Monday, August 29, 2011

Kettle Bell Swings and Turkish things!

Tonight was another adventure in my road to recovery: The Kettle Bell.  It all started when I volunteered to help Tim Ferriss with his new book, The Four Hour Body (  It's a NY Times best seller, and worth a look.  While I was not included in the book, Tim did send me 2 free copies just for offering my support.  How's that for a cool guy?  Anyway, the book is chock full of new ideas, experiments, and overall challenges to the status quo.  One thing I noticed is Tim's use of Kettle Bells for several exercises.   I studied the photos for awhile, and pondered being able to do the Turkish Get Up...We'll get to that one, but a little background first.

For the uninitated, a kettle bell is the Russian equivalent of a nautilus workout (and then some), but without all the bells (I couldn't resist) and whistles.  Basically, it  is a cannonball with a handle.  Anyway, it's not so much the tool, but the exercises that get you what you want...a total body workout.   Of course, they are getting popular now, so you'll pay a small fortune for a big hunk of iron if you try to buy them.  My local YMCA decided to buy a set, so I got to play with them for free tonight.

It seems the kettle bell comes in weights as follows: 13.5 lbs., 35 lbs, 53 lbs, etc.  I believe the Russian unit of measure for these things are called "poods".  I don't know much about poods, but I felt pooped when I was done!  OK, apologies to my Russian friends for pooting around with their language and cannonball things.

According to the 4 hour body, many NFL players are now training with kettle bells as well as other professional athletes.  One of the most popular exercises is the Turkish Get Up.  It's a full body exercise that starts you laying on your side and, through a series of moves, you end up standing up with the kettle bell raised over your head.  Yeah right!  It doesn't look easy, but it's not so bad once you get the hang of it.

Before I got to the complex, I figured I would start with the basics....the Kettle Bell Swing.  This exercise starts with lifting the Kettle Bell between your legs from a semi-squatting position and swinging it forward and back until your arms are extended horizontally in front of you.  It looks simple enough, but try it with a 50 lb. weight.  I started with 30 reps using the 35 lb. pooder, and then decided to step up to the 50 lb. bad boy.  I managed to do 3 sets of 10 with the 50, but I had to stop for fear of losing my grip and seeing the thing implode the mirror in front of me.  I'm talking bad karma, 7 years of bad luck, and a hefty bill from the YMCA.  Yes, I thought about turning sideways, but didn't want to send the mighty projectile flying at the ladies next to me.  Even if I didn't lose my grip, I think I would have scared the heck out of them.  Anyway, Tim does something like 75 reps with a 53 lbs. monster bell, so knock yourself out.  I have a long way to go...

Next up was the Turkish Get Up.  The one exercise the NFL combine guru recommends above all exercises.  OK, I'm game.  Turns out, the young female pro golfer, Michelle Wie, used this exercise to recover from injury and get her drive back in order.  She was doing the TGU with a 35 lb. Kettlebell before all was said and done.  "No problem", I thought.  I can handle it.  Well, not so fast.  I decided to "warm-up" with the 13.5 lb. baby bell and did a set of 5 or so on each side.  One thing became obvious, my left side is weaker than my right.  OK, it may not be a big surprise given the accident, but the strange thing is the weakness was in my arm (not my leg).  My left arm got super tired with that wimpy little weight.   After the warm-ups, I tried the 35 lb. pood, and it was not pretty.  I could not lift it over my head with one arm. OK, I'm a wimp!  The other interesting observation was that these exercises are as much cardio as they are weight training.  I was seriously out of breath in the process.

So, now I have a challenge to work on.  I'm not big into weights as you can see from my wimpy arms, but the 9 discrete movements of the TGU seem to really tie everything together.

If you have access to kettle bells, I recommend you give it a try. There are youtube videos available showing the various exercises or go to Tim's website at
If you don't have access to kettle bells, save the money and just try to do the exercises with a regular dumbbell.

In terms of the comeback, I am constantly amazed at the improvements.  It truly is humbling and such a blessing to see how the human body can heal itself.  I'm shocked that I am walking fairly normal most of the time without the shim now.  To top it off, I ran a sub 7:30 mile tonight without any shim in my shoes.   That's called "speedwork" in my world these days :-) 
Only 3 weeks until Reach the Beach!  Can't wait to see my Red Eye Runner teammates!

Have a great week!