FORT BRAGG, N.C. - "People come in here and get a 20 to 30 minute workout that'll take you an hour or an hour and a half over at Ritz-Epps," said Lance Stucky, a civilian strength and conditioning coach at Tucker Physical Fitness Center. Stucky partners with the Soldier Performance Enhancement Program to properly train Soldiers in a number of functional training programs.

One of these programs, his Kettlebell 101 class (Thursdays, noon to 1 p.m.) is designed to introduce Soldiers to basic kettlebell technique, progression and training concepts. Stucky, who attended strength and conditioning programs at Florida State and the University of Maine, considers the kettlebell a versatile and mobile piece of equipment.

The kettlebell resembles an iron ball with a handle, and trainees use a variety of exercises ranging from squats to swinging to steadying the weight at arms length.

"A lot of guys are using these down range," said Stucky. That's good news according to the website Kettlebell Training, an authority on kettlebell exercises and routines. It lists a university study that monitored the effects of different training programs. The first group of students trained on a physical fitness program similar to military standards, which emphasizes running and isolated body strength. The second set of students worked exclusively with kettlebells. The kettlebell group scored higher on every physical fitness test.

Here at Fort Bragg, Tucker Gym houses about 30 sets of kettlebells, ranging in size and weight from 8.8 pounds to 70 pounds. Kettlebell 101 participants typically start within the 24 to 33-pound range and increase weight depending on workout goals.

"We've had to design programs to make these guys more athletic because, believe it or not, they're professional athletes but they're fighting for their lives not for a paycheck," said Stucky.
Most Soldiers find 'their groove' in the first class, and though it looks like a simple piece of equipment, there is enough variation of technique to keep participants interested. Dedication produces amazing results, both in muscle tone and upper-lower body coordination.

"Everything they do with that kettlebell is full body, even if it's just stabilizing it above the head - they have to stick their hips back, they have to absorb the impact, come right back down," Stucky added.

In the Army, Soldiers are pushed to run. Less focus is placed on agility, according to Stucky, which is where the kettlebell comes in. The kettlebell trains both muscle endurance and aerobics, so that a Soldier is more agile in a live-fire situation.

It's this attention to detail, working the whole body rather than pounding the pavement, that could save a life in combat.

It's easy for a Soldier to get tunnel vision when it comes to exercise, noted Stucky. "They do everything anteriorly, in the front of their body. They don't focus on the back so they've got real asymmetry from the front to the back leading to a lot of injuries. Where if they would even it out, they'd be a lot healthier Soldier."

Tucker Physical Fitness Center is located in Building P-2261, on Tullidge Way, behind the Airborne PX on Armistead. The gym offers kettlebell, agility, suspension, strength and endurance training, as well as performance enhancement, cardio workouts, Olympic lifting and plyometrics.

Contact Stucky at 432-3573 for more information about Kettlebell 101 or Olympic lifting classes.