Monday, August 31, 2009

Three Weeks

I'll be taking the next three weeks off from blogging to focus on work, training, studies, and writing, and travel to St. Paul to assist at the RKC instructor certification course.

Good squatting and I'll see you in three weeks!


Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Kettlebell Snatch (The Other Arm)

One thing I've noticed about people's kettlebell snatch technique is that the 'resting' arm is, for the most part, frozen throughout the movement. In my humble opinion, they're missing out on a valuable nuance of the movement. Honestly, I'm surprised that I've never seen this coached before - not saying no one does, but I've never seen it.

If you've ever tried to jump with your arms stuck to your sides, you'll know how this seems to glue you to the floor. Arm movement helps coordinate the effort of the hips. Coaches trying to improve the vertical jump, for example, will instruct their athlete's to actively pull the arms down to maximize the stretch reflex and have them do pull-ups to improve strength to this end.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Does This Look Like a GYM?

A while back, I was thumbing through a architectural design magazine and ran across pictures of David Barton Gym (locations in Chicago, Miami, and New York). Probably not a place for hardcore lifters, but it's nice to see people thinking outside of the box.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Snatch Grip Romanian Deadlifts

An amazing exercise for the posterior chain - the Snatch Grip Romanian Deadlift:

Snatch grip Romanian deadlifts are one of those exercises that seem to slip out of the rotation and then, when they make it back in, you wonder why you ever stopped doing them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


"I don't get it! I did 5 sets of 5 with 300, so I'm SUPPOSED TO be able to lift 400lbs."

"I've only eaten 3000 calories this week, so WHY haven't I lost weight?"

"I don't smoke, drink, or do drugs. I SHOULD be healthy."

"I haven't had a day off in months. I DESERVE a vacation."

"I've trained hard for the past three weeks. I've EARNED this pie."

In training and in life, we often confuse performance and outcome, process and product. We fail to separate them. We feel that if we do "A", we can expect "B". When the performance does not lead to the desired outcome, we feel cheated. To make matters worse, not only do we expect specific outcomes as a result of our efforts, but we often rationalize completely unrelated and questionable choices based on our diligence. We believe that we are entitled to rewards when we have demonstrated disciplined behavior.

The harsh reality is that, despite our very best efforts, despite superior process, we cannot EXPECT successful outcomes and products. If we expect rewards, we are no different than a child who behaves well for an hour and then throws a tantrum because his mommy won't buy him a gumball. "But, I've been GOOD!" we protest, but, fortunately or unfortunately, life is more complicated than a simple system of earned rewards and punishments. Separating legitimate causation from mere correlation or symptom is harder than we'd like to believe. Often, we cannot foresee life's constraints, distractions and interruptions. This is not to say that goals, results, planning and reflection are not important - far from it. However, a preoccupation with the past and future can result in LESS attention to process, which is the only thing that is truly in the here and now... and the only thing controllable through perception and present action.

We look for applause when things go right. We look for scapegoats when things go wrong. Sometimes we get stuff, good or bad. And sometimes we do indeed DESERVE it. But, we don't get stuff, good or bad, because we deserve it. We get what we get, change courses where appropriate, and do our best to be present in the process, over and over again.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sustained Heavy Breathing Training™

In my younger years, among other things, I was a competitive swimmer. During peak training periods, it wasn't unusual to be swimming 10 miles or more a day. Intervals constituted the bulk of our training, but fartlek-type training, and 30 minute swims for distance (aka "T-30s") were fairly commonplace. When I was 19 or 20, I swam a mile of butterfly nonstop with a teammate. It wasn't fun but, because I was in great shape, it wasn't bad.

second from right = a much younger me

Cardiovascular conditioning was not an issue for many years afterward, even with minimal training. 10 years of next to zero aerobic work of any sort eventually caught up with me however, and while high rep squats (20-30 reps) are certainly better than nothing, thinking that they are adequate heart and lung conditioning for anything beyond a very short sprint is foolishness. These days, I make sure to do enough sustained-heavy-breathing-training™ sessions that a flight of stairs, or an occasional long day of yard work or moving doesn't completely wipe me out.

In addition to the pulling harness, kettlebell snatches are an exercise I enjoy and lend themselves to sustained-heavy-breathing-training™ . At least once a week, I do something along the lines of Kenneth Jay's VO2Max protocol (Viking Warrior Conditioning), or longer timed sets. Once in a while, I'll just snatch for 20-30 minutes without setting the bell down.

Today, I did about 23 minutes of continuous kettlebell snatches with the 1.5 pood (24kg). Nothing special - hand switches every 5-10 reps and pretty slow paced (10-15 reps/minute), but I was plenty winded by the end of it.

I find it interesting that people (who spend far more time on keyboards than at the weight room or on the field) get all bent out of shape arguing the merits of "high intensity interval training" over slower paced aerobic work. I think it's commonsense to assume that HIIT and steady state aerobic work will NOT have the same cardiovascular adaptations. In my opinion, any reasonable person would conclude that some of both would be better than rigid adherence to one to the exclusion of all others. The bottom line is that if you are someone who's sedentary/detrained/untrained, then ANY kind of training is going to be better than nothing, and if your VO2Max is poor, ANY kind of exercise that gets you breathing hard is going to improve it... but what the hell do I know? Lyle McDonald is a much smarter man than I, and he has a series of blog posts concerning the interval training vs. steady state training issue. They are certainly worth your time if you want to learn more on the subject. The following is a summary of his series that contains links to more detailed posts: Steady State Versus Intervals - Finally A Conclusion

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Deadlift Grip Advice From Rickey Dale Crain

The arms are straight, and the bar lies in the fingers, like it is holding a hook. Thumb should be overlapping one or two of the first two fingers.

The bar should "not" be squeezed. Rather, it should just lay in the fingers/hand. Only the thumb should be flexed, or squeezed, not the hands, not the forearm. If this is done incorrectly, most likely, the bar on a very hard pull will slip out of the hands. Also if the hands are rotated as you grip the bar, it will most likely slip out as the weight pulls down, and pulls the rotated hands back to a straight up and down position. One does not have to have a strong grip to hold onto large amounts of weight. I have a very poor grip and grip strength and have never lost a deadlift, i.e. 716 at 165lbs.

From Advanced Powerlifting Techniques by Rickey Dale Crain