Wednesday, July 15, 2009

ETK Variety Day Plus A Couple of Art of Strength Reviews

A while back, Art of Strength was running a special for Father's Day whereby if you ordered one of their 16 kg Punch kettlebells they would throw in their popular "Providence" work-along DVD at a significant discount. I'm not normally very interested in kettlebell DVDs because I don't feel that kettlebells really lend themselves to a work-along format. But I was somewhat intrigued by "Providence" because it includes quite a few of the kettlebell drills described in ETK Special Report #2, so I figured it might be a good thing to use on my ETK variety days. And of course a 16 kg kettlebell is something I've been wanting for a while now, and the Punch kettlebells generally get good reviews. So I decided to bite the bullet and order.

Now that I've (finally) received both products I would say it was a pretty good decision ... with some reservations. First, while my DVD shipped the same day I placed my order (no complaints there!), it took quite a long time for AOS to send me my kettlebell. Apparently when I placed my order they were awaiting a shipment from their supplier, and had I known that I would be waiting several weeks to receive my kettlebell I might well have ordered from another source. I will say, however, that when I contacted AOS to check on the status of my order, they responded promptly and courteously. And once they received the shipment from their supplier they wasted no time in getting my order sent out.

Second, the handle of this baby is thick! It'll take some getting used to, but ultimately I don't think it will be a problem for me. It's also enough bigger than my 12kg kettlebell that I had to play with it a little to find a comfortable rack position, but I managed.

For those who'd rather not have to tweak their technique every time they transition to a heavier kettlebell, competition-style kettlebells are a great alternative. They don't change in size as they go up in weight, making it somewhat easier to transition from one size to the next. Although they are more expensive than regular kettlebells it's money well spent if it makes a difference to your comfort level and performance.

As far as the quality of the Punch kettlebell goes, it seems fine. The handle is smooth enough to move around my hand without tearing up my palms, and it's the rounder shape I'm used to as opposed to the more triangular shape that the Dragon Door kettlebells typically have. Except for the color (pale gray) and the Punch logo (a bulldog) it actually seems quite similar to my Perform Better kettlebells. Which is not surprising, since I believe Anthony DiLuglio had a hand in designing those.

I haven't used enough top-quality kettlebells to be able to say whether the Punch product is in that category. Certainly it's light years better than the Power Systems kettlebells at my gym, which are just plain nasty. I also think it's a better choice than the U-Fill-Its that AOS sells. I had an opportunity to check those out a while back and, well, they kinda reminded me of plastic milk jugs. To be fair I should point out that they were not filled, so I couldn't really test their performance. They might be a better choice than I'm thinking. But I sort of doubt it.

Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that you could do a lot worse than the Punch kettlebells. They're not going to tear up your hands on a long set of snatches unless your technique is not so good, and the handle doesn't look like it's going to break off as can happen with lesser kettlebells. I think a woman with very small hands might have a hard time with the thicker handle, but for most people I don't think that'd be an issue.

My husband's first reaction to my new acquisition was, "Honey, this is too heavy for you. I don't think you'll be able to do anything with this."

He was wrong.

I used it for the first time yesterday morning. I did swings, sets of 20, followed by a minute of active recovery (jumping jacks, jogging in place, whatever came to mind), lather rinse repeat for 12 minutes. The RKC program minimum, in other words. I really enjoyed it. Well, "enjoyed" is perhaps not the right word, but I felt challenged and really had to think about my form every second since with a kettlebell of that size there's no question of me muscling the weight up. I felt as though my heart rate got much higher than it would have if I'd been using my 12 kg, which I suppose is not surprising since I was moving a lot more metal in the same time frame. Interestingly, my cadence for swings seems to be about the same whatever weight I use, probably because my arm length remains constant:)

I won't be doing "Providence" with 16 kg any time soon, however. "Providence" is a well-made DVD that features Anthony DiLuglio, working out solo somewhere in Providence RI. With no fancy set or DeMille-sized workout cast it's a little hard for me to understand why this DVD is so freaking expensive; it's not that it looks cheaply made, but I still don't think the production costs could have been so very high as to justify a purchase prise of almost $50. And while I like it I sure as heck don't like it $50 worth, if that makes sense.

Part of the problem with "Providence" for me is that the pace at which I do things is not necessarily the pace at which Anthony DiLuglio does things. This is not a huge issue since most of the intervals are simply 2 minute timed sets where the idea is to get as many reps as possible in the allotted time. It only becomes a problem when the designated exercise is something like clean and press ladders. I can't do a 5 rung clean and press ladder as quickly as Anthony DiLuglio can, and if I try to match him rep for rep my form ends up going all to heck which is not helpful. And unfortunately since I am one of those monkey-see-monkey-do people I have a very hard time ignoring what he's doing and working at my own pace. That might just be my problem, though.

Another issue for me is that there's almost no instruction given. Not a problem if the exercise is described in sufficient detail in ETK or the Special Reports and/or I've gone over it with a trainer, which actually is the case for most of the drills in "Providence." But there are a couple, such as the flip & squat, which continue to elude me.

And that brings me to my third problem with "Providence," which is that there is just too darned MUCH variety for my taste! I would rather pick a few drills and repeat them several times until I start to get them right than be jumping from one thing to the next without the opportunity to do any of it very well.

On the other hand, since Providence is very well chaptered it's entirely possible to do just that ... and no-repeat workouts definitely appeal to some people so what I see as a drawback others will view as a distinct advantage.

Honestly, I don't think I would be nearly so critical of "Providence" if it weren't so darned expensive. If it were priced at $14.95 or even $19.95 I'd probably be dwelling a lot more on the positive aspects of the DVD (a great workout, good form demo'ed by the instructor, good chaptering, an effective soundtrack, etc.). As it is ... I have a hard time recommending that anyone purchase even though "Providence" is good for what it is.