Kettlebells and 007 (Part 1) by Mike Krivka

by Mike Krivka on January 11, 2013

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If you’ve watched any of the Bond movies, you’ll notice one undeniable fact: James Bond is one tough and resilient mother!  Okay, there was a while when one-liners were more important than the ability to shoot or throw a decent punch, but those days are behind us now that Daniel Craig is portraying 007.  Bond is back and he’s as tough as ever—which is just the way I like him!

So, what does this have to do with you?  Well, quite a bit actually.  I contend that the training necessary for a top-tier secret agent is the same for a Super Mom or Dad, or even a semi-decent athlete.  Let me explain—and this is important so PAY ATTENTION!  You need the same physical abilities and attributes as a secret agent but you won’t need them to the extreme degree—but you never know!  You need the ability to pick up heavy things; push, pull, and squat with a load; and move fast and hard when necessary.  What’s not super about that?

A secret agent needs to be:

  • Strong
  • Resilient
  • Tenacious
  • Flexible
  • Mobile
  • Agile
  • Athletic

These are all physical attributes that you can develop through a well-rounded functional training program.  You need to have a balance of strength, speed, power and endurance—just like you’d need to chase down a couple kids all day, or to keep yourself motivated while you’re huddled over a computer.

Let’s see how that stacks up against the CrossFit Ten Attributes of Fitness:

  • Strength
  • Agility
  • Flexibility
  • Power
  • Speed
  • Stamina
  • Accuracy
  • Balance
  • Endurance
  • Coordination

Not bad.  Actually darn close.  Both lists have similar physical and mental aspects. So, how many of these attributes do you need?  I would say you need all of them.  You might need more of some and less of others, but you will still need all of them. You will also need to spend extra time on the attributes where you’re deficient.

Now would be a good time for me to define each one of the Secret Agent Attributes mean to me and how I think you’ll need to develop them.

Let’s start with Strong.  If you could only improve one attribute—and this applies to most everyone—it would be strength.  I’m not talking about increasing your bench press or biceps curl, I’m talking about adding pounds to your deadlift, clean or military press.  Increasing your ability to move heavy weights is going to put some meat in the right spots and make you harder to kill!  I think Mark Rippetoe was quoted as saying, “Strong people are harder to kill.”  I couldn’t agree more.  I don’t mean that in a literal sense—unless you really are a secret agent!  What I’m referring to is real muscle (not the puffy muscles from bodybuilding) which allows you to perform difficult tasks with ease and survive situations that would injure or kill others.  I really like the CrossFit dictum of “training for the known and unknown”.  I think this is an important mindset to keep in mind when conceptualizing your training program and components.  In short, get strong to be strong.

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Resilient – To me, being resilient means that you can do what needs to be done, without getting destroyed in the process.  Resilience is different at different ages.  As a secret agent in your prime (30’s), resilience means escaping the villain’s underground lair while being shot at, chased by henchmen, while still having a little left in the tank to show the cute redheaded damsel you saved a good time… if you know what I mean.  As you get older, resilience means bouncing back from a tough workout quickly, taking an unexpected fall without injury, or even changing a tire on the side of the road.  Once again, it’s only a matter of degree not function.  By the way, as far as I’m concerned, resilience is also a mental attribute—meaning you can face adversity, persevere, and accomplish your goals.

Tenacious – I love that word!  When I think of tenacity I think of my old dog Katana Loki (yeah, I know, cool name).  She was a Staffordshire Terrier (another name for Pit Bull, but don’t hold that against my little girl) and I used to play tug of war with her and she would NEVER let me win – EVER.  She only weighed about forty-five pounds but she would give everything she had when it came down to it.  As a physical attribute, tenacity is the ability to find the way to accomplish your goals, even if the path is difficult or painful.  Being a secret agent, or even a Jane or Joe Bland, is sometimes a tough path and you’ll need to have the physical and mental ability to keep going even when you want to quit.  How do you develop tenacity?  The only way is to train outside your comfort zone and do the workouts that others won’t.  You’ll become physically stronger, and you’ll also have the mental muscle to match. Bruce Lee made an interesting observation about fighting many years ago.  He said, “If you want to learn to swim jump into the water. On dry land no frame of mind is ever going to help you.”

Flexible as silk and as strong as steel,” one of my Gung Fu instructors admonished us to become in every aspect of our lives.  Looking at some people, you might think flexibility is the antithesis of strength, but I think it is part of the same package.  To me, flexibility means you’ve developed your physical attributes to accommodate movement within your sport or activity, within and sometimes exceeding normal range of motion.  I’m not saying that you have to do full splits, but you should have enough command of your muscles that you can move and perform without running into roadblocks of inflexibility.  I’m fortunate that I’ve always been relatively flexible, but I still have to work to maintaining it.  I’ve worked with a lot of athletes who were extremely strong but couldn’t even touch their own toes.  Think about this— being strong makes you harder to kill, but flexibility makes you even harder to injure.  Is there a mental aspect to flexibility?  Hell yeah!  If you can’t take the obstacles thrown in front of you and turn them into hurdles, then you need to get a grip and focus on the goal.

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You might ask, “Isn’t being ‘Mobile‘ the same thing as being flexible?”  Hardly!  To me, being mobile means that you have that ability to move and function at the full capacity of your body.  After many years of taking hard falls in wrestling and judo you’d think my back, neck, and shoulders would be toast, but that’s not the case.  I’ve spent a lot of time keeping all of my joints and connective tissue mobilized through various means like foam rollers and yoga.  As a secret agent, you never know when you’ll have to climb to the top of a tower to disarm a nuclear weapon.  Or, as a parent you never know when you may have to chase down one of your kids from the top of the play set at McDonald’s.  Being mobile makes you more resilient and will also give you more confident in your ability to get the work done without injury.  Explore the information on the MobilityWOD site or attend a Primal Move workshop and you will understand what you need to work on.

Being “Agile” doesn’t necessarily mean jumping and leaping like a ballerina in the Bolshoi.  To me it means the ability to quickly and seamlessly transition from skill to skill.  I am reminded of an experience I had while working with some tactical officers from a large metropolitan police department.  The officers prided themselves on their shooting skills, and I was impressed with their ability to “kill” paper targets.  When they asked for my assessment I gave them a quick skill test to show them the real life level of their pistol work.  I made them do 5 kicks to the heavy bag with each leg, and 4 lengths of hand over hand on the monkey bars, 5 burpees, and 4 bodyweight deadlifts.  Then they had 30 seconds to put 5 rounds in the “X”, change magazines and then put 5 more rounds in the “X”.  (Note: everyone had a chance to shoot their 5+5 first, in order to establish a baseline of accuracy and time.)  How did they do?  Well, no one had an accidental discharge in the process, but no one came anywhere near their previous score.  So is agility a physical or mental skill? The answer is yes…

Everyone is “Athletic” to one degree or another.  If someone says that they’re a “runner” then they are considered an athlete.  If someone else says they’re a “tennis player,” then they are considered an athlete as well.  Some people are more athletic than others in my eyes.  If someone is a NCAA wrestler, a high level MMA competitor, or an Olympic caliber gymnast, then they are going to get kudos from me.  If you are trying to find your “inner athlete” then you are on the right path and I commend you.  To me being athletic means that you have developed the basic skills of your sport to a relatively high degree, and are able to apply them under dynamic circumstances.  What are the skills that you will need as a secret agent?  It’s a long list but it would definitely include running, climbing, combatives, etc.  All of those skills take the preceding attributes (strength, resilience, tenacity, etc.) and put them into a dynamic, competitive environment where your skills are tested to see if they “hold up under fire”.  In other words, an athlete puts himself into a competitive environment to see if his training and skills hold up.  The same thing should hold true for the secret agent—and for you.  I’m not saying you have to topple megalomaniacs seeking to control the world’s supply of gold, but you want to be able to test yourself through the auspices of a difficult workout on occasion in order to see if your training is actually working.

Note: I have to mention a very powerful concept that changed how I train myself and others.  You will see this as an underlying theme within the workouts and throughout the whole program.  While no one workout will address all of the skills below, most address several.  Dan John identified five movement skills which need to be practiced and that you should be using when developing strength and experience:

  • Push
  • Pull
  • Squat
  • Hinge
  • Carry
  • Other – i.e., Turkish Get Up, “Ground” work

This grouping of movements should define your strength program, and also give you a framework for identifying your strengths and weaknesses. (For a more detailed explanation of this, pick up Dan John and Pavel’s book Easy Strength.  It will give you a completely different perspective on your training requirements.)

For more super-powered James Bond-style workouts, check out Mike’s book, Code Name: Indestructible.

About the Author:

Michael A. Krivka, Sr. is a Washington, DC native who has been involved in Kettlebell training for over a decade and is currently an RKC Team Leader and member of the RKC Board of Advisors under Dragon Door (where he has been listed as one of the top reviewed RKC’s in the world for the last five years).  Mike has traveled extensively throughout the United States teaching Russian Kettlebells to military (USMC, USN, USA and USAF) and law enforcement personnel (FBI, DEA, USSS and CIA) as well hard-living civilians from Soccer Moms to CEOs.  In addition to teaching workshops and clinics he logs several hundred hours a year teaching and training with Russian Kettlebells at his own gym and martial arts studio. He is also a Level I CrossFit Trainer, and Olympic Lifting Coach.

When he is not tossing Kettlebells around he is teaching and training in the martial arts, something he has done since he was thirteen years old.  His martial arts training, sparked by a childhood fascination with Bruce Lee, spans early training in Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Wrestling, Western Fencing, Sambo, Ninjutsu, Muay Thai and Gung Fu and has culminated in being awarded a Full Instructor JKD Concepts (Jeet Kune Do – Bruce Lee’s base art) and the Filipino Martial Arts (Kali, Escrima, Arnis and Maphilindo Silat) under Guro Dan Inosanto.  He continues to train in and explore other martial arts to continue to hone his technical and teaching skills.

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  • Very excited to be able to share this excerpt from “Code Name – Indestructible” with the RKC community. I hope you enjoy it and are interested in reading more and experiencing the 007-inspired workouts! 🙂

  • vanessa walters

    I am 61, I clean houses 5 days a week and drive a schoolbus route. Most days I walk at least a mile, to and from the busbarn, and as I clean. Besides that, when I can, I do strength training with kettlebells. I give kettlebells ALL the credit for the strength, agility, tenacity I DO have. It has made a difference; I have very little back problems, my shoulders, knees and hips are strong, resilient and I am very flexible. So far, I have had NO knee, shoulder, back surgeries. I have had some very nasty falls on ice, but beyond chiropractor visits to fix those; I have no long term hurts from falls. Again, I give credit to daily walking, and kettlebells for strength training.

    • That’s an amazing endorsement for not only kettlebells but for your own tenacity and discipline! Keep up the amazing work and keep up informed of your progress! 🙂

      • vanessa walters

        I have tried resistance bands/dumbbells, even a brief try at barbells, I stick with kettlebells work. It doesnt take long to do, and swinging that iron really boosts the self esteem. I do have a gym membership, but I seldom use it. My daily walks and kettlebells fit my schedule much better. Having NO health insurance, I keep fit and work out to stay as healthy as I can.

        • Sounds like you are doing an amazing job of it Miss Vanessa! Keep at it! 🙂

          • vanessa walters

            I live in a small town in Nebraska, pop. about 900. Without a doubt, I am the ONLY user of kettlebells in this region. The nearest RKC teacher is a 3-4 drive to Omaha. I do what I can, with Pavel’s, Andrea DuCane, Tracy Reifkind and Lisa Shaffer’s books/dvds.

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