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Greco-Roman Olympic silver medalist and chiropractor discusses the many advantages of kettlebell training

January 18, 2011 10:11 AM

Kettlebell Success — Olympic Medalist and Chiropractor Dennis Koslowski

In 1988 and 1992, Dennis Koslowski won Olympic bronze and silver, respectively, in the 220-pound weight class of Greco-Roman wrestling. He has been a licensed chiropractor since 1986, and is also a practitioner of Active Release Therapy. The Minnesota resident received his Russian Kettlebell Challenge certification in June of 2003.

"If I could've met Pavel in the early '80s,

I might've won two gold medals. I'm serious."

D.D.: Do you still wrestle?

D.K.: No. I was involved up through 2000, helping guys who were training for Atlanta. I've pulled back recently, but I'll get involved again in the years to come.

D.D.: How did you get involved with chiropractic care?

D.K.: Well, I had injured my ankle the end of my sophomore year in the college wrestling season. It was one of these would-have-been-better-off-breaking-it kind of injuries. And it did seem to heal over the spring and summer, but then once I started playing football again, it started to break down, and every week it got worse.

I was doing everything the trainers and doctors suggested as far as taping and icing and medications and things like that, but by the end of the football season, my ankle was almost unusable. I couldn't really put my weight on it; I couldn't push off on it.

I made it through the football season, but then-usually I would practically step off the football field and onto the wrestling mat. When I tried to do that, the injury was very obvious because in wrestling you really have to be able to pivot and push. One day, I just realized, "This is not going to work."

So I found a chiropractor in the town I was going to college in, and within one visit, I had about a 75-80% improvement. I was so impressed with it, and I was getting a B.A. in biology at the same time, and after a few more visits and talking to the chiropractor, I decided that that would be the way I wanted to go.

That's pretty common with people who go into Chiropractic College; they've had that type of life-changing experience, if you will. They're so impressed with the results that they think it would be neat to do that for other people. So that's kind of how I got into chiropractic.

D.D.: When you were training as a wrestler, did you follow the traditional weight lifting programs?

D.K.: Yes, although I did get into some of the big lifts kind of late-in my last couple years of wrestling, because I realized that I wanted to get more depth in the squat-type movements. A big part of Greco was the par terre or down position, when you're trying to lift the person off the mat, ready to do a throw. And your opponent is not laying still; they're moving around and trying to knock you off balance. So it's a moving target, and you have to have not only the strength, but also the speed.

"Kettlebells are like weightlifting times ten"

D.D.: How do you feel about kettlebells versus more traditional weightlifting?

D.K.: It's like weightlifting times ten. I mean, you're getting a lot more function out of kettlebell training. Out of all of the motions, and strengthening exercises and stabilizers. I think kettlebell training is a much more functional form of weightlifting.

If I could've met Pavel in the early '80s, I might've won two gold medals. I'm serious.

In wrestling, you're always trying to lift your opponent off the mat, and for me, it was a 220-pound guy that didn't want to be lifted, you know? And the better you could do at it, the better success you would have in the sport. Obviously, if you can pick a guy up off the mat, throw him in the air, throw him on his back-you're going to win a lot more matches than you lose. And even though I got somewhat proficient at this, I was never as good as I wanted to be.

I think that if I would've understood what Pavel teaches as far as the paradoxical breathing and what he's calling a "virtual weight belt," of how you use your diaphragm to load and protect your spine while you lift, I think I would've been a much more effective wrestler.

Because I find that by doing these techniques, it just makes you so much stronger. You know, when you're doing a kettlebell lift and you breathe correctly, the way Pavel teaches you, the weight feels so much lighter. So it stands to reason that if I was trying to lift an opponent off the mat, and I would control my breathing and have practiced this regularly, I would've been able to lift people much more effectively.

D.D.: How did you get interested in this Russian brand of fitness?

D.K.: Our World and Olympic coach, between '83 and '88, was Russian, his name was Pavel Katsen, and he actually brought over the Russian way of training for wrestling. Not with kettlebells; just wrestling. But it was our first big leap forward as a team, as a country. We hadn't won a wrestling medal in a fully attended Olympics, ever.

In fact, in '88, I was the first American wrestler to win an Olympic medal. And in '92, I was the only two-time medalist at that time. So I have a lot of faith in the Russian way…in the United States for Greco we had five or six coaches, and they weren't even full time. In Russia, they had 30,000 full-time, paid coaches in Greco-Roman. So the numbers and the emphasis there and the whole training is much more in-depth. I have a lot of confidence in the way they've done things.

D.D.: So just to clarify, you feel that the U.S. started winning wrestling medals because of the Russian way of training?

D.K.: Oh, yeah!

D.D.: What do you hope to get out of the RKC certification seminar, and what are your plans once you leave here?

D.K.: Well, as a chiropractor, I'm always looking for new ways to help people, and it's not always easy to say, "Okay, go join a health club." You know, it might not be something they can do financially. It might not be in their mental makeup-they don't want to go to a gym and do that whole thing. So usually, a home exercise-type routine is the best way to go, and something that guarantees better success.

And so I think I'm going to be trying to teach my patients to a certain level, and if they really like it (which I think they will), then I'd probably refer them to Andrea Du Cane or somebody else. I'd try to push them to a class and that type of thing. Even during this weekend, I've been thinking about half a dozen of my patients that I'm sure would gravitate towards it right away.

"I may end up giving up my own health club membership

just because I like kettlebells so much."

D.D.: So it's more about helping other people than personal goals, is that right?

D.K.: Well, no, I love it! I may end up giving up my own health club membership just because I like it so much. I was talking to Jeff Martone about it, about how he tries to use kettlebells almost every day; it's just that you need to change it up. So I'll probably stock my clinic with kettlebells, and do it over lunch hour. Because I don't have a lot of time, you know, to go to the health club.

kettlebells great for golf too

Actually, my big love now is golf, and I see a lot of real help from kettlebells there, too. I can see a lot of transfer…a lot of the things we're doing here at the RKC weekend are real solid core exercises, but with kind of loose arms. You're trying to project your power from the core strength, while bringing speed out to the arms. The kettlebell swing is a counterbalance; that's what it really is. That's one word no one's ever said, but that's what it looks like to me. You're not trying to lift it; you're trying to offset the weight of that kettlebell. And that's what a golf swing is: You're trying to create a real solid core, but you have to have a suppleness in your club. So there's a lot of similarities between golf and kettlebells.

D.D.: I'm sure a lot of people would be interested in that connection. I mean, people are always looking for ways to improve their golf swing.

D.K.: Oh, absolutely. And I think the ART-there's a real complementary thing with ART and kettlebells. Most of the problems that you treat with ART are either of chronic, static position-where the person is shoulders hunched forward, sitting all day. So we have ways to treat that, to break up adhesions and open up the body. Those are active stretches, but they're not really strengthening exercises. That would be the next step, to strengthen the body so it doesn't allow it to get into that static position again.

And I think kettlebells are actually a great combination of strengthening and stretching. That's what I mean about functional lifting.

I've always considered myself a flexible person, but I feel like I'm going to be 50% more flexible once I start doing the kettlebells more frequently.

If you live in Minnesota and are interested in receiving ART or chiropractic from Dr. Koslowski call (612) 379-4043 (office)

Kettlebell Success — Olympic Medalist and Chiropractor Dennis Koslowski talks with RKC Chief Instructor Pavel Tsatsouline

Olympic Medalist and Chiropractor Dennis Koslowski strength training practice with Russian Kettlebells Olympic Medalist and Chiropractor Dennis Koslowski discussing kettlebell strength training with RKC Chief Instructor Pavel Tsatsouline Olympic Medalist and Chiropractor Dennis Koslowski practices swings with Russian Kettlebells