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!

Master RKC Phil Ross Performs a Pistol Squat

Master RKC Phil Ross Performs a Pistol Squat

The Pistol (Single Leg Squat): The most difficult and beneficial leg exercise – period. The training enroute a butt to heel Pistol develops balance, trunk stability and incredible leg strength. There are weight lifters that can full squat 500 to 600 pounds, yet they collapse and fall over when attempting the Pistol.

 Let me relay a little story to you. I was cornering at a UFC Event in Houston in 2011 and went out for a bit of R & R before the fight, once my fighter was in bed. As a typical occurrence, the supporting fight team trainers and coaches usually run into each other and discuss their “Trade Secrets” and training methods. As it happened, I ran into a couple of other trainers in a local watering hole (that’s another name for a bar incase the younger crowd is wondering what I’m talking about.) So I’m talking to a couple of the other trainers and we strike up a conversation about strength training, what works best, how we train, etc… Our conversation moves onto squats. Now both of these guys were around 30 years old and are built like brick outhouses. They could both squat in excess of 600 lbs, but were not overweight or disproportionate. We started talking about the one-legged squat (Pistol) and I proceeded to demonstrate a few of them. They, of course, had to try and promptly fell over – on every attempt. Not a clean pistol performed between the both of them. I now had their attention. 
The balance, core strength and overall athletic development gained from performing the Pistol are incomparable. In most athletic events (even in walking!) you are placing all of your weight on one foot and then the other.  When you make a “cut” on the field, quickly hop from one side to the other or have to scale a deep incline, your stabilizers, tendons and and core are continuously firing. Pistols, much more than machines or bilateral, two legged exercises, increase your strength more efficiently.
 As far as injury prevention, the development of the synergy with these muscles of the leg – all at once – is incredible. I experienced a trilateral break o my left leg which resulted in 10 screws and a 5″ plate being installed.  I used Pistols as part of the rehabilitation process. I realize that whole industries have been built and billions spent on leg muscle “isolation” machines. However, when you walk, perform a task or athletic event – do you ever isolate your gastrocs, quads or hammys? The answer is a resounding “No”. Unless you’ve experienced some type of injury to a specific area, you will be creating asymmetries by muscle isolation. If you have a leg extension/hamstring machine, do yourself favor and sell it for scrap metal and practice your Pistols! 
 
So, how do we achieve the proper execution of this Ultimate Leg Exercise? You need to employ progressions and at times, regressions. This exercise, up to a certain weight, is more easily achieved with a kettlebell. The counter weight aides your downward momentum.  One of the best books on the subject is Coach Paul Wade’s Convict Conditioning:  http://www.dragondohttp://www.dragondoor.com/?apid=4640 visit products/books. The progressions enroute achieving the Pistol are the best available. 
To start your Pistol Training, you must first be able to perform narrow stance squats. Once you are able to do 20 or so, you are ready to attempt shifting the weight from two legs to one. I believe the best methods to improve your Pistol is with both Top Down and Bottom Up motions. Maintaining tension throughout the full range of the movement is tantamount, especially at the bottom of the Pistol. That is the point where most people lose their tension and collapse. Go down into a full narrow stance squat and thrust one foot forward and then go up. Be sure to stomp your Pistol foot into the ground and drive your power through the heel of the unweighted leg. Grunting and focused hissing, especially when you are first learning, is very helpful.  Again, creating and maintaining the tension throughout the whole movement is essential. For the Top Down training – employ the use of a bench and once your buttocks touches the bench, EXPLODE Upward. When practicing the Bottom Up training, use a rope or band thrown over a high bar. While you improve, you’ll have to use your arms less and less to help you come out of the bottom position. There are also a variety of steps explained thoroughly in Coach Paul Wades Convict Conditioning book. Once you start to develop the ability to perform the Pistol, do it from a raised platform so that your unweighted leg does not have to be held so high. When you can perform 5 or more on a raised platform, you are ready to try a Pistol from the floor. The actual amount of repetitions before you are ready to move to the next step may vary from individual to individual. However, the numbers listed are good guidelines. 
There are more advanced levels of the pistol as well. One or two hands raised in the air adds an element of difficulty and makes the Pistol a truly Elite Movement. You may add weight. It is true that a smaller kettlebell makes performing the movement a bit easier, but once you start increasing the weight or use two kettlebells or a barbell, then you have significantly increased the difficulty of the movement.
As Always, Train Hard & Train Often!
Coach Phil
www.kettlebellking.com

Get stronger while watching TV?!?!?!? Is this one of those nonsensical claims that require you to send in $14.99 every month for 6 months and you’ll receive some funky, plastic and foam device that will fall apart before you finish paying for it. No, this is much more simple – yet it does require effort.

Here’s an example – I posted it on my FaceBook page the other night and got some interesting responses as well as a bunch of people starting to do the same thing.

While on vacation, we were watching the Godfather on AMC. I was feeling a little antsy, so I decided to do some push-ups during the commercials. The commercial breaks were pretty long, so I did between 25 and 50 reps on each break. By the end of the movie, I had hit 500! And I felt great. I wasn’t even very sore the next day!

You don’t have to bang out 500 push-ups a night, but instead of sitting there watching TV and eating snacks – drop to the floor and do some push-ups, or abs or squats or whatever else you might want to try. Have some fun with it! You’ll amaze yourself, add some strength, burn some calories and not feel like a slug watching TV!

Train Hard & Train Often!

Coach Phil
Kettlebellking.com

Dual Bell Front Squat

Dual Bell Front Squat

The Kettlebell Front Squat is a key movement directly applicable to virtually every sport and to ALL sports requiring explosive power and strength positions. The squat is also essential to everyday life. Picking up our child, carrying suitcases, getting up out a chair – to name a few. Many people believe that they can’t squat. However after one short lesson they realize that they can. In most cases, if you can sit on a toilet you are able to squat. We utilize an active negative method of pulling the hips into the squat position. Barring any severe deficiencies or physical limitations, this method has remarkable results – usually the first time it is applied!

Why is the Kettlebell Front Squat such an essential movement? The strength gains from the Kettlebell Front Squat experienced in the legs, hips and especially the core are greater and with a significantly lighter load than required with the back squat. When considering Sports Performance and General Fitness, there is a breakpoint where the training required and the muscle size created actually hinders your performance. For example, if squatting 400 lbs. helps you reach a 10.4 second mark in the 100 meter dash, squatting 450 lbs may not necessarily bring your sprint down to 10.2; you may actually become slower! Yes, your squat will increase, but your hamstrings and hips will become tighter thus slowing your movement. The aforementioned numbers are arbitrary. There are far too many variables in individuals and sports to effectively assign exact numbers. In order to provide accurate assessments, experimentation needs to be conducted on a case by case basis. However, I will add one caveat; if your goal to have an extremely heavy back squat and you are a powerlfter, you need to perform heavy sets of traditional, back squats. Even though the Kettlebell Front Squat (KFS) will help boost your back squat numbers, you still need to perform the actual movement that you are competing in.

The Kettlebell is placed in front of you, whether bottoms up, racked or bottoms down. Compression and core activation is required to stabilize your truck and and your spine. Compression, tension and an active negative are all employed as you inhale and pull yourself deep into your squat. The spine is kept long and strong with no “tail tuck” as you get to the bottom. A quick, short and forceful exhale shoots you upward to the fully locked position. The strength of your upper torso is also required/developed to hold the Kettlebell(s) in place as you perform your KFS. Proper power breathing and expansion of your intercostals and serratus, not to mention the development of your pectorals, forearms, biceps and triceps. The muscles that comprise latissimus dorsi are recruited to keep your back straight and strong to handle the load in front.

As far as actual weight is concerned, you have to use considerably less weight with a KFS than for a back squat with better results and less chance of injury. On the back squat, the object is to break parallel with the greatest amount of weight possible on your back and then stand back up into the upright position. One’s back is compromised from having to bend forward to get lower and the hips are also overloaded due to the wide stance. This position does not aide you in developing the strength and proper neural pattern for strength development. On the other hand, the proper execution of the KFS lends itself to activating the Central Nervous System to develop incredible strength the legs as well as in the core/stabilizers. By keeping the spine long and strong, you develop a “Tower of Power” enabling you to move resistive loads and push with your whole body.

I could go on and on about the Kettlebell Front Squat, but I’m sure that you only have a limited time to read! You need to get in there and start practicing your KFS!  Substantial gains in your leg strength, increased your cardiovascular capacity and explosive power development, while creating a healthy spine and a pair knees, are all benefits of the Kettlebell Front Squat.

Get Strong and Stay Strong!   

Coach Phil Ross, Master RKC

For more information of Strength, Conditioning or Kettlebells visit www.kettlebellking.com or call 201-612-1429.

Master RKC Phil Ross demonstrates the Front Squat

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

The “Dirty Dozen” Exercises:

More often than not, I get asked “Coach, what are the best exercises to do?” Or “If you were to choose “X” amount of exercise, what would they be?”. There are a plethora of great exercises and variations that my students and I truly love to do. However if I were to boil it down to several movements that are essential to any strength and conditioning regiment, I would choose 6 Kettlebell exercises and 6 Bodyweight movements.

 

I’m not saying that these are the ONLY exercises you should do but they all should be included in your workout regiment, no matter what your focus is. These exercises will increase strength, endurance, coordination, flexibility and durability like no others. These exercises will even improve your performance with your bench press, deadlift and bar squats.

 

Over the next year, I’ll be putting forth write ups accompanied by videos on the “Dirty Dozen”. We’ll discuss variations and progressions, especially when considering bodyweight. I’ll discuss each movement in depth and give my reasoning for the selection of each movement.

 

OK- here’s the list.

 

Kettlebells: 

The Kettlebell Swing: This movement is the root of all Kettlebell Training and the great differentiator between Kettlebell based training and all other strength developing exercise systems. The Kettlebell Swing “reverse engineers” the practitioner’s hips by developing hip hinge through the pop and lock required to execute the movement properly.

The Front Squat: Single Rack or Bottoms up. Squatting is the most important movement for lower body and core strength. The Front Squat, by virtue of the position of the Kettlebell, this exercise requires the complete linkage of the upper and lower body. Tensioning of the trunk (core – tho I’m not a fan of the word) and maintaining the bell in the prescribed position requires considerable upper body engagement in addition to the tension in the trunk.

The Kettlebell Press: Pressing heavy weight above your head is very cool and extremely useful. The Kettlebell Press employs full range of motion, full body tension and active negative (downward) motion of the bell.

The Get-up: There is not a single movement that incorporates more muscles of the body than the Get up, also known as the Turkish Get Up or TGU. This incredible exercise is a signature movement of Kettlebell Training. Dynamic tension, balance, flexibility and body alignment are all developed with the TGU. The Clean: The Kettlebell Clean is used in a great deal of Kettlebell complexes, racking the kettlebell for Squats and Presses, but it’s an incredibly beneficial stand alone movement. A single arm clean taxes the stabilizers in the trunk as well as reinforcing the tensioning and relaxation.

The Kettlebell Snatch: This is my favorite of all Kettlebell movements. The Kettlebell Snatch is a ballistic movement that develops strength, endurance, speed, coordination and there is no question why this movement is used in both competitions and testing as a fitness barometer. The Kettlebell Snatch V02 Max workout is unmatched in maximizing one’s volume of oxygen uptake.

 

Bodyweight:

The Bridge: An ignored movement in American physical fitness. Very few athletes, except for wrestlers and gymnasts, utilize this crucial movement. The Bridge is exactly what it’s name connotes. The development of a strong, flexible spine linking together the upper torso with the trunk and lower limbs. Strong spinal erectors are essential to a healthy spine and unhindered movement. Key to athletics, active living and certain vocations – not to mention every day living!

Hanging Abdominals: One can do thousands of crunches and buy every gimmicky ab machine on the TV at 2:00am, nothing will develop your abdominals better than the Hanging the Abdominals. Lifting your legs up to your chest or your feet above your head develops and requires significant abdominal strength.

The Pistol (Single Leg Squat): The most difficult and beneficial leg exercise – period. The training enroute a butt to heel Pistol develops balance, trunk stability and incredible leg strength. There are weight lifters that can full squat 600 pounds, yet they collapse and fall over when attempting the Pistol.

The Hand Stand: This is the coolest of all bodyweight exercises. Nothing demonstrates full body control and balance than being able to invert yourself in the middle of a room and hold it there. The progressions building up to the Handstand develop incredible shoulder and trunk strength.

The Pull-up: There is no single exercise that demonstrates and develops upper body strength like the Pull-up. If you can do 20 pull-ups, you are in great shape. I challenge you to show me a person who can do 20 pull-ups and doesn’t have a 6-pack.

The Push-up: The Push-up is my favorite for several reasons. There are fun and challenging variations, the movement works not only your upper body but conditions your abdominals and reinforces the total body tensioning. The best thing about Push-ups is that you can do them virtually anywhere that there is a floor. Your bedroom, basement or office – anywhere. There is no good reason for you not to do them. Get started now!

 

There you have it. 12 exercises that no training regiment should be without. If you want to achieve ultimate, applicable strength and conditioning, your program needs to include these core “Dirty Dozen” exercises.