Once you have the swing technique down, it’s time to learn cleans and snatches which we will cover in future Hard style articles and videos so stay tuned. Make sure to subscribe to our blog through the form on the right side or at the bottom on mobile devices.
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Since 2001, he has assisted many people with their strength training, conditioning and athletic rehabilitation including; adult clients, police, fire, military professionals, and athletes from middle school to the Professional level. Today it is taught most popularly through the ROC (Russian Kettle bell Certification) school and in Strongest.
Because a loose joint absorbs the force meant to go elsewhere; it “leaks” power and is easily injured. ROC teaches how to focus the scattered energies of the body into a directed all-out effort while minimizing the odds of injuries.
Originally, “hard style” referred to martial arts like Karate which concentrated total body muscle tension into one extraordinary effort—“one punch, one kill”. When Pavel Tsatsouline served in the Soviet Special Forces, his unit was among those who had adopted a Karate-based style of hand-to-hand combat.
The hard style of kettle bell training was born to support this hard style of fighting. Determined to take the skill of strength as far as possible, Pavel researched every possible venue that could be of help, ranging from reading obscure neuroscience papers and old Soviet bio-mechanics texts, to picking the brains of gymnastics, power-lifting, and arm-wrestling elite.
Power-lifting coach Louie Simmons has said it best: “Pavel has reverse engineered what the strongest athletes do naturally.” This is Hard style. Such techniques include: compound movements, appropriate timing of body tension, power breathing, not training to failure or exhaustion, strength as practice, doing fewer things better, etc.
If you have been around the block, the hard style techniques will noticeably and immediately improve your strength in pull-ups, pistol squats, kettle bell military presses, one-arm push-ups, handstand push-ups, and a variety of killer abdominal drills. If you are new to strength, you will learn how to do these lifts right or, if you have a long way to go, get a clear set of individualized instructions for mastering them.
(Pictured left: Gregory Sport Kettle bell ; Right: Hardstylekettlebell.) The key feature of the sport style of kettle bell is that the focus is on power efficiency over a long period of time.
Most events are ten minutes long and the participant is not allowed to put the kettle bell down. Thus, the person is trying to conserve energy in the movements so that he or she can be efficient over time.
In the below video, you can see how the athlete’s movement is fluid and how she is never out of breath over the allotted time period. This explains the different handle design of the two kettle bells in the above photo.
This style has historically taken components from the martial arts, and it relies on being able to switch quickly from being tight to being loose. Similar to a martial artist who quickly becomes tense when a punch is thrown.
For example, someone doing an endurance event would use long, deep breaths to slow the heart rate. In late 2012, Pavel Tsatsouline left the Russian Kettle bell Challenge (ROC) to start a new endeavor, Strong first.
There were probably plenty of reasons for this split, but as of now both of these groups remain relatively similar in their style of teaching (there are minor differences in standards, but in general most of the teaching are Pavel’s, and they remain the same). One of the reasons for the new organization is that Pavel’s teachings have always extended past kettle bells.
Most of my first exposure to his teachings were from popular bodybuilding magazines (e.g., the Solo Squat routine). This type of training fits with what he has done for military and police units as most likely they need explosive strength rather than longer term efficiency in movements.
As Andrew Read elegantly pointed out, there are many problems with mobility and the safety of this “American swing” movement. I have heard it compared to adding a shrug after a dead lift is completed.
The problem with this moderate approach is that the CrossFit standard describes being overhead as the end point of the movement. In Hard style and Gregory Sport style, the kettle bell is not placed on the ground during the snatch until the competitor is done.
Many CrossFit style competitions require the Crossfire to set the kettle bell down on the ground between each rep (similar to the Olympic weightlifting snatch). However, watching competitors do this movement leads me to believe that much more discussion of kettle bell snatch technique could be used by the CrossFit community.
Some have questioned the safety of the CrossFit American-style swing based on the mobility requirement of getting the arms overhead (at the top position, the hands are close together, which causes internal rotation of the shoulder joints and might lead to shoulder impingement in those lacking the required mobility). The Hard style and Gregory Sport styles both promote fitness in different ways.
However, Strongest requires all instructors to be able to do 100 kettle bell snatches in five minutes and to do grinding movements such as get ups. To simplify the difference, Hard style promotes explosive, intense, and short duration exercises, while Gregory Sport promotes power endurance movements that are efficient.
Each runner will utilize strength, explosiveness, and muscle efficiency, but in different ways. What works best for overall fitness, sport-specific physical preparedness, or military and first responders are questions that have not been answered.
No other conditioning exercise is as easy on your joints as the hardstylekettlebell swing yet delivers the same health benefit. Train the swing and you’ll develop the essential components of long-term physical health — a strong back, glutes and legs combined with cardiovascular endurance.
It works the hamstring, butt and back muscles or posterior chain ”, like no other. Swings challenge the grip, forearms and shoulders and simultaneously exhaust the thighs.
The swing is a hip hinge, the strongest human movement. And the lift is ballistic — explosive power sending the kettle bell on it trajectory (like an iron ball from a cannon).
Golf drive or tennis serve, Taekwondo kick or boxers punch, the power comes from the hips. Hip power is the foundation of the human athlete.
The big and strong muscles of the posterior chain co-ordinate to deliver the maximum power. And that power is delivered through the club, racket, foot, fist — or kettle bell.
Every rep is a restorative combination of tension and stretching. Swinging a kettle bell rejuvenates the back, hip and hamstring flexibility you’ve lost from years of sitting.
And it counters the poor posture caused by hours hunched over your computer. Because in reality, it’s the subtleties of swing technique that unlock its power.
But with the right instruction, a kettle bell swing isn’t difficult to learn. And it’s safe and versatile enough to be part of anyone’s training, from university athlete to 70-year-old grandmother.
For raw power and strength, short heavy sets and plenty of recovery time in-between. For endurance or fat loss, lighter kettle bells, more reps, shorter rests.
The hard style swing is one of the first kettle bell exercises you learn, and it should always be part of your training. It is less flashy than other ballistic kettle bell lifts like the snatch or clean.
Learning the hardstylekettlebell swing does take a little patience and practice, but you’ll quickly develop the skills. No other exercise is as easy on your joints as the hardstylekettlebell swing and still delivers an equal health benefit.
ROC is a “hard style” of kettle bell training born in the spec ops of the Soviet Union. The simplified goal of this style of kettle bell training is to reverse engineer what the best in the world do naturally or through years of practice.
Some of those pieces are: Kettle bells (our preferred tool), High Tension Techniques, Relaxation Techniques, Flexibility Drills, Joint Mobility drills and a drive to continually evolve and progress. Yes, as a School of Strength the high tension techniques have a special place in the ROC system.
There is no safer, or more effective technique I am aware of, for teaching people to not only be stronger right now, but to allow them to build strength for a lifetime. The evolution of the ROC, including the standardization of the ROC curriculum, is something I have been proud to be involved with, and I would like to take this opportunity to clarify and refine what is Hard style, and how that applies to both the ballistic lifts (swings, snatches, etc…) and grinding lifts (presses, squats, etc…)
Pavel laid out the High Tension Techniques in Naked Warrior if you are not an ROC and would like to learn more about them. If the description stopped there you might walk away with the idea that tension tells the story.
And learning how to adjust your tension means you can choose the “volume” level at will thereby assisting you in achieving control of your muscles. This is also a drill used in boxing and martial arts to find the percentage of effort in a kick or punch that hits “hardest”.
In both the martial arts and kettle bell percentage drill people will find their best cleans or punches between the 65 — 80% effort range. Ballpark it around 70% or so and you have a level of effort that results in powerful swings or punches that can be performed again and again.
But if you just stop there, you don't have the whole story because we have to talk about the Grinding lifts, the military press for example. And to be able to hit that standard — of a near maximum overhead press — the high tension techniques need to be applied.
This is another area where certain groups have taken pains to stop the story at the high tension aspect. “ Our nervous system is guided by the 'dominant', the single focus, in our case lifting a weight.
Focusing on the tension and forgetting about lifting changes the dominant, as it happens with a heavy gripper. Here the mentality of “if a little is good a lot is better” kicks in and people use the off hand on every press no matter the weight.
So keep the squeeze of the free hand for sticking points and max effort presses. If you did try for maximal effort on every press: 1) the weight would always feel heavy, 2) you would never accumulate any volume before you fatigue.
Another area that can create a lot of “Ugly style” moves is the inappropriate use of the Viking Warrior Conditioning protocol. When people get overly concerned with the Rpm (reps per minute) and sacrifice proper form or never practice a variety of snatches to balance out the effect on the body.
VOC is a speed based protocol so the lockout can become short and the tension of trying to go fast can alter normal smooth KB form. Hard style ROC includes flexibility, relaxation, strength, skill and athleticism and while tension is used as one of the techniques it is not the whole story.
So in refining Hard style, I would emphasize the skill development from high tension to optimal tension, and the skill of maintaining the speed of a movement while dialing in the level of effort to create an athletic powerful result. Hopefully this has assisted you in developing a better picture of Hard style ROC Kettle bell training.
Brett Jones is a Pittsburgh, PA based Strength and Conditioning professional and Master Instructor with the ROC program. He holds the CSS certification from the NSA and is co-creator of the CK-FMS program combining the Functional Movement Screen and ROC.
Someone far more skilled than I am at my job once told me if I couldn’t explain something simply then I didn’t really understand it. I would have these wild explanations that jumped from one spot to the next, e.g., “Kettle bells are good for your shoulders because of the offset weight distribution.
From the amazing feats of Gregory competitors who do ten-minute sets of double 32 kg long-cycle clean and jerks to the ROC snatch test of one hundred reps in five minutes with a 24 kg bell, there’s no soft or easy path visible. Instead, the term refers to a type of hand-to-hand combat taught in Russian special operations in the 1970s.
Loose like a whip preparing to strike, and as hard as iron when focus is delivered to the blow. By splitting our lifts into two main categories — grinds and ballistics — we are able to focus on two very different, although athletically essential skills, within practice sessions.
This low stress practice allows the body to learn how to perform the skill of creating tension when needed to safely move the heaviest weights. Perhaps if your name is Can or Hatfield, but for the majority of people the skill of lifting a heavy weight is unnatural and foreign and in the same way that you wouldn’t make a white belt beginner full contact spar with a seasoned black belt you shouldn’t let novice lifters try for a max lift until they’ve spent some time applying focus to their technique.
As the ROC manual says, “If you don’t practice these techniques with a light bell, you surely will not be able to do it when you meet a heavy one.” However, developing or trying to keep the body this stiff and tight during a set of swings just isn’t going to work.
In fact, Russian researchers found that elite athletes were able to go from tense to lose and back again 800% faster than the rest of us. A punch lashes out, fast, loose and like a whip only for the fighter to become a solid steel girder behind it at the moment of impact — time.
As I’ve written previously in my articles on the swing there is a bell that is the right size for each of us to practice this skill. Continually going after a heavier and heavier bell often results in what Master ROC Brett Jones termed “Ugly style” — a slow, grinding swing devoid of snap or any semblance of speed and power.
Because a loose joint absorbs the force meant to go elsewhere; it “leaks” power and is easily injured. “Coordination of movement is getting rid of excessive degrees of freedom in different joints…” (Bernstein) “Steering Strength” (McGill).
Hairstyle strength training is the practice of the total compression skill. ROC teaches how to focus the scattered energies of the body into a directed all-out effort while minimizing the odds of injuries.
To me, now with more experience and familiarity with the ROC system and how it relates to all training, when I look at it, I just see exactly what you would understand about your activity if you were a world-class athlete. You’d have spent many, many years doing low stress practice of your skills — from playing scales if a piano player, to swimming countless laps, to putting from every conceivable angle on the practice greens.
You’d have practiced, with focus, on removing the superfluous and improving essential skills of your pastime. Robert has a background in physique development and writes articles that teach you how to get fit with exercise and proper mindset.
The important thing is to focus on the method that more closely aligns with your goals as a kettle bell lifter. An athlete participating in GS uses a submaximal weight and performs repetitions of a single kettle bell exercise for a set time period, which is traditionally 10 minutes.
Like competitors in a marathon, GS athletes must focus on staying relaxed by utilizing anatomical breathing and efficient movement technique. The number of repetitions completed in the 10-minute window is used to rank GS competitors within their respective divisions (based on body weight and kettle bell weight).
However, competitions have evolved over the years and today there are organizations that offer single and double bell variations of Jerk, Snatch, and Long Cycle for both men and women. The sport requires a great deal of mental fortitude; imagine not being able to set down two extremely heavy weights for 10 whole minutes!
There will come a moment during the 10-minute set when the nervous system signals the brain that the body has reached exhaustion, and it requires a tremendous amount of physical and mental energy to push past that point. The beauty of GS competitions is watching lifters struggle through an immense battle of body and mind to achieve their goals.
Only if the lifter has enough strength for the load to be submaximal can they train their endurance and develop the oxidative potential of their muscle fibers. While GS requires massive aerobic capability, Sport-style athletes must train for both endurance AND power.
They must relax as much as possible while competing to give their muscles the ability to continue powerfully contracting for long periods of time. Hardstylekettlebell workouts are a more recent development in training theory, brought to the world by Pavel Tsatsouline.
There are no 10-minute timers; the goal is to complete many repetitions while using breathing techniques to power through the movements with maximal body tension. Ballistics are explosive movements that create momentum to move the kettle bell against the force of gravity.
The goal is not to drop the kettle bell from the overhead position, but to apply resistance to guide it along its path. Marathoners and sprinters are both runners, but with contradictory goals that require building different energy systems.
If you want to build endurance and mental tenacity while learning how to relax under duress, consider the GS style of training. On the other hand, Hard style is a great way to build speed and power that translates well to sports that utilize the same energy system.
If quick, effective workouts for general fitness are your goal, Hard style is the best place to start. This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
In today’s world we spend the majority of our days doing things in front of us with terrible posture. Cubicles) for hours at a time not moving and making the front of our body even tighter.
If You’re Not Doing The Kettle bell Swing, You’re Destined To Stay Fat, Tight & Weak For The Rest Of Your Life! This overuse of the muscles on the front side of our bodies is called “anterior dominance” and it is plaguing our society.
Anterior dominance results in imbalances in our muscles causing us to move and perform at sub-optimal levels. And because of our terrible posture — because our anterior muscles are shortened and tight pulling us forward — we give the illusion of being weak and unconfident as opposed to standing erect with our chins up.
It’s no wonder that we’re generally unhealthy compared to previous generations that didn’t live a convenience lifestyle in this information age. And there is one exercise — that if you incorporate it into your daily routine — can easily combat the ill effects of anterior dominance and the Western Lifestyle.
FrequencyExercise TypeIntensityRepetitionsRest up to 7x per week strength training high intensity varies by workout varies by workout Once labelled “hard core”, kettle bells are now popping up in every gym, garage and backyard because of their portability and reputation for fast results. Go into any gym and you’ll see inexperienced exercisers turning a swing into a front squat and shoulder raise exercise further tightening our hips, quads, chest and shoulders and just adding to the anterior dominance issue that I told you about above.
A hip hinge — like a dead lift movement — forces you to use those posterior chain muscles to move the kettle bell. It will allow you to loosen your tight hips and strengthen your butt so that you’ll develop the rear end of an athlete.
It will bulletproof your low back by creating an armored brace around your midsection, and it will get rid of that paunchy gut. “If You’re Not Doing The HardstyleKettlebell Swing, You’re Destined To Stay Fat, Tight & Weak For The Rest Of Your Life!”
As opposed to starting your set of swings from the standing position like how you see most amateurs do it, the hike pass allows you to overstretch your lats — a powerful muscle in your upper body with a direct relationship with your glutes — and get more “juice” out of your swing. Push your hips back keeping your butt high and bend your knees slightly.
Always making sure your shoulders stay above the level of your hips, “hike pass” the kettle bell through your knees by contracting your lats. When you push your hips back keeping your butt high and your shins vertical, you are hinging.
This is good because most people today are hip flexor and quad dominant (your anterior muscles), so learning how to load and use your posterior chain creates a natural balance between front and back that will help in preventing knee and hip issues. Imagine that you are growing roots through your feet and grab the ground with your entire foot.
Getting proper instruction from an expert so that you can MASTER THE KETTLEBELL SWING is the best thing that you can do for your training regardless of your goal. If you want to build strength, kettle bell swings will forge a grip of steel and will add pounds to your dead lift & squat.
If you want to boost your athleticism, kettle bell swings will make you more powerful and add height to your jump and shave seconds off your sprints. If you want to pack on muscle, swinging a heavy kettle bell will build an intimidating upper back & set of shoulders.
And if you want to shed body fat, swings will incinerate blubber like butter melting in an iron pan.