Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Attention to detail and appropriate progressions lead to major gains.

By Ryan Halvorson
Oct 22, 2015

Client: Justin

Personal Trainers: Brittany van Schravendijk, CSCS, and Kristen Karhlo, CSCS, KOR Strength and Conditioning

Location: San Diego


Surpassing expectations.

On August 8, 2015, Justin, a client at KOR Strength and Conditioning, competed in his first Kettlebell Sport Nationals. He participated in the long cycle event, which requires competitors to perform the clean and jerk with two kettlebells for 10 minutes.

“Justin is a competitor,” says Kristen Karhio, CSCS, KOR co-owner and director of training and one of Justin’s coaches. “He went up there and set a personal best for himself and made us very proud.”

His other coach, Brittany van Schravendijk, CSCS, adds, “When he started, Justin could not make 10 minutes with two 8-kilogram kettlebells, due to both physical and mental roadblocks. At Nationals, he was able to make 10 minutes with two 16 kg kettlebells.”

However, both coaches agree that they couldn’t have imagined seeing Justin on the Nationals platform when he first walked through KOR’s doors 12 months earlier.


Accepting challenges.

“When Justin started at KOR Strength, he could barely lift his arms over his head because his upper-back and shoulder mobility was limited,” says van Schravendijk. “He attended the first introductory Kettlebell Sport workshop I held. While he was eager to learn the technique, I honestly didn’t think he had a future in the sport because of how much work it would take for him to attain the flexibility needed to compete.”

Justin accepted the challenge and called on Karhio for help. She was the first trainer he’d met who aimed to address his shoulder issues instead of working around them.


Regaining mobility.

In the beginning, Karhio emphasized light weights and flexibility training.

“Heavy barbell work was out, so we used kettlebells for very light overhead holds, arm bars and Turkish get-ups,” says Karhio. “Our strength sets were focused on more pulling than pushing, to balance things out.”

Prior to picking up any external resistance, Justin completed soft-tissue and myofascial release work using a foam roller and a lacrosse ball. This was followed by active stretches like the wall slide, prone T, thoracic extension and rotation, lateral lunge and more.

“He diligently finished every session by doing vigorous stretches with some assistance from me or a weight,” Karhio explains.


Improving technique.

Van Schravendijk was shocked when she saw Justin again. “He proved me wrong,” she admits. “He came to my class a few months later with improved mobility and the desire to compete in Kettlebell Sport.”

To assess his physical capacity, van Schravendijk had Justin complete test sets that required him to perform a certain number of repetitions in 10 minutes.

“While he had a few good test sets, many of them didn’t go well, as is the nature of the sport,” explains the coach, who also holds a national record for the long cycle. “After those difficult test sets, Justin and I reviewed what went wrong and planned how to fix his technique so he could improve the next time.”


Overcoming negativity.

Like many competitive athletes, Justin got down on himself when he failed to perform up to his standards, says van Schravendijk. “He had a tendency to show negative body language (e.g., shake his head) if something went wrong during his set.”

She encouraged him to avoid falling into such states because she knew that it would negatively impact his training. “I trained him to focus on each minute separately instead of thinking how much time was left on the clock,” she says.


Perparing for competition.

“As we got closer to Nationals, Justin trained with the competition-weight kettlebells more frequently,” van Schravendijk explains. “However, appropriate rest and recovery was even more essential.” By August 8, Justin was ready to perform at the Kettlebell Sport Nationals.

“I was very proud to see him up on the platform. There were no nerves, no dropping the kettlebells and no negative body language. He surpassed my expectations.”

Karhio adds, “It’s rewarding to have Justin as a client because he shows up, does his homework and continues to improve.”

Justin is currently plotting how he can increase his numbers by 10, 20, 30 reps, reports van Schravendijk.

Copyright 2015 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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