Monday, January 31, 2011

Back to training.

Training is the source. Something to get me going for presses tomorrow.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

First California RKC ReCert in the books.

Had a great time this weekend teaching at the first ever California RKC ReCert in beautiful downtown LaJolla at Franz and Yoanna Snidemans Revolution Fitness center.
This was the second of it's kind, a new concept in keeping one's RKC certification current as prior to this you had to either assist at an RKC weekend( three days) OR go through the cert itself again as a candidate.

That was a big commitment of both time and money and the new availability of these one day recerts, lead by a Master Instructor, will provide a much more efficient way to keep one's certification current as well as really sharpen one's skills as an RKC instructor as well as have one's technique and teaching ability critically assessed as well.

This was not about the physcial challenge that the three day course brings as much as it is about the intellectual and professional challenge of being the best RKC you can be.

I really enjoyed the intimate atmosphere of this approach and could really dig deep into the skill level of each of the candidates as we explored all six RKC drills in great detail as well as got them up to date with the current standards,progressions and approaches.

Everyone seemed to learn a lot and have a great time. Many , many questions were asked about every aspect of the all the drills and this always makes me happy. There should always be questions....

Our next one is March 12 at Park Road Fitness Center in Burlingame California and although it's not listed on the DragonDoor website right now it will be asap. Any RKC's interested should sign up as soon as space is limited as well as ready your manual closely.This is going to be way tougher in a completely different way than your original cert :))

Watch this page on the DD website for the registration form

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snatches at Stones and a new toy is coming.

Whew, barely got to this today but as I said on my facebook post, you've got to lead from the front and figure out a way to get your training in if you are going to expect your students and clients to do the same.

Long day at work and kinda have my foot on the brake a bit this week with a recert this weekend and some annoying tweaks earlier t. But it got done today although I wished I had done more. Another factor in these afternoon workouts is that they are done in a fasted state. Except for a handfull of almond and 2 oz of string cheese at 10 am I don't eat until I'm done training and with volume work this is tough.

Staying messing with the schedule but it looks like Tues will stay clean and press with one arm shield cast work and bodyblade laterals for shoulder mobility and stabilization.

Wednesday will be snatches after all,even if they have to be 16 kg max vo2 or 20 kg work as it's the shortest of the volume workouts after clean press and it's good to snatch after the press day for shoulder stabilization. The workout wont be more than 250 reps at the top( some day again,lol!)

Saturday will be one arm swings, heavy and for volume followed up by two hand arm casts as I just ordered my 35 lb clubbell today! This thing will be a monster and Saturday will be a good day to play with it as I have my Queen to impress and the energy of my training partner Nick.

Saturdays will be back to basics : heavy one arm swings and a simple but brutal upper body move. 'Bell Mass- both kettle and club. Good times.

Snatches at Stones

one arm swing warmup: 16 kg x 5/5/5/5 x 3

20 kg snatches 5 sets of 5/5 with pause at top of each reps
24 kg snatches 5 sets of 5/5 with pauses as well.

100 reps.

Not much but given the context it was a victory. Plenty of stretching all day as well. Gait continues to work as well as it has in almost 20 years and my whole world view about walking has changed. still holding my breath a bit but am very hopeful.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"One has to lay in wait for it, patiently, instinctively, calmly and be ready to grab it when Grace lays it down in front of you."

Pr's are hard for me to come by these days. Especially all time pr's , which means I've never done the lift with that weight or reps before, as opposed to 'recent' pr's which are the best I've done lately, not ever.

It's been a nice comeback of sorts lately with all kinds of function being restored, not the least of which is my pressing ability. After last weeks nice 32 kg short cycle workout( close to my best of 5 sets of 2) I had visions of doing long cycle this week with the 28 kg but am never really sure what I will be able to do until I get warmed up that day.

This was especially true after my lower back woke me up from a sound sleep this morning, the result of DOMS from my two back to back workouts this weekend;especially the two hand work. Two hand swings still work my abs so hard they tighten up the back almost on cue. I knew what the pain was from but was not sure I could get it loosened up in time for my 8:30 am training.

Plus, I wasn't sure I should even attempt the 28kg even if things did loosen up as I have to teach for 8 hours straight on Saturday at my first RKC ReCert in San Diego at Franz and Yoanna's Revolution Fitness La Jolla . Can't afford to be jacked up for that!

Got to stretch out for a solid hour from 6-7 am as Tracy taught her class and that helped but I still wasn't sure if I could, or should go that heavy.

My training spirit told me ,' no biggie, that weight is only TEN FREAKING POUNDS heavier than the 24 kg and you are crushing that for multiple long cycle sets of ten whenever you want!"

My rational mind, which remembers being in so much pain I couldn't turn over in bed told me not to be greedy.

As usual I would have to wait and see.

6-7 am stretch

joint mobility circles
stability ball back bends
brettzells ,two ways
up dog
down dog
ferris's hip stretch
groin stretch
lying hamstring strap stretch/crossover
overhead stick stretch
behind back shoulder extension stretch, two grips
overhead stretch in lunge
foam roller

Long cycle clean and press
warmup one arm swings
16 kg x 5/5/5/5 x 3
16 kg x5/5 x3

16 kg x5/5
20 kg x5/5
24 kg x 3/3

28 kg x3/3
x2/2 x 2 sets
32 lifts PR

Wow! this was amazing and although I still wasn't sure about my back even after the swing warmups the cleans told me the one arm work was re setting my stability. So strange but it makes sense in a way. When one is so asymmetrical doing symmetrical works just throws them even more off,lol!

The asymmetrical work brings me back into balance. Hey, I don't make the rules, I just know them. And listen to what the body is telling me that day. Once the back unlocked and relaxed the work was just as easy as it should have been, given my training.

Plus I just love my new military grade 28 kg and just want to use it,lol
here's the top set of fives

and the second set of four

I know now that this is my lift.I can really see building my base, top and bottom with this lift; such a unique combination of ballistic and grind. I also want to play with some high high reps with the 20 kg and see what my endurance is like

Two hand clubbell cast
15 lbs x 5/5
20 lbs x 8/8
25lb x 10/10 x 3 sets

man these are getting super strong and all reps were done with max acceleration. Very solid. Have to stop being so cheap and buy a 35 lber or start going up to sets of 12 -15!

Bodyblade laterals

3 sets of 10/10
really put some force into each rep.These are a great finisher and really cooked the entire shoulder girdle.

30 minutes post workout stretchout. Late client allowed me to have this extra time to really unwind after this great workout.

As I always say, you never know when it's going to fall in your lap no matter how badly you feel going into your training. You just have to suit up, show up and put out the best you can that day. And, somedays, like today, magic happens.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Swing practice

Almost always there is a lesson to be learned when something tweaks. I now look at it as a very distinct sign that something has changed, either in my body , or my form and I need to pay attention, NOW.

My new swing form, where I set up on my whole foot and concentrate on breaking at the knee and the hip has worked perfectly; for my one arm swing and snatch groove. However, yesterdays little "lesson" made me think that perhaps my groove on my two hand swing might be difference and indeed it is.

I was not a happy camper yesterday with my truncated workout so I decided to 'punish" ( or reward) myself with a sunday am workout, something I have almost never done. But Tracy's at yoga and I had nothing to do but stew over yesterdays dissapointing training so I got my butt out to Stones Gym and went to work.

I knew I had to go back to basics with my swing form and lucky for me that not only have I been mentally preparing for my RKC ReCert next week in San Diego but also for a Learn to Swing DVD that we are shooting next month and its been right at the front of my brain.
Not only the skills but all the drills and corrections and Tracy and I have come up with some seriously cool drills to enhance and reinforce all the best positions of the Center of the RKC Universe, the Swing.

I can't post all the drills cause they are super secret for right now but the practice looked something like this:

KB Deadlift
KB Hover and pendulum
Pendulum to Swing
Hike pass work
Two hand swings

laddered up from 16 kg to 24 kg and then back down

Long cycle Clean and press

16kg x5/5 x 3 sets 30 seconds rest/sets.

Just to set the groove for Tuesday

Repeated the process with the one arm swing as well. All the drills and then the skills focusing on crisp form and positions.

Adductor felt fine :)) I've found that if I listen to the slight tap from the universe I don't get too much of a spanking. Ignore the warning from your body at your own risk. They are always there we just choose to ignore them

Part of this 'repositioning' seems to also involve my new gait pattern which now allows me to walk without knee pain for the first time in 15+ years! This is also what helped so much going to New York last week as the trip to and through airports and hotels was pain free for the first time in forever!

People who don't have chronic pain really have no idea how much energy dealing with it sucks up, but let me tell you it's considerable. And, when that pain goes away your energy levels and mood SOAR!

I keep waiting for it to disappear and realize it was just a dream but it seems to be holding and my "restoring lost physical function" project is moving on nicely: first my back, then my shoulder and now my knee.

I am actually thinking now I just might NOT need a knee replacement but the jury's still out on this one.

AND, for all those Tim Ferriss naysayers the idea for this gait pattern change came from his book in the chapter on Pose running. Thank you again Tim! All I ever want from anything I study is ONE THING. One idea that I can run with and this was certainly a doozy.

And training on Sunday wasn't bad either,no rush no hurry and plenty of time to stretchout and warmup. I might just try this on a regular basis

Sat: snatches/clubs
Sun: swings
Tues Clean and press/ clubs
Thur: one arm club work

either way very glad I got to it today!

The plan for tuesday is long cycle with the 28 kg for the first time.

Snatch, swing, shield casts

Light day. Still haven't figured out the recovery part of trying to fit three hard workouts in one week with my current schedule. I had a decent swing workout on Thursday but Saturday AM I was not recovered enough to hit it hard on the 24 kg snatches. I had thought I would only do 100 snatches on this day so I could fit some two handed swing volume in and that's how it started, with 100 20 kg snatches that were pretty easy.

Swing wamup

16 kg x5/5/5/5 x3

16 kg x5/5 x2

20 kg x10/10 x 5 sets
100 reps

wow that was positively easy. how nice.

Two hand swings
24 kg x10 x 5 sets

played around with mini bands on the bell in the middle of this and then when I went back to the bell only sets I got a mild tweak in my left adductor, and have no idea why, so I left it alone and went to clubs

Two Hand Shield casts
15 lb x10/10
20 lbs x10/10
25 lbs x 10/10 x 3 sets

these went very well but I wanted a LOT more swing work than this. The adductor is ok but these little things piss me off.I fight hard to include this mother of all swings in my workouts but it surely doesnt agree with me.
Now I wish I had done a lot more snatches first.

Still have to figure out the schedule. As much as I hate to do it I might have to try to snatch only on thursdays and do my one arm swings on Saturday as the heavy volume day.Snatches on thursday will only go up to 24 kg and volume won't be over 200 reps, if that.

Just have to 'gear up" for snatches after 7 hours of clients and make sure my body is stretched out for dynamic overhead work.


might have to do some swings today to make up for yesterday though, we'll see.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

24/28 kg One arm swings.

Finally look to be getting on schedule here on my mid week workout. Wanted to put some volume in on one arm swings and that's what I got 'some' volume.It surely isn't the same as when saturday am was swing day and I got to train first thing with Nick and Rex. But I still end up comparing my numbers with those days when I didn't train 7 clients first and having fasted all morning.

Eventually I will have to re calibrate my brain for what will pass as good workouts for swing day mid week, given the actual parameters. But right now I am amazed at how so little swing work is so damn hard,lol.

Still not sure if I don't want to do two handed swings on this day and focus on snatches and one arms on saturday. the only thing positively perfect right now is tuesdays workout, alternating long and short cycle presses and two handed club work.

For some reason I think two handers would be easier to stomach this late in the week and this late in the day. Will try that next week although I will probably train on wednesday as we have the first RKC recert in California at Franz and Yoanna's Revolution Fitness in La Jolla. I know, tough duty!

One arm swings
16 kg x5/5/5/5 x2
20 kg x5/5/5 x 2

24 kg x10/10x10 sets
200 reps

28 kg x5/5 x5 sets
50 reps

250 total

Once I got going these were fine.Being able to jump right into tens each showed me that m fitness level is definitely going in the right direction.My groove felt solid and consistent as it's been and it was actually WARM today,crazy.

The 28 kg swings were hard mainly because the paint on this bell is slick and it makes it very hard to hold.,especially when my grip is tired from the 24 kg work. BUT it was good grip training, lol.

Strength felt solid though.

datsit :))

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

32 kg Press Heavy volume

set three

I haven't press the 32 since Dec 21 and it was time. All things have been 'go' with my press from my high rep long cycle work to my 28 kg short cycle work and it was time to get it done. Even though I have made the mental adjustment with the 24 and 28 kg bell I haven't done so, yet, with the 32 kg.
My mind still says "heavy" when it's time to work with it and that's got to go.It's counter intuitive to act towards light weights like they are heavy and heavy weights like they are light but that's what works.

As soon as one thinks "this is heavy, I'm not sure I can do it" the weight has won and even if you get it done the weight has still won. One of the most important lessons I learned from training WSB method was the concept of moving weights fast. Even heavy ones.
Especially heavy ones. The basic idea of 'speed day' whether for bench squat or deadlift was to train the nervous system to apply 100% of force on the bar when it was only loaded to 60-70%.

This was to train disinhibition of the nervous system so when you HAD 100% load in the hands your brain still tried to move it fast. Couple this with max effort training ( where you trained to grind for 3-5 seconds) and usually, if you had your head screwed on straight, you would make a heavy lift move very well and perhaps make it. If not you still got stronger for the attempt.

So even with the 20 kg or the 24 I try to press the weight with acceleration, making sure I use the exact groove as I would the heavier bells. Mass X Acceleration =Force and if the mass is large you better make sure the acceleration is too.

The worse thing to try to do when the weight is heavy is to "feel" it. The correct response when a load feels heavy ( i..e more pressure) is to get tighter, NOT to 'feel' how heavy it is, and then focus on technique and speed. At least for me.

I had all day yesterday to visualize my presses with the 32kg today and I knew since last time I only did 1x1 and 1x2 I needed to do at least 3 sets of 2. So that was the plan.

6-7 AM stretchout

8:30 AM Short Cycle Clean and Press
one arm swing warmup
16 kg x5/5/5/5 x3

16 kg x5/5
20 kg x4/4
24 kg x3/3
28kg x2/2
32 kg x2/2 x3
x1/1 x 3
28 kg x3/3 x 3 sets

Wow, that's a lot of volume and intensity. Very very happy with this. Tracy kicked ass today as well pressing the 16 kg as strongly as she ever has. The system works :))

The main difference for me, besides the obvious of having a solid foundation built up and not having much interruption in my training was really getting my mind back into being strong. It's always the key and most always the weakest link.

For goodness sake, the 32 kg is ONLY ten pounds heavier that the 28 which I can play with these days.That's what I was thinking. This is nothing. I own this.

My down sets with the 28 were seriously strong fast and easy and I knew I could do 5's even after the 32 workload.

My press is BACK! And this time I won't disrespect it. It is both my natural strength and my most trained lift and I do and will appreciate it now.

two hand swipes
20 lbs x 5/5

25 lb x 5/5

got to buy a 35 lber soon.

bodyblade laterals

3 sets of 10/10 nonstop.

Crazy shoulder fatigue and pump.this is a great exercise for both the medial delt development and the supraspinitus, a very commonly injured part of the rotator cuff. I definitely like these more than db or cable laterals these days. you can completely adjust the force during the set as fatigue sets in as well.

it's so good to feel good again. and strong. yes, strong.


Monday, January 17, 2011

F= M /A

Mike Castrogiovanni, back in the day, showing some serious power.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Repost

I posted this a few years ago and it is as pertinent now ( perhaps even more so) than it was then. One of my favorites:

Client physiology

This is a favorite concept of mine and one that never fails to crack Pavel up. The idea, inferred by the personal training industry, is that 'clients' are somehow a different species of humanoids, requiring a different training approach than you or me or any other athlete wishing to actually make real progess. That somehow, their physiology requires different( less) training stress, regularity, recovery or , worst of all, for some reason a MUCH higher level of 'variety' and 'fun' in order to make progress.

I wa recently reminded of this by a recent post on Sara Cheatham's blog. This is the sentence that got me :

"Since my training is pretty simple and boring, I thought I'd post some workouts I put together for clients. I like to keep it spicy for them. Not too many people can handle the same thing day after day (like my training). I'm sure it has something to do with living in a constantly overstimulated environment"

I think if you look at most sucessful athletes and trainers training you will find that like Sara's, Tracy's, mine, and many others, that it is "pretty simple and boring". Check out Brett Jones's training blog for instance. Lots of squats, benches deadlifts and kb swings.Not much else except note that the weights,over the long haul, are always going up.THAT's the key.But what that requires is a level of concentration and committment that most( not only clients) just don't or won't or can't bring to the session.

So many say they want the body of this person or that Olympian but fail to understand the incredible amount of time that goes into creating that physique or level of skill.

Simple and boring usually is code for consistently basic, heavy and progressive. This is NOT a hit on Sara, as I have the same problem with many clients who simply will not accept the reality that training to make progress as opposed to training to make 'fun' is usually more tough and boring than it is variety filled and fun. As a trainer you either adapt or lose them and to me any kind of training for them is better than none. And anything you do with a kettlebell will make them better but so few really want to look at why they havent changed much in the last few months( years).Even if you tell them THEY still have to get out of bed that extra hour earlier to make sure they are really ready to go when they hit the gym.And that also means going to bed at a reasonable hour so again they are ready when it's time. Or getting on the roller , or stretching out a tight muscle, or, whatever it takes to be ready. THAT'S the mindset that athletes and committed clients have. And why they consistently make progess.

THis is a simple fact of training life and yet many grown up clients will not accept it and consequently fail to make the progress they should or push through barriers that they have encountered. I dissagree with Sara on one fact though; it's not from living in an overstimulated environment, it's from not making the requisite committment to do what is necessary to make progress no matter how little 'fun' or variety is involved.

The hour or so in the gym is but a small part of what is really required to make gains, unless you are the rankest of beginners. One has to prepare for progessive training sessions; know what the workout is BEFORE they step in the gym( at least know what they did last time and what will constitute progress) and be mentally prepared for it.

Training for PR's a great way to accomplish this and even the smallest personal record is important. If one adds just one rep to their snatch workout each time they do it in a year that's gonna be a HUGE gain. Just one rep. SImple but not easy.

Trainers, imo, have an obligation to train their clients as much as possible according to how they train themselves, or a client who came to them saying they would do whatever it took to makes gains, if they can. Sometimes it takes years of babying people before they 'come around' and get their heads right to really make gains. That's ok but they need to be told their physiology is the SAME as an Olympic athlete and that their body requires the same TYPE of stimulation, the same type of recovery and their minds need to be trained as well as their body if they really want to make the best progress possible.

Whether that is losing fat or gaining strength or tone or whatever.Most won't do it but they still need to hear the truth from their trainers and be reminded,especially when they are not pleased with their speed of progressing.

It has nothing to do with age or goals as I have 65 year old clients who take their kbs and foam rollers with them whenever they go out of town and do whatever it takes to keep on track,even though their goals are modest by most standards. But not for them; they are on the hunt for PR's and they are committed. They don't miss workouts, they show up on time and they don't complain when we are doing the same basic exericses that they are working on mastering. They recognise that Deep Skill, an important RKC principle, and Mastery are on the same road. Unfortunately they are the exception not the rule .

Trainers, dont be afraid to let your clients training be a little 'simple and boring'. Like you they will probably make better progress. ANd the one's that won't do it, just give 'em a kettlebell, they can't go wrong with that as the mainstay ,no matter how 'fun' the workout is.Just keep the bucket close by :))


Tracy posted a blog on a very similar topic today as well.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Coast to Coast to Coast.

The man of the hour. Tim, that is. Back stage at the Oz show.

Man, it's been a whirlwind last two days. We left for NYC 4:30 PST on Thursday and left back for San Francisco 7:30 EDT on Friday,lol! Sandwich hours of car rides to get to and from JFK airport and back lots of walking in airports , hotels etc and this could have been a serious disaster for my knee and my back.

Anyone who knows me at all knows how much I hate to travel. Most think it's just because I'm a recluse and I need my cave of power to regenerate my strength and creativity, which is mostly true. But the main reason is that walking has just been hell on my left knee for many years and basically I only have so many 'steps' in that knee per day.

When my knee runs out of steps then my back takes up the slack. Not nice.

I can run out of steps on some days just walking to my gate at the airport from my car.:)) I need a knee replacement and have for years but there just doesn't seem to be the time,especially of late and, to be honest, I'm a bit worried I might end up worse than I am. Logic would tell me that's almost not possible but the 'devil you know', etc...

I have been a fan of corrective exercise since 1998 when I took Paul Chek's Scientific Back Training course and saw a way out of the vicious cycle I was in as well as way to really help my clients do the same thing. A methodology, a principle based system of approaching one's training by balancing the body and realizing that the order of training had to be obeyed:

First flexibility/mobility, the stability, then strength, then endurance, THEN and only then, power.Of course all of these things have to be worked on simultaneously as well but the percentages have to relate to one's real needs in real time.

If you can't use bodyweight then you don't need more resistance, for instance.

Anyway, I took off on the corrective exercise journey and haven't looked back, using any and all methods and ideas in my quest to Restore Lost Physical Function ( shameless plug for my first DVD).

I, like Tim Ferriss, considered myself a lab rat, an experiment of one ,and I always tried things on myself first before ever considering them with a client. Many people think I have some fetish for the foam roller, or the thumper or for stretching. These are all justs tools I use when they are needed and are willing to let go as they aren't needed anymore.

I used to NEVER travel with out my foam roller and my thumper and some myofascial release balls, etc., etc. and would always have to devote considerable time to getting on the floor and using these tools as well as stretch my body out from all the sitting and walking. Not my idea of a good time but way better than being in serious pain. If you want a result you have to be willing to do what is necessary to get that result.

Well you don't ,but don't bitch if you stay where you are, progress wise.

But the last year things have really paid off. First I left the roller at home.Then the thumper. This trip I hardly needed to stretch at all as my work with my gait mechanics seems to have really had a breakthrough and I was able to walk without pain in my knee for the first time in eons!

Good thing too because I had lots of walking to do. 10 minutes of my stretch routine in the AM set me up for the rest of the day and as my gait wasn't creating tons of new tension to be release I had lots less corrective stuff to do.

I hadn't planned on training today as I am usually wrecked by half this much travel but I felt good this am and hit a light swing workout.

10 minute stretchout then:

Two hand swings
16 kg x10x2
20 kg x10
24 kg x10 x5 sets
28 kg x5 x5 sets
x 5/5

One arm swings
16 kgx 5/5
20 kgx5/5
24 kg x5/5

After hearing Tim speak about the fat burning effects of cold exposure on the Dr. Oz show I felt much better about my freezing garage gym this am,lol.

It was a miracle, really, to be able to walk ( semi) normal this am AND be recovered enough with only 4 hours sleep to train a bit pain free. Crazy. And my new swing/snatch technique is holding up big time. Most excellent.

After spending time speaking with Tracy's agent about the upcoming plans for her book AND the accompanying media blitz that is sure to follow this was a good time to have a breakthrough as it seems the travel thing will pick up, not slow down in the near future.

Not to mention teaching at HKC's, RKC's and RKC Re Certs. Crazy good stuff.

Thank goodness for the kettlebell swing. Just one movement and one weight and who needs anything else? Especially in a pinch. Plus I have a great idea for a 'travel' kettlebell system that just might work so that might come in very handy.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

New article in Pavel's newsletter on Lats, the Super muscles.

Ah, finally some attention for me,lol. I wrote this article for Pavel's newsletter on the importance of the lats and how to train them.

Lats, The Super Muscles

Mark Reifkind, Master RKC

At any given RKC the Chief likes to ask the candidates how many have hurt their shoulders? Many hands usually go up(if their shoulders will allow it)… He then asks “ how many have hurt their lats?”

Usually not a hand goes up. “The lats” the Chief says,” are strong, tough muscles, they are Super Muscles”.

I got the title of my DVD from Pavel, who I first heard call the lats’ Super Muscles’. And indeed they are. They are also the most misunderstood, underutilized and neglected muscle group for most of the trainees I have met. The fact that they are on the back of the body and can’t be easily seen in the mirror does not help.

That they are, despite being the second largest muscle in the body, pretty hard to activate makes getting into training and using them correctly them even tougher.
But that’s not been the case for me.

In fact, I have had a great lat connection from the very beginnings of my training. Starting out as a gymnast pretty much guaranteed that. EVERYTHING a gymnast does, even the simple act of getting up onto the apparatus to START the training gets the lats into play immediately.

This is especially true for still rings work and you will NEVER see a good ring man without the requisite set of wings that he will call his back. If you know the anatomy and kinesiology of the lats you will understand why this is so, but the bottom line is training in gymnastics builds the lats like almost no other sport, except for, perhaps, my next training endeavor…

My next incarnation as an athlete was competitive bodybuilding, and as all bodybuilders know, one of the tell tale signs of a “weak” or amateurish trainer is the lack of a good solid back with not only lat width but depth as well. This can only come from basic movements such as deadlifts, rows, pull-ups and chins done heavy over long periods of training.

The other sign is weak leg development from not understanding that the barbell squat is not a suggestion, but a requirement if one is to become big and strong with the iron.

So I made sure I trained my lats and my back as hard, or harder than I trained anything else.

After bodybuilding for me came powerlifting, another sport where the lats dominate the training and the competition lifts. From the squat to the bench to of course the deadlift, a strong and powerful back, including the lats, is crucial to holding your arch in the squat, getting those big benches started without killing your shoulders and keeping that heavy barbell in close the legs as one deadlifts real weight(whatever that might be for you), and helps the hips do their job locking out the lift.

So feeling, training and using my lats has always been second nature to me, but, as my wife Tracy pointed out one day as I was helping her train her KB military press (and how to use the lats correctly) it wasn’t for most. Most people had NO IDEA, she said, of where they were, what they did or how to train them. We should do a seminar on that, she said, and she, as usual, was right.

Thus Lats: the SuperMuscles seminar and subsequent DVD was born. And, as we all know, the lats play a heavy roll when we kettlebell swing, snatch, press, getup, deadlift windmill and just about ALL of the other movements.

The Lats are the Bridge. They are the bridge between the arm and the shoulder, between the shoulder and the hip, the arm to the hip, the upper body to the lower and the core of the body to both the upper and lower extremities… Simultaneously.

The lat creates a link between arm and the shoulder as we pack the shoulder in the overhead position of the getup, snatch or press. It links the shoulder to the hip in movements such as the deadlift (any version) , a swing or the windmill. They provide a connection from the center of the body where they originate to the extremities of the arms where they insert on your upper arm and through the thoracolumbar fascia next to the spine to the opposite side glute, making that upper lower body connection as well.

The forward arm motion as you walk links the arm to the opposite side hip/glute and leg via your lats.

Wow, talk about a workhorse muscle!

And they really get a workout in the most basic of KB exercises; the swing. From connecting to the bell to combine your and the bell’s center of gravity, to the hike pass to get the bell started, to keeping the shoulder linked to the body as you ascend to using them to hike the bell back during regular reps of swinging the lats are used and get trained seriously during this most basic movement.

In fact, one of the coolest things that happens to new trainees that pay their dues with the kb learn to swing drills of the HKC and RKC is that they get lat and back development they never had before, Without doing any direct lat work! What the heck effect indeed.

Add in the shoulder packing work of connecting the fragile shoulder to the torso in the getup and you get a complete lat workout just origin to insertion with just the program minimum!

But the lats are not just performance enhancing muscles, they are also hugely protective of the shoulder and the back.

The lats keep the shoulder in the socket as you press and snatch and as Master RKC Brett Jones says “a shoulder disconnected from the body will be punished.” Ain’t that the truth. Take it from someone who has dislocated their shoulder on the still rings, you NEED to keep the shoulder connected to the body. That injury finished me as a gymnast and still causes me problems 34 years later.

They also help the back create a solid lordotic curve (the arch of the lower back)
A straight spine has four curves, one of which is the lumbar curve.

The lats contraction, especially when the insertion point is fixed (think hanging from a bar) helps tilt the pelvis anteriorly (again think arch), which is key to keeping the lumbar spine from going into flexion under load, a key cause of disc injury.

But they ARE also performance enhancers and nothing will make your kb Military press numbers go up faster and more safely than knowing how to use the lats to not only keep the shoulder in the socket but how to use them to get the lift going!

I rarely see a person press who knows how to activate their lats at the start and when I see someone who can, inevitably they have a good press. So many, despite us teaching for years that the kb press is not a shoulder isolation move, approach it in that manner and rarely see the progress they should.

If you use the lats correctly at the start of the KB Press they act as a launching pad for the arm as it makes its way overhead. You can literally bypass the most delicate part (and the most dangerous part) of the press by using your lats correctly.

It’s not cheating, it’s just good mechanics and technique.

The same thing goes for using the lats on the negative portion of the press. You can use the lats to increase your press AND you can use your press to increase the lat’s strength and size and get one heck of a transfer to all your overhead pulling movements!

The nice thing about kettlebell training and your lats is that even if you don’t give one second more thought to your lats, where they are and what they do you still will get stronger, more developed and more powerful lats and back muscles as well as safer and more stable shoulders and hips just by swinging, pressing and snatching your kettlebell.

As the Chief writes about in the RKC Principles in the Course Manual:“ incidental cardio, incidental flexibility”. We should also add in incidental lat development.

Yes, Lats, the SuperMuscles indeed.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snatch day ,one day early.

Have to go out of town tomorrow at the last minute and decided to squeeze my snatch workout in today. Very late start and in a very fasted state but knew I needed to get this done. Just had remind myself that I had trained very hard yesterday and to go slowly, one rep at a time. Can't get tweaked before this weekend.Way too much travel to deal with that as well.

16 kg x5/5 x2
20 kg x5/5 x 5 sets
24 kg x 5/5 x 5 sets
20 kg x5/5 x 5 sets

150 total reps
100 with 20 kg
50 with 24 kg

Finally got at least some 24 kg snatches done in my garage at the end of a workday, although I don't think doing snatches as the next workout after presses is the best sequence. Since my press day will be a progressive one, and my snatches will not go higher than the 24 kg I think I need to go back to volume swings with medium weights on Wednesday or Thursday after a Tuesday press workout and do heavy swings( one or two hands) on Saturdays as well as 24 kg snatches.

I just have to accept the fact my total snatch numbers will be lower than if I devoted an entire workout to just snatches

datsit:) ) Off to New York tomorrow to escort Tracy to tape an episode of the Dr Oz show to promote Tim Ferriss's book the Four Hour Body ! Crazy stuff.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Same but Different

It' so weird being able to press again. For four plus years, from 2003- 2007 I couldnt press much of anything without my teres major(the psoas of the upper body) internally rotating my entire right arm, shoulder and thoracic spine causing major pain,loss of function and ROM.

It took awhile for me to get what it would take to heal this but I knew I had no where else to go. If I pressed, pulled or got too much tension in my already too tight internal rotators of my upper body I got really really bad pain, which took forever to dissipate with stretching and corrective exercises so I stopped all pressing and pulling and focused on just stretching out these tight tonic muscles and regaining overhead ROM.

For years I had spectacular overhead strength, range of motion and flexibility during my gymnastics career. Then my shoulder dislocation while training on rings finished not only my gymnastics training but any overhead work. Hell,for a very long time it was all I could do to not dislocate my shoulder by accident pulling my hand out of my jeans pocket.

I eventually could press again but only flat on my back or on an incline bench.I pretty much abandoned overhead training and flexibility.

I got very very very strong in these bodybuilding and powerlifting pressing being able to db incline bench 140 lb dbs for 5 rep sets, 150 lbs for flat bench sets of 5 as well., weighted dips with the 150 lber as well as rolling db extensions with the 115's for triples.

My bench was strong as hell as well and I was able to set some California Master's bench press records at 181 as well as stay in the top ten of the PLUSA top 100 list for overall masters my age and weight.

But since I was always good at it I never really enjoyed it all that much. I was so focused on bringing up my weak points that I took it for granted that it would always be there. And then it wasn't.

I really messed up my rotator cuff in 2003 trying to train the barbell bench press alone after I lost all my training partners. Unracking the bar is what did it and it was a bad injury.Almost as debilitating as my gymnastics shoulder dislocation.

But stopping completely what was keeping it from healing made all the difference as it let my correctives and stretches actually do their job.

I've written about my comeback in the press at the original ck-fms where Grey had us pressing in a half kneeling position. I had done done nothing but swings and snatches ( snatch holds are THE best rotator exercise I know!) and was so surprised when the 32 kg went up easily.

After that I began to fantasize I might be able to train the press again a little and went for it, very, very, very slowly.

It took me quite awhile to suss out exactly what my press groove should be but now I think I've really got it down. The key point for me is really setting up with the lats and pressing against the contact point of the bell and my wrist. Not thinking about the bell or the hand going up. Made all the difference and is very consistent.

When I was a powerlifter I trained WSB style never really working the exact form of the competition lifts, trying to up my absolute strength by training my special exercises the hardest and just using the comp lifts for for and speed work.

Now that I train only kbs I find I prefer just working the actual lifts themselves and using specialized variety as my key training concept. For the press this used to me switching between bottoms up press, stacked press and the strict press. Now it means mainly shifting the loads, volume and intensities but staying mainly on the basic press and playing with those variances.

As Pavel says, "same but different" . For instance a swing is a swing is a swing, but a two hand swing , a one arm swing and hand to hand transfers all have very different effects on the body and the nervous system.

As does how many reps per set per arm even if the total load is the same. Last week I trained the 28 kg short cycle for sets of four. Each week I alternate short cycle heavier presses with long cycle medium weight but higher rep presses. Same but different.

Last long cycle workout I used the 24 kg for 3 sets of 1o reps per arm. Today was also long cycle day with the 24 but I didn't want to do the same loading but wanted to do at least as much, or more, total load.

this is what I did

6-7 am stretchout

8:30 Long cycle clean and press

one arm swing 16 kg x5/5 x 3 sets
one arm clean 16 kg x5/5 x2

Long cycle clean and press
16 kg x5/5
24 kg x 5/5/5/5 x 4 sets
80 lifts
4240 lbs

This was amazing. I haven't felt this strong in a press in ages and let me tell you, this time, I WILL enjoy it. Cherish it, in fact. It is my gift,my natural strength and I won't take it for granted again.

Also, the stronger you get the bigger the jumps in weight you have to take and it was a great sign that I skipped my normal 20 kg warmup and went right to work. A very good sign.
This is my new favorite move and perhaps the choice I would now make if I had to choose only ONE kb exercise to do exclusively. It's a perfect blend of ballistic and grind and two of my favorite types of each. I know I can get very very good at these and look forward to the day when the 32 kg is my everyday short cycle weight and the 28 kg is my long cycle weight.

But for now this is fine, just fine :))

BTW Tracy KILLED her 14 kg Long cycle presses with me, every step of the way. I love training with my Queen.
Two Hand Arm cast

20 lbs x5/5
25 lbs x 5/5/5/5 x 4 sets

Nice! A repeat, sets/rep wise of my press workout and this was strong. I need a bigger clubbell, that's for sure. I will be ordering my 35 lb'er very soon. I could have done tens no problems.

This was my inspiration for this part of my workout. 80 lb clubbell is just huge but Alberto Gallazzi kills it.

Bodyblade laterals

4 sets of 8/8 non stop. these were surprisingly hard today but I was strong and creating more force on each rep. great shoulder/rotator finisher.

datsit: )) tomorrow: snatches at Stones Gym

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Swings, snatches and clubs

Thursday's workout got derailed and I ended up trying to train early when I had a cancellation but instead of the hour I thought I would have I only had 30 minutes and I know better than to try to rush my training.

Especially with snatches ,which have tweaked me more in the past than any other exercise. AND I didn't stretch out at all that morning, another no-no. So I only got 7 sets of 5/5 in with the 24 kg when I ended up out of position a bit and having my left adductor say hello.

It wasn't major but I wasn't in the mood for it either so packed it up and got back to work,hoping it wouldn't load up too much the next day.
I put kinesiotape on it as soon as I got home and stretched out proper and it was there but definitely not escalating the next day( friday).

Many times deep hip rotators can lock down and cause external rotation of the thigh which can present as a 'groin' pull and there was some of that going on as well.So they got worked on too.Can't skip the stretching.

At least I can't.

I also, I have to admit was playing around with my snatch groove and that probably wasn't a good idea, especially given the context of the workout :))
After revisiting my deadlift info in Power to the People Professional, as well as watching Konstaniov's videos I thought I might play with my old round back, head down position of snatching but in retrospect it wasn't a good idea.

So nice of my body to tap me on the head and let me know that this wasn't the right direction, than a full on kick to the groin, which it has been know to do on many occasions.

The answers to the questions one asks their body are always there; you just have to listen closely enough to hear them. And be willing to accept them as answers, or at least things that point to another direction than the one you are headed in.

BUT I knew I needed to 'get back on the horse' or I would have this fear in my head and that can't be so I wanted to split up todays swing session with some snatches as well

7-8 am stretchout the usual suspects with lots of emphasis on back bends and overhead stretches. If my abs get too tight my lower back is sure to follow.

One arm swings ladders

20 kg x5/5 x2
24 kg x 5/5
90 reps
4,770 lbs

After last weeks 24 kg swing peak I had hoped to bump the weight up today but last week was current pr and EASY so the next step should be down. today I listened. whenever I do ladders it's because I'm feeling weak or tired. When I feel strong I start right at the goal number. but ladders really do let you do more work with way less perceived exertion.

Finally a bit warm, then onto snatches

16 kg x5/5
20 kg x5/5x 2
24 kg x5/5 x8 sets
80 reps
4,420 lbs

not bad. thought about doing 10 sets but my hammies and adductors said not too so again, I listened.

Two hand swings

24 kg x5
32 kg x5/5
90 reps
6480 lbs

felt good to do some two hand swings again. the wider foot position I am taking lately, along with breaking at the knee at the same time as the hip really has opened up the bottom position for me, something that was very cramped with my closer, toes straight ahead stance of a few months ago.

This is such a power move.Everything is in play and as I've said many times, the two hand swing is the easiest and the hardest version to do.Easier because one is so symmetrical and stable with two hands on the bell. Hardest, because as you fatigue there is "no where to run, nowhere to hide".

It's the power squat of the swings in my opinion .Especially done Hardstyle.

Two Hand Shield cast

15 lbs x10/10
20 lbs x10/10 x five sets
100 reps

that was actually a nice bit of work. very manageable compared to the 25 lb'er but dems some reps! And my rest periods here are very short. I have no problems with very short rest intervals for upper body work, just don't ask me to do that with lower body moves,lol.

Solid workout even though Nick wasn't there. Doesn't really matter though if anyone else shows up or not, I've got to get it done and I did. Never is a question.


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Happy Anniversary to Girya!

I can't believe it's been eight years since we opened the door at 136 Hamilton, Ave Palo Alto with a small space and a weird name, but a belief is this cannonball with a handle that went beyond all reason. I knew that kettlebell training was the coolest thing I had ever experienced in my almost 32 years of athletic training, competition and coaching and I didn't care if anyone could pronounce the name Girya or not.
They would know about it soon, that I was sure. And I was sure that this was the best thing for myself and my clients that I had come across and the world needed to know that. Who could guess where the kettlebell would be now in 2011 and that everyone would understand that this training is probably the most efficient and safest thing they could do for their strength and health.
A thank you so much to the clients that have supported me and stuck by me these eight years and to all that have passed through these doors to take a kettlebell for a test run. They are not for everyone to be sure but no one will forget their first experience with a kettlebell,even if it's their last.

We started out as Girya, The Art of Strength, the first kettlebell studio in the country. Three years later my wife Tracy lost 100 lbs with the magic of the kettlebell, got involved in the studio and we became Girya ,Kettlebell Training.
Then last year we got a makeover once more to prepare for HKC's and seminars and we evolved to Girya, Russian Kettlebells Palo Alto.
The only thing that did not change was Girya, Russian for kettlebell. For, as Pavel says, "when we say kettlebell we mean strength, when we say strength, we mean kettlebell".
As usual, Pavel takes the complex and makes it simple. Exactly Chief. Exactly.
Logos aside, looking forward to another 8 plus years of helping people learn the Art of the Kettlebell, Hardstyle!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

28 kg KB Press and Two Hand Swipes

It's been a great run and I am really feeling the momentum of strength these days, especially in my presses. I wanted the 28kg to be my base weight and today it definitely showed itself to be that now. It was very heavy on my body whenever I played with it just a few short months ago but now it feels like the 24 did for so long, just another training weight.

It's about time. Those long cycle tens I did last week set me up well for todays short cycle strict presses. I did multiple sets of triples two weeks ago when I trained it so todays number was fours. How many sets of fours I didn't know but that's just a hop, skip and a jump from five rep set which is the core of all heavy size and strength base work, imo. Five is the magic number and I will soon be there on this lift.

And what a blessing that I can even DO this lift again much less be strong at it, after a two year plus hiatus from any pressing all, overhead OR prone.My groove feels so solid and consistent now on my press it almost feels as natural as my bench, or incline presses did back in the day.

I spend so much time trying to figure out my perfect grooves and so often it changes when I least expect it. Not so here, at least not in a long time. I've been using the same technique now for months on long cycle and short cycle presses and it's really getting consistent and comfortable.

Warmup 6-7 am


My core stretches have changed of late and I am back to stability ball back bends, horse stances( quadraped,not really a stretch but in the mix anyway) straight leg pike hamstring seated as well as bretzells, overhead and behind back stick work

one arm swings
16 kg x5/5/5/5 x3

16 kg x5/5 x2
20 kg x3/3
24 kg x3/3

28 kg x4/4 x4
x 3/3 x 3

These went so strong I couldn't have been happier. I am just always trying to be conservative and finish when I feel I could still do more.As usual I got stronger the more sets I did, and really got warmed up. The last set was definitely the best set and I toyed with the idea of doing 5-6 reps per arm but stayed cautious.

Tracy is training her strict press with me as well as was killing the volume on the 14 kg. This is not a natural lift for her and she is even new to even training it, as she did push presses for years.

Her shoulder and arm size are really benefiting from all these strict presses as much as mine are :)) Cannonball delts indeed.

Two hand Clubbell Swipes

15lb x5/5
20 lb x8/8
25 lb x10/10 x2
20 lb x10/10

man these kicked my ass,especially towards the end of the second arm on either side!That's why I was starting to laugh and smile a bit. It was killing me and it started on rep 4 !! Starts out easily and then I just died,lol. But these are natural for me and I feel strong in all the positions.

Bodyblade laterals


I did these on a lark last week but used them again and the really worked the medial head of the delt as well as the hard to reach surpaspinatus rotator. The are hard work but very easy on my joints so they stay in. Bigger shoulders is fine too :))

Snatch in Stones Gym on Thursday and I have my oldest and most favorite Dragon Door 24 kg ( circa 2001) back home. It will be good.


Monday, January 03, 2011

So What's the right way to deadlift?

This can't be wrong and be so strong. You just have to be built for it. That's key to every person, every lift, you have to find out where YOU are strong and efficient.

Train your weakness, Compete your Strength.

Konstantin Konstantinov.

( I've been reading Power to the People Professional again,lol. It's a Masterpiece).

and man I love Capt Kirk

wow, I just noticed, his face isn't relaxed......

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Straight tens.

There are many ways to increase the intensity of a workload. Doing one set of 500 reps is definitely not the same as doing 10 sets of 50 or any other permutation. I've been trying to build up my swing volume lately and as I've written I'm using ladders to manage fatigue and build volume up slowly.

Doing 300 one arm swing reps in ladders of 5-10 is much easier for me than doing straight sets of 10. The ladder lets me "sneak up" on the higher reps when my endurance isn't up to the task by itself. For instance, on Dec 16 I did 320 reps of one arm swings with the 24 kg but it was in a ladder of 5-10. three rounds, the 5x 5/5 at the end.

Today I wanted to test my straight ten rep sets and see how far I could go. It was easier than I expected a good sign that the adaptations I am training for are occurring.My best effort in one session is 600 reps, done with 20 sets of 15/15 and I am no where close but it's headed in the right direction.

My swing groove has proved reliable and non injurious which is very nice.The load feels very evenly spread across all the appropriate muscles. Plus I feel like I am getting more leg into the movement as well as hip/back and that helps shock absorb in the bottom position as well.

I warmed up fast which is always a good sign for the workout. I found the groove quickly and bell speed was good from the start.

here's the workout

One arm swings
16 kgx5/5/5/5 x2
20 kg x5/5

24 kg x10/10 x 13 sets
300 reps
15,900 lbs

Man, the tonnage adds up fast in the swing! I definitely could have gone on( and if I would have checked and new my recent pr was 320 I would have done at least 350 but that's fine. I am very happy that I did my last set with 40 reps instead of 20 ( mostly because I was bored and wanted to get it over with,lol) and still kept bell speed the same as it had been all workout.Ihaven't done straight sets of ten in awhile because I haven't been able to.

Today was no problem and my wind and leg and back endurance was spot on.last week's 28 kg swing and then 32's the week before are making me stronger.Endurance is born in the belly of strength and as I get stronger more reps with these lighter weights just aren't as hard.

I can also really feel the positive effects of the consistency of my training and progressions. There's nothing that beats the regularity of never missing sessions and being able to wave load the work as necessary to make optimal progress, instead of how life forces you to because you just don't have the time.

I love a boring, simple training life but I think that 2011 will not be that,lol. That's ok too, I'll just have to learn how to train on the road.

Here's a clip of my August 2008 workout of 400 reps in sets of 10/10

very happy with the comparison from over 2 years ago, but I can also see the difference in my current groove and my old one. I am getting about 20 degrees more hip flexion and almost no knee flexion compared to now. The 2008 technique was strong but I think my current groove is safer and has more potential for power over the long haul. Plus it works my legs much more and Lord knows I need more leg work I can tolerate.

Barbarian CB press
15 lbs x5/5
20 lbs x 5/5
x 6/6

these were a little tough on my left bicep tendon when I had the left hand on top. the tendon slips out a bit as the pec pulls too hard on my crappy capsule and it's not a good thing. Back to arm casts!

very strong today,great way to start the New Year!