Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Understanding the difference between injury, and exploitation of weakness.

I've had several cases of this lately, so I thought I'd go into a short explanation that some of you may find useful. Often when I start people on kettlebells or some other form of advanced strength training that forces the entire body into action instead of just the biceps or the chest (i.e. isolation movements), clients will tell me that their knees start to hurt, or their back hurts, or their shoulders hurt. Sometimes this may be an injury caused by something such as overuse, but most often I find it is something that was always there, but was not brought to light due to quasi-traditional isolation movements such as are done in the popular three day split. Once you begin to really work, and train your body as one piece, the fact you have a weak back (something not discovered while doing rows and lat pulldowns) is revealed because you now must use it. It is important to understand that this is not some new injury brought on by kettlebell training, and allow that to cause you to run back to 'safe' and ineffective training. Instead I want to stay very aware of this weakness and not try to punish it into submission, but rather temper my training to a tolerable level and take other measures to alleviate it. These may include massage, myofascial release, fish oils, glucosasmine, or other proven measures. A good example of this is a client who was doing sets of super planks, which can be very demanding, particularly if you have not done many. We then progressed to bear crawls and killer planks, the latter of which is essentially super planks with a push up. The next week he expressed concern over his extremely sore shoulders, and it seemed he thought he might have strained or pulled something. In reality it was just DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) brought on by the fact that his arms had not before been worked hard in that range of motion.
It is important to follow logic and proven techniques, and not allow popular fear to guide us. I cannot tell you how many times I have had people tell me that some trainer or other 'expert' told them kettlebell training is dangerous, or that some other type of training I do looks horrible for your back or joints. This is simply because you have never been pushed and have always taken the easy road in regard to training. Not because you didn't want to take the hard road, but you just didn't know where it was.
Congratulations, you just found it.
This is a link to a blog from Mark Reifkind, an excellent trainer and Senior RKC in Palo Alto that tells his story of recovery from 'other' training methods using kettlebells and I feel sort of re-enforces the point of this blog.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Necessity is the mother of invention.

I've been going through different methods of working my grip, and today in the gym I came across a barbell that had come apart, leaving the thick end by itself. I sat it on the floor with the bar up and threw some plates on it.

2 45's was good, but the additional 25 was pushing it.

I also found some bumper plates stacked in a corner so I can get going on some olympic lifts.
I overhead pressed 155 lbs, not bad, but not satisfying. I utilized a push press for this movement. As Coach Glassman stated on a curve of force this adds 30% over a standard shoulder press, and a jerk adds 30% over that. I'm interested to try each separately and see how close it is.
Returned to the deadlift for the first time in about 8 months and did it for 305 lbs. without any real problems, but decided not to push it the first day back. Almost 100 lbs. under my old max.
All in all a good day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Return to the Barbell

Recently I've started doing more barbell work. I'm continuing my tawdry love affair with the kettlebell, but I have also found many things I did with the kettlebell are much harder with the barbell. Duh, It's a long unbalanced weight. Of course it is 'balanced', but not when held overhead in one hand. I'm planning on getting into some one hand snatches, and more progressive lifting techniques in the coming months, at which time part two of this will be up.

Monday, October 22, 2007

GS Technique for bad knees

Just thinking about this is all. You don't want a ton of squat in your HS swings, but you do get some, and commonly more than you would from your GS variety. GS requires much more of a 'body folding' action than the HS. Not to be confused with your 'High School', but rather to be associated with parent words 'Hard Style'.
Firstly, there is much I do not know. I readily acknowledge that you could fill the grand canyon with everything I do not know, and not even be half finished unloading the truck. You may have a knee issue I cannot readily fix, whereas a more experienced trainer may simply be able to say "Oh, well I just need to kick you in your flux capacitor, and it's all better." This being said, even if I cannot fix your issue, we may be able to work around it. Which brings us to GS swings and snatches.
If we know that your knee folding past a certain degree causes pain, we know we should work just shy of that degree of movement so long as we don't believe that it will aggravate whatever the problem is.
In the below video you see the limited amount of knee action in the athlete. However, a lack of action in the knee does not mean it is necessarily bearing less weight, it is simply bearing the weight in a stronger position, closer to lockout.

I have begun working with more GS techniques with a client of mine who has a right knee problem mostly only aggravated by multiple repetitions of flexion and extension.
As no Doctor has given a clear diagnosis of exactly what the problem is, I feel comfortable working it in this manner so long as the problem does not worsen.
This may beg the question from some as to why someone would even take the risk of aggrivating the problem. The answer is that if you do not know, you may never know.
Recently someone wondered aloud why otherwise brilliant athletes like JC Santana and Franco Columbo, had injured themselves doing silly things. I'm not clear on what Santana did, although she stated he had injured himself doing squats on a stability ball. Franco injured himself running with a 600 pound refrigerator on his back full of sand. The answer is that brilliance is tinged with fits of lunacy. We take chances. Why am I going to make an Atlas stone? Because I can, and I want to see what happens. Could I injure myself? Of course. What's the point of life without risk? Even as I'm writing this I'm wondering if I could get a refrigerator on my back. I think I can. Maybe a dorm fridge first. Why do GS athletes do snatches or long cycle for 10 minutes straight? Because it's possible. I know it's possible, so I have to do it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

New T-Shirts Up

The new t-shirts are finally up in my cafe press shop.
Average To Elite T-Shirt Heaven
They all feature the company logo and say "Training hard changes you."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A generally poor attitude from the AKC?

American Kettlebell Club is seriously bumming me out, in particular Mike Stefano.
I keep hearing from these guys that their way is the only way, and everything else is bullshit. Maybe I'm just too critical, but that's what I'm getting from these articles. Just because you run around shouting that your way is the best, doesn't make it true.
Mr. Stefano even goes so far as to offer this warning: "Ask questions, as it's healthy to have things explained, but don't invent your own methods. Valery's and the AKC's methods have stood the test of decades."
Before anyone brings it up, I completely understand what Sonnen says in this article
about earning the right to be creative. To a certain extent I agree. However, I really think that the ability to do snatches and long cycle is not a definition of fitness. It is a correlate, but not a definition. If you are just generally weak, perhaps you should not be inventing new exercises, but simply because you are not insanely strong in the snatch and long cycle, does not mean you are weak. If you want to play that game, I insist you are weak if you can't Turkish Get Up X amount of weight. Now I win.
Think about Kalashnikov. The only reason he invented the AK-47 was because he didn't realize you couldn't build a reliable assault rifle for mass production in the Soviet Union. However, he did know enough to know how to put it together.
It seems that AKC has brought with it from Russia an unsavory piece of history. Communism. Sorry man, but when you tell people there is only one way (and it just happens to be yours) and that they should not get inventive, it sounds like communism. Maybe if what you're training for is to be really great at GS, you're right. Otherwise, you might have a lot to learn. Of course that will be difficult since you already know everything. Scott Sonnen went so far as to say fighters only need to do long cycle, and nothing else is necessary. Hey, I think both these guys are great at what they do and I have respect for them, and I find long cycle to be a real ass kicker, but it's not the only thing I need. Sonnen also declares that 'many fighters juice'. Really? Where exactly? Is it in the UFC where popping on one test nets you a year suspension? He really needs to clarify what he means by 'many'. Otherwise it sounds a lot like you're talking smack.
When it comes to 'not inventing my own methods' I think Stefano is way off the reservation. Why is it history suddenly grinds to a halt with the snatch and long cycle? Look at everything the Diesel Crew has done with kettlebells, purely because they think outside the box? Are you seriously going to try and tell me that if they only switched over the snatch and long cycle they would be much better athletes?
Once again, I like a lot of what I see coming out of the AKC, but the attitude is not one of those things. If you want to make a name for yourself and show the good things you are doing, trashing your competition (and when it comes down to it, right now AKC is no real competitor of the RKC) is not the way to do it. Example cited:
"In June 2006 I started using kettlebells to the exclusion of barbells. Not knowing any better, I was following the “hard style” protocol that most of us have tried."
- Mark Boggs, AKC

It's possible this same stuff is coming from the RKC, but I haven't been seeing it. What I have seen in my neck of the woods is people like Mark and Tracy Reifkind using GS technique along with other techniques in search of knowledge, and a better way to do things in general. They do not simply declare "RKC is the only way."
Again, maybe I'm way off base, but I keep seeing this poor attitude pop up again and again, and these are not even all of the examples I found.
In closing, Valery Federenko (Head coach of AKC) says this: “America, it’s a Freedom Country, but just having an opinion doesn’t make you right."
Sounds like pretty good advice.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

25 lb. hub lift

More and more I've been working my grip. What I thought was grip strength, was nothing.
I found a local gym in Burlingame called 'Diesel' (go figure) that lets me bring in my kettlebells, farmer's handles, etc. I had a great workout there today.
I finally managed to hub lift a 25 lb. plate for reps. This is an old grip exercise. If your weight plate has a raised center, you lay it flat, then try to pick it up and clean it using just that small raised center. I'm working up to a 45, which for me will be a good marker of having built up some real grip strength.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Shoe selection

Mark Rippetoe or Mike Burgener (probably both) summed it up best in regard to shoe selection. Wearing running shoes while doing serious weight training is like "Trying to overhead press while standing on a mattress." Your shoes have cushioning agents designed to absorb shock, but not designed to stabilize you in a static position. If you do one legged squats you will notice a profound difference between doing them in your running shoes, and doing them barefoot or in a pair of Chuck Taylor's or boots. I had read about this before, but didn't realize just how much of a difference it made. I first picked up on it while doing one legged squats or kettlebell training in my military issue boots.
Part of the reason for this is that you actually have a sort of sensory mechanism on the sole of your foot that dictates how your body balances, and how it utilizes strength. To a certain extent the cushioning agents in your running shoes render this sensory mechanism null.
From the moment you put on your Chuck Taylor converse shoes you will feel a difference. Then move to some one legged squats, some kettlebell drills, or even barbell deadlifting, squatting, or pressing, and it will become even more apparent.
Often we will look at something like this and think it is a small thing, and not that big a deal, but there are so many small things like this that eventually they have a great impact on your training.