Combat sports coach Ross Enamait says think less, train more
Aspiring athletes and trainers have access to more information than they could ever comprehend. You are never more than a few clicks away from a new article or program. As a result, many find themselves spending more time than ever seeking out new knowledge. Unfortunately, the thirst for knowledge does not always result in more time or energy spent training. Consequently, the best advice is often a simple reminder to think less and do more. Don’t let your quest for knowledge detract from training. New articles hit the web each day. Information overload overwhelms many. Regrettably, not everything you read is true, and many lessons are best learned through hands on experience. I’m all for research, but don’t confuse library time with gym time. The wheel has already been invented. While one athlete browses the web, another sweats in the gym. Who would you rather have on your team?
This passage is an extract from Excellence Is A Habit, a new eBook from the team behind the 100 Rep Challenge training brand. The book also contains contributions from top coaches including Andy McKenzie, Martin Rooney and Mike Mahler. To download the book, visit 100repchallenge.com. For more on Enamait, visit rosstraining.com.
Mike Mahler interview Part 1
King of the swingers
Kettlbell expert Mike Mahler on why you need to grab a ‘bell’
US strength coach Mike Mahler has established himself as a leading authority on kettlebell training by presenting sold-out workshops across the globe. In the first of a two-part interview he explains why he loves training with ‘bells, how to incorporate them into your workouts and why they’ll benefit other aspects of your training.
Why do you like training with kettlebells?
I got into kettlebells in about 2001 and what I really liked was the ballistic nature of the exercises and the full body element. And it’s just fun. I also like the emphasis on the posterior chain – all the muscles that you don’t see in the mirror. Pretty much everyone needs to work on their posterior chain more. I also like the simplicity of kettlebell training. You can do it at home or in a park and the workouts can be simple. It’s also very efficient. Do five exercises or so and you’ll get a great workout.
What’s the best way of integrating kettlebells into your training regime?
When I got into kettlebell training I made that my sole focus and I didn’t do any barbell movements for quite a while. Now I integrate kettlebells into my barbell work. If you don’t want a complete departure from the stuff you’re already doing you can use kettlebells as a finisher. You can do swings or snatches at the end of a workout. Or you could replace exercises that you normally do with dumb-bells with kettlebells. So instead of doing a dumb-bell clean and press, do a kettlebell clean and press. Or you could do some workouts in the gym and then a kettlebell workout for conditioning on another day.
What about using them for getting fired up before big lifts?
Some Olympic lifting coaches like people to do swings and snatches before Olympic lifting because it gets your nervous system prepared and ready to go. I like to do ballistic exercises at the beginning of a workout so I’ll do lots of sets of double kettlebell swings with low repetitions and that fires up my nervous system before I move on to heavy deadlifts or presses. My nervous system is primed and ready to go.
Do you always do full-body workouts?
I like to create full body workouts because that way I enssure that things are balanced. We have a tendency to focus on stuff we like. So if I did upper body on Monday and I’m supposed to do lower body on Tuesday and something gets in the way of that workout, now you’re in an unbalanced state. When you do those five pillars – upper body press, upper body pull, lower body press and pull and some torso work – you’re ensuring full body development.
Why are rep ranges and time under tension higher with kettlbells than with other bits of training kit?
Elite athletes use kettlebells to develop work capacity. So they compete in events where the goal is to get as many reps of an exercise, such as the snatch, in ten minutes without putting the bell down. By doing higher reps you develop structural integrity – your body’s ability to work against resistance for a sustained period of time.
Can you use kettlebells for pure strength?
You can use a kettlebell for strength work and lower the rep ranges but the nature of them means they’re not great for maximum repetitions. So, for example, if I was going to do the heaviest weight I could lift for one kettlebell snatch there’s really too much that can go wrong and the probability of injury is too high. Even with a one rep max on military presses, the form starts getting out of whack. So I like to do several repetitions. I’ve done heavy sets of three to four with kettlebells but really the benefit of kettlebells is that you can focus on developing good efficiency where you can take it into those higher rep ranges. It’s really not the ideal tool for maximum efforts. Barbells are more suited for that – barbell deadlifts, bench press and Olympic lifting.
What’s sort of training carryover can you expect from using kettlbells?
If you focus on the primary exercises you’ll notice much more shoulder resilience and stability. Your general structural integrity will be better. Your posterior chain will be strong. If you do double kettlebell swings and snatches, that will help your deadlift, assuming that you’re also working on your deadlift. You’re not going to have a good deadlift just by doing kettlebell training but you can reinforce good technique on other exercises even if they aren’t kettlebell related.