Tony Gentilcore

Because heavy things won't lift themselves

There’s a Time and Place For Everything. Kettlebells Included.

Kettlebells

I like to consider myself as an even keeled person who tries to see the comedy in life and not to take things too seriously.

I’m originally from Middle of Nowhere, NY where I grew up in a small town with no traffic lights and no fast food restaurants.  Just to be clear though, yes, we had running water. And the internet for that matter. But barely.  My parents had been using a dial-up connection up until last year, which is considered child abuse in some states.

Love you mom!!!!!

Anyways, life moves a bit differently where I’m from.  Where I’m from people don’t slam on their car horn and go bat shit crazy if you don’t move within one-hundredths of a nanosecond of a red light turning green. Here in the city?  Different story.  Everyone is the most important person in the world, and is apparently in some dire emergency to get somewhere.

Likewise, there aren’t many things that really bother me.  Okay sure, some people can go out of their way to be “kinda douchy” and do something really irritating like talking, going to Maroon 5 concerts, or taking up two parking spots and blocking me in.

Hey dude: this isn’t Dukes of Hazzard, and I don’t drive the General Lee, so I shouldn’t have to do a window stunt just to get into my own car. Capiche?

But those are usually few and far between.

The internet, though:  now THAT’S a whole new ball game, and a place where my pet peeves seem to increase exponentially.

Given the safe domain – not to mention the anonymity – that the internet provides, it’s not surprising how it often brings out the “inner expert” in people.

And why not?  One of the advantages of the internet is the profound profoundness of it all.  Never has information been so easily accessible. And never has there been a time where people can learn everything on anything with just a simple click of a button.

Which is also it’s drawback.

Just yesterday I read an article over on Livestrong.com by a buddy of mine who described a brief, albeit effective, metabolic type workout that could easily be followed by the masses and maybe provide a nice change of pace to someone looking to shed a little fat.

As is the case with any “universal” article geared towards the general public, it had to be watered down to the lowest common denominator so that the information could be easily followed. It was a slideshow piece which provided still-frame pictures (and descriptions) of each exercise.

For those interested, go HERE.

Apparently PJ (the author) made the mistake of using dumbbells in his pictures – which makes sense given that the majority of people out there don’t have access to kettlebells.

I thought it was great and provided a solid routine for a lot of people reading.

But wouldn’t you know it, the first comment – as well as a few others that followed – were from the kettlebell nazis, trying to convey to the world that kettlebells are the only form of exercise everyone should be doing.  EVER.

The very first comment:

The swing is a great exercise………when performed CORRECTLY…….WITH A KETTLEBELL! Do not use a dumbell as it is a different and less effective move and more likely to recruit the low back for power production.

The same person, then finished with these great words of wisdom:

nice technique………..NOT!

For starters:  it’s a freakin STILL FRAME picture.  Lets get off our high horse for a second.  How can you judge one’s overall technique by one still frame shot?

Here’s a picture of Jim Wendler squatting:

Using the same logic, we could argue that his squat technique sucks because he’s not hitting at least parallel.  We all know this is bullshit, because this is a STILL FRAME shot of him either descending or coming out of the hole during a max effort attempt.

Going back to the article, I have full confidence that a dude who trains HUNDREDS of people a month, has been published in several reputable magazines, and not to mention has a pretty smart editor at Livetrong who’s job it is to make sure that high quality content makes it to the site – knows how to perform a proper swing.

Relax.  Deep Breaths.  The World Won’t End.

Secondly, while I won’t argue that using a kettlebell over a dumbbell “feels” better when performing a swing, as I noted above, not everyone has access to kettlebells in their gym.  Using a dumbbell is fine.

No, really.  It is.

And since when does a dumbbell recruit more of the lower back?  I have a hard time figuring this one out.  If one is performing a proper swing pattern, snapping their hips, “attacking their groin,” and keeping the weight close to the body, I don’t see how if someone uses a dumbbell that it’s somehow is more detrimental to the back.

Further down the comments section, there are several other readers who state that the same workout is, like, waaaaaaay more effective if done with kettlebells.

Kettlebell squats are better than dumbbell squats.  Kettlebell rows are better than barbell rows. Kettlebell swings cure cancer. Kettlebells make the best salt and pepper shakers!!

Okay, I get it already:  you like kettlebells.

And that’s cool.  I do, too.  I consider coaches like Pavel, Dan John, Mike Mahler, and Gray Cook (all of whom are “kettlebell guys) mentors. Moreover, I have a high respect for people like Neghar Fonooni, Jen Sinkler, Steve Cotter, and Batman (I think) – all of whom utilize kettlebells to a high degree as well.

I use them myself – heck, I’m even contemplating going for my HKC.  I use them with all of my athletes and clients.  But as with anything else, and I think all the peeps I mentioned above would agree – whether we’re talking about  kettlebells, TRX, yoga, deadlifts, or anything else you want to throw into the mix – they’re a tool in the toolbox, and need to be used at the right time, with the right person, for the right job.

People are entitled to their opinion, of course. Everyone shouldn’t have to sing Kumbaya and hold hands on everything, and I think it’s great when people from different view points can have a civil discussion – even if all they do is agree to disagree.

But I just get flabbergasted (yep, that’s right: flabbergasted) when people go on and on and on and on and on*about how kettlebells are the shiznit (and they can be) and have to be used for E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. That’s not necessarily the case.

End rant, exit stage left.

Anyone agree?  Disagree?  Am I off base?

 

* = and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.  You get the idea.

Did I just blow your mind? Make (or ruin) your day? Leave a comment, then share this with EVERYBODY.
  • Rbrokaw

    Nope your on the right track.
    “Insert Matt Foley here”
    Everyone gets a little hurt when “their” way might not be the best way. In the words of Dan John “It all works, for about 6 weeks”.
    The great thing is that when you finally realize that you might not know everything and actually give “x” a chance it might work out just great for you and your clientelle.
    Or it might not workout and you will have a worthy opinion of it because you have done it. Either way having an open mind and making looking for reasoning behind doing “x” will benefit you. In addition all of those around you will not want to poke their eyes out with haysickle tips.(Its a Nebraska thing)
    Peace

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks for the feedback Rbrokaw.  Much appreciated.

  • Meredith Bartolomei

    I had a new client just today tell me that they wanted ONLY to work with kettlebells and not dumbbells because they were told they were more effective. I died a little inside

    • TonyGentilcore

      Oh boy.  I wonder who was the genius who told them that?  Jillian Michaels?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Darren-Garland/685056829 Darren Garland

    Right on! I think the phrase, that if all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail applies here.  I wonder if the posters feel satisfaction when they point out flaws or inconsistencies in an article? Ps. you misspelled Wendler. in the caption.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Dammit!  Four days after writing the post and 300+ likes later, I finally fixed the typo.  Thanks for the heads up Darren!

  • http://chrisalarcio.wordpress.com/ Chris A.

    I listen to Joe Rogan’s podcast a lot and one of his sponsors now makes kettlebells.  He goes on and on (every podcast) about how kettlebells are so much better than other weight workouts and how functional (ugh) kettlebells are.  Then he talks about how in weight workouts they isolate muscles and that isn’t really how the body is supposed to work like when you do curls and stuff.  Then it becomes obvious that he was just never taught how to use his tools properly and it seems like thats where a lot of these ‘one trick pony’ guys come from.  something else wasn’t effective b/c they weren’t TAUGHT (see its not really their fault) properly.  “no such thing as bad student, only bad teacher” as one wise old man would say. thats why what you’re doing here is so great Tony, thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/neghar.fonooni Neghar Fonooni

    Fantastic work here as usual, TG! 

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks Neghar. Glad to know I didn’t come across as stepping on any toes.  I DO like kettlebells.  Promise!

      PS:  I sent your latest IF article to my girlfriend, and she LOVED it

  • Ken A

    And besides, who is going to tell Jim Wendler that HIS squat technique isn’t correct? 

    • TonyGentilcore

      I pity the fool who does, that’s for sure.

  • http://twitter.com/MarshallRoy Marshall Roy

    Great post, Tony. I agree with you 100%. It’s about having knowledge and experience, then applying that knowledge and experience *via* your tools. I can train someone with a KB, DB, BB, TRX, BW, or any other combination of letters in the alphabet. I can train someone with a fire hose, a hill, a hammer, a tire, a chain, or a bag of rocks. If you know how the body works, and if you know physics and kinesiology, and if you know your client, YOU CAN TRAIN WITH ANYTHING.

    As an RKC II, I am obviously a kettlebell fan. In hardstyle KB training, the explosive hip extension and total body tension required to perform lifts is useful for athletes and very scalable for the general population. It builds a resilient lower back, great power endurance/work capacity, and teaches people to connect (or “zip up”) their entire body. But KBs are absolutely not the *only* way to achieve those things. For the record, one of my favorite explosive hip extension movements right now, for myself and some of my clients, is the DB snatch.

    Lastly (sorry for rambling): Tony, I highly recommend you get the HKC. It’s one full day of phenomenal coaching in the basics.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks Marshall.  As I noted to Neghar above, I’m really glad this post didn’t across in a negative light to those who are KB Jedis like yourself.

      I’m thinking of going for muy HKC sometime soon.  If or when they do one in Boston, I’m there!

  • Alejandro Pichersky

    You are absolutely right!!

    I would just recommend you go and do the IKFF certification instead of HKC.

  • Mark

    Wow! Reading the comments in that article is really frustrating. There are a lot of ignorant people giving out advice.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Well, I wouldn’t say too much ignorant as I would mis-informed.  I can’t fault the regular lay public, as many have been spoon fed the wrong information time and time again (60% + calories from carbs anyone?????).  

      Anyways, what really infuriates me is when fitness professionals go on about how superior KBs are compared to everything else.  To me, THAT’s ignorant because they clearly know that there are a million and one ways to help people get into shape.

  • http://twitter.com/MarshallRoy Marshall Roy

    Alejando,

    Can you tell me more about the IKFF and your preference for it? I’m unfamiliar with its methods, though I did take a workshop from Steve Cotter two years ago and it was awesome.

  • Robert

    I don’t LIKE KB’s I just train with them same as BB,DB,TRX… 
    The great Bruce Lee once said something like this: “Use whatever it works and reject whatever is useless.”

    • TonyGentilcore

      If there’s any one quote that I think applies to EVERYTHING in life, it’s that one.  I’ve seen it repeated so many times, and it has to rank up there as one of the best ever.

  • Tyler

    Agreed 100%.  That’s the nature of people though.  They find a tool they like and the rest of the world falls away.  In fitness it’s kettlebells, TRX, bodyweight, barbells, etc; in rehab it’s ART, myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, ultrasound (LOLZ), in nutrition it’s Paleo, Low-carb, Low-fat, etc.  What’s wrong with using kettle bells, dumbbells, barbells, bodyweight and TRX?  What’s wrong with using ART and therapeutic exercise for rehab?  What’s wrong with eating a piece of kale with a lean steak?  People get too caught up in dogma when it comes to a lot of things and lose the bigger picture.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Believe me:  I LOVE that people get enthusiastic about exercise, and if they like KBs, so be it!  I just don’t like when they drink the Kool-Aid and spout how they’re superior to anything else.

      I’m just glad that most people seem to agree with me, and are on the same page.  Thanks for chiming in!

  • Barath

    Here you go Tony, I made you something that’ll definitely cool you down completely:

    http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/400x/23366887.jpg

  • Greig Taylor

     http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/duty_calls.png
    My current favorite comments section is Fitocracy where people are actively seeking and getting medical, rehab, and injury advice from random people on the internet.  Everyone is a genius except whoever writes the articles :)

  • j.b.

    Good grief. Talk about majoring in the minutia.
    Load is load, movement is movement. People need to realize that there is such thing as scope and audience when reading a 3 page article.

    • TonyGentilcore

      You’re like a strength and conditioning Yoda JB.  Not that I’m calling you old or anything, but you know what I mean….;o)

  • Kimmills62

    Completely agree with you Tony.  I love variety in my workouts.  It is what makes them fun.  I love kettlebells, but I also love using dumbbells, plates, and barbells, in my workouts, as well as body weight exercises.  And since I am stronger and in the best shape I have ever been…at 50, it is definitely working for me!  :)

    • TonyGentilcore

      Great to hear that Kim! Hopefully more people learn to follow your lead.

  • http://rolanddenzel.com/ Roland Denzel

    Good post, Tony. You know what puts an undo strain on the lower back? Carrying around a load of bullshit.
     

    • TonyGentilcore

      hahahahahahahahahahahahaha.  So true.  Great quote.

  • Joaquin

    I have the HKC cert and find it extremely useful. I feel it made me a better coach and helped bring my game up, after teaching co workers some of the progressions too it also made them more comfortable teaching certain movements. I think Kettlebells are phenomenal for teaching newbies, however they aren’t the most important tool in your tool box. In my opinion what matters most is what you’re best at teaching. If it’s oly. lifts- Great, kettlebells- awesome, bodyweight-so on so on. Your muscles don’t know the difference between the different stimulus all they are doing is what the brain tells them to, and that is to contract or relax. I truly wish anonymous internet warriors would stfu and coach. Egos only hold our profession back. Open your mind before you open your mouth and people who talk crap anonymously are whiny bitches. 

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks for the insight Joaquin! 

  • Jeromie

    Deadlift. The answer for everything.

    • TonyGentilcore

      You know, I may have to agree with that……;o)

  • Lauren L

    You hilaaarious TG. Good article too. I couldn’t even bring myself to reading the comments on the LS article because I knew I would start having kittens if I did.

  • http://heyjoob.com Juliet

    I think you’re spot on with this one, Tony. When I read the quoted comment, my initial reaction was confusion because a kettlebell is nothing more than a dumbbell in a different shape. I think people just have a tendency to get wayyy suckered into their beliefs… be it diet, exercise, or star wars.  

    Personally, I like not marrying any idea because the minute I do, I always get proven wrong. Or make myself look like a fool.

  • http://www.ericcressey.com/ Eric Cressey

    I leave the office for one day, and you stir up a kettlebell internet s**tstorm!  What am I going to do with you?

    I hope nobody is burning a TG effigy in front of CP’s building tomorrow, in light of this post.

  • http://www.BretContreras.com/ Bret Contreras

    Preaching to the choir!!!

    • TonyGentilcore

      HA!  I figured you’d like this one Bret. 

  • Cliff Harvey

    Nice article mate. I love when people assume that a swing can only be performed with a KB. I’d love to see them tell that to guys like Goerner, Saxon, Zercher or more recent legends of All-Round Weightlifting and strength sports like Steve Angell. The great thing with all the different options (KBs, DBs, BBs, bags, stones etc etc) is that they offer a different stimulus and all require subtly different movement mechanics for many of the lifts. None are better or worse…simply different. 

    • TonyGentilcore

      EXACTLY!!!  I also love how people think KBs are somehow this new phenomenon, when in fact, they’ve been around for eons.

  • http://twitter.com/rhiarti Rhiarti

    Brilliant post! Reassuring, too – hell I had someone jump on me in much the same fashion for recommending a dumbell exercise for which “barbells are better”. In that instance, I’d agree… if only I hadn’t similarly been talking to a total novice who wanted to start weight training at home, and didn’t have much room to work in, let alone confidence and cash to start throwing at barbells and squat racks! Ahem. Gimme a moment… I’m okay… Where was I? Oh, yes…

    Particular thing I’ve noticed about kettlebells is this. There’s some certification courses at my local gym. Now, bearing in mind I don’t actually think much of the types of trainers they produce, the intensive PT course is seven weeks in total. The kettlebell course? One day.

    I could be way off base, but I suspect that’s a lot of what you see in the comments – Instant Expert: Just Add Electrolyte Water™.

    That said, kettlebells are kinda fun!

  • Kyle Schuant

    I introduce kettlebells to clients with a brief description of them, and then say, 

    “In the end they’re just a chunk of iron like any other, adding resistance to your movement to help you get stronger. You can squat, press or row [demonstrate] just like with dumbbells and barbells, but the kettlebell’s shape makes them better to use for various movements, like the swing [demonstrate] or snatch [demonstrate]. You can do them with dumbbells but kettlebells move a bit easier with it, and it’s easier to learn than a barbell snatch, since the barbell is 220cm long.” I think if you want to be introduced to the basic movements, bodyweight and dumbbells work best. Pure strength, then go on to barbells. Pure cardio, okay run hills. Mobility, do yoga. But if you want a bit of strength, a bit of cardio, and a bit of mobility, the kettlebell is a pretty good tool for that. If you really want just one of those things, or want to get one of them to a high level, you need other tools afterwards. But if you want a decent level of all three, like for general health, the kettlebell is a useful tool, and reasonably cheap and compact compared to a stack of dumbbells, or barbell, plates and rack. 

    On the other hand it needs a bit more instruction compared to dumbbells and barbells. 

  • Sean

    Good stuff Tony. Best line was , “another tool in the toolbox.”  something i learned after one of those long weekends at a “Kettlebell specific” training seminar. Amen for bringing this to light. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1059582872 Natalia Worthington

    Right on. My parents had been using a dial-up connection up until this year:) 

    • TonyGentilcore

      Having high speed internet has opened up the world to my mom.  She’s a changed woman that’s for sure.

  • Debra A Papa Civ

    I don’t think any trainer would support my decision to do this, but I am on my third day of 10K swings in 10 days.  I know that the challenge is typically done in 30, but for some reason, I read it as ten at first, so, in the middle of day three I am at 2500 swings.  I’m using a comfortable weight for the 10×50 rep set/rep scheme (30lbs) and I don’t plan on going heavier for at least a few more days despite it feeling lighter each time I do it.  I’m trying to remain in that sweet spot, weight wise, where it actually helps your form.  I have no back tightness or issues so far.  Oddly, only my hands are sore.  I can feel my glues and hams, but I wouldn’t call either sore.   If I am going to die, wave me off this. 

    I don’t do everything with a Kettlebell and I’m not a Nazi, but I guess for the next week, I am. 

    Yes, I plan on some solid rest and recovery when I am done. 

    High-Fives and Blistered-Hands,
    Deb

    • http://twitter.com/kettleBente Bente Maalen

      I know people who have done 1000 swings a day for 7 days, so I don’t think the 10k in 10 days will kill you. :) 
      Good luck!

      • TonyGentilcore

        Naw, I think you’ll live!  Tell us how it goes Debra!

      • Debra A Papa Civ

        I’m 6000 in, my back and body feel great.  I’m doing 10×100 now with some sprints in between because I’m training for an event.  I can tell I am losing bodyfat.  My weight has stayed the same but my clothes are lose.  It’s the fastest I’ve seen these kinds of results in years.  I wasn’t even going for a body comp change.  It was just supposed to be a challenge.  I recommend it!

  • Pj

    I got a real kick out of those comments Tony. I actually anticipated all of those comments as I was putting the sideshow together. My first instinct was to respond and “defend” myself, pointing out all of the things you did in this post. But what’s the point really? I wish I had the time to troll forums and blog comment threads, but I’m busy running a business and getting REAL people REAL results.

    Bottom line: a kettle bell is a source of resistance. Nothing more, nothing less. I could use a 50 lb. water jug and perform that same workout effectively…and my body wouldn’t know the difference. Muscles don’t have eyes.

    Thanks for coming to my defense buddy.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Yeah, well, I’m like you: I don’t normally troll the comments section either, but I just happened to do so that particular day and thought I’d make a blog post out of it. I guess I was just in a bad mood that morning….haha

      • Pj

        Youtube is worse. I need to disable comments on there as well.

  • BQuaife

    Good blog post but it would have been better if you typed with one hand while simultaneously snatching a kettlebell in the other.

    • TonyGentilcore

      While balancing on a kettlebell no less!

  • Brent

    Do you think batman recruits more awesome when he uses kettlebells alone, or all sorts of training apparatus (including bad guys)???

  • http://www.brandonricheyfitness.com/blog/ Brandon Richey

    Tony this is a very good article. Like you I am CSCS and I utilize kettlebells as the center piece of my training. This doesn’t mean that I don’t love other implements (barbells, med balls, dumbbells, etc.). You hit the nail on the head when you said it is a tool in the toolbox. As coaches we all tend to gravitate towards our preferred tools. If we are talking specific lifts I personally prefer swinging kettlebells to dumbbells simply because it feels more natural. By design the kettlebell is better made for this particular move in my opinion. However swings and snatches can be performed with dumbbells. I think it’s fine for folks to experiment with both. Not saying some of the same moves can’t be implemented with dumbbells, but I do think some things are better suited with one when compared to the other. For instance, if I’m going to be doing chest presses I prefer the dumbbell. The bottom line is that I believe whatever is more practical is usually the better option for any given situation. I do get what you are saying though. Some people tend to want to have an “all or nothing” attitude with some training implements. Once again, great article! :-)  

  • TonyGentilcore

    Just wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone who chimed in to offer their kind words and support. To say I was surprised by the overwhelming POSITIVE response would be an understatement!  I was half expecting at least one hate mail….;o)

    Glad to know that my little rant was taken in the right context and didn’t come across the wrong way.

    Also, thanks to all who shared the article. Seriously.  I’d hug every one of you, but that would be kind of weird.  Internet high fives instead! 

  • http://mrlowbodyfat.com/ Muata

    Tony, what’s funny about the KB vs DB discussion is that it’s a modern creation (read: started with the advent of the internet).  Whether it’s books written by Saxon, Hackensmidt, or Jowett, they are talk about doing the swing with a DB (or two).  For most old time strongmen, weightlifters, and bodybuilders, there was no either/or BS when it comes to KBs or DBs that goes on today.  Weight was weight, and your goal was trying to lift more.  

  • Pingback: Yael's Variety Hour: Resilience, Marketing, Extroverts, Debtors, Princesses, Feminists & More - Yael Writes

  • Brandon

    Tony,
    Just thought I would add in here (sorry if anybody else has already posted this), I recently watched a get up tutorial by Gray Cook, who as you stated is a “kettlebell guy”, and he actually said that yes it’s great to use a kettlebell but if you don’t have one use a dumbbell.  Basically his point was to lift something overhead and practice safe technique.  I work in two different areas at our university facility, the high performance area has kettlebells, the general public gym does not.  I teach swings and get ups (and other get up variations) to most people, regardless of which area I’m working in at the time and get the same results.  Great argument. It’s time that people start using the tools rather than the boxes themselves.  

    • TonyGentilcore

      SWEET! Glad to know that I was onto something. I KNEW guys like Gray (as well as all the others I mentioned) were on the same track as myself. Of, I should say I’m on the same track as them…..I’m no where near as smart as they are…haha.

      Thanks for the comment Brandon!

  • Debra A Papa Civ

    9000K swings in, definitely lost fat, as I am virtually the same weight but my clothes fit very loosely.  I feel great.  My hands are in need of some help, however.  Quite rough.    I recommend trying 10K in 10 days.  

  • Pingback: Top Good Reads of the Week: Edition 6 | LaVack Fitness

  • Pingback: Improving Exercise Technique: Pull-Throughs « Fitverse

  • Pingback: Top Good Reads of the Week: Edition 6