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Russian Kettlebell Challenge DVD Review

For those unfamiliar with kettlebells, they are basically an iron sphere with a handle, ranging in weight from 9 pounds up to a monstrous 88 pounds. They can be used for both strength training and aerobic conditioning, with the ability to condition one in both areas at the same time. For more information, visit the kettlebell FAQ page located elsewhere on this site.

“Russian Kettlebell Challenge” by Pavel Tsatsouline was the first DVD produced by Dragondoor.com.

I must say that I didn’t really know what to expect… on the one hand I was afraid that it wouldn’t be of the best quality, since “The Russian Kettlebell Challenge” (RKC) was the first video by Pavel Tsatsouline published by Porte des Dragons. I was worried that transferring the original video to DVD would be better than the quality of the original. On the other hand, I have never seen Dragon Door offer anything less than excellent quality.

Let’s move on to the DVD review.

Content:

RKC is a must have for anyone considering buying one or more kettlebells. I have never read the printed version, but in my opinion there is nothing like watching a master like Pavel perform the exercises. Let’s face it, if you don’t know what you’re doing with a kettlebell, you could really hurt yourself. It’s not like your regular home fitness equipment. 🙂

The punches are simple, yet effective, most often giving a full head-to-toe view of Pavel as he performs the kettlebell exercises. The same exercise is sometimes shown from multiple angles, which is helpful because some exercises will seem rather strange to you the first time you see them.

Pavel has a very engaging style which makes the DVD easy to watch. He’s taking on the “Russian boot camp instructor” persona a bit, but it’s obvious that his tongue is firmly planted in his cheek, and you can almost see the smile just hovering off the site. He explains things very thoroughly and easily understandable. His depth of experience comes through completely, and you won’t confuse him with some of today’s fitness gurus who sell their wares on infomercials.

A variety of basic exercises are covered including cleans, jerks, bent presses, windmills, military presses, swings and snatches. There’s plenty to keep you busy for 6 months of training.

Audio:

Nothing spectacular here, but it’s not like you’d expect surround sound from an instructional video, is it? What you get is crisp, clean and clear sound. There’s no popping, hissing, or any sort of “muffled” sound.

Video:

Here’s where I was very surprised: The image quality is excellent. I own the original version on VHS and maybe it’s because I was an early adopter of DVD (since 1999), but to me the video quality on the VHS version seemed pretty poor. The content was so good though, that I thought it made up for the lack of video quality.

I don’t know if it was originally shot digitally, or if there was some sort of program used to digitally clean up the original video. Anyway, the video on the DVD is very clear and crisp. A great improvement over the original. I didn’t notice any artifacts or color bleeding.

Meals:

I’ll start with what bothered me, which wasn’t much, before getting to something that I thought was unexpected, but very cool. I hope this will be considered as a comeback for future DVDs.

Recent DVDs allow you to skip the FBI warning and any other “pre-menu” items. The FBI screen doesn’t last long, but the standard disclaimer screen has been in place for a very long time. The ability to override this would be a great addition and wouldn’t affect liability since it *is* present.

Once you get past that, the main menu actually has an animation (sort of) and looks really cool coming together. Images look very professional, but on-screen text could be higher resolution. It looked very “jaggy”, especially on my large high definition screen. Perhaps on smaller analog screens this is not so noticeable.

There’s a chapter menu, as you’d expect, and it’s very useful to have on an instructional DVD. What you wouldn’t expect is that when you select one of the options (Cleans, Jerks, Presses, etc.), each of these categories will take you to a sub-menu listing each exercise individually! It goes far beyond what I (and others) hoped for in terms of being able to navigate the DVD. Kudos to whoever thought of this extra step, and to John DuCane (owner of dragondoor.com) for including it.

Supplements:

I really wasn’t expecting anything in that department, but there is a biography of Pavel Tsatsouline similar to the one available on the Dragon Door site.

There’s also a menu that leads to clips advertising a number of other Pavel videos, including “From Russia with Tough Love”, “Forced Relaxation” and “Power to the People”. Being a longtime fan of Dragon Door’s products, I would have liked to see some of the more recent products, but I understand the choices presented as they lay the groundwork for many later products. It’s a great overview for the uninitiated.

Recommendation:

This definitely gets a “thumbs up”. Even if you already own the original, I highly recommend purchasing it. It’s a great DVD, and even if you’re a long-time girevik, watching it again might help you pick up some techniques you’ve forgotten. Nothing like a return to basics!

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