You know, there are a lot of kettlebell “haters” out there.
I think it’s probably pure jealously.
But not in the case of “V.G.”
He was actually an early mentor of mine.
Not only does he hate kettlebells, but barbell, dumbbells, and pretty much any piece of equipment…
… when used out of context.
(More on that in a minute…)
Vern Gambetta is known as the “Father of Functional Training” - no, not that stand on a bosu waiving a 4-pound dumbbell in the air nonsense.
His title is actually a misnomer – he should actually be called the ”Father of Special Training” – as in Special Training For Sports.
(Well actually, that’d really be Prof. Verkhoshansky. So Vern should get the title Great High Priest of Special Training For Sports or Grand Poobah of Special Training For Sports or something like that…)
When everyone was running around trying to figure out why Power Cleans weren’t transferring to the field of play he was busy designing systems and exercises based on the work of noted physical therapist Gary Gray and the old Soviet Sports Training texts.
So he’s a smart, smart guy.
One of Vern’s major tenants is that an athlete or individual should always learn to manage his or her bodyweight and use bodyweight exercises before adding external load – like kettlebells.
To do otherwise sets the athlete up for injury.
Agree or disagree, Vern has an impressive track record. (He’s worked in Major League Baseball – NY Mets and Chicago White Sox and Major League Soccer and with the US World Cup Soccer Team among others.)
I’ve used Vern’s methodologies with great success, especially when I was a strength and conditioning coach.
You should consider using them too – they’ll make your KB lifting that much better, especially if you have nagging aches and pains.
Bodyweight exercises, variations, progressions and regressions are phenomenal for helping to fix what ails you.
Even though I have a personal background in heavy barbell lifting, I actually only use KB and bodyweight exercises with my clients now. (Ok, there is one that I use a bar with…)
Here’s a example of some leg work I got from Vern that we used when I was designing the programs for the Men’s Basketball team.
(Keep in mind, context is everything. We had a bunch of young guys who had no business squatting with a bar or even deadlifting plus a head coach who was insistent on punishing his team thru physical work almost every practice.)
We had these young guys work up to 3×33 reps on bodyweight squats. First slowly and under control. Then with speed. Once they achieved that we started having them do Squat Jumps. Simple. But hard. And amazingly effective.
You end up building up connective tissue strength, some local muscular endurance, and increase capilarization, which improves blood and nutrient flow/circulation to the muscles and decreases recovery time.
Those things are very important to a court/field athlete who needs to keep their legs “fresh.”
But here was the really cool part – These workouts also put some muscle on them.
We did a bunch of other stuff inspired by Vern that worked great, like using the “Contrast Method” – contrasting strength work like bodyweight squats with power work – like Squat Jumps in super sets.
Brutal on the legs. Brutal on the lungs. But after a few cycles and a few weeks, the kids had springs for legs and could seem to run up and down the court all day long.
All without “traditional” barbell and dumbbell work.
By the time we got these “Young Bucks” into the weight room to do any REAL lifting – post-season – their coordination, body awareness and strength had all improved tremendously, just from doing the bodyweight exercises.
Especially our “Big Men” – our Power Forwards and Centers, who tend to be “gangly” and uncoordinated in many cases at the college level.
Ahhh… good times.
So back to Vern and the trusty kettlebell…
It’s not that he hates them outright. He just believes that they have their time and their place in a well thought out strength program - and that’s AFTER the athlete has spent some time mastering their bodyweight with bodyweight exercises.
His point is valid: How can you master an external load imparting its will on you if (when) you can’t master your own body’s movement?
Food for thought for sure.
What about you? When was the last time you added in some bodyweight exercises into your kettlebell routine?
Or even put the kettlebells away for awhile and focused on moving your bodyweight around?
I know for certain your joints would thank you. You’d grow some muscle. And your KB work would benefit.
I’m living proof of those 3 things.
P.S. Almost forgot – my Muscle Up is coming along nicely – was able to do explosive Pull Ups to the sternum in my last workout as well as Cranks (Thanks Alexey!). I think a lot of that has to do with my ring training.
For me the MU is a BIG deal – that pattern is the EXACT OPPOSITE of the Barbell Snatch that has been engrained in my body for so many years.
I’ll shoot some video when I finally get my big butt up over that bar… LOL!
P.P.S. Vern also hates the “kettlebell marketing” – thinks it’s hype. Says there’s no “new Russian secrets”. I’m thinking we should get him to an RKC or maybe a one-on-one session with Pavel. I’m pretty sure he’d change his mind…