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  • Nikki Shlosser 2:13 pm on September 1, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Five Weeks to a Bigger Deadlift 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman

     

     
    Did you suddenly decide to compete in the October 4 TSC and realize that your deadlift is not where it needs to be?

    All is not lost.  If you have decent technique and you have been faithful about building your base with sets of five, the following plan set to start this Saturday will give you more than a fighting chance of a PR.

    The plan is built around heavy singles and this is why it is not for everyone.  Soviet experiments showed that intermediate lifters have the most to gain from near-max lifts.  Beginners tend to get hurt with such heavy weights and the advanced burn out.

    For the purposes of our plan, your max pull needs to be 1¼-1¾ times your bodyweight if you are a lady and 2-2½ times if you are a gent.  If you are weaker or stronger than these numbers, you need a different program.

    The plan is built around a progressively heavier single each Saturday—four Saturdays before the TSC:

    1.  85% 1RM
    2. 88%
    3. 91%
    4. 94%
    5. TSC: Max

    Work up to the listed single using low reps and large weight jumps.  For example:

    50% x 4
    60% x 3
    70% x 2
    75% x 1 (optional)
    80% x 1
    85% x 1
    91% x 1

    After the heavy single rest for a few minutes, take 5% of your 1RM off the bar, and do one hard back-off set.  All the reps must be done from a dead stop.  Grind—but stop before your form gets compromised.  Never let your lower back go into flexion!

    StrongFirst’s standard operating procedure of terminating a set as soon as the reps start slowing down does not apply to this program.  You must grind these deads to prepare yourself to fight through the sticking point on the TSC day.  Not to be abused over a long term, this combination of a heavy single and a hard back-off set of 6-10 reps is a very powerful short-term tactic.

    There is no back-off set on week four, after the 94% single.  With the back-off sets your plan looks like this:

    1. 85% x 1, 80% x RM
    2. 88% x 1, 83% x RM
    3. 91% x 1, 86% x RM
    4. 94% x 1
    5. TSC: Max

    If you are an explosive puller, add a speed day on Tuesdays, e.g., 65% for 10-15 singles.  If you are a grinder, do no more pulls than listed.

    Power to your pulls!

     

    Event Date: October 4, 2014 | Event Cost: $25

    Register BEFORE September 15th to get your FREE TSC T-shirt when you arrive.

    ­

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:21 pm on August 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Strong Mind/Strong Body 

    By Mark Reifkind, Master SFG

     

     

    Strength is a choice.

    Not always an easy one, because it usually requires doing something difficult that one can’t do easily; but that is precisely the point. Strength, by definition, requires the use of force. Sometimes that is an external force, and sometimes it’s experienced internally.

    In reality, it always starts internally. It starts with the mind.

    “What the mind can conceive, the body can achieve.”
    —Napoleon Hill (paraphrased)

     

    Strength, or force, is the ability to move something, or by extrapolation, create a change. I always told my sons that the most important thing in life is the ability to make yourself do that which you know you needed, to but didn’t want to — because if you could do that, you could accomplish anything. I still believe this.

    Rarely are those things easy, but the more often one attempts and accomplishes them, the “easier” they get.
     

     

    You see, your inner strength, your will, is just like the body — just like the muscles. If it is used frequently and appropriately, it gets stronger. If it rarely taken out and exercised, it dissipates and grows weak.

    Weak never feels good; Strong ALWAYS feels good. But getting to Strong isn’t always fun, and many can’t seem to make that leap. But it’s crucial because one is either getting stronger or getting weaker. There is no standing still.

    It can look like standing still or maintaining because one is going backwards slowly, but it is still in the wrong direction. Even when the body is tapped-out and the weight will not move, or when it can no longer run the distance it once could, a body can still get stronger in one way or another. One can still make the mind stronger, and through that — the body.
     

    We are always training.

    “The body is the servant of the mind. It obeys the operations of the mind, whether they be deliberately chosen or automatically expressed…The will to do springs from the knowledge that we can do. Doubt and fear and the great enemies of knowledge, and he who encourages them, who does not slay them, thwarts himself at every step. He who has conquered doubt and fear has conquered failure.”  —James Allen, “As a Man Thinketh”

    We are always influencing the body in one way or another whether we are aware of it or not. How we eat, sleep, stand, and train — or not — creates an effect on our system and determines whether we are getting stronger or weaker, better or worse, going forward or backward.

    The more we are aware of this principle (scientifically, S.A.I.D.: Adaptations to Imposed Demands), the more we can control what we get from our training and our lifestyle.

    If we go to the gym and train hard but don’t let ourselves rest to adapt to the workloads, and don’t feed ourselves properly to help recovery and adaptation through nutrition and never contemplate the goals of our training and our methods, then, invariably we don’t progress.  …At least not in the right direction.
     

     

    Everything affects our progress, but especially our strength of mind — as that is truly the determinate of all the other good or bad decisions we will make in accordance with our training. The hardest part is always just getting to our practice, and doing the best we can that day, especially when we are tired or “life” gets in the way.

    Knowing that, and training the mind as well as the body, can make one’s progress exponentially better than just approaching it as a purely physical effort.

    All serious athletes know this — that the mind is the great limiter, and they all work diligently to focus and concentrate better. They learn how to harness the power of the mind instead of letting it control them. The most important thing is looking at, and honestly assessing, one’s weaknesses. Only if one knows where the weak links are, can one attack them and make them stronger. We are always only as strong as the weakest link in the chain, and strengthening our weakest link always brings the fastest results.

    Unfortunately, many are loathe to seek or acknowledge their weak points, and choose instead to enjoy working their strengths. True strength of body or mind can never come from that, in my opinion, as sooner or later, all will bump up against the weak link. It just happens later to the more talented. But it does happen.

    Within the SFG, ours is an internal focus. Our focus is on Deep Skill and Mastery, through consistent and devoted practice. In our practice we are always searching for and working on our weak links, to shore them up, and better-strengthen the entire system.
     

     

    Strength is a skill, and it is a mental skill as well as a physical one. We need to practice being strong in all aspects of our lives, not just the few hours a week we are in practice and training. All our life can be a practice, with all of it devoted to making one stronger and better.

    It’s not that hard, really, but it’s not for everyone. Many would prefer to be unconscious about most aspects of their “lifestyle” and how it affects their training. Those are the ones that are usually complaining how little progress they have made.

     

    Through the body to the mind.

    After 41 years of training and practice, I have come to understand that one can change the mind by approaching it through the body, or vice versa. Hard training and confronting the true limits of one’s physical being has a profound effect on one’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions. But focusing the mind on what one wants the body to achieve can transform it quickly as well. When both parts of oneself are optimized, then progress is usually exponential.

    Using little things throughout the day to strengthen one’s resolve or will can add up quickly in the gym when it’s time to lift something you have never lifted before and all systems are telling you to back off and play it safe. In maximal efforts of either strength or endurance, the smallest hesitation can result in failure. Keeping your purpose clear and your mind tight is critical.

    Pundits call athletes who can’t do this “chokers.” Training the mind in small but deliberate ways throughout the day carries over to the gym way more than most would imagine…as well as to the rest of your life.

    The little things include things like getting to the gym on time, getting your meals ready so you eat the right things that you know you need, doing the small stuff like correctives and mobility and stretching that aren’t much fun but are crucial to keeping the machine going, or just keeping the goal and the purpose in your mind’s eye on a regular basis. Doing what you say you would do when you really don’t want to. Being strong of character, as well as physique. Keeping one’s eye on the prize.
     

     

    And the prize is greater strength. Greater strength of body yes, but also of mind, of will, of spirit. I’ve never met a strong man or woman with a weak mind, and I don’t believe I ever will.

    Bernarr McFadden, a physical culturist and health food enthusiast of the early 20th Century grew up as a weak and sickly child and transformed himself into a vibrant and strong man. He wrote that “weakness is a crime.” It very well may be, against oneself and the culture.

    I like to say that “strong fixes almost everything” and I believe it. Practice strength in all its forms, and grow older with pride.

     

     

     

     

     

    Mark Reifkind,
    Master SFG Instructor GiryaStrength.com

     

     
     
     
     
     

    JOIN OUR BROTHERHOOD OF STRENGTH.
     
    SFG: KETTLEBELL
    SFL: BARBELL
    SFB: BODYWEIGHT
     
  • Nikki Shlosser 4:28 pm on August 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Flexibility for Kettlebell Training and Kettlebell Sport 

    By Sergey Rudnev, IKSFA President, 5-Time GS World Champion

     

     

    Flexibility is one of the five main physical qualities.  High level of special flexibility enables freedom, quickness, and economy of movement.  Although this article is dedicated to developing flexibility specifically for GS, I believe it will benefit anyone who trains with kettlebells for any reasons.

     

    Exercise #1: Kettlebell(s) rack carry

     

     

    This exercise improves hip extension and thoracic flexion, promotes elasticity of the quads, traps, and rhomboids, teaches you to breathe under load.

    Clean one or two kettlebells heavier than the one(s) you jerk in training or competition.  Now walk but do not limit yourself to going forward.  Go back and forth, left and right…  Lean to the left and then to the right…  Do partial squats and shallow lunges…  Turn around the vertical axis…  Try to lower your elbows all the way to the pelvic ridge.

    Do this exercise in the end of your jerk or C&J training session.  Do one set.  Start with 1min and build up to 5min.

     

    Exercise #2: Kettlebell(s) overhead carry

    This exercise develops special flexibility of the thoracic spine and shoulders and teaches you to breathe correctly while supporting kettlebells overhead.

    As with the rack carry, do not limit yourself to walking but make the same additional movements.  Use lighter kettlebells though—lighter than your competition size.  Do your best to point your elbows forward and your thumbs back (see the photo at the very beginning of the article).

    Do overhead carries after the main part of a jerk or snatch training session.  Do one sets of 30-90sec.

     

    Exercise #3: Elbow circles

    Do it for 20-30sec to prepare the elbows for special flexibility exercises.

     

     

    Exercise #4: Elbow extension

    20-40sec per arm.

     

    Exercise #5: Elbow extension

    20-40sec per arm.  Use gym equipment or furniture as a prop.

     

     

    Exercise #6: Shoulder circles

    Do it for 20-30sec keeping your arms straight to prepare the shoulders for special flexibility exercises.

     

     

    Exercises #7, 8: Reach back

    Do each exercise for 20-30sec per arm to improve your shoulder flexion and extension.

     

    Exercise #9: A regression of exercise #8

    Use a belt or a stick if you cannot interlock your fingers behind your back.

     

     

    Exercise #10: Pushdown

    40-60sec for the shoulders and the thoracic spine.  Use gym equipment or furniture.

     

      

    Exercise #11: Extension with a partner

    Do 2-4 sets of 10-20sec with 5-10sec of rest between sets.

     

     

    Exercise #12: Extension with a partner

    From 30sec to infinity—as long as your grip holds.  Use gymnastic rings or a pullup bar.

     

      

    Exercise #13: External shoulder rotation

    20-40sec per arm.

     

     

    Exercise #14: External shoulder rotation

    Do for 20-40sec per arm.  Do not flex the elbow of the stretched arm more than ninety degrees.

     

     

    Exercise #15: Hip extension from seiza

    Sit on your heels and perform 20-40 reps maximally extending your hips and back.  This exercise will prepare you for more intense hip and spine extension stretches.

     

     

    Exercise #16: Hip flexor and knee extensor stretch

    Push your pelvis forward as much as you can and bring your heel as close to your glute as possible.  60-90sec per side.

    To make the stretch easier use a belt.  To make it harder elevate the knee of the stretched leg above the foot of the support leg.

     

      

    Exercise #17: Lay back     

    This exercise improves hip extension and stretches the quads.  Do 2-4 sets of 15-20sec resting for 5-10sec between sets.  Use a belt if necessary.

     

     

    Exercise #18: Hip and quad stretch

    60-90sec per side. Very carefully lie back and make sure your knees are ready for this stretch.  The propped up version is easier.

     

     

    Exercise #19: Hip and quad stretch

    A more challenging bilateral version of the last stretch.  The same instructions apply.

     

     

     

    Exercise #20: Spine extension

    Do for 1-3min to improve your spine extension.

     

     

    Exercise #21: Thoracic flexion

    Do for 1-5min.

     

     

    Exercise #22: Rhomboid and lower trap stretch

    Interlock your hands and relax for 1-3min.  Focus the stretch on the mid and upper back; not the lower back.  Not for the flexion intolerant.

     

    Exercise #23: Bridge

    Do 2-4 sets if 10-30sec with 5-10sec rest intervals between them.  A full body extension exercise.

     

      

    Exercise #24: Hanging bridge

    Another stretch for upper back extension and shoulder flexion.  Do 30-90sec.

     

     

    In summary, exercises #1 and 2 are the top two special stretches for a girevik.  However, they compress the spine, which is why the rest of the exercises are unloaded.

    If you need to improve your flexibility, perform the complex of exercises selected from #3-24 in each training session during the general warm-up and in the very end after cardio.  Following are two sample complexes of stretches:


     

    If you have no problems with flexibility it is enough to perform a stretch complex once or twice a week.

    The above exercises will improve your performance in kettlebell lifting and reduce the odds of injury in training, competition, and everyday life.  Moreover, once you get into the habit of performing them, you will start enjoying them.

     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:01 pm on August 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    The Little Things Add Up to Big Things over Time (a 73lb. journey in 90 days) 

    by Jason Martin and Jason Marshall, Senior SFG

     

     

    I am new to the kettlebell and the StrongFirst community, but I am all in.
     

    90 days ago I entered a local contest in Lubbock Texas, the Bodyworks 90-day challenge.  It is a competition to see who can have the greatest physical transformation in 90 days.  While I was an athlete throughout my early 20’s, marriage, a series of metabolic changes, a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees, a desk job, 3 children, and maladaptive stress eating eventually took a toll on me.   These little things added up to BIG things. 
     

    At 38 years of age I stood 6’4” 329 lbs, and I had been sedentary for a decade and a half.
     

    Though I had entered a short term contest, I was looking for sustainable health changes.  I have 3 boys; 16, 9, and 6 years old.  My 16-year-old had long surpassed my physical capabilities and it was getting difficult to keep up with my younger boys.  I was losing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to actively engage in their lives, not to mention opportunities for intimacy with my wife (an extra 100lbs and short windedness can get in the way of much). 
     

    I needed a better diet, but I also needed an exercise program that I could do in less than 30 minutes a day that would yield maximum results.
     

    My physical therapist friends all warned that injury would be what would take me out and that I needed both cardio and weight training for the best results.  I was beginning to think the magic 30-minute exercise program might not exist.  Enter… the Kettlebell. 
     

    A friend of mine trains under Jason Marshall, Senior SFG, and he told me about the kettlebell and the StrongFirst organization.  It sounded a little too good to be true, but I decided to read Pavel’s book Simple and Sinister.  I read it in one sitting and walked away willing to follow the path of Simple and Sinister… for a while.  My buddy helped me onto the path!
     

    (Sections in italics by Jason Marshall)  

    Jason expected to spend whatever time it took to gain the necessary mobility and strength to just perform the warmup detailed in Simple and Sinister, which happened to be right at a month prior to the start of his contest.  His main concern was the lack of baseline strength and hip mobility to perform a goblet squat.  He started by practicing each day with assisted squats while gripping onto a door frame, increasing depth and reps each day he made an attempt. 

    He noticed right off that he used his back during the bridge and made a concerted effort by practicing hip hinges (up to 1,000 per week) in order to efficiently use his hips during the bridge.  He practiced “naked” swings and halos intermittently.  This practice occurred every night until he made it through the S&S warmup with weight one time through. 

     

    I started the 90 days able to do the warm-ups and practice 2 hand swings and get-ups with 16kg.  I made great gains in my first month of working out: I lost 35 lbs. I moved to double 20kg exercises after reading a book about advanced double kettlebell training.
     

    This was admittedly Jason’s biggest beginner mistake, and the point where he reached out to me.

     

    I had the wrong assumption that more/faster was better!  After a month I had plateaued, I was stressed out from over exercising and in great need of recovery (which the book author warns about continually).  In frustration, I sought out Jason Marshall to help with the challenges I was facing… the biggest of which was me!
     

    It took the next 3 weeks recovering and undoing what I had done in ignorance.  Over the course of these weeks Jason redirected my goals to Simple and Sinister and a good diet. 

    • I started practicing 20-30 minutes a day working on proper form and making increases in weight and in the reduction of rest times. 
    • I started reading all the blogs and articles on StrongFirst and realized how typical my ignorance-born errors were. 
    • I stopped focusing on the competition and focused instead on making progress in my training. 
    • StrongFirst became my philosophy.
    • I practiced S&S hard style, and Jason added some cardio cycles to help increase weight loss. 
    • He also introduced waviness to my workouts with a cycle of light, medium and heavy workouts. 
    • Additionally, he continually stressed proper recovery, especially sleep.

     

    The main emphasis was to make sure Jason’s diet was really dialed-in.  After receiving a detailed weekly food, sleep and training journal, we were ready to discuss where to make changes.  Jason also made a stop by my training studio to have his form critiqued.  As a former collegiate athlete, he was a very quick study and internalized the cues very well.

    The addition of a cardio session coupled with S&S came when it was apparent that he needed some added volume, but not a lot of stress in terms of heavy loads.  The circuit was a basic six-station setup:

    1.  Kettlebell Clean
    2.  Goblet Squat
    3.  Kettlebell Rows
    4.  Push Up
    5.  Plank
    6. Jump Rope

    Three rounds of the circuit were completed each day and we waved the training load with the work- to-rest ratios.  Light Day – 1:2, Medium Day – 2:2, Heavy Day – 2:1.  The reciprocal training load was used for his swings and getups, a la Simple and Sinister.  For example, on the Heavy day for S&S, Jason would do his light (1:2) work-to-rest ratio for the above circuit.

    He finished each session with a light walk to cool down.  All of this was done first thing in the morning immediately after waking up and consuming a scoop of protein powder and water.  He took another easy walk each evening.  Jason was very diligent about getting 8-plus hours of sleep each night, which he was over 90% compliant with. 

     

    I humbled myself and submitted to those who know better.  I sought to not get greedy with gains and in compliance I made small adjustments to weight and rest periods and made sure there was plenty left in the tank after my practice sessions.  I continued to eat right, hydrate well, get plenty of sleep, and take my rest days.  Well, the little things began to add up after a while… even a relatively short while!
     

    Jason Martin – Before

    Jason Martin – After


     

    After 90 days I had accomplished the Simple goals for S&S and began practicing ‘Enter the Kettlebell’, my strength having increased 100%!  Additionally, I had lost 73lbs. in 90 days, 60 lbs. of which came off in the first and last month when I was following the prescribed program of Pavel’s S&S and Jason Marshall.   I have also had several WTH moments along the way.  When wrestling with my 16-year-old, I picked him up over my head (6’1” 175) and threw him across the room onto the couch.  He jumped up as shocked as I was and exclaimed:

    “You’re not the same person you used to be!”
     

    A week later I played full-court basketball at full-speed for 2 hours straight!  I couldn’t believe what great cardiovascular shape I was in, and how strong I had become.
     

    Since the completion of the contest and the final edit of this article, Jason has lost an additional 15-20 pounds and added significant amounts of muscle mass.  He has begun Rite of Passage from Enter the Kettlebell and has graduated to a 28kg bell for his presses.  He has also achieved 4 consecutive pull-ups, a lifetime best. He is now doing pull-ups between all his clean and press sets.

     

    I cannot begin to make an accounting for all the ways my life has been positively affected by becoming StrongFirst. 
     

    I intend to continue the little things while progressing and solidifying my gains over time.  Rite of Passage in Enter the Kettlebell is my next goal, and then on to Return of the Kettlebell.  I have decided to seek the SFG Certification as a longer-range goal once I complete the path set forth by those who have gone before me. 
     

    It was simple… but not easy!  I owe much gratitude to my trainer Jason Marshall, Pavel Tsatsouline, Geoff Neupert, Dan John, and all of the StrongFirst community (particularly my buddy Clint Conner who first reached out to me and continues to throw iron with me).
     

    Jason’s ace in the hole, in my opinion, was compliance and consistency.  He began this contest as a motivator to shed some unwanted pounds, but he quickly realized he’d started a new journey and lifestyle.  One he was willing and able to live with.  One he found challenging.  And one he truly enjoyed.  I take no credit for his success and accomplishment other than being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to have witnessed such an amazing transformation. 

    I look forward to seeing “SFG” after his name in the future!

     

     

     

    Jason Marshall is the owner of a performance training studio in Lubbock, Texas called Lone Star Kettlebell. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Sport Science from Texas Tech University in 2001. He is currently a Senior Instructor in Pavel Tsatsouline’s StrongFirst organization and is also a Certified Kettlebell Functional Movement Specialist (CK-FMS) under the training of Gray Cook and Brett Jones. He also holds a Certified Personal Trainer designation from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Jason trains athletes and students of strength from all walks of life. He’s worked with several collegiate athletes who have taken their careers to the next level as well as many youth athletes and martial artists looking to explore their talents in various sports. He also works with many different populations ranging from fat loss to improvement in movement quality for a better life. Jason has been involved with competitive athletics via many sports since his childhood. He is still competitive as a drug-free, unequipped powerlifter, with competition bests in the 181 lb weight class of; 463 – Squat, 314 – Bench, and 606 – Deadlift. Jason can be contacted by email for coaching and consultation via email at jason@lonestarkettlebell.com.

     
     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 4:19 pm on August 19, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Forward to the Past 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman

     

     

    Next year is the thirtieth anniversary of the classic film Back to the Future.  What makes this anniversary special is 2015 is the destination of one of Doc and Marty McFly’s time travels.

    Sure, there are plenty of good reasons to travel from 1985 to 2015, but if Marty was looking for an edge to help him get strong, he should have stayed in 1985.  The surprising truth is, the 1980s’ strength training methods were decidedly superior to today’s methods.

    Compare the weightlifting and powerlifting records now and then.  Even if the lifting sports are not your cup of tea, you should pay attention, as they are the canary in the mine of strength.  Knowledge gained in WL and PL trickles down to every strength seeker, regardless of what he or she is training for.

    The graph below compares the world records in the total of the snatch and the C&J in the days when Back to the Future hit the big screen and today.  The black dotted line represents today’s records.  The solid line—appropriately red, as five out of ten records belonged to the Soviets—indicates the records set between 1983 and 1988 (and one in 1991).

     

     

    Why are there two sets of records?—Because the weightlifting federation changed the weight classes twice since the early nineties to erase the legacy of the “juicers”…  The sport’s establishment likes blaming the difference between the records of yesterday and today on drugs.

    In the past, present, and the future many athletes did, do, and will use every edge available to them, legal or not.  An unfortunate situation out of sync with the true Olympic spirit, but a fact.  But just because the anti-doping authorities have learned to catch users of the drugs of the last century, it does not mean that they catch all the tricks of this century.  The cheaters and the testers are in constant arms race to beat each other.  In summary, this history revision is nothing but sour grapes.

    But this blog is not about sports ethics.  It is about superior training.  And the numbers state that the Soviet weightlifting system still rules.  Bob Hoffman or York Barbell, the sponsor and promoter of American weightlifting, put it simply: “If you want to beat the Russians, you must train like the Russians.”

    You might ask: why don’t the Russians use the system that brought glory to their mentors to beat or at least match their records?—They ought to.  Not long before their deaths both Arkady Vorobyev and Vasily Alexeev, legendary champions and coaches, deeply disappointed in the state of weightlifting today, called for bringing back the System.

    Onto powerlifting.

    Because there is a multitude of federations with widely inconsistent rules, a comparison is very hard to make.  In the squat and the bench press, where supportive equipment adds hundreds of pounds to one’s lift it is impossible.  In the deadlift it is doable.

    Take a look at the All Time Historic Deadlift Record table compiled from all federation.  Some of the recent record pulls were done with advantages not available to lifters in the 1980s: 48-hour weigh-ins, whippier longer bars, better supportive equipment, deadlift only meets.  Even still, in six out of the twelve weight classes the records have not budged since the 1980s and the 1990s!  There can be no argument—at least for the lighter lifters the methods have not improved since Marty McFly got into Doc’s time machine.
     


     

    Most of the 1980s records were set using another timeless training system, this time American.  It was born in the seventies through experimentation of powerlifting pioneers, perfected in the eighties by the next generation of champions, and later refined and systematized by Marty Gallagher who had been there since the beginning.  Marty McFly should have just picked up the phone and called his namesake…

    Bigger guys’ pulls have gone up—but not because of a better training system.  Some of the gains are due to the factors mentioned above.  Some can be attributed to radical technique innovations by Bolton, Konstantinov, and Magnusson.  And as for Yuri Fedorenko, he is a student of Boris Sheyko who adapted the Soviet Olympic weightlifting methodology to powerlifting….

    Ironic as it may be, I will wrap up this piece extolling the virtues of the Soviet training system with a quote from uncompromising anti-communist William F. Buckley, Jr.: “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop…”

    If you choose to be strong, go forward to the past.
     

     

     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 3:33 pm on August 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    The American Swing 

    By Brandon Hetzler, SFG Team Leader

     

    “All great truths begin as blasphemies” —George Bernard Shaw

     

     

    The American swing (or the overhead swing – OH Swing): Is it good or is it bad? This is a tougher question to answer than it appears on the surface. Often times, it leads to a larger, deeper set of feelings about more than a swing – it gets at Crossfit. Which may cause the answer to the original question to be more about which side of the riot line people fall on – either VERY pro OH Swing (Crossfit is AWESOME!) or VERY con OH Swing (Crossfit is ruining the world!).

    Neither side actually looks at it for what it is – a MOVEMENT.

    Once we accept it as a movement and not an emotional opinion about Crossfit, we need to apply movement principles. Are deep squats good or bad? Anyone that knows anything about movement knows the answer is “Squats aren’t bad, but ‘your’ squat may be bad”.

    Gross generalizations about any movement are a sign of ignorance (regardless of whether you are Pro or Con). If we are going to apply movement principles, the top priority is movement quality. I don’t just mean just do the OH Swing correctly every time and all problems surrounding it are solved, I mean: what is your general movement quality?

    Translation: if you haven’t assessed movement quality (cough-FMS-cough) then now is the time to shut your mouth in this argument — you have brought a fake knife to a gunfight and are just going to sound like a blabbering idiot whose strategy is to just talk louder and louder.

    Now, the Hardstyle swing (HS Swing) has an FMS tie-in courtesy of Brett Jones and Gray Cook. Unless you are a 2 (or symmetrical 2’s) on the following components of the FMS, the HS Swing should temporarily be avoided:

    • ASLR (Active Straight Leg Raise

    • DS (Deep Squat)

    If we can agree that the movement of the OH Swing is the same as the HS Swing up the point where the bell is at shoulder height, we can safely make the same statements about the OH Swing regarding FMS requirements (remove your heels from the ground, I’m discussing the movement — not the teaching principles. If this already has you up in arms it is a sign you are a little too emotionally-tied to your stance – it’s not a significant other — and you really ought to remove yourself to a remote cave for the next month until you calm down).

    Now we have to look at the overhead component, and this is where most of the ‘CON’ people base their argument. Putting anything (kettlebell, barbell, sandbag, rock, drunkard, etc) overhead requires a significant amount of shoulder mobility and trunk stability.

    (Side note – The shoulder mobility and trunk stability I’m referring to are FMS-based terms and are much broader than a mobile glenohumeral joint and a strong core. If you are unclear on this, I would suggest investing in your knowledge and getting the text “MOVEMENT”.) This is also the point on where the FMS requirements get a little less crystal clear.

    So, here are MY recommendations of the FMS requirements needed to safely perform the OH Swing variation:

    • 2/2 ASLR

    • 2 DS

    • 3 TSPU (Trunk Stability Push Up)

    • 3/3 SM (Shoulder Mobility)

    Why the 3 and 3/3 requirements on the TSPU and the SM and not just a 2 or a 2/2? A 2 –or symmetrical 2’s — is the minimum requirement for movement quality.

    M-I-N-I-M-U-M.

    If you want to put a kettlebell overhead ballistically with minimum movement quality – go for it! It will be your injury. You will at some point hurt yourself, not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’. It may begin as low back “tightness”, but it will progress to pain. Or it may begin as elbow discomfort, but it will progress to elbow pain. It will happen.

    We can also take one of Pavel’s cornerstone tenets to training — look at the similarities of what the very successful people do. Those individuals that repeatedly and successfully put things over their head — regardless of the manner in which they do it — all share the commonalities of thoracic mobility and trunk strength. Olympic weightlifters, gymnasts, old-school strict military pressers and heavy bent pressers all approach how they get their loads overhead a bit differently, but share those mobility and stability commonalities.

    If you meet these FMS requirements and have the desire to do the OH Swing – by all means  do it. Learn the technique and go. If you don’t meet these requirements, then learning the technique isn’t an option – yet. You need to fix you movement quality issues first before layering on the movement capacity (volume, load, etc).

    If you are still with me, you have probably realized that I have managed to avoid answering the question and pointed my finger and the blame at the FMS. What if someone doesn’t know or administer the FMS? Simple – learn it and apply it. Any fitness professional or healthcare provider (that live in the world of movement — ATCs, PTs, Ortho PAs, Chiros, etc) not up to speed with the FMS is woefully ill-equipped to adequately do their job. There are A LOT of MDs out there that finished in the bottom of their class and still make a living as a Doctor, I’m just saying I wouldn’t ever go to them. There is no way to account for every single person’s level of education, but just like the OH Swing and the FMS discussion everyone needs a minimal level of education. The FMS is a minimal requirement if you want to discuss movement (with me) or fix movement problems – which are EVERYTHING orthopedic in nature. Otherwise we don’t speak the same language.

    Back to the point – if you have mobility issues in the thoracic spine and/or shoulder then getting overhead easily and effortlessly is going to be limited – that extra motion will have to come from somewhere else.

    Option 1: Enter Lumbar spine hyper extension (lordosis). As soon as the L-spine hyperextends (which will allow the arms to appear to get overhead) the pelvic floor shuts down and the trunk cylinder (normally referred to as the ‘core’) loses its ability to stabilize.

    Nothing good happens here. Performance drops, injury likelihood increases and competencies begin to pile up to accomplish the movement.

    Option 2: Bend the elbows and chicken neck the head. While this doesn’t compromise the L-spine or affect the pelvic floor it does put the shoulder into — in the words of Kelly Starrett DPT — a “douchey” position. This strategy opens the door to shoulder impingement, elbow issues, wrist issues, neck pain, headaches, and a plethora of other bad things.

    Doing swings of any style should be like the first line of Johnny Cash’s song “Hurt” (Nine Inch Nails recorded it first and has the more popular version, but Johnny Cash wrote the song):

    “I hurt myself today,

    To see if I still feel.

    I focus on the pain

    The only thing that’s real.”

    Training will cause physical discomfort – pain is a problem. Joint pain after or during training, or a movement, is a sign of a problem. That is an entirely different article that I’ll leave alone for now because it gets into deep seeded psychosomatic issues that relate to the misconception of pain and progression.

    Then there is the “if you want to swing overhead, just snatch instead” argument. This can be a very good point, and very appropriate for those people that don’t meet the FMS OH Swing requirements. Since the KB Snatch is a 1 arm movement, there is a little more wiggle room when it comes to the mobility requirements – both hands aren’t fixed to the bell.

    This is also a completely different movement pattern (even though they visibly appear the same) that is now very asymmetrical and introduces rotational forces into the system. This is important because it gives us a completely different stabilization strategy which is less reflective of the TSPU and more reflective to the Rotary Stability component of the FMS. The snatch probably is a more appropriate drill for more people — in general — but this doesn’t mean it is the only ballistic option to get an object overhead.

    In general, like anything else, you can’t say that OH swings are good or bad. For some people (2 DS, 2/2 ASLR, 3 TSPU, 3/3 SM) they are appropriate and beneficial. For others they are just bad. It goes back to applying the right drill to the right person at the right time for the right reason. I’m sure there is someone on the globe that can benefit from the clamshell exercise – even though my personal opinion is that about 527 exercises exist that are better and more efficient than the clamshell. Maybe in addition to New Kids on the Block and the Cosby Show, the 1980’s gave us the greatest gluteus medius exercise ever – I’m just too jaded to admit it. My point – No exercise, no matter how much we personally detest it or idolize it, is good or bad for everyone. Period!
     

    # # #

     

    Brandon Hetzler is a Certified Athletic Trainer that oversees the Sports Performance Program for Mercy Sports Medicine in Springfield MO, and is an instructor in the Masters of Athletic Training Program at Missouri State University.  He is an SFG Team Leader and also holds the CICS and PM credentials.

    Brandon is one of three individuals that created the Movement Restoration Project which promotes restoring lost movement to ALL individuals.  To find more information, go to their Facebook Page (Movement Restoration Project), or to find upcoming workshop dates check www.functionalmovement.com.

     
     

    Save your friends from their bad swings.
     
    LEARN HOW TO TEACH HARDSTYLE AT THE SFG.
     
  • Nikki Shlosser 3:33 pm on August 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    The American Swing 

    By Brandon Hetzler, SFG Team Leader

     

    “All great truths begin as blasphemies” —George Bernard Shaw

     

     

    The American swing (or the overhead swing – OH Swing): Is it good or is it bad? This is a tougher question to answer than it appears on the surface. Often times, it leads to a larger, deeper set of feelings about more than a swing – it gets at Crossfit. Which may cause the answer to the original question to be more about which side of the riot line people fall on – either VERY pro OH Swing (Crossfit is AWESOME!) or VERY con OH Swing (Crossfit is ruining the world!).

    Neither side actually looks at it for what it is – a MOVEMENT.

    Once we accept it as a movement and not an emotional opinion about Crossfit, we need to apply movement principles. Are deep squats good or bad? Anyone that knows anything about movement knows the answer is “Squats aren’t bad, but ‘your’ squat may be bad”.

    Gross generalizations about any movement are a sign of ignorance (regardless of whether you are Pro or Con). If we are going to apply movement principles, the top priority is movement quality. I don’t just mean just do the OH Swing correctly every time and all problems surrounding it are solved, I mean: what is your general movement quality?

    Translation: if you haven’t assessed movement quality (cough-FMS-cough) then now is the time to shut your mouth in this argument — you have brought a fake knife to a gunfight and are just going to sound like a blabbering idiot whose strategy is to just talk louder and louder.

    Now, the Hardstyle swing (HS Swing) has an FMS tie-in courtesy of Brett Jones and Gray Cook. Unless you are a 2 (or symmetrical 2’s) on the following components of the FMS, the HS Swing should temporarily be avoided:

    • ASLR (Active Straight Leg Raise

    • DS (Deep Squat)

    If we can agree that the movement of the OH Swing is the same as the HS Swing up the point where the bell is at shoulder height, we can safely make the same statements about the OH Swing regarding FMS requirements (remove your heels from the ground, I’m discussing the movement — not the teaching principles. If this already has you up in arms it is a sign you are a little too emotionally-tied to your stance – it’s not a significant other — and you really ought to remove yourself to a remote cave for the next month until you calm down).

    Now we have to look at the overhead component, and this is where most of the ‘CON’ people base their argument. Putting anything (kettlebell, barbell, sandbag, rock, drunkard, etc) overhead requires a significant amount of shoulder mobility and trunk stability.

    (Side note – The shoulder mobility and trunk stability I’m referring to are FMS-based terms and are much broader than a mobile glenohumeral joint and a strong core. If you are unclear on this, I would suggest investing in your knowledge and getting the text “MOVEMENT”.) This is also the point on where the FMS requirements get a little less crystal clear.

    So, here are MY recommendations of the FMS requirements needed to safely perform the OH Swing variation:

    • 2/2 ASLR

    • 2 DS

    • 3 TSPU (Trunk Stability Push Up)

    • 3/3 SM (Shoulder Mobility)

    Why the 3 and 3/3 requirements on the TSPU and the SM and not just a 2 or a 2/2? A 2 –or symmetrical 2’s — is the minimum requirement for movement quality.

    M-I-N-I-M-U-M.

    If you want to put a kettlebell overhead ballistically with minimum movement quality – go for it! It will be your injury. You will at some point hurt yourself, not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’. It may begin as low back “tightness”, but it will progress to pain. Or it may begin as elbow discomfort, but it will progress to elbow pain. It will happen.

    We can also take one of Pavel’s cornerstone tenets to training — look at the similarities of what the very successful people do. Those individuals that repeatedly and successfully put things over their head — regardless of the manner in which they do it — all share the commonalities of thoracic mobility and trunk strength. Olympic weightlifters, gymnasts, old-school strict military pressers and heavy bent pressers all approach how they get their loads overhead a bit differently, but share those mobility and stability commonalities.

    If you meet these FMS requirements and have the desire to do the OH Swing – by all means  do it. Learn the technique and go. If you don’t meet these requirements, then learning the technique isn’t an option – yet. You need to fix you movement quality issues first before layering on the movement capacity (volume, load, etc).

    If you are still with me, you have probably realized that I have managed to avoid answering the question and pointed my finger and the blame at the FMS. What if someone doesn’t know or administer the FMS? Simple – learn it and apply it. Any fitness professional or healthcare provider (that live in the world of movement — ATCs, PTs, Ortho PAs, Chiros, etc) not up to speed with the FMS is woefully ill-equipped to adequately do their job. There are A LOT of MDs out there that finished in the bottom of their class and still make a living as a Doctor, I’m just saying I wouldn’t ever go to them. There is no way to account for every single person’s level of education, but just like the OH Swing and the FMS discussion everyone needs a minimal level of education. The FMS is a minimal requirement if you want to discuss movement (with me) or fix movement problems – which are EVERYTHING orthopedic in nature. Otherwise we don’t speak the same language.

    Back to the point – if you have mobility issues in the thoracic spine and/or shoulder then getting overhead easily and effortlessly is going to be limited – that extra motion will have to come from somewhere else.

    Option 1: Enter Lumbar spine hyper extension (lordosis). As soon as the L-spine hyperextends (which will allow the arms to appear to get overhead) the pelvic floor shuts down and the trunk cylinder (normally referred to as the ‘core’) loses its ability to stabilize.

    Nothing good happens here. Performance drops, injury likelihood increases and competencies begin to pile up to accomplish the movement.

    Option 2: Bend the elbows and chicken neck the head. While this doesn’t compromise the L-spine or affect the pelvic floor it does put the shoulder into — in the words of Kelly Starrett DPT — a “douchey” position. This strategy opens the door to shoulder impingement, elbow issues, wrist issues, neck pain, headaches, and a plethora of other bad things.

    Doing swings of any style should be like the first line of Johnny Cash’s song “Hurt” (Nine Inch Nails recorded it first and has the more popular version, but Johnny Cash wrote the song):

    “I hurt myself today,

    To see if I still feel.

    I focus on the pain

    The only thing that’s real.”

    Training will cause physical discomfort – pain is a problem. Joint pain after or during training, or a movement, is a sign of a problem. That is an entirely different article that I’ll leave alone for now because it gets into deep seeded psychosomatic issues that relate to the misconception of pain and progression.

    Then there is the “if you want to swing overhead, just snatch instead” argument. This can be a very good point, and very appropriate for those people that don’t meet the FMS OH Swing requirements. Since the KB Snatch is a 1 arm movement, there is a little more wiggle room when it comes to the mobility requirements – both hands aren’t fixed to the bell.

    This is also a completely different movement pattern (even though they visibly appear the same) that is now very asymmetrical and introduces rotational forces into the system. This is important because it gives us a completely different stabilization strategy which is less reflective of the TSPU and more reflective to the Rotary Stability component of the FMS. The snatch probably is a more appropriate drill for more people — in general — but this doesn’t mean it is the only ballistic option to get an object overhead.

    In general, like anything else, you can’t say that OH swings are good or bad. For some people (2 DS, 2/2 ASLR, 3 TSPU, 3/3 SM) they are appropriate and beneficial. For others they are just bad. It goes back to applying the right drill to the right person at the right time for the right reason. I’m sure there is someone on the globe that can benefit from the clamshell exercise – even though my personal opinion is that about 527 exercises exist that are better and more efficient than the clamshell. Maybe in addition to New Kids on the Block and the Cosby Show, the 1980’s gave us the greatest gluteus medius exercise ever – I’m just too jaded to admit it. My point – No exercise, no matter how much we personally detest it or idolize it, is good or bad for everyone. Period!
     

    # # #

     

    Brandon Hetzler is a Certified Athletic Trainer that oversees the Sports Performance Program for Mercy Sports Medicine in Springfield MO, and is an instructor in the Masters of Athletic Training Program at Missouri State University.  He is an SFG Team Leader and also holds the CICS and PM credentials.

    Brandon is one of three individuals that created the Movement Restoration Project which promotes restoring lost movement to ALL individuals.  To find more information, go to their Facebook Page (Movement Restoration Project), or to find upcoming workshop dates check www.functionalmovement.com.

     
     

    Save your friends from their bad swings.
     
    LEARN HOW TO TEACH HARDSTYLE AT THE SFG.
     
  • Nikki Shlosser 4:18 pm on August 12, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    The TSC is About Participation, Community, and Strength 

    By Andrea U-Shi Chang, Senior SFG, TSC Coordinator

    The Spring Tactical Strength Challenge had over 350 competitors.

    Most had a lot of experience with the kettlebell, barbell, and bodyweight exercises, but some had never pulled a barbell deadlift prior to a few weeks before the TSC.  Some had never performed a pull-up (novice division women test a flex-arm hang).

    Some folks decided not to snatch, but to do the other events…  no matter… they showed up, they PARTICIPATED… They had a great time, and moved some weight.

    One novice woman pulled 225lbs., snatched a 12kg kettlebell 98 times, and hung for 3.35 seconds.  She had JUST learned the straight bar deadlift a few short weeks before the Challenge and after being encouraged to participate with us, loved every single minute of this team-building event.

    The StrongFirst Tactical Strength Challenge is WHAT WE TRAIN FOR…  Every single thing we do as SFGs is all about helping our students, and ourselves, to get STRONGER in all kinds of ways… Some of us have been training in cycles for the TSC ever since the last one.  So the bigger question really is: how do we encourage OTHERS to participate?  How do we BUILD our community?  Invite them!

    This is how we went about it at Kettlebility.  The goal was greater participation from our membership. We have a lot of group classes, from beginner levels to elite training levels, small groups and personal training.  We talked about the TSC at every class, with every student/client, and we showed them how everything we teach translates into one of the TSC events.

    We already snatch – so we programmed a ramp up for the TSC for our classes.  We already work on pull-ups – so we helped our folks work on their pulls – Pavel’s Fighter Pull-Up protocol is the framework we use for our programming.

    Additionally, we explained how it was really about PARTICIPATION – a great opportunity to support our fellow students, our friends, OUR community. To have a great time, AND to get numbers on the board, no matter what the level of ability.

    Six weeks before the TSC we put together a special class – specific to prepare for the TSC. We would teach them dead lift technique and prep their other movements – and ANYONE who was from our studio and who signed up for the TSC could come to this class as our gift to them, OUR community, for FREE…and, as a business owner, I calculated the cost of the event, and the classes and expensed it.  :)

     

    Note to facility owners: after our 6 weeks of free classes leading up to the TSC concluded, we added our Tactical Strength class to our regular schedule as a specialty class at a very low additional monthly fee to our membership.  We had a good amount of folks decide to take us up on the new offering – they now train straight bar movements (dead lift, zercher squat, press, bench, etc.) once a week with a Kettlebility instructor.  It was a nice way to monetize an additional offering for the studio, and to add value to our programs for our members.

    _________________________________

     

    THIS is how we programmed it for our students and group classes:

    The Kettlebility studio specializes in Russian kettlebell training.  Sure, we have a few battling ropes, TRX, straight bars, bumper plates, rings, pull up bars, Indian clubs, medicine balls…and literally hundreds of kettlebells. So, we program kettlebells and all that other stuff, including bodyweight movements GPP style. 

    So how to add in straight bar work without overloading our students?  Once a week, we meet to train the deadlift at our special class – we teach them basic deadlift technique (tension, wedging, grip, addressing the bar, etc.) with a narrow sumo stance (usually the safest for newbies) and then we figured out their one rep max. 

    From there we used programming learned at the StrongFirst Lifter Certification (which has an excellent programming section) – we used a simple yet very effective program cycle that Pavel had written where we added 5lbs a week for very nice gains over the 6 week period.  Reps stayed low, Some of our experienced lifters were able to make gains with this cycle, training the lift several times a week, but we typically only expect our students to do straight bar work once a week, with us, in addition to our group kettlebell classes. 

    In addition:

    • Because most of our lifters were beginners, we had them reset with each rep – so for example, our sets of 5, were 5 singles – we used the reset each time to work on the skill of wedging, and the set up.
    • Additionally, we made sure to get a long rest between sets, 5-10 minutes minimum.

    Even though we used this only once a week, we made great progress with our groups. We basically added somewhere between 3-5% each week (which came out to be around 5lbs). People felt strong, and because our students already understood appropriate tension and hard style principals, the basic dead lift form was relatively easy for them.

     

    TSC exemplifies the epitome of general physical preparation (GPP); it REALLY is what we are already training.  You have to be fit enough to snatch and strong enough to endure it, coordinated and strong enough to pull your bodyweight, and to have a decent measure of absolute strength to perform a max weight dead lift.

    We built our team for the last TSC, and we are building our next team for this October… JOIN US! Build your team for October! This year we want to see YOU and your students with us at the October TSC Event…let’s DOUBLE our numbers and make the October TSC the largest one to date!

    _________________________________

    Register for the TSC before September 15th and get your FREE TSC T-shirt when you arrive on October 4th to compete.

    ­

    Learn more and register for the TSC here >>> www.strongfirst.com/tactical-strength-challenge <<<

    Event Date: October 4, 2014 | Event Cost: $25 

     

    Are you are ready to host a Tactical Strength Challenge? If you are ready, willing, and able, to host an event, send an email to us here: TSC@strongfirst.com.  Not only will we help you get set up as a host, but we will send you details on how to market your event locally, how to create great group classes and programming for your facility, and how to make sure your location has the highest rate of participation.

    If you are a stand-alone SFG instructor who teaches out of a home studio, or at a larger facility, you can still participate with your clients. Find a host facility near you where you can register yourself and your students. If there are none in a reasonable distance, consider hosting a mini-TSC yourself!  It is all about participating and getting some numbers on the board!

    Questions about creating community in your area? Reach out… Invite your area Cross-fit boxes and other personal training and group class facilities in person – make the call.  They will be happy you did. When you explain that this is about participation, community, strength and potentially showing off a high level of GPP, they will step up – and it also helps you get YOUR facility on the map.

    Learn more and register for the TSC here >>> www.strongfirst.com/tactical-strength-challenge <<<

    FALL 2014

    TACTICAL STRENGTH CHALLENGE

    BY STRONGFIRST

    SPONSORED BY 5.11 TACTICAL

     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 4:18 pm on August 12, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    The TSC is About Participation, Community, and Strength 

    By Andrea U-Shi Chang, Senior SFG, TSC Coordinator

    The Spring Tactical Strength Challenge had over 350 competitors.

    Most had a lot of experience with the kettlebell, barbell, and bodyweight exercises, but some had never pulled a barbell deadlift prior to a few weeks before the TSC.  Some had never performed a pull-up (novice division women test a flex-arm hang).

    Some folks decided not to snatch, but to do the other events…  no matter… they showed up, they PARTICIPATED… They had a great time, and moved some weight.

    One novice woman pulled 225lbs., snatched a 12kg kettlebell 98 times, and hung for 3.35 seconds.  She had JUST learned the straight bar deadlift a few short weeks before the Challenge and after being encouraged to participate with us, loved every single minute of this team-building event.

    The StrongFirst Tactical Strength Challenge is WHAT WE TRAIN FOR…  Every single thing we do as SFGs is all about helping our students, and ourselves, to get STRONGER in all kinds of ways… Some of us have been training in cycles for the TSC ever since the last one.  So the bigger question really is: how do we encourage OTHERS to participate?  How do we BUILD our community?  Invite them!

    This is how we went about it at Kettlebility.  The goal was greater participation from our membership. We have a lot of group classes, from beginner levels to elite training levels, small groups and personal training.  We talked about the TSC at every class, with every student/client, and we showed them how everything we teach translates into one of the TSC events.

    We already snatch – so we programmed a ramp up for the TSC for our classes.  We already work on pull-ups – so we helped our folks work on their pulls – Pavel’s Fighter Pull-Up protocol is the framework we use for our programming.

    Additionally, we explained how it was really about PARTICIPATION – a great opportunity to support our fellow students, our friends, OUR community. To have a great time, AND to get numbers on the board, no matter what the level of ability.

    Six weeks before the TSC we put together a special class – specific to prepare for the TSC. We would teach them dead lift technique and prep their other movements – and ANYONE who was from our studio and who signed up for the TSC could come to this class as our gift to them, OUR community, for FREE…and, as a business owner, I calculated the cost of the event, and the classes and expensed it.  :)

     

    Note to facility owners: after our 6 weeks of free classes leading up to the TSC concluded, we added our Tactical Strength class to our regular schedule as a specialty class at a very low additional monthly fee to our membership.  We had a good amount of folks decide to take us up on the new offering – they now train straight bar movements (dead lift, zercher squat, press, bench, etc.) once a week with a Kettlebility instructor.  It was a nice way to monetize an additional offering for the studio, and to add value to our programs for our members.

    _________________________________

     

    THIS is how we programmed it for our students and group classes:

    The Kettlebility studio specializes in Russian kettlebell training.  Sure, we have a few battling ropes, TRX, straight bars, bumper plates, rings, pull up bars, Indian clubs, medicine balls…and literally hundreds of kettlebells. So, we program kettlebells and all that other stuff, including bodyweight movements GPP style. 

    So how to add in straight bar work without overloading our students?  Once a week, we meet to train the deadlift at our special class – we teach them basic deadlift technique (tension, wedging, grip, addressing the bar, etc.) with a narrow sumo stance (usually the safest for newbies) and then we figured out their one rep max. 

    From there we used programming learned at the StrongFirst Lifter Certification (which has an excellent programming section) – we used a simple yet very effective program cycle that Pavel had written where we added 5lbs a week for very nice gains over the 6 week period.  Reps stayed low, Some of our experienced lifters were able to make gains with this cycle, training the lift several times a week, but we typically only expect our students to do straight bar work once a week, with us, in addition to our group kettlebell classes. 

    In addition:

    • Because most of our lifters were beginners, we had them reset with each rep – so for example, our sets of 5, were 5 singles – we used the reset each time to work on the skill of wedging, and the set up.
    • Additionally, we made sure to get a long rest between sets, 5-10 minutes minimum.

    Even though we used this only once a week, we made great progress with our groups. We basically added somewhere between 3-5% each week (which came out to be around 5lbs). People felt strong, and because our students already understood appropriate tension and hard style principals, the basic dead lift form was relatively easy for them.

     

    TSC exemplifies the epitome of general physical preparation (GPP); it REALLY is what we are already training.  You have to be fit enough to snatch and strong enough to endure it, coordinated and strong enough to pull your bodyweight, and to have a decent measure of absolute strength to perform a max weight dead lift.

    We built our team for the last TSC, and we are building our next team for this October… JOIN US! Build your team for October! This year we want to see YOU and your students with us at the October TSC Event…let’s DOUBLE our numbers and make the October TSC the largest one to date!

    _________________________________

    Register for the TSC before September 15th and get your FREE TSC T-shirt when you arrive on October 4th to compete.

    ­

    Learn more and register for the TSC here >>> www.strongfirst.com/tactical-strength-challenge <<<

    Event Date: October 4, 2014 | Event Cost: $25 

     

    Are you are ready to host a Tactical Strength Challenge? If you are ready, willing, and able, to host an event, send an email to us here: TSC@strongfirst.com.  Not only will we help you get set up as a host, but we will send you details on how to market your event locally, how to create great group classes and programming for your facility, and how to make sure your location has the highest rate of participation.

    If you are a stand-alone SFG instructor who teaches out of a home studio, or at a larger facility, you can still participate with your clients. Find a host facility near you where you can register yourself and your students. If there are none in a reasonable distance, consider hosting a mini-TSC yourself!  It is all about participating and getting some numbers on the board!

    Questions about creating community in your area? Reach out… Invite your area Cross-fit boxes and other personal training and group class facilities in person – make the call.  They will be happy you did. When you explain that this is about participation, community, strength and potentially showing off a high level of GPP, they will step up – and it also helps you get YOUR facility on the map.

    Learn more and register for the TSC here >>> www.strongfirst.com/tactical-strength-challenge <<<

    FALL 2014

    TACTICAL STRENGTH CHALLENGE

    BY STRONGFIRST

    SPONSORED BY 5.11 TACTICAL

     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 4:52 pm on August 7, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Hardstyle for the Sport Guy: Simple & Sinister for Kettlebell Sport Athletes 

    By S. H. Mathews

     

     
    Pavel Tsatsouline’s Simple and Sinister program is a reworking of his second program minimum — the swing and the get up.  The program minimum from Enter the Kettlebell left readers with room for interpretation of goals, workloads, etc.  It was minimalistic in terms of movement, but had not yet reached the level of irreducible complexity. If perfection is found when there is nothing more to take away, then Simple and Sinister is much closer to it than the program minimum from ETK.  Swings and getups.  Clear numbers, clear goals, a crystal-clear progression.  Nothing to take away, but plenty of room to add other work to meet one’s goals.

    Simple and Sinister is designed to augment an athlete’s primary training.  It is designed to add strength and conditioning to the training regime of a martial artist, tactical operator, powerlifter, or other athlete.   What about athletes who compete in Kettlebell sport?  Is Simple and Sinister a good fit for GS athletes?

    A distinction is often made between hardstyle Kettlebell lifting and sport style lifting.  This distinction is often amplified by those who have no strong grasp of either style.  Yes, they are different approaches to lifting kettlebells, but they are not contradictory or mutually exclusive.  In hardstyle lifting, the athlete applies maximum or near maximum force to complete each lift.  In sport style lifting, the athlete applies just enough force to complete the rep, saving his energy for the next rep.  And the next.  And the one after that, for up to 10 minutes.   There are differences in technique as well, in accordance with the different goals of the two styles of lifting.  There is not a good style and a bad one, or safe and unsafe, or strong and weak.  Just as a hardstyle karateka can benefit from practicing Judo, or a powerlifter may supplement his slow-grind deadlifts with explosive power cleans, sport style lifters can benefit from hardstyle training.  Depending on their goals, hardstyle lifters may find that sport-style lifting is beneficial for them as well.

    The question to ask about any assistance program is whether it will provide physiological qualities that are necessary and useful for one’s primary sport.  What does a competitive girevik need?  If I had to reduce it to a minimum, I’d say cardiovascular endurance, an explosive lower body, and a stable upper body.

    Cleans, jerks, and snatches are powered by the legs and caught by the arms in the rack or overhead.  The legs and hips are the prime movers.  A strong core links the lower body to the arms for the pulls of the clean and snatch, and for the launch of the jerk.  When the weight has been launched by the legs, it is caught by the arms in the lockout position.  Explosive legs, stable shoulders, strong core.  Lungs and heart that can handle the workload.  Add grip endurance, and you have most of the physical qualities a competitive girevik needs.

    What can Simple and Sinister give you?  The staple movement is the heavy one arm swing.  I won’t give the program away here, but it calls for a high volume of one arm swings in a short period of time, and encourages men to work up to a heavy Kettlebell — 48k is the master plan.

    Hardstyle one arm swings build strong legs and hips that can extend explosively time and time again, just like the girevik needs for jerks, snatches, and cleans.  Done in sufficient numbers, they build grip endurance.  Simple and Sinister swings are harder and faster than anything most competitive Kettlebell athletes will do on the platform.  They make the legs stronger and faster.  They carry over well to the more measured pace of competition lifting.  They are to the girevik what sprinting is to the middle distance runner.  When I’m doing S&S swings my heart rate regularly exceeds 186 beats per minute, and I’ll hit triple digit swing reps in under 5 minutes with a 32k bell.  It makes long cycle with a pair of 24k bells seem almost easy.  Almost.

    The other movement in Simple and Sinister is the get-up.  Again, the plan tells the athlete to go heavy and get strong, and to compress rest periods.  The get-up restores tired shoulders and builds strength and stability overhead — just where the competitive girevik needs it.  Snatches, jerks, and long cycle all require solid, stable lockouts. Many competitions are now electronically scored, so a solid, motionless lockout from the bells to the ground is more important than ever.  If they wobble around, the lift just does not count.  Weak, inflexible shoulders lead to premature fatigue, inefficient technique, and lost reps.  The get-up builds upper body stability, particularly through the shoulder girdle, which every lifter needs on the platform.

    Explosive lower body power, flexible upper body stability, a grip that won’t let go, and a heart and lungs that keep driving.  These are things the competitive Kettlebell athlete needs, and Simple and Sinister delivers.  I’ve found it to be a great addition to my Kettlebell sport training.  Typically, I’ll do a 5-7 minute set of long cycle clean and jerks with 2x24k, rest for less than five minutes, then the Simple and Sinister program with a 32k.  All the benefits of both hardstyle and sport style lifting, in under 25 minutes a day.

    While Simple and Sinister can be a great addition to a competitive girevik’s arsenal, it should not be the only accessory work done.  Practicing the competitive lifts builds the qualities needed for domination on the platform, and Simple and Sinister reinforces these qualities, but most top gireviks find that they still need some steady-state cardio —running, rowing, biking, skiing — whatever floats your boat.  Twenty to twenty-five minutes seems to be the sweet spot — enough cardio to power you through a 10 minute set on the platform, but not so much that you compromise strength and power gains.

    I recommend alternating steady state cardio and Simple and Sinister days after sport-specific training, or incorporating steady-state cardio at least two days a week.

     

    S. H. Mathews is a competitive Kettlebell lifter and martial artist.  He holds the rank of Candidate for Master of Sport from USA Kettlebell Lifting.  When not lifting kettlebells he teaches for several colleges, universities, and seminaries. 
     
     

     
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