by Dan Staton, MS, CrossFit Level II Coach
I think we should reward dedicated archers with a fitness routine that proves less can be more. We all need the most bang for our buck, and implementing kettlebell (KB) movements does just that. I know time constraints affect us all, so this fitness piece is dedicated for the busy archer who sees the benefit of a well conditioned body through the lull of winter.
What is a KB? A KB is a traditional Russian cast iron weight that looks like a cannonball with a handle. It's a great tool for fitness and has a great deal of application for archers. The KB first appeared in a Russian dictionary in 1704. In fact, a Russian magazine called "Hercules" wrote in 1913 that, "Not a single sport develops our muscular strength and bodies as well as kettlebell athletics."
I believe that sometimes less is more, and KBs often prove this to be true. KBs come in "poods". A pood is a dated Russian measure of weight, which equals 16 kg, or roughly 35 lbs. An average male should start with a 35 lb. KB. This may sound light but once you learn the moves you will soon see how the minimal load can give you maximum results. Most men will eventually progress to a 53 lb, the standard issue size in the Russian military. Although available in most units, 70 lb are used only by a few advanced men and in elite competitions. An average female should start with 18 lb. KB, while a strong woman can go for a 26 lb. KB. Some women will advance to a 35 lb (1 pood), and a handful of women will go beyond that.
KBs deliver well-rounded fitness and could potentially replace your barbells, dumbbells, and cardio equipment. To me, the KB is about power, mobility, flexibility and lung capacity … if done correctly. At its most elementary level, KB exercises work a lot of muscles and require you to generate power from the core. The KB swing is one of the basic KB exercises that’s performed by generating force from your body's core: the hips, legs, low back and trunk. I would encourage anyone to master the KB swing first because it’s a movement that can be transferred to other movements, whether it be in hiking, biking, running, training, or other KB exercises.
KBs are weights and the rules of effective weight training apply just the same. Similar to traditional weight training, effective KB training requires a balanced approach and an emphasis on the basic compound drill. For most athletes, following a regimen with emphasis on basic exercise is best; however, putting all of your efforts into one or two exercises long-term is not the way to go. Here are two areas to focus on for balanced development:
KB Core Movements
(1) Lower body pull: Double Swing
(2) Core: Windmill
Benefits: This move is very taxing of the hips, trunk and shoulders. Keep your trunk stable and let your hips do the work! You won’t find too many moves that burn as many calories.
Pre-Requisites: General core strength and use of a kettlebell or dumbbell.
Movement: Place KB between your feet. Push back with your butt and bend your knees to get into the starting position. Make sure that your back is flat and look straight ahead. Swing the KB between your legs forcefully. Quickly reverse the direction and drive though with your hips, taking the KB straight out to chest level. Let the KB swing back between your legs and repeat.
Hint: The KB should be placed between your feet, but then slightly back from center. You should be reaching through your legs to grasp the bell. This places the load on your hamstrings right from the start.
Benefits: This move is very taxing of the trunk, lower back, shoulders and hamstrings
Movement: Begin with your feet a little bit further than shoulder width apart. Center the KB on the floor between your feet and then step your right leg back behind your left leg. Bend over, keeping your legs straight and grasp the handle of the KB with your right hand, palm face down. Engage the muscles of your upper thighs, hips and abdomen as you use your entire body to lift the KB up to shoulder position.
When you reach the peak of the lift, bring your elbow in tight to your body so that the KB naturally rolls over the wrist to rest on the top of the forearm. Press the KB up toward the ceiling, straightening your arm. Turn your gaze upward, watching the weight throughout the entire exercise. Push your butt out to keep your back straight and press the top of your left palm into your inner left thigh. Lean over, bringing the fingertips of your left hand as far down your leg as is comfortable. Bend your knee slightly and engage your abdominals as you lift to standing once again. Complete at least five repetitions before relaxing and repeating the windmill KB training exercise on the opposite side.
Winter is the beginning of off-season training. Bowhunting 365 means staying in shape year round. Get Serious, Get Fit!