Although I have read no scientific literature on it’s absolute necessity, I have always held the firm belief that body weight training is mandatory for anyone that competes in any form of weight lfiting. Afterall, why would I ask my body to support substantial external loads, if I am incapable of supporting myself? Initially I wanted to write this post as a research based article on either the importance of gymnastics as a form of physical therapy for kettlebell sport lifters, OR the importance of body weight training to weight lifters. Instead of nerding out reading as much peer reviewed literature as I could find, I decided to just train. I conducted my own experiment and this post is a summary and reflection of my results and where I plan on taking things next. Of course the overall big picture of any goal I take on is improvement. In some way it has to make me better – and right now if there is the potential to help improve my efficiency as a kettlebell sport lifter, I’m going to be open minded about checking it out.
As a kid I was always obsessed with gymnastics. During the summer Olympics, I would say without question- track and field, gymnastics and swimming are my top 3 sports I LOVE to watch. Not gonna lie – when I was growing up there were next to no role models I could relate to in either gymnastics or swimming. They were sports I thought were made for skinny white kids….lol….but I was always envious and in awe of the control, skill and grace these athletes had in addition to a ton of strength. By the time I was able to see more diversity within the sport and even see some successful Canadian role models, I felt way too old to participate. I was clearly wrong. Upon discovering kettlebell sport and making the decision to be a competitive 40+ year old athlete I decided right from the start to do things right. Here there are also many amazing role models. Multi- world champions Sergey Rudnev and Sergei Rachinskiy are similar to my age and known for their physical feats with their own body weight as well as with kettlebells. All the things I ignorantly took advantage of in my youth I was going to make a priority – eat well, sleep well, respect the warmup and the cool down and put time into a flexibility program.
Over the last 3 years I have consistently worked on my mobility and flexibility and definitely give it credit for keeping my body healthier than just lifting kettlebells alone. Even with these awesome changes however, all is not right in the House of Cyn. I still have weaknesses and imbalances I need to be working on daily. Ofcourse I am not going to sit by and watch myself struggle in the same places or feel sore and weak in the same spots….nope. I tackle that shit head on. If you ever attend a workshop or certification with Shawn Mozen from Agatsu Fitness – that dude can lay some pretty dope advice if you are a good listener. He pretty much gives away the secret to being successful when learning any new skill, and you can tell (if you follow any social media) who does it and who doesn’t quite easily. My summer experiment was to enroll in a gymnastics class, which was going to make me confront head on my feelings about being too old to try it, combined with forcing me to confront the weaknesses in my lower kinetic chain and poor core control.
Words of Wisdom #1 – Spend time with people who are better than you. For the 8 weeks of summer I decided to take a gymnastics and focused flexibility cert by one of Gold Medal Bodies (GMB) lead trainers – Kirsty Grosart. I have known Kirsty for a couple of years now so I know what a phenomenal athlete and coach she is. If I was going to confront the issues in my lower kinetic chain and core stability I needed some hands on help. The skill development and learning curve I made this summer has made me feel more confident to try out other amazing people I know in the handstand and flexibility world such as Sara-Clare Lajeuness from Agatsu and Andralyn Zayn from Deflying Fitness. I have a 3-5 year plan of courses I would like to take with each of them in addition to the yoga teacher training with Yoga Detour. So much time….so little money. Lol. Seriously though, if you want to learn to move your body better I recommend all of these people.
Words of Wisdom #2 – Invest the time to develop a consistent practice. Often times I hear people say “I want do more pullups, or I want a muscle up….or I want __________________.” They say this, but then put no real effort towards their goal. They don’t reaallllly want it! For 8 weeks I had the accountability of attending class twice a week for 2 hours. On the days I wasn’t in class I incorporated movements into my lifting warmup and cool down. I realized it was as simple as adding 4 extra movements to my routine to see improvement. Moving forward I feel much better equipped to maintain my routine and keep progressing.
Short story – the words of wisdom work. End of story. No real need to read further. Below I will post some pictures and highlight what improvements I noticed. I’ve divided my results into 4 sections. These are areas I think not only address my weaknesses but also important areas required for kettlebell sport. I am definitely going to continue to use photos to monitor (and hold myself accountable to) my progress as I continue forward with my practice. The process has also made me more curious about GMB’s programming and something I look forward to learning more about.
On top is my beginning pic and below is after. This was already a strength for me going in, but after 8 weeks I did notice more openness in my shoulders which allows for a better shape and ability to kick over. Moving forward I want to be able to work on going in to bridge from standing.
Hips, Knees, Ankles, Hamstrings
This section was the toughest for me. I did notice improvement in my hamstring flexibility but I still have significant work to do with my hips and ankles. Overall I think my progress was slightly hindered during the this testing period because I had done a kettlebell competition only a few days before these photos were taken. Still, to be completely honest and accountable I didn’t practice my lower body drills as much because of the discomfort and challenge. Moving forward I am going to attack this more tenaciously.
This one bums me out a bit because I did try to work on my shoulders much more diligently during this 8 week period. Again I blame a little bit on the timing of the pics falling after a competition and will admit my shoulders were feeling sore. Still….this is something I will add extra focus on my next training cycle.
A part from working on my weaknesses, adding some variety to my gpp, having serious fun acting like a kid and doing things I haven’t done in decades…I was hoping this work would really provide assistance to areas that would make me stronger and more prepared for kettlebell sport. The competition I had towards the end of this training cycle was my first 16kg biathlon. I pr’d by 10 reps in my jerk with a 170 total and did 128 snatches for a personal best total of 298. Although still a long way to go I did notice improvement in my core control and glute activation. I definitely do not attribute any negative impacts from the gymnastics training on my lifting. I do feel confirmed in my hypothesis of its importance and I will continue to strive to improve my badassery of physical autonomy for life! 🙂