What The Heck Effect – Part 1 – Kettlebells

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hang around the world of kettlebells for very long and you’ll start to hear about the “What the Heck Effect”…

That’s when someone starts training faithfully with kettlebells only to find that their ability to do something almost completely different happens! “What the heck?” Nobody’s complaining, and nobody saw that actually happening as a result of kettlebell training… but that was the only thing that changed.

Why do such things happen? Because kettlebell exercises focus on general strength and conditioning instead of “sports specific” conditioning, or so the reasoning goes.

This post (and the next one about HeavyHands training) hopes to catalog some “What the Heck Effect” sightings with kettlebells (this post) and HeavyHands (a future planned post).

Of course, it’s impossible to track down all of them to produce such an article… so readers are encouraged to use the comments section to PLEASE ADD YOUR OWN “What the Heck” experiences as a result of kettlebell or HeavyHands training!

(From this point “What the Heck” will just be noted as “WTH”…)

Even this author has experienced the WTH effect…

  1. HeavyHand Surprise. Due to the oppressively hot summer heat down South, kettlebells in the air conditioning became a very attractive workout option! Following the Kettlebell: Simple and Sinister Routine for several months SEEMED to be good “cardio” but no actual use of a recumbent bike or treadmill happened. The only “cardio” was 10 sets of Kettlebell Swings done “on the minute” seemed to do a great job! Finally after a couple months of this routine, the weather got cool enough to do some HeavyHands. Ten minutes a day (never more than 30 minutes one time) made it possible to swing 3 lb HeavyHands for an hour and a half without a problem the first day the weather allowed!
  2.  Handstand Pushup. A while back a friend started doing only kettlebell snatches and military presses. That went on for several months until he got a crazy idea in his head. He wondered if he could do a handstand pushup… even though he’d never done one before! To make a long story short, he tried and for the first time in his life he could do a handstand pushup. He’d never done them before and the only change he was aware of was working with kettlebells.
  3. SEAL Gets Truly “Operational”, Part 1. Despite the renowned SEAL training, this operator never felt “fit enough” for the challenges confronting him till he discovered the kettlebell and began doing the “Rite of Passage” program instead of simply training to pass the SEAL fitness test. “The kettlebell got me in great shape, and better operational shape. It took less time, was more fun, and didn’t interfere with my ability to operate…And I maintained — and even improved — some of the things I measured. I could not believe it. Later, I would go on to use the kettlebell to prepare myself for other ‘adventures.’ I loved the simplicity and the ‘max results with minimum effort’ aspect.” Read it all here…
  4. SEAL Part 2: According to this interview, the SEAL didn’t mention everything… The same SEAL mentioned above is, Eric Frohardt CEO of StrongFrist. He spent several months doing presses, swings, and snatches with a 53- and a 70-pound kettlebell. He did not touch the barbell or the pull-up bar. When he decided to test himself, it turned out that his 360-pound deadlift went up to 450 and he suddenly could do a strict pullup with over 100 pounds.
  5. Runs Faster. In one of the comments to the above article, a reader says: “I was a decent track athlete in college, running mid to low 22s 200m dash and around 50 flat in the 400. Definitely faster than your average person. I was the same as you, great endurance, could do around 23 pull ups at my best, but completely fell apart under load. My body didn’t feel strong when I was loaded up! Eventually I had a 3rd degree hamstring tear running the 200, and I had to learn how to move all over again…[but now] I feel faster and more explosive now than ever before.”
  6. Street Combat. The fairly well known “Secret Service Test” with the kettlebell is to do 200 one hand snatches (change hands once) in 10 minutes with a 24 kg kettlebell. How did that become the “gold standard”? Anyone who can keep that pace for 10 minutes has an awesome advantage when it comes to the hand to hand combat. Some say that this move is “as close to combat as possible without trading punches.” Those able to accomplish this feat have plenty of strength and stamina when it comes to movements like risking blocks, breaking holds, upper cuts, breaking an opponent’s balance, and delivering a fight ending front kick. The fact that the snatch requires a burst of energy and then relaxation before “reloading” makes it ideal for training strike type actions.
  7. Deadlift Power. Per Pavel “Powerlifter Donnie Thompson stopped deadlifting altogether, started kettlebelling and took his deadlift from 766 to 832 in less than a year.”
  8. Grappling Prowess. “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt kettlebell students of Senior SFG instructor Doug Nepodal have seen superior results on the mat once they have switched from a fancy periodized “sport-specific” conditioning regimen to kettlebell swings and get-ups.”
  9. Outperform Fitness Instructors. “I decided to do something different today and chose a workout dvd that usually gets my heart rate way up and was a great workout for me. I have not done this workout in 4 weeks (I have been doing kettlebell workouts and joint mobility exercises exclusively for 4 weeks). Today the dvd got me sweaty, but didn’t get my heart rate up. The instructor on the video was sucking air and I’m thinking, “you really need a kettlebell”. Read more testimonies here…
  10. Pullups from Nowhere. TPROONEY3 said: “I have not been able to do pull ups for about 22 years. I have been working with kettlebells for about 18 months. I started doing some hanging leg raises on a pull-up bar at the gym to strengthen my core, but nothing resembling a pull-up. About three weeks ago, I looked at the pull-up bar and was curious. I jumped up and knocked out 8 consecutive pull-ups. What the hell!? I can’t DO pull-ups.
  11. Half-Marathon. Please don’t try to go from 100 kettlebell swings a day to running the marathon because of this heading but here’s what  StrongFirst writer Emily Bearden  had to say. Please note the lady is a former track athlete, retired professional Muay Thai fighter, etc., etc. She writes “When I signed up to do the Brooklyn Half, my body felt great. But the moment I started training runs, my hip started giving me trouble. So I stopped running, but continued my strength training: a 6-day-a-week barbell and kettlebell training program starting 2 months out from the Brooklyn Half. I never missed a workout….It wasn’t my intention to run the half marathon without training runs. But this experience proved to me how important strength training is.” Her article is definitely worth reading for her routine, though no half-marathon is on this writer’s horizon any time soon!

Know any other good links to “What the Heck” effect stories in the Kettlebell world? Please leave a comment. The same goes for any experiences you’ve had with the “What the Heck” effect of doing HeavyHands!


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