Body Types and Lifting
This is just one example of where our build and body type will literally affect your form and training.
Perhaps an even greater influence on training is leg length. Short vs long legs can nearly make or break certain types of athletes.
For instance, shorter legs make it much easier to squat.
Think of it this way: you have a shorter distance to travel to hit the bottom. Add to that strong thick legs and a long torso and you are looking at a natural born squatter!
Long arms can also affect pressing, although there are many other considerations, but if you look at someone with very long arms…. And they are trying to press the beast vs a guy who has shorter arms, if strength is equal, who has more load over time? The long arm guy of course.
It does seem like to be a general strength athlete you’ll have the advantage with a relatively long torso and shorter arms and legs. This is no excuse for those with the reverse, you can still achieve great feats of strength.
However, if your sport is speed and endurance like runners, sprinters and throwers, it is an advantage to have longer levers.
Let’s look at deadlifting. What’s interesting here is that you can adjust your deadlifting stance to suit your build. A more traditional deadlift stance with the feet closer together will work great for someone who has shorter legs and a wider stance, or sumo style can work better for those with longer legs.
Does this mean you’ll never squat heavy if you have long legs? No, but it will mean that you’ll have to work at finding your optimal training position and you’ll have to work perhaps harder than someone who is built to squat. Pavel likes to describe the way he looks when he squats “like a spider” with his knees up to his ears! He can still pull and squat an amazing amount of load.
Let’s look at the rack position. A big chested power-lifter is going to have to hold the Kettlebell a little more across his body at an angle. In fact, for really big guys with a lot of upper body mass, they not be comfortable holding a Kettlebell in the rack or “clean” position. And even more importantly, they might find it very uncomfortable if not impossible to do 2-handed swings. They just have too much muscle to get their hands into the handle of a Kettlebell. In that case, you can have them do towel swings until they progress to single arm Kettlebell swings.
What Instructors Need to Do?
This brings me back to the point about training others. Squats, deadlifts and the rack position will look different on different people. As an instructor, you have to remember what may work for you and your build may not work for your client. You will need to coach them to find the safest and most effective position, stance and groove for all their strength and dynamic lifts. It may be a bit challenging initially, but your job is to make sure everyone is working moving, lifting and working with the best possible pattern for their body.
What Users Need to Do?
As a user, you have to play around with different positions and work with a trainer who understands and has experience with optimizing different body types.
During the “rise of the kettlebell,” most if not all resources have been “how to’s,” abstracted from the people who benefit from using them. How to do a swing, a Turkish get up, how to program snatches, etc. There has never been a detailed account of how these how-to’s have affected and changed the life of the person who uses them.
We’ve seen bits and pieces of how kettlebells have helped people lose weight, gain confidence, improve health, cure joint issues, etc. on the blogs but we’ve not seen the proverbial microscope take on one subject’s change in detail in a 200-page book.
That book has arrived. “The Swing!” gives you the details of these three areas:
1.) Tracy’s personal story and the psychology behind radical transformation
2.) How to swing a kettlebell and how to program your swings into your life in only 2 sessions per week – and how to build up enormous volume quickly and efficiently
3.) How to eat right – from fast food garbage to nutrient rich home cooked meals (at home or on the go)
Despite the title, Tracy’s progressions for teaching the swing and how to program it from radical changes in weight loss (Tracy lost 120 pounds in around one year’s time), and muscular development (Tracy is now ripped) are one third of this book.
The first third is Tracy’s personal story and how she came to the point in her life where she committed to losing weight and reclaiming her health and life back. I have never come across such a detailed look into the psychology that goes into this kind of transformation.
Tracy says that when she was overweight, she was “numb” to her body. She paid zero attention to it. She bragged to her co-workers “I can eat whatever I want,” yet secretly she was growing more and more frightened about the state of her health. Not only was she overweight, but the digestive problems that come with being so overweight were getting worse. The threat of heart disease loomed and occupied her thoughts more and more with each day. But on the outside these fears were hidden.
Something I’ve noticed about transformations is that the person’s will power subsists prior to the transformation, it just hasn’t shown itself. The person’s will power is hiding, looking for the opportunity to act. This is true of Bonnie (who went from immobile “Frozen” shoulder to certified HKC in her 60s) and its true of Tracy.
Tracy relates how even though she was overweight and totally disconnected from and disinterested in her body, she had a competitive spirit. She enjoys the TV show “Survivor” and secretly wished to be able to compete in the show even though she knew she couldn’t because of her poor physical condition.
So when a weight loss office pool came together with a cash prize for whoever lost the most weight came along, Tracy KNEW she would win. She writes that the others didn’t even suspect she would want to enter the competition, let alone win it.
The spirit, or will power, of the “Swing Queen,” as Tracy is now called, was there before the physical transformation took place. That coincidental office weight loss competition was the opportunity Tracy was waiting for to begin her transformation. She confesses in the book that she didn’t know how it would happen, but she knew that is would happen.
Tracy’s powerful transformation with the kettlebell (and diet) has now spilled out into the most widely distributed kettlebell book ever published. I never thought I’d see the hip hinge taught at the front shelves of Barnes and Noble.
“The Swing!” will be the occasion for hundreds if not thousands of new physical transformations – from overweight and dull – to chiseled, fit, and almost super humanly strong and conditioned.
There are so many other stories and revelations in the first third of the book that I’d like to write about, but don’t want to give too much away.
The second third of the book is devoted to teaching the swing and how to program it. I’ve been around the kettlebell swing for a while and was surprised to pick up quite a few new tricks and insights into ways to learn the swing and how to effectively program it. Tracy uses these same progressions with her own private clients, so you know they are the best.
Tracy gives you what the swing is and what it isn’t and how to distinguish a real swing from an imposter, with big pictures and simple instruction. She shows how to get the motion of the swing without picking up a bell and what to do when you’re waiting for your kettlebell order to arrive, so that you can start your own transformation the second you put the book down. She shows you helpful stretches and how to fix tweaks in shoulders and back that can come with the learning the skill of swinging a kettlebell.
The programming section is every bit as transformative as the body that uses it. Tracy shows you how to go to a few sets of “air swings” – swings without a bell – to behemoth workout sessions that, according to my count, have you doing over 500 swings in a single workout.
Since two handed swings smoke the grip, yet have the advantage of being a more symmetrical lift, Tracy shows you how to mix in one arm and other swing variations in combination with the classic two handed swing so you can get the most out of two arm swings. I found this very helpful as two handed swings quickly smoke my grip.
For Mark Reifkind fans (Tracy’s husband – a former powerlifter, bodybuilder, strongman, gymnast – basically an encyclopedia of knowledge of the human body), he makes several appearances to break down complicated concepts such as aerobic vs. anaerobic work and its relation to the swing and how to get BOTH through working up to a certain point using Tracy’s progressions. Tracy and Mark have a gift of making difficult subjects easy to understand.
The training log lingo that Tracy uses might take some time to get used to since most people aren’t in the habit of logging workouts and using the special abbreviations that make journaling easy to use. My wife had some questions about it and I was able to explain it to her based on my years of experience of swinging a kettlebell. It’s just a matter of getting used to it.
If you want to know how to go from a totally neglected body, overweight, weak and tired body to –literally- super human work capacity with the lean, muscular body that comes with it, then Tracy shows you every detail in this section of the book.
The last section is about diet and nutrition and how the two are essential for transformation. If you aren’t squared away on exactly what food provides the most nutrition, how to control your calories for weight loss or “super-fast” weight loss, then this is essential reading. There is a section on a general food outline that shows how the different kinds of food are processed by the body and how to take advantage of the science for faster body transformation.
If you already have this background and want some recipes and ideas of how to program nutritious and delicious food that fit your schedule of calories, this book has a lot of ideas.
Tracy has gone from reliant on fast food to preparing her own nutrition plan using…real food. Like most Americans she was stuck in a carb first, vegetables last habit of eating. She shows how to turn this paradigm upside down, how to program it, and how to learn to love cooking nutritiously for yourself and/or your family.
There’s a lot more in this section but don’t have the space to review it.
Who’s it for?
Get this book if you are not satisfied with your diet and/or kettlebell training. The psychological, physical, and practical tools that are contained in this book are invaluable.
What I like most about this book is seeing the diet information and kettlebell information converge into one comprehensive lifestyle. I hope to see more books with both of these facets in the future.
The value here is pretty outstanding.
I had to help a friend last weekend help take his mother, who is in her nineties, out of her house to the car to take her to the hospital. She is almost completely immobile.
My friend is in his low 60s.
I volunteered to carry her myself, but instead the instructions were to have her sit on a chair and I would take one side of the chair and my friend the other. Having me carry her “would look silly” to the neighbors. [And having two grown men carry grandma like Cleopatra wouldn’t?]
The caravan out to the car involved walking a few steps through the foyer, down the two front porch steps and across the front sidewalk about 20 paces to the car in the driveway.
My friend owns his own business and works hard every day. He is far from negligent about his health: he eats right and goes to his gym several times a week. I’ve heard him talk about how he goes every day after work. When he was younger he was very good at his sport and came close to playing it professionally.
When he’s at the gym he spends most of his time on a treadmill and then sits down to do some resistance training on the machines.
Aging: Movement and Posture
At her last Anti-Aging Workshop, Andrea DuCane said something really cool.
She said (paraphrasing here) “I can tell people have movement problems by looking at them.” She then taught us how to do the same (along with some more technical stuff).
My friend is an easy target, as are most Americans. His posture is kind of hunched over. He has very tight hip flexors from sitting most of his life. He will avoid using his butt at all costs. He very likely hasn’t hip hinged since he was a kid.
His movement and posture have deteriorated over the years, despite all the time, money, and effort he’s been spending on his cardio and even strength at his gym.
Knowing this, I was concerned that he was my lifting partner with the responsibility of holding a 94-year-old woman 3-4 feet off the ground for 45 seconds or so.
My worries were confirmed when his every day posture went to lifting posture. His posture, quite predictably, went from bad to worse. His back rounded, his hips went forward instead of back, and all the weight distribution went to his toes. It was the perfect example of how not to do that.
I said a little prayer for poor grandma.
Effect on Cardio Health
Down the 2 steps and a little over halfway across the 20 pace walk to the car, my friend’s face was flushed and he was pouring with sweat. Granted, this was an awkward, unstable load. But grandma couldn’t weight much over 100 pounds.
He looked at me, with an honest sense of dread in his eyes and said “Sean…ah to be young again.”
Yes, I am chronologically younger than he is and there isn’t anything that can be done about that fact.
But chronological age is not the problem here. It’s the fact he had no clue how to use his body.
His problem is that he has very poor posture and mobility. When he has to exert himself, even slightly, his poorly structured body cannot handle it. When you think of everything that man has invested in his health and well-being for most of his adult life, you start to wonder about things.
His problem has been compounding for a long time and it is going to continue to get worse if he doesn’t do something about it.
His current gym membership is powerless to fix this problem. 100% futile.
His heart functions just fine as long as he’s in his very narrow comfort zone. If he gets out of for more than 5 seconds, everyone knows about it.
He could EASILY fix this, if he wanted to.
We have a relationship where I would feel highly uncomfortable suggesting anything to him, let alone shaking up his physical routine with a trip to an RKC (or any experienced kettlebell instructor) instead of the gym he’s been going to for years. Maybe I should anyways the next time I see him just to ease my conscience.