The Kettlebell-Systema Controversy

The Kettlebell-Systema Controversy

The Controversy? Should You Use Kettlebells as part of your Systema Training?

Before I answer this, let me say that I teach a Kettlebell Class right before my Systema classes. Most of these students are NOT Systemists, but some are.

On the NO side…both Mikhail and Vladimir believe that you don’t need kettlebells (or weight training) for Systema and recommend other exercises and methods to improve your Systema.

On the YES side…are students and teachers who believe that kettlebell training is beneficial to their training.

So let’s look at the benefits of kettlebell training and IF you need them for Systema, and to what degree.

#1 Kettlebells are great for Weight-Loss. There is no denying this. If you are trying to shed pounds, they are great.

#2 Kettlebells are a simple way to work out on your own.

#3 Kettlebells can help reinforce proper body alignment

#4 Kettlebells can be used to strengthen movements needed in Systema, like one-leg squats.

#5 Kettlebells can teach you how to use only the tension you need under resistance and how to work with it.

#6 Kettlebells are fun and anything that gets you moving is better than lying on the couch.

#7 Kettlebells can really fatigue you and make you feel “Heavy”

Ok, those are the Basic Pro’s for using kettlebells for Systema. Now for the flip-side…

#1 Kettlebells tend to make you STIFF (just look at the average girevik)…UNLESS you take conscious effort to keep yourself LOOSE. They create the unconscious Habit of Tensing–bad for Systema.

#2 Kettlebell training tends to teach your how to ROOT, grip the floor and keep you in one spot. Definitely another BAD HABIT for Systema.

#3 Kettlebell breathing as commonly taught is Totally Incompatible with Systema. “Power-Lifting” Breathing has next to nothing to do with Systema breathing. JUST TRY TO TAKE A PUNCH WITH KETTLEBELL-BREATHING.

#4 Kettlebell training doesn’t cover all the “movement dynamics” needed in Systema. The types of motion and positions in Systema just cannot be addressed with heavy weights.

This leads to the next question…Can any benefits of kettlebells for Systema be had through other training methods?

* Weight-Loss? Definitely you can do this without kettlebells.
* Working out on your own? Don’t need kettlebells.
* Body Alignment? Don’t need kettlebells.
* Strengthening Systema moves? Don’t need kettlebells.
* Learning to work with resistance, and with little tension? Don’t need kettlebells.
* Making you feel heavy? Don’t need kettlebells.

(SIDE NOTE: The WarriorFit Portable Personal Trainer System I created covers ALL of this–without kettlebells!)

CLEARLY Mikhail and Vladimir are correct…that you don’t need kettlebells to improve your Systema…and in fact, there are some BIG NEGATIVES that can adversely affect your Systema performance, IF left unchecked.

It boils down to this.

What is your Primary Goal? If it is to improve your Systema, then you should be doing the exercises that MOST DIRECTLY IMPROVE YOUR SYSTEMA.

How much Time do you have to devote to training? If you are limited, then hard-core Systema exercises ONLY. If you have more time, then add some kettlebell training, but be sure to compensate for the potential negatives.

What do you like and what amount of kettlebells to add? My students who like KB’s, LOVE them. Fantastic. And, as I said, my KB students go right into Systema class and work on Systema after KB training and they report that that helps them in Systema. They’re lucky.


In my own experience I can say that I like KB’s and use them sparingly, definitely as a supplement, and not too much.

I’ve had a difficult time putting it into words but on a deep level I believe Mikhail…when it comes to KB’s and mastering Systema. There’s a difference in how I feel my body–it’s interconnectedness and unity–in Systema that I don’t get with kettlebells. I feel like I “have to get that feeling back after I’ve done lots of kettlebelling.”
This is why I’m stressing “kettlebells for Systema” and not just “generic kettlebell training”. OUTSIDE SYSTEMA, I RECOMMEND KB’S for MOST EVERYONE, no doubt.

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