4000 reps, 153,000kg lifted: A Week in The Life of a Kettlebell Competitor




In this series of articles – A Week in The Life – I plan to follow in the footsteps of an experimental lab rat and for one week will pit myself against the training regime of a professional athlete.



For seven days I aim to challenge myself to maintain the same training volume as the professional whilst adopting, as closely as possible, their exercise routine. As I undertake what will surely be an arduous physical ordeal, I'll document each day’s exercise outputs whilst ensuring to summarise my experience in a concluding paragraph.



Each Week in The Life will begin with a walkthrough of the sport/discipline particulars. These particulars include:


  • The main events/competitions that the professional athletes from the sport aspire to win

  • The physical attributes that are essential to cultivate for those who have designs on ascending to the pinnacle of the sport/discipline

  • A brief bio of the current top-level athlete

  • An outline of the average pre-competition weekly training regime


Concluding the overview I’ve cobbled together a daily training routine ensuring to keep as close as possible to that of the professional. This daily training routine will act as a blueprint for the week; each session to be populated with different exercises or approaches: strength, muscular endurance, high intensity/low intensity, technique work.



Following the Week in The Life training regime, I have compiled the overall outputs as well as, where applicable, total distances covered, weight lifted and repetitions performed.


A Week in The Life of a: Kettlebell Competitor

Athletes Competing in the IKMF 30-minute Marathon

For this Week in The Life, if you haven’t already guessed, I adopted the training regime of a professional kettlebell competitor. And though, on this writing, it’s been a week since I finished, I’ve still got the calluses and myofascial fatigue as pleasant reminders of the arduous undertaking.


But why choose to spend a week in the life of a kettlebell competitor? After all, a week in the life of a taste tester at the Ben & Jerry’s factory would have been a more memorable – not to mention more pleasurable – experience. Indubitably true though that be, as I’ve been lifting kettlebells for over 15 years now (not continuously you understand), I thought it was high time I had a bash at taking my training to the next level, even if it was for just a week.


So, with that ambition in mind, I firstly set about researching the professional kettlebell scene in the hope of uncovering the exercise regime of a top Girevoy competitor. It quickly transpired that gleaning this information was going to be nearly as tough as the week’s training. But here’s what I discovered.


Kettlebell Events

If you aspire to ascend to the Empyrean heights of kettlebell competition, and stand proud amongst Titans such as Ivan Densiov and Sergey Mishin, you’ve at least got to win one discipline at the World Kettlebell Sport Federation (WKSF) – which is to KB lifters what the Tour de France is to cyclists – and, just to be on the safe side, set a World Record (or two).


Other organisations include

  • International Kettlebell Marathon Federation (IKMF). The IKMF hosts yearly competitions where Girevoy enthusiasts are afforded the opportunity to butt bells in traditional lifts such as the one arm jerk, snatch and long cycle. In addition, the IKMF facilitates more contemporary events like the 30- and 60-minute marathons and, for the cast iron competitor, the 2 hour ‘Ultra-marathon’!

  • In addition to the IKMF the KetAcademy, International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation and Girevoy Sport Union also provide platforms for KB enthusiasts to compete.


Undisputed King of the Kettlebell


In the world of Girevoy sports Ivan Denisov is MMA’s equivalent of Fedor Emelianenko or boxing’s Mike Tyson. Basically, Denisov is the undisputed king of kettlebell lifting and he has amassed an unparalleled list of achievements. For example, he has repeatedly won the Russian championship as well as taking titles at European and World competitions. In 2005 at the Moscow World Championships Denisov set records in the jerk and biathlon. He has also set world records in most all major disciplines – some of which previously stood unbeaten for over 10 years.



It is Ivan Denisov’s pre-competition training regime that I used as a blueprint for this Week in the Life. However, I found it particularly difficult to uncover a comprehensive outline of his training rituals/habits/predilections and instead had to cobble together a regime from the scant insights I serendipitously stumbled upon in my research.



During physiological testing at a sports science laboratory in Australia, where a team of researchers were trying to learn more about the physiology of top-level athletes, Denisov disclosed a rudimentary outline of his weekly training strategy. In preparation for the biathlon competition, which requires the athlete to jerk and snatch for 10 minutes each, he follows a tried and tested regime which includes:


Jerk and jerk assistance work
Snatch and snatch assistance work
Cardio
Jerk and jerk assistance work
Snatch and snatch assistance work
Cardio


Assuming a logical weekly format, 1 corresponds to Monday, 2 to Tuesday and so on through to Saturday – resting on Sundays. Doesn’t sound so bad. As for training times and session durations no such information was divulged. But by all accounts, a top-level kettlebell athlete will usually participate in two sessions per day each lasting for between 30 minutes to 1 hour. The sessions consist of high intensity training – maximal lifts, EMOMs and 10 minute AMRAPs – and lots of technique work.



Denisov places huge emphasis on the importance of striving always for perfect technique. Flawless form, he maintains, can be the difference between winning and losing. In fact, Denisov, after failing to ‘get the jerk numbers’ he believed he should have during a competition, identified a minor flaw in his technique when reviewing the event video. He noticed that his second dip on the jerk wasn’t quite low enough. He has since polished out this blemish.



For the aspiring kettlebell lifter Denisov has some advice. If you want to improve your performance whilst enjoying years of injury-free training, ensure always to:


1) Perform the first reps of the first set as perfect as possible. By doing so, Denisov maintains that this primes the connective tissue and aids neuromuscular facilitation.
2) Throughout your entire training session, even if it’s a 2 hour ultra-marathon, maintain a methodical breathing pattern and never hold your breath.
3) Prior to performing a long series of snatches give your bell handles a good chalking.
4) And remember: most all classical kettlebell movements – jerk, snatch, swing and long cycle – are initiated with the legs.

(listed adapted from the interview conducted at the ACU sports science laboratory, Australia)


The physical attributes that are essential to cultivate for those who have designs on ascending to the pinnacle of kettlebell competition include



· Superior muscular endurance.
· Excellent cardio-respiratory capacity: you need a damn fine engine to drive the muscular endurance to move those kettlebells.
· Iron determination: there’s no escaping the fact, kettlebells are a brutish training tool and they have a tendency to trash the hands and pummel the shoulders.
· Flawless technique.


A Week in the Life: Daily Training Regime


Monday

First session: 5am to 5:40

2000m row warm-up

3 X 10 reps KB swings (24kg)

5 X 10 reps (each arm) single-arm press (24kg)

3 X 10 reps KB goblet squats – placing emphasis on the final part of the movement (24kg)

5 minutes continuous alternate arm clean to press cycle: maintain a methodical rhythm and focused on technique

5 minutes cool-down: technique


Second session: 12:45 to 1:45

2000m row warm-up

10 swings (40kg)

1 jerk (pair of 16kgs)

15 swings (40kg)

2 jerks (pair of 16kgs)

25 swings (40kg)

3 jerks (pair of 16 kgs)

50 swings (40kg)

1000m row

Repeat four more times.

Day totals

Training time: 1hr 40 mins

Reps: 690

Weight lifted: 25,240kg (±500kg)


Tuesday

First session: 5am to 5:30

2000m row warm-up

10 swings (32kg)

1 press-up

15 swings (32kg)

2 press-ups

25 swings (32kg)

3 press-ups

50 swings (32kg)

500m row

Repeat four more times.

Second session: 12:45 to 1:45

A cardio session consisting of boxing!

10 minute skipping

10 X 3 minute rounds (only 10 seconds rest)

10 minute shadow boxing cool down

Day totals

Training time: 1hr 30 mins

Reps: 500

Weight lifted: 16,000kg

Wednesday

First session: 2pm to 3pm

2000m row warm-up

10 swings (40kg)

1 jerk (pair of 16kgs)

15 swings (40kg)

2 jerks (pair of 16kgs)

25 swings (40kg)

3 jerks (pair of 16 kgs)

50 swings (40kg)

1000m row

Repeat four more times.

Second session: 5pm to 5:30

10k cycling

Light KB session involving jerk technique work:

10 sets of 3/5 reps – 2X16kg KBs

Day totals

Training time: 1hr 30 mins

Reps: 500

Weight lifted: 20,960kg

Thursday

First session: 5am to 5:30am

30 minute slow-pace jog

Second session: 2pm to 4pm

10 swings (40kg)

1 jerk (pair of 16kgs)

15 swings (40kg)

2 jerks (pair of 16kgs)

25 swings (40kg)

3 jerks (pair of 16 kgs)

50 swings (40kg)

1000m row

Repeat four more times.

20 Jerks (2 x 16kg KBs)

5 squats (40kg KB)

20 Jerks (2 x 16kg KBs)

5 squats (40kg KB)

20 Jerks (2 x 16kg KBs)

5 squats (40kg KB)

20 Jerks (2 x 16kg KBs)

5 squats (40kg KB)

20 Jerks (2 x 16kg KBs)

5 squats (40kg KB)

500m row

Repeat four more times

250m row

100 punches (on a punch bag)

250m row

80 punches

250m row

60 punches

250m row

40 punches

250m row

20 punches

Repeat three more times

Day totals

Training time: 2hr 30 mins

Reps: 1030

Weight lifted: 41,960 (±1000kg)

Friday

Session: 7am to 7:30am

2000m row warm-up

10 swings (32kg)

1 press-up

15 swings (32kg)

2 press-ups

25 swings (32kg)

3 press-ups

50 swings (32kg)

500m row

Repeat four more times.

Day totals

Training time: 30 mins

Reps: 500

Weight lifted: 16,000kg


Saturday

First session: 6am to 7:30am

8mile slow jog

10 swings (32kg)

5 no weight squats

15 swings (32kg)

5 no weight squats

25 swings (32kg)

5 no weight squats

50 swings (32kg)

5 no weight squats

Repeat four more times.

Second session: 5:30pm to 6pm

3 X 10 reps KB swings (24kg)

5 X 10 reps (each arm) single-arm press (24kg)

3 X 10 reps KB goblet squats – placing emphasis on the final part of the movement (24kg)

5 minutes continuous alternate arm clean to press cycle: maintain a methodical rhythm and focused on technique

5 minutes cool-down: focused on technique

Day totals

Training time: 2hrs

Reps: 700 (±10)

Weight lifted: 19,840kg

Sunday

Day off?


Not likely!

First session: 6am to 7:45

5 mile run

10 swings (32kg)

5 no weight squats

15 swings (32kg)

5 no weight squats

25 swings (32kg)

5 no weight squats

50 swings (32kg)

5 no weight squats

Repeat four more times.

5000m row

Second session: 12 to 1:30(ish)

25mile cycle

Day totals

Training time: 3hrs 15min

Reps: 500

Weight lifted: 16,000kg

Week Totals

Training time: 12hrs 55 mins

Reps: 4015 (±100)

Weight lifted: 153,040kg (±1500)


Thoughts on training like a kettlebell competitor

The week was certainly challenging and as a consequence of seeing it through I lifted far more weight than I ever normally would; which forced me out of my training comfort zone. It perhaps wouldn’t have been quite so tough had I, over the seven days, taken my foot off the cardio accelerator. However, I’m an incurable cardo addict and even for a week and all the kettlebells in Russia I couldn’t give up rowing, running and cycling. So I just had to suffer . . . and suffer I did.

A Week in the Life Outcomes

  • Strength increase: I certainly noticed an increase in whole-body strength. Though a bit of a given, at the end of a week of intensive kettlebell training, which saw me swing, snatch and press in excess of 153,000kgs, I enjoyed augmented strength across all types of resistance training.

  • Picture perfect technique: Ok, I’ll admit, my kettlebell technique is nowhere near perfect, but it has markedly improved. So much so that I can perform the jerk, swing and snatch with relative ease and I can comfortably exceed my previous performances.

  • Improved punching power: As an avid boxer I'm always searching out techniques and training methods to improve stamina and punching power. Whilst researching for this article I discovered that the former world light-welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu, who at his peak was widely regarded as the pound for pound best fighter of his day, lifted kettlebells during his pre-fight training. Apparently he used them because he believed they not only developed superior athleticism – specifically stamina – but also put a bit more weight behind his punch. Kostya, I can attest, was correct on both accounts.

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Blog Author

Adam Priest is a former Royal Marines Commando, professional personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.


References


Article image taken from: https://youtu.be/1VDmGPNLKm8



IKMF 30-minute marathon image taken from: https://www.ikmf-world.com/ikmf-international-comp%C3%A9tition/