By Laurence Clemente Breaking Muscle
Kettlebell sport competition is relatively new to the West. Although new associations and clubs are being formed, the sport is yet to have the more solid infrastructure of conventional sports, with long-established clubs, coaches and associations. It still relies heavily on people being introduced to the sport by coaches in gyms and CrossFit boxes, and many lifters begin their competitive journey relatively late, entering the fray from their thirties and above. Many are also average gym-goers without any significant athletic background.
Being an athlete requires adjustments in both behaviour and training strategy.
I believe training to compete requires big adjustments to behaviour and strategy.
From Exerciser to Athlete
Initially, most people take up kettlebell sport recreationally, simply because it’s an excellent full-body workout. Later on, as some move on to competition, trouble can start unless they consciously make the move from being an exerciser – someone who enjoys working out recreationally – to being an athlete. An athlete is someone who trains in the pursuit of a specific sporting goal, and I personally don’t think it happens just by entering a competition or two.
Training to compete seriously in kettlebell sport requires significant adjustments in both behaviour and training strategy, not only to improve performance, but also to avoid injury. With the tips below, any budding kettlebell sport athlete can make this transition as smooth as possible.
8 Tips for Success for Kettlebell Sport Athletes
- Chase improvement, not injury. Training sessions are supposed to improve your performance – not stop you walking properly for two days after.
- Aim for steady progress. Everyone would love to be lifting the big kettlebells on the big platforms right away.
- Remember that ranks exist in kettlebell sport for a reason. Ascending through them steadily without skipping stages ensures the athlete is developing safely.
- Recover well. Your recovery effort must match your effort in the gym. Ensure you’re getting sufficient sleep, stretching thoroughly, and doing a good amount of soft tissue work.
- Eat sensibly. Your nutrition should be fuelling your results, not holding you back. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can eat what you want just because you are training hard. Conversely, don’t starve yourself to make weight for your next competition either. Be sensible and make sure you’re eating a good amount of high-quality food.
- Focus on technique. You never stop learning in this sport. There’s no such thing as perfect technique for any of the lifts involved, but that’s no excuse to neglect technique completely.
- Learn from other lifters. Study accomplished lifters, but don’t try to directly mimic what they each do. Their technique is the result of a great deal of time and patience in finding out what works for them personally. Look out for the similarities between the top athletes’ lifting styles. Those are the principles on which all successful techniques are built on. Understand those principles and add your own style to them.
- Be fluid. Keep observing, studying and trying different things. Be prepared to tweak things often, as what works for you lifting a certain weight or at a certain pace might not work once the intensity is increased.
- Get a good coach. World class athletes have world class coaches. The best thing you can do for your kettlebell sport career is to seek out a good coach. A competent coach will help you with all of the above – technique, periodisation, nutrition, making weight, and dealing with the psychological and emotional aspect of competing. Look for a kettlebell sport club in your area and get in touch with them. If there aren’t any, don’t panic. Many kettlebell sport coaches offer online coaching these days.
The Beauty of Kettlebell Sport
The beauty of kettlebell sport in this part of the world is that it is in its embryonic stages, and that allows people of any age and history to become an athlete. If you’re considering it, don’t hesitate – take a shot at competing, and take it seriously. The sooner you stop just “working out” and start thinking of yourself as an athlete, the better.