The kettlebell basics

Posted: November 1, 2012 in hardstyle, kettlebell, training

The basics of the hardstyle training system boils down to 6 movements, the swing the snatch,clean and press, the squat and the Turkish get up.




I’ve always had a fondness for the martial arts and combat sport.Be it boxing, karate,judo or more recently MMA. The recent main-streaming of the UFC and similar organisations has led to a mass increase in cross training martial arts and the opening of such schools/academies to accommodate the new trend.

One such school is the Combat Sports Centre in Limerick. I was directed towards them by a co-worker who was also a blue belt in BJJ at the time. I had expressed my interest in martial arts and he suggested I give it a try. So I rolled up to the gym, and spoke to a few of the guys. I had no idea what to expect and was going in with an open mind, a gum-shield and a willingness to learn. The gym was split in two, in one room the floor was matted and there was about a few guys grappling in BJJ Gi (BJJ uniform,similar to a judo suit). The other room had bags hanging, a small matted area, and padded walls(to emulate clinch work against the cage) basically the MMA side.

I was waiting for my Gi to be delivered so I decided to hop into the MMA class.

I learned some very valuable lessons here

  1. Always wear a gum shield
  2. Always wear a groin guard
  3. Gym owned boxing gloves stink
  4. I’m too old to be getting punched in the face by guys half my age that are faster and have better reflexes than me

So the following week I turned up for BJJ class with my brand new Gi.

Limerick BJJ Academy

Blog attempt

Posted: October 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

I was blogging over at the google blogger site but my laptop kept shutting down everytime I opened the window in my browser.

So, I’ll start again here. Mostly it’ll be my thoughts and principles on kettlebell training and some thoughts on Brazilian JiuJitsu that I am also trying to get to grips with.Image


This is a note I put up on my facebook page a while back

My path to the kettlebell

I smoked for almost 20 years, more than half my life.
Four years ago I decided to quit, the night before St. Patrick’s day, 16th March 2007 at a friends wedding I smoked my last cigarette. Went cold turkey, I tried the gum( heartburn in tablet form) and I tried the patch(itchy rash).
What worked for me was my stubborn nature, no way was I giving in.
The next fortnight I was a nightmare to live with and work with but I eventually pushed the nicotine out.
The next three or four months I spent clearing my lungs of the best part of  twenty years of tar.

One of the perks  I have with my job is free access twice a week to what is arguably this country’s finest gym.
University of Limerick Arena gym, walk past the treadmills,recumbent bikes and the cable machines and you got to the free weights,squat racks and Olympic platforms. This is where I wanted to be, but what to do….?

Enter the Internet, behold, the information superhighway!!
I was going to find everything online, programs,routines,upper body split,lower body split, 5×5 programmes.
I would trawl the web seeking information and advice,some good,some not so good.
Settled on the simple 5×5. Squat,dead lift,press,barbell row and bench press, lifting three times a week.

This is where I hit problem #1, this routine required me to lift three days a week.
Anyone who has worked 12 hour night shift will tell you that hitting the gym for a heavy barbell session afterwards is not easy.

Problem #2 kicks in here,I learned that I have a poor range of motion in my shoulders that is aggravated by pressing a barbell over my head. What to do….?

Back to the Internet..stumbled into Iron On Line

Dave Draper(Mr Universe 1966) and his wife Laree run this site and it’s packed with information all provided freely by themselves and a realm of IOLers. A truly fantastic  crowd of common minded friends that stretch across the planet.
Here I found everything I needed to get me moving again.
Encouragement and advice, all gold.
I can honestly say that if I hadn’t found this site I would have most likely given up weight training.
So barbell pressing was out, dumbells were in. I kept going with this 5×5, substituting barbell pressing with dumbells but shift work and balancing family life made it difficult, if only I could find a way of training at home.
No room at home for a barbell, never mind a squat rack, bench and plate storage.

Back to the internet….back to IOL, searching through posts and conversations,barbells…nope, dumbbells…no good(no space for a bench), bodyweight….could do that, suspension training….nope(no room for the TRX),kettlebells…


Back to the internet and typed “kettlebell” into the search bar.
Wikipedia describes:
“The kettlebell or girya (Russian: гиря) is a cast iron weight (resembling a cannonball with a handle) used to perform ballistic exercises that combine cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training.”

Intrigued I probed deeper into this whole kettlebell thing.
Names started popping up on the web, Mike Mahler, Steve Cotter, Steve Maxwell, Pavel Tsatsouline, David Whitley, Dan John, Dragondoor and more and more information coming all the time.
I had to get hold of a kettlebell.
Easier said than done. Couldn’t for the life of me get one in Ireland. This only made me more determined and I  found a 16kg bell on a physio supply site.
“That’ll do me!!” I thought. Ordered one and had it in my hands within the week.
So I began playing with my new toy.

New toy, new problems.

Problem 1  
How do I use this thing?
Solution to problem 1 was trial and error, lots of learning the hard way, lots of internet searches. Lots of sore forearms.
I made sure I was researching the above mentioned names and found them on youtube, spent hours sifting the gravel to find the gold. Again IOL was my fountain of knowledge.

Problem 2
Why is this kettlebell and it’s handle completely covered in rubber?
This was a bigger problem than learning how to use it. High rep snatches test the hands at the best of times, throw a rubber handle into the mix and not a happy outcome. I used chalk or soaped up the handle(that was interesting) to help this.
This went on for over a year. Trawling the web, learning all I could.

Right it was time for me to go up a weight, I found a site that was based in Ireland and ordered two 24kg kettlebells.
(In hindsight, I should have gotten one 20kg instead)
They were heavy and they were steel, massive green kettlebells, competition grade and I loved them.

This is when I discovered the brutal side of kettlebell training, get it wrong and you will really suffer.
I had no coach, no trainer, noone to correct my form.
The end result was a strained rotator cuff and a weakened  infraspinatus.
Too heavy too soon.(hindsight is 20/20)

So off to rehab the shoulders and go back to basics.
Nothing over head for months, all swings with the 24’s and Turkish Getups with no weight to help mobilize the cuffs.
Band work to strengthen the cuffs and the infraspinatus.
Slowly the strength came back into the shoulders and felt good again to hike a bell into the rack and press it.
I continued to train, I took up Brazilian JiuJitsu to help with flexibility.

I got word that Shane Nicoletti who is  RKC certified was  offering a kettlebell instructors course.
It was not going to be a “one day cash for cert” course but a respected certification with detailed instruction of how to train others safely, and to learn by doing, spread across 2 days.
I jumped at the chance and here I am.

I learned the hard way so you don’t have to.

Me and the rest of it

I’m thirty eight years old, happily married with four kids,all boys.
I work a 12 hour rotating four cycle shift pattern in a contact lens manufacturing plant, not my dream job,it pays the bills and that’s all I’ll say about that.
In my spare time I’m a Hardstyle Kettlebell Instructor and a student of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
I’ve been training with kettlebells for the past 4 years and have been teaching them for the past 18 months and I love it. It’s a fantastic way to get fit and I train with them exclusively and combined with bodyweight exercises they really are highly effective. I’ll be covering my training thoughts and differences in techniques and styles in later posts.


I’ve been training /studying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu intermittently for the past 2 years, I had an 8 month hiatus last year to focus on the kettlebell coaching side of things but I really missed rolling (the jiujitsu term for sparring) with the guys.
So I try to get on the mats at least once a week.
There are a couple of schools of thought on the practice of this martial art which I’ll give my opinion at another time but the video below really showcases the competition side of BJJ.
My dilemma is the division of my time between work, teaching kettlebells, practicing bjj and spending time with my family.

This forces me to make some compromises

  1. I teach kettlebells from my home studio on my days off , so technically I’m at home but I’m sometimes teaching between 4pm and 9pm with 10 or 15 minutes break between classes every hour to grab a drink.
  2. This means I cannot make the bjj classes on these evenings so I arrange morning training sessions at the academy with some of the other students that work shift/odd hours.
So essentially on my day off I could be training bjj from 10am to 12.30pm, get home, shower, eat and be teaching kettlebells from 4pm to 9pm. Pretty busy for a day off right?

So what about time for the family?

Well my kids are all of school going age so they attend school and the younger ones are home before 3pm and the eldest after 4pm (if he doesn’t hang back playing table tennis with his friends)
When I’m working the night shift I see them in the morning as I get home before they go to school and in the evening before I go to work. When I’m working day shift I get home before they go to bed.
I’m off every second weekend and I find that most people rarely want to train on a weekend so I’m almost always free unless there’s an open mat so I hit the academy for an hour or so on a Saturday morning.
And my wife? Well she’s the one.
In conclusion
Time is the most precious thing you can give to someone or something, you never get it back.
Invest it in something you feel passionate about, whether its your fitness or a martial art, or singing, writing or just sitting in a quiet place for a half hour to gather your thoughts. Make it important for you.
If it’s that important
you’ll make time not excuses.