Learning the Kettlebell with Tactical Athlete

Tactical Athlete's photo.

I first heard of Jeff Martone like many of you have. You were watching a ton of CrossFit videos and you saw this guy swinging a weird looking weight. Later I found out he started a company called, Tactical Athlete. I’ve always known what a kettlebell was, but never really knew the diversity of how it could be used until CrossFit. While I was at the 2012 Combat Focus Shooting Instructor Conference, Dr. Robert Smith from D.A.M.N. spoke very highly of Jeff as a guest speaker and recommended his book, Kettebell Rx. Doc Smith touched lightly on the kettlebell uses and how Jeff did it with multiple shoulder surgeries.

This got my interest due to my shoulders always hurting from football in high school and my two developments in Iraq. Sadly to say, that’s all it was, an interest. I was not actively working on my fitness at the time. 2013 came around and I truly started CrossFit. I’ve did some kettlebell work, but the depth of info I was get was limited.  I believe it’s due to the kettlebell not being the most sexiest- looking movements out there, such as the snatch or clean and jerk. Also, we mainly just see the American Swing in CrossFit. This is not that difficult of a movement efficiently. When I say efficiently, I mean reaching the stated goal.  Here’s the thing, I feel kettlebell may be one of the most under used tools for strength and conditioning.

Jeff Martone is demonstrating how the proper position to pick up the kettlebell for the swing.

Jeff Martone is demonstrating the proper position to pick up the kettlebell for the swing.

We started the three hour seminar with Jeff telling us all of his prior injuries and surgeries. He also had us do the same thing. I was really surprised to hear, “I have nothing anatomically holding my shoulder into place.” This means, only the muscles around his shoulder is holding it in place. All of his tendons and ligaments are gone. The first skill we learned was how to pick up the kettlebell with the proper one handed grip while lying on our back for the Arm Bar Stretch. I really enjoyed doing this. It really warmed up the shoulders without energy expended. After we did a few reps on both sides, my shoulders felt really good. They don’t really bother me anymore, but they felt that much better. We did it with a spotter for safety to ensure the kettlebell stayed in the proper position. The spotter was right on top of us. You cannot spot from more than one arm’s reach. Jeff said, “Be a good spotter, not a witness.”  He was speaking about witnessing the kettlebell going rouge and the athlete getting hurt. Jeff recommends this before and after a workout if you have shoulder issues.

Here is Jeff Martone spotting an athlete during the Armbar Stretch.

Here is Jeff Martone spotting an athlete during the Armbar Stretch.

After the Arm Bar Stretch, we went into how to properly pick up a kettlebell to transition quickly into a swing.  The first swing we did was the Russian Swing. When he was showing us, he stated, “Ok guys. Just like that.” His swings were very smooth and looked very proficient. Next was the American Swing. He’s not the biggest fan, but we went over it because, we had a few CrossFit athletes in the class. The reasons he’s not a fan is due to the range of motion standard that’s really common at competitions, showing the ear past the arms. I and many others would “chicken pick” our heads forward to get the range of motion and not work on mobility. He told to relax the arms and this would generally fix the issue. If it didn’t, he stated, “If you don’t have the shoulder mobility, dont.” Jeff means, don’t force your body into something it does want to do.That’s how you jack up your shoulders.

Jeff Martone is now demonstrating the stronger shoulder with the Owner/Head Coach of River Valley CrossFit. (www.rivervalleycrossfit.com) The concept is to rotate your scapula back to use musculoskeletal structure.

Jeff Martone is now demonstrating the stronger shoulder with the Owner/Head Coach of River Valley CrossFit. (www.crossfitrivervalley.com) The concept is to rotate your scapula back to use musculoskeletal structure.

 

From the swings, we worked on the Snatch and Clean. We did some progressions drills along with some wall therapy. The main concept here is getting full inserted into the handle with a false grip. The same grip if you are doing a ring muscle up.  If not, you will have a bad time. Your wrist will take nothing but punishment from the kettlebell. Generally, what I hear to correct that issue is, grip harder. This is silly and just plain wrong. The kettle snaps or gently floats into place with the false grip.  After all of that, we had a question and answer session.  We got to pick his brain and hear more stories of his kettlebell training.

This was my second time to meet Jeff, but first time to train with. He is a really good instructor and all around good guy. I would put him on your list.

This was my second time to meet Jeff, but first time to train with. He is a really good instructor and all around good guy. I would put him on your list.

Now, I want to take the CrossFit Kettlebell course. I was surprised of how much info we got in a three hour block. This will benefit myself and future athletes I will coach.  The general fitness population neglects the weight from Mother Russia. Using more of this tool will make you generally stronger and have more muscle endurance. If you’re a coach or athlete, make sure you learn more about the kettlebell.