Kettlebell Training with Competition Weight

All my earlier kettlebell training plans had a lot of volume in them. However, a lot of that volume was achieved with more sets and/or reps with lighter bell weights than that I was aiming to use for competition. Even when starting out with the 12kg bell, I did a lot of work with the 10kg intermediate bell.

Since starting my CMS journey, and as a deskbound girevik, I’ve found that I need to adapt this strategy. I need to focus on doing more with the competition weight. By doing kettlebell training with the competition weight not only do I condition my body to cope, but I also condition my mind. The mental approach is so important in sports, yet also so often overlooked. Let’s make no bones about it; a ten-minute competition set, or even shorter with heavy bells, hurts. Physically and mentally. (Er, so why do I choose to do this…?! 😉 ).

I can’t (and won’t) train kettlebells every day. I’ve been doing three or four days since the last competition. But all of that has been short and sharp. And heavy. I’ve chosen almost to exclude the lighter bell work in favour of training with competition weight alone. I believe I’ve made some real progress this way too. Even if half of that improvement is psychological, it should be of benefit in future competitions.

Kettlebell training with the competition weight also allows me to practise speed, pacing, breathing, and recovery. All of these are different with a different weight bell. By eking out an extra rep each time I’m making forward progress. Not bemoaning tiredness in grip or shoulder from the previous long-duration 16kg set for example.

I was intrigued by this approach that I’ve worked out for myself as I’ve not previously read anything on this in terms of kettlebells. Most of what I’ve seen in online plans, and known people to do, varies lifts and bell weight. There seems to be less focus on what are called test sets (sets near or at competition duration/weight). That said I am totally focused on Long Cycle, not all of the girevoy sports lifts, other than for recreation.

The closest similar conundrum I could think of was training for half and full marathons and whether to run the full distance or not. The reason often given for not doing so is recovery time. Which is certainly a factor. Due to time constraints (a long-term issue for a deskbound girevik; free time and access to bells at the same time) I had to do a four-minute set one day and a six the day after. The second set didn’t go so well as a consequence. I can do two minutes one day and four the next, but not much more. But given enough recovery time, specifically from kettlebells rather than general strength training, it does not seem so much of an issue. I’ve been doing four, six, and eight-minute sets each week for the last month and making a small amount of progress each time. I’m also less fearful of the longer sets in my head.

An interesting (and different) read on how far to run before a marathon is put forward in this piece by Jason Hohensee. He discusses why he thinks you should train beyond twenty miles. I’ve never done a marathon, but I have done a half. I chose for that to have a longest long run of close to fifteen miles because I wanted to be sure I could manage the distance. Perhaps some people react differently with their mindsets or the intersection of mind and body? Everything he says resonates with me for both running and lifting. But as he says, run it slower. You will recover if you do things sensibly.

Many of the plans include 5 and 6 day running weeks and generally ignore the rest and recovery portions of training (no real instruction for post-workout fuel, recovery exercises, etc.). Suggesting strict adherence to a pre-determined schedule is dangerous, especially with such a high running frequency (in terms of the number of days you “should” run each week). Not incorporating recovery as a part of the training plan is also dangerous. I would argue that the combination above is far more likely to lead to injury than is running more than 20 miles in training.

Plus, if we’re acknowledging that running above 20 miles places the body under a huge amount of stress, what does running 26.2 miles do? If the argument is that you increase your likelihood of injury by stressing the body to that degree, then you’re playing with fire on race day. And after months of training, an injury on race day would be devastating.

— Jason Hohensee

Clearly the argument of the competitor (marathon, or kettlebells) just wanting to compete and get through it somehow probably rules out this approach. That person may not be training as hard in any case. In which case, it would be likely to cause injury in either sport. But for those with specific goals, like my CMS, and already used to a level of training, I believe a focused approach can be beneficial. You don’t, as a female, unless gifted, start out lifting 20kg bells, so specific training is necessary. And why not tailor that to building endurance and stamina in a way that suits you?

I don’t believe my approach has had diminishing returns at all though I guess we shall find out at the weekend 🙂

I’m interested in knowing of any kettlebell specific training plans that take this kind of approach. If you know of any, please comment here or on Facebook and let me know.


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