Lift this, not that!

In the last month, I have witnessed a confident 8 year old swing a 16kg comp bell with some skill, and seen a 67 year old client of mine, with complicated medical history, move happily up to a 16kg bell as well. So it makes me wonder why are we still seeing so many exercise classes promoting the use of teensy-weensy bells of say 2 and 3kg?

Kettlebell lifting, after all, is a serious endeavour. What other sport is mimicked in such a derisory manner in the group exercise industry? Weight lifting without weight is a strange one. Do we have cricket with foam bats, or water-free swimming? I don’t think so.

When I first started training clients in kettlebell lifting, I acknowledged their hesitancy at lifting 8kg overhead, and “allowed” them to use the horrid badly-designed 4kg bells I kept hidden away in a kit bag, just for the first session. At the end of the session, I would call those nervous guys over and get them to lift the 8kg bell, with me ready to take it off them if the lift truly failed. Every time, the lift worked, because 9 times out of 10 it’s going to prove to be a psychological barrier, and once the class member has swung the bell, cleaned it and generally become accustomed to how it feels in the hand, they are going to be relatively at ease with attempting a lift.

Why is the barrier there in the first place? Because society has spent the last 150 years inventing our way out of stretching, reaching, or making ourselves unstable. We have done away with climbing, or storing things in high or awkward places, all in the name of convenience. The result is new class members freaking out at lifting their arms above their head. Better to tackle this than supply miniature bells, I reckon.

I have taken a strong dislike now to even resigning myself to newbies using the 4kg wrong-shape bells for a first session. I would rather they acted out the lifts empty handed, or held a shoe for example, so they had a focus point, and then move onto the 8kg bells by the second class. Once I have seen them manage the manoeuvre, I can assist them to lift a “proper” bell, and the integrity of the class is maintained.

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