Saturday, November 20, 2010

Restoring balance.

I'm not a balanced person. Physically, at least,lol .My catastrophic knee and shoulder injuries before the age of 21 guaranteed that. But I have spent virtually every waking moment in those last 36 years working to restore the physical balance in my body, gain and retain my strength, both inner and outer and explore the limits of what can be restored and obtained even with these injuries.

I have always been thoughtful of balance, no surprise given my beginning as a surfer( I grew up in Miami) and then gymnast and I wrote a novel( unpublished) at age 21 called "A question of balance" about the world of gymnastics training, competition and coaching.

The desire for great balance, in all it's forms, has been there for me from the beginning. But I also honor the extremes, as well, and that can make it more, well, challenging, to find the center of the center. It's a lifetimes work for me so I'm in no hurry, but the lessons when you are off center can be daunting. Ok ,painful.

After last weeks dive into the deep end of the pool of High Volume Kettelbell training I knew I had bit off a little more than my imbalanced body could handle, and the last four days was as much about walking a tightrope making sure I calmed things down and did not slip over the edge as anything.

The high number of two handed swings really worked my much stronger right side and I had to make sure to stretch and relax and eat right to make sure the tension calmed down and I restored my current level of physical balance.

This also meant going back to my "asymmetrical' training focusing mostly on one arm kb moves.

When I herniated my disc in 2000 all of my rehab training was about asymmetrical movements; exercises and patterns that strengthened my weaker side and elongated, lengthened and stretched my much too tight stronger side.

I did all kinds of unilateral movement and was amazed when I discovered the kettlebell and realized that the ability to swing and snatch it with one arm at a time, while inherently unbalanced and asymmetrical CREATED balance in symmetry in my torqued frame.

For nine years I have tried to incorporate two hand swings, a bilateral movement,like a squat or a deadlift into the routine with no good result. Until a few months ago. But like many medicines the difference between a cure and a poison is entirely in the dosage.

Same here.

I learned alot this last week and I knew todays training there would be no two hand swings jsut the stabilizing corrective of the one arm kb snatch. Two handers will be back in the mix next week. Done heavy, for low reps and total volume.


one arm swing warmups 16 kg x5/5 x3 sets

16 kg x5/5( snatch) x 3 sets
20 kg x5/5 x 5 sets
24 kg x5/5 x 5 sets

that was it. the 24 kg snatches felt surprisingly easy light and fast but I was cold and I also knew I needed a serious warmup before I played with them. The 50 reps of 20 kg snatches re established my groove form and timing and it worked perfectly.
I was thinking of Russian powerlifting Coaching legend Boris Sheyko, who regularly has his students do multiple sets of medium reps with say a 75-80% load before moving up to 85 % and doing volume there as well.

Way too often I am in too much of a hurry to get to the workweight and don't pay enough respect to the knowledge I have about how much real warmup this body needs.

Today I did :))

Two Handed Clubbell Shield casts(alternating)

I was inspired by the video I posted last week of the strength and conditioning done in the Gojo Ryo style; here. So when I went to play with my clubs today that was what I was thinking,Of course I have no idea of really what I was doing but my intent was just to alternated each side shield cast with a midline swing and a grip change on the fly.

It was strong, fun and a good place to start with this style of training the clubs. More wide stance barbarian presses/squats to come as well.

15 lbs x 5/5
20 lbs x5/5

25 lbs x5x 3 sets

So all this asymmetrical training today got me feeling very balanced and back on track quickly. My legs hips and back feel like they have been before last week and I seem to recover much more quickly from everything these days, as well as being able to work harder and longer as well.
Good stuff and the purpose of my training as well.



Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

at first i want to say that your blog is a very good inspiration for me and my training!
I had a disc hernation too in my age at 19j. and a very bad knee injury(ostechondtritis dissecans) at my age at 20j.!
I had two operations and was one 12month out of order ;-)
Your story is close to my owen....
I make every day new steps to reach my goal:a painfree body!
To read your post's about your way to train is a helpfull tool for me!
Take care :-)

Mark Reifkind said...


so good to hear from people who have had similar experiences as I have. To hear as well that my journaling is inspirational as well gives so much back to me, thank you :))

people who don't live with chronic pain really can't get what it's like, and it's no use to try to explain it. thanks for the support and great luck on your quest; it's possible- I have so much more function and less pain than in years,it's great.

Mark Reifkind said...


can I add your blog to my blog list?

Hunter1313 said...

Hey Marrk do you still follow the Warrior Diet? If so do you under eat or do a water/coffee/tea fast? Thanks for the great and informative blog, keep up the great work. Hunter

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

thanks for your offer to get on your blog list!Sure you can add me ;-)
It's a great honor for me!
As you said people they don't live with chronic pain,can't known about the experienc of it!Felling better than yesterday is a great goal for me ;-)
I wish you all the best and i hope we stay in contact!
Take care :-)

Mark Reifkind said...


thanks for letting me add it. you can always contact me here or my email.

Mark Reifkind said...


as you might expect from me, I do my own version of the warrior diet these days.

I use green tea in the mornings until about 10 am( I get up at 4) then I have some almonds and two pieces of string cheese.

that's it until about 1:30 or 2 when I have my main meal, most often a veggie/egg stir fry.

then later red wine and perhaps another smaller carb meal or whatever tracy has made.

It's been working well.

Mark Reifkind said...


as I went to your blog to grab the url I noticed that your favorite book is Siddhartha by Hesse. Mine too. It's sitting on my desk at Girya,lol

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

good choice ;-)
For me is H.Hesse one of my alltime favorite's writers!
Siddhartha is a great book and i think i should read it again ;-)
Take care :-)
P.S.I have add your blog too at my blog list :-)

mc said...

Nice reading riff

Time to think about bringing out that novel?
Folks enjoy your writing rif

Mark Reifkind said...


thanks but as far as the novel that ship has passed.

Boris Terzic said...

Mark every time I read your blog I learn more about how interesting your life truly is. I second the publishing of the novel! :)

Also very good lessons on keeping balance in training, something most of us surely lack.

Mark Reifkind said...


I was just telling tracy how weird it's been that I've had so many lives! crazy. I spent 8 years totally immersed in the world of pro bodybuilding. I lived it 24/7 and then moved on to 15 years as a powerlifter with the same intent passion and focus.

and now the kettlebell. so many lives,lol.all good all intense, all so real.

the novel will have to wait until i stop pushing,lol. I need lots of 'downtime' to write and things are just starting,lol.

thanks man,I always appreciate your comments and glad to know you are still reading,

Steven Rice Fitness said...

Good for you for emphasizing balance in your program. I'm a huge proponent of unilateral and asymmetric training, and discovering and correcting imbalances is a big part of that.