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Book Review: Enter the Kettlebell, Strength Secret of the Soviet Supermen
by Brian Stramel, CPT

Enter the Kettlebell, Strength Secret Soviet Supermen
I purchased the "Enter the Kettlebell" book in August of 2006 while serving in Afghanistan.  I got it quickly with typically great service from Dragondoor.  Immediately after ordering, I got an email with a number of bonus items.  The bonuses were videos and .pdf files of tips and alternate exercises as well as the kettlebell video on how kettlebells are made, very cool.

Since I brought my 24kg (52lb) kettlebell with me to Afghanistan, I was able to go through the “Enter the Kettlebell” program over the course of the next 8 months.

The book is very well written with typical Pavel humor.  The main standouts are the detailed photos showing the exercises including what not to do, as well as some easier progressions.  I also really enjoyed the extra historical detail provided about kettlebells and kettlebell lifting.  It isn’t too much that it detracts from the utility of the subject.

Basically, the core of the Enter the Kettlebell book is two different exercise programs known as “The Program Minimum” and the “Rite Of Passage” with the stated goal to make you a “Man Among Men” by achieving 200 snatches in 10 minutes as well as being able to one arm press a kettlebell closest to ½ your body weight (for men) and ¼ your weight for women.

The Enter the Kettlebell “Program Minimum” is simply 5 minutes of Turkish Get-ups alternating sides (one each) followed by 12 minutes of kettlebell swings alternated with a light aerobic activity such as jogging.  This is the beginner routine.

While this routine is simple and effective, I do have one problem with it that became glaringly obvious when I returned home and watched my wife do it.  That problem is with the Turkish Get-up. 

While it is a great exercise, it is hard to do well and I think Pavel takes this for granted.  The first time I watched my wife do them I noticed her feet externally rotating and her knees bending inward.  This is indicates overly tight adductor muscles (inner thighs) as well as weak gluteus medius/maximus among other things. 

Anyway, these are common postural problems for a large percentage of the American population (especially the knees bending inward during squatting movements) and need to be corrected.  Doing the exercise improperly will only make the problem worse.

So, the Turkish Get-Ups are great if you do them right.  Get the DVD and study it along with the book and have someone else watch you paying attention to your feet and knees.

Moving on, the Enter the Kettlebell “Rite Of Passage” involves lots of presses in a ladder fashion which allows for a high volume workout with plenty of rest between reps.  After the press ladders you do either swings or snatches (depending on the day) for a number of minutes as determined by rolling a pair of dice.  The days are broken up into easy, medium and hard.  I really like this as it allows for complete recovery and found no problem following the program as written.  Over the course of 2-3 months I progressed up to 5 sets of 1-5 rep ladders with my 24kg (52lb) kettlebell.  After a break of about a month I did it again working up to the full 5 sets of 1-5 reps with a 28kg (61lb) kettlebell. 

The Enter the Kettlebell workouts definitely work and have enough variety in the easy-medium-hard layout as well as the rolling dice to determine length.

So, was it effective?  Well, in June of 2007, I was able to do 202 snatches with my 24kg kettlebell in Kabul Afghanistan at an altitude of 6000 feet!  I was very stoked to have completed that goal.  My conditioning has never been better in terms of anaerobic capacity and recovery time.  I also dropped 20 lbs over the course of the year due to both my kettlebell workouts as well as some small dietary changes (I cut out most sugar and fried food).

As far as the pressing goal, I don’t have an 88lb kettlebell (yet) but I have pressed an 85 lb barbell so I got close to that goal…but I’m still working on that one.  I am able to press 2 70lb bells for multiple reps which I never could do before!

In conclusion, “Enter The Kettlebell, Strength Secret of the Soviet Supermen” is a great book.  I really enjoyed the writing and humor (favorite section title; “It’s Your Fault: Kettlebell Safety 101”.) as well as the detailed instruction.  It also has a neat FAQ at the end.  Approach the Turkish Get-Up with caution and make sure your form is good.  This book is easy to follow and gives very specific guidance and workouts that will greatly improve your strength and conditioning.  I got the book by itself, but if you are new to kettlebells, you should also get the Enter the Kettlebell DVD or better yet a quick start kit.

Good luck in your training comrades! 

Check out other products for men and women, including my review on Kettlebell Solutions for Speed and Explosive Strength, Mike Mahler.

Purchase the Enter the Kettlebell book and DVD here












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