What is a kettlebell?
A kettlebell or girya (Russ.) is a cast iron weight that resembles a cannonball with a handle. A “pood” is the unit traditionally used to measure the weight of a kettlebell. One pood is 16 kilograms which is 35 pounds. We train with kettlebells ranging from 1/2 pood all the way up to 3 pood. As the 1986 Soviet Weightlifting Yearbook put it, “It is hard to find a sport that has deeper roots in the history of our people than kettlebell lifting.” Kettlebells were so popular in Tsarist Russia that any strongman or weightlifter was referred to as a girevik, or “a kettlebell man”.
Why train with kettlebells?
Although we use a variety of tools for training at Omaha Elite Kettlebell, kettlebells are our favorite and most used tool. Kettlebells are simple, versatile, portable, and affordable. The kettlebell is a single piece of cast iron with no moving parts and is virtually indestructible. The ergonomic design of the kettlebell promotes proper movement mechanics and greater range of motion compared to other free weights or machines. The kettlebell’s off-balanced center of mass provides beneficial training of stabilizer muscles. Also, the design of the kettlebell allows it to be accelerated during the negative portion of a lift adding “virtual weight” which can’t be easily duplicated with barbells, dumbbells, or machines.
Is kettlebell training just a fad?
No, the use of kettlebells for developing and/or demonstrating strength has a long history. In fact, kettlebells made of stone date back to ancient Greece. Girya (meaning kettlebell) was first published in a Russian dictionary in 1704. At this time, kettlebells were mainly used for measuring grains and other goods, but were also found to be useful for building strength. Early twentieth-century strongmen used kettlebells, barbells, stones and other tools for developing and proving their strength. In 1998, Pavel Tsatsouline, a physical training instructor of elite Soviet special-forces units, reintroduced kettlebells to the US. In 2001, Rolling Stone recognized Pavel as a “Hot Trainer” and in 2002, the kettlebell was Rolling Stone’s “Hot Weight” of the year. In 2001, Pavel started the Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC), a hardstyle kettlebell training certification with Dragon Door. In 2012, Pavel left the RKC and formed StrongFirst.
Why train at Omaha Elite Kettlebell?
Our StrongFirst certified instructors are highly trained in the instruction and implementation of specialized kettlebell techniques and training methods that will help unlock your full potential. The result is that we can use simple but challenging workouts that efficiently burn fat while improving strength, power, flexibility, cardio and endurance with a handful of techniques and as little as one or two kettlebells.
Is there any special equipment or clothing for kettlebell training?
There is no special clothing or other gear needed. Your clothing should be comfortable and allow you to move freely. We encourage training barefoot, however, it’s okay to wear socks and if you prefer to wear shoes, then minimalist shoes with thin, flat soles are acceptable. Examples of acceptable shoes include Converse (Chuck Taylors), Vibram Five Fingers, New Balance Minimus and Reebok Nanos.
Why train barefoot?
The soles of our feet are rich in nerve endings. Training barefoot allows natural movement and mechanics, which strengthens the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of our feet and ankles, improves balance and coordination, and reduces the risk of injuries. Training barefoot helps you to stabilize and grip the ground with your feet providing a better base of support.
Do I need to be in shape first?
You don’t need to be in shape or have prior experience with kettlebells to start training at Omaha Elite Kettlebell. The fundamental techniques will be introduced during your first several lessons. The techniques and kettlebell sizes will be individualized to your needs. We emphasize movement quality and building fitness by practicing methodically with a plan, not on performing random high intensity exercises. We will help you get in shape and meet your goals.
Am I too young or too old or too old for kettlebell training?
We don’t consider age to be a barrier to starting or progressing your training with kettlebells. Our students have ranged in age from 9 to 83. The techniques we use are highly adaptable for people of different ages, abilities, and fitness levels.
As a beginner will I be able to keep up with the group?
Our class structure allows us to adjust the techniques and weights so people in different stages of training can work side-by-side. For example, if the class is training squats, students may be using different variations of the squat pattern specific to their needs such as the goblet squat, single leg squats, lunges, a squat mobility drill or possibly a substitution for the squat.
How often should I train?
The best and most rapid results will be achieved by training 3-5 days a week. Good results can also be achieved by training at Omaha Elite Kettlebell at least two days per week. Your consistent attendance allows us to plan variations in training load and intensity to help you progress while minimizing the possibility of overtraining or injury. Although it’s not required, we do encourage everyone to purchase a kettlebell of their own to practice at home. Technique is very important, and like any skill, practice is needed to become proficient and maximize results.
Can I still train with kettlebells if I have a previous injury?
In most cases, yes. There are many variations of the kettlebell techniques that can be used to make training safe and appropriate for each individual. Our instructors are trained to appropriately progress and regress each technique. If your health care provider has cleared you for exercise, we can then perform a Functional Movement Screen to identify which movements are appropriate and needed for you to progress. If you have questions or are unsure, please contact one of our instructors to arrange a consultation.
Can I still train with kettlebells if I have a medical condition?
Kettlebell training can be exceptionally vigorous. As with any exercise program, it is important to first get clearance from your health care provider.
Will kettlebell training make me bulky?
Not unless you want big muscles and work specifically for this goal. Getting “bulky” is a lot harder than people realize, particularly for women. In general, kettlebell training builds a lean, strong physique. If getting big were easy, every guy in the gym would have HUGE muscles. Building muscle size requires specifically prescribed loads, schedules, methods, rest, and diet.
How can I determine if a trainer/coach/instructor is of high quality?
It is important for your trainer/coach/instructor to be educated and certified through a creditable organization. Omaha Elite Kettlebell instructors have earned certification through StrongFirst, the highest standard in hardstyle kettlebell instruction. StrongFirst was founded by Pavel Tsatsouline, who is credited with bringing kettlebells to the US in the early 90’s and fostering the modern kettlebell movement. StrongFirst has rigorous requirements to become certified and also requires recertification testing every two years. Our instructors also invest in further education through other certifications such as StrongFirst Bodyweight and StrongFirst Barbell. The RKC and Strength Matters also offer high quality certifications in hardstyle kettlebell training.
Is kettlebell training dangerous?
Our StrongFirst certified instructors have been trained by the world’s most highly respected kettlebell instructors to appropriately progress and regress each movement to your ability. The StrongFirst techniques were developed in conjunction with and endorsed by chiropractors, leading physical therapists and spine biomechanists.
Why do I need to join a class or train with an SFG Certified Kettlebell Instructor?
Although you don’t need to take classes to use a kettlebell, we’ll teach you the techniques and methods to help you effectively and safely get the most out of your training. Even highly experienced individuals, personal trainers and gym owners have been pleased with what they learned in our classes and how much more effective we’ve made their techniques. If joining a regularly scheduled class isn’t your thing, then personal training or our one-day kettlebell workshops may be just what you’re looking for.
Where can I learn more about kettlebell training?
The StrongFirst website (www.StrongFirst.com) and Facebook pages are excellent resources for information on techniques and training. Another great resource is Kettlebell Simple & Sinister, authored by Pavel. DragonDoor and Strength Matters are also excellent resources for information on hardstyle kettlebell training. We recommend to stick with articles, books, and videos authored by individuals certified by SFG, RKC or Strength Matters.
What is the difference between Hardstyle and Girevoy Sport kettlebell training?
Hardstyle kettlebell training is what we teach at Omaha Elite Kettlebell. This style was developed by Pavel for training military, police, and special forces and emphasizes power production and rapid changes between high tension and relaxation. Hardstyle uses high acceleration for the ballistic lifts (e.g., swings, snatches) and high tension for the grinds (e.g., military press, goblet squat) incorporating single-hand single-bell, two-hand single-bell and single-hand double-bell options for several of the movements. In contrast, Girevoy sport focuses on movement efficiency to conserve power using single-hand single-bell movements. Most Girevoy sport events are 10 minutes long during which the athlete isn’t allowed to set the kettlebell down. Breathing technique also differs between the two styles. Pressurization of the abdomen and biomechanical breathing which matches the exhale with exertion bring more power to the movements in hardstyle kettlebell training. In a nutshell, hardstyle training promotes explosive, intense, and generally short duration movements, while Girevoy sport training promotes power endurance movements that are efficient.
I am interested in buying a kettlebell. What size should I buy? What brand?
Kettlebells are so versatile that you can have killer workouts and make significant strength gains with just one or two carefully chosen bells. We train with kettlebells ranging from 10 pounds (4.5 kg) all the way up to 106 pounds (48 kg). Women usually start with an 18 pound bell (8 kg) and soon progress to a 26 pound bell (12 kg). Strong women use a 35 pound bell (16 kg) or higher. Some of our female students can readily swing a 70 pound bell (32 kg) for reps. Men typically start with a 35 pound bell (16 kg) and quickly move to a 53 pound bell (24 kg). One StrongFirst strength goal is to be able to overhead press a kettlebell equal to 1/2 bodyweight for a man and 1/3 bodyweight for a woman. If you are interested in buying multiple bells for home use, then a good starting set is one bell each at 18, 26, and 35 pounds for women and 35, 53, and 70 pounds for men. Recommended brands of kettlebells are Dragon Door, Kettlebells USA, Rogue, Perform Better, and Strength Matters.