Dirty Dozen Move #7: The Kettlebell Clean

The Kettlebell Clean is often overlooked as an essential exercise because it lacks the “sexiness” of the Swing and Snatch, the power of the Squat and Press and it does not stimulate the intrigue of the Turkish Get-up. However, couple your Swings with Cleans or perform a chain with a Swing, a Clean and a Snatch and you’ll have some great routines. Also, if you want to perform your Presses and Squats, how will you get your Kettlebells into the Racked position? You got it, The Kettlebell Clean.

In all of it’s simplicity, the Clean is more often performed incorrectly. This results in bruised wrists, strained biceps, elbows or forearms as well a faulty rack incapable of providing a stable starting point for your Press or Squat. Also, casting of the Kettlebell on the decent will place undue stress on the low back and possibly result in a face-plant!

Simply put, a Clean is nothing more than a Swing with your elbows pinned to your sides. There is no jerking up into the position, nor is there an“curling” of the bell into the rack (try to use that method to rack the Beast and let me know how many pieces you shred your bicep into). I have also found that teaching people how to Clean two kettlebells at once is easier. The students don’t have to be concerned with over rotating one hip and they are also psyched about using two Kettlebells at the same time. Once they have the idea that the Clean is identical to the swing at the start point, exhale and hip movement, the Clean becomes easier to perform. Pay particular attention to the breathing aspect. The breath of the Clean occurs at the exact point as your exhale while performing the Swing – at the top of the hip motion when your knee caps are drawn into you quads and your legs are locked. The sharp exhale does not occur when the Kettlebells are in the Rack, it happens slightly before. This simple tip will significantly reduce the the amount of “smashing” that occurs on your wrists. At this point, the top of the Swing portion of the clean, you stop pulling and allow the Kettlebells to “float” into position. The float will occur only when your breath is timed correctly and you allow the bells to achieve the Rack position without using your arms to pull.

If you find that you are “curling” the bell during your Cleans, use a heavier bell. This will cure many issues because you will not be able to “curl” a heavier bell into position. Once your technique improves, you should be able to execute proper form of your Cleans with any sized bell. For one to attain mastery of the Clean, the technique should look identical, regardless of the size of the Kettlebell.

There are also several extremely beneficial variations of the Clean. Alternating Cleans provide an incredible core workout, Bottoms-up Clean and Hold are one of the best grip development exercises available. Have Cleans as part of any Chain or Complex for a transitory or additional movement to enhance the circuit.

The Kettlebell Clean is not only essential for transitions from one movement to another, but it is an incredible exercise for going from ballistic to static to ballistic again. The athletic application from the Clean is is beneficial for development of power for strikes, throws, synergy of upper and lower body movements, not to mention the incredible way it develops superior core strength.

Good luck with your Training!

Strength & Honor

Coach Phil

Phil Ross demonstrates the health of his spine and shoulder by pressing Cathy Raimonda

Phil Ross demonstrates the health of his spine and shoulder by pressing Cathy Raimonda

I don’t know how many of you know much of history, but in September of 2011, I suffered a spinal cord injury and sustained permanent damage. In December of 2011, four levels of my neck were operated on. I underwent framenectamy, lamanectamy as well as other procedures to alleviate my spinal stenosis and remove the osteophyte that created my spinal edema (scar on my spinal cord). Needless to say, I couldn’t even hold a piece of paper in my hand until after the operation. Immediately after the surgery, I could not even bottoms up press a 10KG! (Now I can do the 28KG).
My son Spencer is 17 and one of the top ranked high school aged throwers in the country. He’s an RKC and is quite strong. I wanted to put a little more size on him, so I started incorporating some barbell training into his routine. We started doing dead lifts. I used to be able to rip 505 lbs of of the ground, but no more. Once I got over 305, my right hand (the side most adversely effected by the injury) would simply give out. I was getting very frustrated. During one training session, he suggested that I try to single leg barbell deadlifts. What a great suggestion! I’d been doing the Dual Bell Kettlebell Deadlifts for years, but it never dawned on me to do them with a barbell. At this point, I’m doing 185 max for my sets of 6 and my hand has no issue holding bar.
The point of the story is to simply talk about my deadlift numbers, but to listen to others and look outside o the box – especially when it comes to your own training. I’ve never had an issue coming up with solutions for others, but solving my own issue took listening to my kid!

Dirty Dozen Move # 5: The Kettlebell Press

There are not too many many things cooler than pressing heavy weight over your head. The Kettlebell press is one of the best methods available to enable you to achieve these great feats of strength.

You may say that I can press dumbbells and barbells and get the same effect. Yes, you can press dumbbells and barbells – and there is nothing wrong with it. However for the “Best Bang for your Buck”, maximum shoulder load with reduced shoulder stress and a greater recruitment of stabilizers, the Kettlebell Press can’t be beat.

The Kettlebell Press differs from the dumbbell press and the barbell press in several ways. Dumbbells and barbells have a unilateral weight distribution, so there is a less of a need for the body make adjustments. Due to the shape of the Kettlebell, with it’s offset Center of Gravity (COG), the position of the weight constantly changes during the movement of the press. This requires more involvement of the core, stabilizers and lats to complete the movement. The pressing motion starts in a racked position with a tensioning of the body ends with the full lockout and the arm pressing the Kettlebell in line with or slighting behind the ear. This motion upward is accomplished with a “J” pattern of travel. The degree of the “J” may vary from practitioner to practitioner.

When pressing, you not only want to focus on pressing the bell skyward, but think about pressing your body away from the bell as well. This will also aid you in rooting with the floor and employing total body tension. We also need to pay particular attention to the width of your stance. Experiment with the wider then more narrow stance. You will discover that you are able to create more tension with a less than shoulder width stance.

As with many Kettlebell exercises, root with the floor, bring your coccyx to your naval, contract your glutes and abs, pack your shoulders and engage your lats. Focus on an exhale with the eccentric movement of the press and an inhale with the concentric portion, all accomplished while maintaining tension and compression.

When pressing heavier Kettlebells, you may employ a slight hip hitch to the opposite side of your pressing hand. This will help you recruit more of your lats. However, be certain no to go so far as to turn the press into a side press. In addition to the Military or Kettlebell Press and the Heavy Press there are many other presses with Kettlebells. Push Press, Jerk Press, Bottoms-up Press, Waiters Press, Side Press and the Bent Press, to name a few. There are also dual bell versions of most of the aforementioned.

Good luck with discovering or enhancing your Kettlebell Pressing Skills! If you have any any questions or comments on this introduction to the Kettlebell Press or any of the other Dirty Dozen Exercises, do not hesitate to contact me.

Train Hard and Train Often – Coach Phil

www.kettlebellking.com

 

Master RKC Phil Ross demonstrates the Jackknife Ab

Master RKC Phil Ross demonstrates the Jackknife Ab

The Dirty Dozen Exercises: Move #4, The Hanging Abdominals

There is nothing sought after more than a set of “washboard abs”. A set of ripped, hard looking, abdominal region inspires awe and envy in everyone that sets eyes upon them. A “Cut Gut” is a sure telltale sign the the bearer is in incredible physical condition and that they “don’t have an ounce of fat” on them. How do we achieve these legendary abdominals of steel and sinew? How do we develop 6-pack abs that can withstand having cinderblocks piled on it and being hit with a sledgehammer? Can we develop our midsection so that we can absorb a full power knee drive from a Muay Thai Fighter or an uppercut from a Prize Boxer?

First of all, having a “ripped” abdominal section is not necessarily indicative of abdominal strength. It not simply the appearance, but how did they get those abs? By simply starving themselves or as the result of serious, pointed abdominal training? There are some fitness experts that recommend a thousand abdominal repetitions per day or some type of fitness apparatus that they are undoubtedly paid to endorse. These machines may or may not work and I don’t know how many of us have the time to perform a thousand or more crunches a day. So how do we achieve these legendary abdominals that can withstand having a 2 x 4 broken over them, but fit the workout into our overloaded lives?

If you are engaged in a consistent Kettlebell and Bodyweight training regiment, your abdominals and core are already receiving a great deal of work. However, if you want to take it to the next level and maximize the “best bang for the buck” for your abdominals,  then Hanging Abdominal training is a must. You will discover that I do detest long, drawn out training sessions. Who has the time? How long can ANY of us effectively train while maintaining intensity and proper form? Plus – if you are an athlete, you want to leave time to practice your sports skills, not spend the bulk of your day with your strength and conditioning. If you are not a competitive athlete, you probably have work, family or social matters that require your attention. Use your time wisely.

There are several methods of practicing the hanging abdominals. or a beginner, I will recommend that you use (or purchase) the Dip, Pull-up & Ab Machine. The are available new for about $300, used for $100 or less. It will be the most useful apparatus that you ever purchase. No moving parts whatsoever. In addition to the video demonstrating the higher level abs, check out this one on YouTube  It will show the machine. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNNSJXfbCac. For beginners, simply raise your knees up to chest (or as high as you are able) while keeping your lumbar region (low back) pressed firmly against the back board of the machine. When you able to accomplish 20 repetitions with bent knees, then move to straight legged version and bring your legs up so that your heels are level with your waist. For the next level of this exercise, you bring your feet up to or above head level. Please remember to maintain a flat back against the back pad. Packing your shoulders and assuming a tall chest position are a must.

Once you are able to to perform the suspended abdominals, you are ready for the Hanging Abdominal training. There are three basic movements that I recommend. The Hanging Knee Lift, Jackknife and the Side to Side Jackknife. The easiest are the Hanging Knee Lift. Grasp a pull-up bar with your elbows straight and your shoulders packed. Do not allow for body sway. Contract your abs and raise your knees up to chest level. Work up to at least 20 repetitions prior to advancing toward the Jackknife Abs. For the straight Jackknife abs, assume the same position as during the Knee Lifts. Straighten your legs, steady your body and contract your abs as you raise your legs so that your feet are above the bar. Repeat. For the Side to Side Jackknife, simply raise your feet to one corner of the pull-up bar and then the other. This contralateral movement is incredible. As far as repetitions are concerned, start with 3 to 5 and then work your way up to 10 per set. Do not permit yourself to swing. You will not maximize the effect of the movement and you may expose yourself to injury. Packed shoulders, locked elbows and a steady body.

As always, train hard, train often and TRAIN SMART!

Coach Phil

www.kettlebellking.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0w-_X5TWbg

The Dirty Dozen Exercises: Move #2, The Bridge

Master Ross doing Bridge Work with Cathy.

Master Ross doing Bridge Work with Cathy.

The Bridge, what an incredible exercise! There is no single exercise for developing two steel cable like spinal erectors supporting and protecting your spine than the Bridge. Being a former wrestler, I had the fortune of being introduced to the Bridge at an early age and while training in Greco-Roman Wrestling, I was taught how to go belly to belly with another wrestler, pop my hips and bridge all the way backward, landing my opponent on his back (or head!) behind me. This required a great deal of practice bridging backward from a standing position. We would also “reverse bridge” from that position, coming up to fully upright and regain the standing position once again and repeat. Little did I realize at the time that I was equipping myself with an incredible foundation of strength that would help me with all of my other physical and athletic activities for the rest of my life. Other than gymnastics, very few high school sports develop the spinal erectors and utilize the bridge to the extent of wrestling and gymnastics.The muscles in the back at the most important group of muscles in the body. The Bridge is exactly what the name connotes, the exercise “bridges” the upper and lower sections of your body together. Your back is also the support structure for your whole body. How many times have you seen (or experienced) throwing your back out and being completely helpless? One can have “biceps like mountain peaks”, they tweak their back and they are as helpless as a newborn lamb! The importance of the Bridge is second to none. Your central nervous system is housed in your spine and the spinal erectors and other support muscles protect and control the the spine and it’s movement. Why would anyone ignore the single exercise that develops the most important muscle group in the body? The Ancient Greeks knew the importance of a strong back. Look at the depictions of the god Atlas. His exceptionally prominent back muscles rippling under the stress of his eternal task of holding up the world!
How do we achieve this? Who does the Bridge work for?
There are many variations of the Bridge. You will find a variation or modification that may be used by virtually anyone at any age. Even people who have physical deficiencies will benefit from doing bridges. I have students that have suffered severe injuries or were born disabled and they have developed great strength in their backs and abdominals through employing bridging techniques. Not only does the Bridge develop the spinal erectors and other back support muscles but it has a profound positive effect on the abdominals, gluteus, hamstrings and in higher level movements, the shoulders and arms as well. The Tall Kneeling Bridge also develops great strength and flexibility in the quads.
The regenerative and restorative properties of the Bridge are unmatched by any other single exercise group. The Bridge develops stability, flexibility and durability like no other. Implement the Bridge into your workout regiment and develop a “Bullet Proof Back”!

Master Ross demonstrates The Bridge

 

S.W.A.T. Kettlebell based classes as instructed by Master RKC Phil Ross

S.W.A.T. Kettlebell based classes as instructed by Master RKC Phil Ross

S.W.A.T. Kettlebell Based Boot Camps:

Learn from one of the country’s top Kettlebell Authorities  - Right here in Ho-Ho-Kus! Master RKC Phil Ross, Star of the Advanced Russian Kettlebell Workout Video and trainer to many fighters, athletes, celebrities and physicians designed and conducts these classes. Included with the membership is guide to learning kettlebells, a manual on the Basics of Kettlebell Based Training.

The system employs body-weight exercises, flexibility, plyometrics and the most revolutionary fitness tool in the world – The Kettlebell. The kettlebell exercises as presented are from the teachings of the Father of Modern Kettlebell Training, Pavel Tsatsouline’s Hard Style Kettlebell System. Phil Ross is a Master RKC and part of the RKC Leadership.

The Kettlebell Swing: Often to referred to as the “Mother of All Kettlebell Exercises” and is the root of all Kettlebell Training. The Kettlebell Swing is not only  the  basis but one of the biggest differentiators between Kettlebell Training and other strength and conditioning systems. The Kettlebell Swing “reverse engineers” the practitioner’s hips by the development of the hip hinge, hamstring and glute recruitment through the pop and lock required to execute the movement properly. In addition, the incredible rooting effect for power transference through the body is applicable to improved performance in virtually all sports and strength performance.

The Kettlebell Swing has so many benefits, yet many go untapped through poor execution. I’ve had people walk into my studio claiming “I love to  swing, I do tons of them all of the time.” Then I watch them swing – Ooof! I don’t know where the heck they learned to “swing”, but now I know why they thought that swings were easy! No eccentric/concentric motion, shoulder’s not packed, no rooting, legs bent at the top and to much at the bottom, chicken necking so much that I thought was I hanging with Frank Perdue, lats not engaged, power leaks all over!

Now that we’ve looked at the poor examples, how do we execute the swing? Step one, find a quality instructor or at least purchase some DVDs or get your hands on a video program from one of the top flight RKC Instructors. I will mention, no matter how good a video is, nothing replaces working under the scrutiny of a qualified Kettlebell Instructor.

Starting from the ground up, let’s consider our feet. First make certain that your feet are the correct width apart. If they are too close, you’ll never be able to swing the bell between your legs. If they are too far apart, you won’t be able to completely fire your gluteus, thus leaking power. Additionally, you will tax your hip flexors more which could result in injury. Rooting with the floor is key. Take advantage of the feedback from your feet with the floor. Establishing that that intimate contact with the floor creates a map of you body’s nervous system and helps facilitate feedback and feedforward of movement. Draw your kneecaps up into your quadriceps as you lock out your knees. This should happen simultaneously to the driving of your coccyx to your naval and the contraction of your gluteus. While all of this in occurring, you need to shorten your abdominals by “zipping up” and exhaling a short, hard purposeful breath. Pack your shoulders and engage the lats as the power of the swing travels from the ground, through your feet, into your legs and through you hips and gluteus, up into your lats, passing through your arms and shoots out of the bottom of the Kettlebell. When you are swinging, think of “hips and grips”. It’s also very important that you go between full relaxation and full tension. This is how to develop incredibly useful strength!

There are quite a few swing variations. There are the two hand swings, the one hand swing, hopping lateral swing, hand to hand swing, dual bell swing, dead start swing, walking swings and the much maligned bottoms up swing, to name a few. All of the same principles apply to all of the swing variations, however there are certain unique benefits to each variation. Check out the accompanying video demonstrating some of the variations of the swing.

Now its time to get off of the computer and start swinging!

 

 

 

Bridging the generational gap with my daughter.

Spending some quality family time with my daughter back from college for her break.

What Kettlebells and the RKC have done for me. This year, I’ll be putting out my Dirty Dozen must have exercises in my monthly Blog. This will cover the 12 months of the year. However, I must digress a tad and let you know how this seemingly innocuous, yet at times evil black iron ball with a handle and the organization that promotes the training – The RKC has had an incredibly significant effect on my life. I know that it may seem impossible, yet locked inside that black chunk of iron is an incredible amount of emotion, sweat, enjoyment, pain, love, trial, tribulation and triumph.

At the beginning of my Kettlebell Journey, people thought that I was a “Crazed Man Possessed”. This may be all true, (wink, wink) but I was committed to spreading the word about  kettlebells and the RKC. I personally had never felt physically better, more challenged and more excited about a training method in my over 35 years of serious training. People looked at me quizzically when I spoke, especially the skeptics of the Greater NY/NJ Metropolitan area. Yet I never let up.

One of the first major Kettlebell/RKC events that changed my life had to do with my first Kettlebell video. I had called my distributor, BayView Entertainment, to see how sales were going on my S.A.V.E. Self Defense video series and they informed me that they were doing a Kettlebell video with Amy Bento. I let them know that I had just become RKC Certified and they asked me to do an Advanced Kettlebell Workout video for their label. They then asked me to establish contact with Amy. We were doing our shoots back to back, so we got to talking during the months preceding the shoot. I wound up letting her use some of my kettlebells for her video. Over the next year, we established a friendship and wound up dating, getting married and being blessed with our daughter Adrienne. Amy became RKC certified and her latest Kettlebell Power video just received a Top 10 Rating from Fitness Magazine in February, 2013.

My oldest daughter, Nicole, a college freshman is pursing a degree in Exercise and Nutrition Science. Nicole is a Black Belt, HKC Certified and a staunch vegan with a popular recipe blog. At 99 lbs, she can do 100 snatches with the 12kg (25 lb) kettlebell in under 4 minutes. She does yoga, zumba and martial arts in college and ran track in high school. Fitness and sports have helped her through many tough times in her life and have become a big part of her persona and a way of life. She loves helping people live better.

My son Spencer is a poster child for Kettlebell Training. He is 16 years old, 6 foot 1 inch, weighing 210 lbs. His most recent throw of 58’ 8.5” put him at the #7 spot in the nation and #2 for all High School Juniors. One of the most amazing things is that he also wins and places in the 100 and 200 meter dashes and he is anywhere from 50 to 100 lbs lighter than the other Elite Status throwers. I do not have him do barbell back squats, but he can do a heel to butt Pistol (single leg squat) with the Beast (106 lb kettlebell) with either leg, easily! He has never done a max bench press or deadlift. He only started doing those exercises last year, and only for reps. He is a true product of Kettlebell and Bodyweight training.

As you can see, Kettlebells and the RKC has had an incredible, positive impact upon my family. Heck, I even have my 74 year old mom swinging bells three times a week! The RKC is more than a simple fitness organization. It’s an incredible network of people committed to helping others achieve better lives through our proven training methods. Everyone loves to share their knowledge and help others to succeed. We have such a great community with such a vast knowledge base. I’m so thrilled to be a part of it and I know that my life is immeasurably better ever since I made the decision to pick up a bell, sign up for my RKC and go for it. I urge others to do the same. You will get back your financial investment 100-Fold!

Yes, the RKC Certification is not inexpensive. So what? Is anything worth anything cheap? You get what you pay for. If you want to learn how to use Kettlebells from watching YouTube, GOOD LUCK! If you want to be part of an incredible organization of like-minded people, join the RKC Community, it will be worth every penny.

For more information on Kettlebell Training visit Dragon Door or www.kettlebellking.com