Why do competative kettlebell lifters have flat hamstrings?
I’ve looked at loads of videos of competative kettlebell lifters.
The kettlebell is continously touted as an awesome posterior chain strengthener.
They say “kettlebell swings and snatches will increase your deadlift”… blah - blah
“Kettlebell swings are awesome for the hamstrings” blah blah
“Kettlebells strengthen the entire posterior chain” blah de blah.
And Pavel Tsatsouline (The ultimate hype man) claimed “The group who only lifted kettlebells improoved their 100m sprint, 1 mile run, broad jump and chin ups test, more than the group who spacificly trained those events”.
And yet… I look at all the competative kettlebell lifters, and they all have one thing in common.
Their hamstrings are non existant. Hamstrings as flat as pancakes. Even with lifters that can do very high reps with heavy kettlebells in swings nd snatches.
I’ve seen 800m runners with bigger hamstrings.
And it’s not just with the kettlebell lifters. I see gym rats who do hyper extension, stiff leg dedlifts etc…
and few of them have the hamstring developement of some of those world class sprinters.
Even the few that do have big hamstrings, are much bigger every where else - so it doesn’t count.
It’s the same with me. I’ve never been shy of posterior chain work. You name the exercize, I’ve done a whole cycle of it.
What’s the deal? Is it just down to genetics. Only deep squats and walking lunges have added any hamstring size for me, but still not as quick to develope as quads and glutes and spinal erectors.
Thoughts on any of the following please…
What’s with all the hype with kettlebells developing posterio chain? Like shit do they.
Is lots of fast running the only way to appropriately strengthen hamstrings for running?
Why do even olympic lifters not have great hamstrings compared to other muscle groups? (It’s a myth that they do). Even powercleans dont seem all that great for hamstring hypertrophy.
Are the kettlebell lifts done at such high rep, only good for slow twitch and endurance and therefor: not as condusive to power an hypertrophy as the bullshit proponents suggest?
How comes some female sprinters have such amazing glutes, adductors and hamstrings (like Carmelita Jetter) who has better glute and thigh developement than…
any female physique competitor (in the world)
any female ftiness competitor (in the world)
and better gluteal developement (than 99.5% of female pro bodybuilders).
What’s the deal? Is it a lot to do with genetics - becuase I cant believe it all comes from sprinting.
And I dont care about any juice issues as its across the board in all sports.
why are only the female sprinters the only females in the world with outstanding gluteal ad hamstring developement. I dont want to talk about men becuase people can read imature in to things…
I can go for a sprint bike ride and my quads blow up overnight. Ridiculous growth spurt.
I can do stiff leg deads, good morning, hypers, glute-hams for two cycles in a row, and fuck all happens to my hamstrings except for sore tendons behind the knee and potentially: adhesions and other problems needing physio to sort it out. It’s a bitch.
The short answer would be that they work with a relatively light weight which is basically dropped to the floor with little excentric stress, causing little muscular damage, inducing little hypertrophy.
I love this post and thanks for coming back. It’s great to see people posting about issues regarding equipment that might be good for recreational fun but is not quite the " answer" to elite training methods known here.
The only thing I remember Charlie saying about Kettle bells was " I don’t get it"? Other than this I never used them, I never saw one person who Charlie trained use them and of all the Canadian Records and Olympic athletes and world record holders Charlie had coached none of them ever used them. ( maybe they had a secret set in their closet and didnt tell anyone).
If Kettlebells were the answer to posterior chain development why wouldn’t many of the elite sprinters use them over other methods? Of all the NFL, NBA, NHL and other professional athletes we met I do not once recall a mention of kettlebells. Umm? I can’t say this for sure but I am going to stab at the idea that I doubt Mr. Usain Bolt cares about kettle bells. For 20 years CHarlie and I trained many non athlete , personal training clients. We used the same exercises you see in all our products ( modified according to what people could achieve) . We chose these exercises because even when they are " watered down"…it is the best way , the safest way and most effecient way to train. People who spend money on services demand quality. Products sold by people demand marketing otherwise the results speak for themselves.
Attachment points of a persons glutes and hamstrings are genetic as are the qualities of muscle fibers and nevous system potential. Each quality must be developed in the proper way with exercises and methods that have been proven at the highest level. Your observations about what you have seen tell most of what any of us need to know. The marketing of a product like this needs embellishment to engage the less knowledgeable consumer. Is your average gym rat going to be reading a cross section of unlimited training manuals backed with years of their own athletic background and then posit their own theory?
Angie Taylor Issajenko said countless times post 4 children… their was nothing that made her body look as good as speed work.
" Is lots of fast running the only way to appropriately strengthen hamstrings for running? " ( Goose232).
Lots of fast running is the only appropriate way to strengthen the hamstrings for running fast or your fastest. Lifting might be useful if done in the proper way in combination with speed work but most people get carried away in the weight room. If you are looking to be fast you must understand the realationship between speed work and weights.
All of my heavy lifting came after my best speed work when I was the fastest in my career.
Running fast is one thing. Running fast consistently season after season and improving in digestable amounts over time… This is what displays the knowledge behind post 1988 results of the Charlie Francis Methods of training.
I have never used them for sprinters. I used them when I was throwing hammers. I might use them inplace of shot drills (if someone has a shoulder problem), or as a tool in gym in place of barbell or dumbbells on a exercise such as goblet squats.
Too be honest I can probably think of less expensive tools.
I like to use them during circuit training. Just as a general conditioning tool, like a med ball. Eg, During tempo runs, one stops for a break between runs and performs say sit ups or push ups ect I also add in a few kettlebell exercises. The way we do em, they are no harder than general push ups or Burpees or such. Adds simple variety.
I don’t use em in a strength fashion or cross growth fashion. Just conditioning. It’s very simple to teach and portable for doing things outdoors.
Is there any reason in particular for this? What’s your logic? I don’t remember Charlie mentioning a 2 yr lattice. If I remember correctly he did employ a one year build up using med balls. Just interested to know what you think.
It’s a simple progression. The logic is that a barbell is heavier than a kettlebell, which is heavier than a med. ball, which is heavier than no additional load at all.
It’s not a rigid 2 year lattice written in stone. Some kids take longer, some less and there’s value for the stronger athletes to incorporate the lighter stuff as well. Really nothing earth shattering happening here. I just wanted to say that kettlebells are a nice introduction to weights. It avoids lifting too heavily too early. Especially boys are tempted to outlift each other. And they provide variety, which the girls in my group in particular appreciate.
New Studies in Athletics. 10:1; 29-49, 1995
Relative activity of hip and knee extensors in sprinting - Implications for training
Klaus Wiemann and Günter Tidow
It contains many interesting hints to further discussion:
Even the fastest land animals are very rarely injured. The primary cause of this is certainly selective pressure and the fact that quadrupeds have much BETTER BALANCE than bipeds even on rough terrain.
However, there are two additional factors to be considered:
1 .Firstly, animals presumably are not aware of the execution of fluent and exact cyclic sprint movements and, secondly, they do not perform any strength
training. Therefore, there is a decisive contrast to most human sprinters.
As already mentioned, even human beings should not become too aware of movement details when sprinting.
However, frequent overtension of muscles, together with co- activations of muscles not actually participating in forward propulsion, is typical of all- out sprinting, With the following results:
Firstly, a muscle which is activated at the wrong time reduces the contraction velocity of its antagonist and thereby increases its energy consumption.
By contracting continuously, the agonist prevents its own micro-regeneration, which is urgently needed, for two reasons:
a. the intramuscular compression remains so high that the blood flow is stopped. Therefore, there is neither a sufficient supply of nutrients nor a removal of waste products.
b. the α-motor neurons, which activate the motor units of the agonist, are permanently stressed. However, the type II motor neurons, which are responsible for fast contractions, very soon tire (GRIMBY & HANNERZ 1981). Normally, these motor neurons discharge only for a few milliseconds, with intermittent short bursts. A permanent activation causes them to fatigue very quickly, so that they are no longer able to produce the high- frequency discharges necessary to cause the muscle fibres to contract. This results in a considerable reduction of the total impulse of the relevant prime movers. This is all the more true, if the muscle concerned is predominately composed of fast-twitch fibres.
Presumably, these considerations led WYSOTSCHIN (1976) to speak of “the art of
muscle relaxation during the sprint” and to develop a corresponding training
programme. Considering that sprint races generally require the highest degree of
concentration and tension, it is indeed an “art” to activate only those muscles which
are needed for locomotion and then, after an optimal contraction, to relax them as
quickly as possible. This fast alternation of tension and relaxation determines the
athlete’s stride rate, which, together with stride length, determines the athlete’s
The ability to relax one’s muscles can be trained. For example, V. Borsov (URSS/
Ukraine) used appropriate training for this facility. However, unlike the optimization of intermuscular co-ordination, the capacity for intramuscular relaxation is linked very closely to the existing fibre distribution. Intramuscular relaxation ability, therefore, is mainly a genetically determined indicator of talent.
So,ultimately, the dynamics of the reabsorption of calcium ions into the sarcoplasmatic reticulum determines the relaxation time of a previously contracted muscle fibre. This re-uptake capacity is at its highest in type Ilb fibres (ALWAY 1992).
However, strength training leads to a change in the proportional distribution in a fast or a mixed muscle, in such a way that both cross-section methods (CSM) and neuronal activation methods (NAM) lead to a left transformation (see Figure 13). This means that certain strength training methods unintentionally reduce the relaxation ability of the loaded muscle groups.
Consequently, incorrect strength training or full-speed sprinting after or during (macro)cycles of a corresponding training emphasis (especially if cross-section methods are applied) can lead to injuries, which occur most frequently at the back of the thigh. There are two interconnected reasons for this:
1.Firstly, the faulty selection of strength training exercises can result in a muscular
imbalance. It is almost a tradition with many coaches and athletes to place the
emphasis on strengthening the knee extensors. This leads to a further increase of the natural asymmetry of the contractile force of the thigh muscles, to the detriment of the ischiocrural muscles.
2.Secondly, there is a CONTRACTILITY DECREMENT in the strength- trained muscles. This does not only lead to an increase of contraction time but, more importantly, also to an increase of relaxation time. If the KNEE EXTENSORS need a longer period of relaxation, the possible result will be a brief overloading of the fast but weaker ischiocrural muscles, during the fast alternation between tension and relaxation at the front or, reciprocally, at the back of the thigh.
Of course, this is not to say that faster sprint times cannot be attained through
increased strength. The aim is rather to train the sprint-relevant muscles as
specifically as possible. Following the findings presented in this article, it is essential to shift the emphasis to the training of the ischiocrural muscles and the muscles which are responsible for lifting the knees.
Furthermore, it appears to be especially important to consider carefully the specific effect of strength training methods in the overall training plan. In this regard, the effect on the fibre spectrum is also relevant and will be discussed in more detail in the last chapter of this article.
Finally it should be mentioned that so many injuries occur in supramaximal sprint
training using ‘towing systems’ (VIITASALO et al. 1982; MERO et al. 1982; BOSCO & VITTORI 1986; MERO & KOMI 1990) because, in such training, the relaxation ability of the sprint- relevant muscles is strained to the limit.
Not referring necessarily to towing methods,as I recently pointed out in another thread,from what we read in the quote above we also need to consider that overspeed as holds the highest (limit) potential for relaxation training,as all muscles are put in a situation where they can only fire in the right order and at the right time.