Principles of strength
Strength = Amount of muscle
tension you can generate = force
Power = Force x speed
Ballistic = Sudden powerful
movements e.g hitting a tennis ball , starting a lawn mower, booting a football.
No human can fully utilise
the potential of his neuromuscular apparatus. It has evolved with incredible
capacity , versatility and control in mind , to allow survival in a paleolithic (stoneage) environment. Our bodies have not
physically changed in tens of thousands of years. Beyond then, yes there may
have been “hairy savages” but modern-appearing (perhaps a little unkempt & smelly) humans were around many
thousands of years ago.With constant practise and learning , with appropriate methods we can utilise a proportion of our total
capacity , perhaps up to 50% in an highly trained athlete. Fundamentally, to develop strength you need to develop the ability to generate tension. Tension
IS strength and strength IS what is popularly referred to as “tone” – the resting tension in a muscle. Tension
in the modern world is sometimes equated with tight muscles. “Stress” manifests
as muscle tension ; neck & back pain , tight blood vessels - “hypertension
“ – high blood pressure.
The key is to develop the control
centre , the nervous system , composed of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system or CNS) and the wiring , the nerves
(peripheral nervous system). Develop means learning to master contraction & relaxation.
Mastering tension involves
mastering control of breathing. Deep controlled breathing induces muscle relaxation ( very effective in the practise of yoga)
and diaphragmatic (abdominal) pressure breathing allows activation of the entire muscular system , at the same time protecting the spine from unhealthy movements. You develop a virtual muscle belt / torso strength , popularly
referred to as “core strength”. The practise of kettlebells requires one to practise breathing appropriately ,
but this is by no means as difficult as you might imagine. In fact, it is quite simple.
Think of the Olympic
weightlifter. A few deep breaths as the athlete mindfully prepares to lift the
weight – this fully oxygenates the blood and prepares the nervous system to exert maximal tension. The lifter grasps
the bar and with perfect control lifts the weight , developing full body tension
, maintaining abdominal pressure (& protecting his spine). The grunt or “tsss” sound is that of air ( relatively
slowly) escaping from the lungs under control. The same “tsss” is used
by martial artists as a blow is struck or absorbed , again to generate maximum tension. This ability - “power breathing”
-protects the body but allows maximum efficiency.
enables one to quickly learn the magic of power breathing. Very useful and highly effective in the real world – fridge
moving , car pushing etc You probably know how to anyway.
Caution : Never hold your breath when lifting as this can elevate blood pressure to dangerous level.
Using kettlebells forces
your muscles to relax , too. But you don’t have to make conscious decisions – it just happens because it has to!
As one group of muscles contracts . so its antagonists must relax.
Principles of conditioning
Notwithstanding the connective
tissue strengthening benefits of kettlebell training , swinging the weight for high repetitions conveys tremendous cardiovascular(
“cardio” rewards, translating into endurance or stamina.
If the exercise is performed
as rapidly as possible , anaerobic systems which use glucose for energy are stimulated ; higher repetitions performed at a
slower rate stimulate aerobic pathways which stimulate utilisation of fat stores once muscle glycogen stores are depleted.
So it is easy to use Kettlebells
as a low impact , endurance building tool which if required will “burn fat”. Ballistic movements performed over
the months will build great connective tissue resilience to injury. Learnt properly , they are low impact as the girevik learns
to safely absorb impact.