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Old 03-12-2007, 07:54 AM   #1
Steve Shafley
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Default Full KOntact Workshop with Steve Cotter/Ken Blackburn

I spent this weekend down in Fenton, MI, which is just down the road about an hour from me, participating in a Full KOntact Kettlebell workshop with Steve Cotter, who graciously invited me down, and Ken Blackburn, the nearest kettlebell trainer.

Was very interesting. Steve Cotter has, as we all know, broken ties with Pavel and Dragon Door for assorted reasons, and I really didn't ask him to go into them, but the gist of it being that he's embraced the sport of kettlebell lifting, as it appears in Eastern Europe, due to more efficient technique and because he feels it's the appropriate use for kettlebells. The proper use for the tool, so to speak. (note how diplomatic I put that). He feels teh proper use of kbs is for kettlebell lifting sport and building work capacity.

Ken Blackburn also feels this way, as do most of the kettlebell sport people in the U.S. nowadays.

So, to get into what we covered:

Day 1:

Dynamic Warm up
Joint Mobility

-these were both pretty basic, straight up iterations of these topics. Being out of shape and, ahem, hefty, I was left sweating and winded. Skips, hops, lunges, joint circles, etc.

1. 2H Swings
2. 1H Swings
3. 1H Swings switching hands each rep.
4. Basic kettlebell juggling

One of the important concepts Steve introduced was that kettlebell work, especially the classic lifts, should be performed for time. 10 minutes is the competitive timeframe for the sport of kettlebell lifting, and, from what Steve said, the Eastern European kettlebell lifters look down on not finishing out the time, even if you do an impressive number of reps. Patience and relaxation are key concepts.

A major difference was demonstrated between the way the RKC program teaches swings and the way classical kettlebell lifters swing. It's a more relaxed swing, with the eyes following the kettlebell, and less emphasis on rigidity and the hip snap, in fact, the often hard and crisp movements that the RKC program teaches are really viewed as "wrong" by the best kettlebell lifters in the sport of kettlebell lifting.

After that, but before lunch, we did the Full KOntact Extreme Athletic Challenge. This consisted of:

1. Kettlebell lifting, i.e Girevoy Sport. 10 minutes. 1H snatch, or 2H jerk.
2. 1 Arm KB press - heaviest wins.
3. Juggling - this was doing a swing flipping the kb one way, then doing a swing and flipping the kb the other way.
4. Kettlebell Push/Pulls: Pushing a kb along the floor a certain distance, then pulling it back to the starting point. This was done on artificial turf and was an absolute ballbreaker. 3 different sized kbs, 2 total circuits. Done for time.
5. Kettlebell Farmer's Hold - For time.

The incentive was that the winner received a free professional grade kettlebell. 2 weight classes...heavy (176lbs+) and light (175lbs-).

Let's just say that I didn't receive one, but I did press the 106# "Beast" overhead with one arm. The push/pulls were brutally tough. Ken Blackburn admitted that he has his classes do them on the carpet where he teaches, and it's much easier and faster.

We broke for lunch, then went over some more fundamentals.

The clean

1. 1H cleans
2. 2H cleans
3. The importance of the rack, and being able to rest in the rack.

-The rack, and resting in it is vital to GS (from here on out I'm just going to use GS to describe the sport of kettlebell lifting). Steve and Ken gave us numerous pointers, and to hammer these home were did timed sets. These got longer and more brutal. Timed holds in the rack position, and timed clean sets with rest permitted in the rack position were both done.

The jerk

The jerk was taught from the rack, and was initiated from the knees. If you take the time out to watch some of the GS vids on YouTube, you will see the form of the jerks we practiced.

1. 1H Jerks
2. 2H jerks

Once again, for timed sets. Repetitions were irrelevant. Jerking or holding it racked or overhead in GS legal positions was emphasized.

Finally, snatches.

Steve and Ken spoke about hand health, grip issues. and demonstrated the GS snatch, which includes following the kb with the eyes and described above. Relaxation and patience. Resting in the lockout position, or with the kb hanging from the arm below.

Timed sets. I tried not to cry.

I'll write up the second day later on today.
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Old 03-12-2007, 08:04 AM   #2
Ronnie Ashlock
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Great write-up! Thanks, Shaf.
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Old 03-12-2007, 01:00 PM   #3
Robb Wolf
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Good stuff Steve. Kick ass on the 106# press!
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Old 03-12-2007, 07:56 PM   #4
Steve Shafley
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Sunday morning was a bit rough. It was daylight savings time again, and everyone had lost an hour of sleep.

I woke up and basically it felt like everything from right above the glutes to my neck was locked up along with the delts. Stiff and sore. It took an act of will to move.

I had about an hour's drive back to Fenton so I brewed some coffee and got on the road.

The workshop started right around 9 AM.

First part was a recap of yesterday. We had 3 more people join us, one was Pete Silverman, the other was his son, and the third was a woman I didn't meet.

We started with the same warm up.

That warm up sequence is, basically:

1. High knee skips going forward.
2. High knee skips going backwards.
3. Lateral skips (both directions)
4. Kind of a carioci type movement, making sure you rotated the hips and lower torso while keeping the upper body in the same position (both directions)
5. Lunges
6. Reverse lunges
7. Continuous lunges
8. Continuous backwards lunges

Someone can chime in if I forgot something. Once again I was winded and sweating, but the warm up did have the effect of loosening me up dramatically, compared to how I felt when I walked in.

Then we went over the major points from the first day.

After that we went over some of the "circus feats" of kettlebell lifting. These are basically just the non-contested lifts that are particularly handy to do with a kettlebell.

The military press:

Nothing really new here for anyone, but Ken went over the tension techniques. He easily pressed the 106# kb, and said that he hadn't been pressing much lately, that all the jerking work for kettlebell lifting had kept his press in good shape.

1 kb press
2 kb press
The see-saw press
The sotts press
The push press

Did some timed sets here on a few of these.


Went over the deck squat, front squatting, overhead squatting, and in and effort to improve my depth, Ken showed me a drill to emphasize pulling myself into the squat with my hip flexors...sad to say it didn't work all that well for me, I don't know if it's because I am pretty well trained in barbell squatting or if I had some mental blocks up, but to get deeper in an unloaded squat I really need several cycles of tensing up and relaxing.

Pete had some issues and Ken and Steve went over some things to help him out, like the face-the-wall squat, and some PNF stretching techniques for the shoulders to help improve overhead squatting. The PNF techniques were pretty good stuff, you can probably find out more info than you'd ever care to know if you google it.

The windmill:

Again, nothing new here, just basic, hands on instruction for the movement.

We went over the turkish get up as well.

The pistol, being one of Steve's trademark movements, was demonstrated. Steve makes it look like the most natural and easy movement you can imagine. The rest of us weren't quite as polished. I can't do a pistol, and tried a few different ways to do one, and I have a long way to go. I seem to have some issue where my leg will shut off after I reach a certain depth...doing a one legged step down from a chair revealed that I couldn't just touch my foot lightly to the ground and come up, but that I had to put my weight on it.

After that, Steve did a demonstration of his pistol jumps up and down off a table. It was simply an incredible display of skillful and powerful movement, and it remains one of the more impressive things I've ever seen someone do.

Steve explained that he doesn't ever recommend training these or trying these to anyone, but it's a very good example of why training to decelerate and to absorb force is useful. If you think about it, everyone's very concerned with accelerating and force development, but the vast majority of sports also require the exact opposite skills half the time.

I also like what Mike Boyle says about one legged work...you live your life on one leg. There are very few sports where both legs are engaged at the same time in the same way.

We went over the TGU sit up, which is a very high tension abdominal movement Steve recommends. This was a new one for me, and utilized strategic breath holding and release to control your descent. This is a hard one to describe, and maybe I'll tape myself doing this as a demo.

Then briefly we went over some program design and some Q&A on assorted topics.

Steve said he likes to see a program have a push, a pull, and a squat variant on each day, for general fitness purposes, and then with an abdominal exercise and a grip exercise.

For Kettlebell Sport, he likes the competitive movement done in a timed set, 1 armed overweight jerks, overweight swings, overweight rack holds, and Ken mentioned that he likes high repetition jump squats.

I'm sure I'm missing a bunch, but that was about it.
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Old 03-13-2007, 04:21 AM   #5
Allen Yeh
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Thanks for the write-up.
"And for crying out loud. Don't go into the pain cave. I can't stress this enough. Your Totem Animal won't be in there to help you. You'll be on your own. The Pain Cave is for cowards.
Pain is your companion, don't go hide from it."
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Old 03-19-2007, 07:11 AM   #6
Pierre Auge
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thats some good stuff I really respect Steve Cotter and have been following his stuff for some time.

On a tangent do you have a dynamax ball and a jump stretch band or variations thereof?
NOTICE: Pierre Auge's opinions are subject to change at any time and without prior notice.

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Old 03-19-2007, 08:59 AM   #7
R. Alan Hester
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Did Cotter or Blackburn happen to mention what auxiliary exercises GS competitors do (e.g. heavy dead lifts)?

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Old 03-19-2007, 09:49 AM   #8
Steve Shafley
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I have a 10# med ball...basketball type, and pairs of JS bands from mini to heavy.


Steve mentioned that if the physical strength wasn't there, and if that was the limiting factor for a particular kettlebell lifter, then a basic strength program would be prescribed.

Steve's talk about programming was pretty basic, with one squat, one press, and one pull recommended for each session.

One thing that wasn't talked about much, was how to reconcile kettlebell sport training and other training. I don't think many people have done it as of yet. One thing that is true is the kettlebell lifting, as per the sport, builds a tremendous amount of work capacity.

How to combine that with, oh, say, maximal strength training in the best way possible hasn't really been looked at yet, as I can see, but I would imagine it'd be very much like the ME Black Box approach or a one lift a day approach.

Since you train for time, you know what your time commitment is going to be, so you could easily tack it onto the tail end of a strength session.


Strength Portion:

Power clean/High pull/Deadlift progressive pulls
Front squats from rack
Push presses from rack

GS Portion:

5 minutes of GS jerk practice with 24kg kbs
5 minutes of overweight swings with one hand switch: 32kg kb.
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Old 03-19-2007, 10:11 AM   #9
R. Alan Hester
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Thanks for the detailed reply. You read my mind concerning how to reconcile kettlebell sport training and other training.

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Old 03-24-2007, 08:34 PM   #10
R. Alan Hester
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Here is a video link of the workshop about which shaf wrote.
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