Thursday, June 30, 2011

Training In Tokyo

Earlier this month, I spent time in Tokyo with RKC Taikei Matsushita. We had a good time, eating, talking shop and training. We took a couple hours to play in Kiba Park with some kettlebells, while tweaking technique and giving a little instruction here and there to his acquaintances.

I don't get to work with a 44kg kettlebell very often... FUN!

"Buddy, your scaps are HERE!"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Strong Men

Maybe everyone's already seen this - I don't see much in the way of television but, luckily, someone posted about this series on a forum I frequent. Looks like a fun show!

National Geographic's "Strong Men" (episodes and trailers)

Monday, June 27, 2011

One-Armed Farmer's Walk (aka "The Suitcase Carry")

So, the past couple of weeks I've been "a travelin' man" and that usually means my regular training takes a hit. I don't mind - sometimes the break is exactly what I need and it forces me to be creative and train things I usually neglect.

Armed with little but a 28kg kettlebell, I revisited some great exercises that certainly deserve time and effort. One of those exercises, is a one-armed farmer's walk, also known as the "suitcase carry". If you've never spent time with this one, do - I think you'll find it surprisingly difficult to carry a weight unilaterally that you would carry comfortably with two-handed farmer's walks. Farmer's walks with a pair of 28kg bells would not be a big deal, for example, but carrying a single 28kg bell, without the twin to balance the load, is a treat.

A little lean is fine if the weight gets heavy, but don't go crazy with it

Related Posts & Resources:
The Secret Of Loaded Carries by Dan John (t-nation article)

 Everything's Over My Head - From The Ground Up - Carried Away ($39.95) DVD by Dan John.
It it straight-forward and to the point - if you train, you will probably enjoy it. If you enjoy people talking about anatomy, you probably won't.

Dad Strength Part II: "If You Had To Choose One Exercise..." (Squat Rx post)

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Next DVD I'll Get Is...

These clips, from the DVD "Intervention" by Dan John and, look fantastic.

Some of it does take time to percolate though - I don't think even 5 years ago I would have heard (really heard) the message in the first clip. Now, it's so freaking obvious, I don't know what took me so long to figure out. I guess, just like most people, I still need lots of reminders.

I've been rediscovering the suitcase carry recently while on vacation with a 28kg kettlebell. It's a deceptively simple, but brutally effective exercise. I'll post about it soon.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Guest Post At The World's Strongest Librarian

I wrote a guest post for Josh Hanagarne's site, World's Strongest Librarian.

It's a parody piece - hopefully, people will find humor in it. If you like zombies (and certifications), check it out and let me know what you think.

The Certified Zombie Strength and Conditioning Specialist Certification Challenge (or CZSCSCC, for short)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy Father's Day

It's that time of year again. Here are three videos that we've all seen here before, but never fail to move me, and a post I made about Justin Halpern and his old man. Here's to all the pappy's and men who make a difference out there.

On the lighter side... Justin Halpern's Dad

Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Coach as "Trusted Advisor"

 Honestly, a huge part of my job, as a coach, teacher, father, husband, and friend, as I see it, is BEING THERE physically, mentally, emotionally. Being there for someone... anyone, requires you to let go of 'you'; let go of the "me-monster". The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, gives some great tips for recognizing a "me-monster" mindset and how to right things so that you can become your students or athletes' "trusted advisor".

The Trusted Advisor
Are you excessively self-oriented? Ask yourself if you do any of the following when working with clients or students, take a moment to think about them, and answer them honestly. This might require a little pride-swallowing and if it makes you defensive then that's something to think about...

Clients recognize excessive self-orientation through such things as:

1. A tendency to relate their stories to ourselves

2. A need to too quickly finish their sentences for them

3. A need to fill empty spaces in conversations

4. A need to appear clever, bright, witty, etc.

5. An inability to provide a direct answer to a direct question

6. An unwillingness to say we don't know

7. Name-dropping of other clients

8. A recitation of qualifications

9. A tendency to give answers too quickly

10. A tendency to want to have the last word

11. Close-ended questions early on

12. Putting forth hypotheses or problem statements before fully hearing the client's hypotheses or problem statements

13. Passive listening; a lack of visual and verbal cues that indicate the client is being heard

14. Watching the client as if he/she were a television set (merely a source of data)

Maister gives many tips for becoming your client, student, or athlete's "trusted advisor" by doing the following things to demonstrate a lack of self-orientation:

1. Letting the client fill in the empty spaces

2. Asking the client to talk about what's behind an issue

3. Using open-ended questions

4. Not giving answers until the right is earned to do so (and the client will let you know when you have earned it)

5. Focusing on defining the problem, not guessing the solution

6. Reflective listening, summarizing what we've heard to make sure we heard correctly what was said and what was intended

7. Saying you don't know when you don't know

8. Acknowledging the feelings of the client (with respect)

9. Learning to tell the client's story before we write our own

10. Listening to clients without distractions: door closed, phone off, email not in line of sight, frequent eye contact

11. Resisting with confidence a client's invitation to provide a solution too early on - to stay in the listening and joint problem definition phases of discussion

12. Trusting in our ability to add value after listening, rather than trying to do so during listening

13. Taking most of the responsibility for failed communications
- The Trusted Advisor

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Only Way Out Is Through

I hate stagnation as much as the next guy, but sometimes in our search for a way out, we ignore the very thing that we wish to improve. You hear it on the internet all the time:

"Oh, you want to improve your bench? Do dips."
"Oh, you want to get better at squats? Do glute-ham bench."
"Oh, you want to eat less and lose weight? Get a dog."

Listen, dealing with an issue doesn't mean ignoring it. Yes, symptoms and causes can be convoluted - we talked about that here; I'm all for the idea of "same, but different", and I'm a big believer in the use of auxiliary and supplemental exercises.

BUT (and these are important "buts")...

  • There's "same, but different", and then there's "just different". Yes, there can be a "WTH-effect", but the more disparate the exercises, the less likely they're going to pleasantly surprise you with carry-over unless you get lucky or very intelligently choose the Holy Grail of supplementary exercises.
  • The SAID (specific adaptations to imposed demands) principle is pretty, well, specific. If you want to full squat 500 pounds, you're probably going to have to spend a good amount of time squatting... with a barbell... on your back... below parallel... 
I hope it goes without saying that I am NOT advocating pushing through pain and injury. It might not be comforting to hear, nor comfortable to do but, often, the only way out is through. If you want to get better at benching, you need to bench. If you want to improve your squat, you need to squat. If you want to pull heavy, you have to pull. Simple, but not easy.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Three Months Later

Three months after earthquakes and a giant tsunami hit Japan, the totals (according to Yomiuri Shinbun 6/12/11) stand at 15,413 lives lost, 8069 missing, and 88,361 homeless and/or relocated.

Please donate, here or at The American Red Cross, if you can.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Can You Lift a 150 Kilogram Rice Cake?

Every February an event is held at a temple in Kyoto in which participants take a turn at lifting a table of giant rice cakes. The goal is to lift and then hold the table (150kg for men, 90kg for women) off the platform for as long as possible. This year, the winning times were 10:01 and 5:30 for men and women respectively. 
Keeping the shins vertical seems to be good advice here...

I don't think the monk is helping much.

In Okayama prefecture, at Kenmitsuji Temple, the object is to walk with the giant kagami-mochi which reportedly weighs 180kg! Honestly, I'm not convinced the weight is accurate as this puts the event on the same level as a Husefell Stone carry (a la World's Strongest Man).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A World Of Virgins Studying Sex

A couple of years ago, I was reading a chunk of books that Dan John had suggested. One of the first I chose from his list was the book "On Killing" by Lt. Col. David Grossman. If you've ever had a loved one or a friend go to war, or even if you haven't but still want to try to "understand", then it's worth your time. It's not what I'd call "an easy read"(emotionally, that is), but I could not tear myself away and it was one of the few books I've read recently that affected me profoundly.

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society
On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society

There are, of course, many insights, most of which seem commonsensical ("Well, OF COURSE that would affect you!") but, in the context of the book and first-hand accounts and logical conclusions, become all the more convincing. It has certainly made me rethink the conversations and recommendations I have had with teenagers in the past about movies and video games, for example.

A point Lt. Col. Grossman makes early in the book is that conversations and research on the subject of killing often are (or have been) like "a world of virgins studying sex". In the strength, fitness, and conditioning community too, you will find many writer-gurus that have not spent much time in the racks and under a barbell. In this regard, they are like a bunch of virgins in lab coats, dispensing advice about sex when, in fact, the only advice they may be qualified to give is about abstinence.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 78 - SICK!

I knew as soon as I had finished squatting to a million pounds that I needed to be careful. I've talked about the Japanese proverb "In victory, tighten your helmet." before  - how we tend to be caught by disaster when we've let down our guard after a successful battle. It certainly applies now. On Tuesday night, I was more worried about throwing out my back - I managed to avoid that, but ended up waking up with a head cold the next morning.

Tonight, it's back to training. I'll be staying away from the squat racks a while longer, but Bulgarian split squats, barbell presses, and kettlebell work will be back in the menu for the first time in a couple of months.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Squat To A Million - Day 77

Tonight, I had about an hour to train and this is what I managed to put in at the squat racks:

SQ: bar x 20 x 2sets
SQ (w. 1 set of chains): bar x 10 x 2sets
SQ (w. 2 sets of chains): bar x 10 x 2sets, 135lbs x 5, 205lbs x 5*, 225lbs x 5*, 245lbs x 5*
SQ (w. 1 set of chains): 205lbs x 10 x 2sets*, 155lbs x 10 x 10sets (last 4 sets low bar), 135lbs x 10 x 2sets, 135lbs x 12 x 2sets, 135lbs x 20*
*= w. low bar position

I had to end it a little early to take my son to a lesson but, honestly, I didn't want to do more. Today, the garage was hot and humid - after an hour of squatting, I was drenched. I left the racks not knowing how much volume I had put in, and knowing that I might have to return to the racks later to finish. I didn't have to worry; volume for the session ended up being 41,570lbs (figuring 20lbs per set of 40lb chains).

Without fuss or fanfare, and after exactly 11 weeks: 1,005,573 pounds down - all done.

A bit anticlimactic really - I had hopes of ending this run with sets well above 300lbs, but it was not to be. While everything above 200lbs felt good and reasonably fast, my body has gotten used to higher reps and lower intensities - right now, anything much over 225lbs just feels heavy. That's acceptable for the time being - I went into this million pounds not having barbell squatted consistently for two years, and I know that following some rest, a few weeks of heavy will bring things around quickly. For the time being however, I'm looking forward to a little rest and recovery, and maybe some KB work.

Thank you everyone for your support and for joining me on this million pound journey. It's been educational and I'll be reflecting on it from time to time over the coming weeks. Fundraising will continue, so please contribute if you can here or at The American Red Cross