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.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Book Review: The Complete Guide to Kettlebell Training

The Complete Guide to Kettlebell Training (Complete Guides)
by Allan Collins
Published by Bloomsbury, 2011
176 pages

The book is focused on kettlebell training. It endeavors to be a complete guide to kettlebell training. To a large extent, it succeeds.

The book goes over equipment - both kettlebells and other tools you'll need (shoes, for example). It goes over basic mobility warmup.

The key section of the book is its list of exercises. Each exercise is clearly detailed. The individual exercises come with at least one picture each, clearly labeled in steps. It doesn't fall into the usual trap of two unhelpful pictures that show the start and end of the exercise but not the importance progression from one to the other. Somewhat unexpectedly the book includes some non-kettlebell lifts, such as the barbell Romanian deadlift and the overhead squat. They have value to add to a kettlebell training program, and thus have a place in the book. But other exercices might equally be valuable and get left out - it seems more like a question of providing enough to get you to integrate barbells into your kettlebell lifts and not an attempt to be "complete" for non-kettlebell lifts.

The pictures are clear, errors and key points to look for are also included. And differentiation between hard style and soft style lifts are denoted, allowing you to pick what works best for you.

The book does come with some workouts, which are good enough - if you need an idea of where to start, it's there. The book also comes with some excellent training flows - what exercise is a step down from another, and what exercise is the next step up. This allows you to start with some very basic kettlebell lifts, and steadily progress to harder versions.

If the book has a flaw, it is the influence of competitive kettlebell lifting. Many techniques emphasize using just enough energy on the move. Grip on the kettlebells is as little as you need to get the job done, power is just enough to get the rep done, etc. In running terms, it's a book on how to run marathons vs. a book on how to use running to burn calories and get your heart rate up. One is for competition, the other is for getting the most physical benefit from your lifting. This isn't a bad thing, but although the author is clearly trying to split them out little bits of "how to lift efficiently so you can work out longer" creep in regularly.

Content: 4
out of 5. Extremely complete, but the subtle emphasis on lifting efficiency as if for competition detracts from it a bit.
Presentation: 4 out of 5. Well written, and pictures of techniques are very attractive and generally easy to follow. A bit hard to use as a reference book, though - you need lots of page flipping.

Overall: If you want a one-book guide to what you can do with a kettlebell, this is probably it. It's extremely dense with exercises, progressions, and explanation. It is subtly geared to competition, though, so keep in mind it's talking to kettlebell enthusiasts who are aiming for maximum time, maximum reps in a time limit, or clear competitive technique rather more than anyone else. Solid book and well worth the read.

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