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 or contact CrossFit Iowa to register.