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  • Nikki Shlosser 3:45 pm on January 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Should You Train Your Slow Fibers? 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman


    Franz Snideman, Senior SFG, a 10.7sec 100m sprinter

    Slow twitch fibers got a bad rep in the power world.  Slower, weaker… what self-respecting lifter or wrestler would want to train them?  Yet cutting edge Russian research tells us that every type of athlete, from marathoner to powerlifter, has a lot to gain from it.

    First I will talk about the needs of PLers and others who pursue strength events in which the speed of contraction does not matter: Iron Maiden/Beast Tamer challenge, the front lever, the iron cross, etc.  Then we will deal with power athletes like Olympic lifters and sprinters, and finally with a wide spectrum of athletes needing endurance, from fighters to ultra-endurance runners.

    I. Slow fiber hypertrophy for absolute strength

    While it is true that slow twitch (ST) fibers do not get as thick as their fast twitch (FT) brothers, we have known since the sixties that per square inch of cross section, they are just as strong.  In other words, two finger-thick bunches of fibers, fast and slow, are equally strong.  Sure it takes a higher number of thinner fibers to make up that bunch, but why would that matter?

    Consider the study by Selouyanov in which experienced athletes did very light and slow squats* and increased their 1RM by 25.6% in six weeks.  Are you interested now?  Not surprisingly, there are elite Russian powerlifters such as Dmitry Kasatov and Alexander Grachev who use state of the art ST fiber hypertrophy protocols as an integral part of their training.

    Should you do it too?

    Perhaps.  There are two downsides.  First, something has got to give.  Your time is limited and so are the resources of your endocrine system.  You will have to introduce ST hypertrophy training at the expense of something else—and your programming will greatly increase in complexity*.  Second, many 1RM guys and gals simply despise slow, “go for the burn” reps (understandably).

    There are upsides too.  A high-mileage lifter is able to dramatically reduce his heavy training mostly to the practice of the competition lifts while taking care of hypertrophy with light ST exercises.  Reportedly, this is what great Vasily Alexeev did for his back.  His back problems prevented him from doing heavy deadlifts (snatch and clean pulls).  So he developed a secret variation of the back hyper* and kicked everyone out of the gym and locked the door when he did it.

    Another upside is maximizing one’s muscular development—if this is your goal.  You are a heavyweight lifter, a football lineman, a power bodybuilder.

    If you need to watch your weight, you still could use this tactic locally.  E.g., if your goal is to improve a press—kettlebell or barbell military press, bench press, handstand or one-arm pushup—adding a triceps ST hypertrophy protocol to your regimen is neither going to tip the scale, nor make your training too complex or draining.*  The same applies to a grip master pumping up his forearms.

    If you fancy yourself a “hard gainer” trying to bulk up, I anticipate your idea to do this type of training exclusively.  When it comes to your upper body, don’t even think about it!  An average person’s upper body muscles are 70% fast twitch.  Even if you are far the other way, you are still loaded with FT fibers and they have a much greater potential for growth.  Combine FT and ST hypertrophy training perhaps, but do not go exclusively ST.

    For the legs it may not be a bad idea.  They have a 50/50 average ST/FT ratio and you might be skewed far into the ST.  Your answer could be training like an injured lifter—moderately heavy singles, doubles, and triples to address the neural and psychological components of strength plus light ST hypertrophy work.

    II. Slow fiber hypertrophy for power athletes

    Since fast fibers contract faster than the slow ones, it does not seem to be a good idea on the surface.  Yet, according to maverick Russian professor Victor Selouyanov, you would be making a grave mistake: “[Although] maximal speed of ST and FT muscle fibers differs by 20-40%, the contraction speed in real athletic actions does not exceed 50% of the maximal contraction speed.  Thus an increase in strength of the ST fibers increases power and speed practically in all types of athletic activity.  Even in a sprint.”

    Selouyanov & Turaev established that 50% of the sprinting power comes from slow fibers!  Then they subjected a group of experienced sprinters to a leg ST hypertrophy regimen.  Their 100m times improved from 10.9sec to 10.7sec.  In other experiments Seluyanov increased the athletes’ standing jumps through ST hypertrophy.

    The pros and cons of introducing slow fiber hypertrophy training into your regimen are the same as for powerlifters and Iron Maidens.

    III. Slow fiber hypertrophy for athletes requiring any type of endurance

    A short answer is, absolutely!  One’s endurance, be it in an MMA fight or in a marathon run, is very dependent on the mitochondria that enable the muscle to use oxygen*.  And slow fibers, unlike fast ones, come pre-equipped with mitochondria.  It will be a game changer for your “conditioning”.  For instance, in another study by Selouyanov, eight weeks of ST squats upped the anaerobic threshold by 20%.

    * Stand by for a series of articles that will expand on the topics I have marked with an asterisk, as well as detailed training protocols.  A heads up: slow twitch fiber hypertrophy training is done very differently from what you might expect.  So do not rush for the “burn” until you read the directions.


  • Nikki Shlosser 3:08 pm on January 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Okinawan strength: Developing the “Iron Body” 

    By Stuart McGill, PhD


    Strength is context specific – to remain immovable, to be resilient to blows and forces, and to lift and handle large loads with low risk of injury require a specific type of strength. The body is stiffened to become unbreakable. The martial arts of the island of Okinawa, Japan have embodied these strength principles to develop the “Iron Body”. They involve muscular stiffening augmented with some breathing and breath holding techniques. We have investigated some of these techniques in the laboratory and in the training room. They enhance strength and injury resilience. Here are some thoughts on Okinawan strength and developing an iron body.

    Injury resilience

    The fundamental tenant of resilience to absorb blows and remain immovable is enhanced through drills to achieve total body stiffness. This arises from muscular contraction with breath holding, or controlled breathing techniques to create a rigid, unforgiving cylinder out of the torso. The spine is compressed with this muscle action while it is postured into a neutral position. This means that the normal curves associated with upright standing are maintained. This is corrective for some people who excessively elevate their rib cage during strengthening efforts. The lungs are filled to about 70% of full volume then the ribcage and abdomen are stiffened preparing them to bear tremendous load without any internal micro‐movement at the spine joints.

    One of the best drills to achieve a neutral spine while learning the forceful breathing is one we recently assessed, and published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (Badiuk, Andersen and McGill, 2014), we named it the “Lewit” after Dr. Karel Lewit and his colleague Dr. Pavel Kolar of Prague, Czech Republic. Dr. Lewit has contributed a lifetime of creative assessment and corrective exercise approaches based on postural and breathing mechanics. His inspiration combined with great insight into several strength correctives refined by my good friend Dr. Clayton Skaggs of St. Louis, led to this particular exercise. While the masters of Okanowan karate describe “deep abdominal breathing” together with “muscular locks” which involve mindful focus, the “Lewit” forces this torso/abdominal compression with a neutral spine when practiced with the guidelines we published.

    The essence of the “Lewit” is to develop engrams of torso stiffness where the torso cylinder remains compressed without ribcage flair. This technique may be employed in pulses or for situations calling for isometric torso strength over longer durations. When the skills acquired during the “Lewit” are transferred to standing, the visual gaze is locked onto the horizontal.

    Very briefly (the interested reader is referred to our journal paper for a complete guide), the individual lays on the floor in a crook/lay position, while they teeter on the sacrum to achieve a neutral spine. Then the exercise really begins at the bottom of low tide breath, where the last remaining air is forced out of the thorax through tightly pursed lips creating a resistance.

    Once this ability to create an “iron torso” is mastered, techniques to “root into the earth” are practiced leading to the full deployment of Okinawan strength in daily strength training.

    “Root” Training

    Rooting into the ground begins with skilled development of the “big foot”. The foot is trained to grip the ground using the toes and the heels. This creates the largest base of support possible. “Stomping the foot” to achieve the muscular root is a common practice. A progression would begin with rooting both feet, then continue by standing and rooting with just one foot. These skills are tested by a partner pushing the stiffened and rooted trainee in pulses, and with slower forces to hone the ability to steer the line of drive through the linkage into the rooted feet. Pulses may be applied with a stick – essentially the partner is given full permission to “beat the trainee” looking for a “soft spot”. Any soft spot is indicated by pain. The trainee learns to stiffen the area, eliminating the tissue compliance and pain. The forces applied to challenge the “rooted posture” may be made more complex with the addition of twisting loads applied to the arm, leg and torso.

    Other progressions may include learning to wedge the body against immovable objects. Here the body is stiffened to apply isometric force to the object, and well rooted and wedged. Mindful focus is used to conduct a survey throughout the body, auditing for any feeling of weakness or compliance. This is then corrected with more regional stiffness.

    Putting the principles together to enhance performance and injury resilience

    Unfortunately, in my clinical practice consulting on back pain I see far too many patients created by trainers prescribing strength training without sufficient “Okinawan strength”. They mistakenly have clients perform exercises such as deadlifts thinking that preservation of a neutral spine is the primary coaching cue. Those practicing Okinawan strength would begin with:

    • Establishing a root to the floor.
    • The torso is stiffened with motion only at the hip and knee to allow descent to the bar.
    • As the grip is established on the bar the latissimus and torso muscles form an “anti‐shrug” effort adding more torso stiffness.
    • The breath is held and the bar is pushed downwards further compressing the torso.
    • The stiffened body becomes a wedge under the bar.
    • Then instead of “lifting the bar”, mindful thought is directed to “pulling the hips forward and through”.

    Of course this would be preceded by hip assessments to establish the safe depth of the squat ‐ whether the client is qualified to pull the bar from the floor or whether they should pull the bar elevated on blocks. It is important not to impinge the hips nor sacrifice the neutral position of the stiffened spine. If you are familiar with the coaching cues of my friend and elite coach Marty Gallagher, coaching superstars in the powerlifting world such as Karwoski and Gillingham, you will be familiar with Okinawan strength principles.

    Other athletic endeavors may require the ability to burst out from Okinawan stiffness into a speed task. Speed is only possible with muscle relaxation. Pavel Tsatsouline has promoted these ideas via kettlebell techniques where he hones cyclic stiffness and relaxation. There are several relaxation drills to create speed out of a base of Okinawan strength that enables faster limb motion, and higher strike force.

    Many techniques throughout the martial arts have been given traditional explanations and Okinawan techniques are no exception. For example, “pushing the tongue forcefully to the roof of the mouth behind the front teeth” traditionally has been explained as the connection of energies between body meridians. However, modern scientific investigation in our lab has confirmed that this engages the deep flexors of the neck, stiffening the neck and providing an anchor for the trapezius complex to begin the formation of the stiffened tower that will enhance lifting and pulling ability.

    There is a downside to some iron body “hardening exercises” from traditional Okinawan techniques of striking and being struck. Some old masters have damaged their hands from years of “strike hardening” that they are substantially disabled. However, those who have developed the skill of muscularly hardening with pristine technique and no joint damage build impressive durable athleticism into their later years. As a testament to good form, Marty Gallagher has just enjoyed his 45th year of pulling 500 pounds from the floor!
    More in‐depth analysis of creating injury resilience and performance enhancement is contained in my textbook “Ultimate back fitness and performance”. (see www.backfitpro.com)

    1. Badiuk, B.W.N., Andersen, J.T., McGill, S.M. (2014) Exercises to activate the deeper abdominal wall muscles: The Lewit. J. Strength Condit. Res., 28(3):856‐60. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182aac3f3.

    2. McGill, S.M. Ultimate back fitness and performance, Fifth edition 2014, Backfitpro Inc., Waterloo, Canada, ISBN 0‐9736018‐0‐4 (www.backfitpro.com)

    The author thanks Dr. Craig Liebenson, Los Angeles Sport and Spine, who inspired this article.

  • Nikki Shlosser 3:03 pm on January 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    The Raider Project 

    By Mike Connelly, SFG II



    Part 1

    The Marine Corps is the most feared and respected fighting force on the planet.  The storied history of the Corps is a seemingly endless report of instances of honor, courage, and commitment; the core values of the Marine Corps.  Having experienced this tradition firsthand, I can tell you that the reputation was earned through a training system that is second to none.  From bootcamp, to occupational schools, to continuing education, the Marine Corps knows how to assess a situation, form a plan, and execute it with extreme efficiency.  As instructors and practitioners of physical culture, we stand to learn a lot from an organization that has seen it all and continues to produce excellence.

    To list what the Marine Corps does well would be an endeavor that I just don’t have time for so for both my sake and yours, I will limit this conversation to a few, broad physical training aspects of the Corps’ culture.

    • Keeping it simple.  Without getting political, I will just say that the Marine Corps is not on the top of any “who needs new gear or facilities” lists sitting up in Washington.  That was always ok with us.  As a matter of fact, we took great pride in performing above and beyond expectations with less than desirable quality or quantity of supplies.  This mindset also rang true in our physical training.  Organized PT (Physical Training) sessions rarely included any equipment outside of a pull up bar and even that was not a constant.  Through a regimen that includes very basic exercises, the Marine Corps creates and maintains a fit and ready fighting force.  Outside of PT, we did a lot of loaded carries.  When it comes to keeping it simple in the exercise realm, it is hard to beat the loaded carry.  See weight, pick weight up, carry weight for a set distance, put weight down.  Congratulations!  You are now stronger than when you first laid eyes on that weight!

    • As Dan John says, “Keeping the goal the goal.”   If you want to be proficient with a movement or score well on a test, you must practice what is required of you often.  At least 3 times a week, Marines gather on the Platoon level and train.  We run, do calisthenics, pull ups, push ups, and maybe even go through the standard USMC obstacle course (that was always a special treat).  The intensity of training varied through distance of runs, volume of exercises, and duration of training.  One thing was always constant though, we are training movements that will be tested through the PFT or standard combat training drills.  There were no frills and no distractions from accomplishing what was expected of us and therefore very few had a hard time maintaining at least the minimum standards.

    • Chaos.  As I mentioned before, the Corps has a standard obstacle course that you will find duplicated on just about every Camp around the globe.  At first glance, it seems like there would be nothing to it for any physically competent individual.  Throw in people yelling at you (Not like when you get yelled at by your dad.  This yelling comes from what seems to be the depths of hell and is guaranteed to rattle your train of thought.), exhaustion from prior activity, and maybe even a loaded rucksack and some rain and you have yourself a training event that will test your ability to perform a task under stress.  You know what Marines have to do a lot of the time?  Perform tasks under stress.  So this is a fine tuned instrument for dialing Marines into the idea that no matter what we encounter, we have a job to do and we are going to do it.  Outside of that, Marines are also very, very good at handling things when they don’t go their way.  Plans are great but they rarely survive first contact so be prepared to adapt your strategy and stay in the fight!

    That is a very short and general glimpse at what is done very well in the physical culture created by the Marine Corps.  And while perfect does not exist in this world, my beloved Corps has done a stand up job of adapting to the demands of being a world class fighting force and overcoming the obstacles laid out by an often tumultuous world for 239 years.

    As outstanding as the Marine Corps’ training regimen is, as with anything else, there is always room for improvement.  My mindset on training has changed since my days of wearing PT belts as I have since dedicated my attention to studying better ways to train the human body.  My thought that the best way around a wall was through it has been replaced with more subtle and insightful strategies and because of that I feel I am more resilient than I have ever been.  Notice I kept that to “more resilient than I’ve ever been.”  I’m not going to throw out the obligatory “I’m stronger than I’ve ever been” because me-at-21 would rip me-at 38’s arms out of socket.  But I will say that I now see how I could have been even stronger as a twenty-one year old Marine.

    Here are a few ways that I would humbly suggest the Marine Corps adapt their training to address some gaps that were existent during my service.  My thoughts are that if the following movements were tested there would be fewer injuries in training and an even more effective fighting force would be in place.

    • Sprinting.  I was fortunate to never have been required to serve in combat.  Having said that, I can’t imagine that there are too many instances in combat where my pace in moving from one spot to the other would match that of a PT run.  In our organized PT, we never did any sprints which does not really reflect the demands that would be put on our body in combat training.  In assault drills, we were taught to time our advancements by saying, “I’m up.  They see me.  I’m down.”  This meant we would start saying that as soon as we showed ourselves from behind cover and would be down in the prone position or behind cover by the time we recited “I”m down.”  This was the optimal time spent exposed in order to increase your chances of not being recognized and “addressed” by the enemy.   It is my understanding that this is an issue that is starting to be addressed in Combat Fitness Testing.

    • Squatting/Hinging.  Marines do an awful lot of picking things up and putting them down.  Rucksacks, ammo cans, water containers, other Marines… you name it, we’ve picked it up off the ground and put it back down again.  The body squat or hinge were relatively under-practiced in our regimented PT, and it was never tested, yet a great portion of the work we did required us to constantly perform a squat or hinge of some sort.

    • Front Loaded Lifts.  I would recommend front loaded lifting not only for the enormous strength and “armor” building benefits but also as a balance to the large amounts of back loaded lifting Marines do.  A lot of our training was done with a rucksack of various weights on our back and our bodies slightly bent over.

    • Assessments/Instruction.  The last thing I would add is some form of assessing the individual Marine’s performance and guided instructions on how to address that assessment.  Most of us exercised on our own outside of regimented PT but really had no idea how to get better at what we may have needed to get better at in order to up our PT score or our performance in training.  Sometimes the issue lies outside of just performing the desired exercise a lot to get better and that was something that eluded me during my service days.

    There are a couple of takeaways that I would like to address here as I feel they will answer some popular questions with coaching; especially coaching groups.  Keep it simple.  More often than not, my answer to questions about how we do things at Rebell is, “Dial it back and stick to the basics.”  The manual that we are taught from as StrongFirst instructors has been written through years of experience from our lead instructors.  Stay the course that has been provided to you.  Establish goals and trim the fat off of your training.  I think that one of the largest factors in people not hitting their goals is over complicated or ambiguous programming.  Stick to the necessities with little to no fluff and you will reach your goal much quicker.  Have a plan but be ready for the inevitable detour.  If your programming hits a snag (in group training this is almost a guarantee) keep your cool, reassess, and move forward from there.  These simple yet effective guidelines have helped keep the Marine Corps the most effective fighting force on the planet for centuries!


    Part 2

    Having served in the Marine Corps, I have conversations from time to time with people who wonder what it was like to serve in the best fighting force on the planet.  “Strong people stand up for themselves.  Stronger people stand up for others.” That’s an old adage that was passed on to my nephew from his Papa.  To me, there are no other words that culminate the spirit of my beloved Corps.  We are a group of men and women that at some point decided that we wanted to put our lives on the line to help others that needed us.  There is plenty of evidence to support this view.  Just turn on the news and you are likely to see the Marines in the middle of someone else’s trouble.  Whether it be through humanitarian efforts or digging trenches and fighting persecuting forces around the globe.  We truly are the world’s 911 force.

    There is a side of our service men and women that we do not hear about too often, if at all.  For most of these young men and women the battle that started in a foreign land does not often end there.  It follows them home and erodes away at their everyday lives.  It consumes the people that they used to be and leaves an empty shell void of hope.  A very sad reality is that twenty-two of these heroes commit suicide each day.  That sounds like a number that is hard to believe, but I can assure you that it is very real and very well may be underestimated.  These men and women, who so selflessly toed the line to help others, now need our help to gain the lives that they deserve;  healthy, prosperous lives supported by those who love them and care enough to help them with the aftermath of their service

    In the middle of this silent battle there are some that have stood up and taken the initiative to fight.  These are men and women that have experienced the trauma and anguish that so many have fallen to over the years.  Their mission is stated clearly; “We take pride in supporting veterans and ensuring their success in life.”.  They do this through many ways, including matching veterans up with mentors, providing professional counselling, and educating the public on this epidemic.  As strong as these men are, they need our help.  This is not a battle that they can win on their own.

    For their years of service, Marines live a fast paced and active lifestyle.  Coming out of that lifestyle can prove to be a tough transition both mentally and physically.  As facility owners, we can help.  We have the means to provide a serviceman or woman an environment they have grown accustomed to and provide an outlet for some of the anxiety that comes with the transition to civilian life.  This sounds like a simple solution and it is in reality, but the impact it can have on a veterans life is a big positive.

    On October 26th, SFG Level 2 Paul Lyngso brought some of his students from Burr Ridge Kettlebell Club to Rebell Strength and Conditioning to engage in a small battle on behalf of our nation’s warriors.  We, along with hundreds of facilities nation wide, and even some overseas, participated in The Raider Project Challenge.  We put ourselves through a gruelling one hour workout to raise funds.  It was a huge success with thousands participating, but the fight is not over.

    Lifting twice your bodyweight off the floor is strong.  Reaching your hand out and lifting someone else’s body weight off the floor is stronger regardless of how much they weigh.  We can make an impact. There are many ways that we can get involved with this effort.  If you know someone that has served, reach out to them.  Let them know that you are there if they need help.  Let them know that you are there for them just as they were there for all of us.

    The Raider Project is just getting started with their mission and while it has been a strong start, it is a long road that they will be travelling.  They need our help!

    For more information on The Raider Project : http://www.raiderproject.org

    To make a monetary donation to The Raider Project : https://www.crowdrise.com/raiderproject

    I would like to thank my friend and much younger Marine brother, Matt Patruno, for helping me get this together.  A combat Marine, Matt has opened my eyes to so many ways that we can help our nation’s heroes.  I am very grateful for that.  And, as he has done at so many points of my career, Dan John who helped me get the many thoughts I had on this together.  Thanks for being a mentor that leaves nothing to be desired.

    Godspeed StrongFirst,

    Mike Connelly
    Co-Owner/Co-Founder Rebell Strength and Conditioning
    SFG Level 2 Instructor

    Mike Connelly might be the kindest scary man you’ll ever meet.  A large, impressive figure with a big beard and huge smile; people might sense his jovial humor and confuse him with a gentle giant- and they’d be accurate.  Just add tattoos, drive, and some of the most intense physical training in the world.  He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1997 – 2001.  Though his service never saw live combat, he provided security for weapons and prisoner transports and was an instructor of marksmanship.  Besides his military career, he has spent his entire life in Chicago, a name he pronounces with the true accent of a “Second City” son.  Through his years as a resident, he developed deep roots to his city which spread into the motto of the business he co-founded, Rebell Strength and Conditioning.  The true hearted strength gym promotes the altruism: Strength – Community – Education, raising over $45,000 for various causes in the little over three years they’ve been open.  Never forgetting his brothers in arms, his personal passion projects tend to involve supporting military veterans and their families.  His personal family is also expanding this February when he marries the love of his life, Jaime, and officially adopts their dog-child, Bowie.

    Mike believes in love, honor, and bacon.  And he is strength of character exemplified in a man doing great things for the people and community around him.

    In Strength,
    Kim Weston SFG/SFL


  • Nikki Shlosser 3:35 pm on January 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    From Simple to Sinister 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman



    A couple of weeks ago Al Ciampa, SFG wrote an excellent blog entitled Where Do You Go After Simple.  In it he outlined a “serious endurance” swing protocol.  I strongly recommend it to those who want to take their conditioning to the next level.

    If you choose to hold the course to the “Sinister” goal while sticking to “easy endurance” type training, here is another option.

    Albert Einstein famously quipped, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”  I pushed Kettlebell Simple & Sinister programming to the very edge of his statement, to the verge of being too simple.  I have done it on purpose, in order to eliminate any possible excuses that you might have for non-compliance.

    I intentionally removed load variability or “waviness”, as Russians call it.  Just bang out your 100 daily swings and 10 get-ups, like brushing your teeth.  All of your attention is on technique and power, and zero brain cells need to be involved in analyzing your workout, attempting to change it.

    Once you have put in your time and effort, and reached the “simple” goals—16kg for get-ups and 24kg for swings for ladies; and 32kg in both events for gents for the specified sets, reps, and times—you may carry on using the same simple template inspired by old-time strongmen.

    Or, you may start “waving” your volume in the manner of Soviet weightlifters.  Multiple studies have documented the greater effectiveness of “waved” training for experienced athletes.  Here is how:

    The first step is identifying your monthly volume.  Note that the “month” I am referring to is not a calendar month but a block of four weeks.

    S&S is intended to be practiced daily but most people end up doing it five days a week.  For swings, the numbers then add up to (5 days x 100 reps = 500 reps a week) x 4 weeks = 2,000 reps a month.

    When the training load is static, every week makes up 25% of the monthly total.  “Waviness” describes the pattern of making some weeks’ number of lifts (NL) greater than this average, and other weeks’ NL smaller.  Soviet weightlifting specialists proposed the following classification:

    Weekly volume as a percentage of the monthly volume

    (Roman, 1968; Chernyak, 1978)


    Many successful combinations of percentages have been arrived at through painstaking experimentation by the Soviets.  We shall go with 15, 20, 30, 35%.  These percentages are named, respectively, deloading, maintenance, developmental, and stress-developmental.

    With a 2,000 rep monthly total we arrive at 300, 400, 600, and 700 reps per week.  Again, waviness means making the volume of some training periods both greater than and less than the average, while maintaining the same average.

    Note that the weeks do not have to be arranged in the above order.  Experiments have demonstrated any order to be effective for different reasons.  300-700-400-600, 400-600-300-700, or any other combination of these four numbers, will make you stronger.  So just pick one, and make sure to use a different one next month.  Your choice can be random, or influenced by your plans.  For instance, if you are climbing a mountain on week two and want to do a bare minimum of swings, assign the lowest NL, 300, to that week…  Or, if you have a competition in your sport on week four, then taper the volume towards that week: 700-600-400-300…  Make the week after Thanksgiving the highest volume week of the month…  You get the idea.

    When you are planning two months back to back, make sure that you do not use the same NL in the last week of the first month and the first week of the second month.

    Due to the fractal nature of this type of planning, one must also vary the volume within a week.  Use the table below.  Note that the number of training sessions changes depending on the week’s volume.  This was a standard operating procedure for Soviet weightlifters on whose methodology the “From Simple to Sinister” program is based.



    As with weeks, any order of the above percentages is acceptable for different reasons, and should be varied.  Make sure that the NL on the last day of one week does not match that of the first day of the next week.

    To make your life easy I have written up the first three months of your “From Simple to Sinister” swing training:  




    For your training load on “From Simple to Sinister”, you will use the next bell up from the one that allows you to do 100 swings in 5min, on any day—the one that you “own”.  Go up 4kg for ladies and 4 or 8kg for gents.  E.g., a lady who has reached the “simple” goal with 24kg should swing 28kg.  A gent who has bagged 32kg should train with 36kg or 40kg. (Or both, but that would complicate the planning.)

    There is no need to time your rest periods, except on the test days appearing in the last week of every month.  Just rest long enough to maintain maximal power output.  Obviously, 180 reps will demand longer rest periods than 80.

    As in the original S&S template, on days when you are dragging your tail, do two-hand “shadow swings” with a kettlebell close to 30% of your bodyweight or lighter.  Soviet weightlifting specialists discovered that cutting back on weight and focusing on speed-strength “creates favorable conditions for recovery processes in the body.” (Chernyak, 1978)

    On the last Friday of each month, test yourself with a timer going off every 30sec.  If you feel your power about to drop off, switch to a lighter bell for the rest of the 100 reps.  If you are still going strong after 100 with the target weight, keep going as long as your power does not fade.

    If you have made 100 in 5min with confidence and power, increase the weight next month.  If you did not make it to 100, or, you did but it took a great effort, stay with the weight for another four weeks.

    There are no bimonthly two-handed swing tests on the “From Simple to Sinister” plan.

    This plan was designed for someone who does exclusively swings (and goblet squats at the beginning of each session) for the lower body.  If you want to figure out how to introduce another squat or hinge into the mix, you are on your own.

    You can continue training the get-up in the usual S&S manner: five singles per arm almost every day.  Or, if you feel up for it, add variability to your get-up training using the swing plan as a template.  Note that the volume dynamics for different lifts are independent.  In other words, a 30% week or day for swings can correspond to 15, 20, 30, or 35% for the get-up.  Do not try to introduce a pattern (e.g. making them go up in sync or at counterphases) where there should be none.  If you are interested in the logic and wisdom behind this type of Soviet weightlifting based programming and how to apply it to your strength lifts, the Plan Strong seminar is right down your alley.

    More power to you.

    Have you read and applied Kettlebell Simple & Sinister?

    Please review it on Amazon.  


  • Nikki Shlosser 3:44 pm on January 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply

    An NFL Strength Coach’s Kettlebell Journey 

    By Jeff Fish, professional sports consultant



    As we travel on our career paths, we will inevitably encounter events that can alter our course and lead us into direction we may never have seen coming. This evolution of a belief system, or philosophy, is sometimes presented to us when we least expect it.

    These events can make us wonder, “Is this what is best”? Have I been missing some key pieces that can make my skill set more effective? Can I blend this into my existing methodology? Now, when faced with some of these experiences that really make us take notice, the ones that are truly significant professionally: there are options.

    • Some of us will sit up for hours or weeks at a time and try to poke holes into what we have learned to test its validity and determine for ourselves if this information has relevance.
    • Some of us that will shoot it down immediately because it does not echo or support what I am doing today.
    • And some of us that are not aware that an amazing learning opportunity just passed us by.

    When I first met Pavel, he forced me to decide which of the three scenarios I would choose.

    It was a little over 10 years ago, and I had been in the performance business as a strength and conditioning coach for close to 15 years. I had great success learning and growing through the collegiate and professional ranks. I now was challenged with my first, and maybe only, opportunity to lead an NFL team as a Head Strength & Conditioning Coach.

    I had developed thousands of athletes during my career and felt confident to do it at the highest level of sports. However, there were always some questions in the back of my mind that I could not answer through the textbooks and historical reading I would flood myself with. The periodization books I had learned from did not always produce the results as promised with all my athletes – I could not figure this out, as some of these athletes were my hardest workers. I knew there were gaps in my system and it drove me crazy that I couldn’t figure it out. How do I manage this? How can I produce the results and shield the professional athlete from these gaps? It was like trying to hide the scratch you put on your parents’ car while on a date.

    That’s when two lights flashed for me. One was the FMS, and the other was the Kettlebell.

    For the purposes of this article, I will discuss the kettlebell and its role in my athlete development process. I was fortunate to be introduced to Pavel many years ago, at almost the same time I had implemented the FMS with a full team. I knew from my first conversations with Pavel that he and I shared many common beliefs. He had a toolbox that looked familiar to mine, but his contained something different. That different tool broadened my scope of athlete development.

    Enter the Kettlebell

    My introduction to the Kettlebell was challenging, humbling, and inspiring. As I obsessed with trying to learn the basic KB movements, I knew it was changing how my body felt.

    I had to master these movements before teaching it to any athletes. I also knew the athletes had to experience immediate success in order to keep their attention, and be able to add movements in the future. It had to be challenging and fun, I wanted them to realize after they sat at their locker following a workout that the KB had snuck up on them and crushed them – the Afterburn!!


    I began implementing a few movements that I thought many of the athletes could benefit from based on what our team deficiencies were, and what I felt comfortable teaching to 80 athletes by myself. So I began with KB Armbars, KB Front Squats, and Single/Double Arm KB Deadlifts. I prescribed these to the athletes with specific needs – basically trying to address shoulder, core, and lower body issues.

    What I saw was shocking.

    Elite caliber athletes were wrestling with a 16kg KB as they tried to stabilize an armbar. Some of these athletes where 400+ lbs Barbell Bench Pressers. The greatest element in this experience for the athlete was the feedback they were receiving from the KB – the KB became an assistant coach for me. The KB would reinforce my words that the athlete had a deficiency that they had to improve upon in order to reduce the risk of injury. Many athletes are competitive by nature, so now all I needed to do was supply the proper challenge to each athlete. This would lead to an increase in athlete interest in their own training, it elevated the amount of individualization they received, and this all led to a significant increase in athlete motivation.

    As I detailed each athlete with their technique, and followed each movement with loaded patterned movements, I began to realize something very exciting. I could see with my own eyes the movement abilities of the athletes improving. I could see increased mobility and greater control during heavy exercises – and with this greater strength and power outputs with less discomfort during and after workouts.

    I can’t tell you how many times I heard from other peers in the coaching world that focusing on movement was a waste of time and that it could not be implemented in team sports. Meanwhile, I was doing it on a daily basis and seeing the benefits. Now that does not mean my teams were not training with weights – some people believe that training is an either/or proposition. For example, either you train with weights or machines. If you train with weights, then you have to go heavy all the time. If you subscribe to Olympic lifts, then that’s all you use to train your athletes. If you mention the word “corrective exercise”, then you must only use bands to train with. Now these are generalizations, but back then these statements tended to lump strength and conditioning coaches into categories. So I had an identity crisis. I was training with barbells, doing Olympic lifts and explosive training, utilizing Kettlebells for many training objectives, and bouncing it all off movement assessments to hold myself accountable.


    I began to implement more exercises: Military Press, TGU, Swings, Single-Sided and Bottoms-Up variations of presses, squats, and single leg movements. Now we were using the KB as part of our corrective exercise, our strength training, and our conditioning. I started to refine my programming and set/rep/rest schemes accordingly. I used myself, my staff, and proper direction from Pavel always in advance before implementing. However, in the early years, I needed more information before team implementation of new concepts. I wanted to get a sense of the subjective elements the training was producing, and I wanted to see the influences of the training on different body types. I knew what I felt and experienced, but I wanted to get some unbiased observations thrown in as well.

    The NFL Practice Squad

    In the NFL you have a small group of athletes assigned to what is called the Practice Squad. The Practice Squad members are part of the team and have a valuable role. They do not play in the games, however they provide the team with a look at the upcoming opponents’ tendencies and tactics. They practice hard while running the plays that the coaching staff feels the opponent may try to use.

    I took the same approach with the practice squad. My passion is athlete development, and I wanted to develop each of them beyond what other teams where doing in order to help them reach their goals quickly, which is being a member of the active roster as soon as possible (a bigger paycheck for the athlete). I would implement new KB exercises and methods with the practice squad during the season as a preview to what methods I would utilize with the team in the following off-season training. If I found positive results with the Practice Squad in the Fall, I would feel great about inserting the new plan into the team in the Spring. This approach can also be used at the college level with the redshirt athletes.

    The Get-Up

    I mention this because during one season, another light flashed for me. While working with the Practice Squad, I noticed they all were moving exceptionally well over a short period of time. I had recently spent a few weeks detailing an exercise in a slow, painful way. I wanted the athletes to nail this highly-technical movement. These athletes had been through numerous movement assessments and I had a good idea of how each of them moved as they were with me for 14 weeks before the season, and some for multiple years. But this group started to look different in terms of their movement efficiency than the other athletes on the active roster who were also doing their corrective exercise program.


    The only difference within the workouts was one exercise: the Turkish Get-Up. I dedicated an entire session, one day a week, of this exercise with the Practice Squad. We began by getting rock solid at the ½ TGU, then progressed as each individual showed competency. The implementation of the TGU raised the average improvement on our movement assessment – the improvements were not achieved with more corrective exercises, as I once believed. I had just learned a valuable lesson that allowed me to take my program to a higher level of movement efficiency.

    The NFL Lockout

    That brings me to another significant event that also showed me how much I could truly influence movement. First, we have to track it with precision. I had compiled many years of data when the NFL lockout struck in 2011. That basically meant that all the athletes had to train on their own away from the team training facility and I was not able to have any contact with them until the lockout lifted. It lifted as the start of Training Camp was to begin, not giving me any time to prepare the athletes for the most demanding portion of the yearly schedule. The injury risk numbers had risen to a level that I had never witnessed before as the athletes had been away for up to 7 months. My plan was to go all-in on reducing these risk factors as quickly as possible.

    Another significant event was born from this lockout, in the following Off-Season Period, the amount of time I would be allowed with the athletes would be reduced significantly. I knew what I had done in the past to positively influence movement, but this would have to change completely. My challenge was clear: How to continue to improve movement and performance output with severely limited time.

    I remember having a coffee with Pavel discussing my plan and asking for his expertise on this. In his brilliant way, he helped me walk through the plan. There were a few obstacles to navigate in order to reach my goals. The obstacles included:

    • less time with the athletes
    • no interaction with the athletes for four full months prior to the Off-Season
    • I no longer had the ability to condition the athletes as part of my lifting and running plan as in previous years
    • they would be asked to be in competitive situations much sooner than in the past (injury risk factors now more in play)
    • and my training, although in the non-competitive time of the year, was taking a back seat to on-field practice.

    I knew I had a responsibility to prepare the team above our previous standards with less resources. The solution was to install a general preparation program that accomplished these goals fast. I needed to enhance strength, power, muscle mass, metabolic conditioning, flexibility, and reduce body fat and risk factors. An 8-week all-Kettlebell Collision Course was adopted.

    The Plan

    I spent many weeks teaching the exercises and progressions to my two-person staff before the athletes arrived to start the program. The first week was spent teaching the techniques of the base KB exercises and performing our battery of tests and assessments. Not surprisingly, after not having contact with our athletes for four months, their scores were below what we normally had seen in previous years. We used a four-day-a-week plan with single KB movements used on one day, double KB movements used another day, TGU and Windmills on another day, and numerous complexes and chains (metabolic) on another.

    I began to notice drastic changes after three to four weeks. I recognized our techniques improving, the KB weights began to increase to impressive amounts, the competitive energy in the weight room was electric, and many athletes were telling stories of the daily naps that hit them out of nowhere.

    Another amazing sight was watching the reduction in time spent returning the heart rate between sets of Swings, Cleans, and Snatches. We would monitor heart rate on our metabolic day and only allow an athlete to begin the next set when their HR returning to the assigned value. All HR were displayed on a screen and the athlete watched his numbers lower, then started the next set. By week eight, the team had achieved a conditioning level beyond expectations. To watch how quickly a team of 80 athletes could lower their heart rate was impressive – it was an accumulation of all the drills done during the week.

    Lessons Learned

    Then, I got another flash of light, a “what the hell effect” moment. After analyzing the data gathered at the end of the program, I realized we achieved a greater overall team improvement in movement efficiency than in any of the previous off-season programs. So now I realized, we were stronger, more explosive, more lean, could work all day and recover quickly, and our movement quality had increased dramatically.

    How did this happen? How could that happen in less time than in previous years? We did less corrective exercises than ever? I realized that even when we don’t see them at first glance, circumstances force us into the greatest learning lessons imaginable. I was worried about the challenge, the obstacles where enormous, but I gained a tremendous amount of insight into human movement and performance.

    I incorporate those lessons into each athlete/client/team I work with today. I have learned that less can be more in most situations, and knowing the key elements of movement can improve performance quickly. I’ve learned that filling in a gap in your overall methodology, or into an individual’s profile, will always be a benefit.

    There is a special feeling you get when you spend countless hours preparing your team/clients to the proper techniques of KB training. I remember seeing three of my athletes with completely different body types performing KB Front Squats and all three had identical postures and joint angles at the torso, hip, and knee. One of these athletes was 5’8”, the second was 6’1”, and the third was 6’7” and they all looked like the same body that had been photo-shopped at different sizes. Or the amazing sight when you have a line of athletes all doing KB Swings and as you stand to the side and that moment hits where they suddenly synchronize their movements and several athletes now move as one with perfect hinging mechanics. These are training memories that are magical in my opinion – these snapshots are reflections of the quality work you have put in to coaching.

    In this day and age of new technology and new exercise equipment, and specialization at a premium in youth sports, it is ironic how the oldest tool in training still lends the greatest number of benefits. Let’s all of us continue to be great teachers of technique and safety, and influence others to the world of benefits of this simple tool.


    Download (PDF, 37KB)

  • Nikki Shlosser 3:46 pm on December 31, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Balance…With Priorities 

    By Eric Frohardt, CEO



    Often, we get too focused on ‘one thing.’  In my case, it’s usually work.  This approach works for a while, but if we don’t balance out the ‘one thing’, all the ‘other things’ in our life (family, friends, health, fun, etc) fall by the wayside.  Then, we have to stop what we are doing and get all the ‘other things’ back on track, often to the detriment of the ‘one thing’ we were working on. It seems counter intuitive, but if we don’t balance things out we can actually sabotage our progress in that ‘one thing.’

    On the other side of the equation, if we focus too hard on balancing everything, we make very little progress in anything.  Priority used to be singular.  We have turned it into the plural.  We allocate too much energy and effort seeking that ‘mythical state of perfect balance.’  We make an inch of progress in 100 different directions.

    There are Specialists and Generalists.  There is Focus and Balance.  There are advantages to both approaches.  How can we reconcile the differences?

    Have balance….with priorities.

    I believe this approach works well.  Balance things out but make sure you put ‘first things first.’  Also make sure that effort and energy you invest in ‘things’ is consistent with how you prioritize ‘those things.’

    In the world of physical fitness, there are people who are specialists.  They are very good at the ‘one thing’ they train for.  They will make huge progress in that ‘one thing’ and see some progress in ‘other things’ that slightly mimic what it is they are focusing on.  The downside to this approach is a lack of general physical fitness.  The specialized powerlifter gets gassed if you take him on a short hike at altitude and the professional marathoner is worthless when it comes time to move furniture.

    Then you have people that try to use a more balanced approach.  They want to be ready for whatever life throws at them.  They combine strength, conditioning, power, agility, and quickness (correct movement patterns throughout of course) and have a much more balanced approach.  These Generalists are more prepared for whatever life throws at them but they rarely make great progress in any one area or discipline.

    Personally, I fall into the latter camp.  Each year, I divide my training into (4) 12 week periods with a week off at the end of each period.  Each period has a different focus.  The only specific event I now prepare for is my backcountry, high altitude bow hunting.  This event takes place in September.  The 1st 12 week period is a maintenance phase that takes place early in the year (aka ski season.)  The next is a free period.  I can choose something new to focus on each year if I like (example:  KB, barbell, BW, etc).  The 3rd period is dedicated to preparing me for the hunt and the 4th is pre-season for skiing.

    The programs I build for these 12 week periods involve lifting (kettlebell and bodyweight), sprinting, hiking, jumprope, fight training (for fun), daily walks and stretching.  I find it to be a very good all around program.  It does have its drawbacks though.

    As you can see, it’s very general in nature.  As you can guess, I make an inch of progress in 100 different directions.


    This year, I’m going to try something different.  For the 1st (2) 12 week periods, I’m going to do Simple & Sinister.  I’d love to accomplish the Sinister goal.  My goal for now is to accomplish the Simple goal.  I believe it will build a healthy base of strength, movement and conditioning prior to my 3rd 12 week period or cycle that will still be dedicated to hunt preparation.

    During these (2) 12 week periods, I will still do some fight training 2 times per week.  These training sessions are usually preceded with 4 x 3min rounds of jumping rope.  I also plan on maintaining my daily habit of walking 1 mile at lunch.

    What really excites me is how simple the logistics are for this program.  I’ll have my kettlebell in my office (home or work) and do the same thing on the same time each day per week.  I won’t have to drive to the foothills for my sprints or for my hikes.  My sessions will take roughly 25 minutes each and I’ll be able to go on about my day.

    Each year, I put myself through a week of simple testing.  These tests are not perfect, but I use them as a barometer for my overall fitness. I suspect that some of the things I test myself on will suffer slightly and some will improve.  I also suspect that I’ll still be pretty generally fit yet stronger overall, similar results to when I did the “Rite of Passage” program on deployments.

    This approach will allow me to maintain balance with my fitness while having a priority.

    My fitness priority for 2015 is accomplishing the Simple Goal*.

    WHEN I reach that goal, I will move on to attempting the Sinister Goal**.

    I want to do all of this while maintaining a bodyweight of 180lbs or less.

    What’s your fitness priority this year?

    *Simple goal:  100 1 arm swings in 5 minutes using a 32kg kettlebell and 10 turkish get-ups in 10 minutes using the same kettlebell. (16kg for ladies)

    **Sinister goal:  same as above using the 48kg bell. (24kg for ladies)


  • Nikki Shlosser 3:47 pm on December 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Life, Big or Small 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman


    People who live big have passion.  Those who live small subsist on emotion.

    A newspaper article promoting a new ‘Star Wars’ film caught my eye.  “Though less than 90 seconds long and offering only the barest glimpses of a motion picture that audiences cannot see for more than a year, the ‘Star Wars’ trailer set off an instantaneous wave of analysis and armchair commentary: a cycle of approval, criticism, and criticism of that criticism…”

    The article proceeded to quote a culture writer, Linda Holmes, who said it all: “It’s all about being mad all the time.  No matter whether people wind up liking it or not liking it, the conversation becomes negative.  There are times when enthusiasm can only be expressed through dissatisfaction with the product that you get.  Or if you like the product you get, it becomes all about expressing your dissatisfaction with other people’s failure to appreciate it.”

    How much do you think these people will accomplish in the year 2015?  In their personal, professional, and athletic lives?  I am sure these are the same folks who complain that training the military press four times a week takes an outrageous amount of time—while wasting their lives away on social media.

    A person who is the direct opposite, with a big life devoid of wasted time and emotion, is Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany.  Ms. Merkel is the undisputedly most powerful woman in the world.  And, in the opinion of many Eastern Europeans, the strongest among the leaders of Western democracies, period.  A pundit quipped, “Merkel does not define herself as a female—she has defined her own class, which is heavyweight champion.”

    Merkel is a happy person.  “I have a relatively sunny spirit, and I always had the expectation that my path through life would be relatively sunny, no matter what happened.  I have never allowed myself to be bitter.”

    People in her inner circle describe Merkel as lively and funny—the opposite of her public persona, reserved as a cowboy from a Western.  Focusing on the job and not on herself, she is as self-effacing as can be.  She has been described as “a politician more mindful of her constituency than of her place in history.”

    An East German, a daughter of a Lutheran pastor, a scientist (a quantum chemist, no less), Merkel is an unlikely leader of the Western Europe’s most powerful country.  A German newspaper tells of her upbringing: “East Germany shaped her in such an extreme and strong way as no one who grew up in West Germany can imagine.  Everything was a question of survival, and it was impossible to make errors if you wanted to succeed.”

    When the Berlin Wall came down, Angela joined the delirious East Germans crossing into the West.  But when the crowd stayed to party all night, the young scientist returned home early.  She shrugs, “I had to work again early the next morning and was an orderly person.”

    George Packer, whose New Yorker piece I used extensively in this blog, writes, “Her actions on that momentous night have been ridiculed as a sign of banality and a lack of feeling.  But, in the following months, no East German seized the new freedoms with more fervor than Merkel.”

    Angela entered reunified Germany’s politics, driven by her number one value, the one she had been denied by the Communist regime.  She proclaimed her credo: “Without freedom there is nothing!  Freedom is the joy of achievement, the flourishing of the individual, the celebration of difference, the rejection of mediocrity, personal responsibility.”

    Merkel tackled politics as a scientist that she was.  “She thinks backwards from the end result,” stated one of her biographers.  “She is about the best analyst of any given situation that I could imagine,” noted a government official.  “She looks at various vectors, extrapolates…”

    Merkel stated, “For me, it is always important that I go through all the possible options for a decision.”  In science and in politics, she always took her time to do it right.  “The men in the laboratory always had their hands on all the buttons at the same time.  I couldn’t keep up with this, because I was thinking.  And then things suddenly went ‘poof,’ and the equipment was destroyed.”

    It has been pointed out that where her opponents, most of them lawyers, interpreted their losses as failures, Merkel, a scientist, saw them as discoveries that eliminated another option that did not work.  Another key advantage she held was an absence of ego in a field of egomaniacs.  A politician wrote, “One of the secrets of the success of Angela Merkel is that she knows how to deal with vain men.”  Another added, “If she knows anything, she knows her macho.  She has them for her cereal.”  A photographer who undertook an unusual project of taking photos of up and coming politicians over a decade, noted, “[Others] are vain.  Merkel is not vain—still.  And that helped her, because if you’re vain you are subjective.  If you’re not vain, you are more objective.”

    “She’s not a woman of strong emotions,” reported a German newspaper.  “Too much emotion disturbs your reason.”  Another added, “She governs by silence.”  Angela Merkel is not a fan of cheap talk.  “What puts her off about [a particular famous politician],” observed a government official, “is his high-flying rhetoric.  She distrusts it…  If you want to sum up her philosophy, it’s ‘under-promise and over-deliver.’ ”

    If you are looking for a role model to inspire you this year, may I suggest the world’s most powerful woman, the exemplary quiet professional?

    Passionate about a vision bigger than self and relentless in its pursuit.

    Thorough about planning the course of action.

    Unemotional about its execution.

    Loath to waste time and words.

    Contemptuous of vanity.

    Have a strong year!

  • Nikki Shlosser 4:22 pm on December 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    The Pause Before a Press 

    By Taikei Matsushita, SFG II

    I attended the SFG Level II in Budapest last year for re-certification.  As you know, the Level II has a military press requirement (for men, 1/2 bodyweight).  As my bodyweight increased, however, so did my half bodyweight press test — from 40kg to 44kg.

    But no problem: Two weeks prior to the Level II, I pressed the target weight on two different occasions.  Confident with the press, the morning of day one SFG level 2, I pressed 40 kg 4 repetitions.

    A few hours later at the actual test, the 44kg didn’t budge.

    Master SFG Fabio Zonin pointed out that I wasn’t pausing the kettlebell long enough before the lift, therefore even had I made the lift he wouldn’t pass me.

    I brought the half bodyweight press issue back home and started to rethink some strategies.

    My training log on September 2nd shows that I could not press 44kg with a one count pause in the rack position. I came to realize that a suggested one count pause with kettlebell racked was not long enough.  Linguistic issues may have caused this.  A  ”one” is “ichi” in Japanese and sounds like “itch” and could be shorter than typical “one” count.  So I decided to  pause for two counts.

    My training did not go beyond kettlebell basics but added some armbar and bent (crooked) armbar series.  Ring pull ups and Hanging Leg Raises complemented the training very well.

    A month after SFG2, three attempts of 44kg press went well and I submitted the one with longest pause to Master SFG Fabio Zonin.

    What did I do different?  For one I stole an idea from an American military strategist and another from Chinese martial art book.

    OODA Loop

    OODA Loop stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.  This model created by Col John Boyd USAF became my training log format.

    For example, in one pressing session:

    Observe – Stiff left shoulder, Orient – In need of loose shoulder, Decide – Armbar series and Windmill, Act – 12 kg armbar 1 rep etc.

    Then loops back to:

    Observe – Shoulder loose enough, Orient – Well coordinated hip (from Windmill), Decide Military Press, Act -36 kg 3 reps

    Observe – Stronger rack position, Orient – Continue press ?, Decide – Yes, Act – 36kg 3 reps for 2 sets

    Observe – Need to loose hip for next set of press, Orient – Lower body stretch, Decide – ASLR (Active Straight Leg Raise) from FMS, Act – ASLR left/right

    Observe – Better press, Orient – Raise weight to 40 kg? Decide – Sensing impingement in my left shoulder, empty handed bent press, Act – Fist bent press for shoulder reliever 5 reps

    List goes on.

    This gave me review the effect after each set.  Prior to this approach, weight/reps/sets were the subject of training. Since I incorporated this idea, I began to add various supplemental drills such as  joint mobility works, pull ups and ab related training.

    Finding space before press

    Not that I know anything about Chinese martial art, however few quotes from Han Shi Yi Quan book (written by Han Xing Qiao) ”The more we stand still, more movement internally”, “Some physical movements are dead internally” were good tips for my momentary pause before press.  It means even at a pausing moment, the body is active at cellular level getting ready for next action.

    In course of momentary pause I set an imagery of finding spaces in joints and unused muscles.  Suppose racking a 44kg kettlebell tenses 70% of all the body muscles and the other 30% are scattered through out the body.  At the pause, my mindset is to recognize the unused 30% energy source as much as possible.  This is no science however mental image has its place when lifting gets heavy.

    Moment of my failed press test


    44kg press successful

    Currently I feel like I owned my way to progress further.  I recently pressed double 36kg using the same mental approach.  Weight, reps and sets may be important, however what you depict in your mind is a huge factor.

    Taikei Matsushita SFG2 is currently teaching kettlebell workshops, class and private sessions in Tokyo Japan.  He was certified by Pavel first in 2007 and has been active teaching and distributing values of kettlebell. in Japan.  He became a vice chairman of NPO Japan Association of Russian Kettlebell, in February 2014.



  • Nikki Shlosser 3:11 pm on December 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    What the Hell?! 

    By Eric Frohardt, CEO



    I remember it very clearly. Somewhere in central Iraq, during my first ‘OP’ in country, I stopped in my tracks. “What the hell?” I had read about this phenomenon many times but was not sure if I believed it. I did now.

    Before finding kettlebells and the ‘hard style’ methods, I trained like many others: cardio one day (running or swimming) and resistance training the other. On some days, I would do both. On paper, this program worked well and I had results to prove it. I always scored at the top of my age group on our PRT (Physical Readiness Test). At the time, the SEAL PRT* was push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, a 3 mile run and a long swim. I’m not exactly sure, but I believe the swim distance was 1/2 mile. To score high for my age group, one needed to do 120 push-ups, 120 sit-ups, 25+ pull-ups, and roughly 18 minutes on the run.

    Yet, something was missing. When it came time to ‘work’, I just didn’t feel right. It felt like my body wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. I was in great ‘shape’ by Navy standards, but when it came time to operate, I just didn’t feel great. Spending hours and hours ‘under load’, as Gray Cook would say, really wore me out. Moving under load (wearing body armor and or carrying a heavy ruck) was even worse. Shooting and moving, jumping and climbing were difficult… and forget about ‘down-man-drills (buddy carries). We were also always moving gear, guns and ammo, and I always felt weak doing it.

    Not another cardio day

    Then, in 2005, I saw something that would change my life. I didn’t know him well yet, but John Faas was in the corner of the gym with a funny looking ‘implement’ (kettlebell) doing an exercise that I was certain would injure him (swings). He told me all about the kettlebell, his friend Pavel, and the website I could visit to learn more.

    That night at home, I spent about 5 hours reading EVERY article I could. Was it really possible to get in sufficient shape using this simple little tool and these basic movements? I decided to find out.

    A couple of weeks went by. My 16kg bell arrived along with a book. The delivery man commented: “What the hell? as he dropped it at my door step. That night I read and re-read the “The Russian Kettlebell Challenge.” The next day, I played around with my new 16kg bell.

    Like so many, I thought I could train myself just by using the book, the website, and a little coaching every now and then. My biggest mistake was NOT getting help from an instructor. That’s a topic for another day

    In short time, I was doing the movements well with the 16kg. I purchased the 24kg and started practicing with it. I had a deployment coming up and was interested to see how I’d do using this simple program: grinds 1 day, ballistics the next, recover the following day then repeat.

    Back to Iraq… and my first operation in country. The OP was nothing to write home about. It actually went as planned, mostly. I’m not going to go into details, but at some point during the OP a lightbulb went off. “What the hell? (Actually it was a Navy-approved version of the expression). “How is this possible?” I moved better ‘under load’ or otherwise. The ‘load’ didn’t hurt me when I was standing still. I could carry ‘things’ when called upon, jump over things, climb things and just physically ‘operate’ at a whole new level… all at a lower bodyweight — “What the hell?!?! I was a believer. To me, this was ‘strength with a greater purpose’ before I’d even heard the expression! I couldn’t think of a better reason to be strong!

    Fast forward: ‘Some time’ passed and I was deployed again. This time I went over with a new book, a new program and a new goal: I’d be following Pavel’s “Rite of Passage” program (or “ROP”). I had my trusty 24kg bell and a 32… just in case. All I did during that deployment was the ROP… that, and of course a few ‘walks under load.’ Some time passed and I was able to do 5 ladders to 5 with my 24kg bell. For quite some time, all I needed was that trusty 24kg bell. Then, I started adding some practice with my 32, all at a bodyweight of 185lbs. On that deployment, I felt even stronger. The ‘WTH effect’ was amplified. It was crazy to me how well I felt and moved. The really crazy part was yet to come


    Before ‘summering in the desert I devised a test and tested myself. The previous deployment had proven that the KB could get me in better operational shape, but could it really improve my ‘measurables?’ My test was simple: 5k run, bodyweight pull-ups, weighted pull-ups, bodyweight bench for reps, deadlift, and box jump for height. I would go on ‘vacation’ (deployment) and do NOTHING other than the ROP. Then, I’d come home and see where I stood on the things I tested earlier.

    Just weeks after coming home, I retested. ”WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL??How was that possible? My 5k time was unchanged. Bodyweight pull-ups held steady around 25 reps… not bad. Weighted pull-ups were a different story. I could put (2) 24kg bells on my homemade dip belt and still crank out a good rep. No one believed me… I didn’t believe it myself! This prompted me to try ‘muscle-ups.’ This movement/exercise fascinated me. I’d never been able to do one. I could now do 5. WTH?!?!? My bodyweight bench went up by a couple of reps… even without touching a bench during that whole trip. I could jump on top of the highest box in the gym (nearly as high as my solar plexus!). The deadlift progress impressed me the most. Before my trip, I could pull approximately 2x BW. This wasn’t that bad especially considering I have never been taught how to DL nor practiced it. When I retested, I was shocked. My new best DL was 2.5x BW! “WHAT THE #$%!!!!

    The kettlebell got me in great shape, and better operational shape. It took less time, was more fun, and didn’t interfere with my ability to operate (with the exception of the SSST — don’t do that at night before an operation — FYI). And I maintained — and even improved — some of the things I measured. I could not believe it. Later, I would go on to use the kettlebell to prepare myself for other ‘adventures.’ I loved the simplicity and the ‘max results with minimum effort’ aspect.

    *At the time, the PRT was different from the PST of today. The PST is the physical screening test that candidates take in order to earn a chance to try out.

    Have you also experienced this phenomenon? #WTHE

  • Jim Wendler 4:59 pm on December 9, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    In the Company of Serpents 

      Rolling like a Panzer from Denver, In the Company of Serpents take the Neurosis mold and add a dash of Buried at Sea.  The result is enough to flatten your soul.  Most of the Neur-Isis clones took the beauty from these bands and ran with it.  The coiled fucks from Denver brought bigger amps [...]
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