On June 1st I had the pleasure of participating in a StrongFirst Kettlebell Workshop with Phil Scarito. It was a 1-day course that went over the intricacies of the basic kettlebell movements (Deadlift, Swing, TGU, Goblet Squat, Press). The theory is that it’s better to master the fundementals than to be average at a bunch of different lifts. Plus, it’s these basic KB movements that that have the greatest impact on improving one’s physical abilities and movement patterns.
Phil Scarito was the instructor for the course. He is extremely knowledgable on many levels and was able to translate his concepts to everyone from physical therapists to personal trainers to your average gym rat. Phil is able to go into the greatest details of each movement to truly help you understand the movement at a different level. He has a great YouTube page with tons of detailed instructional videos.
Along with some posterior chain soreness, I learned quite a few things. Here’s some things I learned in one day with Phil Scarito and the StrongFirst instructors.
1) Your clients/students/patients will do what you do. Make sure you can execute the move perfectly and they will too.
2) Training barefoot is extremely important. It allows you to maximally “root” your feet into the ground and give you more power. Shoes deprive you of that important sensory information.
3) Lose big toe contact = lose power
4) Fast & Loose – keep moving during your training and use active rest
5) Tactical Frog is a great mobility warm up
6) Fix the deadlift. When someone is having difficulty with a movement, often times going back and fixing their deadlift will resolve the problem. “Don’t fix the swing, fix the dealift” – Brett Jones
7) “Try to make the light weight feel heavy, and make the heavy weight feel light” – Marty Gallagher
8) Breathing is extremely important to develop stability. Coordinate breathing with movements (biomechanical breathing).
9) Think about driving your feet into the ground and pushing the earth away.
10) Active Negatives are a great way to learn movement. It also spares the agonist of eccentric load, allows for successive induction, trains the antagonist, and helps to “grease the groove”.
11) Always keep the wrists in neutral. Don’t let it bend to accommodate the bell.
12) All you need for programming is TGU’s and Swings. Do those everyday and you will make tremendous gains. (paraphrased Pavel advice)
1) The hip hinge is the basis for the deadlift. The deadlift is the basis for the swing.
2) “Rooting” feet into the ground is extremely important for power transfer.
3) Reach down and stay tall before you pick up the bell. This packs the shoulders while maintaining proper posture.
4) It’s important to start the swing off right. This helps activate the lats to develop tension, increases power generation, and properly starts the movement with the right momentum.
5) If you let the weight go at the bottom of the swing it should fly backwards, not down.
6) Avoid the “high hip hinge”. Don’t get lazy and start doing partial range swings.
7) Timing is extremely important. There should be a delay going up (KB “float”) and a delay going down (“playing chicken with the KB”).
8) Don’t over think quick lifts.
9) Don’t be so afraid of flexing your trunk forward. Many people will bend at the knees to try to keep their torso upright instead of hinging at the hips.
10) Make sure to “snap” your hips forward. Finish the lift tall.
Turkish Get-Up (TGU)
1) You can take the TGU and turn it into a million different exercises. Break it up, practice small parts of it, add a few TGU movements into other exercises.
2) The TGU takes you through a full neurodevelopmental progression. No other exercise can do that.
3) Starting position will determine the success of the rest of the movement.
4) The legs and arms should be parallel in the starting position, much like a starfish (or at 45 degree angles).
5) You should be “rolling” to your elbow, not sitting up to it.
6) When you get to your hand “think of wedging yourself between the bell and the floor” – Phil Scarito
7) The “2 Lines” to look for:
• In Sitting Phase: Hand, Hip, and Oppoite Foot in line
• In First Kneeling Phase: Hand, Knee, and Foot in Line (same side)
8) Most people do the TGU too fast. Should be a slow movement with at least a couple seconds in between movements.
1) After your hips go below your knees it is all on the glutes to get back up.
2) Don’t get out of the bottom position too fast. You want to go slow to prevent the hips from shooting up.
3) Pull yourself into the bottom position with your hip flexors (active negative).
4) Keep your feet pointed straight ahead and the exercise will naturally prevent valgus collapse at the knee.
5) Don’t sacrifice form for depth (avoid excessive lumbar flexion).
6) A common fault is sitting forward into the knees. Most people will need to focus on sitting back into their hips.
1) You can’t press with a hyper-extended wrist. There’s no power.
2) Don’t reach up. Instead, think of pushing the whole body away from the KB.
3) The plank and the military press are very similar exercises.
4) Don’t let the ribs flair and hyperextend the lumbar spine.
5) Actively pull the bell back down (active negative).
More and more people are becoming interested in kettlebells. As a clinician this means we have to have a better baseline level of knowledge so that we can assess, train, or refer out when we have patients that are using this equipment.
Remember the rule with all exercises:
- Make sure you are competent with the movements before you prescribe or assess someone else.
The kinesthetic learning of this course cannot be matched by anything other than performing the movements while being coached by professional. I highly recommend taking one of these workshop courses with StrongFirst if you have any interest in kettlebells.
The main reason I do this blog is to share knowledge and to help people become better clinicians/coaches. I want our profession to grow and for our patients to have better outcomes. Regardless of your specific title (PT, Chiro, Trainer, Coach, etc.), we all have the same goal of trying to empower people to fix their problems through movement. I hope the content of this website helps you in doing so.
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