Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Kettlebell Epiphany

Plenty of sleep last night.  By the end of the day yesterday I was exhausted.  I must still be working on the sleep debt from last week, because I had to crawl up to bed at 8pm.  When I woke at 5:45 this morning, I still felt tired.  However, I have a commitment this evening that will prevent me from working out then, so I made the long trek to my gym.

This workout was planned to be a combination of kettlebells and bending.  My hands are not ready to bend again, so I just did the following:

Warm Up with 12k
Warm Up with 16k (found out here that cleans were out, my forearms are tender!)
One Arm Swings: 5/5x16k; 2x5/5x20k;
High Pulls: 5/5x12k; 5/5x16k; 2x5/5x20k
Snatches: 5/5x20k (PR); 5/5x20k (PR); 2/2x24k (PR); 1/1x28k (Ties PR) I might be on to something...
High Pulls: 3/3x32k
Bottoms Up Press: 2x5/5x16k; 3/3x20k
Press: 1x20k (stopped, shoulder didn't like these today)
Renegade Rows: 2x5/5x16k (sloppy)
Finishers: 1/1x50ft walk with 20k overhead; 100ft walk with double 16k's racked

Cooled down with a walk around the block, then did mobility work.  Doing the mobility work after a cool down with no music playing made a HUGE difference in my ability to relax and release the stretches in sync with my breathing.  Several new areas on my legs were tight from the assisted pistols yesterday, the standing quad stretch really got those areas to let go.

So on the snatches - I've been doing them wrong.  Simple as that.  There are two problems I have:

1. On the way down, I have not been twisting my hand to properly "hike" the kettlebell behind me.  Pavel talks about this in Enter the Kettlebell, but I sort of disregarded it.  Well today my shoulder was popping on every rep during my one arm swings.  The hike movement internally rotates the shoulder at the bottom of the swing and makes it much easier to catch the weight.  It stopped my shoulder from popping, so I carried it through to the high pulls and snatches.

2. I have not been doing a high pull, then punching through at the top.  A kettlebell snatch is different than a dumbell snatch, simple as that.  The bulk of the weight on the kettlebell just does not need to be pulled as high as it does when pulling the same weight with a dumbell.  Previously I was pulling the kettlebell up as hard as I could, letting it flip over my hand, and catching it on my forearm.  That's why my forearms are still tender from Saturday's workout.

Today I practiced the high pulls first.  Then when I did my snatches, I just tried to do the high pull movement to start the snatch off.  All of the sudden I wasn't banging my wrist anymore, and the weights felt easy.  After the high pull it felt like the kettlebell just rolled over my forearm as I finished extending my hand overhead.  My previous snatch PR with the 20k was 3/3.  It was hard.  Today I got 2x5/5.  Not only that, I held back because it was a new way of doing things.  I could have done more.

This marks a turning point in the kettlebell snatches for me, I think.  It finally makes sense to me how guys on the Dragon Door forums are able to snatch a heavier kettlebell than they can push press.  I am excited to see where this goes.


On a different vein of thought, my back has been a little tender since last Saturday's workout, where I went all out with the kettlebells.  I was thinking about this during today's workout, after my finishers.  My back started to feel tender in the same way after the rack walks.  I think this points to an issue Steve Cotter vaguely referenced when he split from Dragon Door.  He mentioned that he's spent quite a bit of time fixing bad postural habits learned while working with the kettlebells using the Dragon Door methods.  I also noticed when looking at pictures of a lot of kettlebell guys that it looks like their upper back is rounded forward to far, or they have an overly kyphotic posture.

Today it started to click.  Most of the kettlebell exercises, due to the offset nature of the weight, hold the spine in a state of exaggerated lordosis.  The body compensates for this lordosis by increasing the curve in the upper back, causing the kyphotic posture I observed in pictures of the kettlebell guys.  I think I felt pain in the rack walks because the entire walk my back was in a state of exaggerated lordosis, which is hard on it, especially at the end of a long workout.

I am not sure what implication this has for my workouts.  I do know that encouraging rounding in my upper back is the last thing I want to do, given my shoulder problem and the fact that I sit at a computer all day.  The entire reason I foam roller my thoracic spine is to fight against the rounding that sitting at a computer all day promotes.  At the very least I think this means I will be doing my finishers with kettlebells overhead or in a farmers walk position.  It also means I need to balance swings and cleans with rows and presses.  I think the snatch takes care of itself.

Great workout this morning, I am definitely setting the stage for some excellent progress this summer.