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Former NFL Linebacker Carlos Bradley, RKC on The Explosive Power of Kettlebells for Football, Basketball and Other Major Sports

January 18, 2011 09:28 AM

Former NFL Linebacker Carlos Bradley describes his excels with Russian Kettlebell Strength Training

I was a High School All-American linebacker. I went on to Wake Forest University and became a Strength Team All-American. I was a linebacker with the San Diego Chargers from 1981 to 1986, and ended my career with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1987.

I have also participated in amateur bodybuilding. I've won the Mr. Pennsylvania title in the Super Heavy Weight Division, which is over 225, three times. Currently I am working as a personal trainer at The Aquatic and Fitness Center and also running a non-profit organization where we help student athletes from 13 to 17 academically and athletically, which is called The International Student Athlete Academy. You can visit the website at

Our fitness director Kevin Schultz originally introduced me to kettlebells. He felt that even though kettlebells had been around for a while, they were really getting ready to break out in a big way. Our gym, the Aquatic and Fitness Center, is always trying to be on the cutting edge in the Philadelphia or Delaware Valley area.

I think that some people will get more out of the kettlebell than they will out of traditional weights. I think that with the kettlebell you can gain strength, you can gain conditioning. You can tighten up some problem areas, particularly with women: thighs, abs, and glutes. I can see kettlebells benefiting women greatly!

I also see the kettlebell helping various sports. I work with a nationally ranked swimmer and it would benefit him greatly coming off the board, with the extra glute/abs/quad strength he will develop.

Also, with football players it is very obvious—always doing cleans and presses and deadlifts, powerlifting. I think that when you get to utilize half your body or one side of your body and then you could move dynamically with that weight, I think that it helps a lot. So you could do a clean and plant one foot and then pivot, which mimics the same movement that you would do in football.

Say, an offensive lineman has to lock out his elbow and keep his outside foot free— well you can do the same movement bearing the kettlebell weight and just rotate and still keep a sound foundation. So, I think that the kettlebell will really help football players develop their explosive power. It would really help them a lot.

And also basketball players…

I coach all sports. I've worked with Charles Barkley. I've worked with current NFL players like Bruce Perry, Lance Johnstone, and Victor Hobson.

So, the initial explosiveness that you get and need in football, you can directly mimic with kettlebell training.

With basketball players, kettlebells will help develop explosiveness out of the swings, out of the cleans. They will develop strength out of the kettlebell squats, with explosiveness to the ball, the initial movement, rebounding, going up through your jump shot, all of those things I'd definitely correlate with their sport.

You could definitely use a lot of this kettlebell training, regardless of what level you are on, as a basketball player or a football player. I would think you would just get a little bit more refined if you were a pro as opposed to a collegiate or the high school player.

I can see kettlebells particularly helping offensive lineman. Defensive lineman it would help also with some of the pressing and the swings. All of the swing movements, building that explosiveness out of the hips would definitely help running backs, also. They need to be very explosive…and receivers, also. They need that explosion off the line bursting to get the ball. So, I see across the board where football players from all levels would definitely benefit.

The general population tends to feel that they need to separate their strength training from their cardiovascular. I think that with the kettlebell, you basically have a total gym right there! You don't need anything else…you can utilize the kettlebell in an aerobic manner or you can use it in an anaerobic manner.

You can do repetitive swings for duration, for endurance—and even with your pressing movements or your squatting in power sets of threes and fives you would definitely build your power. If you put together a program where you are continuously moving, it then becomes cardiovascular.

I think that the biggest challenge with athletes will be that it's so different from their traditional training. They may hesitate in believing or trusting in the power of the kettlebell. So, it would be up to my self or any other instructor that feels that the kettlebell will help them to convince them and show them that it can be advantageous.

This kettlebell certification has been more challenging even than I had expected it would be. My fitness director kept saying, "Well, Pavel's whole deal is he's going to beat you up."

My thinking was that I'm up for getting beat up, that's not a problem. But I want to be able to last and learn through getting beat up. I wanted to be able to transfer and make it functional and useful in my day-to-day job.

I would like to say—as a former professional football player—that if training camp was tough, then this Kettlebell Certification is the closest thing I've done in my life that comes even close to that!

The endurance that you need…the strength that you need…but also the learning aspect of this…is very demanding. It's so new even for me, and you know, I'm considered a strong guy. These movements are somewhat different and it takes some training and learning to get used to them before you can really power through of all of this.

But, I find it very rewarding, very challenging, and exciting to see how I can develop with it.

Carlos Bradley, RKC is a trainer at The Aquatic and Fitness Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He can be reached through his website at

Carlos Bradley, RKC, talks about Football and Sports Strength Conditioning with Russian Kettlebells