Wednesday, February 25, 2009


You can't have a baptism by proxy. You must be fully present.

Kettlebell Immersed - an article by Catherine Imes, Kettlebell Master of Sport

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dan John & "The Gable Method"

Dan John, if you haven't heard of him, is a strength and conditioning coach and RKC instructor residing in Utah. He is a great writer and has written articles for Men's Health, T-Mag, and his free newsletter "Get Up!". He has a website at and you can find many of his articles and all of his newsletters archived there. He also frequents Dave Draper's website and forum and shares his thoughts and answers questions there - Dan John Q&A Deck.

I am a huge fan, but I'll freely admit that I haven't read half of Dan John's newsletters, nor all of his many articles. With every article I read however, I am struck with a wave of insight and inspiration. The programs and recommendations he writes about seem like plain old commonsense but, as is often the case with commonsense, they are things that need to be (re)brought to our attention on a regular basis.

Often, while reading his writing, I think "Damn, that sounds like something I've written!", and then I look at the date of the article and hope people don't think I'm plagiarizing him. Dan John takes what others make convoluted and verbose and distills them into the bare essentials. Thoughts like, "Recovery isn't a drink. Recovery is sleep." require no interpretation or tweaking to implement.

I have many favorite articles by Dan John, but this one, The Gable Method is probably at or near the top of that heap.
"If it is important, do it every day. If it's not important, don't do it at all."

How true and so simple. Yet, I still frequently field questions from people who want their squat numbers to improve but don't squat more than once per week... For those people I say read and reread this article. Then watch this video: Dan John on The Video FitCast and these videos - Squat Rx Videos and get yourself to the squat racks!!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A New T-Shirt

I'll be putting the following design on a t-shirt soon. I don't know if I'll be able to figure out PayPal, etc, but if you might want one, let me know and give me a size. I'm not guaranteeing that I'll sell them, but if there's genuine interest, I'll look into the idea. It will be a black t-shirt with white design and lettering.

Monday, February 16, 2009

"Non-Habit Forming"

"Non-habit forming" sounds like a phrase invented by a drug-pushing marketeer. It seems to me that anything even mildly good for you, you'd want to become a habit.

A: Hey, take this pill!
B: Well, I don't know. I generally stay away from drugs.
A: This one's okay. It's "non-habit forming".
B: Well, gee. Since you put it that way!

My guess is that if there is any reason to say this, then it can't be all that good for you...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

10,000 Hours

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell is an enjoyable and easy read about the topic of mastery, talent, and success. The book illustrates many examples of success stories and the time, effort, and opportunities that helped them climb to the top.

As a general rule, it turns out, most experts spend about 10,000 hours mastering their "trade". Even examining "prodigies", like young chess champions and composers, the 10,000 hour rule seems to bear itself out consistently. Athletics is the same and time spent in practice is the key to success on the field just as much as in a laboratory, classroom, or music hall.

About a year ago, I wrote about The Necessity of Hard Work. In that post I noted that although practice times of elite athletes had decreased over the past decade or so, the hours of practice were still staggering compared to hours logged by recreational athletes (1000 hours of practice on average for elite swimmers, for example).

How many things have you spent 10.000 hours of focused practice on? For things we love, or are dedicated to, the time can pass quickly, but not too quickly.... There are only 8,760 hours in a year and most of us sleep a third of that, leaving 5,840 waking hours to work with. Spending 2 hours/day, 5 days/week will garner us a meager 520 hours for the year. Do we spend this much time training, or even truly focused on the things that matter most to us, like our relationships?

About a year ago, Adam T Glass, a strongman, kettlebell, and grip aficionado, came up with the idea to have a Race To 50,0000 Snatches Contest. Although I have no hope of winning and I figure it will take me, at best, 2 years to complete, I have been consistently logging my kettlebell snatch numbers. I decided that it would be a nice adjunct to my training goals which are, currently, to ramp my squat numbers back up and train for another girevoy sport competition.
You can find the current snatch contest standings at Race to 50,000 Snatches Score Chart. Feel free to join the fun if you include kettlebell snatches in your training.

Related article: 2006 article from Scientific American Magazine entitled The Expert Mind.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Buy the love of your life a dozen roses


Cook the love of your life their favorite meal


Be a good listener

Post thoughts to comments.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Head Positioning In The Squat

Randall Strossen's Classic Pic of Chakarov
(notice the "head back" position)

I get a lot of questions about Mark Rippetoe's recommendation to look slightly downward when squatting. I haven't spoken to him about the point, but I understand the reason for his recommendation and agree. His chapter on squatting in Starting Strength is absolutely fantastic. I think it goes without saying that this is highly recommended reading.
I don't spend a lot of time with head position in the Squat Rx videos, but I do have some of my own opinions on the matter and touch on them in Squat Rx #4. Here are the main points:
When squatting, you want to keep the head "back". NOT hyperextending the neck and staring at the ceiling lights, but driving the head backward and the chin slightly tucked. I've tried it every which way, but I've always preferred looking straight ahead while squatting - everything else just makes me dizzy. I avoid squatting in front of a mirror at all costs, by the way.

Wade Hooper - Nobody Does It Better
(Chin forward but again, notice the "head back" position)

Head positioning is important because body positioning often follows the lead of the head. Proper technique cues will depend on what the trainee is doing. If the lumbar is flexing, they probably need to think "HEAD UP!" or "CHEST OUT!" during the lift. If they aren't using the hips (and using the lumbar and/or knees instead), they need to think "HIPS!".

Cued improperly or lacking experience, a lifter who drives the chin (or chest) skyward can force the hips forward prematurely, increasing knee flexion, and actually make things harder than normal - to bring this back to normal, and involve the posterior chain a useful cue is "(weight on/drive with) HEELS!".

Huh? So, what do I do with my head?Very simply, keep your head back and look where you are comfortable. The answer to all of this minutiae is practice. Novice squatters who are preoccupied with head positioning, posterior chain engagement, outward rotation of the hips, etc. will suffer from analysis paralysis. Practice, a lot of weight and volume, and occasional technical polishing, will work out the fine nuances, including head positioning.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Flu & Kettlebells

I will get a flu shot next year.
I will get a flu shot next year.
I will get a flu shot next year.
I will get a flu shot next year.
I will get a flu shot next year.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

If You Think Going To The Gym Is Hard...

...remember inspiration is all around you.

Remember Matthias Steiner from the Beijing Olympics? Imagine how hard that year of training must have been...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Adaptation Paranoia

Sometimes, I run across people who have the idea that adapting to your training is somehow a bad thing. Novelty is good. Change is good. But too much mixing it up and you're going to end up a "Jack of all trades, master of none"-type. Nothing wrong with that, but when people ask me for advice on training, their goals are usually pretty specific - "I want to improve my squat", or "I want to be able to do more snatches with the 1.5 pood", or "I want to be faster". Wouldn't it make sense to spend some time specializing on that one thing? Your other lifts will not disappear as you focus and some time off from them might even be what they need.

Here's how I look at it: I want to be like those borgs on Star Trek who get hammered by photon torpedoes once or twice and then after that they don't take any damage at all. I want Commander Worf to turn to the flight deck crew on the Enterprise and say in that low pitch voice of his "Boris has adapted!".

Adaptation = Good For Borgs ...and YOU!

I want my body to adapt to training because this means progress. I hate acronyms as much as anyone, but SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demands) is a pretty useful one to remember and regurgitate when you want to sound like a fitness professional or if you need a mantra to keep you in the squat racks. Constant soreness and extreme fatigue are fine if you like pain, but that doesn't mean you're making a beeline toward improved performance in your strength related endeavor. Specificity is king and the king maintains rule with consistency.