Perfect Technique Through Pain Compliance

Crushing the handle to dust.
This isn't really an article so much as a re-telling of how I arrived at a certain point.

Sunday March 15th I attended an RKC II Preparation Course held by Master RKC Mark Reifkind in Palo Alto, CA. I arrived at 9am and we started progressing through the various techniques we would be expected to be proficient in when we go to RKC II in Minnesota in June. First we hit the pull up. People always seem to think the pull up is so simple. Maybe that's why few people can do an appreciable number of them, or with any significant weight. I learned much and we moved on to the Hard-Style Jerk. I cleaned up two 20 kg. bells (relatively light for me) and proceeded to demonstrate my technique. This could potentially be a little tricky as I've been doing GS jerks for quite a while and would have to re-wire my technique.



It was a fast onset of pain, the kind of pain that immediately makes you break into a cold sweat. Of course I proceeded to do another rep, and then opted to put the bells down. We decided I had gone into flexion during a jerk and possibly rotated slightly. Lifting my hands above my head hurt.

Of course I wasn't going to just sit down.

Of course.

This caused me to arrive at the conclusion that spinal flexion with weight overhead was the enemy. I could continue through the rest of the techniques, but I had to be perfect. I could feel it any time I went into flexion, or loaded incorrectly. When I got sloppy and shifted the load from my hips to my back, I paid for it.

This really came in to play during the military press portion. Many bells must be pressed overhead. The slightest compromise in technique would be punished. Pain compliance was in full effect. As a result, my presses improved 100%. Shoulder down in the socket. Not just down in the socket but pressing into the socket and shoving my whole body into the floor. I was pressing myself away from the bell for the first time, and felt the presses more in my abs than my shoulders.

Note how the muscles in my forearm stand out as I crush the handle to dust.

Everything else improved by leaps and bound as well. Windmills, Pistols, Bent Press, etc. Pain is a strong motivator, and sometimes pain is good.

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Ultimately this comes down to the psychology of the lift. I know I used to hit a lot of junk reps. I fell victim to this compromise in training because at the time I was not seeing any negative effects from it, aside from a lack of progress. Now I return to the source whether that be the original 'Russian Kettlebell Challenge' book, 'Enter The Kettlebell', my RKC Instructor Manual, or any other resource I may have read, but did not take the time to fully understand. Hey, I can press a kettlebell, I don't need to get that in-depth with it. Sure, and you can also do a pull up. This thinking is fine if you consider mediocre results to be fine as well. Being that I am 170 pounds and trying to complete the Beast Challenge (a press, a pistol, and a pull up with the 48 kg kettlebell) mediocre just will not do.

Now more than ever I practice my strength, and every rep must be perfect. I don't care if I'm just doing ten presses, or four hundred swings. Every correct repetition is like money in the bank. Anything less than perfect, and you might as well not even show up.

Jordan Vezina

Jordan Vezina is a strength trainer in Palo Alto, CA and maintains a site at He enjoys Fat Tire Ale, and thinks you will too.

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Great exercise.

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