Sunday, July 28, 2013

Becoming a Supple Leopard

I'll admit that I've always been a little skeptical of Kelly Starrett. A few years back he came out with a lecture beginning with the inflammatory statement "STRETCHING IS DEAD!". Anyone that's followed this blog for long knows I'm a big believer in "stretching". It didn't help that despite declaring the death of stretching, a year or two later, he was preaching the virtues of stretching quite heavily in his mobility WODs.
Becoming a Supple Leopard
So, when he came out with a flashy hardcover book with textbook price tag of over $60, I wasn't sure what to think. Seeing it in the local book store, I decided to swallow my pride and get a copy.

I'm glad I did.
Kelly has put together a book that you won't be ashamed to have on your coffee table. It is a beautifully bound hardcover book with glossy pages and hundreds of photos illustrating exercises and mobility work. If it were a college-level textbook, it would sell for over a hundred dollars - seriously.

Exercise and Drill Descriptions
The exercise descriptions, full-color photos, and tips are outstanding. 
Quite frankly, most people have no idea what they are doing when it comes to stretching and mobility work. With this book, people will be able to target just about any area that needs stretching/mobility work. Watching random videos put out by CF boxes, sometimes you wonder if there is any competent exercise skill and technique coaching present at all. This book, if followed closely, will give people a lot of food for technique thought and more than enough mobility fodder to experiment with for years.

The chapter on "Laws of Torque" is going to be eye-opening for many people. I've been talking about spiral tension and emphasizing external rotation and it's application in squatting, pressing and overhead work for years, but this is probably the first published work I've seen on the topic other than Pavel's "The Naked Warrior" (another EXCELLENT book by the way).

Kelly Starrett talks about torque and shoulder stability in this video:
Universal Cues for Creating a Stable Hip Position:
*Screw your feet into the ground.
*Spin your feet as if they are on dinner plates.
*Spread the floor.
*Shove your knees out. 
Universal Cues for Creating a Stable Shoulder Position:
*Break (bend) the bar.
*Keep your elbows in.
*Armpits forward (when pressing overhead).
*Elbow pits forward (when doing a pushup).
- From Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett (p. 50)
If there are any criticisms of the book that I have, they would be the following - understand that they are minor criticisms, but I feel obligated to state them:

*I'll admit, I'm not completely sold on the idea of moving potentially injured joints through pain and full range of motion while under compression (called 'voodoo flossing' in the book), and the current trend toward demonization of ice in the S&C community, to me, is silly. Has ice been overused as a restorative tool? Absolutely, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater here...

*Tips make you better, but tips don't make you good. Although the book is presented as a system, it often reads like an encyclopedia of tips and techniques - nothing wrong with that, but you might have to kiss a lot of frogs on the way to finding your drill prince charming. Time under the bar and on the mat in the study of movement (and movement under load) goes without saying.

*I think the dichotomy between stretching and mobility is an artificial and grossly overstated one. That said, I think Kelly Starrett presents his argument for the distinction well and it's clear he knows the subject.

If you are a strength and conditioning coach, movement coach, or Crossfit gym owner, trainer, or trainee, I think this book is essential for your training library.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hemingway on When To Call It a Day

    Mice: How much should you write a day? 
    Y.C.: The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it. 
     Mice: All right. 
     Y.C.: Always stop while you are going good and don't think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start. Once you are into the novel it is as cowardly to worry about whether you can go on the next day as to worry about having to go into inevitable action. You have to go on. So there is no sense to worry. You have to learn that to write a novel. The hard part about a novel is to finish it. 
     Mice: How can you learn not to worry? 
     Y.C.: By not thinking about it. As soon as you start to think about it stop it. Think about something else. you have to learn that. 
          By Line: Ernest Hemingway, pp. 216-217
From Ernest Hemingway on Writing, Edited by Larry W. Phillips

"Always stop while you are going good and when you know what will happen next."

"Always stop while you are going good and don't think about it or worry about it until you start... the next day."

Great advice for writing, and great advice for training.

Related Squat Rx Posts:
Knowing When To Say When

Monday, July 22, 2013

Tips Make You Better, But Tips Don't Make You Good

"Can you give me some tips to improve my squat?" 

Sure. Of course I can. The Squat Rx videos are full of tips. I put up tips here all the time. But, here's the thing:

Tips make you better, but tips don't make you good.

A tip might open a door or two, or clear some clutter from the path, but you still have to go through the door and the road still needs to be walked.

If you want to be good at squatting, you're going to have to squat... a lot. To understand the difference between squatting one plate a side and 5 plates a side, you going to have to add some plates. To understand why everyone recommends squatting for weight gain, you might have to try a few high rep sets... and eat A LOT. To really understand squatting, you might have to experience some very long plateaus. Along the way, you might have to learn how to overcome an injury or two...

If you want to get good at anything, you have to put in the time and effort. There is no way around it. Now, you might be talented and gifted, and you might be pretty good to begin with. But, to be really, really good, to master it (whatever 'it' is), will require years of practice and study.

Related Post:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Visiting with Friends Old & New in Tokyo

Visited with Japan's premier kettlebell instructor, Taikei Matsushita, earlier this month. It's my fourth time to visit him in Tokyo. In 2007, Taikei gave me tips for the RKC that I was prepping for at the time and in 2009, we put on a workshop in Shinjuku.

This time around, we caught up on things training, kettlebells, family, and friends. We took an hour to catch the Power of Manga exhibition showcasing some of manga's greatest artists at the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art and then put in some training time in nearby Kiba Park despite the record high temperatures and crazy humidity. Good times with great people - what it's all about!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Squat Rx #24 - Bands & The Sots Press

Somehow, when things get exceedingly busy, I manage to crank out a video... Probably it's an escape mechanism of some sort.

Anywho, this video discusses a technique I use sometimes to give my lower back a little relief, and that is a good use of Jump Stretch bands for improving positions at the bottom of your squat. It also briefly discusses the Sots Press, which is quite a mobility (and strength) challenge.

Related Posts:
Jumpstretch Bands Drills and Stretches
Overhead Squats with Kettlebells

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Adam Glass Interview

The following interview of Adam Glass by Logan Christopher is a great one. Adam is always fun to listen to and there are a lot of points that he brings up that more people should be doing in their training.

One of the great points Adam mentions is that his own training tends to be slow paced, with judicious time between sets. Most people would say "OMG! What a waste of TIME! Training needs to be efficient!". Well, those people are idiots... Look, I love "density training", and I don't have tons of time to spend in the gym, but one of the huge problems with training for "density" (volume/time), sets "for time", and "AMRAP" centered training is that, no matter how technically proficient you are and no matter how good your intentions are, technique deteriorates more than necessary for a simple training session. AMRAP, "for time, and "density" will always sacrifice attention to technique for additional reps - not the proper mindset if your goals are long-term progress and mastery.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Pain - DVD by Lorimer Moseley

Most of us have at least one person in our lives that suffers from chronic illness and pain. Even if you don't, you've probably had some aches and pains that are almost inevitable with years of training in and out of the weight room. Maybe you've even had some pains that took forever to go away, or you have some pains that you wonder if you'll EVER get rid of completely...

I've always understood that pain was a complex topic. Anything dealing with the human mind usually is. But Lorimer is a very engaging speaker who breaks down the complexity and jargon of pain into stories, terms, and digestible chunks that even a meathead like me can understand. Yes, there are a few parts where I had to rewind and listen a little closer, but it does give a workable framework to observe and begin to deal with pain. The DVD comes with the complete transcript and slides on PDF files as well.

It's a great DVD, and if you are a PT, trainer, coach, or family or friend of someone who deals with chronic pain issues, it's very thought-provoking. I think that there are great implications of the role of the mind on performance (and lack thereof) as well, but that is beyond the scope of these discs. Even if you don't decide to buy the set, there are several speeches on the internet, and Laree Draper has put several clips from the DVD up on YouTube that are fantastic.