I began kettlebell training and using a completely functional philosophy with my training about eleven years ago. Prior to this, I had done a lot of sport activity such as martial arts, cycling and field sports. At this time all of my strength training was done body building style. What I mean by “bodybuilding style” is that instead of focusing on movement, my strength training was all about training the muscle. Strength training in this way felt more like a chore than anything. I never enjoyed it, but kept it up as a counter to my highly active lifestyle. After a few years of muscle isolation, mostly in the backyard gym with my friends, I started questioning our approach. It wasn't that I didn't see results, I did see my muscles increase in size, but I never felt like I was challenging my body in the way I knew I could.

I also measured my progress in very strange ways. My ability to lay on my back and push a progressively heavier barbell over my chest was one of the most significant ways I determined whether I was getting "stronger". I think most of us have been there at one time or another, even in the NFL today, the bench press is considered one of the tests of an athletes strength. Now, I have seen a lot of football in my time, and while there are many occasions where a player might end up on the ground, it was usually after the whistle had sounded. Rarely did I see anyone push anything off of their chest while in this position and never did it have anything to do with the play they were performing. 

Because I always had a strong desire to challenge myself to become the strongest version of me that I could become, I decided to do some digging. I figured there has to be another way! I began to immerse myself in books and videos, I attended seminars and took many personal training certification courses. What amazed me most as I started down this path was not the overwhelming abundance of information out there about functional training, but rather the limitations. The fact that so many other "experts" used muscle isolation for the vast majority of their strength training. I purchased books on athletic strength training and found three variations of a seated bicep curl and not a mention of the importance of the deadlift. The certifications rarely taught about inner unit core strength and seemed to be more of a sales pitch for the newest abdominal crunch machine to the next generation of trainers. Needless to say, when they expired, I didn't bother renewing them. For one reason or another, I wasn't about to give up. Something (perhaps a little cocky) inside of me kept saying "these 'experts' don't know what they are talking about!" And soon thereafter, I realized just how right I was. 

I was introduced to the teachings of Pavel Tsatsouline over a decade ago and once the levy broke, the waters of knowledge came flooding in. I was fortunate enough to find the teachings of Tsatsouline, Chek, Fedorenko and Deluglio. This marked a fundamental change in the way I looked at strength training and the way I gauged my progress. These teachings also allowed me to see results from my practice that no one else was seeing at the time. I began from the beginning, as a child with no history and no ego. I practiced, I didn't workout. I learned and learned and then learned some more. Then I applied the knowledge and developed basic movements such as the deadlift, and the kettlebell swing until they were flawless. I progressed to more challenging moves, people even accused me of showing off - but that wasn't the case, I was just doing things they couldn't! I often noticed a row full of benches occupied by men in the gym that were sitting watching me swing, snatch and one arm pushup my way to a stronger body. I realized that benches were for spectators. Instead I kept using my entire kinetic chain to build strength, the way it would be used when I needed that specific strength! 

The way I measured my progress changed also, instead of a one rep max of a completely irrelevant exercise , I measured my success based on how well I learned how to use my body. My muscles grew, my flexibility improved and all of my joint pain from those isolation exercises went away. Kettlebell training and the world of functional exercise is infinite. It made me stronger in both my mind and body. I immediately noticed how much stronger I was in tackling real-world challenges. My posture improved, my confidence was higher and for the first time ever, I loved my strength training practice. I want to share this with you because I think the motivation to continue is paramount. Enjoying your practice and seeing unheard of results is the key to always putting one foot in front of the other. 

Author's Bio: 

Peter Hirsh is a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years. Peter has dedicated his life to the enrichment and well being of others and currently teaches classes and trains students one on one in San Diego, California. Wanting to reach a larger number of people with his teachings, Peter started Kettlebell Movement, a website dedicated to maintaining the authentic teachings of kettlebell training and promoting a simple and effective holistic lifestyle anyone can follow. Kettlebell Movement posts free weekly kettlebell workout videos.

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