After shelling out some pretty good coin on a set of DragonDoor Kettlebells, the last thing I wanted to do was waste money on a DVD that just showed me how to handle a kettlebell and wasn't even a workout. I then found myself over at a friends house and he had this DVD so I watched it. I now realize that this is a DVD that is worth more than the price of the kettlebells. This is what I mean...
I had intended to watch youtube kettlebell workouts to learn form and technique, but after seeing the DVD, I think that'd be very unwise. Although you can do this, the DVD gets into some real specifics on form. He covers a lot of things that you're not going to be able to visually see on a youtube workout video. Things like, tightening your glutes, driving your heels into the ground, popping your hips (well, you can sort of see this), pushing your body away from the kettlebell vs pushing it up (big difference), and so on and so on... I have yet to see a free video out there that gets into the detail that he does on form.
I now have a MUCH greater appreciation for how technical the movements need to be to get maximum benefit from the workouts and also to decrease the potential for some serious injury. That's where I mean that the DVD is worth more than the price of the kettlebell. Kettlebells are dang heavy and awkward when you're new to them; it's SO easy to do an exercise wrong and not know it! Before I bought my kettlebells I went to the gym to test them out after watching some videos. It seemed like I got a decent workout, but I now realize my form was a total mess and I'm amazed that I didn't injure myself. I'm very grateful that my friend had this video. If you're new to kettlebell training, I believe this to be an absolutely essential purchase.
The only reason I marked this down 1 star is because he's a bit extreme on laying on the Russian persona. Although the instruction is excellent, the "I'm a hard-core Russian bit" gets old very quick. Also, there are some words that get obscured because he's trying to do a thick Russian accent. It would be a much better video if he just acted normal.
on April 28, 2012
I love this product; it has worked quite well for me. It is, however, clear that this book isn't right for everyone. I've been following Pavel's program for about three months now, and have indeed gotten impressive results beyond any training I've ever tried in the past. I'll give a somewhat long-winded description of my own journey, in the hope that it will help you with yours.
I had always done enough physical activity to prevent myself from slipping too far into torpor and obesity. My program has generally included a haphazard combination of big city machine based workouts at various gyms, martial arts, and not generally paying too much attention to diet. My weight stayed more or less under control, I could do moderate physical activity without too much trouble, and intense physical activity when needed, though with a lot of cussing and sweating. But I never crossed the line into impressive strength or fitness, no matter how hard I worked. I could do a bunch of pushups, but very few chinups. I could Stairmaster for a half hour with high intensity, but I got winded after a few minutes of trail running.
Three years ago I effected a major lifestyle overhaul; I moved to a rural area, and began thinking seriously about health and longevity (not surprisingly, this coincided with my fortieth birthday.) I began with "Starting Strength" by Mark Riptoe. It is an outstanding book that focuses on just four major exercises, the squat, the overhead press, the bench press, and the dead lift. In addition to changing my focus from a bunch of marginally effective and (I believe) dangerous weight machines to perfect form with free weights, this volume got me closer to the strong, integrated and useful physique that I wanted to carry in to middle age. Although my progress was satisfying, after about 18 months it became clear to me that I wasn't going to continue with the Riptoe program. The goal set of Starting Strength includes major gains in size with ever-heavier lifts, which wasn't right for my personal fitness goals, and a poor match for my lifestyle (not to mention age.) Plus, eating between three and four thousand calories a day just isn't practical for me. I was looking for a program that would lead to a lean, strong physique, highly integrated strength, and require fewer calories to support.
I spent about a year of working with free weights (including kettlebells,) body weight exercises and a lot of jump rope for cardio. Aside from an overly-monolithic emphasis on jump rope killing my right elbow and shoulder, this regimen (pulled from diverse sources such as Crossfit.com, Men's Health Magazine, and conversations with other enthusiasts at the gym) kept me in a good place physically. My progress, however, wasn't quite what I wanted. In shape, but not getting much closer to my goals.
The thing to note, however, is that when I started doing Pavel's program, I was already in OK shape. I would NOT want to start using this book if I was starting from scratch. Pavel does an excellent job of breaking down each movement, and providing the necessary "build up" to allow a conscientious follower to do the exercises safely, but the steps leading to accomplishing the lifts and pulls are not going to improve your strength and stamina to the point where this program will work for you. If you consider yourself weak and out of shape, start with several months of simple, rewarding exercises to get you half way there. Do pushups. Do core strength exercises. Do burpees and jumping jacks. Work with dumbells, and do light freeweight squats WITH EXCELLENT FORM.
Here's the good news: If Enter the Kettlebell is right for you, it will work like friggin' magic! For several months I've been doing Pavel's "Program Minimum," and eating mindfully but without too much stress about how my calories are distributed. I have watched my body transform completely, with visible results beyond even what I got from Starting Strength. I'm not getting huge, just very lean and strong. The stubborn pockets of flab are burning off for the first time since I acquired them some time after puberty. I can do things I've never been able to do before. The first real shock came when I was goofing around on the playground with my students. We have one of those awesome, high swing sets, and it occurred to me that I could probably launch myself off the ground in a vertical jump, grab the high bar, haul myself up and end up sitting on top of it. Did it first try with no problem. Now, I've never been able to do stuff like that before, and it's always been frustrating. Now, I'm like an orangutan. My workouts are brief and intense, leave me fresh rather than exhausted, and I am constantly finding new things that my body can do. Again, it feels to me like Pavel's program has been a magic elixir that has unlocked my potential, but it is important to remember that I hit the ground running when I got the book. DO NOT start with Pavel's program if you are not already in at least decent shape. But if you are stuck on a plateau and looking to commit and move, this is the place to go.
And now, to address the most frequent criticisms of Enter the Kettlebell:
Yep, it's an expensive book. To all of the whiny crybabies who are shocked to find that Pavel wants to make a buck off of his products: So don't buy the book. It is a well-produced product with excellent photos, a good binding and quality writing. So Pavel wants money. So do I. So do you.
In addition to being expensive, the book has a lot of information that doesn't lead directly to doing the exercises. I don't consider it to be "padded." I like the background, scientific justification, the humor and anecdotes. They make the book interesting and fun to read and assist in motivation. The guy is a good writer and I appreciate that.
Finally, Pavel's program is, I repeat IS dangerous. You are swinging a big piece of iron around. You could destroy your shoulders. You could wrench your back, neck, knees and elbows. The kettlebell could stave in your walls, floor or head.
In the final analysis, there may be more folks out there for whom this book is wrong than those for whom it is right. If it is right for you, you will see gains that are actually shocking. At age 43, I am rapidly approaching the kind of body I've wanted since I was a teenager.