Sunday, January 24, 2010

Building volume with the Pumpkins

Since my last post just after X-mas I've been enjoying lifting the "Pumpkins", AKC's orange 28kg kettlebells. I am such a freak for these things that I have really enjoyed it.
At first they felt noticeably heavier than my 24kg bells ("The Wonder Twins", as I dubbed them in my earlier review last year). I only clean and jerked them 25 times in 4 minutes (just over 6 rpm) the first time I lifted them on December 25th. Less than I month later I can maintain over 8 rpm for that same time period. I've had a number of sets of five minutes and over. My form with these heavier bells has improved as well; smoother and less jerky, and sticking the lockouts without pressing them.
I've had two primary means of acclimating to the heavier bells. One is to increase the volume. Typically, I perform just one "money" set with my competition weight kettlbells. This set ranges from 4-10 minutes long, 90% of the time between 5 to 7 minutes. Occasionally I will do an extra set with lighter kettlebells. But usually its just one set, then a set of squats, then stretching and done. This has worked well for me.
But to get used to these heavier bells I decided the best way was to spend as much time under them as possible. And the way to do that was to do shorter sets, but more of them. I started with 5 sets of 2 minutes. I did this for 4 consecutive workouts.
Then 3 sets of 3 minutes. I did this for 3 workouts.
The next step was transition to 2 sets of 4 minutes, but I had to travel for a few days and could only do one 4-5 minute set for a few days.
I returned home and for the last couple workouts I've done 2 sets of 4-5 minutes each.
I think for the time being I will make set one the set that I work on building duration, that is, the ability to lift the bells for longer and longer periods of time. Set 2 will be a slightly shorter set that I use to increase my pace.
For example, last night's first set was five minutes long. I set the timer for five minutes, and lifted without regard to pace. In my head, I did internal "7 counts", that is, I lifted 7 reps then paused/rested in the rack for a few seconds, then resumed for another 7 reps. I repeated this process until the timer went off. Using this method, I completed 32 reps, which is 6.4 rpm.
I rested a few minutes, then did a 4 minute set. This time I set the timer to go off every minute, and intentionally tried to complete at least 8 rpm. I ended up with 33 reps, completing 8 reps per minute for the first three minutes and nine reps in minute 4. Rpm for the second set was 8.25.
Set one was easy, and I spent the entire time working to improve my technique. Set 2 was challenging but manageable, and I spent the entire set in "clock management" mode, simultaneously considering technique and pace for every rep.
The upside is that I have grown very accustomed to the weight of the new bells, I have increased my baseline rpms with this weight, and I can lift them longer at a faster pace. While I diverged from the AKC approach for the few workouts that I used to build volume, my new template (one long set for duration, one shorter set for pace) is very AKC-like. I'm not one to be a slave to orthodoxy, but their approach has really worked in producing CMS and MS athletes quickly (can you say "Ice Chamber"?).
In any event, the bells feel lighter than they did on December 25.
One other thing I've done to improve my lifting is video recording. I bought a second-hand Flip Ultra for $50 a few weeks ago. Since that time I've been recording almost every workout, then reviewing the video to look for flaws I should work on. Last night was no exception. Here is the recording of my 33 rep 4 minute set below. Thanks for reading...


  1. David,
    Nice to see you update your blog! Strong set. Still seem to be pressing out at the end of most reps. Also fighting the bells on the way down. I do this too! It is wasted energy. I think concentrating on the first bump and launching the bells off the pelvis should help you avoid the press out at the top. You have strong legs, why not get the most out of them? I find that over exagerating my exhale just prior to the first bump helps keep my elbows connected to my pelvis for the explosive first bump. Cleans look strong. Keep up the good work. Before you know it the 28's will feel like the 24's.


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  3. Thanks for the tips, Matt! I will try to put them into practice.
    By the way, when your snatches catch up with your jerks you will be past CMS and heading into MS territory. Its obvious the work with the 32's is helping you. Good luck in Toldeo.

  4. Good to hear the bells are getting lighter. Keep it up.

  5. Hi David, I have a similar approach to your yours for biathlon.
    One long set, then next size bell up and short sets to achieve the same number of reps.
    minimal assistance, and switch to lighter bells & faster tempo the following day for a light workout about 60% of what I did. It provides a cycling wave, and doesn't leave me thrashed like if I was constantly pushing myself.
    Keep up the good work!