How To Program Your Training for Kettlebell Sport

TAGS: kettlebell exercises, kettlebell lifting, Sports Training, athlete, strength, deadlift, strength training, barbell

Kettlebell sport has been popular in Europe since the 1970s and has slowly made its way over to North America in the 1990s. There are several federations that now host events in the United States and Canada including the International Kettlebell Fitness Federation (IKFF), the World Kettlebell Club (WKC), the Orange Kettlebell Club (OKC), the American Kettlebell Alliance (AKA) and the North American Outlaw Kettlebell Club.

Almost all the top-end kettlebell athletes are from Russia. Valery Federenko, Surgey Rudnev, Denis Vasilev and Ivan Denisov are examples of world-class kettlebell lifters. North American lifters like John Lesko and Andrew Durniat are gaining momentum, but the Europeans have a big head start in the sport and it will be a while before North Americans compete at the same level as the European world-class lifters.

Girevoy (kettlebell sport) is a grueling sport that challenges an athlete's physical and mental ability. The traditional sport consists of competing for ten-minute sets in two disciplines: the long cycle and the biathlon. Long cycle is a “clean and jerk movement” with two kettlebells where an athlete cleans the bells into a rack position and propels them overhead into a lockout position with a second knee dip similar to a clean and jerk with a barbell. The difference is that instead of doing a one-rep max with a barbell for max weight, the Girevik continues lifting for a ten-minute set and repeats the movement continuously for a maximum number of reps during the set. The bells can’t be put down or the set is terminated.

At a professional level, an athlete competes with two 32-kg bells, which weigh 140 pounds combined. To continuously lift 140 pounds for ten-minute durations without putting them down requires a high level of strength and conditioning and mental toughness.

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Biathlon consists of two separate disciplines, which consist of lifting two kettlebells into a rack position and utilizing a “jerk” movement overhead into a full lockout position and then returning to the rack. This movement is different from long cycle because it eliminates the “re-cleaning” of the bell and is simply the top-end movement of long cycle. In biathlon, you are required to do a ten-minute set of jerks and a secondary ten-minute set of snatches. The snatch is a single bell movement that requires an athlete to propel the bell from a hanging position directly overhead into a lockout position. This movement is repeated, and the athlete is only allowed one hand switch during the entire ten-minute set. The biathlon score is an accumulation of the number of jerks and the number of snatches combined.

Women athletes compete in long cycle and biathlon using a single kettlebell ranging in size from 8 kg to 24 kg. Female athletes are able to make one hand switch during the ten-minute set in both long cycle, jerk and snatch sets.

Like powerlifting, there are different training programs and templates to utilize to increase your strength, work capacity and endurance. I’ll outline an example of two different long cycle training programs. One program is a six-week program that consists of training three days per week with specific movements, and another program is an example of a four-day outline consisting of the main lift movements without any of the accessory work.

Six-Week Long Cycle Program

Week 1

Workout #1

  • Warm up: Long cycle, 1 X 16 kg X 10; 2 X 24 kg X 10; 2 X 32 kg X 5 X 3 sets
  • Long cycle, 2 X 24 kg: 10 X 10 (rest 1:00 to 1:30 between sets), total 100 reps
  • Barbell squat, 60% X 8 X 4 (rest 3:00 between sets)
  • Barbell deadlift, 60% X 8 X 4 (rest 3:00 between sets)

Workout #2

  • Warm up: Clean, 2 X 16 kg X 10, 2 X 24 kg X 10, 2 X 32 kg X 10
  • Clean, 2 X 24 kg X 20 X 8 sets (rest 2:00 between sets), total 160 reps
  • Jerk, 2 X 24 kg X 15 X 4 sets (rest 2:00 between sets)
  • Barbell jump squat, 50% X 15 X 4 sets (rest 2:00 between sets)

Workout # 3

  • Warm up: Long cycle, 1 X 16 kg X 10, 2 X 24 kg X 10, 2 X 32 kg X 5 X 3 sets
  • Long cycle, 2 X 24 kg X 10, 35 (rest 1:00 between sets), rest 5:00 then 2 X 24 kg X 20
  • Jerk squat, 2 X 24 kg X 40
  • Kettlebell deadlift, 2 X 24 kg X 40

Week 2

Workout #4

  • Warm up: Long cycle, 2 X 16 kg X 15, 2 X 20 kg X 15, 2 X 32 kg X 5, 6, 7
  • Long cycle, 2 X 24 kg X 15 X 8 sets (rest 2:00 between sets), total 120 reps
  • Barbell squat, 65% X 8 X 4 sets (rest 3:00 between sets)
  • Barbell deadlift, 65% X 8 X 4 sets (rest 3:00 between sets)

Workout #5

  • Warm up: Clean, 2 X 16 kg X 10, 2 X 24 kg X 10, 2 X 32 kg X 10
  • Clean, 2 X 24 kg X 30 X 6 sets (rest 2:00 between sets), total 180 reps
  • Jerk, 2 X 24 kg X 20 X 3 sets (rest 2:00 between sets)
  • Barbell jump squat, 60% X 15 X 4 sets (rest 2:00 between sets)

Workout #6

  • Warm up: Long cycle, 1 X 16 kg X 10, 2 X 24 kg X 10, 2 X 32 kg X 5 X 3 sets
  • Long cycle, 2 X 24 kg X 20 X 6 sets (rest 2:30 between sets), total 120 reps
  • Jerk squat, 2 X 24 kg X 55
  • Kettlebell deadlift, 2 X 24 kg X 55

WEEK 3

Workout #7

  • Warm up: Long cycle, 2 X 16 kg X 15, 2 X 20 kg X 15, 2 X 32 kg X 6, 7, 8
  • Long cycle , 2 X 24 kg X 20 X 6 sets (rest 2:30 between sets), total 120 reps
  • Barbell squat, 70% X 8 X 4 sets (rest 3:00 between sets)
  • Barbell deadlift, 70% X 8 X 4 sets (rest 3:00 between sets)

Workout #8

  • Warm up: 2 X 16 kg X 10, 2 X 24 kg X 10, 2 X 32 kg X 10
  • Clean, 2 X 24 kg X 35 X 4 sets (rest 2:00 between sets), total 140 reps
  • Jerk, 2 X 24 kg X 10, 30, 20, 10 (rest 2:00 between sets)
  • Barbell jump squats, 70% X 15 X 4 sets (rest 2:00 between sets)

Workout #9

  • Warm up: Long cycle, 1 X 16 kg X 10, 2 X 24 kg X 10, 2 X 32 kg X 5 X 3 sets
  • Long cycle, 2 X 24 kg X 10, 55, 20 (rest 1:00 between sets); rest 5:00 2 X 28 kg X 25
  • Jerk squat, 2 X 24 kg X 65
  • Kettlebell deadlift, 2 X 24 kg X 65

WEEK 4

Workout #10

  • Warm up: Long cycle, 2 X16 kg X 10, 2 X 20 kg X 15, 2 X 32 kg X 7, 8, 9
  • Long cycle, 2 X 24 kg X 25 X 5 sets (rest 3:00 between sets), total 125 reps
  • Barbell squat, 75% X 8 X 4 sets (rest 3:00 between sets)
  • Barbell deadlift, 75% X 8 X 4 sets (rest 3:00 between sets)

Workout #11

  • Warm up: Clean, 2 X 16 kg X 10, 2 X 24 kg X 10, 2 X 32 kg X 10
  • Clean, 2 X 24 kg X 40 X 3 sets (rest 2:00 between sets), total 120 reps
  • Jerk, 2 X 24 kg X 30 X 2 sets (rest 2:00 between sets)
  • Barbell jump squat, 70% X 15 X 4 sets (rest 2:00 between sets)

Workout #12

  • Warm up: Long cycle, 2 X 16 kg X 10, 60, 20 (rest 1:00 between sets), rest 5:00 2 X 20 kg X 50 reps
  • Jerk squat, 2 X 24 kg X 70
  • Kettlebell deadlift, 2 X 24 kg X 70

WEEK 5

Workout #13

  • Warm up: 2 X 16 kg X 15, 2 X 20 kg X 15, 2 X 32 kg X 8, 9, 10
  • Long cycle, 2 X 24 kg X 30 X 3 sets (rest 3:30 between sets), total 90 reps
  • Barbell squat, 80% X 8 X 4 sets (rest 3:00 between sets)
  • Barbell deadlift, 80% X 8 X 4 sets (rest 3:00 between sets)

Workout #14

  • Warm up: Clean, 2 X 16 kg X 10, 2 X 24 kg X 10, 2 X 32 kg X 10
  • Clean, 2 X 24 kg X 70
  • Jerk, 2 X 24 kg X 50
  • Barbell jump squat, 80% X 15 X 4 sets (rest 2:00 between sets)

Workout #15

  • Warm up: Clean, 2 X 16 kg X 10, 2 X 24 kg X 10, 2 X 32 kg X 10
  • Long cycle, 2 X 24 kg X 10, 40 (rest 1:00 between sets), rest 5:00 long cycle, 2 X 20 kg X 60
  • Jerk squat, 2 X 24 kg X 80
  • Kettlebell deadlift, 2 X 24 kg X 80

Week 6

*Deload and test week

Workout #16

  • Warm up: 2 X 16 kg X 15, 2 X 20 kg X 15
  • Long cycle: 2 X 24 kg X 20

Workout #17

  • Warm up: 2 X 16 kg X 15, 2 X 20 kg X 15
  • Long cycle: 2 X 24 kg X 15
  • Snatch: 24 kg X 15/15

Workout #18 Test day

  • Warm up: Your choice today
  • Long cycle: 2 X 24 kg X 80–90% of your max rep goal (example 100 reps)

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Weekly Long Cycle Training Program

This program is an example of a four-day training program that varies intensity and weight to create a wave pattern. You can also incorporate accessory work to improve weaknesses similar to the first program including barbell jump squats, dumbbell cleans, squats, deadlifts and heavy overhead jerks.

Day #1

2 X 24 kg X 10, 2 X 28 kg X 10, 2 X 32 kg X 10, 2 X 20 kg X 10, 2 X 24 kg X 10, 2 X 28 kg X 10, 2 X 32 kg X 10

Day #2

2 X 28 kg X 10, 15, 20, 25, 30

Day #3

2 X 32 kg X 10, 15, 20, 25, 20, 15, 10

Day #4

2 X 24 kg X 30, 25, 20, 15, 10

I've competed in several competitions in Girevoy sport in both biathlon and long cycle. I prefer to compete and train in long cycle because I feel that the clean and jerk movement is a complete full body effort. It gives the “biggest bang for your buck” and improves overall strength, work capacity and endurance. The ballistic movement of training with kettlebells improves joint mobility and strengthens ligaments and tendons. If you want to implement training that improves your strength and will make you lean and resilient, give it a try.

Outlaw Kettlebell Team, 2014 Arnolds

Ken: 32-kg Long Cycle IKFF Championships, Fenton, Michigan

Ken: 28-kg Set New York Long Cycle Championship, New York City

Ken: 24-kg Set 2010 Arnold Sports Festival, Columbus, Ohio

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