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  • Nikki Shlosser 11:50 pm on July 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    More StrongFirst 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman

    StrongFirst is in the hypertrophy phase. This year we heavily beefed up our already strong headquarters team. Dr. Craig Marker, COO and Research Director. Nikki Shlosser, VP of Marketing. Amanda Kennedy, Operations Coordinator. Brett Jones, Chief SFG.

    Today I am proud to announce our Chief SFL and Chief SFB.
     
     

    CHIEF SFL INSTRUCTOR

    10984974_940775729275648_835596633554078075_n

     
     
    No surprise, Dr. Michael Hartle will be heading our barbell division. Master SFG, chiropractic physician, USAPL National Powerlifting Champion, former IPF Team USA Head Coach. A grandfather playing semi-prof football, he knows strength and resilience. Doc helped me write the StrongFirst barbell curriculum and will keep polishing to it for years to come.

     

     

     
     
     

    CHIEF SFB INSTRUCTOR

    167175_1800384854035_8120199_n

     
     
     
    Karen Smith is the natural choice to lead our bodyweight branch. Master SFG, “Iron Maiden”, role model for women. Karen is a product of our system and its relentless advocate and teacher. Almost every week she is spreading the StrongFirst message in a different corner of the country or the world.

     
     
     
     
     
     
    More power to you!

     

    StrongFirst_600x120
     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:32 pm on July 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Chuck Taylor Re-Design: A Survival Guide 

     

    chuck-taylor-converse-gym
     
    Folks, Converse has announced an upgrade to their classic Chuck Taylors — the first such modification in 98 years. This new version appears in stores starting today.

    Among the changes:  CUSHIONING.

    Cushioning!?! In our beloved Chucks?!?
     

    ronswansonbobbyknight
     

    It's true. But before getting all Ron Swanson-channeling-Bobby Knight about it, let's take a deep breath and examine the situation.
     

    The History

    Chucks have long been favored among lifters for their no-frills, retro-cool style and flat, inflexible (unpadded) sole... which was difficult to find, prior to the modern barefoot/minimalist revolution triggered by Born to Run and brands such as Vibram (Five Fingers) and Vivo Barefoot, and which then moved quickly into the mainstream. For decades prior, the simple-as-can-be Chuck Taylors reigned in the parks and gyms... and are still as ubiquitous as ever.
     

    The Problem with Cushioning

    The designers were careful to change very little about the external appearance... but the newly-cushioned sole is a soul CRUSHER in our strength-training world.

    Why?  Because it disperses and displaces energy. The connection between yourself and the ground must be solid — no gaps, no squishy room, no "other" place for the force to go but to exactly where you "tell" it to (the implement). How much more difficult would it be to press a bar or bell overhead if you first have to compress all the foam beneath your feet before anything else happens?

    Plus, it's safer, allowing for greater proprioception. Our feet were designed to give us feedback about the environment, not be blinded from it. Arches and the common fallacy of arch support are yet another component to this — but that's a discussion for another time.

    In any case: A legion of strength enthusiasts and culturists will not be among the converts to this squishy new model.

     

    Jason Marshall Deadlift

    Jason Marshall, Senior SFG

    Not a Replacement... Yet

    We are assured that the Chuck II will not replace the original... at least not yet. For now it's merely an addition to the line.

    If the new design is a hit and outsells the original, however, we can expect some boardroom discussions, to be sure. Our team of speculators are forecasting a 79% probability of the eventual discontinuation of the classic Chucks, in the wake of a successful Chuck II launch. #veryveryscientific
     

    The Intersection of Performance, Style, and Culture

    We are champions of substance over style, so if the substance (or lack of in this case... read: cushioning) is replicated elsewhere, then have we become a bunch of crybabies griping about style? Over the past 6 years, the market has exploded with minimalist shoe options with thin, flat soles — perfect for lifting. (No, we will not attempt to list them all here.) So maybe the Chuck Taylor devotees should just suck it up and stop throwing chairs and give the NB Minimus or whathaveyou a chance (and many of us have already — see the below comment about toe-room).

    But still, if and once the classic Chucks are discontinued, we will have lost a little piece of tradition and nostalgia... not to mention an iconic (and affordable) old-school Americana style represented in gyms across the nation (if not the world), as one of the few styles of ANYTHING, EVER to so seamlessly and successfully span both genders and generations. This characteristic is quite fitting, in the context of their gym use — StrongFirst methods of training being scalable for, and perfectly indiscriminate of, age or gender...even of one's era. They are universal. The principles are everlasting. Is the Chuck Taylor a "footwear" representation of this? Stop to consider how amazing it is, that an apparel item of one specific style could be every bit as appealing to a typical 8-year-old girl as it is to a typical 80-year-old man. I mean really.
     

    Tradition, Though — Does it REALLY Matter?

    Maybe it's silly. Or, maybe there is something pretty cool about matching a photo of yourself or of your offspring to one of a great-grandfather or great-grandmother, performing the exact same exercises in the exact same athletic shoe. Barbell, kettlebell & bodyweight strength training have been around a LONG time, and are here to stay. Chuck Taylors have already been around for 100 years... and it seemed like they just always would be. I mean, they're a piece of canvas stitched to a slab of rubber with a toe cap, for goodness sake, and that's really all that we have needed from a foot-covering. (Extra toe room for the wide-footed among us, notwithstanding.)

    Chucks have been one of those few simple and enduring constants, among such mainstays as the perfection of 5x5 or even of the deadlift itself. A silly, perhaps, but still very real connection to history. To our history. To the un-fancy and the un-complicated. To a thing that, in the lifting world at least, AINT broke and does NOT require "fixing", man.

     

     

    Pavel Chucks

     
     
    So, considering all of the above, a few response options are left available to you.
     

    1.  Freak Out

    Scream, stomp your feet, start a petition, write letters, kick sand, do whatever you can to ensure the original design remains in stores forever and ever. Your battle cry? "SAVE THE CHUCKS!" (By the way... yes, you are a big dramatic crybaby. But we totally get it.)   79%......
     

    2.  Stock Up

    The originals ARE still available, so if you just cannot handle the idea of life without them, why not stock up now, on several extra pairs? #logic
     

    3.  Switch Brands

    There really are like dozens of alternatives out there now, and you don't have to spend upwards of $150 for some great (and great-looking) zero-drop minimalist training shoes. No, we don't want to be forced into this option... but it's still a fine option.
     

    4.  Break out the Scalpel

    Maybe the inner liner/padding can be stripped out? Someone check that out and let us know in the comments.
     

    5.  Just Go Barefoot

    Build/start your own gym, without a footwear requirement. (Hey, we are listing ALL options here, not just the "easy" ones.) *wink*

    Chucks do look cool, but barefoot training still rules. That said, of course we would prefer that the classic product will be here to stay. 21%... we've seen worse odds.

     

    StrongFirst Chuck Taylors

     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:39 pm on July 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Program Minimum [Squared] 

    By Jon Engum, Master SFG

    In his original kettlebell book, Pavel Tsatsouline talks about a Program Maximum and a Program Minimum.

    For the younger people in the crowd (read: newer to kettlebells) some explanations may be needed.

    The Program Minimum has it roots with the Russian communist coup. Here is a little background.

    “The 1903 congress also adopted the party program, consisting of two parts: minimum and maximum. The two parts of the program corresponded to the two revolutions that Russian Marxists were to prepare for. The minimum program set the task of achieving a bourgeois-democratic revolution, in which the workers would aid the bourgeoisie to overthrow tsarism and establish a democratic republic. The maximum program planned for a proletarian-socialist revolution in which the workers would seize power from capitalists and establish the dictatorship of the proletaria.” ALLRUSSIAS.COM

    In the context of the home budget, the program maximum would include everything from food, housing, transportation, education, retirement, etc. etc.

    The home budget program minimum would just include the minimum things needed for survival.

    1. Water—Food
    2. Shelter

    Pavel took this minimalist concept and applied it to kettlebell training. While it would be ideal to have a more complex/comprehensive training program, many people do not have the means in both time and expertise to stick to that kind of training protocol.

    Also a Program Minimum with 100% compliance is much more effective, producing greater results than a complicated, time-consuming program with only 50% compliance.

    The big question was: What drills would provide the biggest bang for your training buck?

    The Answer:
    1 Grind and 1 Ballistic — sculpted to perfection.

    The original Program Minimum grind was the Bent Press and the ballistic was the Snatch.
    Many of us who started at the beginning of the Kettlebell Revolution grew up on a steady diet of this plan. However, it did not take long to realize that while these are great selections, for the average beginning kettlbell practicioner these moves may be a little out of reach.

    The Bent Press and the Snatch demand a level of shoulder mobility that not many beginners have access to. Never one to rest on his laurels, Pavel reinvented the Program Minimum with two equally-effective drills: The Swing and the Getup. With some instruction, most trainees can access the new PM without the prerequisites of the originals.

    In Pavel’s words:

    “The Bent Press is an exceptional lift for an advanced minimalist—but most people simply do not have the patience to build up to it. The get-up, while missing out on some of the bent press's benefits, delivers a number of additional benefits. And, unlike the bent press, trainees of any level can benefit from it.”

    Simple and Sinister was born.

    The following is a plan to combine both Program Minimums into your class structure and a way to ensure that even beginners can patiently develop the correct technique.

    This PM2 is scalable and can be taught in a group setting even if the skills of the group members are widely varied.

    What I am about to give you is a “one-stop-shop” template that will be appropriate for the rawest recruit yet challenge the most seasoned among your students.

    Exercise Genus

    While the full bentpress, snatch, get up or even the swing may be too challenging for a newbie, there are drills that lead to the development of these skills that anyone can handle. The first thing we need to do is get a hierarchy of drills in the same family or genus as the target exercise. Here are my choices listed from easiest to hardest.
     

    Modern Program Minimum

    Program Minimum – Part A - Swing

    Fabio Zonin, Master SFG

    Fabio Zonin, Master SFG

    SWING GENUS

    1. Kettlebell Deadlift
    2. Dead Stop or Power Swings
    3. Two Handed Swings (two hands, one bell)
    4. Single Handed Swings (one bell, one hand)
    5. Hand-to Hand Swings
    6. Double Swings
     
     

    Program Minimum — Part B — Getup

    Mark Cheng, Senior SFG

    Mark Cheng, Senior SFG

    GETUP GENUS:

    1. Arm-Bar
    2. Floor Press
    3. Naked Getups
    4. Partial Getups (to a tall sit)
    5. Tactical Lunge
    6. Full Getup

    Retro Program Minimum

     

    Retro Program Minimum — Part A — Bent Press

    David Whitley bent press

    David Whitley, Master SFG

    BENT PRESS GENUS

    1. Bent Arm Bar
    2. Half Kneeling Bent Press
    3. Low Windmill
    4. High Windmill (bell in top hand)
    5. Bent Press
    6. Two Hands Anyhow

     

    Retro Program Minimum — Part B — Snatch

    Jon Engum kettlebell snatch

    Jon Engum, Master SFG

    SNATCH GENUS

    1. Single Hand Swing
    2. High Pull
    3. Dead Stop or Power Snatches (touch and go)
    4. Tempo Snatches (vary time in lockout)
    5. Heavy Snatches (2-3 reps with a 5 rm size bell)
    6. Double Snatches
     
     
     

    This is my list. You may have others or you may think that a 3 is harder than a 4 but that is not the point. The take home lesson here is to list 6 drills for each movement in the order from easiest to most challenging and there is some room for interpretation.

    One more point: If you are reading this and do not know what or how to do any of the above drills, you are required to find an SFG Certified Instructor in your area and get some lessons!
     

    THE PLAN: MIXOLOGY FOR PM2

    The plan calls for training 4 days a week.

    Monday: PM

    Pick 2 drills from the Getup Genus and 2 drills from the Swing Genus.
    Alternate between grinds and ballistics.

    Beginners should feast on a steady diet of 1s and 2s.

    Intermediate Students should focus on 3s and 4s as well revisiting 1s and 2s

    Advanced Students can play with 5s and 6s

    Tuesday: Retro PM

    Pick 2 drills from the Bent Press Genus and 2 Drills from the Snatch Genus.

    Beginners focus on 1s and 2s

    Intermediate 3s and 4s

    Advanced 5s and 6s

    Wednesday: Off

    Thursday: Repeat Monday

    Friday: Repeat Tuesday

    Note to Instructors: When your new student has a good grasp on the 1s and 2s slowly introduce the higher level drills…they will have already seen your advanced members practicing them. So you will have some built in retention.

    To quote a student of Cole Summers SFG Team Leader and Former Team Canada Strength Coach: “Coach, when I master a new move it changes me completely”.
     

    TIMING

    How much time or reps should you put in to each drill? You can play this by feel but remember to vary the load from training session to training session.

    OR If you have a strong foundation and have learned all the drills in your list try this, it will add some randomness to your training and also a bit of fun.

    I borrowed the following idea from an article Pavel wrote sometime back called “ETK PLUS.”

    Get a pair of dice. Roll 1 die, this will determine your 1st drill.

    Example: If you roll a 4 on swing day, look at the swing list and find #4, you will be doing one-handed swings.

    Next roll both dice. This will give you the Practice Time.

    Example: roll an 8 and you are working for 8 minutes on 1 handed swings, shoot for about 80% effort.

    Roll a die again and get a 6 and you will be working on Getups.

    Roll two dice and get a 4 and you will be practicing for 4 minutes.

    Repeat the rolls again for your second swing selection and second getup selection.

    We have had great success with this simple program and I am sure you will as well.
    Program Minimum2 – Double the fun, double the results!
     
     
    Jon Engum kettlebell snatch
     
     
    Jon Engum is a Master SFG Instructor and a 7th Dan Kukkiwon Certified Grandmaster. Engum is the author of Flexible Steel, Creator, Chief Instructor of the Flexible Steel System, owner of Engum's Academy, Engum’s Taekwondo Association, Jon Engum’s Extreme Training and is a Vice President of the Minnesota Taekwondo Association. He has presented and lectured on several continents and teaches Workshops, Courses and Instructor Certifications worldwide.
     
     
     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:20 pm on July 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Goal Cycling 

    By Jukka Mäennenä, SFG, SFL

     
    319515
     

    Have you written down your goals? Great.

    The next step, of course, is to determine how to reach those goals. Some methods will work better than others, for any given person or task. On the other hand, there may be several similarly-effective ways to reach your desired endpoint. Either way: You will have to put in the work and hours.

    How you perform that work and the way you construct the process can make all the difference.
     

    Number of goals

    If you're like me, you want to do it ”all”. Heavy pulls, pressing the beast, handstand and ring work, Olympic lifts, the list goes on…

    When forced to trim it down, the list might look like something like this:  Pressing the Beast overhead on both sides, pulling a 2.5 x bodyweight deadlift, becoming proficient with the ring muscle-up, becoming equally strong in pistol squats on both sides, and hopefully excelling in the sport of your choice.

    But how could you cram all of these things in the weekly or daily training schedule? A wise individual has said that if everything is a goal, then nothing is a goal. That certainly holds some truth because our time and adaptation reserves are limited.

    Picking just one goal and sticking to it is certainly effective, but most people have too short an attention span for the length of time required. There's also the downside that you could lose some other qualities in the process if you're not doing anything to maintain them. For elite-level performance, however, this is often necessary. To be the fastest person in the 100m will leave very little wiggle room when it comes to training.

    For effective goal cycling, limit the goals to 2 or 3. They might be more skill-oriented or pure strength goals. An example of the former: holding a proper handstand for 30 seconds. For the latter: a 1RM front squat with (+)1,5 x bodyweight is something worth pursuing.

    After you've listed your 2-3 goals, determine whether they support each other or interfere with each other.  Pursuing a goal of completing a marathon in under three hours will most likely make everything strength related very hard to achieve. If there's a clear contradiction, refine the goal selection.
     

    Planning the work

    As soon as your goals are determined, you can program the weekly training. One option is to dedicate days to a single goal, though this may be less efficient. Sure, you can squat or deadlift for an entire 45-60 minute training session. But towards the end, the quality of the work will drop and so does the productiveness of the session. In most cases you can work towards two goals within the same day and even during the same session, if they're compatible.

    The process, listed out:

    1. List the goals.
    2. Determine the type of goals: Are they strength or skill-based? Or perhaps both?
    3. What is the optimal frequency to train them? More skill-based goals usually benefit from greater frequency.
    4. How many days or sessions can I train during a week?
    5. Place the most important goals first in the week schedule.
    6. Continue with the other goals.
    7. Get to work.
    8. Assess and adjust after 1-2 weeks.
    9. Do deloads when needed.
    10. Continue for as long as the work is productive.

    The last point is worth expanding. If after several weeks you have not yet met the goal, you can allow yourself to move on to other goals for some weeks or months and come back to it when feeling refreshed and maybe with even better requisites for accomplishing it. Hence the name, goal cycling. You don't need to rigidly stick to one thing.  Sometimes, a temporary interruption can be beneficial.  Goals are important.  But enjoying the training process, and having the adaptability to be able to take a break and return to the plan without giving up on it is just as important.

    Determination and commitment are virtues.  But if you hit a wall with your training, then do not be afraid (or too stubborn) to back off for a while, and come back at it when ready. You have two choices: modify the training (specialized variety comes to mind), or move on to a couple other goals for a training cycle or two.
     

    Some examples

    Here are some examples from my own training.

    • RING MUSCLE-UPS AND HANDSTANDS

    I can do them, but they can be better.  Neither will get better if I don't devote more time to them under concentrated training blocks. I put 3-4 sessions of 20-30 minutes into my training week and I'm on the right track. Some of the sessions might be separate, some might precede strength training sessions etc. Almost any period of time will do, except for after any heavy upper-body work.

    As always, of course, it is important to treat these sessions as skill practice. When the quality threatens to drop, I'm done for that session.

    • FRONT SQUATS

    For the past 3-4 years I've put a lot of work in to BMX-racing which is a type of sprint bicycle race on a track with jumps, rollers and berms. It's a strength and power sport with a high skill component. When I learned that Olympic level riders aim for a 1RM front squat of 1.5 x bodyweight, I got to work the very next day.

    Barbell front squats and double kettlebell front squats were my weapons of choice most training sessions. I did squats two times a day if I felt like it. Even when I didn't have squats planned for the session, I did a few light reps as a warm-up. In hindsight, it was probably too much, which is not uncommon among the young and overly eager.

    Nevertheless, I got the 1.5 x bodyweight squat within 6 months. Now I'm pursuing 1.75x... not for the sport, but just because I want it.

    During this period, overall strength improved on chin-ups, deadlifts and one arm presses.

    • SPEED DEVELOPMENT

    To be more competitive in my sport, I needed to work on speed and acceleration. Off-season, I did 2-3 sprint sessions a week. Sport practice occurred several times a week once the season started. Disappointingly, my speed was not much improved to the year prior.

    I suspect I pushed the strength training too aggressively throughout the year. For speed development, you need to be as fresh as possible for each session to ensure quality practice.

    Lessons learned. Next year I'll turn down the volume of the other training a couple of notches.
     

    Things to consider

    Some skills stick with you for years even if neglected. Others may require that you ”sharpen your blade” several times a week.

    Maintaining the qualities is certainly a lot easier than attaining them. It has been said that it takes about 1/3 of work to maintain them as opposed to reach to them. I've found this to be quite accurate.

    At this point, something called training residuals comes into play. This helps with planning since you can gauge how long the training effect should last after the training session.

    Quality – Duration of training effect (days)

    Aerobic endurance — 30±5
    Anaerobic glycolytic endurance — 18±4
    Strength endurance — 15±5
    Maximal strength — 30±5
    Maximal speed — 5±3

     

    Summary

    • Goal Cycling is certainly not new or revolutionary, but if you have been dabbling with everything or frustrated with your progress toward one certain goal, consider giving it a try.
    • Be sure the goals you choose are meaningful. A one arm chin-up is a great feat of strength, but if it is not truly important to you, your likelihood of complying with the training is quite poor.
    • Be able to identify the point of diminishing returns.  Pavel gave an excellent example of this at the SFB Certification:

    ”When you can hit 5 sets 5 of 1-arm/1-leg pushups anytime you like, it's time to move to another pressing goal.”

    Keep strong and go after your goals!

    *Sources: Issurin, V. (2010) New horizons for the methodology and physiology of training periodization. – Sports Med, 40: 189–206.

     
     
    jukkabarbell
     
     

    Jukka Mäennenä is an athlete and coach in Finland, an avid BMX and mountain bike rider, and interested in everything related to strength and performance. He has earned each of StrongFirst's SFG, SFB and SFL Instructor Certification credentials.

     

     

     

     
  • Jim Wendler 2:33 pm on July 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Article – Things I Learned from Wendler, Rhodes and Darden 

    Mark Watts wrote an article for EliteFTS about his experience at the last seminar – you can read the entire article right here.  Here is a small sample of the article:   In the Spring of 2005, I got a phone call in my office at the ODIA weight room at West Point. It was [...]
     
  • Jim Wendler 2:33 pm on July 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Article – Things I Learned from Wendler, Rhodes and Darden 

    Mark Watts wrote an article for EliteFTS about his experience at the last seminar – you can read the entire article right here.  Here is a small sample of the article:   In the Spring of 2005, I got a phone call in my office at the ODIA weight room at West Point. It was [...]
     
  • Nikki Shlosser 12:56 am on July 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    A Long Way to Press 

    By Brandon Hetzler, SFG Team Leader

     

    “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
    Usually because the manure is deeper.”
    —Gene Dudgeon

    PART 1:  TALL PEOPLE PROBLEMS

    Full disclosure — I’m 6’ 6” tall, barefoot. I hate ceiling fans, airplanes, and little cars. I can’t buy clothes off the rack. Twice a year — when the time changes — I spend an entire day changing clocks hung on the walls at work (job security). And NO, the air up here isn’t better than the air down below. I have always had to work extra hard on my pressing and deadlifting. Pistols are my nemesis — I am convinced they are only around to ruin me.

    At the SFL Certification in 2013, Pavel commented “That is one long press” (referring to a military press that took me half a day to complete). I totally agree. (I have hit rafters, drywall and light fixtures during some pressing workouts — I don’t even attempt to snatch in rooms with a ceiling less than 9ft.) Finally, Someone appreciates the plight of the tall people in this world. Considering that 95% of the world's population is under 6’3”, I optimistically consider myself in an ‘elite’ category. When it comes to grabbing defensive rebounds, changing the clocks, and seeing over crowds, being tall is a huge advantage. From a strength standpoint, being tall is a HUGE obstacle.
     

    PART 2:  LEVERS

    At the NATA (National Athletic Trainers Association) Annual Symposium I attended last year, one presenter reported a study on the deadlift. They were looking at the stresses on lumbar tissue. Their suggestion: If you are over 6’, deadlifting isn’t a good idea (based on the lever arms, forces, and angles). Do I agree with this 100%? Absolutely not. Do I think height needs to be a consideration in training? Absolutely — training taller athletes does need some consideration. But everything is relative — your body is your body and you should be able to do whatever you want to do, right? I agree with to some degree regarding bodyweight drills, but I disagree once we introduce an outside load to the picture and start considering lever arms. Everyone should be able to do meet ‘minimal’ strength standards. But after the minimal standards are met, some consideration for body proportions need to be considered (body weight for any can and will change — the length of someone's tibia or humerus will never change after they are fully developed.)
     

    PART 3:  ON "WORK CAPACITY"

    Before going further, I need to clarify something. Strength is NOT work capacity. Work Capacity isn't defined in the dictionary. If you Google ‘work capacity’ the definition that Google returns is from a CrossFit Journal, and is their opinion on what work capacity is. Not that their definition is wrong, but it is tailored to their concept of fitness. Work is defined as an “activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something.” Mel Siff (author of SUPERTRAINING) described work capacity as “the general ability of the body as a machine to produce work of different intensity and duration using the appropriate energy systems of the body.” Still not a definition, but we are now on the right track. When I hear the term “work capacity” used, the voices in my head translate it to "the ability to express strength as long as needed, for the task at hand.” ‘Strength’ needs to be cleared up a bit also — strength is the “capacity for exertion or endurance”. Many things go into expressing strength — physical fatigue, technique, strength, mobility, stability, motor control, posture, symmetry, neural fatigue, and several other factors that I’m sure I’ve neglected to list. Gray Cook wrote an article on his website not long ago discussing the term strength. To quote him:
    “Work Capacity is what we strive for in human endeavors and strength is a key attribute that helps work capacity. At the right time, and the right place, lifting is one of the most effective things to promote work capacity, but if lifting creates inappropriate side effects or somehow undermines work capacity, then strength is an empty word. Anybody can say they have it.”

     

    PART 4:  COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS

    If you have stuck it out this long, let's begin to answer the question of ‘Why is this even important?’ First, let's look at two individuals that have to press the 48kg bell to achieve their Level II Certification. Let's also assume they weigh the same. One is 6’ tall and the other is 6’6” tall. The 6’ subject will press the bell 26” (I measured one of our staff members who is 6’). The 6’6” subject will press the bell 33” (21% further). The equation to calculate work is Work(J)=Force(N) x Distance(M). The weight (force) is the same, the distance varies, so the results are not surprisingly going to vary by 21% — the difference in the distance. The taller subject with the longer press does 21% more work to press the same size bell over head. For meeting minimal standards, this 21% is not a big deal — from a training standpoint, this 21% is vitally important.

    WARNING: NUMBERS and EQUATIONS AHEAD

    Again, why does this matter? Taller means there are longer lever arms. Longer lever arms means there is a need for more stability (look at any large cell phone or radio tower — the taller it is, the further the guy wires reach out away from it). Add this need for greater stability to the fact that more work is done on each rep, and the result is a large difference in work being performed. A set of 10 presses with the same load will result in noticeably more total work being done by the 6’6” athlete listed above.

    What if the 6’ athlete weighs 212 lb and the 6’6” athlete weighs 230 lb? Then relative strength can be an argument (or will be for the lighter person). In this case, the difference in relative size of the bell is 4% (50% of the bodyweight for the 212 pounder, 46% for the 230 pounder). Relatively, the 230 lb person is doing 4% less work on each rep. Counter that with the 22% extra work they are doing because they have to press the bell further, and the result is still 18% more work for the 6’6”, 230 lb athlete to press the 48kg bell overhead.
     

    Height

    Press Distance

    BW

    Work to press 48kg

    Relative Work (Joules/ bodyweight)

    6’6”

    33”

    230

    390J

    1.70 J/lb

    6’

    26”

    212

    311J

    1.50J/lb

     

    Another way to look at it is a much simpler conversation on relative work capacity (not strength). Work is measured in joules. This chart includes all the important numbers.
     

    Height

    Press Distance

    BW

    Total work to press 24kg (5) times

    Relative Work (Joules/ bodyweight)

    6’6”

    33”

    230

    1,800 kJ

    7.82 J/lb

    6’

    26”

    212

    1,400 kJ

    6.60/lb

     

    As you can see, relative work is still noticeably greater for the heavier athlete with a longer press distance. The idea of looking at the weight that is moved divided by bodyweight gives a very skewed picture of relative strength, and only works when the individuals being compared share the same body dimensions.
     

    Height

    Pullup Distance

    BW

    Total work to perform 10 pull ups

    Relative Work (Joules/ bodyweight)

    6’6”

    33”

    230

    8,574 J

    37.28 J/lb

    6’

    26”

    212

    6,525 J

    30.77 J/lb

     

    If these two were to perform a set of five 1 arm kettlebell presses with a 24kg bell, this is how things would play out:

    For a set of 5 reps, the longer press results in 22% less work being done by the shorter athlete. Bump that up to a set of 10, and the result will still be a 22% difference. But what if we looked at pull-ups?

    All things considered, there is a total of 24% difference in total work being done. To do the equivalent amount of work, the lighter and shorter limbed athlete would need perform 14 pull-ups. Relative strength really does a bad job at comparing work done between two individuals.
     

    PART 5:  STABILITY (NUMBER-FREE ZONE)

    Again, why does this matter? How many people, when they begin training to press a heavy bell overhead, suffer from shoulder pain? Several. Strength fixes a lot of things, but strength won’t necessarily fix this. Remember the mention of stability from above? Stability work (lots of it) is very important for the taller athletes with longer lever arms. Why? The ‘CONE OF STABILITY’ (I really don’t think that is a term, unless it catches on from here). Think of it as a an upside down traffic cone — the taller the cone, the wider the base. In regards to stability, this concept means that the bigger the base the more ‘wiggle’ room there is for things to be unstable (The red area on the far right indicates the extra wiggle room the person with the longer lever arm will have). The added difficulty to maintain stability while pressing a greater distance leads to a noticeable difference in actual work being performed.
     

    Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 5.14.34 PM
     
    When we discuss ‘relative’ strength (strength in regards to body weight) we are using a metric that changes. If I can do 10 pull-ups at 230lb and then lose 30lb and can do 15 pull ups, did I get stronger? No — I just have less mass to move. Body weight can be manipulated, lever arms never change. I may lose 30lb but I still have to pull 200lb 33” to get my chin over the bar.

    My recommendation? Get screened using the FMS and address any mobility or stability issues that are present. Gray Cook and Dan John have released a DVD that discusses the importance of stability and how this can drastically affect strength and work capacity. There are a lot of great pressing programs out there — Kettlebell Muscle, Pavel’s Rite of Passage, Return of the Kettlebell 2 — but they only address the press itself. Don’t get me wrong, these programs work for most people, but if someone has a stability issue or a work capacity issue that is their limiting factor (of they are in a group that will inherently need more stability), going directly to these programs without addressing the stability needs will be problematic.

    The need for stability is magnified in taller athletes that have longer lever arms, especially in regards to pelvic stability and trunk stability. Looking at the the FMS (specifically the Trunk Stability Push up, the Rotary Stability, and the Deep Squat) gives a picture of how stable someone will be to press. If you are tall, and looking to press half your body weight — focus on getting those areas on the FMS to at least solid 2s if not 3s. If you have taller athletes you are training, same recommendation. The safe bet is that stability will lead to increased strength, but the opposite does not hold true — strength work will not lead to increased stability.
     

    PART 6:  WORKLOAD

    Another consideration for training those athletes that are taller is keeping in mind that with each rep, they are doing more work. More work equals more calories burned. For the tall athlete that is trying to add muscle mass — which is every tall athlete — this has the potential to have a drastic affect. If someone is not putting on muscle, what is the typical recommendation? Do more. In this case, fewer reps may actually equal more muscle. Those hardgainers may want to knock a rep or two off of each set — remember the numbers from above? A longer press can result in almost two times as much work being done compared to a shorter press. The cumulative affects of this could be what is sabotaging the muscle gains the tall, lean athlete is trying to make.
     

    PART 7:  COACHING

    For complete clarity — I don’t think there should be special considerations for taller athletes in regards to the strength requirements at any StrongFirst Certification. Also, I’m not saying we (those of us on the big guys platform) have it worse than those that are suffering from the prolonged affects of gravity. I am saying that for those of us in the business of getting people strong, we may need to reevaluate how we do that for each athlete. As I was training for Level II, Jeff O’Connor told me to come see him to work on my press once I could do get-ups with the 48kg. Surprisingly, once I could do that the press was not an issue. (One of those WTH affects). The explanation lies in the fact that the TGU is completely dependent upon stability from the ground up. (Those of you that read my earlier TGU article can recall the benefits of the TGU that I detailed.) If those taller athletes you are training are stuck on a strength plateau, that might be the perfect time to change focus and really emphasize stability work and work capacity (again, the Gray Cook/Dan John DVD discusses interesting ways to accomplish this). The key areas to address from a stability standpoint are:

    • Stability Overhead (finish position of the press)
    • Stability in the Rack position (Start position of the press)
    • Trunk and pelvic stability

    How you choose to work on those areas is up to you — within the StrongFirst and FMS worlds there are plenty of options.

    The important thing is that anyone can get strong. However, by applying some very solid neurodevelopmental principles, anyone can get stronger faster:

    • Mobility before stability.
    • Stability before strength.
    • Patterns develop from the ground up/midline out.
    • Strength develops with the patterns.
    • More does not equal better.

    I could add an additional 10+ pages on these 5 principles and 10 more pages by detailing how the fascial lines drastically affect this, but I’ve got to have topics for other avenues. Height (or lack of height) is not an excuse. Like many things in life, the path to ‘strong’ will be different for everyone.

    DISCLAIMER — I am not a mechanical engineer, physicist, or even someone that is somewhat good with numbers. The numbers I used were purely for the purpose of serving as an example to illustrate how height can affect the work — I used the Force x Distance formula to calculate the numbers. I did, however, get the actual work numbers for the 5 pressing reps table from the PUSH fitness tracker.
     
     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 4:16 pm on June 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Jump! 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman

    Soviet high jump legend Valery Brumel

    Soviet high jump legend Valery Brumel

    So you want to improve your jumping ability. First get strong and symmetrical. Then start “greasing the groove” with all sorts of jumps…

    Speaks Victor Lonsky, Distinguished Coach of the USSR who prepared a whole school of elite high jumpers in a small town:

    In our gym there are no objects that cannot be used for jumping. Gymnastic apparatus?—Very good. One can jump onto parallel bars, the pommel horse, the balance beam, the stall bars. A basketball hoop?—It also works. You can have competitions in touching the board or the net—with the hand for younger kids and with a leg for the older ones. Some years ago a photo of Brumel kicking a basketball hoop made its way around the world. Back then it seemed fantastic, impossible… but today many of my guys do this exercise.

    …No matter what volume of jumps one performs in training sessions, even daily ones, it is insufficient for a jumper’s preparation. I sensed this intuitively for a long time. And now I can prove it with calculations. Even for a big talent it is impossible to become an elite jumper without a certain—very large—volume of jumps. I do not want to scare anyone, but 100,000 jumps is the necessary minimum. And these are just the sports jumps; assistance jumps are not included into that number, even though they are no less important in reaching success. A beginner jumper should jump several hours a day—in addition to his [formal] training session.

    If you do not have your sights on Olympic gold, 100,000 jumps are an overkill, but the GTG principle remains. Lonsky continues:

    Not a single opportunity to jump ought be missed throughout the day. I am happy when I hear that my guys do not walk on stairs but jump over several steps, jump rather than climb over fences, scare their mothers by jumping over clothes lines, and even when they go to sleep, they jump into bed. At times I have to pretend that I do not approve such behavior, especially in public places, but the kids and I know that there is no other way. A boy does not become a jumper until he got the “jump fever”, an itch in the soles of his feet. And it is not just the matter of logging in several thousand jumps. I must be convinced that jumps are obsessing him, he thinks of nothing else, he is developing a fanaticism that is a must for a jumper—or any other athlete. I once watched one of my athletes jumping over a puddle. He accelerated, strongly pushed off, and… tumbled right in the middle of the puddle. His friends and passers by laughed and I also smiled. Wet and embarrassed, the lad was too comical. However, no one but me noticed that at the moment of the jump he completely forgot about the puddle. He did not make a long jump; he made a high jump. He jumped over an imaginary bar and landed as if he just conquered a height. He was not thinking about the recent rain or the puddle but about the jump. I do not need to worry about his future in sport.”

     

    High jump coach Victor Lonsky (center).   And no, the gent on the right is not Yul Brinner.

    High jump coach Victor Lonsky (center).
    And no, the gent on the right is not Yul Brinner.

    Prof. Nikolay Ozolin, one of the top Soviet sports scientists and a former USSR record holder in the pole vault, favors one traditional long practice and many mini-practices, some as short as 5min:

    I recall the vivid example of Japanese athlete Chuhei Nambu who, in preparation for the Olympic games, throughout the day, in addition to the main practice, used every free minute for making springy hops and jumps—walking to school, on the way home, standing around with friends, etc. This helped him to set the world long jump record. Much later, in a personal conversation, he told me that all this had really helped him to turn his legs into, as he put it, “steel springs”. When I asked him, had not he got tired from such a multitude of jumps, he replied no, explaining that between each 5-10min session of jump exercise there were long breaks, sufficient for restoration. You see, this is the essence of effective fragmentation of training sessions—sufficient restoration between them.

     

    Chuhei Nambu, famous Japanese long and triple jumper

    Chuhei Nambu, famous Japanese long and triple jumper

    In your GTG sessions make use of all sorts of jumps—except for depth jumps, altitude jumps and other jumps particularly stressful to the musculoskeletal system. Serious power athletes should do them only in their formal training sessions, supervised by professional coaches. Everyone else has no business doing them at all.

    You have plenty of other jumps to choose from: the standing broad jump, the standing vertical jump, long and vertical jumps with a pre-run, a vertical jump to touch a tree branch, the squat jump, one-legged hops… the list goes on.

    Research Parcours jumps—not the crazy kind that could put you in a hospital but the kind that calls for very precise landings. In a study by Rewzon long jumpers did not jump their maxes in training, but were instructed to jump various sub-maximal distances and be accurate about landing at specified spots. The subjects “generalized” their skill and improved their maximal jumps! The researcher who conducted the study found that practicing over a wide range of parameters was much more effective than simple repetition of the task with fixed parameters. As motor learning researcher Dr. Schmidt put it, variable practice teaches “much... more than just the specific movements actually practiced.”

    Of course, there is volleyball and basketball. Lonsky comments, “Basketball is more than one of my favorite games. It is a “sparring” absolutely essential for a jumper… In it I found an additional but absolutely essential jumping reserve. [These jumps’] addition is not perceived as excess load because [the load] is masked by the emotional high of the game…”

    But before you jump, remember that you must be strong first.

    Before you jump, get strong.
    the sfl barbell course will teach you how.

     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 4:16 pm on June 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Jump! 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman

    Soviet high jump legend Valery Brumel

    Soviet high jump legend Valery Brumel

    So you want to improve your jumping ability. First get strong and symmetrical. Then start “greasing the groove” with all sorts of jumps…

    Speaks Victor Lonsky, Distinguished Coach of the USSR who prepared a whole school of elite high jumpers in a small town:

    In our gym there are no objects that cannot be used for jumping. Gymnastic apparatus?—Very good. One can jump onto parallel bars, the pommel horse, the balance beam, the stall bars. A basketball hoop?—It also works. You can have competitions in touching the board or the net—with the hand for younger kids and with a leg for the older ones. Some years ago a photo of Brumel kicking a basketball hoop made its way around the world. Back then it seemed fantastic, impossible… but today many of my guys do this exercise.

    …No matter what volume of jumps one performs in training sessions, even daily ones, it is insufficient for a jumper’s preparation. I sensed this intuitively for a long time. And now I can prove it with calculations. Even for a big talent it is impossible to become an elite jumper without a certain—very large—volume of jumps. I do not want to scare anyone, but 100,000 jumps is the necessary minimum. And these are just the sports jumps; assistance jumps are not included into that number, even though they are no less important in reaching success. A beginner jumper should jump several hours a day—in addition to his [formal] training session.

    If you do not have your sights on Olympic gold, 100,000 jumps are an overkill, but the GTG principle remains. Lonsky continues:

    Not a single opportunity to jump ought be missed throughout the day. I am happy when I hear that my guys do not walk on stairs but jump over several steps, jump rather than climb over fences, scare their mothers by jumping over clothes lines, and even when they go to sleep, they jump into bed. At times I have to pretend that I do not approve such behavior, especially in public places, but the kids and I know that there is no other way. A boy does not become a jumper until he got the “jump fever”, an itch in the soles of his feet. And it is not just the matter of logging in several thousand jumps. I must be convinced that jumps are obsessing him, he thinks of nothing else, he is developing a fanaticism that is a must for a jumper—or any other athlete. I once watched one of my athletes jumping over a puddle. He accelerated, strongly pushed off, and… tumbled right in the middle of the puddle. His friends and passers by laughed and I also smiled. Wet and embarrassed, the lad was too comical. However, no one but me noticed that at the moment of the jump he completely forgot about the puddle. He did not make a long jump; he made a high jump. He jumped over an imaginary bar and landed as if he just conquered a height. He was not thinking about the recent rain or the puddle but about the jump. I do not need to worry about his future in sport.”

     

    High jump coach Victor Lonsky (center).   And no, the gent on the right is not Yul Brinner.

    High jump coach Victor Lonsky (center).
    And no, the gent on the right is not Yul Brinner.

    Prof. Nikolay Ozolin, one of the top Soviet sports scientists and a former USSR record holder in the pole vault, favors one traditional long practice and many mini-practices, some as short as 5min:

    I recall the vivid example of Japanese athlete Chuhei Nambu who, in preparation for the Olympic games, throughout the day, in addition to the main practice, used every free minute for making springy hops and jumps—walking to school, on the way home, standing around with friends, etc. This helped him to set the world long jump record. Much later, in a personal conversation, he told me that all this had really helped him to turn his legs into, as he put it, “steel springs”. When I asked him, had not he got tired from such a multitude of jumps, he replied no, explaining that between each 5-10min session of jump exercise there were long breaks, sufficient for restoration. You see, this is the essence of effective fragmentation of training sessions—sufficient restoration between them.

     

    Chuhei Nambu, famous Japanese long and triple jumper

    Chuhei Nambu, famous Japanese long and triple jumper

    In your GTG sessions make use of all sorts of jumps—except for depth jumps, altitude jumps and other jumps particularly stressful to the musculoskeletal system. Serious power athletes should do them only in their formal training sessions, supervised by professional coaches. Everyone else has no business doing them at all.

    You have plenty of other jumps to choose from: the standing broad jump, the standing vertical jump, long and vertical jumps with a pre-run, a vertical jump to touch a tree branch, the squat jump, one-legged hops… the list goes on.

    Research Parcours jumps—not the crazy kind that could put you in a hospital but the kind that calls for very precise landings. In a study by Rewzon long jumpers did not jump their maxes in training, but were instructed to jump various sub-maximal distances and be accurate about landing at specified spots. The subjects “generalized” their skill and improved their maximal jumps! The researcher who conducted the study found that practicing over a wide range of parameters was much more effective than simple repetition of the task with fixed parameters. As motor learning researcher Dr. Schmidt put it, variable practice teaches “much... more than just the specific movements actually practiced.”

    Of course, there is volleyball and basketball. Lonsky comments, “Basketball is more than one of my favorite games. It is a “sparring” absolutely essential for a jumper… In it I found an additional but absolutely essential jumping reserve. [These jumps’] addition is not perceived as excess load because [the load] is masked by the emotional high of the game…”

    But before you jump, remember that you must be strong first.

    Before you jump, get strong.
    the sfl barbell course will teach you how.

     

     
  • Jim Wendler 6:06 pm on June 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Building the Monolith – 5/3/1 for Size 

    Building The Monolith – 5/3/1 For Size Week One Monday Squat – 70×5, 80×5, 90×5, 90×5, 90×5, 90×5, 90×5 Press – 70×5, 80×5, 90×5, 70xAMRAP Chins – 100 total reps Face Pulls/Band Pullaparts – 100 total reps Dips – 100-200 total reps Wednesday Deadlift – 70×5, 80×5, 90×5, 90×5, 90×5 Bench Press – 70×5, 80×5, [...]
     
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