The latest and greatest

You look around on social media or lame-ass "news" sites. Someone's always selling you the latest and greatest.

the best fat-loss exercise you are not doing
5 minutes a day of this is all you need to get a 6-pack
see how this person lost 30 kilos by just drinking this concoction

Click-bait nonsense and irresponsible. It ends up confusing people. Even though common sense tells them otherwise, it makes them wonder if they should be doing something else.

Photo by Jon Tyson / Unsplash
Is running better than walking? Or should you go swimming?
Are kettlebells better than dumbbells?
Should you do a barbell back squat versus a barbell front squat?

It depends. On you. On your skill levels. On your available resources (if you don't have a kettlebell but have two dumbbells lying around, a DB is better, isn't it?!?! Because it allows you to do something right now, which a non-existent KB cannot.)

Even if we zoom into a specific universe, this problem derails a lot of folks.

The kettlebell swing is a great movement. And as kettlebells have regained popularity over the two decades, the benefits of the swing have been felt by many.

It is an amazing movement that builds:

  • strength-endurance
  • looks and feels bad-ass
  • challenges your mind and body
  • gets you the benefits of plyometrics without the impact
  • is time-efficient

and a whole lot more.

But when we look at the click-bait universe, it will tell you that the KB swing will melt away your belly fat. Or if we misunderstand experts who tell us that 300-500 swings a week is all they do for physical activity to stay in shape. We immediately try it. 300 swings do not get us crazy abs. It leaves us sore and we pull our back.

And we abandon it.

Without knowing HOW to use a tool, we can get derailed. And because we cannot yet differentiate between silly fluff and "requires a lot of skill", we lump them both together.

In today's post, I'd like to help you build a better mental model in picking and understanding "What should I do?" and how not to get fooled by bulls***.

I'll use fitness metaphors and some specific KB movements but the point is much larger.

The promise of ...

Let's take driving a car. If you don't know to drive, you aren't going to move the car an inch. Or crash the car into the wall in front of you. On a scale of 1-100, you don't need to be at 100/100. 80/100 is a good place to be, and no more. But 50/100 is a cause for concern.

A lot of people are fascinated by kettlebells because of their promise of it. And yes, almost all true. The kettlebell swing is an amazing movement and a few 100 reps of it per week will be enough.

And when people enter the kettlebell universe and have been working on the swing, their eyes turn soon. They learn about the kettlebell snatch, the tsar of all movements.

But what about your skill?

And you think that will give you the results that you are not currently getting.

While the kettlebell swing is good, if you do the snatch, six packs are going to leap at you.

The complication is the fine print.

You need good technique. To get adequate benefits.

And you need a GREAT technique to compound the benefits over time.

The movement is not as important as your ability in the movement.

The mental model

Let's take a look at four movements:

  1. Walking
  2. Running
  3. KB Swing
  4. KB Snatch

We've all walked. And we understand that running is harder than walking. Running requires us to be in better shape, whatever that is. But running also burns more calories per minute.

Intuitively we know this. More work = harder and more output.

What is the potential of the exercise? The potential of an exercise is how much impact it can create in you - calories burned, cardiovascular improvement, strength improvement and whatever else - everything is lumped together and into one number. This is independent of you i.e. it is all about the movement. Or to use a car metaphor, how fast can the car go. Which is independent of how skilled you are to drive the car safely at that speed.

Let's look at the four movements again:

  1. Walking: 30 units of potential.
  2. Running: 60 units of potential.
  3. KB Swing: 75 units.
  4. KB Snatch: 90 units.

On paper, duh, of course, we should pick the snatch as it is giving us 3 times the benefits. Whatever that means - don't dig too deep into it. It is a mental model for us to understand.

Let's say you cannot run 500 metres. You run 250 metres, you walk 250 metres and you do this for 30 minutes. A good runner will cover 5 kilometres in that time while you cover 2 kilometres. So, your running potential is closer to 20 units and not 60 units (which is the maximum you can extract but your skill level limits you currently.)

And after a few weeks of running, your shin hurts, your calves feel tight and your lower back is tender. Why? Because you are working on a skill that's a bit more than what you and your body are ready for. Currently.

Wouldn't you be better off starting to walk? Yes, the potential of it is only 30. But you can, in a short amount of time, get 27 units of output from it as you start to walk faster, with better posture, and with good breathing and all that.

By now, your calves are used to doing work as well and you can transition to running. And you get more out of running!

Likewise, when you enter the kettlebell universe, remember that to extract the full potential of the kettlebell swing, you have a while to go.

If you can do swings with a 16 kg bell, your potential is 50 units (out of 75).

If you can do superb swings with a 32 kg bell, you are operating at 70 units.

But if you switch to a KB snatch when you are at 50/75 on the swing, your snatch output might be 40/90.

You + how well you are doing + the skill = Output

There are two components:

One: you/your skill/mentality/technique/consistency.

Two: what you are doing - the tool, the potential of it, the benefits of it.

You can use a tool with a potential of 40 and get to 35/40 first.

Rather than working on a tool with a potential of 90 but not being skilled enough to do it.

Moves are a tool. A kettlebell is a tool.

To produce forward motion, you need to pick a tool that works for you, and put in the quality effort.

Don't get distracted by fads and clickbait stuff.

If a tool doesn't work for you, remember - it does not work for you TODAY. Build up to it. Come back to it later. See what is the appropriate tool for you today.

The more tools in your toolbox, the better. You can pick the right tool for the task at hand, for how you are feeling and so on.

You know better. Stay the course. Stay consistent.