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Are the Kettlebell Lifts the Answer to Shit Posture?

Had a lovely conversation in the gym yesterday.

One of the my competitive Kettlebell Lifters, a member of the Kettleheads GS Team, was in and was marvelling at how incredible she felt after working on a few spinal extension drills and breathing techniques. Drills that I gave her to improve her kettlebell lifting technique, but cross over into the real world as well.

A couple of days ago I was watching her train and was concerned that her lockout wasn’t as settled as it could be and started to look at what was missing in her motion that needed to be fixed. It then became apparent that she had very little thoracic extension which meant that she wasn’t performing an efficient Jerk, wasn’t getting the breath she needed and couldn’t relax the shoulder at lockout.

So at the end of her set I took her through an Anatomy in Motion exercise known as the Wall Cogs. This allowed her to feel her spine in its full extension and its full flexion.

The we added breath, as you extend lift the chest and breath in As you flex the spine, breathe out.

In through the nose out through the mouth?

Who cares, just fill the lungs, then squeeze ’em dry.

Try just breathing through the nose Try just breathing through the mouth Try in through the mouth, out through the nose Try in through the nose, out through the mouth

It’s all a big experiment if it’s new to you, so forget what the guru’s tell you and explore, play see what fits you the best. And anyway, half way through a set of Kettlebell Jerks, you’ll be past caring what the guru’s said and instead, you’ll be grateful for finding the best method for you.

This is exactly what Wendy took from our few minutes working on this, and she experimented. She must have spent the rest of Monday and all of Tuesday practicing, because on Wednesday she back in and lifting like she’s never lifted before. She was like a different person under the iron, she’d made 6 months progress in just 48 hours.

And not only that she commented that the breathing was like a “Jolt” Which I assume is a good thing.

This lead into a conversation on posture, which is really what I wanted to get to in this post. Because we talked about how posture generally declines as we age, and how we’re seeing more and more people having poor posture at younger ages.

And we spoke about how the Kettlebell lifts are such a tonic to the problem of age related, or fear related postural decline. Fear related?

Yup, it’s what the Somatics folk call a red like reflex, essentially moving towards a foetal position.

Look around you, how many folk can you see with a flexed upper back, rounded shoulders, forwards head posture and a tucked pelvis? Do they look healthy and vital? Do they look frail and unhealthy?

It’s what Dr Vladamir Janda describes as the Tonic and Phasic muscles of the body. Janda spoke about how certain muscles developed early, pre birth even. These muscles were always prone to being short and tight. These would be the Tonic muscles, and mostly related to flexing the body or moving into that foetal position.

The Phasic muscles then are the opposite. They fit into the Somatic’s Green Light relfex. These are largely the extensor muscles that we develop a little later, in the first few months after being born. The problem is, the older tonic muscles can sometimes get the upper hand on the phasics. Especially during the self conscious teenage years and then there’s all that time sitting at a bloody desk.

So many people surrender to the tonics. Their Pecs, especially the pec minor gets tighter pulling the shoulders forwards. Hip flexors and Rec Fem shorten pulling our hip and spine out. The opposite muscles weaken, allowing this to happen.

Before we know it, we’re old.

Perhaps the kettlebell lifts, and I mean the proper kettlebell lifts, not the millions of exercises you can do with a kettlebell, are the answer. Maybe they’re the tonic to the tonic muscles.

Done right and trained properly the KB lifts, ie the clean, jerk and snatch, all work into the extensor chain of the body. Which essentially means we work the phasics, or the muscles that are most prone to weakness.

Not only that we work most of them with eccentric load. Which if you ask Gary Ward, the Anatomy in Motion founder is the key to proper muscle function. During the jerk, we first sink into the first dip which puts an eccentric load (ie a stretch) into the Calves, Quads and Upper back. As we spring out of this load, we take an in breath and put an eccentric load into the abdominals and chest before finally catching the bell and locking it out.

The Snatch is similar, but with a greater emphasis on the hamstrings and low back as they are loaded during the backswing.

Our assistance training will emphasis each stage of these action resulting in a body that can extend like a charm. Especially if targeted breathing exercises are utilised.

So it could be a case that the Kettlebell Lifts are the tonic to Janda’s Tonics.


Dave Hedges

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