Thursday, January 31, 2008

First day at Girya, and data to disseminate.

Today was the first day I trained at Girya in Palo Alto, CA. The way I've tried to explain it to my friends and family is that it's like you're playing in a local band, and one day you get a call asking you to open for Metallica. When they were good, I mean. Before they started quoting 'poltergeist' in their songs and acting like Frenchmen. Right around 'Master of Puppets'. Maybe some old school Anthrax would have been a better analogy. Or Black Flag. Anyway.
It was very good. I feel much more at home now. The 48 kilo bells sitting in the corner mock me, and laugh at my inability to TGU them.
This past two weeks is like someone packed me into a cosmic slingshot and sent me forward a few years, and I am scrambling to take full advantage of the awesome opportunities being presented to me.
All is good in the hood.

Below are a couple cool videos I found on youtube of jerk and snatch motion analysis. It may be useful to some of you. I am also working on the post for snatching tips, so it's coming soon.

The Jerk

The Snatch

Monday, January 28, 2008

The missing link in your chain of progress

I've said this before, and I'll most likely say it again.
I am no different from you. No better, no worse. I have no more athletic talent. In fact, I most likely have far less. I had zero endurance until a certain Sgt. Levin applied some boot to ass counseling and really taught me the whole concept of work output reaping rewards. If you keep running, eventually you will not be as tired as you used to be at point B. The same applies to most athletic endeavors with proper allowance for periodization, the conjugate method, etc.
Set your sights on what you want, map out the best route to get there, and most importantly, show up for the game. Rif put it well talking about how people develop all these elaborate plans for training, but don't show up to do the work. A plan is only as good as your ability to put it into action. Don't spend your time putting together all sorts of fancy routines, when most likely all you really need to be doing is squat, deadlift, and overhead press. That's it.
You have to be like a Doberman with a hambone and absolutely not go off message until you have achieved your goal. If you know your plan is solid, don't get impatient and start changing it every five minutes.
If anything makes me different from you, or from whoever the next big dog is, that is most likely it.
That's one of the things I love about my style of training. Most of the independent workouts I give my clients take 20 minutes or less. That makes it real hard to make excuses about how you couldn't do it, because even as the words come out of your mouth, at the end of the day you know you just didn't do it. That's all.
Below is some video I shot of some grip strength training. If you haven't done the towel swings yet give them a shot. It's a good shot in the arm for your ability to hold onto the belll during the long snatch sets.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

We're moving to Girya

As some of you know I have recently been looking for more of a 'home' for Average To Elite, as opposed to random places to train out of. Yesterday it was confirmed that we will be moving to Girya in Palo Alto, CA the home of Mark Reifkind Senior RKC. This is a huge honor to be able to train in this facility, and will be a great benefit to both myself and my clients. I look forward to a long tenure here and would like to thank both Mark and Cindy Glass RKC for facilitating this opportunity.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

This is my stopwatch! There are many like it but this one is mine.

Not much of note today, just some stuff I was messing around with. I'm gnawing at the bit to get going with my 24 kilo timed sets. It gives me a sense like I'm really up against it when I do that, there's no magic number that will save me when I reach it. I have made an enemy of time and he understands that there is no mercy in this dojo.
Just some impromptu video below of myself doing some GS style swings. I feel pretty natural in this position and it's easier to sustain, but at the same time it feels almost too relaxed.
The thing about GS stuff is that there is definitely a sort of 'standard' being spread by the AKC, but at the end of the day I look at them in the same manner I look at the Turkish Get Up. The best manner in which you can get the job done without putting your safety at risk is the best manner in which to do it. Maybe I'm wrong, but that seems logical.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Stripping your kettlebell handle and Long Cycle video

Many people don't do this, and that's fine. I just find that the raw steel or iron holds chalk better, and the smaller I can get that handle for my hook grip, the better. Hey, I have tiny hands.
I stripped a client's pro-grade for him, so I thought I'd put up some progress photos and a short explanation for those who have not done it.

It's pretty simple, but I've seen some people take the real long way around in doing this. I just clean the handle, apply some paint remover from the hardware store, wait 15 minutes, and it comes right off with steel wool or a copper scrubber. You may need a couple applications for spots you miss. After that you want to clean it again and then get to sanding down the handle, getting rid of anything left. I could have taken this one down further until the handle is just shiny steel, but this is satisfactory.

You can also get a cleaner line at the base of the handle where the paint ends by applying some tape prior to stripping, but I prefer a kind of rugged look.
I also realized I hadn't posted my Steve Cotter Long Cycle video from youtube, so here it is.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It's about compression of time.

I favor my right hand. Both negatively and positively. I’ve struck a weird balance. My right is of course my dominant hand, but after tearing a tendon in it I basically trained only my left hand for about 6 months. Previously I had harbored an imbalance from left to right as most people do, but now that I have brought up the strength considerably on my left side, but am still weaker there, I realize just how bad it was. Being able to train only my left hand was probably a blessing in disguise.
Now I am working hard to strike a balance. It can be easy to slip up. If I have a packed day of training (6 hours for me) I may do hundreds of swings, snatches, presses, etc. demonstrating movements. If I don’t stay on the ball I could easily do most of them all on my right side. Aside from some limited range of motion, the little finger on my right hand is pretty much healed, so of course I have reverted back to my old ways, but I’m fighting it.
We notice the obvious imbalances such as someone who has no injuries walking with a limp, but others may not present themselves until the client is under a specific load. I was working with a trainer over the weekend who while snatching threw her right hip out a full three inches further than her left. That’s a big deviation, especially considering she was consciously trying not to do it. She told me that she had a tendency to favor her right side. Bingo. No fault of hers, and her snatch form was otherwise fine, she had just fallen into the habit of demonstrating everything on her right side. Ego-wise we will also have a tendency to want to do the strong stuff, and might bang out some 32 kilo presses on our right, but be unable to match the set with our left. Of course that doesn’t stop us from knocking out that set on the right.
I bring this up because I am very interested in how we move, why we move that way, and what short circuits our natural movement patterns. Tight IT Bands, tight hip flexors, desk jobs, injuries never rehabbed, poor diet that saps our energy and causes us to slump forward, etc. The list could go on forever.
When people walk in my door, they have a goal. Even if they are hesitant to present it, it’s there. It’s my job to pry it out of them. Often the goal is weight loss. They read about the kettlebells and bodyweight exercises, see the effective quality, and come in to get going on that New Year’s Resolution!
First you have to learn how to walk. How to sit. How to squat. How to bend.
No one ever walks in that door and says their goal is to live pain free and regain full range of motion in their shoulders. It’s not that they don’t want this; it’s just that they don’t realize how achievable it is barring any serious injuries or health problems. Once they feel the difference they want it.
This is why I’m very skeptical about trainers who promise things like losing 20 pounds by New Year’s on their website. If asked I will say it is a distinct possibility, but first we have to find out if you can walk, and if you can handle being loaded with external weight. Are there trainers out there who will damn the torpedoes and load you up, causing you to lose weight but also tearing your body apart? Sadly, yes.
I have a client who was put in this very situation. The trainer didn’t realize that she shouldn’t really be moving any weight other than her own body weight, loaded her up, and snap! Separated shoulder. If you were to look at my client, you would know there is no reason for her to be doing overhead pressing in the immediate future with anything other than a broomstick and perhaps a light medicine ball.
I have another client who has incredibly restricted range of motion in her shoulders, hips, and pretty much just in general. Her squat when we started was virtually non-existent. By adopting a movement pattern I had seen on a blog video and modifying it slightly we instantly added 3 inches to the depth of her squat. Sometimes I know why this stuff works, and sometimes I don’t. All I know is that she made a leap forward in regard to personal fitness, without an external load. She had lost one of her primal movement patterns, and has now regained at least some of it.
What’s the point of all this? Is it just a blog about how cool I am? Partially. ☺
Mainly it’s just that I am excited about learning. I was speaking to another client about some great opportunities I have coming up to expand my knowledge, and he asked “Do you really need to learn that much more?”
A perfectly reasonable question as it would seem I have a decent command of what I am doing. If you’re a humble person though (or trying to be), you find new questions in every answer. The path of learning is a path with no end. I have an endless number of bookmarked articles and websites, to the point where I mourn the fact that it will take me through the next year to get to all of them, and of course by then they will have expanded into many, many more.
It is also good. After all, what is it that I do? Do I unleash upon you the ‘secrets’ of the fitness industry? No, not really. There are no secrets. In reality I am not showing you anything you couldn’t learn for yourself from books, DVD’s, and youtube. The service I offer is compression of time, and my experience having witnessed many different scenarios and having come up with many different solutions.
Check out these two articles if you're interested in learning more about the ways we move and why.

Back to the future of abdominal training.

From handstands to bench press to jerks.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Snappy hips are happy hips

This past weekend was my first real workshop held at Equinox Fitness in Palo Alto, CA. This one was on kettlebell training. Everyone knows that's my meat and potatoes, and while I have yet to visit the RKC, I have invested myself in learning this art over the past 15 months, and feel I have the foundation necessary to pass it on.
All in all it went very well, with one hiccup.
I would not have believed this if I wasn't there.
I brought some extra kettlebells with me. My idea is that it takes 300-500 proper repetitions to build a motor engram, and we were going to get all of them this weekend. Therefore it would not behoove me to only have the kettlebells on hand at Equinox and have trainers standing around waiting their turn. It worked, and I think burning in those reps really made a difference. However.
I left my bells there overnight.
I had noticed the equinox kettlebells were a little oily, so I decided to degrease the handles. So I showed up with some alcohol pads and went to work. As I was cleaning one I noticed the stamp on it 'Russian Reds'. I thought that was weird, as I had never seen a black Russian Red. Then I noticed they also had lifeline kettlebells, but they looked newer than mine. Wow, that's weird.
I probably sat there for a full two minutes staring at them before it clicked.
Maintenance had painted my kettlebells.
God bless 'em for being so very tidy, but they had just painted my brand new Russian Red.

Equinox is replacing the damaged kettlebell, I just think it's funny.
I also believe that I have coined the phrase 'Snappy hips are happy hips'. What's the difference between that and 'quick feet are happy feet'? It's about hips and it rhymes. Duh.

Originally I wasn't necessarily looking to do this, but the opportunity presented itself and it would have been foolish to turn it down.

Friday, January 18, 2008


I've had a few people ask about the 'Pantera Chamber Music' on my latest video. It's a band called Apocalyptica that does covers of heavy metal songs and their own stuff as well. They do Pantera, Metallica, and Sepultura among others. One thing I like about this group is that they bring to light the compositional talents of cats like Hetfield, Hammett and Dimebag. I also dug up some stuff of them with Sandra Nasic from the Guano Apes, a band most likely only I remember.

Maybe I'm just a weirdo, but I think these guys are incredible.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New article up, and my last beer?

I've kind of come up against it this week as far as my nutritional component goes. I've made great progress in my training, all whilst eating and drinking in a manner that would kill a lesser man. So I am even as I write this, drinking my last beer until after the TSC. Some might say I'm taking this too seriously, but seeing as I'll most likely be one of the few people present who has actually been on tactical teams, I should probably work hard to make a good showing.
I also have a new article up on
Conditioning for combat survival.
I love the rate at which I am increasing my knowledge. Looking back at this article which I wrote six months ago, there are already things i would alter, but for the most part it stands. It stands because it's simple, and brutal. I read all sorts of 'Navy SEAL workouts' and 'special forces workouts' and 9 times out of 10 they're a joke. It seems like these people don't really care about combat survival, they just want the cache of saying they've trained Marines or SEALs or whatever. As an interesting side note, I actually originally picked up the tire pulling idea I talk about in the article from SEAL Team 4 out of Dam Neck VA.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New hublift PR and fun with the Deadlift.

Today was a good day. I managed to hublift a 45 lbs. plate without much difficulty, so my grip has improved. I have to attribute some of that to the trap bar farmer's carries. I also pulled a deadlift of 365 lbs. without a whole lot of difficulty. For the most part I'm just rebuilding to my old max of 385 lbs. after rehabbing my right hand. What I am doing is working, and it's working well. I can see I'm going to run into an issue with my pull ups as my weight goes up, so I'm going to cap it off at 170 lbs. until the TSC. I have set a deadlift goal for myself of 425 lbs. by April, which I think is doable. We'll see.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Go with God and a bag full of guns

If you haven't seen Kevin Bacon's new Movie 'Death Sentence', I highly recommend it. To me, this is how this kind of situation really would go down. People build up all these Hollywood ideas in their heads of how they would 'defend their family' and stuff like that, particularly the folks who are really into guns and carrying concealed weapons. Don't get me wrong, that's no kind of a hit on the gun culture, and this is coming from a guy whose probably put more rounds down range than you could ever dream of, but I do think many people aren't realistic about the end result. Pursuing a path of vengeance is essentially pursuing a path of sacrifice. Even if you make it out the other end alive you will have given up a piece of your humanity.
On a similar note I was watching this show called 'Guinea Pig' where this guy had all of these non-lethal munitions used against him, including OC (pepper spray). Not the Wal-Mart keychain pepper spray, but the real stuff. I always tell people that if they feel the need to carry a weapon, carry OC. That stuff will stop a train. I've been hit three times, and it takes the fight right out of you. It is a great option for your wife or other loved one. Aside from not being lethal, you have a much better chance of hitting your target with a stream of OC than a single bullet fired from an adrenaline jacked person.
Also, if it should ever come up, the best way to decontaminate yourself from OC is milk, as it dissolves the oil. DO NOT GET IN THE SHOWER. It will run all over your body. It's amazing to me that I still never see anyone using milk. Every time I got sprayed down I would show up with a gallon of milk and everyone would laugh at me. Guess who was laughing 15 minutes later? Not me, I was howling in pain like everyone, else, but not quite as bad.
Just my opinion.
Below are some photos for your entertainment from a couple years back.

After being lit up with OC and fighting my way through an assault course.

After being shot up with simunition in the kill house. Simunition is a hard plastic round filled with paint/detergent packed into a real shell and fired from a real pistol or automatic weapon. It hurts. The instructor said I run really freaking fast, and it's clear I don't like being shot at. :)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Tha half snatch.

Thought this was interesting. This guy is 62. Keep lifting your kettlbells, apparently it pays off.

"This is a former KB Champion (from one of the former Soviet Republics) who is snatching a 70# kettlebell. He is doing it in accordance with the old rules for the competition, where you were allowed to lower it to your chest on the way down. This way is called the "Half Snatch" nowadays, because you only do the first half of the regulation Snatch."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

One arm/ one legged push up

I pulled off a pretty clean one today at work so I turned on the camera for all to see. Video is so useful, as I can see where I need to make corrections. I can almost see the points of tension leakage, and work to plug them up.

My pistols have also become much stronger, and I'm not far from rock bottom.
Otherwise my own training is going very well, I'm pretty amped about it. Today I am sore as hell from the heavy Zerchers.
My clients are also making great progress. Christopher Bosche ripped out over 300 snatches in 10 minutes with the 16 kilo today. It was his FIRST ten minutes set. Chris is already a cardio machine from cycling, and now we're just working to fill in the gaps. So long as it's a goal he wants to pursue, I'll be interested to see what he does for the Secret Service Snatch Test.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

New T-Shirt Available

I am in love with my logo. I plaster it everywhere I can, including on my company t-shirts. The new one is pictured below. I'm using cafe press for now, so if you'd like to pick up one of these you can get there by clicking this link.

Today's Work

I'm going to start posting what I'm doing in the gym, either on it's own or with my other ramblings. Not much of note today. Warmed up with some Turkish Get Ups, worked from the dumbbell to the barbell.
Sets of one handed barbell press- 3x45, 3x55
Zercher Squats starting with pins set at mid thigh- 3x135, 3x185, 3x205, 1x225
True Zercher Squats (starting with bar on the floor, picking it up, setting it on the thighs in a squat)- 3x135
Barbell Push Jerk- 3x111, 3x 133, just barely missed attmept (In 2 attempts)- 153

I can feel that my inability to break past 153 is psychological. Particularly as I've done 153 for reps before. It's possible the Zercher's beat up my arms a bit, but I don't think that's it. I'm going to switch the order next time.

Seacrest Out!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I want to chalk my soul

So I'm trying to be more consistent with my timed sets. I'm going to keep working the 16 kilo for 10 minute sets and try to bring my total up, while working into the 24 kilo. I started today with 4 minutes of 24 kilo snatches. No biggie, but I found out I really need to file my callouses down more. I have a pretty good corkscrew descent, so they didn't catch much, but no reason to let them build up.
I sanded down the handle on the lifeline 24 and it holds the chalk much better. For those of you who just chalk your hands and not the handle of the bell, I suggest you do so. It serves as a sort of 'back-up'. I used to just chalk my hands, now I chalk everything. Prior to this set I chalked my cats. They didn't like it. Lesson learned.
I can already feel that when I'm able to pull out 10 minutes straight of 24 kilo snatches at a respectable snatch cadence my strength and conditioning will be much improved. I have no intention of sacking the rest of my training, I just look at this as another useful tool. After all, tomorrow are Zerchers, which means tomorrow will be a good day.

BTW- I think sometimes people think I'm joking when I say I put on 300 and stand in my living room snatching. Clearly I am not joking. :)

Monday, January 7, 2008

The day of 1000 pull ups

I was reading this post on the AKC blog by Catherine Imes regarding her 1000 snatch set, when it jogged my memory regarding my day of 1000 pull ups. While I was in the Marines at 2nd F.A.S.T. Company it somehow came about that someone issued a 1000 pull up challenge. I don't really remember any of the details, I just remember all day long every time I passed the pull up bars taking off my blouse (hey, I didn't invent the terminology) and banging out a boatload of pull ups. Without meaning to, I was greasing the groove to the nth degree. I would knock out pull ups until I had a few left in the bank, and then go about my day. By the end of the day I knew I was hitting the home stretch, but I was still short a couple hundred, so I was out there just going, going, going. There were no crowds cheering me on if that's what you're thinking. Most likely there were just a few Marines standing around talking about what a dumbass I was for trying to do 1000 pull ups in a day. At one point I think it was Gunnery Sgt. Jones who walked by and said something about how myself and the other one or two Marines still hanging in there with me were motivating. I don't think he knew about the 1000 pull ups. It was raining. We were dumbasses in the rain trying to do 1000 pull ups.
Well at the end of the day, I did it. Competitive or stubborn, you decide. The point of all this is, I will drop dead where I stand before I quit. You may be stronger, faster, and have more endurance, but I will bleed out of my eyeballs before I quit. Will you? Are you willing to actually risk serious injury or death to win something that at the end of the day probably means nothing to anyone but you? That is the divining line between us and them. Yeah, I know I said 'divining'.
This is one of the reasons I see value in the GS style training. It's not necessarily my thing, and I don't plan on doing it full time, but when I do a timed set it reminds me who I am and where I'm coming from. It gives me a boot in my ass to help get where I need to go.
On another note... I have to believe you reach a point where you can no longer bullshit yourself. I know many of those who read this blog engage in the same type of training I do, but for those of you who are still working back and biceps on tuesday, there will come a day when the icy fingers of functional relevance will cross your shoulder, and you will no longer be able to bullshit yourself. You will no longer be able to rationalize as to why you don't sweat when you work out, why you've never come close to passing out, why you don't make the progress others do. Then you will seek out the iron, or the sandbag, or the dragging sled. You will tear yourself apart to find a stronger core, and emerge like a phoenix from the ashes of the weak person you used to be, so long ago.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

TRX Donation to Soldiers in Iraq

A while ago I put out a blog stating that I was looking for anyone interested in donating a TRX to some soldiers currently stationed in Iraq. The TRX is perfect for Soldiers and Marines in the field as it is highly portable and requires little room for storage.
One of my clients, Christopher Bosch donated two TRX's which are now being sent out to the Baghdad and Mosul areas respectively. I'll also be sending out an 'Enter the Kettlebell' DVD with the one going to Baghdad as I know that soldier also has a kettlebell. Once the TRX's arrive I'll be posting some photos of them in action.
In other news I did a timed set today of snatches with the 16 kilo, ten minutes with no break. It wasn't that difficult, so next up is the 24 kilo. I've sanded down the handles on the lifeline kettlebells and that seems to have fixed the issue I was having with my callouses. I also started using the Corn Husker's Lotion in addition to using a pumice stone on the callouses, and that is helping as well. You can find it at most Rite Aids.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Half of a 100 lb. TGU

Yesterday I got a wild hair in the gym and decided to try to get my 100 lb. Turkish Get Up. I had gotten into the habit of sort of hurling myself into the sitting position, but have now found properly utilizing the hip turn and pushing up off of my elbow is essential. So I got my little 100 lb. dumbbell and went at it. I managed to get all the way up on my left knee before my right arm gave out and the dumbbell returned to the earth in a rather disorganized fashion. My opinion has always been that once you get to your knee you're home free, and I think that is still accurate. Upon review I believe the flaw was in my lockout. I am going to get this, then I am going to track down someone with a 48 kilo kettlebell and put up that, and then I'm going to start doing it with weird objects like axles. It's just my thing. :)