Sunday, April 24, 2016

From Bodyweight To Kettlebells

When I perform a consultation for a new client I like to lay out my programming method so that the individual can understand the track that we will be on. When I discuss starting off with bodyweight exercises I can sometimes tell they’re a little disappointed, perhaps because they had visions of doing endless kettlebell swings or throwing a barbell over their head. This is all reasonable enough, and can occur later in the training cycle, but prior to that I want to clear all of the basic movement categories as well as establishing a decent baseline of strength. What is the purpose of putting a weight in someone’s hands to do a bench press if that person cannot even manage a handful of strict push ups with good trunk stability? Why lift a pair of kettlebells (or a barbell) to do front squats if the client cannot even squat below parallel with no weight?

The possible disappointment on the part of the client in hearing that I start off only using bodyweight exercises is quickly dissipated once they discover how challenging these exercises are, that they are infinitely scalable and that the client does not experience the joint discomfort they may have felt in the past with traditional gym exercises.
“But I can’t even do one push up… “
When I start talking about doing push ups this is often the response. The key to learning anything is having a good teacher and a proper progression. It won’t help you if I just keep telling you to push harder, but if I cue you to push the floor away from you that may be a usable cue. That is the difference between a good cue and a bad cue and can be the difference between you doing a push up and not doing one. If you can’t possibly do a push up on the floor no cue is going to change that, but if you can do one vertically facing a wall, you can being the skill practice required to eventually perform one on the floor.
Step by step we begin establishing or re-establishing basic human movement principles that will later carry over to training with kettlebells. This way by the time you’re ready to perform a Turkish Get Up or a Swing with the kettlebell you already have hundreds of reps of practice on the basic movement mechanics required to perform these lifts.

Understanding the value of properly constructed bodyweight training involves the below ideas.

1. Don’t be an absolutist. You don’t have to focus on bodyweight training forever, and you can integrate it into your kettlebell or barbell program. Exercises are not a trap you fall into, but tools you use to reach a specific goal, even if that goal is a different (more advanced) exercise.

2. If it’s hard it’s hard. If you finish a grueling workout that did not involve weights, it was still hard. This might seem like a strange admonition, but it’s not usual for a person to feel that a bodyweight focused workout somehow wasn’t as ‘difficult’ or ‘useful’ as one with weights.

3. Give yourself permission to make your mistakes small. Part of my process in the beginning revolves around observation, looking for movement asymmetries, joint dysfunction, lack of core activation etc. Finding these things during the course of a workout using only bodyweight (in my opinion) is preferable to finding them during a weight lifting based training session.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The kettlebell is the tool, but what is the goal?

Number of clients I have had come in to the studio with a goal of maxing out their SSST: Zero. Donut hole. Zilch.
Most people come to me with more human goals. Dropping some weight, getting rid of back pain, stronger core, stronger legs for cycling, etc.
I am hesitant to get so wrapped up in the kettlebell culture that i forget why I even started doing it in the first place. It's like I've said before regarding my Beast Challenge goal. I'm not doing it to nail the Beast Challenge, I just figured being able to do those three things with a 106 pound kettlebell would mean I was pretty strong.
If someone comes to me as a cyclist I know a some things right off the bat with a fairly high degree of certainty. No core, no toe touch, glutes don't fire, spends a lot of time in a kyphotic position. The math isn't too hard on that one.
Value in spending a lot of time trying to nail the SSST: Eh. Negligible. He already has more endurance than 99% of the people who will walk in my door, so why hammer on an attribute that is already pretty locked in? Sure it's a different 'type' of endurance and there will be some benefit, but it's not number one on the list of things that need to be addressed.
After corrective work there is probably more benefit in, stop me if you've heard this one: Swings and Get ups. Swings to get the glutes firing, get ups to address the core (plus everything else) and start to balance out the lower and upper body strength.
Folks are resistant to the idea that one or two exercises can do it all. We are conditioned to believe we need 5 exercises to hit the bicpes, and what about my rear delts?
It is this simple though, and this complicated.
Are your goals in line with your goals? Dan John has a great line in his Philosophy of Strength Training DVD: "Let's make sure we keep the goal, the goal."
SDon't get so wrapped up in the kettlebell that you forget why you picked it up in the first place. There's nothing wrong with the SSST, I think it's a great goal, but make sure it's the goal for you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Promoted to RKC Team Leader

Do you know how hard it is to keep a secret like this?!

I have been promoted to the position of Team Leader in the Russian Kettlebell Challenge. This is a big honor for me and I worked myself halfway into an early grave to get it. Someone asked me today how this compared to being promoted to Sergeant while I was in the Marines. I put this over that. Why? Let's face it, if you hang around the Corps long enough and don't punch too many officers or shoot yourself in the face you'll most likely pick up Sergeant eventually. This was different. I had to have a narrow focus and stay on the ball. It reminds me more of when I was involved with Kajunkenbo, a Martial Art with it's roots in Hawaii. Average time to black belt in our school: 5-7 years. Sometimes longer. When you put in your time and passed your belt test, you still had to 'take' your belt from the head instructor. He would say it too, "You're going to have to take this from me." You had to reach out and yank the thing out of his hands. One time a guy didn't pull hard enough and he told him to try again next week, he obviously didn't want it enough.
I had to take this, and I did want it. The process of earning it however, is not over.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Taking down a 5.5 inch Gr5

I'm in the midst of a Bear Style PTTP cycle right now as well as working back into regular grip training. I feel like my deadlift max is probably significantly greater than it was previously. I based my Bear weight off my last 5 rep max, but I'm still hitting 15-17 sets of 5 before I finally call it quits. That will most likely change in a couple weeks as the weights go up.
Today I got a decent bend in a five and a half inch Gr5 from John B at Fat Bastard Barbell. John's Gr5's are waaaay harder than the Gr5's I had been getting from Fastenal.
This was decent, but I obviously had an issue on the final crushdown. That's typical for me, same thing happened first time with the blue nails. A few more rounds and I'll get it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The new DVD is coming soon.

I've bumped the release date up to April 1st due to my superior editing skills. More info will be disclosed this coming week such as the contents, price, etc.
Below is the full introduction from the DVD.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Jedd Johnson's Card Tearing E-book Sale

Jedd's e-book on the art of card tearing is on sale for a few days. I am of the opinion that it would be a good idea to take advantage of this opportunity. Even if you're not that interested in card tearing there is a ton of great information in here on grip training and general strength work. There is also a great section on dealing with elbow pain that helped me greatly in remaining pain free during my grip work.

Click here to check out Jedd's Card Tearing E-book.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

RKC II: I passed!

Wow. It's over. Brain hurts. I took copious notes to try and retain as much of the information being launched at me as possible. Today I hit my 24 kg. pull up and nailed it. I passed all of my level one and two tests and am now RKC II. Not bad for a course that has had as high as an 80% failure rate if memory serves me.
To be honest I did not expect to pass. I went in barely able to press the 36 kg. (my required half body weight press) some serious flexibility issues and a jacked up left shoulder. However i just applied what I was taught and pulled it off.
A big thank you to the RKC Instructors who taught the course. No way would I have made it through without all of the information and attention I received.
If you are an RKC Instructor and think the level two is some sort of 'bonus course' or 'merit badge', guess again. This is no joke, and you will easily learn 3 times as much as you did at level one if not more.
The standards were very, very high. No one was given a free pass.