“The greatest power is often simple patience.” —E. Joseph Cossman
I would add that patience is the key to power. In my last article, we talked about the importance of using patience in your programming. Now we look at how patience can be the key to your power.
Power can be defined as the rate at which work is done or energy is emitted or transferred. From a physical standpoint, we look at things like the vertical jump or broad jump, Olympic lifting, kettlebell swings, or snatches as examples of ways to express and train power physically. Would you connect patience to these?
I am willing to guess that you may connect patience as something that comes in handy when dealing with many other areas of life—like money, relationships, children, or traffic. But perhaps you have not yet considered it in relation to physically expressing power. However, I have found patience to be a key component to physical power—and when you lack patience you can have difficulty expressing your power.
The Elements of Perception and Proprioception
Before we dive further into patience, let’s look at visual perception and proprioception as factors to consider in regards to patience as an element of power.
Perception is a powerful thing (pun intended). How we “think” something should look, feel, and be can significantly influence what that thing turns into. According to Holly DeLuca, M.Ed., Special Education, “Visual perception is the ability to see, organize, and interpret one’s environment.” Take this image, for example:
The two lines are actually the same length. Did you see them as being the same length when you first glanced at them? This is one aspect of visual perception. For more information on the theories of processing information about our environment please see this article: Visual Perception Theory. And for more information on visual processing please visit this page on Vision and Learning.
So what impact could perception have on learning something like patience in a kettlebell swing or jerk? Well, are you sure the student “saw” what you showed them? They may look at the above image and process line B as longer. They may watch you swing a kettlebell and see a slightly different movement than the next student. The demonstration of a jerk may appear to have much larger movements to one student and another will see very short movements. So even though you demonstrated a “perfect” swing or jerk, did the student see that? Or did they process that movement in a different way?
Then, you have to consider how the student interprets the movement and orientation of their own body through proprioception. The American Heritage Science Dictionary defines proprioception as, “the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself.”
Does the student “feel” the delay in the hip hinge from the top of the swing? Can the student “feel” the difference between sitting down into the hips one or two inches deeper versus leaning over at the torso one or two inches deeper? A good sense versus a poor sense of “where we are in space” can significantly influence how something like a swing or a jerk turns out for the student.
The student will combine their perception and proprioception to create a concept of what the “thing” you are asking them to do “is.” If the student “sees” a very fast movement, then they may try to do it even faster based on “seeing it fast” and their own proprioception telling them they are not doing it fast enough. The concept of the “thing” they are being asked to do may be different than the reality you were attempting to convey.
This is where the use of slow-motion drills can be a game changer.
Why Patience Is the Key to Power
Dr. Mark Cheng, Senior SFG, has a brilliant quotation about slow movement: “Slowness is the mother of all good movement.” Deadlifts and slow motion jerks are two excellent drills that can enhance perception, proprioception, and patience for kettlebell swings and jerks.
But wait, weren’t we supposed to be talking about power? How can “slow” be good?
We crawl before we walk and we walk before we run. Speed is, or should be, the last variable added to an equation. If you don’t believe me, then go teach a fifteen-year-old to drive and just tell them to go as fast as they can as soon as they get in the car.
Not going to do that?
I didn’t think so.
I think in that situation you’d want the new driver to learn at an appropriate speed (i.e. slow) and add speed as appropriate. Let’s treat learning the kettlebell swing and jerk the same. Exercise your patience.
As you can see in the video above, the deadlift sets the foundation for the swing and is performed as a slow motion lift. “Don’t swing your deadlifts!” Deadlift your deadlifts. Have the patience to set your bottom position and find you wedge and push through the ground to the top. Have the patience to keep the arms against the ribs on the way down to perfect finish. Similarly, note the slow-motion unweighted patterning of the swing: keep the arms against the ribs to the hip extension and have the arms “popped” off the body to enjoy the float, then have the patience to wait for the arms to reconnect to the ribs before hinging again into the hike. Have a pattern before you add speed to it.
In the jerk video, you see what appears to be a ridiculously slow-motion example. People often struggle with the jerk because the pieces get lost in the speed of the whole. Allow the time to appreciate the pieces—the dip, drive, and dip to lockout. Have the patience to dip slowly enough to keep the upper arm connected to the rib. Have the patience to stay connected to a full hip extension. Enjoy the float of the kettlebell to just above head level so the second dip is smooth and efficient to lockout. Patience.
Then you can add speed.
For swings apply this concept and drill: do not focus on how many swings you can do in thirty seconds but rather how few swings can you do in thirty seconds. To put it another way, I don’t care how fast you can do ten swings, but rather how long it can take you to do ten swings. Have the patience to enjoy each rep, as well as the pieces and moments within the rep.
Remember slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Have patience and you will find slow becoming smooth and smooth becoming fast.