Strength Training

Quick overview for busy surfers
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Kettlebells , gyms . Pilates , yoga
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Principles and practice

Principles of strength training


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.


Using kettlebells 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.

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