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How Kettlebell Training Can Enhance a Platform Diver's Performance

January 18, 2011 09:40 AM

Samantha Young achieved success with Russian Kettlebell Strength Training

Dragon Door: Let’s start by talking about your athletic achievements.

Samantha Young: I’m a national-level diver, and my goal is the Olympics in 2008. This year I hope to go to the World Championships in Washington State. And in Washington last year, I won the Woman’s Lightweight Kettlebell Championship. Since kettlebells and diving go together, I’d like to continue competing with kettlebells.

D.D.: Didn’t you win a state record for your diving?

S.Y.: I started training with kettlebells just before my sophomore year, and then I won the Washington State High School Diving Championships my sophomore and junior years. This last year, when I was a junior, I set a new state record, breaking the record that stood for 30 years. I’m planning to break my own state record this coming November. I’m listed 3 times in the top 25 all-time best diving scores for Washington. I have also been invited to train my diving at the Olympic Training Center in Indianapolis.

D.D.: I heard that you’ve gone through a lot physically in the past few years, starting back when you were 15. What happened to you?

S.Y.: I’ve gone through a lot of physical changes in the last few years. It all started when I got Rolfed for some training injuries.

D.D.: Rolfing’s a pretty intense form of bodywork. What kind of shape were you in when you got it?

S.Y.: I was definitely athletic, but I was a little pudgy, not much muscle mass. I’ve been in athletics since I was pretty young, but I guess I didn’t have a lot of muscle mass or strength. So I began getting Rolfed by Michael Reams. It started with my little sister, because she was a hardcore gymnast and was constantly getting hurt.

So she and I went and got Rolfed. Michael started talking about weightlifting, noticing my body type and that I wanted to go further as a diver. Then, even in his office, he started giving me books and had me do all of this reading. And to tell you the truth, I wasn’t really into reading. [Laughter' It’s hard for me to sit down and read things.

But he showed me more and more about strength training and had me look at some of the outcomes of other people. It really inspired me.

D.D.: The outcomes of other divers?

S.Y.: Actually no. In diving, we usually do a lot of cardio and that’s cut down quite a bit. When I was focusing more on diving, I didn’t have that much of a workout. So Michael started me with Olympic lifting and strength training. He had already looked into all of the kettlebell stuff and was a weightlifter himself. He started training me with weightlifting at first and then kettlebells came into it. I work out at the gym in his house.

There’s a lot of variety in the workouts; nothing like just a gym. It’s more like a cycle of sets, so it isn’t boring for me at all. I love it. Not knowing a lot about weightlifting or kettlebells, I thought they were pretty much the same thing. I didn’t know that they were two different training techniques.

So putting those together, we made some pretty crazy workouts [laughter' and that was a lot of fun. It’s pretty addictive. I always take a week off before my competitions, but it’s hard to not work out at all for an entire week, you know? It used to be that I had to force myself into the idea of working out. But now I love it.

D.D.: How have kettlebells contributed to your diving? What sort of improvements have you seen?

S.Y.: In powerdiving, there is a ton of pressure when your body hits the water, especially from a 10-meter platform, so a lot of divers collapse when they hit the water.

I was having trouble with this. I’d get bruises all over my hands and my arms because every time my hands would hit the water, my arms would collapse and I’d hit my head. You can’t do a high DD (degree of difficulty) dive when you can barely get through the water, you know? [Laughter' Exercises like the "hot potato" trained my body for the shock.

Both the Rolfing and the kettlebell training have almost eliminated the injuries for my sister and me. For over a year now my training has been 80 to 90% kettlebells. Weightlifting is very helpful, but the kettlebells are better for training the strength, range of motion and the speed I need in the world of diving.

It’s mainly about connecting your shoulders and rooting your strength. I was doing a lot of Box Jumps with kettlebells in my hands, and it really increased my power off the board. Tons of people noticed.

D.D.: Good jump and springy-ness. And a lot of extra hip movement, too. Right?

S.Y.: Yeah. The hip drive was helping my height, and my ability to extend and snap out of my flips and twists.

D.D.: And it probably helped you maintain your posture attention, too.

S.Y.: Yeah. It just cleaned it all up. In diving, impressing the judges is pretty much everything. You have to make them think that yours is the best dive there is. Every little progression helped me out tons.

Samantha Young achieved success with Russian Kettlebell Strength Training

D.D.: You did incredibly well at the convention; you were the only female to manage a perfect pull up with a 12kg kettlebell, and you performed 243 reps of a 12kg Snatch in ten minutes. That’s impressive! You’ve got a lot of training already. How’s it been going through a full RKC certification?

S.Y.: It’s been pretty exiting. I just love it and I love working with people. I was a little timid at first, because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I like to have notice ahead of time, but I’ve been trying to work on that because in competition…

D.D.: You don’t know.

S.Y.: You don’t know. So it’s been good practice for that. [Laughter'

D.D.: How’s the instruction been for you here?

S.Y.: Real good. I’ve definitely learned a lot and I just have to write it all down, because, you know.…

D.D.: I know. It’s a lot of info to take in at once. Did anything jump out at you as particularly valuable?

S.Y.: I’d say I need to focus on Swings. They’re very basic, but they’re the root of all moves. When I get home I’m going to work on that and the hip drive.

D.D.: You can see that helping your diving?

S.Y.: Definitely, and I want to work toward higher points in the competitions. I’m hoping that the hip drive will help me, because my arms get worn out. I need to make the hips do the work instead.

Samantha Young is a resident of Seattle, WA