Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • June 2017
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Becoming strong — 3 common myths holding you back

When you think of what Russia is famous for, what comes to mind? Perhaps Vladimir Putin, given the stories we see in the news today. Russia is also known for the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral and its colorful onion-shaped domes, Matryoshkas (Russian dolls made of wood that nest inside one another), and of course, vodka.

In the fitness world, however, Russia is where one of the oldest fitness regimens originated. Kettlebells, a cannonball-shaped weight with a handle and a flat bottom which keeps it from rolling away, were used in the 1700s by Russian strongmen to help increase strength and flexibility. They’ve been used for centuries and Pavel Tsatsouline is generally credited with introducing them to the U.S. in 1998 as a form of strength training for U.S. Navy Seals and Special Forces.

Even though there have been numerous reports and research proclaiming the importance of strength training for health and performance, there are still several myths that keep people from giving it a go.

Myth #1: “Lifting weights is going to make me bulky.”

When you ask most people why they want to exercise, reducing fat often tops the list. Adding weights as a part of your strength training program is a smart choice for fat loss because strength training through weight lifting actually increases your metabolism so you burn more calories even when you are resting.

It is common for a woman to be concerned with getting too “bulky” from lifting weights. Let me explain why you probably don’t need to worry about this any longer. Although there are some outliers, most women do not have the hormone levels (i.e. high testosterone) that is necessary for packing on muscle. The individuals in the bodybuilding arena who specifically train to put on a lot muscle spend an inordinate amount of time at the gym, follow a very strict lifting, eating and lifestyle practice geared specifically toward building lots of muscle — they don’t achieve their results by accident. So you can enjoy the fat melting, strength building and muscle defining benefits of a good weightlifting program without concern of “bulking up.”

Myth #2: “It will take away time from the activity I love (running, Zumba, dancing, ice skating, etc.).”

Just a half-hour strength training focus twice a week, in addition to an activity you are already doing, will add substantial core strength, flexibility, and balance in just a few weeks. These things will actually improve your ability to do the activities you currently enjoy, and you will likely enjoy them even more!

Take the case of Ekaterina Gordeeva, the Russian figure skater who was a four-time World Champion and a two-time Olympic Champion with her partner Sergei Grinkov. If you ever watched these two skate, you may remember their grace and elegance on the ice. To achieve both of these, balance was the critical element to achieve this and core strength was the key.

Myth #3: “I have to run or use machines (elliptical, treadmill) to get the cardio I need.”

According to the American Society on Exercise, a study conducted in 2010 led by research experts from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, showed that training with kettlebells resulted not only in an increase in flexibility and muscle strength (something the researchers expected from the results), but also found their test subjects gained a significant improvement in aerobic capacity, i.e. cardio — a person’s ability to sustain a certain level of aerobic activity for a prescribed length of time.

One researcher stated during this kettlebell training protocol, “…they were burning at least 20.2 calories per minute, which is off the charts. That’s equivalent to running a six-minute mile pace.” So take it from the researchers at UW La Crosse and put the “kettle” on to get an extra dose of cardio.

Most of us have no desire to look like Ivan Drago, Rocky Balboa’s Russian nemesis in Rocky III, but strength training isn’t important just for body builders and boxers, its important to us all.

Derek Lahti

Derek Lahti has his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and is a certified Kettlebell instructor, mobility and functional movement specialist. He is the owner and head coach of Primal Methods at 5530 Neubert Road in Appleton. Coach Derek helps people improve their health through fitness, nutrition and lifestyle coaching all in a supportive atmosphere where high five’s among friends are the norm. For more information, visit or contact Coach Derek at [email protected] or 920-960-9125.

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