Recently I have been getting a lot of opportunities to train the athletes & sports men of India using Kettlebells. These include the Rugby players of Indian army, tennis players, martial artists and cricketers of Pune, Mumbai and Delhi. The feeling is great specially because I have been a sportsman myself all through my life having played almost all sports – cricket, basketball, tennis, badminton, squash, table tennis, swimming etc at school/college/district or recreational level. And now “Kettlebell Sport” at International level, being India’s 1st international kettlebell sport athlete !
As much as I am happy, there also lies a challenge to show the benefits of kettlebell training to athletes – IMPROVING SPORTS PERFORMANCE and thereby contribute to India’s sports development. I have always maintained that kettlebell should be a major tool in every sportsman’s toolbox and this article is here to shed some light on this fact.
There are different attributes in which a sportsmen/athlete need to improve apart from developing the skills needed for his own sport/game.
Every sportsman needs to improve parameters like cardio-vascular endurance, muscular endurance, strength, flexibility, body composition, power, speed, balance, coordination, agility, accuracy, strength endurance (work capacity) etc. These are the parameters of General Physical Preparedness (GPP) which need to be improved on for almost every athlete. The Special Physical Preparedness (SPP) skills are that of a sportsman’s own sporting skills. For eg: Punching & skipping for a boxer; hitting forehands, backhands, hitting volleys, running around the court etc for a tennis player etc.
Good news is that kettlebell training can help improve all these parameters of GPP on its own. It may not be the best tool for developing ‘maximal strength’ specially in the 3 powerlifts like back squat, bench press and deadlifts, but for the other GPP parameters which an athlete needs, kettlebell is an excellent tool to develop them – specially power, strength endurance and power endurance !!!
A typical gym workout will develop the following components of GPP of an athlete :
Cardio-vascular & muscular endurance – running, biking, elliptical, rowing, skipping
Strength – compound weight training exercises progressively increasing in load
Flexibility – static- passive stretches
Power – upto a certain level by doing strength training
After a certain level, parameters like explosive power, strength or power endurance need to be trained specifically and it is here where the kettlebell workouts prove to be extremely beneficial to the athletes ! Power is derived from the ground up and then expressed through the hands or legs in any activity – punching, striking, kicking, sprinting, throwing etc. A powerful hip drive through triple extension of hip, knee and ankle is crucial for that ! Kettlebell exercises like swings, snatches, cleans& jerks involve a powerful hip drive which leads to development of power. Training for maximal power or power endurance will depend on the load chosen in percentage of 1 REP MAX and length of the set.
Explosive power can also be developed by doing Olympic lifts with the barbell. But those lifts are very technical and not every athlete prefers to do them and requires a baseline level of strength to be able to do them. They are also bi-lateral exercises which can lead to unequal development of strength on other side.
Kettlebell lifts are unilateral lifts, not as technical as Olympic lifts, can be done by even beginners and still provide the same benefits of Olympic lifts ! Also, the high volume/long sets of kettlebell complements the development of high power with the ability to sustain it for long time (power-endurance) hence develops work capacity which is crucial to any athlete’s match performance.
Founder, CEO and Master Coach
Ballistic Kettlebell Fitness Academy