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Friday, April 30, 2010

Kettlebell Training for Soccer Players

I have trained roughly 20 professional soccer players in my career as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. Within the last 2 years I have incorporated Kettlebell swings into their off-season training. What have I seen?

Increased vertical leap
Stronger core, especially when going shoulder to shoulder
No more hamstring pulls
Stronger grip (for shirt pulling) :)
The ability to manage fatigue when tired

Now, these are only a few results that I have noticed in these athletes, but as far as I am concerned, these are HUGE benefits of kettlebell training. Let's dig a bit deeper and see how kettlebell swings helped to produce each of these results.

Increased Vertical Leap

Simply put, we found their glutes! A proper hardstyle kettlebell swing teaches proper hip hinge. Think of the start position on a vertical jump…looks similar to a swing, huh? Kettlebell swings teach athletes to load their hips properly as well as to drive their hips forward and through (think of a soccer player going up for a head ball). The swing mimics the same stretch/reflex principles of plyometrics, but with the added benefit of an external load.

Stronger Core

Controlling the bell on a hardstyle swing requires great core strength and coordination. When teaching the swing, I tell my athletes "your glutes are the gas pedal and your stomach/core is the brakes." Exploding through the hips is great but if you can't control the bell then you are asking for trouble.
I am sure you have seen athletes who have explosive hips that end up chasing the bell because they cannot stabilize it.There are many other reasons why this happens, but a weak core can be one of them. At the top of the swing, the glutes are flexed, the distance from the pelvis to ribcage is shortened/tightened and the shoulders stay connected. A proper eccentric pull of the swing calls for great core strength as well. When performed correctly with the biomechanical breathing match, it compresses the diaphragm and creates great tension through the midsection. Keeping tight is vital when players are competing for a 50/50 ball.

No More Hamstring pulls

Does the term synergistic dominance mean anything to you? Hamstring pulls happen way too much in pro soccer and I'll let you in on something…it's not from weak hamstrings! If you were to perform isolated hamstring tests on healthy professional soccer players, they would pass with flying colors. The problem is that when hamstrings are overworked, they act as hip extensors when the glute should be doing it. The glutes shut down and the hamstrings do double the work, resulting in pulled or torn hamstring muscles.
Most soccer players have tight hip flexors which prevents them from extending their hips properly. When the hip flexors are too tight, the hamstring works too much and the glutes are not utilized. Then comes the hamstring pull.
The kettlebell swing will help soccer players find their glutes. Plenty of kettlebell swings, paired up with some great hip flexor stretches, will help keep your athletes going all season.

Better Endurance

Sprints aren't the only way to get soccer players fit. These athletes spend all day running yet what do most strength coaches prescribe for fitness? More running. Don't even get me started on why this is wrong.
Imagine if there was an exercise that drives heart rate, works the glutes/posterior chain, increases body awareness, increases core strength and does not pound on the joints. Oh wait, that's the hardstyle swing. Enough said.

Stronger Grip

Ok, I know shirt pulling is cheap, but it's a reality in the professional soccer world. Just the other day I was playing with a few of the pros I train and I had to resort to the shirt pull. What happened? It was a foul and he ended up on the ground, but he did not score. Mission accomplished. If you are gonna pull someone's shirt, why not have great grip strength, never let go and pull them to the ground? This way you are sure they won't score a goal. One thing to note... try not to do this in the penalty box.

The ability to manage fatigue

As soccer players, we run sprints our whole lives. As we get older we learn how to condition ourselves and manage fatigue. We lengthen our strides, have better body control in the corners, control breathing and learn how to pace ourselves.
Try to perform anywhere from 300-500 swings as quickly as possible. You will notice a few things. Your swing may clean up and you'll stay more compact so you do not have to chase the bell with unwanted movement. You'll stay tight when needed and stay loose when needed - this is the essence of hardstyle training. Utilize proper breathing patterns to stabilize the bell in every position of the swing.
I am fairly certain that there have not been a lot of studies about kettlebells and soccer players. All i know is that the proof is in the pudding. This is what I have seen and experienced. I don't play nearly as much soccer as I would like to, but I train with kettlebells almost every day. Fitness and strength are never an issue when I play with the 'big-boys'… technical ability and foot skills, well thats another thing.

Kettlebells, Training and Injuries

Lately, I have seen a ton of posts relating to lower back discomfort when using KB's. Here are some things to think about if you honestly want to learn what we teach and practice as RKC's.

1. Get cleared by a Doctor, they normally know best.

2. Get screened by a PT, SFMA or FMS certified individual. I am not saying that the FMS is the only way to screen, but it's very consistent and will give your trainer/PT a nice roadmap on what you need to work on. Oh and it works!

3. Spend the money and visit an RKC. I thought I knew how to swing a bell before I was an RKC, but I didn't. My point is that you can read all the books the Pavel has written and may do very well, but nothing beats working with an RKC who has invested thousands of hours and dollars to hone his/her craft.

4. Learn a proper hip hinge. This is must, period. A hip hinge practiced correctly should not create pain. If you are swinging a bell and it hurts, did you get cleared by a Doctor? Did you get screened? Did you visit a RKC?

If you did all of those and it still hurts, seek out a Doctor and start fresh.

5. Master the basics. At the RKC we spend 3 full days on 6 exercises. I can guarantee you that almost all RKC's still practice the basic 6 and are still perfecting their technique.

Don't rush into exercises because they look sexy. I would rather see a perfect swing than a viking push-press went wrong.

6. If it hurts, stop. Do I have to explain?

Most RKC's are pretty cool people. Most are willing to help. If you need a hand, reach out. We are all passionate about Kettlebell training. We took the RKC because we truly love and believe in Kettlebell Training and the RKC.

Just my 2 cents...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Todays workout 4/28

70 BW pistols, 35L and 35R

Did 5 sets of each leg then switched, no rest

Monday, April 26, 2010

Todays workout

foam roll/tennis ball soft tissue work

Kb press
20k X10
24k X6
32k x5 2 sets

S-leg RDL
20k 4x4
24k 1x4

Weighted pull-ups
32k 3x3
cranks 2x4

BW pistols 4x4

Back is feeling better so I will increase volume on the pistols. Trying to quit when I still feel good ;)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Airborne Lunge ( how to video)

Here is a quick video on the airborne lunge. It's not as sexy as the pistol but IMO it's the precursor to the pistol. Enjoy!

View Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ63WK_bCOk

Monday, April 19, 2010

Todays workout

Z mobility
ASLR prep
T spine
Dowel press from different squat depths

Akro wheel progression

Swing ladders, 20 each, 20, 24, 32 x5

Press ladders 2,3,4,5 w/32k x4

Ring work

Friday, April 2, 2010

Something to Consider

When approaching the KB, make sure you focus on the task at hand. YOU and only YOU determine how the bell will move. Be aggressive focused and relaxed, you own the bell, it does not own you. You react, the bell moves. Do not approach it half-heartedly, if you aren't dead set on achieving your task you will not complete it. Every goal is attainable, but only you determine the road map to reaching it.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Beast tamer challenge 1 out of 3 DONE!!

Pull-up ladders paid off, I did a 48kg (106lb) pull-up today. I am pretty happy. Still practicing on the pistol and press but I am pretty happy! Slow and steady wins the race