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Steve Cotter and the Art of Kettlebell lifting.

In the side bar to the right you’ll see a new box marked Join my free mailing list, it sounds bit cheesy but it’s there for a reason. If you click it, you’ll be added to a mailing list which I will send out updates no more than once per week. The updates will have any new posts that go up here, plus other new info that won’t be on this site, cool stuff that will be kept exclusive to the mailing list. It’s something that was suggested to me a long time ago, I just never bothered, but as it’s coming into the christmas season and I’m heading away for a couple of weeks it gives me a great opportunity to still help you with your training. Over the time that I’m away I will be sending out No Equipment bodyweight workouts and kettlebell hybrid workouts, with video clips that you can do at home. These workouts will be sent exclusively to the email list. Oh, for those that sign up, you’ll be given download instructions to a couple of cool PDF’s, so my web dude says….

Anyhow, enough of the BS. The following article is a report on Steve Cotter’s recent visit and was originally sent out on the Wild Geese Martial Arts monthly newsletter, I’ve reprinted it here for any of you who don’t receive it.

Steve Cotter and the Art of Kettlebell lifting. Steve Cotter was back for his second visit to Ireland, we at Wild Geese are extremely proud and fortunate to have been able to host him on both occasions.

For many years I’ve been an admirer of Steve and his work, even before I bought my first Kettlebell I’d watch his video footage and read his articles. Having the opportunity many years later to have him at my own centre is a great experience, and one that I’m happy to have shared with several other enthusiasts and coaches from around Ireland.

One of the standout features of a Steve Cotter workshop is his willingness to share information and join in with discussion. As he said on the day, we can talk a lot when working with Kettlebells because it only takes a few minutes to destroy you with them, consider this a recovery, and we’ll do the work in a moment…. One of the course participants is the ever vocal Kieran Dolan, owner of Dolan Fitness in Tullamore, Co Offaly. Kieran’s main sport is power lifting, but recently he’s been attending my Kettlebell workshops as he is always on the lookout for new information to improve himself and the already excellent training at his gym. Kieran came to the Steve Cotter workshop armed with questions, and Steve was more than happy to oblige.

When asked about the difference between the “Hard Style” method of Kettlebell lifting and the more fluid style that Steve has learned from Russian coaches and genuine Master of Sports, Steve gave a great explanation. I’m recalling this from memory so the following are not Steve’s words, but the point is the same.

Steve told how tests of strength are as old as the human race itself. Either men would gather and see who could lift the heaviest rock (we’re predating any purpose built gyms here), or they’d gather around a designated “test” rock and see who could lift it the most. The man who lifted the biggest (either total weight or reps) would become the chief and bag a bride. Fast forward to a more modern era and the strength competitions continue. In Northern Europe, the biggest men lifted the biggest rock, whereas in eastern Europe they favoured the repetition method. So as lifting equipment became more available, these preferences drifted into organised weight lifting competitions. The barbell became the iconic symbol of maximal strength with its ability to be loaded and adjusted to each individual’s ability, but in the east, they preferred to see who could manage a fixed weight the best. The ability to lift a 32kg Kettlebell for multiple reps shows a greater depth of character and ability than a single maximal lift. A more rounded athlete, one with the mental fortitude to lift well beyond physical fatigue, is probably going to make a stronger leader.

Hence the birth of Kettlebell sport, the discipline of lifting the maximum number of repetitions within a 10 minute time limit. The lifts used are the Clean & Jerk, Jerk and 1 arm Snatch (with only a single hand change). As Kettlebells came west they have been used for a huge variety of other lifts, but the competition and the beauty of the Kettlebell still lies in mastery of the Clean, Jerk and Snatch. These three lifts are the equivalent of the Power lifting trio of Squat, Bench and Deadlift.

Steve went onto explain that if you’re sole interest is maximal strength, the Kettlebell is an inferior choice to a barbell. However athletes that train for the three Kettlebell lifts have been shown to exhibit a good ability in other feats of strength and athleticism even though they don’t train these events. “Hard Style” advocates call this the “What the hell” effect. And it’s exactly what Paul is eluding to in his article above and something myself and many of my regulars are all familiar with. And while the “Hard Style” marketing does talk highly of this cross training effect, all the research and study on the worth of kettlebell lifting has come from the athletes that specialise in the three competition lifts.

The conversation did seem to satisfy the gathered audience, and if anyone was left doubting Steve simply said, “please don’t take my word as law, go out an experiment, find out your own path” or words to that effect.

He then spent the next ten minutes making us wish we’d never been born…….

Checking the guys facebook updates over the last few days showed that Steve had proved his point perfectly, everyone was suffering, happy in the knowledge that they’d worked body and mind, learning from one of the best in the business.

Of course, we did more than just Kettlebell lifting over the 6 hour workshop, we also looked at warming up, mobility and flexibility, but the conversation that Kieran instigated proved to be the high point of the day for me.

The good news here is that Steve has a soft spot for Ireland (his grandfather is from around Cork) so wants to come back, we’ll have a date set up for the summer of 2011, keep an eye on the blogs and this newsletter for further updates.


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