Rebuilding the body with the human performance course

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Stephan Coleman
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
The main workout area of the Dragon Fitness Center is a wide-open space with weights along the sides and a series of pull-up bars resembling a jungle gym at the back. Entering without prior knowledge can be intimidating, especially when some of the weights available look like cannonballs with handles.

The human performance course at the health and wellness center uses these cast-iron, spherical weights called kettlebells, along with the open space and other tools, to teach proper movements with increased intensity to recover lost functions.

"This course and its philosophy is a lot more rehabilitative and function restoring - it puts the body back together and forces the brain to control it as one piece. Sedentary lifestyles undo function and control," said Al Ciampa, 81st Aerospace Medicine Squadron, exercise physiologist. "Movement is that thread that ties the injury continuum together, with injury on one side and sports participation on the other."

The 10-week course teaches physical training leaders the basics of kettlebell movements and the effects they can have on fitness and rehabilitation. In addition to this course, the HAWC has a basic fitness course every day at 7:30 a.m. for those trying to improve physical training scores and a community-led kettlebell course Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11 a.m.

Knowing where to begin with a kettlebell can be puzzling for those unfamiliar with them as they are extremely simple objects. Ciampa's program starts by teaching the fundamentals of movement, then adding tools like the kettlebell to forge that movement pattern.

"The philosophy of the mechanics involves interaction between all the body parts," said Maj. Gen. Leonard Patrick, 2nd Air Force commander. "It starts with the proper form to prevent injury and, as well as building strength, the course is about building balance and symmetry."

The foundation provided by the course can transition into any fitness routine by helping participants learn the right ways to move from the bottom up. Getting young people stronger and faster is easy, but the true gem lies in the therapeutic side of the program, said Ciampa.

"I've had a lifetime fitness journey, but I didn't realize that some of the things I was doing were counterproductive," said Patrick. "My arms are now more flexible, I stand more upright, my hips are more flexible, my lower body muscle groups are in balance. I'm not as sore after a workout anymore. I don't think I'll ever go back to just strength training. This new mentality will always be a part of my workout routine."

Everybody's fitness goals are different, but no success is too small in the fields of rehabilitation and performance increases.

"It corrected my posture and relieved back pain," said Tech Sgt. Aaron Gaddis, 81st Security Forces Squadron. "I've seen great gains in strength and performance in people that have come through the course."

Gaddis and Staff Sgt. Shaun Segrow, 81st SFS, both stated that their PT scores increased back into the 90 percentile after participating in the class.

On top of recovery and increased fitness, some program participants have even overcome long-term pain.

After many years of periodic back pain and therapy, Tech Sgt. Melinda Sieloff, 2nd Air Force, enlisted aide, was referred to an orthopedic spine specialist, who decided she either needed surgery or a series of epidural shots in her back.

Sieloff's husband was in the first group of physical training leaders to go through the human performance class. When Ciampa told her husband about how many people found recovery in the program, Sieloff's husband asked her if she wanted to try it.

"It took about two weeks of his class and I was pain free," said Sieloff. "If my back starts hurting now, I know it's because I was doing an exercise wrong. I haven't had back surgery or epidural shots; all I have is my kettlebell. I can honestly say that Al's kettlebell class saved me, my back, and my career."

There are many reasons to get involved in a kettlebell course, and being new to the idea shouldn't be discouraging.

"I think many people are scared of kettlebell training, either because it looks hard, they are hurt, or I seem intimidating," said Ciampa. "Most people don't realize my personal history of painful musculoskeletal injury and conditions, and how I have managed pain through kettlebell training."