)

Enough about calories. What did I learn? A bunch of new exercises, from which I will cherry pick some favorites to incorporate into my own workouts.

I did not learn to do a handstand. But this did put me back on the path to one.

Despite not free handstanding yet, I am satisfied with how this Hulk Smash experiment went. I’m stronger than I was 3 months ago, I feel great out on the ice, I learned a bunch of exercises, and I learned about how hard it is to shift eating habits.

I feel like that last one is an important life lesson. Time, effort, and money well spent.