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Old 02-23-2014, 01:50 PM   #1
Tommy Sittinger
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Substitution of kettlebells for OLY in Metcons

I've been doing Crossfit for the most part since 2007. I know that high rep Oly lifts are very effective in WOD's. I've been using Oly and Oly derivatives in Wods regularly. My issue is that I don't feel that high rep Oly is the safest, as the form degredation that inevitably occurs is counter-productive to improving form in these lifts when seeking progressive overload, not to mention the occasional tendinitis that I get from high rep cleans and snatches.

I've recently switched to kettlebells to sub for the high rep Oly stuff. I don't belong to a box, as I have gyms at my fire department that have some or most of what a crossfitter needs, same for my globogym, and my garge gym has a lot of stuff as well (power cage/pull-up, still rings, plyo boxes, multiple kettlebells, bumpers, Rogue Castro bar, bowflex 90# adjustable dumbbells, and the Rogue butcher sled).

I do a lot of double KB cleans, swings, OHS, double snatches, FS, jerks/push presses, etc. I find that the kettlebells allow for more natural movement, are more joint friendly due to the way they're shaped (they're designed for high volume/high rep movements), and don't typically cause tendinitis the way high rep OLY does. Most importantly, though, is that the movements are just different enough that the kettlebells don't affect Oly form in any way.

In addition to my regular dedicated squat/front squat/ DL/Snatch/C&J strength sessions, I still get in Oly volume, just in a different way, one that complements my strength goals - I regularly rotate in complexes such as the Klokov complex, SC/HSC/FS x 2/Jerk, or regression complexes such as Snatch x 3/high pull x 3/ Snatch grip DL x 3. I also like EMOM's such as 3 SC/one jerk for ten to twelve minutes, as heavy as possible. At the end, this does feel like a metcon.

I favor EMOM's when doing a single movement or couplets for time, as I feel that this preserves form, since there are built in rests (just up the weight if you feel that you can storm through with the current load, or cut the rest period as you get better). For example, I want to do double 32kg (140# collectively) thrusters, 100 reps, for time. I make this my regular thing before starting the first day of my tour at the firehouse (every nine days), followed by pendlay barbell rows for balance. I started out doing 5 EMOM, and lost form at 80 reps. The next time, I got all 100 reps. The next time, I did six reps for the first five minutes, and fives for the rest, and the last time, I did sixes for the first ten minutes, and fives for the rest. Yes, I know that it's not random, but surely shaving a lot of time off of a 100 thruster time with 140# will transfer to a lot of other metcons. I also like doing double kg cleans (HPC), 10 reps, 30 sec. rest, unbroken, until failure, or the eventual goal of 100 reps, as a finisher every other day. My grip's never been stronger! I will do the 100 burpee challenge every week or so, Cindy, stuff like that to keep the stimulus of continuous motion without the forced rest periods.

I still do some metcons with oly lifts if the weight is 95# or less, just to see if the programming is working. Very occasionally, I'll do a benchmark WOD such as Grace or Elizabeth. I've only been doing this since the beginning of Feb, so I'll do Fran on the 1st of March, and some of the girls in early April to see how this works. One thing's for sure, my joints feel fantastic! My heavy Oly lifts and squats have gone up.

The other thing is box jumps - the high rep stuff gets you tired, but I haven't seen any evidence that they improve speed or power. Also, we've all experienced dead legs on the first rep of box jumps when coupled with cleans/thrusters/heavy DL's. Those two together probably aren't a good idea, unless you do the BJ's first, or make it a triplet and throw PU's, push-ups or ring dips in between. I've seen a few shins get split open from this. I prefer to use BJ's to work the posterior chain when I want to give myself a reprieve from heavy OLY. For example, yesterday, I used a 30" box with two bumpers on top, a 32kg kettlebell, and two 28kg kettlebells. I did 8 BJ's then immediately to 8 goblet squats, rest one min, 8 double snatches with the 28's for 8 reps, rest one min and repeat, six rounds, followed by conditioning work on the Rogue butcher sled up and down the block, and some kettlebell windmills with the 32kg to finish me off. If the main goal of using box jumps is to make yourself tired, I find a mixture of thrusters and burpees to be much more brutal, see Khalipa's "Hotel Wod" on youtube, or Kalsu (scale it at first, trust me) to see what I mean.

As an aside, on video I saw someone doing a double kb complex of swing, high pull, snatch x 5. I used this for a WOD - 28kg bells x 5 cycles, ten double KB FS same weight, 5 RFT. Each exercise must be unbroken - I used the rack position to catch a breath after the snatch, instead of going all the way down. I like mandating the complex to be unbroken, as this encourages you to rest a little bit, and will result in cleaner reps, instead of being sloppy.

Thoughts?

Last edited by Tommy Sittinger : 02-23-2014 at 01:55 PM.
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Old 02-23-2014, 02:16 PM   #2
Jeff Enge
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Re: Substitution of kettlebells for OLY in Metcons

I like it. I don't think there's any discernable difference in conditioning benefits between high rep weightlifting movements and their kettlebell analogs. Kettlebell exercises were, however, designed to be used for higher rep applications and their form is most efficient for that, as opposed to barbell weightlifting movements being designed for higher weight single rep efficiency.
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Old 02-23-2014, 03:21 PM   #3
Tommy Sittinger
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Re: Substitution of kettlebells for OLY in Metcons

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Originally Posted by Jeff Enge View Post
I like it. I don't think there's any discernable difference in conditioning benefits between high rep weightlifting movements and their kettlebell analogs. Kettlebell exercises were, however, designed to be used for higher rep applications and their form is most efficient for that, as opposed to barbell weightlifting movements being designed for higher weight single rep efficiency.
Right. The kettlebell gurus say that double kettlebell movements can be used for size and strength, but nothing beats barbell movements in that respect. I do find the double kg variants to be slightly easier than their barbell counterparts, at least with the lighter bells, so if I'm going to sub for a BB movement with KB's, I'll go a bit heavier. For example, I'll sub 95# C&J's with a pair of 24kg bells (106#'s).

I like kettlebells, but they're certainly not the one true religion in the strength and conditioning world. No one type of training is the best, which is why we have CrossFit in the first place.
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Old 02-23-2014, 08:08 PM   #4
Tommy Sittinger
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Re: Substitution of kettlebells for OLY in Metcons

Regarding kettlebells, before I started CF, I bought a 28kg KB to help prepare for FD testing and the academy. I did some snatches, and I did maybe 5 or 6 reps before I hit failure. After a while, I successfully did the RKC snatch test with that bell (100 reps in 5 mins. 24kg). I progressed to the USSS Snatch test with the 28kg (200 reps in ten mins). Meanwhile, I worked up to a ten min. set of Russian swings, which worked out to 360 reps, unbroken.

I'm taking that mindset to double KB work. There was a time when I could barely get one snatch with the 28's, and I would have to do a few swings to get them moving first. Now, it's 12 in a row. I'm doing double kb swing ladders, the same as I did to build up to that 10 min. set - five reps, 5 sec. rest, 10 reps, 10 sec. rest, etc. and then ladder down when I hit a wall. I just double the rest period from 1 sec/rep to 2 sec/rep. For some reason, I find it easier to build strength endurance with KB's than BB's, probably due to their design. That was the observation that led me to subbing them for BB movements in WODs.
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Old 03-01-2014, 05:28 AM   #5
Richard Deyan
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Re: Substitution of kettlebells for OLY in Metcons

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Originally Posted by Tommy Sittinger View Post
I've been doing Crossfit for the most part since 2007. I know that high rep Oly lifts are very effective in WOD's. I've been using Oly and Oly derivatives in Wods regularly. My issue is that I don't feel that high rep Oly is the safest, as the form degredation that inevitably occurs is counter-productive to improving form in these lifts when seeking progressive overload, not to mention the occasional tendinitis that I get from high rep cleans and snatches.

I've recently switched to kettlebells to sub for the high rep Oly stuff. I don't belong to a box, as I have gyms at my fire department that have some or most of what a crossfitter needs, same for my globogym, and my garge gym has a lot of stuff as well (power cage/pull-up, still rings, plyo boxes, multiple kettlebells, bumpers, Rogue Castro bar, bowflex 90# adjustable dumbbells, and the Rogue butcher sled).

I do a lot of double KB cleans, swings, OHS, double snatches, FS, jerks/push presses, etc. I find that the kettlebells allow for more natural movement, are more joint friendly due to the way they're shaped (they're designed for high volume/high rep movements), and don't typically cause tendinitis the way high rep OLY does. Most importantly, though, is that the movements are just different enough that the kettlebells don't affect Oly form in any way.

In addition to my regular dedicated squat/front squat/ DL/Snatch/C&J strength sessions, I still get in Oly volume, just in a different way, one that complements my strength goals - I regularly rotate in complexes such as the Klokov complex, SC/HSC/FS x 2/Jerk, or regression complexes such as Snatch x 3/high pull x 3/ Snatch grip DL x 3. I also like EMOM's such as 3 SC/one jerk for ten to twelve minutes, as heavy as possible. At the end, this does feel like a metcon.

I favor EMOM's when doing a single movement or couplets for time, as I feel that this preserves form, since there are built in rests (just up the weight if you feel that you can storm through with the current load, or cut the rest period as you get better). For example, I want to do double 32kg (140# collectively) thrusters, 100 reps, for time. I make this my regular thing before starting the first day of my tour at the firehouse (every nine days), followed by pendlay barbell rows for balance. I started out doing 5 EMOM, and lost form at 80 reps. The next time, I got all 100 reps. The next time, I did six reps for the first five minutes, and fives for the rest, and the last time, I did sixes for the first ten minutes, and fives for the rest. Yes, I know that it's not random, but surely shaving a lot of time off of a 100 thruster time with 140# will transfer to a lot of other metcons. I also like doing double kg cleans (HPC), 10 reps, 30 sec. rest, unbroken, until failure, or the eventual goal of 100 reps, as a finisher every other day. My grip's never been stronger! I will do the 100 burpee challenge every week or so, Cindy, stuff like that to keep the stimulus of continuous motion without the forced rest periods.

I still do some metcons with oly lifts if the weight is 95# or less, just to see if the programming is working. Very occasionally, I'll do a benchmark WOD such as Grace or Elizabeth. I've only been doing this since the beginning of Feb, so I'll do Fran on the 1st of March, and some of the girls in early April to see how this works. One thing's for sure, my joints feel fantastic! My heavy Oly lifts and squats have gone up.

The other thing is box jumps - the high rep stuff gets you tired, but I haven't seen any evidence that they improve speed or power. Also, we've all experienced dead legs on the first rep of box jumps when coupled with cleans/thrusters/heavy DL's. Those two together probably aren't a good idea, unless you do the BJ's first, or make it a triplet and throw PU's, push-ups or ring dips in between. I've seen a few shins get split open from this. I prefer to use BJ's to work the posterior chain when I want to give myself a reprieve from heavy OLY. For example, yesterday, I used a 30" box with two bumpers on top, a 32kg kettlebell, and two 28kg kettlebells. I did 8 BJ's then immediately to 8 goblet squats, rest one min, 8 double snatches with the 28's for 8 reps, rest one min and repeat, six rounds, followed by conditioning work on the Rogue butcher sled up and down the block, and some kettlebell windmills with the 32kg to finish me off. If the main goal of using box jumps is to make yourself tired, I find a mixture of thrusters and burpees to be much more brutal, see Khalipa's "Hotel Wod" on youtube, or Kalsu (scale it at first, trust me) to see what I mean.

As an aside, on video I saw someone doing a double kb complex of swing, high pull, snatch x 5. I used this for a WOD - 28kg bells x 5 cycles, ten double KB FS same weight, 5 RFT. Each exercise must be unbroken - I used the rack position to catch a breath after the snatch, instead of going all the way down. I like mandating the complex to be unbroken, as this encourages you to rest a little bit, and will result in cleaner reps, instead of being sloppy.

Thoughts?
Sounds like you're fire/rescue, thanks for what you do!
I think your approach is awesome, and if anything could be more applicable and beneficial for your job. KB handles are not easier than barbells for grip and in your situation you need to constantly be training your hands. In terms of actually carrying things, throwing around two KB's as opposed to a symmetrical load can easily transfer better in terms of pulling and carrying hose, people, and objects.

I think our community is kind of in a state of denial and unawareness when it comes to oly lifts. Yes we do them, but the level at which we do them is still far below that of actual oly lifters. That and most of us simply do not have the actual capacity in terms of range of motion in our hips, shoulders, and thoracic spine to perform them well. So the average athlete finding issues with oly lifts is not uncommon. The tendonitis issue from this stuff I would definitely start/keep addressing through mobility to help improve tissues and joint capsules to free that up. Adapt best to what your mission is. Most of us train simply to be in shape and not for an actual mission. So I think for you KB work, sandbag and waterbag stuff, stones, and more Crossfit strongman movements for you are ideal compared to most typical Crossfit workouts might be.
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Old 03-03-2014, 07:44 PM   #6
Bryan Selent
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Re: Substitution of kettlebells for OLY in Metcons

This is why I don't work out with you at work, Tommy. Good job brother!
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Old 03-11-2014, 10:38 AM   #7
Ari Sherwood
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Re: Substitution of kettlebells for OLY in Metcons

Looks like a great idea, and especially if it keeps the joint pains away. I am also a bit leery of high rep Oly for certain segments of the population.

Keep in mind that in terms of lumbar spine impact, KB swings do still generate relatively high shear forces at L4-L5 level, so may not achieve all of the objectives you may be aiming for in terms of reduced wear and tear:

http://breakingmuscle.com/kettlebell...atch-and-carry {WFS}
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Old 03-12-2014, 01:05 PM   #8
Alex Diaz
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Re: Substitution of kettlebells for OLY in Metcons

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Originally Posted by Ari Sherwood View Post
Keep in mind that in terms of lumbar spine impact, KB swings do still generate relatively high shear forces at L4-L5 level, so may not achieve all of the objectives you may be aiming for in terms of reduced wear and tear:

{WFS}
I think I saw a study bv some guy on that exact thing - McNeil, or Mc-something, who's done a few on kettlebell stuff and the dorsal plane by now.
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Old 03-12-2014, 06:01 PM   #9
Ari Sherwood
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Re: Substitution of kettlebells for OLY in Metcons

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Originally Posted by Alex Diaz View Post
I think I saw a study bv some guy on that exact thing - McNeil, or Mc-something, who's done a few on kettlebell stuff and the dorsal plane by now.
It's Stu McGill, a spine expert at University of Waterloo in Canada. the data in the article above comes from his study.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/21997449/ {WFS}
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Old 03-24-2014, 06:06 PM   #10
Tommy Sittinger
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Re: Substitution of kettlebells for OLY in Metcons

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Originally Posted by Richard Deyan View Post
Sounds like you're fire/rescue, thanks for what you do!
I think your approach is awesome, and if anything could be more applicable and beneficial for your job. KB handles are not easier than barbells for grip and in your situation you need to constantly be training your hands. In terms of actually carrying things, throwing around two KB's as opposed to a symmetrical load can easily transfer better in terms of pulling and carrying hose, people, and objects.

I think our community is kind of in a state of denial and unawareness when it comes to oly lifts. Yes we do them, but the level at which we do them is still far below that of actual oly lifters. That and most of us simply do not have the actual capacity in terms of range of motion in our hips, shoulders, and thoracic spine to perform them well. So the average athlete finding issues with oly lifts is not uncommon. The tendonitis issue from this stuff I would definitely start/keep addressing through mobility to help improve tissues and joint capsules to free that up. Adapt best to what your mission is. Most of us train simply to be in shape and not for an actual mission. So I think for you KB work, sandbag and waterbag stuff, stones, and more Crossfit strongman movements for you are ideal compared to most typical Crossfit workouts might be.
I've been doing double kg metcons every other day, and the effect has been phenominal! I had a fire a few days ago, and everything felt effortless. I also have a Rogue Butcher sled, so I've been using these tools heavily, due to direct transfer to my job duties. I read Max Shank's "How to Fix Crossfit" article on T-nation, and he does bring up a good point - do high skill movements with little to no fatigue, lower repetitions, and adequate rest. Low skill - go fast and lots of reps. From the article:

For most of us, handstand walking and back flips are "high skill," so it doesn't make sense to have them as part of a WOD. It's also pretty easy to make the argument that the Airdyne bike or battling ropes are safe enough to do at almost any intensity, though vomiting is always a possibility. Dragging a tire attached to a belt would probably also fall under this category, too.

The Olympic lifts, however, are another matter. You might think I'm going to spout off some BS about how high-rep Olympic lifting is dangerous... and you'd be half right. It is, for most people. Some, however, have achieved such a high level of skill in Olympic lifting that they can basically do however many reps they want and they won't be in any danger. The same could be said for handstand walking for some of us.


The link (WFS):

http://www.t-nation.com/training/how-to-fix-crossfit

I've been thinking about kettlebells vs barbells for high rep O-lifts for metcons, and I think I've found a simple reason why we've been favoring barbells for all these years - it's the cost!

Think about it, it's quite expensive to buy multiple sets of kettlebells. Really expensive. The box already has barbells and bumpers, so it's way more cost effective to use those for WODs that call for cleans, snatches, push presses, front squats, etc. The typical CF gym has maybe four of each size KB, with a few extra 24kg and 16kg (these will naturally be the Rx weights) give or take, for WODs that call for swings. Can you imagine buying ten to fifteen sets of 53kg bells, and five or six sets of 32kg? That's thousands of dollars right there. I think that CF went to barbells for OLY metcons because it's simply cheaper.

I also have a theory on why CF does swings overhead (American), and the kettlebell purists go to eye level (Russian) - it's a teaching issue. The intent is to get the kb to overhead. It's easier to teach the overhead swing than it is to teach the snatch, and the injury potential is less as well. If you ask me, overhead swings are garbage. I find it much more beneficial to use a heavier weight and just swing to eye level. If you want to go overhead, why not do a snatch or a clean and press or C&J), which are intended for that very purpose? I've seen people doing pressouts with American swings when they get tired, and also running into trouble if the bell flips backwards.

As an aside, I see that you live in Forest Hills. I was born and raised in Ridgewood. When I first found CF, I went to Lost Battalion Hall on Queens Blvd and learn OL the proper way. Matter of fact, my pic is still on their site, circa 2007:

http://www.lostbattalionhallweightli...enior-lifters/

(WFS)
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