Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Book Review: Enter the Kettlebell!

By Pavel Tsatsouline
200 pages (actually, 176 plus ads)
Published 2006

Enter the Kettlebell! is another kettlebell book by Russian Master of Sport Pavel Tsatsouline.

It suffers from the flaws of his other books - lots of whitespace, ads, and very little content for the price. It also shows the virtues of his other books - great pictures, easy to read, generally pretty funny, and great content. The mix is maddening...on one hand, it's a must-have book, but on the other hand, it's priced much too high compared to other books. The book is also chock-full of shout-out references to RKCs (Russian Kettlebell Certified instructors), who are quoted and mentioned by name with their methods.

The book covers three practice exercises (the wall squat, the halo, and the pump), two basic kettlebell exercises (the swing and the get-up), and three more advanced exercises (the clean, the press, and the snatch). Each exercise is covered with a series of excellent pictures and clear text, plus a few deliberately goofy "Not this!" pictures to show you bad technique. They're informative and easy to follow, and because they are all pictures of Pavel himself none of them show a different technique than he is describing.

The exercises are generally what you think they are, but a few need explanation. The wall squat is a squat facing a wall, to groove a straight up-and-down motion with no forward lean. The halo is holding a kettlebell by the "horns" (the handle) and moving it in a tight circle around your head. The pump is a dive-bomber style pushup with a twisting stretch for the hips. The rest are standard kettlebell exercises - swinging the kettlebell, cleaning and pressing it, snatching it from the bottom of a swing all the way overhead in one motion.

Several training methods are covered. These include ladders: you do 1 rep, then 2, then 3, etc. and reset at 1 rep after you meet your goal. The book recommends you start with 5 ladders of 3 reps maximum (30 reps) and progress to 5 ladders of 5 reps maximum (75 reps) before starting over with a heavier kettlebell. Another method is the Dan John dice method - roll two dice, and total the score. Do the exercise in question for that many minutes, trying to fit in as many good reps as you can, resting as necessary. How mix ladders (say, press left, press right, pullup, start over) and how to judge their intensity are also covered. The is a large variety here, ranging from light skill practice to workouts designed to smoke you (such as 10 minutes of 24kg kettlebell snatches, called the US Secret Service snatch test) and many points between. Light/Medium/Heavy day training is covered, as is mixing kettlebell training with non-kettlebell training - specifically, the Power to the People workout and Naked Warrior workouts, both from books by the same author.

The book also includes a fairly general FAQ and a color-picture "making of a kettlebell" section. They're interesting, especially the latter, but don't add too much.

Content: 4 out of 5. If you're going to train with a kettlebell, you could start and stop with just this book.
Presentation: 5 out of 5. Great pictures, well written, attractive, and easy to follow.

Overall: If you're going train with a kettlebell, you need to check this book out. It's an excellent basic text, and it's a one-stop shop for the basic exercises. If you think kettlebells are a faddish training tool best avoided, this book isn't likely to sway you.

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