Archive for August, 2011

Kettlebells for Young Athletes: Part II

In the first installment of this series we briefly looked at studies concerning weight training for young athletes and the potential risk associated with it.  Though the notion of strength training itself was not seen as potentially dangerous, implementing improper protocols and exercise selections may have negative effects on the growth of the body and may increase the chance of injury.  I have also found that upon creating proper training programs for young athletes the use of kettlebells is extremely advantageous for teaching proper set up and lifting mechanics used in major lifts.  In many cases kettlebells are much easier and safer to progress than using the traditional bars and dumbbells.

In this second half of the series I will highlight some of the advantages that the kettlebells have over bars and dumbbells especially when it comes to progression of the exercises.

Kettlebell Deadlift Variations

The first installment explained how the kettlebell deadlift is essential for training hip extension and how it could be much safer to implement than a traditional barbell deadlift because it is much easier to set up and execute with proper technique.  Once the technique is mastered and executed with the weight the trainer has established as the goal, then small variations of the movement can be used to further enhance strength gains.

The Single Arm Alternating Deadlift is executed like the standard kettlebell deadlift but uses only one arm at a time and switches at the top.  The challenges come with maintaining proper body alignment by keeping the shoulder back and chest up.  Also, on the single side there may be an urge to shift body weight to the side of the kettlebell and the athlete should not allow for this.  The single arm alternating deadlift forces the athlete to completely activate the core muscles to resist this shift and maintain proper body alignment.  Lastly, the individual grip strength is trained.  Grip is usually much stronger on one side compared to the other side.  By only using one arm to maintain the kettlebell in proper position it is possible to focus entirely on the one arm for the given repetition and the other on the next, in order to narrow the strength deficit between the two arms.

After the young athlete’s technique is stable and consistent you may find that the kettlebell may become too light to elicit a proper training effect for the athlete.  Most kettlebells only reach around the 100lbs. mark; but instead of jumping directly into the barbell version of the lift, the strength coach may opt for one more variation before.  The Double Kettlebell Deadlift is great for the young athletes whose technique has become solid and their strength is progressing.  This variation offers all of the benefits of the other kettlebell deadlift variations; being able to keep the weight very close to the body for the initial set up, training each arm (grip) individually allowing for balancing out the sides all the while being able to increase the weight to a fairly heavy level.  Once the athlete is able to perform this variation with weight totaling around 135lbs. successfully then they can consider the barbell deadlift.

Kettlebell Squat Variations

As discussed in the first installment, the squat is a very important exercise for athletes to improve core and hip strength, however a traditional barbell squat calls for loading the bar and placing it on the back of the athlete which increases the risk of injury to the less experienced lifter and also may compress the spine.  After mastering the bodyweight squat using kettlebells, the kettlebell goblet squat is the next step in the training process.

After the athlete gains experience in the standard kettlebell goblet squat, like we explained in the first article, the movement can be altered to take it to the next level.  Double Kettlebell Front Squats simulates a barbell front squat without having the athlete hold the barbell in the initially awkward fashion.  Using two kettlebells allows for an increase of weight used which can enhance strength gains and it also challenges the core muscles which must be engaged fully to maintain proper body alignment during the execution of the movement.

The Single Kettlebell Front Squat is another great option for young athletes, which is similar to the double front squat version, however when using a single kettlebell racked on one side of the body there is a much greater need to focus on proper technique and balance between the two sides of the body.  The single kettlebell will not only pull the chest down and forward, it wants to cause a shift towards the side of the body where the weight is.  The athlete must counter this motion and keep the chest up and the weight distribution equal on both legs.

Kettlebell Swing Variations

We established the kettlebell 2-arm swing as an excellent alternative for Olympic lifting for the young athlete to improve hip drive and power.  When the 2-arm swing technique has become consistent, then swing variations can be introduced.

The 1-Arm Kettlebell Swing is performed the same way as the 2-arm version, however the single arm version will stress the grip on the working side much more.  It is also a useful movement to balance out the strength and movement coordination between sides.  Usually one side of the body will be stronger and more coordinated and this will be quickly evident when performing this movement.  When executing this movement I recommend to swing the free arm along with the kettlebell side which helps maintain the shoulder in their proper position and also facilitates easy transition to the next variation, the alternating swing.

In the Alternating Kettlebell Swing the athlete will be switching hands.  This allows the athlete to increase their coordination and their work capacity as they begin to get fatigued in one arm, they can switch to the other side and keep the movement going.  The frequency of the hand switch is only limited by the coach’s imagination.  If you want the athlete to train strength and coordination you can have the athlete go heavier and for shorter duration.  If you are training the conditioning of the athlete, keep the weight lighter and switch hands every few repetitions.


Once the young athlete has mastered the basic kettlebell movements these above variations allow for safe progression in programming.  In the third part of this installment, I will go into some of the variations of the single sided movements that kettlebells have to offer.


Should You Supplement: Can You Build Muscle with Branched Chain Amino Acids?

It’s been a while since I have added another article to the Should You Supplement Series and I have not written on the topic because I initially thought I covered everything I wanted to.  Personally, I do not supplement much.  I always prefer that individuals establish a diet from a wide variety of healthy whole foods first before they consider needing to supplement.  After that is addressed it may be a good idea to add in some essential fats that are frequently missing in our diets and possibly doing some vitamin C supplementation as well as a nutrient dense, whole food based multi-vitamin.

With the above being my primarily regimen for an optimal lifestyle, I feel I should address another supplement source, because I do get quite a few questions about it; what protein supplement do you use?  This is a fair question because I have used several different protein supplements throughout my life and there are some really good products out there and some really bad ones as well.  I have taken a few different brands for a number of years and have weaned myself off of them almost entirely because I realized that with protein power supplements you don’t really know what you are getting.

Read the labels; usually it’s some protein propriety blend consisting of protein in indistinguishable ratios and from sources unknown.  Add artificial sweeteners, colors and tons of sugar, fractionated oils and fillers and you have a crazy unknown cocktail with questionable nutritional value and muscle building benefits.

After I train I am not hungry but I know that my body needs nourishment before I can get some solid food into me so protein shakes were the choice at the time.  At the same time, I was trying to fill my body with the best food and supplement sources possible and slamming down these protein shakes seemed liked a contradiction to that.

What I found to be a better alternative for me is to use Branched Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) supplementation in powdered form.  I usually take a little before, during and after my workouts to keep my muscles full of these protein building blocks.

What Are BCAAs?

All amino acids are necessary for the body to function properly, and BCAAs only make up three (leucine, valine, isoleucine) of the 23 used during protein synthesis to build muscle tissue.  These three are also part of a group of nine amino acids considered essential.  Essential refers to the type that cannot be created by the body from other sources, so the BCAAs must be present in the protein source consumed to be used by the body for protein synthesis.

These three cannot be produced by the body and are very important because they account for the majority of amino acids directly taken up by the muscles where protein synthesis can occur.  The other amino acids are primarily metabolized by the liver for either energy or to be shuttled to the muscles.

The theory behind their effectiveness for building and maintaining muscle is the idea that the body spares the breakdown of muscle/ protein to be used for energy when the bloodstream is saturated with these BCAAs.  When BCAAs are present in the bloodstream the body will assume that there has been a breakdown of the muscle protein and will therefore spare the muscles from breaking down more and then find another source of fuel.


Benefits of BCAA Supplementation

There are several studies touting the positive effects that BCAA supplementation can have for athletes.  Gualano et al. found that BCAA supplementation for glycogen depleted endurance athletes allows the body to enhance the use of fat for energy which spares the breakdown of the muscles and their protein to be used for energy.

There are several studies, including Matsumoto et al. concluding that BCAA supplementation may reduce fatigue and muscle soreness.  Shimomura et al. found that muscle damage caused specifically by squatting may be suppressed by BCAA supplementation which, in turn, could decrease the symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness.  BCAA supplementation can also alleviate soreness caused by eccentric exercises as concluded in the Jackman et al. study.

BCAA supplementation can also help the endurance athletes work at a higher capacity as shown in another study by Matsumoto et al.

What I Personally Use

After researching and reading numerous studies and benefits of BCAA supplementation I have since replaced my protein shakes for BCAA drinks. I have tried a few brands and the one I prefer is the UPS Labs Modern BCAA.  (PIC)  Just to note I do not make any money by endorsing this product, I have just found it to be the best because it comes in a powder form, which can be consumed before, during and after training and the product does not contain any artificial flavors nor colors like some other products do.

On heavy training days I mix up two scoops with water and begin to sip 30min before training, have whatever is left over during training and then two more scoop to consume when I am done.


The studies and support are out there and show that BCAAs can spare muscle breakdown by using other sources of energy without loading the body up with protein powder supplements.  For the athlete looking to add or maintain muscle, decrease soreness and enhance recovery from intense workouts or increase your endurance capacity, they may want to consider BCAA supplementation.



Gualano AB, Bozza T, Lopes De Campos P, Roschel H, Dos Santos Costa A, Luiz Marquezi M, Benatti F, Herbert Lancha Junior A. Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2011 Mar;51(1):82-8.

Jackman SR, Witard OC, Jeukendrup AE, Tipton KD. Branched-chain amino acid ingestion can ameliorate soreness from eccentric exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 May;42(5):962-70.

Matsumoto K, Koba T, Hamada K, Sakurai M, Higuchi T, Miyata H. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation attenuates muscle soreness, muscle damage and inflammation during an intensive training program. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2009 Dec;49(4):424-31.

Matsumoto K, Koba T, Hamada K, Tsujimoto H, Mitsuzono R. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation increases the lactate threshold during an incremental exercise test in trained individuals. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2009 Feb;55(1):52-8.

Shimomura Y, Inaguma A, Watanabe S, Yamamoto Y, Muramatsu Y, Bajotto G, Sato J, Shimomura N, Kobayashi H, Mawatari K. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2010 Jun;20(3):236-44.


Monday, August 29th, 2011 Nutrition 2 Comments

Orange Kettlebell Club July 2011 Workshop Hi-Lights

Some Hi-lights of the kettlebell movements learned from John Wild Buckley, and Mike Salemi from the Orange Kettlebell Club. Exercises Include:
Rack Position
and Snatch

Check out:


Monday, August 29th, 2011 Kettlebell Training, Videos No Comments


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