You know, there are a lot of kettlebell “haters” out there.
I think it’s probably pure jealously.
But not in the case of “V.G.”
He was actually an early mentor of mine.
Not only does he hate kettlebells, but barbell, dumbbells, and
pretty much any piece of equipment…
… when used out of context.
(More on that in a minute…)
Vern Gambetta is known as the “Father of Functional Training” –
no, not that stand on a bosu waiving a 4-pound dumbbell in the
His title is actually a misnomer – he should actually be called the
“Father of Special Training” – as in Special Training For Sports.
(Well actually, that’d really be Prof. Verkhoshansky. So Vern
should get the title Great High Priest of Special Training For
Sports or Grand Poobah of Special Training For Sports or
something like that…)
When everyone was running around trying to figure out why
Power Cleans weren’t transferring to the field of play he was
busy designing systems and exercises based on the work of
noted physical therapist Gary Gray and the old Soviet Sports
So he’s a smart, smart guy.
One of Vern’s major tenants is that an athlete or individual
should always learn to manage his or her bodyweight and use
bodyweight exercises before adding external load – like
To do otherwise sets the athlete up for injury.
Agree or disagree, Vern has an impressive track record.
(He’s worked in Major League Baseball – NY Mets and Chicago
White Sox and Major League Soccer and with the US World
Cup Soccer Team among others.)
I’ve used Vern’s methodologies with great success, especially
when I was a strength and conditioning coach.
You should consider using them too – they’ll make your KB
lifting that much better, especially if you have nagging aches
Bodyweight exercises, variations, progressions and regressions
are phenomenal for helping to fix what ails you.
Even though I have a personal background in heavy barbell lifting,
I actually only use KB and bodyweight exercises with my clients
now. (Ok, there is one that I use a bar with…)
Here’s a example of some leg work I got from Vern that we used
when I was designing the programs for the Men’s Basketball team.
(Keep in mind, context is everything. We had a bunch of young
guys who had no business squatting with a bar or even deadlifting
plus a head coach who was insistent on punishing his team thru
physical work almost every practice.)
We had these young guys work up to 3×33 reps on bodyweight
squats. First slowly and under control. Then with speed. Once
they achieved that we started having them do Squat Jumps. Simple.
But hard. And amazingly effective.
You end up building up connective tissue strength, some local
muscular endurance, and increase capilarization, which improves
blood and nutrient flow/circulation to the muscles and decreases
Those things are very important to a court/field athlete who needs
to keep their legs “fresh.”
But here was the really cool part – These workouts also put some
muscle on them.
We did a bunch of other stuff inspired by Vern that worked great,
like using the “Contrast Method” – contrasting strength work like
bodyweight squats with power work – like Squat Jumps in super
Brutal on the legs. Brutal on the lungs. But after a few cycles and
a few weeks, the kids had springs for legs and could seem to run
up and down the court all day long.
All without “traditional” barbell and dumbbell work.
By the time we got these “Young Bucks” into the weight room to
do any REAL lifting – post-season – their coordination, body
awareness and strength had all improved tremendously, just
from doing the bodyweight exercises.
Especially our “Big Men” – our Power Forwards and Centers, who
tend to be “gangly” and uncoordinated in many cases at the college
Ahhh… good times.
So back to Vern and the trusty kettlebell…
It’s not that he hates them outright. He just believes that they have
their time and their place in a well thought out strength program –
and that’s AFTER the athlete has spent some time mastering their
bodyweight with bodyweight exercises.
His point is valid: How can you master an external load imparting
its will on you if (when) you can’t master your own body’s movement?
Food for thought for sure.
What about you? When was the last time you added in some
bodyweight exercises into your kettlebell routine?
Or even put the kettlebells away for awhile and focused on
moving your bodyweight around?
I know for certain your joints would thank you. You’d grow some
muscle. And your KB work would benefit.
I’m living proof of those 3 things.
P.S. Almost forgot – my Muscle Up is coming along nicely – was
able to do explosive Pull Ups to the sternum in my last workout
as well as Cranks (Thanks Alexey!). I think a lot of that has to do
with my ring training.
For me the MU is a BIG deal – that pattern is the EXACT OPPOSITE
of the Barbell Snatch that has been engrained in my body for
so many years.
I’ll shoot some video when I finally get my big butt up over that
P.P.S. Vern also hates the “kettlebell marketing” – thinks it’s hype.
Says there’s no “new Russian secrets”. I’m thinking we should
get him to an RKC or maybe a one-on-one session with Pavel.
I’m pretty sure he’d change his mind…