Thursday, June 28, 2007

Misapplications or Misinformation?

Recently a short article appeared on the AKC blog, "The Five Recent Misapplications of Kettlebell Lifting" written by Scott Sonnon, founder of Circular Strength Training.

I have never trained with, met, emailed or spoken with Mr. Sonnon. My comments are in no way an attack on him.

I would however, like to counter some of the points he makes in his post.

My comments appear in red, his appear normally.

"..some are still resisting the urge to improve their technique."
I can only assume he refers to those of us invloved in the RKC Hardstyle approach to kettlebell training. From other comments in his post, he claims that GS is the only "proper" way to ift kettlebells. By definition that means that non-GS kettlebll lifting is improper.

Since I have achieved CMS in the sport and teach the RKC principals, I feel qualified to speak on this. And rest assured, I lift my KBs properly.


1. These newer methods can be used for bodybuilding. Now, I’m not speaking of competitive bodybuilding, but rather the approach to building XYZ muscle: Z exercise will build X muscle.

There are inherent problems with the bodybuilding “parts” model of the human body, since the whole synergy of our human movement is greater than the sum of the parts (muscles.)


The RKC teaches maximization of tension in slow lifts and maximum acceleration in quick lifts. We neither teach nor practice body-part training. Full body tension and spreading the load across the body are prescribed in "muscle building". In fact, there is quite a lot of emphasis on being as strong as possible while being as light as possible. Hardly typical of bodybuilding.

2. These newer methods can be used for sports-specific training. Some trainers feel that they can take a kettlebell and load a specific sport skill to increase its resistance.

At the Danish certification, Sr RKC Kenneth Jay did a 45 minute presentation on how sport-specific conditioning is different from overall conditioning that improves a sport. We leave technique to sport coaches and teach kettlebells as a means of conditioning. Performance improves as conditioning and strength levels increase, as well as when the athlete improves the abitlity to rapidly move from tense to relaxed. This is how kettlebells are applied to specific sports.

3.These newer methods can be used for powerlifting.

Absolutely. When a guy like Donnie Thompson goes from 766 to 832 on his deadlift and adds 100lbs to an already elite level bench press in nine months, I'd call that validation of the method and principal.

4. These newer methods are being used for physical therapy: corrective exercise.

This works as a by-product of smart technique. There are many RKCs who were physical therapists long before touching a kettlbell, and in my own experience I have had many, many clients report improved range of motion and elimination of pain when training RKC style, often after one session. The reasons understanding of body alignment and tension principals, which are universal, not some special "corrective exercise".

5.These newer methods can be used for the novelty of having fun. This is probably the only logical reason for not lifting kettlebells properly, because if it gets someone off the couch, then it’s a good thing.

There is NO reason to advocate lifting kettlebells improperly. The problem with this tatement lies in understanding that "proper" defined as safe and specific to the goal.


Unfortunately, anything works for the first two months in getting you fit. What happens after those two months is the true test of your methods. If you don’t have long decades of experience you may be setting up those people for injury, burnout or worse.

Decades? Really? It takes Decades to become a qualified coach? What coaching program in the world requires that you spend 20+ years training before being an effective teacher? Medical school doesn't last decades.

Not competing does not mean it’s not a sport. If you run, but don’t race in marathons, running is still a sport.

So, the kids on the playground that are chasing each other around the tree for no reason are doing a sport? Have they been coached to do this properly? Does their coach have decades of experience training children in the "proper" way to run around a tree?

If you do martial arts, but don’t fight competitively, fighting is still a sport.

If a woman defends herself successfully fighting off a rapist is that a sport too? What about our soldiers in Iraq?

Saying that the only way to "properly" lift a kettlebell is with GS is tantamount to saying that the only proper way to lift a barbell is Olympic lifting. It simply isn't true. Ask Louie Simmons or Ronnie Coleman.

Is there a "proper" way to train for GS? Absolutely, and Valery Fedorenko is tha man to seek in the states for that.

Is there a "proper" way to lift kettlebells in a NON GS fashion. Absolutely. RKC.


12 comments:

AikiBudo said...

OOOh! Good stuff Dave. Well said. I don't know this guy either or his methods either, but from the sounds of it he has an axe to grind, or is trying to market and promote something of his by cutting down some one else. Typical juvenile approach.

I have been around in many fields and seen the same thing; Martial Arts styles, meditation styles, chiroprpactic techniques and now kettlebell training styles. It happens all over the place. Everyone wants to think their way is the best way or the 'only way' Heck, ever see the bumper sticker "If it ain't country, it ain't music?" Same mentality.

There is just an urge in many it seems to feel their way is the 'best way'. I used to be one of those and always sought out the best. But I eventually learned that sometimes there is no one best way for all times and people, but many good ways, each better in certain instances or for certain types of people. More than one way to skin a cat, as they used to say.

Until more people wise up or stopping trying to promote themselves by putting others down, this will go on ad nauseum.

BJ Bliffert said...

I just don't understand why the "correct method" can't be the one that make YOU better or takes you closer to what ever goal YOU are trying to achieve. Which, I think is pretty much the point you're making.

I don't know Sonnon but I do have some of his products and I like them. I think his Intu-Flow mobolity and Body Flow stuff is outstanding.

But, am I using it wrong if I combine it with Pavel's methods?

I don't think so. Both help me be better at what I want to be better at.

Dustin Silveri, RKC said...

Amen Brother!
I read that as well... stopped reading after he the first couple points cuz it made absolutely no sense.

when will they realize there technique is different.... thats all not better, different

thanks for your comments.

Royce said...

Amen man.

nate black, rkc said...

Outstanding post!

Charley Allen said...
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Mark Reifkind said...

nice post David. As you note, we didnt have anything negative to say about GS or the AKC; THEY started saying our techniques were wrong and produced injury.When you dont have anything positive to promote I guess you go negative.

Charley, what the hell is "American style" kb lifting? To me that is another slam on the RKC and our methods. It drives me NUTS when you guys do that.
If your methods are good then there is no reason to denigrate ours. We have a PROVEN track reocord of producing incredible results and not only NOT hurting people but getting them healed.
AKC has LONG way to go to come even close to our track record.Calling it "american" style is a back handed putdown.

as far as why does it matter which style gets used as long as people are lifting kbs, well, it does as long as the RKC is being attacked saying their ideas, principles and methods are wrong and injurious.

Ask any spinal Doc what's the safest way to lift anything, round back or arched back and see what they say.

Dr. Mark Cheng said...

EXCELLENT POST!!! This should be linked to the DD forum for others to read.

Rif's statement about the safest way to lift things is RIGHT on the money. More people would do well to remember that Hard Style isn't just about pulling off the lift, but also about training in a way that trains the body for maximum benefit rehabilitatively and prehabilitatively.

Wil said...
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Wil said...

Great post, Dave!

Sonnon's opinion on most things seems pretty reasonable, but on this issue his philosophical approach to fitness determines his opinion. In this case, he is stating his personal position and nothing more.

Judging from his corpus of works, Scott is a sincere, thoughtful, and very intuitive coach, and he along with Pavel have introduced Russian styles of training to the masses. A fact that should be respected (not saying you don't). His style of writing is off- putting to those of us who see room in the current evidence for more than one valid interpretation or approach, and to date he & the AKC has been unwilling to publicly deal with this issue in a fair and balanced manner (given the state of research done on the subject). Thanks for calling him on it! = )

Jordan Vezina said...

I remember reading that original post a while back. While I dig a lot of the stuff coming out of AKC, I too was put off by the suggestion that there is only one proper way, and everyone else is wrong. Some of those 'wrong' kettlebell lifts feel pretty right when I do them. Good post.

Dan Cenidoza said...

Nice post Dave. I really like how you ended that with a nod to Federenko. That shows class. I wish there was more unity and mutual respect between the two organizations. I care more about the lifting than I do the politics.