My Kettlebell Breakthrough: The Magic of Practice
By Brittany van Schravendijk (kbfitbritt.com)
In the weeks leading up to the AKA/IUKL Nationals 2014 in New York, I had a major kettlebell breakthrough. I improved my 20kg snatch number by more than 15 reps and consistently hit Master of Sport numbers in 24kg Long Cycle. So what “magic” happened to instigate this breakthrough?
The answer is simple: I practiced. Now, you may be thinking… aren’t we always practicing, every time we pick up the kettlebell? Not necessarily. The type of practice I’m talking about involves choosing the most crucial technique point in need of refinement, practicing with a light bell in front of the mirror for a couple thousand reps, and reflecting on the practice afterward (e.g. have I fixed it, how do left and right compare, how is what I feel different from what I see?).
Practice with the light bells may not be as intense of a workout as a set with a heavier bell. But here lies the difference between kettlebell workouts and kettlebell sport. If you just want to work out with kettlebells, no problem, do a 10-minute set every day and kill yourself doing it. If you want to succeed in kettlebell sport, however, a more thoughtful training regimen is required. There is more sense in taking the time to refine technique with the lighter bells before doing the next 10-minute set. That way, energy is conserved and good habits are reinforced before returning to competition practice.
While 10-minute test sets are an important part of a Kettlebell Sport training program, they are not tantamount to a great set in competition. By a test set, I mean one in which the athlete pushes to failure with their competition size bell, as they would on the platform. If tests sets are the only practice an athlete does, the athlete is likely to revert to bad habits under pressure and thus train those bad habits to occur in competition.
Back to me: there is a second piece to my kettlebell breakthrough. I was in a “dip” for a few months—my numbers were plateauing, I was frustrated, and I was tired of the monotony of training—so I took a step back. After a week hiatus during which I spent time on the beach with friends, I came back to the bells feeling reinvigorated. Did I lose any physical fitness in the span of a week? Nothing noticeable. On the contrary, taking a mental and physical break from the monotony of training—especially for a repetitive sport like kettlebell—was extremely important for me to reignite my internal fire to get after a higher number.
So why should this matter to you? Well, among all the fitness fads and crazy ideas people get about training, I want to point out that I earned Master of Sport without any of that—I simply practiced! There is no secret, no “magic”, no stroke of luck that is going to get you to the number you want on competition day. My success on the platform happened because I put in the practice time and reps, which helped me consistently hit the numbers I wanted in competition.
Secondly, I want to remind you that training Kettlebell Sport is a process. A long, long process. We all go through the ups and downs of training, especially if you train by yourself—so don’t be shy to reach out for support from the kettlebell community if you need it!