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Power Talk With Top Strength Coach Andrew Durniat!

Andrew Durniat is an international kettlebell competitor and current American record holder for the single arm snatch. He explains how kettlebells have helped him to be successful and how they can do the same for anyone. Find out here.

Article Summary:
  • Andrew got started training trying to be as strong as his older friends.
  • Andrew feels kettlebells are for many different types of training.
  • Andrew attributes kettlebell training to his success at strongman events.

  • Power Talk With Top Strength Coach Andrew Durniat

    Andrew is a C.S.C.S and the owner of Optimal Performance Training. Andrew is an international kettlebell competitor and current American record holder for the single arm snatch (147 reps, 32kg). He is known for his combining Kettlebell lifting with the Olympic and Power lifts to create the ultimate in athletic potential.

    Andrew Is The Current American Record Holder For The Single Arm Snatch.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    Andrew Is The Current American Record
    Holder For The Single Arm Snatch.

    His training has led him to be able to perform many famous strength feats and compete in ultra-endurance events. Andrew served as an assistant lacrosse coach at the College of Wooster and was an All-American Defenseman in lacrosse at Ohio Wesleyan University.

    Andrew is a regular instructor for world champion Valery Federenko's AKC certification course. He is another in-the-trenches instructor that has a great deal of experience as an athlete, as a trainer, and is well researched.

    Who Is Valery Federenko?
    Valery Fedorenko is a world champion kettlebell athlete, credited with helping to revive the popularity of kettlebell lifting in the United States. He has the special designation of being the first 80kg World Champion (1993) in the history of the Sport of Kettlebell Lifting. Valery received his Master of Sport Rank at 17-years old, then attained World Class Master of Sport Rank at 19-years old (in both Biathlon and Long Cycle), and now Ranks among just the few "Honored Masters of Sport" in the entire world.

    When you meet Andrew in person and see his abilities in action as well as his outstanding instruction, you know he is destined for great things as a trainer and as a strength athlete. Not only does Andrew compete in kettlebell sport competitions, he competes in strongman competitions and does well at both.

    While he is well versed in kettlebell training for sport, Andrew also uses a variety of kettlebell exercises with his clients such as Renegade Rows, Turkish-get-ups, and kettlebell squat thrusts. He is an opened minded trainer who is always looking for methods to improve his own training and that of his clients.

    Kettlebell Exercise Database Kettlebell Exercise Database
    Search for exercises and learn the form with picture and video guides! Get the best results possible and stay safe while lifting. Over 45 exercises listed! Improve your strength and get as strong as a goat with kettlebells!

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    [ Mike Mahler ] Tell us about your athletic background. How did you get into strength and conditioning?

      [ Andrew Durniat ] I grew up playing ice hockey and then added lacrosse when I reached high school. I continued to play Lacrosse in college at Ohio Wesleyan University where I was an All-American Defenseman. In my youth, my closest friends were always a year or two older than me and when they started to lift weights in high school I joined them as a junior high kid.

      I was always trying to be as strong as my best friend's older brother, he was four years older and a lineman on the football team. I didn't understand why there should be a difference in our strengths; we did everything else together why can't we be the same strength? And so began my obsession with getting stronger.

    I Was Always Trying To Be As Strong As My Best Friend's Older Brother.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    I Was Always Trying To Be As Strong
    As My Best Friend's Older Brother.

    [ MM ] How did you get into training others?

      [ AD ] I began helping other teammates train in high school during the off-season. That carried over into college when I organized off-season sprint workouts for the lacrosse team. I didn't realize trainings potential as a profession until I was at the College of Wooster working as assistant lacrosse coach.

    [ MM ] When and why did you get into kettlebell training?

      [ AD ] I came to kettlebells in 2005 because I was looking for a better way to train myself. I had always done the Muscle & Fitness bodybuilding workouts, thinking that was the way to get strong. It had served me well enough but I knew there had to be a better way. Kettlebells led me to a better way of strength training.

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    Pamela Micks

    [ MM ] Do you think kettlebell training is a fit for everyone or is there a particular type of trainee that will get the most benefit?

      [ AD ] Kettlebells have a place in everybody's training regimen. However, they need to be integrated wisely. You need to have well-established goals first and then program the kettlebells to achieve your goals. I see a lot of people who use the kettlebell and think it will solve everything.

    [ MM ] There is a debate on the merits of various applications of kettlebell training. Some argue that the sole purpose of the kettlebell is for work capacity and kettlebells are made for jerks and snatches. Others argue that kettlebells work great as a weight training implement. What is your take?

      [ AD ] It can be used for both of those applications. A lot will depend on your overall strength level and what is your individual goal. The 1000-pound squatter is not going to use a 24kg kettlebell for general weight training. Nor is a 4-minute mile runner going to use a 24kg for work capacity. Two opposite ends of the spectrum but both can use the same 24kg bell for different performance applications.

    Kettlebells For Combat Sports.
    [ Click To Join The Thread. ]
    Kettlebells For Combat Sports.
    Today was my first day doing a private lesson with an instructor in kettlebells. Very interesting stuff - I had a hard time stabilizing the weight during many of the exercises. Does anybody have any experience with kettlebells? If so, do you find that it has helped you -- and how?
    Started By:
    King Baer

    [ MM ] Do kettlebells work well when combined with other training implements or should the trainee focus solely on kettlebell training?

      [ AD ] Kettlebells can definitely be combined with other training implements (barbells, DBs, clubbells, strongman, etc.). Again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, you must evaluate what your goals are and then build your training routine from there.

    [ MM ] What are you using kettlebells for with your own training and what are your current training goals?

      [ AD ] I am using kettlebells to train for Kettlebell Sport. My current goals are to perform 80-plus jerks and 150-plus snatches in competition. I combine this training with a powerlifting program (5/3/1) for my top end strength.

    My Current Goals Are To Perform 80+ Jerks And 150+ Snatches In Competition.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    My Current Goals Are To Perform 80+ Jerks
    And 150+ Snatches In Competition.

    [ MM ] The Kettlebell Sport is becoming popular and many trainees want to dive in and compete. How would you recommend they get started training for kettlebell sport competitions?

      [ AD ] First, consult a qualified kettlebell sport coach, someone who has been to meets and either competed or worked with other kettlebell sport athletes. They will instruct you on the technical aspects of the lifts and will make sure you do them correctly. A big part of competition is the lockout and being efficient. An effective coach can help you obtain the proficiency needed for competition.

    [ MM ] You are a big fan of the competition style kettlebells. Please explain why they are your preference?

      [ AD ] The competition bells make it possible for your lifting technique to stay the same regardless of weight, much like a barbell. When doing barbell deadlifts, the height or diameter of the bar do not change just because you add weight. The same is true with the competition bells. They are just more professional for someone looking to train with kettlebells.

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    [ MM ] What are some common mistakes that people make with kettlebell training?

      [ AD ] A common mistake is not training for your individual objective. I see a lot of people training with the bells that is not conducive to their training goals. The kettlebell is a great tool that can be used in a lot of ways. I believe our workshop is going to filter through a lot of the confusion on how and when to use the bells for each individual's intended need.

    [ MM ] Should beginner focus on unilateral kettlebell work or can they start with double kettlebell training?

      [ AD ] I believe a beginner should focus on unilateral work at first. It limits the amount of information the brain needs to handle while new motor engrams are developed for the new technique. Once proficiency is demonstrated with unilateral work then a second kettlebell can be introduced.

    I Believe A Beginner Should Focus On Unilateral Work At First.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    I Believe A Beginner Should
    Focus On Unilateral Work At First.

    [ MM ] Louie Simmons is famous for his conjugate method for powerlifting. For those, not familiar instead of working on the primary lifts as the focal point (bench press, squat, deadlift) they instead do similar lifts and rotate them often. As a result they can push each exercise hard and then switch to another one before they burn out.

    Do you think there is any benefit applying this principle to kettlebell sport training? In other words, instead of just working on the actual comp lifts exclusively (Jerk, clean and jerk, snatch) rotate in other kettlebell exercises and similar exercises with other implements all-together.

      [ AD ] Absolutely, doing the competition lifts are needed, but I find myself and others obtaining tremendous gains by doing the assistance exercises; swings, 1-arm heavy jerks, rack holds, overhead holds, pressing, front squats. I have also seen a great carryover from performing the Olympic lifts.

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    Jordan Vezina

      I find the assistance exercises allow the lifter to focus in on a small portion on the main lift that maybe a weakness for the individual. Be bringing that weakness up in strength, the main lift also benefits, and often it benefits a great deal.

    [ MM ] You compete in strongman events. How has kettlebell training carried over to strongman training?

      [ AD ] Kettlebell training has taught me pacing. Most strongman events are for 60-90 seconds, most reps wins. Working with the bells has taught me to be the most efficient with my time. Likewise, the bells put a tremendous workload on the posterior chain and strongman is all about being able to pick up objects and place them on a high table or overhead.

      Now don't think that just lifting kettlebells will make you a great strongman, but it definitely helps your strength endurance. I don't always start competitions as the strongest individual, but I always finish the day as the strongest individual and that is because of my kettlebell training.

    Strongman Is All About Being Able To Pick Up Objects And Place Them On A High Table Or Overhead.
    Strongman Is All About Being Able To Pick Up
    Objects And Place Them On A High Table Or Overhead.

    [ MM ] You are going to be doing a section on kettlebell juggling and kettlebell stunt lifts at the Age of Quarrel courses in the fall. What are the benefits of such training? Is it only for hardcore trainees or can the average trainee benefit as well?

      [ AD ] Juggling is for everyone because it is fun and relaxing. It removes the stress from lifting because we do not juggle for reps or time.

      Juggling is very much playtime and a great way to cool down or have an easier day. Juggling also allows us to explore different body movement patterns and teaches us to move fluidly with the kettlebell. Very much how the martial arts teach you to use your opponent's body movements against him/her to your advantage.

    Juggling Is Very Much Playtime And A Great Way To Cool Down.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    Juggling Is Very Much Playtime
    And A Great Way To Cool Down.

      Kettlebell stunt lifts are more for the hardcore trainer looking to impress the crowd. I am a performing strongman for various events and the stunts lifts I perform will leave you scratching your head. Some can be dangerous; I recently tore a vein out of my hand performing at a show. It required 9 stitches and 2 months to heal. These lifts are for advanced trainees and not to be taken lightly.

    [ MM ] Thanks Andrew. Looking forward to working with you in the fall.

      For More Information On Andrew's Training System, Click Here.

    About The Author:

    Mike Mahler is a strength trainer and fitness information provider. He is currently working on a new book "Live Life Aggressively! What Self Help Gurus Don't Want You To Know" Sign up for his free online magazine at