Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tracy Reifkind: Programming the Kettlebell Swing 2-DVD-set

My first exposure to "Tracy-style" training dates back to the beginning of 2008 when I signed up and started preparing for my RKC. I got a tremendous amount of help right from the beginning from the members of the Dragon Door forum and the blogging part of the RKC community. I was following MRKC Brett Jones' RKC Prep Program for form practice and for conditioning Rif's advice: swings are the best method ever to build up work capacity quickly, safely and effectively. So I studied the Swing Queen's blog, adjusted her workout schemes to my own level of ability and in a matter of just a few months I could do like 1600 swings in an hour or 900 swings in half an hour - thank to Tracy's principle of distraction, combining swing types, different time and rep ladders and using weights from 12 to 24kg. (It also stripped the last rests of stubborn fat off me and I was ripped and muscular like never before - and that wasn't even my goal, just a side effect!).

Work capacity - in a deck of cards it would definitely be one of the aces. No matter what goal you're striving for, from improving body composition to honing athletic skills, you'll have to put in the work necessary, there's no way around it. The better your work capacity, the more work you can put in, the faster you get there. But it also requires a lot of mental strength and self discipline to keep "showing up and doing the work".

Before I got certified I used to teach business communication psychology a lot, and this background made me appreciate Tracy's principle of distracton even more. It's a brilliant way to sell yourself the idea of doing tons of reps of a single same exercise! Because, let's face it, even if one recognizes the exceptional value of "the center of the RKC universe", even if one really strives to stay internally focused on perfecting every single rep, the mere idea of doing hundreds of them can be discouraging and they can very well get boring. The more you have to concentrate on the scheme the less energy you have to think about how much work you have done and/or how much is still left. But there's more to it. It's human nature to group and organize things into patterns - AND to keep those patterns whole, the more complicated the pattern, the more so. You may, for example, plan 10 sets of 10 and stop by set 7 because you're tired, but you are probably less likely to abandon a 100 rep workout if it calls for a pyramid from 1 up to 10 and back down to 1, because it would leave you with a stronger feeling of 'unfinished business'...

Simply put, you can trick yourself - or your clients! - into doing workloads you never thought possible if you follow Tracy's methods. Iwas sold on them in the moment I saw a sample workout on her blog and so will you a few minutes into her DVD Programming the Kettlebell Swing. It comes with a pdf of the progressions and a Disc 2 with a panel Q&A discussion.

But let's see what you can expect.

First, one thing you should be clear about: the information on this DVD is not about how to learn or practice the swing, but how to train it once you have the basics of at least the two hand swing technique down. Apart from that, Tracy's progressions can be started at any, even a very low, level of conditioning. She lays a heavy emphasis on how to increase load incrementally, easing into high volume training: "you can start with 10 reps at a time... or even less". If you're at an advanced level, just grab a heavier bell and/or watch out for the special tips coming throughout the DVD.

You will learn, by following along if you want:

- how high volume kettlebell swing training, especially longer sets, combines aerobic and slightly anaerobic work, burns A LOT of calories AND builds muscle, increases muscle tone in the shortest amount of time;

- how you can create practically infinite ways to maximize the workload by manipulating single or multiple factors of intensity like weight, sets, reps, speed, swing types and their combinations, work to rest ratios, etc.;

- why pacing is important, how you can establish a comfortable pace that lets you go the distance, and how to do "speed swings", a less obvious alternative to heavier weights to increase intensity and boost your metabolism;

- about the importance of equal work to equal rest and how "on-the-minute training"makes it possible, even in groups, to individualize workload for everyone, how it makes tracking progress easy and how it takes beginners safely and effectively to 1:1 work:rest ratio;

- how to go beyond that and build up aerobic capacity to be able to do long sets, by "working into rest", "overloading short sets", "stealing" progressively from the rest period, while being distracted by the laddering concept, going uphill, downhill or both (all have different effect);

- a seemingly minor tweak on the one hand swing that proves to be an effective way to make sure your posture stays correct and your mechanics natural and also shortens the learning curve of the hand switch - while increasing your power output at the same time;

- why the two hand swing is easier and harder than the one arm swing at the same time, how the difficulty of transfers and one arm swings compares from different aspects, and what difference all this makes when teaching/learning vs. training the one arm swing and the hand switch;

- how you can use combinations of these different swing types either to ease into high volume training mentally, or into swinging heavier bells one handed by learning the TracyRif Roundabout, which is not only the absolutely most grip sparing swing rep scheme ever, but also has a built-in mechanism of preventing you from being thrown off-center for long by the heavy weight;

and at the end you get a sample workout combining different concepts. You can do it as it is, as a complete workout, or you can also freely choose any part or sequence and repeat it X times, but it also provides a glimpse into the endless variety of possible combinations of the presented methods - even if you just stay with the same weight (as for me, I'm a big fan of adding different bell sizes into the mix as well, an option mentioned but not demonstrated in this workshop), you could train your swings every day for years without having to repeat a single session!


Tracy Reifkind said...


Wow! I could have never said it better.....really, I couldn't! Thank you so much for this very detailed review.

I know you were already familiar with how I train the kb swing, but hopefully I threw in a couple of new methods that will be applicable to your continued training and that of your clients.

I would have loved everyone at the workshop to have had the option of switching bell sizes, and trust me, I could have kept going for at least another hour plus. But for most of the participants the work done during the demonstrations and practice was already much more that they were used to. (Mark actually stops me at one point during the workshop)

Thank you again, and We'll see you next year in Hungary!


Gabi said...


yes, it's one thing to rhyme together something for yourself from various workout descriptions and a whole other thing to see the progressions presented systematically :)

I see Pacing in a totally different light now and I can see a lot more possibilities in the Work-Into-Rest method as well. My clients are feeling it already ;)

As for the different weights, the limitations of a single workshop are of course clear to me, and you just can't show it all, I just wanted to have this option mentioned once more, as there is so much info packed in that DVD anyway, that something that is only mentioned can easily go under and that would be a pity :)

Hanneke said...

I thought about buying the dvd already. I am actually "stealing" a lot of my KB workouts from Tracy's blogs. But you convinced my on actually really buying them.
Very good review...