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More Kettlebell!

One of my missions in starting a blog is to give exposure to local area "gurus". I've had some amazing interactions and would love for this blog to be a resource for people to write guest posts. So let's kick it off! Today’s post comes from Grady Renfrow. Grady is doing a great job sharing his views and systems for triphasic training using kettlebells He is heading a strength and conditioning program at Evergreen FC teaching triphasic training that helps produce athletes to be powerful and dynamic. He has been gracious enough to write this very informative post for me.


Kettlebell Triphasic Soccer Training: It is difficult to point out one attribute necessary to create the best soccer player. With respects to coaching players, we focus on four major categories. Those four pillars are the technical, tactical, physical, and mental development of the player. A soccer player’s development starts from the first time they kick a ball and run after it. Often, a soccer player’s career starts under the age of 10 and continues until they decide to stop playing. Like any proper development curriculum, the physical training component for soccer players needs to be age-specific and progress systematically to a higher level of mastery. The kettlebell provides the perfect learning environment blending technical and physical ability into one. Like any martial art, youth athletes love learning the skill of weight training with a kettlebell. It requires discipline and consistent practice just to learn the proper technique but it takes commitment and determination to head down the path to mastery.

A huge benefit for a sport coach using the kettlebell is that it can be easily incorporated into a practice session. Since the biggest constraint of a youth sport coach is the amount of contact hours with the athletes, most coaches adopt the 80/20 rule when working with their teams. Master the 20% of skills that will yield 80% of the results for the athlete. The triphasic kettlebell approach is no different. We work on the hard skills (squats, lunges, pushes, etc.) that will make their reactive skills, or softer sills (attacking/defending, cutting, jumping/landing, etc) better for game time. The nature of kettlebell movements allows athletes the opportunity to tap into the most effective way to produce force, more so than any other method of training; therefore, making kettlebell movements some of the most explosive and powerful in existence. ​Triphasic: Soccer Players need to get in and out of situations quickly. Most youth athletes have a tough time decelerating; therefore they will have a tough time accelerating again. Thanks to the work of Cal Dietz at the University of Minnesota, we now know that the athletes are only as powerful as the amount of force they can absorb. At Evergreen FC, we have found triphasic kettlebell training to be the most efficient method. Using the triphasic training method allows coaches to breakdown dynamic movements into teachable components. By focusing on the eccentric phase, focusing on the isometric phase, and focusing on the concentric phase along with the added stabilization component from the kettlebell allow athletes to develop a strong platform to produce power. The triphasic method is such a powerful teaching tool because it allows coaches to start at the source of athleticism and progress systematically forward. In order to produce force, one must be able to absorb force. Triphasic training focuses on absorbing force first and mastering that technique before moving onto force production. The idea of force absorption is fundamental to the triphasic approach and is a major building block when creating explosive athletes. With youth athletes, the improvement is staggering. Every athlete we have trained feels the difference immediately, and they understand the truth behind the methodology. ​We know as performance coaches, that if an athlete is struggling at the eccentric phase then he/she is in the perfect development environment based off of their skill level. We now know that athletes will not benefit from the subsequent phases of training until the first (eccentric) phase is improved. By block training eccentric, isometric, and concentric phases the coach ensures that the athlete is developing at a consistent rate without skipping steps. As a youth soccer coach and performance coach I work with every age from eight-year-olds to eighteen-year-olds; and regardless of age, I know I can improve them the most by fitting them into the triphasic approach. Like any other skill acquisition, strength training with a kettlebell needs to be the right phase for the right athlete at the right time in their development. Velocity Based Training: As a youth sport coach, I want explosive athletes. I want my athletes to be able to produce force the quickest and get to the ball first. Having said that, why would my methodology of strength training be anything but quick, fast, and explosive? Coupled with teaching athletes how to absorb force using the triphasic method, deliberate practice of explosive movements using the kettlebell translate that new found strength into something applicable. It is all due to an appropriate physiological load (the bell) and moving that load as fast as possible while still being in control. Progressive overloads over time using the kettlebell produce strong, powerful, and lightning quick athletes. ​By using explosive moves like the kettlebell swing, kettlebell clean, or kettlebell snatch athletes can to tap into their stretch reflex by casting the bell back behind them (using the backswing) It loads their posterior chain in a way that will never be matched by a barbell, enabling them to dig into an awesome source of power. Partner those movements with the single-handed nature of the kettlebell, where a unilateral movement requires stability from the opposite side of the body to produce power, we start talking about seriously well rounded athletes. At Evergreen FC, not only are we using these power moves but we track them with a watt meter. Since we want to develop explosive athletes, we want to maximize training by only focusing on the most explosive reps possible. As soon as an athlete is not producing the same force during a move, they stop and recover to do it at an optimal speed again. The benefit from this velocity based training method is maximized since the speed at which these kettlebell moves can be performed is so intense.

The Swing

The kettlebell allows the athlete to connect the entire kinetic chain (ground, feet, glutes, core, shoulders, grip, bell) developing the athlete entirely, together at once. In my opinion, the swing and the snatch are the two most powerful assets in the youth athlete’s tool kit. The swing, or a dynamic deadlift, is such a fundamental piece of being an effective athlete. The horizontal displacement of the weight allows field and court athletes to mimic the directional force needed during competition. Being able to produce, control, and then absorb the force forward and backward repeatedly is the name of the game. The added benefit of the kettlebell swing is the fact that athletes can add tonnage with a heavy bell swing to really maximize power (force vs. velocity) In soccer training we use a method of teaching that starts at the simplest of concepts and progresses to something that continues to look more and more game-like until finally applying all concepts to the actual game. (see heuristics) For me as a performance coach, the swing is one of those move that helps moves athletes toward something more game-like. All of their current strength, power, coordination, and control will be needed to perform the swing well. Just like a soccer training session, all of the subsequent skills learned will need to be applied to the game. In the case of the swing, we combine all of our other skills learned like hip hinging, full-body tension, core stability into an activity that requires everything to come together. The swing is one of the most effective for this reason. The amount of hip hinges within a dynamic movement like the swing makes swing practice such an effective and efficient way to accomplish strength training within the constrained time of a sport practice. Sports performance coaches like to talk about Repeat Sprint Ability, so what better way to practice repeat sprint ability then to strength train using the kettlebell? Again, master the 20% of movements that will give the athletes 80% of their results. My advice is to master the swing.

​The Snatch

Since we know that triphasic movements create more explosive athletes and velocity based training is optimal for producing fast, reactive athletes, then the movement that athletes must strive to improve is their kettlebell snatch. Using the Push Band, we know the kettlebell snatch produces the most force. The fact that an athlete can repeatedly snatch in a short amount of time using a kettlebell makes this move the Holy Grail for an athlete’s performance. There is no time needed to reset the weight and then perform the move again. The kettlebell snatch is triphasic, the athlete must absorb the force in the backswing, produce it again by snatching it up overhead, and stabilize the weight before repeating. Being able to perform the snatch with one hand opens the door for physiologic benefits that go beyond what can be achieved with a barbell or dumbbell, again making the kettlebell more effective. Overall: When athletes pick up the kettlebell for the first time they know immediately that it will make them better. Training with kettlebells is a skill set and takes time to improve. The athletes that we work with are thrilled when they learn a new technique or increase their weight on a certain movement. It is similar to progressing up the ranks in a martial arts school. It takes coordination, synchronization, and focus to perform the moves well which is relative to all athletes regardless of age or sport. The strength that is gained from controlling such an unstable tool, the speed at which the moves can be performed, and the amount of repetitions athletes can perform without setting the weight down or changing their stance makes kettlebell training the best for youth sports performance coaches. The efficiency of the methodology makes kettlebell training so effective for sport coaches when time-on-task is such a huge factor for athletes in a learning environment. ​

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