This blog grows out of my conviction that every aspect of our lives is sacred and is to be nurtured and celebrated as a good gift of God. Most of the posts will be the sorts of things you would expect from a historian and worldview teacher, but some are likely to be a bit surprising. Since God created all things good, including all aspects of human life, everything is interesting and important from the perspective of a biblical worldview. Everything under the Sun and under Heaven is thus fair game here. I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Review of Jeff Martone's Kettlebell Rx

Continuing on the theme of loving God with our strength:

I have long been a fan of kettlebells. I bought my first shortly after Pavel Tsatsouline reintroduced them to the US and have since expanded my collection. Along with martial arts, they have been my preferred form of exercise ever since. They’ve gone from being a pretty hardcore training tool to the mainstream market—they’re even sold in Dick’s Sporting Goods and Ocean State Job Lot.

Although kettlebells are more forgiving in some ways than heavy barbells, it is still easy to hurt yourself if your form is bad, and frankly, a frightening number of “instructional” videos out there right now are almost recipes for injury. The best way to prevent this is to get good coaching. If coaching isn’t available, the next best thing is Jeff Martone’s excellent book, Kettlebell Prescription (Kettlebell Rx).

Martone has a very impressive resume in fitness, combatives, and kettlebells. He is a Kettlebell Sport Lifting Coach for both the American Kettlebell club and IKSFA in St. Petersburg Russia, and was one of the first senior Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC) certified instructors. He is also a CrossFit Level II certified instructor and does a lot of CrossFit’s Kettlebell training. Along with that, he’s a Controlled Fatigue Training Level II certified instructor, a Warrior Diet Nutrition certified instructor, and a Physical Fitness Specialist certified instructor with the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research.

In other words, he knows what he’s talking about.

A lot of Martone’s work these days involves teaching kettlebells for Crossfit gyms, and this book was written with that audience in mind. Even with that focus, Kettlebell Rx includes so much good information that anyone interested in fitness, particularly those who use kettlebells or who simply want to try them out, would benefit tremendously from reading and studying it.

Kettlebell Rx is remarkably comprehensive. The first chapter includes a thorough basic joint mobility section, which if you read this post you know is an important though neglected form of exercise. It also includes post workout stretches. The book then provides step by step progressive instructions for four major classifications of kettlebell exercises: swings, Turkish getups, cleans, and overhead pressing exercises.

The Turkish getup is worth an additional comment. Jeff had severely injured his shoulders—multiple surgeries, dislocations, etc. His shoulder would sometimes go out of joint even while in bed. He ultimately managed to rehab it using the Turkish getup and says that if he had known about it earlier, he believes it would have prevented some of those surgeries. Rather than trying to explain it, I’ll just refer you to these videos of Jeff teaching the exercise. In the last one, Jeff does the get-up using his wife rather than a kettlebell.

The chapters on these exercises have a number of unique features. Martone shows a step-by-step process for learning the exercise, including preparatory movements to help perform the exercise correctly and safely. He also shows the most common mistakes and explains how to diagnose and correct them. This is the most important part of the book, since it lets athletes, coaches, or even just workout partners without much experience with kettlebells learn the exercises properly and fix mistakes in form. Martone then gives a “prescription” for an exercise protocol with each exercise.

The next section of the book deals with programming, including advice for different populations, a simple but effective strength program, conditioning, and various circuits using kettlebells.

The next section deals with rotational strength, developed through “H2H” kettlebell drills, a.k.a. kettlebell juggling. Jeff has DVDs devoted specifically to this subject and was the first person to emphasize this aspect of kettlebells in the US. I personally find this fun, and it has done more to improve my hand-eye coordination and hand speed than anything else I’ve done. Martone also includes programming for this kind of exercise and sample circuits. If you are going to try these drills, do them outside on a soft surface, because sooner or later (probably sooner), you will drop the kettlebell.

The last section deals with competitive kettlebell lifting. It’s really more of an introduction to the sport and is intended to alert people to its existence and to challenge people (particularly Crossfitters) to try it out.

Kettlebell Rx is easily the best book on kettlebells that I have seen, as well as a great source of information on most aspects of physical fitness. If you have any interest at all in kettlebells, this is the book to buy. You’ll be glad you did.

Kettlebell Prescription (Kettlebell Rx) is available through Amazon or directly from Jeff Martone. This is my affiliate link to his website.