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. 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.
This will train the 1-arm to get stronger without consistently repeated repetitions; you will get slight rest as the other arm is working. Grab the handle with a slightly off-centered grip so you can easily grasp the kettle bell with the free hand during the transition.
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. In the macro, this means staying fresh between sessions and prioritizing recovery and relaxation in life.
To that end, here is a relaxation meditation sequence that you can use to develop internal awareness and remove tension: While this may seem tedious, you are building stronger parasympathetic control that you can then utilize in your training to quickly relax certain areas.
Most people stop the hard style conversation at high tension and acceleration, but the real magic is in the ability to go from one extreme to the other and to know how to work in between. Make sure to subscribe to our blog through the email form that pops up or is on the right side on desktop or the bottom of mobile devices.
Make sure to subscribe to our next post about Kettle bells and Powerlifting by completing the form in the right column. We recommend you read more about receiving a quick, free, dynamic kettle bell workout every week you can click below.
Zack Henderson, SFG II, NFL, Sub, enjoys coaching people of all skill levels to become stronger than ever.