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movement specialist

Why You Should Be Using Kettlebells


Why You Should Be Using Kettlebells

First, what are kettlebells?! Kettlebells were first developed in Russia and are traditionally cast-iron rounded weights with a handle. Though you may have seen or used one in an exercise class, they’re actually still used a lot by special forces, martial arts masters, and national champion lifters, as well.

What makes this certain type of weight so special, you may ask? It’s because of how many athletic components you’re able to work. Research has shown kettlebell-specific routines to increase strength, strength endurance, general endurance, work capacity, balance, coordination, and agility, and to lower heart rate and blood pressure. A study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) in 2010 found that, during a kettlebell snatch (a type of olympic lift) workout, subjects were burning at least 20.2 calories a minute. This is equivalent to running a 6-minute mile pace, and they compared that calorie expenditure to the amount of calories burned while cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace. With all of these possible benefits that basically cover every spectrum of fitness and athletics, why not train with kettlebells?

If you’re just getting into training and are overwhelmed by all the different machines and weight types throughout the gym, the kettlebell can be your answer to simplify things. I recently earned my StrongFirst Kettlebell Certification, which focuses on 6 lifts that can essentially be the entirety of your workout routine. You may need a couple different weights, but you can basically replace an entire gym full of equipment with just a couple of kettlebells. A national champion track and field thrower, Dan John famously said “with this kettlebell in my bedroom I can prepare for Nationals.” Form and technique are very important while using kettlebells to train, so make sure you’ve got a coach that can introduce you to the basics - as StrongFirst says: “safe execution first, perfect is a journey.” Even with light weight, just because of the nature of the exercises using this modality, you will get a large training effect.

For those athletes out there trying to up their game, this style of training will be hugely beneficial for you, as well. A big component of what makes kettlebell training transfer to sports is the relationship between relaxation and tension that is ever present. To hit a ball it’s furthest, or to throw the most powerful punch, an athlete needs both of these components at certain times. First starting loose so that they can react, then an initial tensing as they initiate the movement, followed by another relaxation period as the arm or bat flies to its target at top speed, and finally when connection has been made, tensing with everything the athlete has against his or her target. With this order, you can achieve maximum speed in the movement while backing it with power and strength. By training with kettlebells, you’re working on these same ideals, especially during the kettlebell swing which, of the main kettlebell lifts, most closely mimics this order. In the swing, you’re relaxed as you swing in the down motion, followed by tension to initiate the movement, relaxation as the bell starts to swing up, and finally achieving full tension at the top of the swing. The swing, snatch, and clean are all considered “ballistic” movements by StrongFirst and will follow this same basic principle, while the get-up, front squat, and overhead press are considered “grinds” that’ll improve the amount of tension and strength your body can achieve. Prof. Leonid Matveyev, a soviet scientist, noted that higher-level athletes could relax their muscles faster, observing an 800% difference between novice and olympic-level athletes in the speed of tension to relaxation in muscles. If you can’t relax your muscles, then they can’t hit maximum speed, which will ultimately hinder how much force you’re able to produce.

What does all of this mean? It means that any level of athlete can gain big benefits from a kettlebell workout routine, whether you’re training for a sport, competition, or just to look better. If you’re looking to mix things up - or to improve your own kettlebell skills - I suggest looking for a Strongfirst SFG certified trainer and get swinging!


Why I'm a Movement Specialist and Clinical Bodyworker


Why I'm a Movement Specialist and Clinical Bodyworker

I’ve always thought that hearing someone’s story about why they do what they do can be one of the most fascinating ways to get to know a person. I get to understand where they come from, what type of experiences they’ve had, what they’re passionate about, what drives them when life gets tough, and if I’m lucky, I get to learn something that I might never have known about them through regular conversation and interaction. Through hearing the stories of others, I’ve been able to learn from the experiences of others, grow in my respect for those individuals, realize that I have much to be thankful for in my own life, and become inspired to press on with my dreams. I wanted to share with you my story about why I’m a Movement Specialist and Clinical Bodyworker - why I do what I love to do. I realize now how much I’ve hyped up my story so just as a disclaimer, I’d like to say that I don’t think my story is so crazy that you’re going to learn from the experiences of my 23-year life or become inspired to take over the world, but hopefully, I’ll be able to entertain you and you’ll be able to learn a thing or two about me that you didn’t know before.

The Origin Story

The first time I ever went out of my way to work out on my own (I’m making a point to emphasize this as I grew up playing a variety of sports casually and competitively), I did so because I was being a dramatic teenager in high school and I thought my world was shattered after a girl had “broken my heart”. The truth was that I was just a dumb and awkward teenage boy. In my dark, spiraling depression, I told myself that I didn’t end up with that girl, and that I was never going to end up with any girl at all, because I didn’t look a certain way - because I didn’t have a six pack and I didn’t have arms so huge that they couldn’t be lifted above my head.

So what did I do? I turned my emo pain into anger, and I used that anger to fuel my intense P90X and Insanity workout routines. I didn’t know a thing about exercise, so with P90X and Insanity’s promises to get me ripped and lean, I was sold on the video workout plans. I worked out twice a day during one summer, and when the school year started up again, I’d get up an hour earlier than normal to work out before classes - only to have to go to tennis practice for hours after school was over. Every time I wanted to give up during a workout, I reminded myself of what it felt like to have been rejected so that I would press on. At first, it seemed as though my efforts were futile, but as time went on, and as I consistently pushed myself and strictly adhered to my diet, I began to see results.

To make this part of a long story short, I wasn’t facing my romantic problems appropriately and I was only using fitness to cope with my issues instead of using it to better my health. I did, however, learn something extremely valuable: I learned that if I set my mind to something, if I put in hard work and sacrifice and countless hours of dedication, I could achieve anything.

Fast forward to my freshman year of college at the University of San Francisco. I was a biology major with hopes for going to medical school, which means that I was a biology major with family, relatives, and friends who had extremely high hopes for me to go to medical school - no pressure or anything. That pressure was then coupled with dwindling hope as I was barely passed my core classes and was withdrawing out of the chemistry class that I was about to get a D in.

The Epiphany

So what went wrong? What happened to the all-knowing and wise Austin who just learned that he could achieve anything he set his mind to? Why was he getting a D in freshman-level chemistry? The problem was that, instead of studying compounds and electron configurations for classes, he was studying set and rep schemes on so that he could figure out how to get jacked. He was learning that you can’t just achieve anything, but rather that you can only achieve something that you actually give a damn about.

And that was the problem: I didn’t give a damn about chemistry or biology. I loved movement and I loved the way the human body worked, especially in relation to exercise and nutrition. By the end of my freshman year, I had switched my major to kinesiology and it was the best academic decision I could have ever made. Instead of studying “life” by staring at bacteria in a microscope, I was running a living person on a treadmill to figure out their cardiac output. Instead of figuring out how elements were interacting in a beaker, I was learning how the perfect balance of macronutrients can fuel various athletes for optimal performance. For me, kinesiology was the perfect balance of science and movement, and I couldn’t be happier.

The Journey

My time at USF flew by and before I knew it, it was the summer before my final semester of school. I was loving everything I was learning about, and I was very seriously considering a career in personal training. I wanted to help people feel good and look good, but I also wanted to use training as a medium to share with people the lesson that I found so valuable: that they could achieve anything if they worked hard and set their mind to it. I looked into personal training internships and I happened to stumble upon one at Perform for Life.

I applied and was interviewed by Bryant and Justine and accepted for the summer internship. It was everything I wanted and more - like, lots more. Lots more of waking up at 5 AM, and lots more of doing difficult and seemingly endless business assistant work. It was hard work, but I learned more than I could have ever hoped for - I learned the value of community, what customer service and networking in the real world is like, how concepts of training and exercise physiology pertain to real people and not just textbook examples. While learning these positive skills, I also had to learn a hard lesson early on during my time at Perform for Life: how bad the feeling is of my client getting hurt.

I asked myself all kinds of questions. Was it my fault? Could we have avoided the injury? How long will my client be unable to workout? How much is this going to impact their daily life? As you could guess, this drove me to become very careful and methodical in my approach to training. I obsessed over pain and injury management with movement and devoted myself to learning as much as I could about corrective exercise as a means to help people with serious issues. Immediately after earning my kinesiology degree from USF, I went to massage school for a year so that I’d have an additional skill to help my clients - but I didn’t stop there. I took functional neurology courses such as P-DTR so I’d have an even wider variety of tools to help people in pain. My client’s injury made me feel like the heart-broken high schooler again as I immersed myself in anything and everything I could learn about from courses and my mentors so that I could feel like I was making things right.

I may have been going a bit hard on myself, but this time, I wasn’t just using my learning to cope with my issue. I was learning about methods and modalities for healing in movement and bodywork that I genuinely had a passion for. I loved, and still love, learning everything there is to know when it comes to the ways our bodies move, function, and heal, and since our bodies are still such a mystery to us, I know I’ll be learning for a long time.

I think that’s what I love most about being a professional in the health and fitness field - I’m never going to stop finding new things about the way we move and the way we can heal. It’s a never-ending chase to learn about the latest finding or the new best technique and that’s what I love about being a Movement Specialist and Bodyworker. So why do you do what you do? What’s your story? Hope to hear from you soon.


Exercise : Work or Play? You Decide!


Exercise : Work or Play? You Decide!

Exercise, for me, has always been a necessity. Although most people think of me as a “strength guy”, I do choose to exercise in different ways. Most people associate cardiovascular training with running and seem to think that it’s the only way to get their conditioning in. However, my fellow movement specialists at P4L have seen time and time again, running isn't for everyone.

During my time in competitive powerlifting, my coach didn't allow us to run because endurance training (long, steady runs) can actually reduce overall strength and power. Because of this, I found other ways to condition myself: taking fewer breaks during training, playing basketball or football with my siblings, or just tiring out my dogs. All of these involved running to a degree, but they also involved quick and athletic movements, which helped me in my training to develop more power during lifts. Most importantly, though, they were fun.

Pictured :  Coach Charles

Pictured : Coach Charles

Running first became something I thought of as fun when I was in boot camp - honestly, it was our only way of having fun. After boot camp, when I joined the Naval Fleet, we had to run in order to meet the requirements of our physical assessments. I found, once again, that doing endless push-ups and miles of running weren't fun for me.

Exercise can be tough at times, especially when you don't want to do it! So why not make it into something that is fun?
Pictured :  Coach Cheri

Pictured : Coach Cheri

As a movement specialist at Perform for Life, I try to ensure that the exercises I prescribe are fun and enjoyable! I think I can speak for my fellow movement specialists when I say that they aim to do the same.  When people are having fun, they work harder. All of us try to make the hour with our clients an hour that they can look forward to, and an hour in which they genuinely enjoy exercising. Having this outlook encourages people to come back, and most importantly, it makes them happy.

Pictured :  Coach Brandon  and Coach Randall

Pictured : Coach Brandon and Coach Randall

Because I love powerlifting, I always encourage others to try it. Most people think of powerlifting as only the “big 3” - squat, bench, and deadlift - and lifting as much weight as possible.  But in order to get the most out of your training (for powerlifting or anything else) it’s important to mix it up. Training can be done using dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, cables, and many other modalities. Mixing up your routines can make exercise more enjoyable. Not only this, but it can yield better results. Exercise, simply put, is a stimulus that your body must respond to. Without variety in exercises or weights, your body will adapt to the exercise you do and plateau when it has responded appropriately (by losing a corresponding amount of fat or gaining a corresponding amount of muscle, etc). By adding variety to your routine, your body will have to adapt to this new stimulus and respond to it by producing new and appropriate results.

Exercise should NOT be a burden, and my P4L family and I realize exactly that - we aim to make it a lifestyle. Do what works best with your body, and most importantly, do types of exercise that you enjoy. Whether you decide to take a walk in Golden Gate Park or jog down Ocean Beach during an incredible sunset, just get out there and have some fun!

And if you don't know where to start, scroll down the "Small Group" page on our website to see when you can drop into a class with me. I can give you tips on how to rethink the way you see exercise through functional strength and athletic conditioning.