Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Presents

I gave these to family this year and they were delighted. The split-jerking logo is slightly different than I remember, but other than that they are perfect. Thank you to Brad of the wannabebigforums.com for telling me that these old-school York t-shirts were still available. Call Mike Locondro at York Barbell @ 1-800-358-9675 (ext. 226) to order them.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Working With High School Athletes

I've posted before on the subject of coaching teens, but I thought it would be a good idea to compile some links to posts and articles here.

Challenges Working With High School Athletes by Boris Bachmann

Special Edition of Get Up! - Coaching Beginners by Dan John

Training High School Athletes by Jim Wendler

Top 4 Problems in High School Training (Part I) by Chris Korfist

Top 4 Problems in High School Training (Part II) by Chris Korfist

Top 4 Problems in High School Training (Part III) by Chris Korfist

Top 4 Problems in High School Training (Part IV) by Chris Korfist

What It's All About by Boris Bachmann

Friday, December 26, 2008

How We See The World

When I am happy, I see the happiness in others. When I am compassionate, I see the compassion in other people. When I am full of energy and hope, I see opportunites all around me.
But when I am angry, I see other people as unnecessarily testy. When I am depressed, I notice that people's eyes look sad. When I am weary, I see the world as boring and unattractive.
Who I am is what I see!
If I drive into Phoenix and complain, "What a crowded, smog-ridden mess this place is!" I am really expressing what a crowded, smog-ridden mess I am at that moment. If I had been feeling motivated that day, and full of hope and happiness, I could just as easily have said, while driving into Phoenix, "Wow, what a thriving, energetic, metropolis this is!" Again, I would have been describing my inner landscape, not Phoenix's.
Our self-motivation suffers most from how we choose to see the circumstances in our lives. That's because we don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.
In every circumstance, we can look for gold, or look for the filth. And what we look for, we find. The best starting point for motivation is in what we choose to look for in what we see around us. Do we see the opportunity everywhere?
"When I open my eyes in the morning," said Colin Wilson, "I am not confronted by the world, but by a million possible worlds."
It is always our choice. Which world do we want to see today? Opportunity is life's gold. It's all you need to be happy. It's the fertile field in which you grow as a person. And opportunities are like those subatomic quantum particles that come into existence only when they are seen by an observer. Your opportunities will multiply when you choose to see them.

- Steve Chandler (100 Ways To Motivate Yourself)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Training Template

The following is a general template for people, like me, who enjoy kettlebells, squats, and pull-ups. It’s not for everyone, but it will make you strong and explosive. It's meant to be a general fitness training template.
If you like "routine", and by "routine" I mean very little variation, then it may be right up your alley. It’s very barebones and that's on purpose - if there are weaknesses to be addressed, then having a template with room and flexibility for accessory work makes it more likely to happen.
Recommended extra sessions are included for off-days if you’re itching to do more, but they can be dropped or modified as desired. For accessory work in this template, I’ve included “stretching”, “abdominals”, “rows”, and “push-ups”. Understand that stretching while watching the boob-tube qualifies as an "extra session" – you don’t have to make a special trip to the gym to do the accessory work.

Session #1: Squats, Chins (Heavy, 2-5 sets)
Session #2: KB Snatch (EDT Protocol, 2-12 minutes)
Session #3: Squat, Chins (EDT Protocol, 10-15 minutes)
Session #4: KB Jerks or LCCJ (EDT Protocol, 2-12 minutes)

Optional Extra Sessions
a) Stretching
b) Abdominals or Rows, push-ups
c) Stretching

Session #1: Squats, Chins (Heavy, 2-5 sets)
Session #2: KB Jerks or LCCJ (Paced Work)
Session #3: Squats, Chins (EDT Protocol, 10-15 minutes)
Session #4: KB Snatch (Paced Work)

Optional Extra Sessions
a) Stretching
b) Abdominals or Rows, push-ups
c) Stretching

The first squat and chin session of the week is heavy, working up to 2-5 intense sets of 3-6 repetitions in the squat and 2-5 sets of chins a rep or two shy of failure. Please don’t ask me why I chose 2-5 sets and 3-6 repetitions – it’s a formula comprised of a proprietary blend of clandestine periodizations. If I were to reveal its inner workings, I would lose my edge as THE internet trainer of (world) champions... In all seriousness, 3-6 reps is a good compromise for “heavy”, and 2-5 sets allows for some volume flexibility. Two solid sets of heavy triples is a good solid, maximal-effort-like session, while 5 sets of 6 heavy reps is almost Smolov-esque and if you’ve ever done even a few sessions of a Smolov squat cycle, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The second squat and chin session is lighter, but not without effort. You will be following the EDT protocol. The goal of “density training” is to complete as much volume as possible in a given time frame, which means that after a warm-up, you will be alternating sets of squats with sets of chins and shooting for as many total repetitions in 10-15 minutes as you can. Reps can be partitioned however you’d like among sets, but generally the earlier sets will be paced somewhat – working to failure on early sets will make later sets excruciating and will likely mean less total volume for the session. You can adjust the weight you are using, but generally, you should be using a weight that you could get 10-15 repetitions with. For chins, you will have to pace your reps sufficiently that you don't fail to perform at least one rep in your later sets.

On alternate sessions, you will be doing kettlebell work. The exercises you will be doing are the one-arm kettlebell snatch, kettlebell jerks (with one or two kettlebells), and kettlebell clean and jerks, also known as the "long cycle clean and jerk" (one or two kettlebells).

Kettlebell “EDT Protocol” sessions will be density driven – the goal will be to get as many reps as possible within 2-12 minutes, determined by a roll of a pair of dice. Yes, it is a Dan John inspired idea – you can send the check to him.
Snatch sessions will be 2-12 minutes of snatching, switching hands as desired and setting the bell down as needed. Hand switches and setting the bell should be noted in your training log. For example, in the training notes below, commas indicate setting the bell down and slashes indicate hand switches.
KB Snatch (53lbs): x10/10/10/10/5/5, x10/10, x10/10, x5, x5
Total Time: 5:00
Total Reps: 100

Unless noted, it is assumed that hands are switched when resuming work after setting the bell down.

Kettlebell “paced work” sessions will be geared toward maintaining form and effort for longer durations of time and with less hand switches. Local muscular endurance of the shoulders and grip will be taxed more with this approach, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you won’t be pushed systemically.
The goal is to NOT set the bell down at all nor switch hands more than once during each of three to five 2-6:00 bouts of effort, separated by 1-2:00 long rest periods.

A paced work session might look like the following:

Warm-Up = swings and light jerks
One-Arm Long Cycle Clean and Jerk w. 53lbs
(2:00) x8/8
(2:00) rest
(2:00) x8/8
(2:00) rest
(2:00) x10/10


Most people could always do more in the way of doorway shoulder stretches and hamstring flexibility work. The doorway stretch is easy to perform in a power rack or doorway. Simply, place your forearm(s) flat against the sides of the door or on the power rack supports and move your torso forward and slightly outward to feel a stretch across the pectorals and delts.

For hamstrings, a good morning stretch (essentially the same movement as a Romanian deadlift) done properly, stretches the glutes, hams, and even hits the calves to some extent without straining the lower back with flexion. The lower back should be as straight as possible throughout and the hips should be driven back as far as possible. Some leg bend is actually preferable and it will help you avoid lower back flexion.

Some Q&A

"Would this template work for girevoy sport competitors?"
No. Well, maybe for a little off-season GPP work.

"Would this template work for powerlifters?"
Hell no. Well, maybe for a little off-season GPP work.

... Well, maybe for...

"How long can I keep going with this template?"
I think 4 weeks is about as much as most people will want to continue with the template before having a week or two of variation or rest.

"I don't feel like I'm doing enough in each training session. What other exercises should I add?"The template is meant to be skeletal. I think for busy people, it is more than enough, but adding some pressing, or rows, or anything else that needs shoring up wouldn't hurt.

”I can’t do (very many) pull-ups at all. What should I do?”
Start by doing what you can – if that means you are doing sets of singles, doubles, or triples, that’s fine. You will improve. If you can’t do a single pull-up, then do jumping pull-ups emphasizing the eccentric as much as possible.

”I’d like to do more kettlebell work (or squatting), how can I modify the template?”
If you would like to specialize, the template can be modified so that you are training either the squat or the kettlebells 3x/week.

Session #1: KB Snatch (EDT Protocol)
Session #2: KB Jerks or LCCJ (Paced Work)
Session #3: Squats, Chins (EDT Protocol)
Session #4: KB Swings & Press (EDT Protocol)

Session #1: Squats, Chins (EDT Protocol)
Session #2: Squats, Chins (Heavy)
Session #3: KB Snatch (Paced Work)
Session #4: Squats, Chins (EDT Protocol)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Being Present

I've been meaning to write something about "being present" for quite a while now and Steven, from the Ice Chamber in California, had a great blog post entitled Guidance From The Young which pushed me to actually post on the topic. "Being present" means not being somewhere else mentally when you are at the dinner table with your family, driving down the road, or while talking on the phone with customer.

A key to success, and by success I mean "doing a good job" (not monetary because anyone who knows me knows I'm not exactly rolling in dough), is being in the moment. This is the same for parenting, training, and work. It applies to being a good listener, speaker, and participant.

I remember reading an author (I think it was "Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance") talk about a coffee cup he owned that had on it "NO MATTER WHERE YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE!". Very astute even though it's probably a Yogi Berra quote. When I walk outside today in the glorious zero degree winter day, I can say "This weather sucks. I hate the cold. I wish I were in Florida.", or I can stand a little taller and experience the cold with acceptance and curiosity; "Yep, this is COLD! Hmm, it's been a while since I've had mucous freeze in my nose - hahaha!". No matter where you go, there you are. You're there no matter what, whether you want to be or not, whether you choose to be engaged in it or not. Being present makes each moment, big or small - crucial or mundane, more productive and meaningful.

NOT in the moment...

Multi-tasking seems to be the way most people nowadays operate, but it doesn't mean people are doing a better job at more things. It means they are addicted to multi-tasking and they are incapable of actually being present for longer than a few moments. Perhaps these people are better at transitioning from one thing to the next, but I wonder if that applies to disparate tasks - my guess is that it doesn't transfer itself particularly well to new, complex skills.

Being able to say "no" to distraction is crucial to the ability to be "in the present". This isn't license to be an a-hole of course, just permission to say to yourself "I have many things I need to do, but I'm going to focus on this ONE THING right now". The following is from Robert Cooper, M.D.:

Keep peering into the whir of moment-to-moment choices and reactions. Cherry-pick the best, let go of the rest.

The act of saying no to the trivial many in favor of the critical few isn't just a time-management strategy - it's a way of taking advantage of that neuroplasticity we talked about before to alter what your brain focuses on in the future.

If you're shaking your head right now and thinking that I don't know the real world, because you really can't say no to tasks, I'd advise you to think again, and ask yourself how committed you are to your most important goals. Because when our commitment is deep, we do say no to things that get in the way. When our romantic commitments are deep, we say no to other involvements that might compromise those commitments. When we are financially committed to some goal - buying a home, let's say - we say no to expenditures that stand in the way of attaining that goal.

We say no to many things in order to be able to say yes to our children, to our spiritual obligations, and even to recreational activities, such as our weekly bowling league or golf game. Heck, we say no to things just so we don't miss our favorite television shows, even though we probably won't remember one important thing about those shows a week after we've watched them.

Once you have placed something on your schedule because it's important, be sure you derive the most from it by using two questions that keep you linked to your emotional experiential memory. Ahead of that interaction or activity, ask yourself, How can I seize this chance to become more of the person I most want to be? And immediately following it, ask yourself, Have I just acted like the person I most want to be? What did I miss? How can I do it better the next time?

Start now to build defining moments into your schedule. Think about small specific things that give you the most hope and drive toward a better future, the simple specific actions or interactions that boost energy and spirit in yourself and in each of the four or five individuals who are vital to your success in the year ahead. Pick one or two of these by-plan defining moments every day: Put them in your brain's awareness, not just on your schedule, and then make them happen.

- Robert Cooper, M.D. ("Get Out Of Your Own Way")

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The "Acheyball Challenge"

On Saturday, I "competed" in the "Acheyball Challenge" - an internet kettlebell competition organized and administrated by Catherine Imes and Randy Hauer. It was 20 minutes of kettlebell fun consisting of 10:00 of one-arm snatches, immediately followed by 10:00 of clean and jerks (one-arm long cycle clean and jerks, "LCCJ").
I used the 2 pood (70lb) bell and managed to get 100 snatches and 53 clean & jerks. I set the bell about every 10 reps on the snatches and every 6 reps on the LCCJs. I don't know if it was not being used to competition bells or if I was just going too fast with the reps, but I ended up ripping the hands early and they got worse and worse. Not making excuses though - I don't think it affected my numbers much.

A big thank you to Catherine and Randy, and also to Rich Sherrod, AKC coach, for hosting the event locally at Round Kick Gym.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Words of Wisdom From David Niven

"To pursue something difficult you will need commitment, focus, and confidence. You will need the promise of gaining a significant outcome and a sense of fulfillment.
If your goals do not move you, if they do not inspire and incite you to action, then you have not found the right goals."

- David Niven (The 100 Simple Secrets of Successful People)

Certainly something to think about as we consider our New Year Resolutions for 2009...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Gifts From $2 to $200

$185.40 Dragging Sled from Elite Fitness Systems
If you've ever dragged or pushed a sled for any distance, you know that it's HARD WORK. Great for building work capacity and for recovery if you go lighter.

$159.99 Inversion Boot System from Dunham's Sports
Inversion boots have been around a long time and their popularity has come and gone. I think they're a great tool for ab work, back health, and to do "reverse squats" - an exercise recommended by Bernie Girard years ago.

$69.95 (starting at) First Place Elite Kettlebells from Perform Better
Free shipping on these through December and you can't beat that! A great kettlebell for the price and if you have any aspirations of doing competitive kettlebell lifting, then you should pick up one or two of these.

$59.90 Enter The Kettlebell (Book & DVD Set) from DragonDoor
The "Enter The Kettlebell" book and DVD are great for beginners and intermediates alike. Pavel's writing and presentation style is easy to understand, informative, and witty. If you want to start using kettlebells, this is the place to start.

$36.95 Twist Yo' Wrist from Ironmind
Wrist strength is often overlooked and the Twist Yo Wrist is a simple wrist roller that stresses radial and ulnar extension - something you don't get with traditional wrist curls.

$19.95 Captains of Crush Hand Grippers from Ironmind
These are the standard when it comes to hand grippers. The "trainer" is much harder to close than store-bought grippers. Most strong men will struggle with a #1. Take a #2 to the bar and bet $50 to see if anyone can close it - chances are pretty good your money is safe. The #3 is for world class gripsters only.

$17.95 2 Board Press from Elite Fitness Systems
The board press is one of the best exercises to improve tricep strength and power.

$12.00 (starting at) Jump Stretch Bands from Elite Fitness Systems
Jump Stretch Bands are amazing for a wide range of strength and conditioning applications, from stretching and light recovery work to adding hundreds of pounds of tension to the lockout.

$9.99 Reaction Ball from Target
Reaction balls are great for agility and hand-eye coordination work, or just for fun.

$1.99 Silly Putty from The Crayola Store
Silly Putty is a secret (and very inexpensive) grip tool. Use it for light hand recovery work, or slap several together, stick them in the freezer for 15 minutes and give yourself more of a challenge. Unlike grippers, you can work on specific fingers, or even work the extensors. For $1.99, you can't go wrong.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Squatting With A Smith Machine

Occasionally, people will ask me what I think about squatting in a smith machine. This video pretty much sums up my opinion on the matter.

'Nuff said.

Okay, okay. Yes, there are situations where using a smith machine would be a smart idea such as some rehabilitation applications involving partial ranges of motion, trying to overload specific ranges of motion, etc.

Friday, November 28, 2008

"Motivation" is Overrated

I frequently run across threads on internet message boards and people in gyms who talk about "losing motivation to train". They speak as if the only thing standing between them and fitness success is the right pep-talk.

Motivation is over-rated. Stop waiting to get motivated. Motivation and enthusiasm will always come and go. Even the best athletes in the world don't always "feel like" training, but they do it anyway. Instead of waiting, start training for something and train frequently. Do NOT destroy yourself every training session, but do something almost everyday. Make training a habit. By making it a habit, you are virtually eliminating emotion from the decision-making process and, if the habit is ingrained deeply enough, there is no decision to make about training or not - you will train period.

Creating the right habits, mentally and physically, will help sustain you through the valleys and long plateaus.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Congratulations To Scott Helsley - New Master of Sport!

Congratulations to Scott Helsley for achieving the rank of Master of Sport with the long cycle clean and jerk. To attain this rank, Scott did 54 repetitions of clean and jerks with a pair of 32kg kettlebells at a bodyweight of 74kg. I had a chance to meet Scott this summer at the IKFF/NAKF Nationals - a really pleasant, down-to-earth guy and strong as hell. Scott is pictured below with Maya Garcia of Ice Chamber fame.

Scott detailed his training in his blog at Rational Fitness Practice.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More Beep Test Work

Yesterday, I did the beep test again. The beep test ends at 247, so I kept going as it repeated from the beginning and finished with about 30 minutes of work and 300 snatches with the 1.5 pood (53lbs).

Friday, November 21, 2008

Training Is WAR!...?

I enjoy training. No, I take that back... I LOVE training. It is an escape for me. Everything is quiet. I've never understood the "training is a war" mindset. I know it works for Captain Kirk, but viewing the weights as the enemy somehow distracts me and my performance suffers. Yes, if the training is heavy, an intense focus is required, but I'd describe my thoughts as "focused and intense to the point of being a little PO'ed". For high-rep work, or more technical lifts, I try to be the squirrel.

There is only one real battle for me when it comes to training and that is making time for training, pulling myself away from the boob-tube, setting aside other responsibilities. As a swimming coach told me once, "The hardest part of the workout is getting in the pool" - the solution for me here is to make training a habit that is so ingrained that it becomes more of an effort to miss a training session than to complete one.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Perform Better's First Place Elite Kettlebells

Perform Better, a company specializing in "functional training and rehabilitation", has a wide range of strength, conditioning, and rehabilitative equipment. They have offered kettlebells for some time now and I've found them to be of pretty sound quality. Not Dragon Door kettlebells mind you, but pretty solid nonetheless.

Perform Better recently came out with their own line of competition-grade kettlebells called First Place Elite Kettlebells. They are priced very competitively and if you're at all interested in girevoy sport, you might look into buying a pair (or two). Unfortunately, the weight selection is limited, so you'll have to look elsewhere for 2 pood (70lbs) or heavier kettlebells, but they have 12, 16, 20, and 24 kilogram bells and they are shipped PROMPTLY.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Words of Wisdom: Hugh Nibley

I included this quote in a blog post last February entitled "The Necessity of Hard Work", but I felt it was worth repeating:

Only if you reach the boundary will the boundary recede before you. And if you don't, if you confine your efforts, the boundary will shrink to accommodate itself to your efforts. And you can only expand your capacities by working to the very limit.

- Hugh Nibley

I think it's important to remember that rest is so important. But, hoarding the good things like love, compassion, enthusiasm, and (where appropriate in our training) effort doesn't take us to a better place - it, in fact, brings the darkness in and closer. In training, and in life, our goals should always be to expand our current capabilities. If we choose our training and life goals appropriately, and take time to restore our foundations on a regular basis, we rarely have to worry about overextending ourselves.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Friend Pareto

Many fitness and strength and conditioning authors have written about the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 principle), which, in the simplest terms possible, is the idea that 80% of all meaningful sales (or results, effects, profits, etc) come from a measly 20% of customers (or work, input, causes, products, etc). This line of thinking is helpful because it frees us from the well-intentioned, but misguided, notion that the relationship between work and results is always linear. The truth is, for better or for worse, that the majority of our training adds very little to our performance and conversely, it is a relatively small percentage of our training time that is having the greatest impact on our goals.

What does this mean for my training?

*In a given month, about four sessions in the weight room are going to be the ones that make or break me.

*In a given week, one training session is more important than all the others.

*In any single session, on average, one set is going to be the money set.

*Of all the exercises I do in my training, only a few of them are having real, dramatic impact.

*A few problem areas (like shoulders, lower back, etc.) will be more prone to injury and account for most of any training time lost on the DL.

*It means that I should be cognizant that certain avenues are more productive training wise and that those avenues are subject to change without notice.

*It means that I should do more of the stuff that is meaningful and, where it is apparent, eliminate the fluff that may help my ego, but not my performance.

*Do less, better.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Successful Workshop

Although the turn out was not good, I was happy with the quality and breadth of material we covered at our "Kettlebell for Personal Trainers and Coaches" workshop. Time ran over the scheduled three hours, but in our relatively short time together, we covered kettlebell safety, warm-up and mobility, the swing, the Turkish get-up, the press, the clean, the push-press, the snatch, remedial and activation drills, and two mini workouts. We also discussed sample training programs as detailed in ETK and the AKC's fitness protocol and how kettlebell training could be incorporated into existing programs.

It was my first time conducting a workshop with Cliff Harris and I look forward to doing more with him in the future.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Consistent Inconsistence

I wish I could create a magic routine or exercise that operated successfully under the principle of "consistent inconsistence"... Weekend warriors and "hard gainers" would love this and I'd be filthy rich.

It seems to be a stunning revelation for many that yes, you can squat more than once a week and make gains, often with marked improvement. No, DOMS (delay-onset-muscle-soreness) does not have to be a daily occurrence. Less is more, except when it's just less, and once or twice a week is probably not going to do it if you have aspirations greater than getting off your duff once in a while or unless you are very out-of-shape to begin with.

Consistent, repeated effort is key to success. Without consistency, even the best training plan and the most genetically gifted will fall far short of their potential. Consistency is not exciting - it is often dull. Training novelty is important too, but without training consistency, the body will be unable to make the adaptations to demands we're after.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Working With Coaches & Fitness Professionals

Lately, I've been working with a number of personal trainers and coaches, teaching kettlebell skills. It's interesting to work with them because they bring a different mindset to the training table than athletes or other trainees. For the average gym-goer looking to improve his/her fitness, there is no real need to question the deeper reasoning behind an exercise technique unless it somehow impacts their performance of the exercise, sport, or activity. For a coach or PT however, there is a need to understand not only how an exercise is performed, but also WHY it is performed that way insofar as how it applies to their clients' individual needs and goals. Simply being able to perform and demonstrate an exercise is not enough - they must be able to help athletes and clients identify weaknesses and errors and work with them to prescribe the necessary corrections and modifications.

I'll be giving a three-hour workshop on Saturday, November 15. Please email me at boris_york@yahoo.com or contact CrossFit Iowa to register.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The "Too-Much-Invested-To-Quit Syndrome"

Stubbornness and greed sometimes lead us to follow training paths for too long, despite all the warning signs telling us to change direction. I talked about this a bit in "Knowing When To Say When" and "Thoughts On Deloading". Dr. Robert Sutton takes this a step further and very aptly calls this the "Too-Much-Invested-To-Quit Syndrome".

"The more time and effort that people put into anything - no matter how useless, dysfunctional, or downright stupid it may be - the harder it is for them to walk away... We all justify the time, effort, suffering, and years and years that we devote to something by telling ourselves and others that there must be something worthwhile and important about it or we never would have sunk so much of our lives into it."

- Robert Sutton, PhD (The No Asshole Rule)

Excellent stuff and great advice for people who trudge along for months or even years using the same system, split, routine, diet, scam, or scheme, waiting for their progress to, at some point, suddenly take off. Understand, I'm not talking about consistency here. I'm talking about blind adherence to a program despite a preponderance of evidence that it isn't meeting your needs.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Practical Programming - Ends & Means

War is a balance of ends and means: a general might have the best plan to achieve a certain end, but unless he has the means to accomplish it, his plan is worthless. Wise generals through the ages, then, have learned to begin by examining the means they have at hand and then to develop their strategy out of those tools. …use the means at your disposal. Then, out of that process, let your plans and goals blossom. Not only will your strategies be more realistic, they will be more inventive and forceful. Dreaming first of what you want and then trying to find the means to reach it is a recipe for exhaustion, waste, and defeat.

- The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Green

Do you have training "goals"? Of course you do. I mean, who doesn't? No meaningful training can occur without having some objective, measurable, quantifiable goals, right? Well, yes and no. Having a good plan designed with the end in mind is almost always going to be better than just "winging it". Without one, most of us will either push too hard for too long, or we'll wimp out just when things are starting to get productive. Goals are valuable not because they are an end-point, but because they are useful in the planning, in prioritizing our training. Any kind of practical goal-setting is going to start with an assessment of the means by which you will accomplish the goals you set. Creating a good training plan requires, at the very least, taking inventory of the resources available to you.

Think about it. If your goal is to squat 800 pounds but you don't have access to a squat rack, it might be time to reevaluate a bit. Not having access to a squat rack doesn't mean you can't train your legs at all, but it does limit your options A LOT if you are hoping to be a competitive powerlifter.

Make a list of your available "training means" - the tools and resources available to you in your gym, garage, backyard, or basement. Your training means may be things like rocks, free weights, machines, kettlebells, towels, sandbags, plyo boxes, and rope and a trailer hitch. See what you can accomplish with these tools rather than whining about how you can't do Westside because you don't own a reverse-hyper bench. Sometimes it takes a little ingenuity, but you'd be surprised at what you can accomplish with fewer tools. Sometimes less really can be more.

Related Articles:
What You Know Vs. What You Do by Dan John

Monday, October 20, 2008


I'm a big fan of simple when it comes to t-shirt designs. The old York Barbell Club t-shirts were an absolute classic - a white t-shirt with York Barbell Club written in dark purple (could have been brown - I don't remember for sure) with a dark purple and white illustration of a lifter jerking a barbell overhead.

This is the only pic I could find w. the shirt:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Favoring One Side When Squatting

From a message board:

Hey guys,
Almost every time I attempt a back squat my body rotates toward the right and almost all the weight seems to be on the right side of my body. I've asked a few people and no one seems to know how to correct this. While I am going down my body rotates to the right and I can't seem to correct it on my own. When I squat without the bar I do not rotate at all. I also tried front squatting the other day, I'm not sure how great my form was, but it didn't seem like I was rotating. Any advice would be appreciated, this is very frustrating.

Thanks a lot

A fairly common issue I see in trainees and on the internet is people favoring one side when squatting. It often looks something like the picture above, but it can also manifest itself with the bar helicoptering as the trainee descends into the hole and/or as they rise from the hole.

A given symptom can mean a host of possible causes, but my first question to a person with this problem is: 'Have you had any knee, hip, shoulder, or ankle issues?' The answer is almost always yes.

After clearing training with a qualified health professional, I generally recommend some unilateral and flexibility work as needed. Foam rolling and other forms of myofascial release (like shiatsu and deep tissue massage) can play a crucial role as well.

Bumping the weight down for a while to work on form is probably prudent, however, that doesn't necessarily mean doing bodyweight or squats with the empty bar - ultimately, you need to do form work with a weight that challenges your form if your goal is to squat well with a challenging weight. That said, if you're having ankle, knee hip, or shoulder issues that are affecting your form, then you probably need to take it easy until those things are dealt with - don't overdo it.

The ideas given in the video I posted/made are a place to start, but if they don't address the underlying issue, they may or may not solve the problem. Figure out what the cause is and correct it would be the best advice. In general, most people have hamstring and hip flexibility issues anyway, so starting there if you don't know where to begin is probably not a bad idea.

Squat Rx #12 (from about 3:40 in) has some things that may be helpful:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thoughts on Giving Effective Presentations

Being in education, I get to hear speeches, presentations, lectures, and lessons weekly and often daily. I've also had the opportunity to participate and observe my share of seminars, conferences, workshops, and classes. Add it all up and the sheer number is staggering. As a coach and a teacher, I've seen many outstanding speakers along the way and many more less than memorable ones.

There are many wonderful books on the subject of giving effective presentations, such as, "Talk Your Way To The Top" by Kevin Daley, and on the web, like this resourceful post on the Library Garden Blog

I'm certainly not an expert on the topic, but here is a quick list of some very simple rules of thumb to follow when giving speeches, lessons, and presentations:

*Don't chew gum or eat when you are doing business
*Turn off your cell-phone before starting
*Plan and rehearse what you are going to say (HAVE a "script", but DON'T read a script)
*Don't tell, SHOW
*K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short & Simple)
*Extraneous volume and movement are distractions
*If you don't know, don't B.S.
*You must be PASSIONATE about your subject matter
*Remember, your goal is to educate and inspire, not necessarily to entertain
*Remember, even fascinating content can be boring if it isn't presented well...

As you prepare your presentation, ask yourself the following questions:

*Do I really NEED a PowerPoint for this segment? Would something else (or nothing) be as or more effective?
*What kind of response (if any) will my questions to the target audience elicit?
*Does this anecdote serve a legitimate function, or am I just talking about myself and boring the audience?
*Will my audience remember the main points, or something else?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kettlebell Workshop

On Saturday, November 15, I'll be giving a Kettlebell Basics Workshop for coaches and personal trainers at the CrossFit Iowa gym. Workshops there are always a lot of fun. We are setting a cap on attendees, so please let me know if you're serious about attending.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Dip

Almost everything in life worth doing is controlled by the Dip.
At the beginning, when you first start something, it's fun. You could be taking up golf or acupuncture or piloting a plane or doing chemistry - doesn't matter; it's interesting, and you get plenty of good feedback from the people around you.
Over the next few days and weeks, the rapid learning you experience keeps you going. Whatever your new thing is, it's easy to stay engaged in it.
And then the Dip happens.
The Dip is a long slog between starting and mastery. A long slog that's actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path.
The Dip is the combination of bureaucracy and busywork you must deal with in order to get certified in scuba diving.
The Dip is the difference between the easy "beginner" technique and the more useful "expert" approach in skiing or fashion design.
The Dip is the long stretch between beginner's luck and real accomplishment...

..Of course, if you look at the resume of a typical CEO, you'll see that he endured a twenty-five year Dip before landing the job.
...It's easy to be a CEO. What's hard is getting there. There's a huge Dip along the way. If it was easy, there'd be too many people vying for the job and the CEOs couldn't get paid as much, could they? Scarcity, as we've seen, is the secret to value. If there wasn't a Dip, there'd be no scarcity.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Successful people don't just ride out the Dip. They don't just buckle down and survive it. No, they lean into the Dip. They push harder, changing the rules as they go. Just because you know you're in the Dip doesn't mean you have to live happily with it. Dips don't last quite as long when you whittle at them.

...When the pain gets so bad that you're ready to quit, you've set yourself up as someone with nothing to lose. And someone with nothing to lose has quite a bit of power. You can go for broke. Challenge authority. Attempt unattempted alternatives. Lean into a problem; lean so far that you might just lean right through it.

- Seth Godin ("The Dip")

This book bears an almost uncanny resemblance to the book Mastery, by George Leonard. The basic message is that "the Dip", like George Leonard's "plateau", is something to expected and even embraced. The Dip is the ravine or moat that separates the best from the rest, and bridging it is essential to success. "The Dip", by Seth Godin, is very short, easy, and fun read - I highly recommend checking it out if you have any interest.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Knowing When To Say When

"Show me somebody who goes hard all the time and I will show you a career about to end."
- "Powerlifter 54" of the Dragon Door Forum

Milo of Crete, a Greek wrestler of antiquity, is most famous for carrying a baby calf everyday for its first four years of life. The story is often cited when talking about progressive overload training. We all know that while it is a great story, if you were to follow a training plan that continually escalates in intensity and/or volume, eventually (quicker than you might think) the weight would become too great and you would either plateau or injure yourself. So, why then do we think we can follow concentrated loading plans long term? Why do we rationalize our high-intensity, high-volume training plans and think that somehow "I'll be different if I can eat enough, or rest enough, or vary the exercise selection in just the right way"?

Part of the problem is that people start out training gung-ho and see results. Novice lifters, though they don't need it, can handle a relatively large amount of volume at higher levels of intensity and still make gains. It doesn't work so well for intermediate and advanced lifters. Let's look at two hypothetical trainees of different lifting experience: Lifter A has been lifting for six months and Lifter B has been lifting for six years. If the training plan calls for 10 sets of triples with 90% of their maximum single repetition squat, which lifter is going to be able to complete the training session in better shape?

Lifter A
Max Squat = 200lbs
Training = 180lbs x 3 x 10 sets
Total Volume = 5400

Lifter B
Max Squat = 500lbs
Training = 450lbs x 3 x 10 sets
Total Volume = 13,500

At first glance, you might be tempted to think that since both lifters are training at 90% of their maximum, that they should be equally fatigued. However, this is not the case. Very likely, Lifter A will not only be able to complete their sets, but also look around the gym wondering what to do next to finish their workout. Lifter B, on the other hand, if they finish the sets, will probably be barely able to walk.

It is more than simply a question of volume, although that is important in the example given. But, even if we halved the number of sets for the 500lb squatter, it would still be a herculean effort for them to complete the session. There is another reason why advanced strength athletes can't push the pedal to the metal as often as newbies and intermediate trainees and the reason has to do with a fancy sounding concept called the "muscle strength deficit" (MSD). The MSD is the difference between the force your muscles can generate when forced by electro-stimulation and the force they can generate voluntarily in training. The deficit is much greater in sedentary subjects than for trained subjects, and elite strength athletes may have a very small MSD. So, what does that mean for your training? It means that the more experienced you are, the more coordinated you are and the more muscle you are recruiting to your cause to move heavy weights. In very simple terms, as you get stronger, when you push the envelope, the closer you REALLY are pushing things to their limit. An advanced lifter who is grinding out reps will need more recovery time than novice doing the same. Yes, work capacity matters and increases with training, but developing it is a slow process.

Most people who've been training for a while can push well beyond what is best for them. Not coincidentally, most injuries I've had training were after 3-4 weeks of concentrated loading without adequate recovery - just looking at ever increasing training numbers in a log, without any attention to volume or intensity, gave NO clue or hint that I was heading toward injury. As a very general rule of thumb, most people can go balls to the wall for 2-4 weeks and then it's time to back off. Intentional or unintentional, meticulously planned or "instinctive", it doesn't matter, but fail to back off when your body needs it and you could very well be heading for a fall.

"Power has its own rhythms and patterns. Those who succeed at the game are the ones who control the patterns and vary them at will... The essence of strategy is controlling what comes next, and the elation of victory can upset your ability to control what comes next in two ways. First, you owe your success to a pattern that you are apt to try to repeat. You will try to keep moving in the same direction without stopping to see whether this is still the direction that is best for you. Second, success tends to go to your head and make you emotional. Feeling invulnerable, you make aggressive moves that ultimately undo the victory you have gained."
- Robert Green (The 48 Laws of Power)

For Further Reading:
Dan John's Nautilus, Crossfit, and "HiHi" (T-Nation Article)
Charles Staley's The Classic Things You Will Do In The Gym To Shoot Yourself In The Foot (Online Article)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Work Your Weaknesses Month (Wrist Work)

I've been doing some extra abdominal and wrist work this month, trying to bring up those weaknesses. One of the tools I use for wrists is the "Twist Yo' Wrist" wrist roller from Ironmind. It differs from a standard wrist roller in that it works radial and ulnar wrist extension which are the motions you make when you are opening a jar, or twisting a door knob. It is basically a very big yo-yo that you can attach weight to.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cardio With Kettlebells

The other day, I did 200 continuous 1.5 pood (53lbs) snatches with the "Beep Test", switching hands every 10 reps for the first 60, and every 5 reps after that. About 20 minutes of continuous work. It's a good cardio workout, but unless wind is your major weakness, I'm not sure that this kind of training has a lot of application to girevoy sport or the "Secret Service Snatch Test ("SSST")".
Girevoy Sport, where the objective is to snatch a kettlebell as many times as possible in 10:00 with only one hand switch, a huge part of the game is the local muscular fatigue you experience in the shoulder and grip. With multiple switches, as I am doing here, most of the localized fatigue dissipates in the non-working arm. One arm is always getting a breather and is never required to work anywhere close to exhaustion.
For the SSST, the objective is similar to girevoy sport - 10:00 as many reps as possible, but multiple hand switches are allowed and you may set the bell down as often as long as you'd like as well. Pacing is the name of the game with the SSST and, quite frankly, the Beep Test protocol, designed for shuttle runs, just isn't fast enough for SSST preparation until about 14 minutes in or unless you are using a really heavy bell. You could easily remedy this by doing more repetitions per chime though.
In any case, it's a fun challenge and great general conditioning. Having the caller and chimes makes it easier to just let the mind go and focus on each repetition - almost hypnotic and it reminds me of all those years I spent staring at the bottom of a pool, swimming back and forth for miles. The beep test protocol I'm using, by the way, goes until 247 repetitions - I've done 220 with this, but usually put the bell down with gas still in the tank - towards the end my hands are pretty slick and it takes a lot of concentration not to lose the bell on a hand switch. Let me know what you think.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Words of Wisdom from Yagyuu Munenori

Today's words of wisdom come from the master swordsman Yagyuu Munenori (1571-1646), a contemporary of Miyamoto Musashi. This passage mirrors the idea of "mushin" (no mind) and "Being the Squirrel". It also predates the idea of declarative vs. procedural knowledge by about 300 years...

From "The Book Of Family Traditions On The Art Of War":

In all things, uncertainty exists because of not knowing. Things stick in your mind because of being in doubt. When the principle is clarified, nothing else sticks in your mind. This is called consummating knowledge and perfecting things. Since there is no longer anything sticking in your mind, all your tasks become easy to do.
For this reason, the practice of all arts is for the purpose of clearing away what is on your mind. In the beginning, you do not know anything, so paradoxically you do not have any questions on your mind and you are obstructed by that. This makes everything difficult to do.
When what you have studied leaves your mind entirely, and practice also disappears, then, when you perform whatever art you are engaged in, you accomplish the techniques easily without being inhibited by concern over what you have learned, and yet without deviating from what you have learned. This is spontaneously conforming to learning without being consciously aware of doing so.
...When you have built up achievement in cultivation of learning and practice, even as your hands, feet, and body act, this does not hang on your mind. You are detached from your learning yet do not deviate from your learning. Whatever you do, your action is free.

--Yagyuu Munenori

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thoughts On Deloading

Except when tapering for a competition, I've never personally had much luck with deloading. Usually, my deload weeks turn into just another training week. The difficulty is that, if you're like me, you hate to feel weak. To combat feeling weak, you train harder even when what you really need is rest. It is a vicious cycle that can very quickly lead you into overreaching, overtraining, and/or injury if you're not careful.

Some classic symptoms of overtraining are:

*Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
*Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
*Pain in muscles and joints
*Sudden drop in performance
*Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
*Decrease in training capacity / intensity
*Moodiness and irritability
*Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
*Decreased appetite
*Increased incidence of injuries.
*A compulsive need to exercise
(From about.com)

For my own training, the first indication of doing too much for too long is moodiness.... I have found that 5-7 days of complete R&R away from the gym (with maybe a smattering of ab or cardio) works just as well as a solid week or two of deloading.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"NO BUTS!" (Jim Thompson)

From Positive Coaching by Jim Thompson (p. 137):


Once at a dinner with a group of Stanford MBA students, I raised the notion of mistakes being central to development and success. Every person at the table agreed with me but not a single person was able to agree without putting a qualifier on it:

"Yes, mistakes are good as long as they aren't thoughtless mistakes."
"Yes, mistakes are okay, but certain kinds of mistakes can't be tolerated."
"Well, sure, mistakes are acceptable, but not the same mistake twice."

My position is that mistakes are good - period! Saying that certain kinds of mistakes are okay but others are not is really just saying that some mistakes really aren't mistakes at all.
Fear of making a mistake is a paralyzing force that robs athletes of spontaneity, love of the game, and a willingness to try new things. It is the no-buts approach to mistakes that gives the sense of psychological and emotional freedom that can unlock the learning process and occasionally release truly inspired athletic performance.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Working Weaknesses (cont'd)

I've designated September "Work Your Weakness Month" and so far, it's been going fine. I've managed a few focused sessions for abs, squats, and wrist work. For ab work, I'm doing "Pike-Ups" with an ab wheel that can be attached to the feet. It's a great exercise.

How is your training going?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Training Tip: Front Load Your Training Week

A while back now, I wrote an article for Dan John's newsletter "Get Up" entitled "New & Expecting Fathers: Tips for Training and Time Management". One of the tips I gave in the article was to "front-load your training week". It means to plan your most productive training sessions for early in the week (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday). By doing this, even if your week becomes a bear and you miss training later in the week, you will have gotten in at least two or three good sessions.

If your having trouble making your training commitments, give the "front-load your training week" idea a try and let me know how it goes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

10:00 of Training

Last night I did 10:00 of snatches (5:00) and clean & jerks (5:00). I had a minor back strain over Labor Day weekend, so things are still a little tricky, but I was happy with the effort even though the numbers were not in the least bit impressive.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Making An Atlas Stone

It's been a few years since I made an Atlas Stone, but it wasn't a difficult process. I remember finding directions on the internet from Dennis Ruygrok in 2000 and have made at least 3 or 4 since then. Stone lifting is a lot of fun and an amazing workout.

You can find good step-by-step directions at bodyresults.com

The basic materials needed are: a ball, plaster of paris, cement, and a shovel...

The mold is made by covering the ball with plaster of paris. After it has dried completely, a hole is cut in the top and the ball is removed.

After filling the mold w. cement, some reinforcing w. more plaster of paris might be a good idea. Give it a week of "curing", then the mold can be chiseled off and the fun begins.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Work Your Weakness Month Is ON!

It's September and "Work Your Weakness Month" is a go. Yes, I know that we should be working our weaknesses all the time, but most of us, quite frankly, don't. So, here's your push if you need it to get down with some exercises that you've been neglecting or avoiding.

I'm starting the month a little out of sorts. I blew out my back on Labor Day but still managed to teach two classes at a local CrossFit affiliate and do the workout with one of them as well. It was a very long continuous 10 minutes of 5:00 snatches and 5:00 jerks with the 1.5 pood, but I was happy to hold everything together.

Feel free to post your workouts and progress as we move through the month and I'll do the same.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"In Victory, Tighten Your Helmet!"

In Japanese, there is a proverb, 勝って兜の緒を締めよ (katte kabuto no o o shimeyo), which means "In victory, tighten your helmet!". It is a warning to not rest on your laurels and be ready for your enemies to return. Celebrate a win in battle and you may lose the campaign. Pushing onward without reevaluating your position can be disastrous.

Your enemies in training are often fatigue and lack of concentration. After hitting big gym PRs we have to be careful that in celebration we don't push ourselves into overtraining or injury, nor neglect our weaknesses.

Monday, August 25, 2008

September Is "Work Your Weakness Month"

It's official - September is "Work Your Weakness Month". If abs are your weakness, September is the time to brush the dust of that evil ab wheel. If your hamstring flexibility sucks, 30 days of work (and recovery) can make a difference. If there's an exercise that you should be doing, but somehow never get to or haven't gotten to lately, this month's for you!

What will I be working on in September?
*Wrist Work

Of course, other training will continue, but I plan to devote two sessions/week to one or more of these areas. If I can't spare two full training sessions, I will at least start my training with squats or an exercise targeting the abs or wrists.

What's your weakness?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Words of Wisdom from Quint Studer

The following quote is from a book written for business leaders, but it can be applied just as well to coaches, parents, and educators:

Why Leaders Don't Compliment: Some Common Myths and Excuses

People really need recognition and specific feedback, and a good compliment provides both. But too many leaders resist giving them, for a variety of reasons. Ask yourself: Do I harbor any of these beliefs and attitudes about complimenting my employees?

*Big Head: "If I compliment them too much, they'll get a big head!"

*Complacency: "If I tell them they did a good job, they'll get complacent!"

*Martyrdom: "If I don't need a compliment; why should they?"

*Another Day, Another Dollar: "They should just be happy with a day's work for a day's pay - in fact, they should be grateful to have a job at all!"

*Scrooge Mentality: "I can give out only so many compliments a week!"

*Pride: "This is hokey!"

Remember, recognized behavior gets repeated. It's okay if you feel uncomfortable as you begin to compliment. Just do it... and know that it will feel more natural with time.

- Quint Studer (from "Results That Last: Hardwiring Behaviors That Will Take Your Company to the Top")

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Zone of Proximal Development

In social learning psychology circles, the idea of the "Zone of Proximal Development" is a popular one. In simple terms, the zone of proximal development (or "ZPD") consists of tasks and skills that are a little beyond a learner's current level of competence that can be done with assistance. Tasks and skills in the zone of proximal development generally are very difficult for the learner to do by themselves. The goal of an educator then would be to provide learners with experiences within their individual ZPDs (challenging, but not TOO challenging) and giving the necessary assistance to help the learner progress and develop.

What does this have to do with resistance training? A lot really. It's pretty common to see new trainees do much more than what is necessary (of the wrong things to boot!) as they begin training. Trying to exceed the limits of the newbie "zone" very quickly accelerates the development of bad habits. The reverse is also true for some perpetual plateauers - trainees who never train hard enough stimulate growth.

The million dollar questions then are "Where is my ZPD?" and "How do I know if I'm over or under-shooting it?" Not easy questions to answer but, generally, manipulation of the following training parameters are key:

*Recovery (Am I getting enough rest? Am I getting too much?)
*Diet (Am I eating enough? Am I eating right?)
*Training Volume (Am I pushing the reps enough or too much? Is the total amount of weight moved in training too much or not enough?)
*Training Intensity (Is the weight challenging enough or am I coasting through reps? Is every rep gut-bustingly hard? Do I need to back off?)
*Training Density (Is the rest between exertions appropriate? Could I rest less? Should I rest more?)
*Training Frequency (Do I train frequently enough? Is every workout like a weekend-warrior-sore-for-a-week event? Do I train too often?)
*Exercise Selection (Am I doing the right exercises? Will these exercises strengthen what needs to be strengthened?)
*Exercise Order (Am I doing the important things first? Does the sequence of exercises every vary? ...Should it?)

It's not a list to obsess about. Make adjustments as necessary, but stay the path and do your best to find the "zone".

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Words of Wisdom From Gray Cook

Last week, I had the pleasure of giving a workshop for a group of personal trainers. We spent some time discussing the concepts of power "leakage" vs. "linkage" and I asked them the question "When you teach proper technique to someone who's been doing a lift wrong for some time, what happens to their training poundages?" The answer (that many missed) is that the training weights will almost certainly go down temporarily, but it is absolutely necessary for your long-term progress. You are building a foundation for bigger future gains.

As may be expected, Gray Cook does a good job of explaining this in Athletic Body In Balance:

It is possible for an athlete to perform well even when poor form is used, but eventually the athlete will experience breakdown, inconsistency, fatigue, soreness, and even injury. It should be the goal of the training program to create efficient movement in the activity. This will conserve energy, keep the athlete relaxed, and allow the athlete to practice more and compete with less stress.

The problem is that poor form may be easier, more familiar, and more comfortable, and it may even seem to take less energy than proper form. Proper form, however, will take far less energy in the long run. Poor form, even if it leads to some initial success, will eventually rob the athlete and cost far more time and effort than what is required to fix the weak links. Poor form can incorporate less overall muscle activity and therefore seem easier, but don't confuse this feeling with efficiency. Muscles are accustomed to generating the desired movement and maintaining optimal body position. To be efficient, the athlete must fulfill both criteria and then demonstrate the ability to reproduce the activity without a decline in quality. The athlete who understands this will be more efficient and will develop the muscles that were designed to perform the activity.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Just unbelievable... I can't imagine how anyone could be so dominating, swimming 18 times and for 8 straight days - so talented, hard-working, and has absolutely nailed his peak. If he had more time, how many more events could he win?

Squat Rx #21: "Hips Back"

The "hips back" cue is a great one for squatting, but not necessarily if you squat with a high-bar position. May be commonsense, but I hope it's helpful to some. Any comments would be appreciated.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Oksana Chusovitina

Watching the Olympics last night , I don't know if I was more impressed with the world record shattering U.S. 4x100 Freestyle relay or the vaulting of Oksana Chusovitina, a 33 year old gymnast from Uzbekistan, competing for Germany after moving there to seek leukemia treatment for her son. Now competing in her FIFTH Olympic Games, this eight time world champion has already qualified for the finals in the vault. Oksana is pictured below on the right with Alicia Sacramore of the U.S. and Cheng Fei of China:

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Words of Wisdom from Harry Beckwith

"We assume if we've heard something, we know it, and if we know it, we are acting upon it.

But people constantly repeat advice because all of us constantly ignore it.

This fact is actually a phenomenon: It's a form of magical thinking. We believe that when we hear something, we learn it, and that once we learn it, we believe we act on it.

We don't.

You find a parallel to this in at least three-fourths of all companies. They have made a plan. Because of this, they believe they are executing the plan.

But knowing is not doing. And knowing and thinking never is enough.

So if you believe you have heard it before, you have. But ask yourself, and then answer with brutal honesty, the question: Am I acting on that knowledge?"

- Harry Beckwith

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

IKFF/NAKF Nationals

Just got back yesterday from Flint, Michigan - site of the IKFF/NAKF National Kettlebell Competition. It was a great experience. I managed to hit numbers adequate enough not to embarrass myself, while learning a few things and meeting some very nice people.

The meet weigh-ins started promptly at 8:00 am and competition got started at about 10:30. Events held were:
*short cycle clean & jerk
*long cycle clean & jerk
*chair press
*ultimate clean & jerk (10:00 w. 53lb kettlebell for women, 88lb kettlebell for men)

It was a huge event and many of the stars of American kettlebell sport turned out to watch or compete - Valery Federenko, Catherine Imes, Ken Blackburn, Marty Farrell, Scott Helsley, and Andrew Durniat among many others. There were a lot of young people competing and that bodes well for the future of the sport. I was tremendously impressed with how tough the competitors were. One team, the Ice Chamber, led by gym-owner/coaches Steve and Maya, had a team of young beauties that lasted 10 minutes in their events. I, on the other hand, used about 1:00 to finish my jerks, and 4:00 for the snatches - lots of room to grow, I guess.

My training for the competition was reasonable. I spent a lot of time working on technique and (although it didn't show) conditioning. For future competitions, I'll continue to work on these and holding the bells in the rack positions (at the chest and overhead). Right now though, I'm looking forward to returning to the power rack and doing some plain old lower rep barbell work. As I build my strength back up, I'll continue to use the beep test from time to time to maintain conditioning.

One of the things at a kettlebell competition that might strike people who come from a powerlifting background was the absence of blaring heavy metal, screaming, ammonia, supportive equipment, and pre-lift slapping. Sure, there was grunting and a combination of kiai+pained yelps as people strained to eek out a few more reps, but for the most part it was QUIET and I liked it.

Prizes were simple medals and plaques. No swords, axes, or 3 foot tall trophies that eventually end up being sold for a couple bucks at a garage sale. I was very impressed that prizes, including a photoshopped picture of Scott Helsley and hundreds of dollars in DVDs were raffled off for the contestants.

Looking at the amount of time and money invested in meet preparation, I think it would be tough to make any kind of a profit - with that, it's clear that directing a meet like this is a labor of love. Many kudos to Ken Blackburn for putting it all together and all the people that volunteered their time and resources to make it possible.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sweat The Details

Details matter. The difference between a mediocre experience and an outstanding one can often be found in the details. Have you ever eaten at a restaurant with excellent food but a mediocre waiting staff? The service makes the food less delicious. Have you ever gone to a place of business where the receptionist was in a bad mood and didn't mind sharing their mood with customers? No matter how good the service is after that, the experience as a whole is likely going to be a negative one. Details matter. If you are watching a great movie in the theater, but the man next to you has gas... again, details.

In Japan, they GET details. They get it. They pay great attention to it. They understand it. The tea ceremony is nothing but details. Martial arts kata - details. If you eat at a McDonald's in Japan, your food actually looks like the pictures on the menu. Buy something that doesn't work and send it back? You'll probably get a written apology with your refund and you might even get a small gift for your trouble! It's the details that can tip the balance from average to bad and from good to great.

For the muscle-heads in the audience, what does this mean?

Details in exercise technique and tension can mean the difference between an effective exercise and an injury-causing one.

Details in stretching can mean, for example, the difference between lengthening the hamstrings and putting undue stress on the lumbars.

Details in the design of a kettlebell can mean the difference between a good workout and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Details in programming can mean the difference between PRs and overtraining.

Sweat the small stuff.

"Do the big stuff, but master the small. People look at the small as telling evidence of your ability to do the big - and anything else." - Harry Beckwith