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.