For my first blog post on this site, here are 8 reasons why I think you should consider taking up GS or kettlebell sport.
1. The Art
Like weightlifting, there is a huge amount of technique involved in the sport. Similar to martial arts, GS lifters strive to reach new levels of technique and can spend many years perfecting their style. This should appeal to the technically minded people. Even so, this should not put you off beginning GS training, as the starting requirements are very attainable. Before beginning training you should have good overhead mobility and general strength. You’ll find that both of these qualities will improve with training. The large range of kettlebell weights means the exercises are easily scalable.
2. Something for everyone
Often you will gravitate towards sports that suite your genetics. Whatever the reason, positive/negative reinforcement is a powerful thing. You don’t see many human stick figures playing rugby! They may enjoy watching it, but most people are weeded out by being crushed every time they play. Conversely, you don’t see many massive people doing triathlons. Again, they may enjoy it and have a go from time to time, but they will commonly gravitate to strength and power sports.
The reason GS has something to offer everyone is that strength and endurance are both components of the sport. This means a strong person will progress quickly by improving their endurance (and technique of course), whilst someone with an endurance base will benefit from increasing their strength. Don’t get me wrong – having elite genetics will help you in GS, but because of the mixed requirements you don’t need to be elite in strength or endurance. Different areas of strength may help to disguise (to some degree) areas of weakness. Due to this, GS is suited to a wide range of body types, as being strong will improve your efficiency and better endurance will allow you to last longer.
3. General strength
Most GS athletes have reasonable levels of strength. By no means are they powerlifters or weightlifters, but they can generally out lift average gym goers. The main areas of carryover are in the overhead press, deadlift, quarter squat and grip exercises such as farmers walks.
GS promotes both local muscular and cardiovascular endurance. Improving the local muscular endurance will allow specific muscle groups to work longer at higher intensities. Examples of areas that would benefit from improved local endurance from GS are jerks – knee and elbow extensors, snatches – forearms and back. The improvements in cardiovascular endurance will help supply the working muscles with oxygen.
5. Training and performance
There are only a handful of variables that effect GS. The relatively ‘closed’ environment allows you to easily test and quantify how successful your program is/was. This means you get out what you put in. In a team sport, coaches must train athletes to improve key fitness performance indicators. These performance indicators must transfer to their chosen sport, such as vertical jump for basketball.
6. Safety (low injury rate)
There is very low risk of injury if you have good mobility, technique and don’t lift with an ego. Additionally, many people with past injuries in other sports are able to compete in GS with few issues. There are many people still lifting at the elite level in their forties.
7. Body composition
GS athletes generally have a lean and athletic build. This may be due to a mix of strength, endurance, full body exercises and a large energy expenditure. It is easy to see how this type training will bring about this type of body. Additionally, workouts can be very short and effective, with a low injury rate. With this in mind, you are able to string many unaltered workouts together.
8. Concentration and calmness
Mentally, GS shares similarities with running and lifting sports. Generally the best lifters are very calm when they lift. They pace themselves using their breathing. This singular focus can have a very meditative effect. Most experienced lifters can comfortably get through the first seven minutes. The last three can be a bit of a metal battle, whereby they are fighting off fatigue or even increasing pace in the last minute to get in a few extra reps. Increasing the pace will lead to greater recruitment of the anaerobic energy system, and in turn increased discomfort. If you like the ‘psyche up’ aspect of lifting sports, you should be in your element here.
To summarise, GS training may be a time efficient way to target many fitness qualities and be suited to a wide range of individuals.