Last weekend I went to a kettlebell workshop with Valery Fedorenko. Valery is a Girevoy Sport (GS = kettlebell sport) world record holder that also happens to have his own certification process which teaches people the GS techniques and training techniques to excel at GS. So now I am a Kettlebell Strength and Conditioning Coach.
There are two main styles of kettlebell use. One is “hard style”, which is taught by Pavel Tsatsouline, under the RKC or Russian Kettlebell Club banner. This is a powerful style where a lot of energy is used in each exercise. Most of the kettlebell-specific exercises are not energy efficient and at times look downright dangerous, particularly their shoulder presses. They also use additional exercises that are not kettlebell specific such as Turkish Get Ups, Pistols and more. To be honest I am not too familiar with this style as my main gripe is that Pavel’s marketing tactic is to address everyone as “Comrade” so now all his followers address everyone as “Comrade” and it sounds so ridiculous I have not wanted to look into it further.
The second style is “soft style” which is what the GS athletes use. The World Kettlebell Club, or WKC (sometimes also referred to as American Kettlebell Club or AKC), is Valery Fedorenko’s answer to Pavel’s RKC. GS athletes use a more efficient technique which means they are able to lift more weight and do many repetitions of each exercise for a longer period of time. When it is your goal to do this as part of a competition, of course this style makes perfect sense. If you want to lift heavier kettlebells, of course it makes sense to use the most efficient technique possible. This style is true kettlebell lifting and the smartest choice in training.
I have always leaned towards the soft style technique, but do incorporate other exercises as part of a general fitness training program. To me that just makes sense.
This weekend I had the opportunity to learn directly from Valery Fedorenko. It was great because some aspects of my technique, which I thought was pretty good, needed a lot of attention to make more efficient. And other aspects of my technique, which I thought was pretty average, was actually pretty good! The Strength and Conditioning course went for about 9 hours and I would say at least 50% of the time I was active with the kettlebell. I would have done several thousand cleans and am still trying to nail what I thought was an easy movement! My snatches, which I thought needed the most work, were actually pretty good and I didn’t need to make much change there. I’ve also changed my rack position, which was closer to how Steve Cotter instructs, but I am finding this new GS-specific position a little awkward to be honest, but I will experiment with heavier weights to see how it is more efficient. My presses and jerks are now super-efficient and this is something I am looking forward to adjusting with clients the most.
Most people doing the course were there to refine their technique so they can compete at a higher level. As GS is not my main goal, what I learnt most about this course was the subtle differences in styles, and just how perfect GS style is if you want to do your best with kettlebells. If I ever compete in GS I will have the confidence to use a heavier weight knowing how efficient the technique is. I also know some subtle changes that can be used to help clients, in particular for shoulder stability. I will continue to improve my own technique, and I will insist on even better technique from my clients. Once you have got it, it feels very natural.
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