Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Enter the Kettlebell Addresses Details of Kettlebell Exercises and Routines


For Christmas this year I received a copy of Pavel Tsatsouline’s
Enter the Kettlebell. Since I’ve had a month to thoroughly digest the book and put some of its suggestions to use, I thought this would be a good time to review it.

Enter the Kettlebell is a follow-up to Pavel’s original book on The Russian Kettlebell Challenge which re-introduced the The Russian Kettlebell Challenge, Dragon Door Publishing have started an annual kettlebell convention.

The Russian Kettlebell Challenge introduced lots of exercises that were new to most of the strength-training and body-building community and took a fairly free-form approach to planning workout sessions. This didn’t fly too well with American audiences, because they were used to being spoon-fed detailed workout schedules that they could follow without putting much thought into it. This is where Enter the Kettlebell comes in.

While I had hoped that
Enter the Kettlebell would have more kettlebell exercises, Pavel actually reduced the number of exercises to reduce confusion. In fact, Pavel’s recommended program for beginners (called the RKC Program Minimum) consists of two exercises: the Turkish Getup and the Swing. The advanced program (RKC Rite of Passage) consists of three: the clean, the pull and the snatch.

However, Pavel makes up for the lack of variety, by giving more detailed instructions on how to perform those exercises—which is a good thing since
The Russian Kettlebell Challenge left a lot to be desired in terms of exercise detail and photos and really required the companion DVD to see how they were really supposed to be done. Although Enter the Kettlebell also has a companion DVD, which I have yet to review, the book reduces the need for the video.

Enter the Kettlebell also responds to American demands for imagination-free workouts by prescribing workout routines and schedules with exact numbers of sets and reps. It also includes precise instructions for including some variations and for integrating kettlebell workouts with Pavel’s other popular strength training programs from Power to the People and The Naked Warrior. By the way, both of those programs only consist of two exercises each as well since Pavel is a proponent of doing a few exercises correctly rather than myriads of exercises poorly or infrequently.

Enter the Kettlebell is a great introduction into exercising with kettlebells if they are new to you. However, if you’ve been doing kettlebell swings, snatches, presses and cleans for years and have followed the Dragon Door discussion forums, there is little new here to learn. Once you’ve mastered those exercises I suggest moving on to the More Russian Kettlebell Challenges or Resilient videos—or just get a bigger

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Strong stomach and glutes eliminate lower back pain

For my first post to this new blog, I want to share an e-mail conversation about lower back pain that I recently had with a relative. He was sharing with me how he has dealt with pain in the lumbar region over the years and I explained why that worked and how to further relieve and prevent lumbar pain:

HIM: I've always found, ever since I was in the furniture business, that when I have back pain or even discomfort, the first thing I do is start a regimen of sit-ups. Even the first 20 or 30 help things considerably, but if I do that for several days, that back pain just disappears completely. I think those muscles and bones in there need to be moved around and strained to help them get back into activity. I remember one time (my wife) and I were in New York City at the SOFA show, it was May. We'd been walking around this huge exhibition center all day. My back started giving me a problem, and it got worse as the day progressed. So when we got back to the room, I just laid down on the floor and went to work with about 30 situps, and that took care of the issue.

ME: What those situps are doing is pulling the front of your pelvis up, which straightens escessive curvature in the lower spine and provides relief to the overworked lumbar muscles. However, situps can also strengthen the psoas muscles, which attach to the inside of the lumbar, run through the pelvis and attach to the upper leg bones (femoris) which flex the hip joints. The psoas doesn't get stretched much, so it can pull excessively on the lumbar, thus contributing to excessive curvature and more lower back pain, especially when standing a lot. Strong muscles in the butt and hamstrings counteract the pull of the psoas by pulling down on the back of the pelvis and having the same effect as strong abdominal muscles. That's why I like deadlifts so much, they strengthen butt and hamstrings--and provide some real shapeliness in those areas for the female population!

Try this next time your lower back hurts from standing or walking: contract the stomach muscles and squeeze your buttocks so that the front of the pelvis tilts upward and straightens out the spine. The motion of the pelvis is similar to certain movements during sex, but is subtle enough that you won't get strange looks from those around you. You should experience some immediate relief.

For more information on how to relieve back pain related to muscle imbalances like the situations described above, look up this resource from the Healthy Back Institute:

Back Pain Relief Guide

John E. Fike, Fitness Writer