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  • Phil Scarito 9:00 am on May 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Unlocking the One-arm Push-up 

    By Phil Scarito, Master SFG

    One aspect of the greats in our coaching world is their ability to deconstruct a movement and then teach it to anyone who wants to learn, no matter the student’s level of ability.

    Many years ago, I had my third opportunity to assist at a Certification, a role I took not only seriously but also as an honor. I remember working with my team and spotting Pavel Tsatsouline as he came through the room. For me, I might as well have seen one of my childhood heroes, like De Niro, right there in the gym. I vividly remember Pavel heading through each group, discussing with the other instructors the cues that would fix the issues he was seeing. Each cue worked. I was in awe. I wanted to be able to do that.

    Ten years later, I’m still working on it. Like strength, it’s a lifelong pursuit.

    If Strength Is a Skill, Then So Is Coaching

    You will notice as you progress as a coach that in reverse engineering a student’s movement, you can often find a kink in the chain. This is the insight that offers you and your student the ability to identify what’s off, meaning what’s keeping the expected progress from happening. Once unraveled, it unlocks the movement. When this new information quickly redirects your student into feeling the right pattern, allowing him or her to accomplish the movement, it feels like magic. This was the magic I saw Pavel accomplish in that Cert many years ago.

    The magic is not a trick. It, too, is a skill. It’s the eye, it’s practice, and it’s intuition based on what you as a coach have learned prior. The magic is the ability to cue from what the eye has seen. This takes practice. Sometimes, we’ve learned these cues from our mentors and predecessors. Other times, we find them in the moment. These aha moments are the gems in what we do as instructors. Each is a benchmark in our coaching path, each strengthens our practice.

    Unlocking the One-arm Push-up

    The one-arm push-up presented a puzzle for my student, and also for me as a coach.

    My Aha Moment Coaching the One-arm Push-up

    About a year ago, a student come to me for help accomplishing the one-arm push-up (OAP). She was strong enough to do the movement, but she was not able to make the necessary connections from her brain to her muscles to improve the movement pattern.

    One thing I see frequently during the OAP is the student putting most of their focus and energy on the working arm—the arm that is on the ground. This makes the movement harder by shifting the student’s weight to that arm, essentially making them feel heavier. When performing the OAP or the one-arm one-leg push-up, we tend to forget about the legs and the feet. But in the SFG Level I manual, Pavel talks about the professional application of tension, where we learn to proportionately spread our tension throughout our body. This is a must-do to execute a solid OAP.

    So while working with this student, I started to think about the contralateral movement pattern that automatically happens during the OAP, the point at which the body wants to dig the left leg into the ground while your right arm is planted. First, spreading your strength equally throughout your body will make accomplishing the movement easier. I needed a drill that would make my student not only understand that, but feel it and then apply it. I needed my student to feel what it was like to root the left foot into the ground while also asking the opposite arm to work as well—and then it hit me.

    The single-leg deadlift.

    This was my aha moment. The single leg deadlift (SLD) would teach my student to root her left foot, while at the same time demanding a solid grip and a packed shoulder from the right hand and arm—this looks like an OAP. It came to me while we were still in her first session, so I had her do an SLD ladder from 1–5 on the left leg very slowly, shake it out, and then retest her OAP. She was immediately able to feel the connection, and it was clear her progression toward the OAP had immediately and dramatically changed. Magic, but not magic.

    She was no stronger. She was just more capable of what was already in there. She was better tuned in to her own ability.

    I sent her home with a positive attitude and something she could actually feel work after all of her frustration in going for the OAP. I asked her to perform the same ladder of 1–5, focusing on technique and rooting, three times per week, with the goal of testing her OAP when she felt she was ready. Not more than a couple of weeks later, she sent me a video of herself nailing her OAP. I was proud of this student for committing to finding a better way and not quitting her struggle. Plus, my aha moment of “will this work” actually had an answer.

    Single Leg Deadlift

    The single leg deadlift teaches you to root the right foot, while at the same time demanding a solid grip and a packed shoulder from the left hand and arm.

    The Solution Is in the Basics

    I have since used this approach with many students trying to accomplish their OAP or OAOLP. The main feedback I receive from students after performing this drill is an immediate and powerful connection from hand to feet, which in turn has created more stability throughout the body. Not only is the connection strong, but they are also able to understand spreading their strength throughout the body instead of focusing on only one aspect of the movement.

    I have introduced this in large group instruction as well, including Certifications as appropriate. While we in the StrongFirst community have already been using this drill for things like rooting, some of my private as well as Cert students have recently used it with their students, specifically for the OAP, with great success. In each case, the practice of this SLD drill made the OAP feel easier, and it gave the students the confidence they needed to eventually execute it. It’s a new tool for the OAP, but it’s not a new tool in and of itself—it’s basic. I find truth in always going back to the basics for insight on how to accomplish the sexier movements. I hope that you do as well.

    Mastering the fundamentals and looking back to them for guidance is something I learned from Pavel. I follow and pass on his example of this path to strength knowledge with a great amount of respect. To this day, Pavel still beats De Niro for me, something a ten-year-old Phil Scarito would never understand. It will always be an honor to have learned in this lineage and from the other mentors I have gained in association.

    One-Arm One-Leg Push-Up

    Once you’ve mastered the one-arm push-up, you can move on to the one-arm one-leg push-up.

    If you try this SLD drill to work on your OAP or OAOLP, send me some feedback regarding if and how it worked for you. I hope more can experience the benefit, and we as a community can add some traction to making skills in bodyweight training more accessible to everyone.

    As always, make it a strong day.

    Phil Scarito StrongFirstPhil Scarito, Master SFG, FMS, CICS coaches one-to-one at his facility outside of Philadelphia. He travels weekly to teach and is one of the most prolific event organizers and hosts in the industry, bringing the mentors and modalities in which he believes most to those looking to learn. He has a particular gift for coaching students through goals they’ve been unable to achieve, holding special regard for those who have found him in their drive to never give up. You can reach Phil for coaching, programming, or event information at phil@dv8fitness.com or follow him on Facebook at Phil Scarito — DV8Fitness, Inc.

    The post Unlocking the One-arm Push-up appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • Phil Scarito 9:00 am on May 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Unlocking the One-arm Push-up 

    By Phil Scarito, Master SFG

    One aspect of the greats in our coaching world is their ability to deconstruct a movement and then teach it to anyone who wants to learn, no matter the student’s level of ability.

    Many years ago, I had my third opportunity to assist at a Certification, a role I took not only seriously but also as an honor. I remember working with my team and spotting Pavel Tsatsouline as he came through the room. For me, I might as well have seen one of my childhood heroes, like De Niro, right there in the gym. I vividly remember Pavel heading through each group, discussing with the other instructors the cues that would fix the issues he was seeing. Each cue worked. I was in awe. I wanted to be able to do that.

    Ten years later, I’m still working on it. Like strength, it’s a lifelong pursuit.

    If Strength Is a Skill, Then So Is Coaching

    You will notice as you progress as a coach that in reverse engineering a student’s movement, you can often find a kink in the chain. This is the insight that offers you and your student the ability to identify what’s off, meaning what’s keeping the expected progress from happening. Once unraveled, it unlocks the movement. When this new information quickly redirects your student into feeling the right pattern, allowing him or her to accomplish the movement, it feels like magic. This was the magic I saw Pavel accomplish in that Cert many years ago.

    The magic is not a trick. It, too, is a skill. It’s the eye, it’s practice, and it’s intuition based on what you as a coach have learned prior. The magic is the ability to cue from what the eye has seen. This takes practice. Sometimes, we’ve learned these cues from our mentors and predecessors. Other times, we find them in the moment. These aha moments are the gems in what we do as instructors. Each is a benchmark in our coaching path, each strengthens our practice.

    Unlocking the One-arm Push-up

    The one-arm push-up presented a puzzle for my student, and also for me as a coach.

    My Aha Moment Coaching the One-arm Push-up

    About a year ago, a student come to me for help accomplishing the one-arm push-up (OAP). She was strong enough to do the movement, but she was not able to make the necessary connections from her brain to her muscles to improve the movement pattern.

    One thing I see frequently during the OAP is the student putting most of their focus and energy on the working arm—the arm that is on the ground. This makes the movement harder by shifting the student’s weight to that arm, essentially making them feel heavier. When performing the OAP or the one-arm one-leg push-up, we tend to forget about the legs and the feet. But in the SFG Level I manual, Pavel talks about the professional application of tension, where we learn to proportionately spread our tension throughout our body. This is a must-do to execute a solid OAP.

    So while working with this student, I started to think about the contralateral movement pattern that automatically happens during the OAP, the point at which the body wants to dig the left leg into the ground while your right arm is planted. First, spreading your strength equally throughout your body will make accomplishing the movement easier. I needed a drill that would make my student not only understand that, but feel it and then apply it. I needed my student to feel what it was like to root the left foot into the ground while also asking the opposite arm to work as well—and then it hit me.

    The single-leg deadlift.

    This was my aha moment. The single leg deadlift (SLD) would teach my student to root her left foot, while at the same time demanding a solid grip and a packed shoulder from the right hand and arm—this looks like an OAP. It came to me while we were still in her first session, so I had her do an SLD ladder from 1–5 on the left leg very slowly, shake it out, and then retest her OAP. She was immediately able to feel the connection, and it was clear her progression toward the OAP had immediately and dramatically changed. Magic, but not magic.

    She was no stronger. She was just more capable of what was already in there. She was better tuned in to her own ability.

    I sent her home with a positive attitude and something she could actually feel work after all of her frustration in going for the OAP. I asked her to perform the same ladder of 1–5, focusing on technique and rooting, three times per week, with the goal of testing her OAP when she felt she was ready. Not more than a couple of weeks later, she sent me a video of herself nailing her OAP. I was proud of this student for committing to finding a better way and not quitting her struggle. Plus, my aha moment of “will this work” actually had an answer.

    Single Leg Deadlift

    The single leg deadlift teaches you to root the right foot, while at the same time demanding a solid grip and a packed shoulder from the left hand and arm.

    The Solution Is in the Basics

    I have since used this approach with many students trying to accomplish their OAP or OAOLP. The main feedback I receive from students after performing this drill is an immediate and powerful connection from hand to feet, which in turn has created more stability throughout the body. Not only is the connection strong, but they are also able to understand spreading their strength throughout the body instead of focusing on only one aspect of the movement.

    I have introduced this in large group instruction as well, including Certifications as appropriate. While we in the StrongFirst community have already been using this drill for things like rooting, some of my private as well as Cert students have recently used it with their students, specifically for the OAP, with great success. In each case, the practice of this SLD drill made the OAP feel easier, and it gave the students the confidence they needed to eventually execute it. It’s a new tool for the OAP, but it’s not a new tool in and of itself—it’s basic. I find truth in always going back to the basics for insight on how to accomplish the sexier movements. I hope that you do as well.

    Mastering the fundamentals and looking back to them for guidance is something I learned from Pavel. I follow and pass on his example of this path to strength knowledge with a great amount of respect. To this day, Pavel still beats De Niro for me, something a ten-year-old Phil Scarito would never understand. It will always be an honor to have learned in this lineage and from the other mentors I have gained in association.

    One-Arm One-Leg Push-Up

    Once you’ve mastered the one-arm push-up, you can move on to the one-arm one-leg push-up.

    If you try this SLD drill to work on your OAP or OAOLP, send me some feedback regarding if and how it worked for you. I hope more can experience the benefit, and we as a community can add some traction to making skills in bodyweight training more accessible to everyone.

    As always, make it a strong day.

    Phil Scarito StrongFirstPhil Scarito, Master SFG, FMS, CICS coaches one-to-one at his facility outside of Philadelphia. He travels weekly to teach and is one of the most prolific event organizers and hosts in the industry, bringing the mentors and modalities in which he believes most to those looking to learn. He has a particular gift for coaching students through goals they’ve been unable to achieve, holding special regard for those who have found him in their drive to never give up. You can reach Phil for coaching, programming, or event information at phil@dv8fitness.com or follow him on Facebook at Phil Scarito — DV8Fitness, Inc.

    The post Unlocking the One-arm Push-up appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • Brett Jones 9:00 am on May 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    What to Do With Your Free Hand During a One-arm Swing 

    By Brett Jones, Chief SFG, MS, ATC, CSCS, FMS Advisory Board

    It is one of the enduring questions of inquiring minds. What do I do with my free hand during a one-arm swing? (That, and if you are doing nothing, how do you know when you are done? But I digress.)

    While the activities of your free hand may not seem to be a matter of much consequence, it is worth considering. The free hand can pull you off course during a swing, its behavior can indicate form issues, or its movement can shift the emphasis of the swing. So let’s look at where the free hand can go, where it shouldn’t go, and what the benefits of the different options may be.

    Free Hand in One-Arm Swing

    Moving From the Two- to One-Arm Swing

    Talking about what to do with your free hand means you have progressed to the one-arm swing from a good two-arm swing. The squared-off shoulders of the two-arm swing are still a requirement during the one-arm version, so establishing that base is important. Note: Once you move up to swinging a heavy enough kettlebell, the shoulders will appear “off center,” but this is not an actual twisting with the kettlebell.

    Once you begin practicing the one-arm swing, then the issue of what to do with the free hand promptly arises. There are a few options:

    Acceptable:

    • Tap the handle
    • Mimic
    • Guard
    • Behind the back
    • To the side

    Unacceptable:

    • Excessive swing
    • Hand on the thigh

    Acceptable Options for the Free Hand in the One-Arm Swing

     

    1. Tap the Handle

    This option is just like it sounds. You will tap the outside of the handle with the palm of your free hand at the top of the swing. This has the benefit of demonstrating the shoulders are squared off at the top of the swing. If your swinging arm has disconnected forward, then you will miss the side of the handle when you go to touch it with the palm of the free hand.

    2. Mimic

    With this option, you simply allow the free arm to be a mimic of the arm swinging the kettlebell. The free arm may not travel the same size arc as the swinging arm, but it should approximate the path. This option encourages an efficient flow during the swing, but should not twist the shoulders off of square.

    3. Guard

    The guard position means bringing the free hand up beside the face with that arm staying close to or connected to the ribs. This looks similar to a boxer protecting his or her face. This option can enforce having square shoulders and seems to recruit the “middle” more during the swing. It can be combined with tapping the side of the handle.

    4. Behind the Back

    By placing the free hand comfortably across the curve of the lower back, you should be able to feel:

    • If there is a loss of the lumbar curve
    • If there is any twisting during the swing

    This places a fairly significant restriction on the positioning of the body during the swing and should only be used if you can comfortably get the free hand across the lower back. If you experience any discomfort or shoulder pain, then this isn’t an option for you.

    5. To the Side

    The free hand is simply held out to the side.

    Unacceptable Options

    1. Excessive Swing

    When the mimicking of the swinging arm becomes an exaggerated swing that twists the shoulders and body, then we have lost the benefit of feeling efficient flow and crossed the line into making the free arm a “driving force” in the swing. This can introduce a torque and torsion into the swing that we do not want.

    2. Hand on the Thigh

    By placing the free hand on the same-side thigh during the downswing a breaking action and rotational force are introduced into the swing (and potentially the clean and snatch). This can be an indication of the kettlebell being too heavy or of a lack of confidence in the stability of the back.

    Deciding Which Option Is for You

    Experiment with the options for where to place the free hand and avoid the unacceptable options. You may find a new favorite or at least find ways to encourage being more squared off during the swing or having more flow during the swing.

    The one-arm swing can progress to the hand-to-hand swing, where the hand holding the kettlebell is switched during the float at the top of the swing. Here being squared off and having your arm stay connected while swinging the kettlebell is essential. For a successful transition to hand-to-hand swings, practice the options for the free hand before progressing—especially tapping the side of the handle.

    The best way to make sure you are using proper technique, no matter which version of the one-hand swing you choose, is to spend some time training with an SFG in your area. They can provide invaluable assistance on the swing, as well as any other form of tune-ups you may need.

    Brett Jones StrongFirstBrett Jones, Chief SFG, is a Certified Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist based in Pittsburgh, PA. Mr. Jones holds a Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine from High Point University, a Master of Science in Rehabilitative Sciences from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

    With over twenty years of experience, Brett has been sought out to consult with professional teams and athletes, as well as present throughout the United States and internationally.

    As an athletic trainer who has transitioned into the fitness industry, Brett has taught kettlebell techniques and principles since 2003. He has taught for Functional Movement Systems (FMS) since 2006, and has created multiple DVDs and manuals with world-renowned physical therapist Gray Cook, including the widely-praised “Secrets of…” series.

    Brett continues to evolve his approach to training and teaching, and is passionate about improving the quality of education for the fitness industry. He is available for consultations and distance coaching by e-mailing him at appliedstrength@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BrettEJones

    The post What to Do With Your Free Hand During a One-arm Swing appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • John Spezzano 10:00 am on May 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Use “Time Under Load” to Solve the Group Class Time Crunch 

    By John Spezzano, SFG Team Leader

    Group classes require an instructor be a combination of entertainer, drill sergeant, and life guard. You have to keep people engaged, doing the work, and doing it safely—all at the same time. And if that wasn’t enough, people have schedules. If your class is supposed to go from 8:00pm to 9:00pm, your students rightly expect the class to be done on time so they can get to their family or night shift or whatever.

    A challenge for me and my strength coaches at 5 Star Martial Arts has been time management. Specifically, how to consistently run a class comprised of students with various skill levels smoothly and seamlessly and not encounter the all-too-common issue of running out of time. With the number of back-to-back classes we teach, this became a regular nuisance and has likely been an issue for all of you as coaches and instructors at some point, too.

    Luckily, problems have solutions. It’s just a matter of finding the solution. With a bit of research, I found a great one that has worked perfectly for us and I’m sure will do the same for you.

    Using Time Under Load for Time Management

    Beyond Technique Comes the Study of Programming

    After spending a number of years working on technique with the kettlebell and barbell, my more recent studies have focused on programming. There is a correct way to move the bell and the bar, and every good instructor needs to know how to impart this essential information. But once the technical execution of a movement is understood, the art of programming comes to the fore. This is also where an instructor’s creativity comes into play.

    I have attended the SFG Level I, SFG Level II (twice), SFL, SFB, and Plan Strong. In addition, I have read books on programming in my efforts to improve my knowledge. After deciding to study programming in a one-on-one format, I contacted Geoff Neupert. Geoff is an experienced coach and programmer and after assisting him in Denmark a number of years ago I was confident he could help me tap into new ideas.

    Our conversations started off pretty straight forward with focus on work-to-rest ratios, percentage of 1RM, etc. Early on, Geoff mentioned “time under load” as a template for group classes and I knew immediately we’d hit on something my staff and I really needed. All of my previous programming study was invaluable, but none of it addressed the logistical problem we were running into.

    Standard vs. Time Under Load Programming

    For the purposes of this piece, let’s grossly oversimplify programming into two groups:

    1. Standard
    2. Time Under Load

    Standard programming would consist of X number of reps done at X percentage of 1RM with appropriate rest between sets. This is an undeniably powerful way to program. I have used this method with the kettlebell and the barbell, producing impressive results for myself and my students. It’s likely you have, too.

    But standard programming has a flaw, and that flaw is time. How long it takes person A to do 5 reps at 80% is often different enough from how long it takes person B that the flow of a group class gets thrown off. It could be due to them taking their time to get the bar off the rack or because their breathing slows them down or speeds them up. Either way, when you’re dealing with a strict sixty-minute class, this approach to programming can easily lead to time issues.

    The time under load approach, on the other hand, is still built around the idea of X number of reps at various percentages coupled with appropriate rest between sets, but the time is the guiding principle, not the rep count.

    Let’s take the press, for example. If I have my students press a “medium” weight bell (a bell they can press seven or eight times without reaching failure) for ten seconds, the specific number of reps they complete will vary from student to student, but when the work interval is done, it’s done. This approach allows me to know exactly how much time to allot for the training, which makes keeping the initial warm-up, corrective exercise, and technical instruction portions of class to the proper length. Everyone works together, everyone rests together, and class stays on track.

    Using Time Under Load for Time Management

    How We Use Time Under Load to Program Our Classes

    We follow a pull/push/squat format pretty much year round in all our programs (with some variation in application). This is how it looks in the kettlebell program:

    • Pulls are swings, cleans, or snatches with one or two bells, but lately we have also included pull-ups and renegade rows.
    • Pushes are presses (single or double bells), push-ups (on the floor or the rings), and a variety of handstand push-up progressions.
    • Squats are single bell goblet squats, double bell front squats, and sometimes bottoms up front squats for specialized variety.

    I generally allow ten minutes per section, or thirty minutes total for the training, so I know when I need to start the session in order to leave enough time for people to work on their mobility.

    So the schedule for the class looks like this:

    1. Warm Up: ~5:00
    2. Corrective: ~5:00
    3. Technical instruction: ~20:00
    4. Training: ~30:00

    Waving the load is essential in any approach. The percentages we work off are in the neighborhood of 50%, 70%, and 90% for light, medium, and heavy respectively. Some months we do heavy, medium, or light on a specific day of the week. Some months we wave the load throughout the training. So the swings might be heavy, but the presses will be medium and the squats will be light.

    To illustrate, I’ll use an example from our Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday kettlebell classes. In the program outlined below, Tuesday was the light day (@50%), Thursday was heavy (@90%) and Saturday was medium (@70%). We used the swing (one- or two-handed) for the “pull,” the press for the “push,” and the goblet squat or double bell front squat for the “squat.”

    My shorthand below should be read as follows:

    • “3x” is the number of rounds
    • (:30/2:30) is work/rest interval for each round
    • (1:5) is the work:rest ratio

    I don’t write that last one up on the board, but I like to have a snapshot in my head of the rest ratios for the day. Unless we’re in a dedicated Simple & Sinister or Program Minimum month, the light ratios will typically be 1:3 or 1:4, the medium will be 1:5, 6, or 7 and heavy will be 1:8, 9, or 10. I tend to favor longer rest to ensure better quality movement during the work interval, but will sometimes switch it up as you will see below.

    Using Time Under Load for Time Management

    In the end, the weight of the bell dictates the quality and amount of work. As with any lift, poor execution is not allowed. If a student is getting too tired to do the movement properly, they rest longer or go down in weight. It’s always better to have a student leave a session knowing they could have lifted more than having hurt themselves doing too much.

    Tuesday (Light):

    • Swing: 3x (:30/2:30) (1:5)
    • Press: 3x (:20 press Right + :20 press Left / 2:00) (1:3)
    • Goblet Squat: 4x (:30/2:00) (1:4)

    Thursday (Heavy):

    • Swing: (one-handed swing) 4x (:15/1:00 Right + :15/1:00 Left) (1:4)
    • Press: (double bell press) 10x (:05/:50) (1:10)
    • Squat: (double bell front squat) 4x (:15/2:30) (1:10)

    Saturday (Medium):

    • Swing: 5x (:30/1:30) (1:3)
    • Press: 4x (:10 press Right + :10 press Left / 2:00 rest) (1:6)
    • Squat: 10x (:15/:45) (1:3)

    Time Under Load Has Solved Our Time Crunch

    Following this time under load programming method has been incredibly easy to implement. It has solved our time management issues and continued to deliver incredible results. Plus, our students love the consistency of the training and the schedule. I’m certain if you give it a shot you will be blown away as well. Try it out!

    John Spezzano StrongFirst Team LeaderLocated in Los Angeles, CA, John Spezzano has over thirty-five years of martial arts training and has been an instructor in six different systems since 1995: Filipino Martial Arts, Jun Fan Gung Fu / JKD Concepts, and Maphilindo Silat all under Guro Dan Inosanto, Muay Thai under Ajarn Chai Sirisute, Wing Chun under Sifu Francis Fong, and Savate under Nicolas Saignac. John is also a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Prof. Shawn Williams. John earned his SFG Level II in 2012 and the SFB in 2013 and is also a Level 2 CrossFit coach. John’s thirst for knowledge is unquenchable and he is constantly searching for more ways to improve his training and that of his clients. Please visit 5 Star Martial Arts for more information.

    The post Use “Time Under Load” to Solve the Group Class Time Crunch appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • Karen Smith 9:00 am on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    One Good Rep: How to Perform the Perfect Pistol 

    By Karen Smith, Chief SFB, Master SFG

    The pistol is often looked at with fear, but if taught with the proper progression path and practiced with patience, it can be achieved by most people. My reason for saying most and not all is that pistols require some spinal flexion so they are not a recommended exercise for those who are flexion intolerant.

    The pistol requires mobile ankles and hips, flexible calves and hamstrings, strength, and stability. Those are all things that take time to build, so is important you start training pistols “where you are right now.” This means you need to assess your current mobility, flexibility, and strength to determine the appropriate progression for you. Once you have determined your progression level, you can begin to train toward your one perfect rep.

    Perfect PistolPistol Progressions

    If you determine from your self-assessment that you do not have the mobility to do a full-range pistol, then select a box elevation you can lower yourself to without losing tension. Lower under control on one foot until you graze the box with your glutes, then power back up to a full standing position.

    If you determine that you have the proper mobility to get down into a full-range pistol, but you do not have the strength to stand back up, then you have a few options to increase your strength:

    1. Use a box elevation. Unlike the first scenario, in this exercise, you will sit relaxed on the box with one foot extended in front of you. Then with a breath you will “zip up” your tension and stand on the other leg. Reset each repetition by sitting back down in a relaxed state, then repeat the exercise.
    2. Add single-leg deadlifts (SLDLs) into your program. Bodyweight SLDLs are a great place to start as they increase your balance and allow you to slow down and find any sticking points in the movement. After you have improved this skill, add a kettlebell to increase your strength.
    3. Use assistance at your sticking point. Your assistance could be a doorway to grip, a TRX, or a training partner. At your sticking point in the pistol—the point at which your strength will no longer allow you to complete the movement—grip your assistance and bring yourself to completion.

    If you are lacking in the strength to stand up from your pistol, then program the above exercises into your weekly training for 3-5 sets of 5, two or three times per week. Watch the video below for demonstrations of these progressions.

    Before You Train Your Perfect Pistol

    Watch for instruction on toe and heel walking, the Iron Curtsy, and the progressions outlined above.

    Prior to performing pistols, it is recommended you do ankle mobility drills as well as stretch your calves and hamstrings. A quick way to add ankle mobility work into your daily routine is to simply do toe walking and heel walking.

    For calves and hamstrings, I recommend a drill I call the Iron Curtsy. This drill is extremely efficient because it stretches your calves, glutes, and hamstring all at once. However, it is very important that you hinge and maintain a neutral spine or you will lose the benefit of this stretch. If you are unsure if you are maintaining a neutral spine, you can hold a stick on your back. It should maintain contact with your head, thoracic spine, and sacrum while you do the Iron Curtsy.

    Using Grease the Groove to Train the Perfect Pistol

    Once you are warmed up, you can proceed to training your pistol in a grease-the-groove (GTG) fashion. The bodyweight pistol and its progressions are a great choice for GTG training as they can be done anywhere at any time. The GTG approach allows you to get in a higher volume of quality reps without the fatigue factor—and without even necessarily doing more than one rep at a time.

    GTG works best when you focus on no more than two skills at one time, and the skills should be performed at about 50% of your max. The pistol pairs very well with the push-up (read this article on how to do the perfect push-up).

    To get started, you must first test yourself using the perfect pistol instructions below to determine your current level. If you cannot meet the required steps for a single repetition, then select an appropriate progression as discussed above. If you meet all the requirements in the perfect pistol instructions, then proceed to test your max reps without losing form or test a harder progression

    Once you have determined which version of the pistol you will train, you can proceed to greasing the groove at that level. Throughout the day do “sets” of one good rep, allowing at least fifteen minute of rest between each rep. For best results, do your GTG work a minimum of three days per week.

    The SFB Pistol Standard

    To perform a pistol, stand on one foot while holding the other leg out in front and lower to at least parallel. Parallel is defined as “the top surface of the leg at the hip joint is lower than the top of the knee.” People with no restrictions are encouraged to pistol rock bottom until the hamstring rest on the calf.

    Additional details:

    • You must be barefoot
    • Your non-working leg may not touch the deck or the working leg
    • Both the heel and big toe of working leg must stay planted
    • Your hip and knee must fully extend at the top
    • Balance must be maintained
    • A pause at the bottom is recommended

    Tips for Improving Your Pistol

    • Make sure you have done adequate stretching before training
    • Visualize the breath path (inhale on the negative, exhale on the positive)
    • Visualize pulling yourself toward the ground versus dropping down to the ground
    • Work on balance drills to increase your stability (use a doorway to assist you in the beginning)
    • Maintain tracking of the hip, knee, and toe during each rep
    • Stay fresh and allow a minimum of 10-15 minutes of rest between GTG sets

    Training the Pistol in the Long Term

    As you become stronger from your GTG practice, you do not have to maintain the purity of bodyweight pistols. You can add weight and continue with your GTG approach, or you can add sets and reps into your training program. As you increase intensity or load, remember to add adequate rest between sets to keep each repetition perfect. If you begin to fatigue quickly and are losing your form, switch to a regression or call it a day.

    Once you have begun to add weight to your pistols, don’t forget that maintaining the ability to do a bodyweight pistol will still ensure you maintain an impressive amount of joint mobility, reflexive stability, and strength. So don’t stop training your bodyweight exercises and staying diligent to that perfect form—after all, good technique is the foundation for everything else.

    Karen Smith StrongFirstKaren Smith is Chief SFB instructor, a Master SFG instructor, and the fourth female to claim the Iron Maiden title. She has been personal training students of all fitness levels from beginners to elite US military forces since 2000. Karen specializes in kettlebell and bodyweight strength training. She is a certified SFG, SFB, FMS, and Battling Ropes instructor. Karen resides in Dallas where she is available for private and group sessions. She is also available worldwide for distance coaching and program design. She travels regularly instructing workshops and SF courses/certifications. She can be reached at karensmithmsfg@gmail.com or at her blog, Coach Karen Smith.

    The post One Good Rep: How to Perform the Perfect Pistol appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • Dr. Michael Hartle 9:00 am on May 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    When Tension Is a Beautiful Thing 

    By Dr. Michael Hartle, Chief SFL and Master SFG

    No, this isn’t a psychology lesson on stress. I am neither discussing different types of headaches, nor the strength properties of a barbell and its ability to resist bending and becoming permanently deformed.

    I am talking about what your body needs to generate prior to loading it, be it with bodyweight, kettlebell, or barbell exercises. This has already been discussed in many different ways and on many different forums. This is my take on it.

    Tension and the Great White Sharks

    The impetus for me to write about this topic was my recent trip to the Southern Hemisphere to teach two SFL Certifications on back-to-back weekends. After teaching the SFL Johannesburg, South Africa, Master SFG Shaun Cairns invited me to spend a few days with his family in Cape Town before I headed over to Australia for the SFL Perth Cert. While I was in Cape Town, Shaun arranged a trip for us to go cage diving with great white sharks. While waiting for the boat to leave shore, one of the other participants partaking in this great adventure asked me some questions about training. One of the questions pertained to him having dull lower back pain while back squatting.

    Back Squat Tension at the Start

    A demonstration of proper tension at the top of the back squat—similar to a vertical plank.

    After dispensing the usual small print-type discussion about not having examined him, not knowing his history, etc., we talked about several things that could potentially be causing his issues. After diving more into his issue (excuse the pun), it quickly became apparent that he was not generating enough tension throughout his body prior to commencing the lift. By not utilizing the tension ability of the body properly, he was placing his spine and other joint structures at risk for dysfunction and injury. For the moment, his symptoms were only a dull ache in his lower back.

    Hinging, Winking, and Laziness

    One of the most common mistakes I see with the back squat or deadlift is neglecting to create the required tension to properly execute the lift. This is most commonly demonstrated by the athlete either hinging with their lumbar spine along with hinging at the hip, instead of hinging solely via the hip joint, or “winking” at you with their buttocks and lower back, causing tremendous stress at the lower lumbar and sacral regions of the spine. (Note: there could be other causes for these issues. A proper assessment/screen will help to uncover these.)

    Neutral Spine With Tension

    Instructing the student to keep a neutral spine (no lumbar hinging or flexion) in a good morning.

    In reference to the “required tension” mentioned above, this is the tension needed to improve your performance but also decrease the chance of injury during loaded movements. The front, sides, back, top, and bottom of the torso are the areas where tension is needed and created. During the back squat and deadlift, a lot of athletes become “anterior chain/core lazy,” meaning they are so concerned about moving the weight, they forget to turn on their anterior components. Some turn on these components naturally, some don’t. For the latter, they need to consciously establish the motor pattern.

    Part of the laziness comes from the bar either being on the top of the upper back, as in the back squat, or in the hands of the deadlifter, with their emphasis on the posterior chain activation of hamstrings, glutes, and erectors. Most of the time, this “laziness” will not appear at the start of the back squat or at the top of the deadlift, but on the descent and ascent of the back squat and the ascent of the deadlift.

    This is in direct contrast to the Zercher or front squat, which requires the anterior components to be on high alert, otherwise you will lose control of the bar and the lift. With the bar on the back of your shoulders during the back squat, you do not have to work as hard anteriorly if you don’t want to. This scenario can create the aforementioned issues of lumbar hinging and/or “butt winking” to occur during the lift.

    Great Tension in the Zercher Squat

    An example of great tension in the Zercher squat.

    Get Tighter

    Once I make the athlete aware of what is going on and explain to them what they are doing and why they need to change it, we get to work on it. As we routinely say at the SFL Certification, don’t be afraid to reduce the weight on the bar to help pattern this new method of creating the correct tension.

    Remember, the body and mind revert to training when under stress. If you try to ingrain this new method while loading the body with >80% of your 1RM, you will not be successful. Your body will do what it takes to achieve the task in front of you, even if it means reverting back to its old ways of training. Backing off the weight means letting the ego go for a bit, knowing that in the end, you will become stronger than you were before and in a safer manner.

    I am not the first one to state this, but this “regression before progression” is important to get the proper motor pattern hardwired in your cerebral cortex and the rest of the neurological system. Once mastered and proven under a lighter load, then progressing to heavier loads will be prudent, but always being mindful of maintaining the new method. If you feel a breakdown at any point, back off a little, pattern it, and then progress again.

    I always remember this quotation from Andy Bolton: “Without tightness, you cannot have strength. All the best lifters get tighter than the average lifters. Simple as that.”

    Here are some ways to get tighter than average:

    1. The Hard Style and Hartle Planks

    To practice the tightness required, especially anteriorly, train the hard style plank. After mastering the hard style plank, you can progress to adding even more tightness with the Hartle plank—you do this by simultaneously pulling your elbows toward your toes and your toes toward your elbows (isometrically). Your pelvis will rise. Cramp the glutes hard and push your pelvis down to bring the body back into a straight line—an action similar to the kettlebell swing. The toes need to be fully extended and the ankles maximally dorsiflexed.

    Practicing this will start to “turn on” the anterior components in a horizontal or straight line. This in turn can and will carry over to the trunk flexed/hip flexed positions of the back squat and deadlift, but you need to be mindful to make sure you stay tight anteriorly.

    Tension in the Plank

    Master the hard style plank, and then progress to the Hartle plank.

    2. Pausing and Facilitating

    With no load or a very light load (and sound technique), have a training partner stand to the side of you during the back squat and/or the deadlift. Have them command you to stop at various stages of the eccentric and concentric parts of the back squat and the concentric aspect of the deadlift. You will not know when they will do this. When you are paused, and with your permission ahead of time, your partner will check to make sure you are remaining tight by tapping on your sides and front.

    This will help facilitate the appropriate neuromuscular response to contract and create the needed tension. Once you have mastered this practice, start to add load. As stated above, if you start to deviate from being able to keep tension under progressively heavier loads, back off the load slightly, master it, then progress again.

    3. The Zercher and Front Squats

    Training these squats will also help the anterior components to “turn on.” While not exactly specific to the back squat and the deadlift, training these, along with the plank, will create the synaptic pathways in your cerebrum and cerebellum to generate a greater facilitation and awareness of activating the anterior components. Eventually, after enough practice, this facilitation and activation will be become subconscious and second-nature.

    Tension in Zercher and Front Squats

    Left: Zercher squat; Right: Front squat

    As a side note, utilizing the steps above will also make your bodyweight and kettlebell training better, especially the grind-type moves. Military press, both barbell and kettlebell, will improve. Squats, pull-ups, OAPU and OAOLPU will improve, as well. Even the ballistic moves—swings, cleans, and snatches—will show improvement in performance, specifically at the top positions, and you will lessen the chance of injury overall.

    Tension, the neuromusculoskeletal variety, is a beautiful thing when used the correct way. It will help increase your performance and decrease your chance of injury. Learn to use it properly and it will serve you well.

    Dr. Michael Hartle StrongFirstDr. Michael Hartle is a chiropractic physician, a board-certified Clinical Nutritionist (DACBN), a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician (CCSP), a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), the Chief SFL Barbell Instructor and Master SFG (Kettlebell) Instructor with StrongFirst, and an Active Release Technique (ART) provider since 1995. He is also the co-developer of the StrongFirst SFL Barbell Certification.

    Raised in the frozen tundra known as Minnesota, he once lived in Hawai’i while his father was stationed at Pearl Harbor during Vietnam. He has been practicing in Fort Wayne, Indiana for the last 21 years. A former nationally-ranked powerlifter, who has won several national titles with USA Powerlifting, Dr. Michael is also the former Chairman and founder of the Sports Medicine Committee of USA Powerlifting (USAPL). He was the Head Coach of the USAPL World Bench Press Team for eight years, with the team winning the 2004 World Championship Team Title.

    His best competition lifts are 705lb squat, 535lb bench press, and 635lb deadlift with a best combined total of the three lifts of 1,840lbs in the 275lb weight class. For the last ten years, he has been playing semi-pro football, defensive tackle, and loving it! His football team, the Adams County Patriots, won the National AA Semi-Pro Football Championship in 2008!

    He treats, trains and advises to all kinds of patients, from babies to the elderly, from youth athletes to NCAA student-athletes to professional athletes. He also coaches junior high football and track and field, volunteering his time for the last sixteen years. He has three sons and two grandchildren who keep him busy with their personal endeavors, including crawling, hockey, football, lacrosse, track and field, and of course, academics.

    The post When Tension Is a Beautiful Thing appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 5:01 pm on April 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Spring 2016 TSC Results 

    Recap

    Ladies and Gentlemen, the Spring TSC results are final!

    Thank you to everyone who took part in this very unique day of worldwide strength, spirit, and camaraderie. This April 2016 TSC included nearly 1,200 participants—the most in history.

    We heard reports from all over of people breaking personal records in at least one of the three events, and of many locations where every single person in attendance achieved a personal best lift.

    Our Women’s Novice division is once again the largest category with 338 participants, and for many (if not most) of them, this TSC was their first-ever strength competition of any kind. And by all accounts, they had an awesome time. In case you were wondering, all Novice category winners (top three men and women) must graduate from the Novice category in all future TSC competitions, and enter in the Open, Elite, or Masters (if qualified by age).

    TOP COMBINED SCORES IN EACH CATEGORY

    And so now, let us acknowledge the highest combined scores in each of the eight categories. For full rankings and results, please visit the leaderboard HERE.

    Women’s Novice

    1st: Martina McDermott at Hybrid Fitness in Belfast, Ireland
    Snatches 139, FAH 85 sec, Deadlift 319

    2nd: Ilona Wilson at The Yard Athletic in Johannesburg, South Africa
    Snatches 132, FAH 105 sec, Deadlift 319.5

    3rd: Katie Bogs at Tyson’s Playground in Stafford, VA
    Snatches 144, FAH 74 sec, Deadlift 265

    Women’s Open

    The Women’s Open was a close race, ending in a tie for first place. Both women are from Salt Lake City and competed head-to-head. Nicole Davis had an impressive 360lb deadlift, and Saxony Record, fairly new to our community, unable to complete a pull-up just a year ago performed twelve neck-to-bar reps! What a great showing by both athletes.

    1st Tie: Nicole Davis at Brickwall CrossFit South in West Jordan, UT
    Snatches 124, Pull-ups 15, Deadlift 360

    1st Tie: Saxony Record at FTR in Salt Lake City, UT
    Snatches 134, Pull-ups 12, Deadlift 305

    3rd: Vix Sharp at Hybrid Fitness in Belfast, Ireland
    Snatches 141, Pull-ups 12, Deadlift 303

    Honorable mention goes to Roxanne Myers who took first place in two events, both the pull-ups with 18 and snatches with 149. Very impressive.

    Women’s Elite

    An incredible showing in the women’s Elite division was led by Hyun Jin Choi—she took first in the 20kg snatch with 118 reps and in the deadlift, pulling 348lbs. Hyun Jin Choi was proud to be one of those competitors performing a “TSC Hat Trick” (improving in all three categories).

    1st: Hyun Jin Choi at Powerzone in Seoul, South Korea
    Snatches 118, Pull-ups 9, Deadlift 348

    2nd: Sara Cooper at Shropshire Sports Training in Ellicott City, MD
    Snatches 116, Pull-ups 10, Deadlift 305

    3rd: Aleana Myers at Gainz Strength Training Gym in Vancouver, WA
    Snatches 114, Pull-ups 7, Deadlift 320

    Women’s Masters

    1st: Angelique Shoeman at The Yard Athletic in Johannesburg, South Africa
    Snatches 153, Pull-ups 10, Deadlift 269

    2nd: Elizabeth Arndt at Omaha Elite in Omaha, NE
    Snatches 159, Pull-ups 3, Deadlift 305

    3rd: Linda Mertens at Crow River CrossFit in Plymouth, MN
    Snatches 160, Pull-ups 3, Deadlift 285

    Men’s Novice

    1st: Mike Wagner at TNT Fitness Results in Winneconne, WI
    Snatches 164, Pull-ups 26, Deadlift 600

    2nd: “Dangerous” Dave Doyle at Box 33 in South Femantle, Australia
    Snatches 154, Pull-ups 25, Deadlift 507

    3rd: Karlo Fresl at OutFit in Samabor, Croatia
    Snatches 134, Pull-ups 23, Deadlift 496

    Men’s Open

    1st: Tim Almond at Box 33 in South Femantle, Australia
    Snatches 165, Pull-ups 37, Deadlift 551

    2nd: Aldo Alberico at Lugo, Ravenna, Italy
    Snatches 151, Pull-ups 22, Deadlift 584

    3rd: Jason Marshall at Lone Star Strength in Lubbock, TX
    Snatches 148, Pull-ups 20, Deadlift 605

    Men’s Open Fun Facts

    • 35 men deadlifted over 500lbs
    • 34 men completed 20 or more dead hang pull-ups
    • 35 men did 125 reps or more of snatches

     

    Men’s Elite

    The always impressive and still undefeated Derek Toshner leads the pack in the men’s Elite. He didn’t win a single event but with two second places and one third place he isn’t giving up his title anytime soon.

    1st: Derek Toshner at TNT Fitness Results, Fon Du Lac, WI
    Snatches 139, Pull-ups 20, Deadlift 600

    2nd: Ryan Karas at Vigor Performance in Loveland, CO
    Snatches 101, Pull-ups 21, Deadlift 635

    3rd: William Stott at Brickwall CrossFit South in Salt Lake City, UT
    Snatches 107, Pull-ups 17, Deadlift 639

    Men’s Masters

    1st: Steven Horwitz at his gym in Rockwall, TX
    Snatches 129, Pull-ups 18, Deadlift 475

    2nd: Brian Smith at Primitive Strength in Amarillo, TX
    Snatches 126, Pull-ups 15, Deadlift 415

    3rd: David Knuth at TNT Fitness Results in Lomira, WI
    Snatches 141, Pull-ups 7, Deadlift 485

    Congratulations to all of you!

    TSC Event Snapshots

    Just a few random photos from the day:

    April 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC Results

    April 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC Results

    April 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC Results
    April 2016 TSC Results
    April 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC Results

    April 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC Results

    Participating Host Facilities

    Finally, thank you to every one of these facilities for hosting this Spring 2016 Tactical Strength Challenge.

    evolution fitness systems | tucson | az
    heavy metal girya | birmingham | al
    hybrid fitness | belfast | antrim
    fvt boot camp and personal training | sacramento | ca
    crossfit virtus les docks | marseille | bouches du rhone
    velocity strength & fitness | chico | ca
    north beach kettlebell | san clemente | ca
    breathrough strength & fitness | woodland hills | ca
    projectmove | littleton | co
    guliver fitness | solin | croatia
    full force personal training | modesto | ca
    armourbuilding | peachtree corners | ga
    vigor performance | windsor | co
    functional training prague | prague | dejvice
    catalyst strength studio| north liberty | ia
    atlanta strength and conditioning | marietta | ga
    spencer school of strength | spencer | ia
    method training | peoria | il
    victory strength and fitness | 2503 fairview pl | in
    the yard athletic | johannesburg | gauteng
    bestrong training | wichita | ks
    strongfirst israel | bat yam | israel
    crossfit i35 | overland park | ks
    powerzone | seoul | gyunggi-do
    fawn friday kettlebell training | st. paul | mn
    art & strength | baltimore | md
    chicago primal gym | chicago | il
    vault fitness | eden prairie | mn
    rapid results fitness | durham | nc
    reactive training | glasgow | lanarkshire
    efx fitness | manchester | nh
    shore results | atlantic highlands | nj
    nj kettlebells | fairfield | nj
    omaha elite kettlebell | omaha | ne
    kings thai boxing | new york | ny
    crossfit solaria | omaha | ne
    mojo strength | matraville sydney | nsw
    move physical therapy | monroe | ny
    mansfield ymca | mansfield | oh
    catskill kettlebells | delhi | ny
    firebellz | albuquerque | nm
    courthouse south river road club | salem | or
    today’s health and fitness | toowoomba | qld
    misfit gym | burleigh heads | qld
    queen city kettlebell | cincinnati | oh
    empowered strength | bend | or
    willpower strength & conditioning | ardmore | pa
    lone star kettlebell | lubbock | tx
    crucible krav maga | plano | tx
    charleston kettlebell club | charleston | sc
    iron strength kettlebell gym | sugar land | tx
    palextra | lugo | ravenna
    alpha fitness | east greenwich | ri
    24 hour fitness | the woodlands | tx
    moulton kettlebell club | roanoke | tx
    impavidus gym | ashburn | va
    hardstyle kbjj | corpus christi | texas
    primitive strength | amarillo | tx
    box 33 | perth | wa
    fit by red | seattle | wa
    gainz strength training gym | vancouver | wa
    brickwall crossfit south | west jordan | ut
    the lab strength & fitness | spokane | wa
    be better | gig harbor | wa
    kettlebility | seattle | wa
    tnt fitness results | fond du lac | wi
    tysons playground | vienna | va
    heaven hell asd | sarmeola di rubano | italy
    ironkore performance training systems inc | toronto
    fuelhouse | seattle | wa
    hybrid gym | gabcikovo
    tnt performance | brookfield | wi
    bkc gym | bristol

    FALL TSC SCHEDULED FOR OCTOBER 1, 2016——MARK YOUR CALENDAR

    The post Spring 2016 TSC Results appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 5:01 pm on April 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Spring 2016 TSC Results 

    Recap

    Ladies and Gentlemen, the Spring TSC results are final!

    Thank you to everyone who took part in this very unique day of worldwide strength, spirit, and camaraderie. This April 2016 TSC included nearly 1,200 participants—the most in history.

    We heard reports from all over of people breaking personal records in at least one of the three events, and of many locations where every single person in attendance achieved a personal best lift.

    Our Women’s Novice division is once again the largest category with 338 participants, and for many (if not most) of them, this TSC was their first-ever strength competition of any kind. And by all accounts, they had an awesome time. In case you were wondering, all Novice category winners (top three men and women) must graduate from the Novice category in all future TSC competitions, and enter in the Open, Elite, or Masters (if qualified by age).

    TOP COMBINED SCORES IN EACH CATEGORY

    And so now, let us acknowledge the highest combined scores in each of the eight categories. For full rankings and results, please visit the leaderboard HERE.

    Women’s Novice

    1st: Martina McDermott at Hybrid Fitness in Belfast, Ireland
    Snatches 139, FAH 85 sec, Deadlift 319

    2nd: Ilona Wilson at The Yard Athletic in Johannesburg, South Africa
    Snatches 132, FAH 105 sec, Deadlift 319.5

    3rd: Katie Bogs at Tyson’s Playground in Stafford, VA
    Snatches 144, FAH 74 sec, Deadlift 265

    Women’s Open

    The Women’s Open was a close race, ending in a tie for first place. Both women are from Salt Lake City and competed head-to-head. Nicole Davis had an impressive 360lb deadlift, and Saxony Record, fairly new to our community, unable to complete a pull-up just a year ago performed twelve neck-to-bar reps! What a great showing by both athletes.

    1st Tie: Nicole Davis at Brickwall CrossFit South in West Jordan, UT
    Snatches 124, Pull-ups 15, Deadlift 360

    1st Tie: Saxony Record at FTR in Salt Lake City, UT
    Snatches 134, Pull-ups 12, Deadlift 305

    3rd: Vix Sharp at Hybrid Fitness in Belfast, Ireland
    Snatches 141, Pull-ups 12, Deadlift 303

    Honorable mention goes to Roxanne Myers who took first place in two events, both the pull-ups with 18 and snatches with 149. Very impressive.

    Women’s Elite

    An incredible showing in the women’s Elite division was led by Hyun Jin Choi—she took first in the 20kg snatch with 118 reps and in the deadlift, pulling 348lbs. Hyun Jin Choi was proud to be one of those competitors performing a “TSC Hat Trick” (improving in all three categories).

    1st: Hyun Jin Choi at Powerzone in Seoul, South Korea
    Snatches 118, Pull-ups 9, Deadlift 348

    2nd: Sara Cooper at Shropshire Sports Training in Ellicott City, MD
    Snatches 116, Pull-ups 10, Deadlift 305

    3rd: Aleana Myers at Gainz Strength Training Gym in Vancouver, WA
    Snatches 114, Pull-ups 7, Deadlift 320

    Women’s Masters

    1st: Angelique Shoeman at The Yard Athletic in Johannesburg, South Africa
    Snatches 153, Pull-ups 10, Deadlift 269

    2nd: Elizabeth Arndt at Omaha Elite in Omaha, NE
    Snatches 159, Pull-ups 3, Deadlift 305

    3rd: Linda Mertens at Crow River CrossFit in Plymouth, MN
    Snatches 160, Pull-ups 3, Deadlift 285

    Men’s Novice

    1st: Mike Wagner at TNT Fitness Results in Winneconne, WI
    Snatches 164, Pull-ups 26, Deadlift 600

    2nd: “Dangerous” Dave Doyle at Box 33 in South Femantle, Australia
    Snatches 154, Pull-ups 25, Deadlift 507

    3rd: Karlo Fresl at OutFit in Samabor, Croatia
    Snatches 134, Pull-ups 23, Deadlift 496

    Men’s Open

    1st: Tim Almond at Box 33 in South Femantle, Australia
    Snatches 165, Pull-ups 37, Deadlift 551

    2nd: Aldo Alberico at Lugo, Ravenna, Italy
    Snatches 151, Pull-ups 22, Deadlift 584

    3rd: Jason Marshall at Lone Star Strength in Lubbock, TX
    Snatches 148, Pull-ups 20, Deadlift 605

    Men’s Open Fun Facts

    • 35 men deadlifted over 500lbs
    • 34 men completed 20 or more dead hang pull-ups
    • 35 men did 125 reps or more of snatches

     

    Men’s Elite

    The always impressive and still undefeated Derek Toshner leads the pack in the men’s Elite. He didn’t win a single event but with two second places and one third place he isn’t giving up his title anytime soon.

    1st: Derek Toshner at TNT Fitness Results, Fon Du Lac, WI
    Snatches 139, Pull-ups 20, Deadlift 600

    2nd: Ryan Karas at Vigor Performance in Loveland, CO
    Snatches 101, Pull-ups 21, Deadlift 635

    3rd: William Stott at Brickwall CrossFit South in Salt Lake City, UT
    Snatches 107, Pull-ups 17, Deadlift 639

    Men’s Masters

    1st: Steven Horwitz at his gym in Rockwall, TX
    Snatches 129, Pull-ups 18, Deadlift 475

    2nd: Brian Smith at Primitive Strength in Amarillo, TX
    Snatches 126, Pull-ups 15, Deadlift 415

    3rd: David Knuth at TNT Fitness Results in Lomira, WI
    Snatches 141, Pull-ups 7, Deadlift 485

    Congratulations to all of you!

    TSC Event Snapshots

    Just a few random photos from the day:

    April 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC Results

    April 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC Results

    April 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC Results
    April 2016 TSC Results
    April 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC Results

    April 2016 TSC ResultsApril 2016 TSC Results

    Participating Host Facilities

    Finally, thank you to every one of these facilities for hosting this Spring 2016 Tactical Strength Challenge.

    evolution fitness systems | tucson | az
    heavy metal girya | birmingham | al
    hybrid fitness | belfast | antrim
    fvt boot camp and personal training | sacramento | ca
    crossfit virtus les docks | marseille | bouches du rhone
    velocity strength & fitness | chico | ca
    north beach kettlebell | san clemente | ca
    breathrough strength & fitness | woodland hills | ca
    projectmove | littleton | co
    guliver fitness | solin | croatia
    full force personal training | modesto | ca
    armourbuilding | peachtree corners | ga
    vigor performance | windsor | co
    functional training prague | prague | dejvice
    catalyst strength studio| north liberty | ia
    atlanta strength and conditioning | marietta | ga
    spencer school of strength | spencer | ia
    method training | peoria | il
    victory strength and fitness | 2503 fairview pl | in
    the yard athletic | johannesburg | gauteng
    bestrong training | wichita | ks
    strongfirst israel | bat yam | israel
    crossfit i35 | overland park | ks
    powerzone | seoul | gyunggi-do
    fawn friday kettlebell training | st. paul | mn
    art & strength | baltimore | md
    chicago primal gym | chicago | il
    vault fitness | eden prairie | mn
    rapid results fitness | durham | nc
    reactive training | glasgow | lanarkshire
    efx fitness | manchester | nh
    shore results | atlantic highlands | nj
    nj kettlebells | fairfield | nj
    omaha elite kettlebell | omaha | ne
    kings thai boxing | new york | ny
    crossfit solaria | omaha | ne
    mojo strength | matraville sydney | nsw
    move physical therapy | monroe | ny
    mansfield ymca | mansfield | oh
    catskill kettlebells | delhi | ny
    firebellz | albuquerque | nm
    courthouse south river road club | salem | or
    today’s health and fitness | toowoomba | qld
    misfit gym | burleigh heads | qld
    queen city kettlebell | cincinnati | oh
    empowered strength | bend | or
    willpower strength & conditioning | ardmore | pa
    lone star kettlebell | lubbock | tx
    crucible krav maga | plano | tx
    charleston kettlebell club | charleston | sc
    iron strength kettlebell gym | sugar land | tx
    palextra | lugo | ravenna
    alpha fitness | east greenwich | ri
    24 hour fitness | the woodlands | tx
    moulton kettlebell club | roanoke | tx
    impavidus gym | ashburn | va
    hardstyle kbjj | corpus christi | texas
    primitive strength | amarillo | tx
    box 33 | perth | wa
    fit by red | seattle | wa
    gainz strength training gym | vancouver | wa
    brickwall crossfit south | west jordan | ut
    the lab strength & fitness | spokane | wa
    be better | gig harbor | wa
    kettlebility | seattle | wa
    tnt fitness results | fond du lac | wi
    tysons playground | vienna | va
    heaven hell asd | sarmeola di rubano | italy
    ironkore performance training systems inc | toronto
    fuelhouse | seattle | wa
    hybrid gym | gabcikovo
    tnt performance | brookfield | wi
    bkc gym | bristol

    FALL TSC SCHEDULED FOR OCTOBER 1, 2016——MARK YOUR CALENDAR

    The post Spring 2016 TSC Results appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • Aleks Salkin 10:00 am on April 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Calisthenics for Iron Domination: From Bodyweight to Heavy Weight 

    By Aleks Salkin, SFG II, SFB

    You know what, I get it. No really, I get it. You think of calisthenics as a back-up plan when you don’t have any iron handy, rather than a discipline to be practiced and mastered.

    To be honest, I don’t blame you. YouTube and Facebook are replete with matchstick-legged Eastern European street workout urchins posting party-trick calisthenics moves and blood-and-guts high-rep sets in tragically dub step-laden compilation videos, and if that’s all you see, who can blame you for thinking calisthenics is best suited for teenage hoodlums with a probable criminal record and a propensity for skipping leg day?

    The reality is far more intriguing, and holds the potential for demolishing your previous strength and conditioning personal records in your barbell and kettlebell practice and replacing them with all new levels of iron domination. Interested yet?

    Good, because this article is going to be on how to employ calisthenics into your current training to enhance your kettlebell and/or barbell practice.

    Doug Hepburn Handstand Push-Up

    Doug Hepburn celebrating after a competition with a freestanding handstand push-up. Hepburn is the man credited with popularizing the powerlifts, was first to bench over 500lbs, and is considered by some physical culture historians to be the strongest man of all time

    But First: Why Calisthenics?

    To put it simply, calisthenics—when stripped down to its most fundamental elements—is the ability to control and master your body in free space. The better you can do that, the easier it is to control external objects in free space as well as defy gravity.

    In fact, this is the first thing we learn to do as we’re developing. We don’t build our strength by bench pressing our Legos. We do it by learning to make gravity bend to the will of our bodies by first learning to lift and control our heads, roll around on the ground, rock back and forth, crawl on all fours, and eventually walk upright. These humble beginnings—known as the developmental sequence—set the stage for all the rest of your strength and athleticism, and it starts with defying gravity. When you can make gravity bend to your will, you can make iron do the same.

    Marvin Eder Training Calisthenics

    Marvin Eder redefining the “bodyweight” dip.

    You need only take a look at any of the old school iron legends and you’ll notice one big thing in common: in addition to hoisting preposterous poundages, they always had incredible calisthenics feats to their name.

    • “Marvelous” Marvin Eder could reportedly do a mind-bending eight one-arm chin-ups per arm, and John Grimek was said to do six or seven per arm. Moreover, both Eder and proto-powerlifter Pat Casey performed incredibly heavy dips on a regular basis (Eder could do a dip with two 200lb men clinging to his legs), with Casey even occasionally going so far as to do eight-hour dipping sessions (you read that right). Pat Casey was the first man to bench press 600lbs and Marvin Eder was the first man under 200lbs to bench 500. Wonder why.
    • British berserker, pro-wrestler, and all-around tough guy Bert Assirati was an iron nut famous for squatting 800lbs before squatting had even become fashionable and curls were still socially acceptable (so long as you didn’t do them in a squat rack). He could easily bust out such next-level calisthenics feats as multiple one-arm chins per arm, stand-to-stand bridges, one-arm handstands, and even the coveted and rarely seen iron cross–all at a not-so-svelte 240lbs.
    • The Father of Modern Bodybuilding (and the guy who still appears on Mr. Universe trophies) Eugen Sandow was said to be able to do one-finger chin-ups on any finger of either hand (including his thumb).
    • Weightlifter and world record holder Paul “The Wonder of Nature” Anderson routinely performed handstand push-ups and one-legged squats. He also once outran an Olympic gold medalist in sprinting in a twenty-yard dash, which is not bad for anyone, let alone a 350+lb slab of beef.
    • Fred Hatfield—more affectionately known as “Dr. Squat”—was the first man to squat 1,000lbs in competition. He started off his athletic career as a gymnast.

    So now are you convinced that calisthenics is good for more than just over-produced YouTube videos from behind the former Iron Curtain? Good. Now it’s time to get to work.

    Bert Assirati training calisthenics

    Bert Assirati performs a one-arm handstand.

    How to Incorporate Calisthenics Into Your Strength Training

    Due to the incomparable versatility of bodyweight training, you have multiple choices:

    1. Drop your iron completely, spend one to three months doing bodyweight training only, and then re-test yourself on your favorite lifts to see how you fare. An extreme approach—and one that can work wonders—but not necessary.
    2. Save calisthenics for your variety day. A great option that will fit into just about any three-day strength program and allow you to get in some high-quality, low-rep work without feeling rushed.
    3. Pair a few low-rep sets of calisthenics with an iron drill of your choice.
    4. A mix of all of the above options.

    Just for fun, we’ll go with option four. Why? It will allow you to spread out a number of high-yield calisthenics exercises throughout your program and get the benefits not only of regular low-rep, high tension strength practice, but will do so without overwhelming you. What’s more, you’ll also fill in a lot of gaps in your strength and begin to acquire a variety of skills you’re less likely to get in your regular iron practice. Filling in these cracks will propel you forward in all of your athletic and iron goals.

    Let’s say your regular practice is three days a week of the following:

    • Double kettlebell clean + press
    • Double kettlebell front squat
    • Swing

    Here’s how we’re going to spice it up, fill in the gaps, and crush weakness even faster using a deadly blend of both iron and your own fair flesh. The following are my recommendations on how to maximize your training with a complementary assortment of classic calisthenics moves.

    Main Days

    Double kettlebell military press: 3-5×5
    + 2-3 sets of 3-5 handstand push-ups

    Double kettlebell front squat: 3-5×5
    + a set of 1-2 hanging leg raises between sets

    Weighted pull-ups: 3-5×5 (these weren’t in your original program, so I did you a favor and added them in—you’re welcome).

    Single kettlebell swing: 5-10×10
    + 2-3 sets of 2-5 reps of any easy pistol progression before you start swinging

    Variety Days

    Front lever progression: 5 sets of 5 second holds

    L-sit progression: 5 sets of 5 second holds

    One-arm one-leg push-up progression: 3×3

    Back bridge progression: 3 sets of whatever your current flexibility levels will permit

    You might have noticed this is anything but a beginner’s program. This will demand a lot of work from you, and as such will also demand a lot of recovery. I suggest starting your sessions off with some Original Strength resets to get the lifting juices flowing, and to do a cool down of more Original Strength or some of Pavel’s “fast and loose” drills along with Master SFG Jon Engum’s Flexible Steel drills to stretch what you’ve so powerfully tightened.

    So what are the benefits of each choice and each pairing?

    • Handstand push-ups: These allow you to work on your overhead pressing groove and get in more volume—crucial for overhead pressing success—with less overall fatigue, since simply doing more military presses will serve mostly to trash your legs and abs, which handstand push-ups will not. Moreover, your forearm flexors will get some repose since they’ll no longer be crushing handles during your presses.
    • Hanging leg raises: To quote Pavel, “I have never known a single person who regularly practiced hanging leg raises and failed to develop a hard and useful set of abs. Ever.” If that’s not good enough for you (for shame!), hanging leg raises will also help connect your grip, your core, and even your lats into your front squatting efforts. Unless you’re one of those non-squatting chicken leg-types I mentioned earlier in the article, I shouldn’t have to explain why that will be useful for your squats.
    • Weighted pull-ups: One of the best back builders around. Your grip and core will sit up and take notice, too.
    • Pistols: Pistols are great for building what Pavel refers to as “steering strength,” while also teaching you how to root through your feet and engage your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and abs together at once. My friend Corey Howard of Sioux Falls, South Dakota—a former powerlifter—told me a few years ago he did only pistols for his lower body strength work. When he came back to swings, his heaviest bells suddenly floated with incredible ease.
    • Front lever and L-sit progressions: Both of these are fundamental—and indispensable—straight-arm scapular strength moves. Straight arm scapular strength is the final frontier of upper body strength development. Overlooked and under-appreciated by the average strength enthusiast, these are a power tool against weakness in all its forms, and are the greatest way I know of to speed toward ever-increasing strength in all of your favorite feats—including kettlebell and barbell feats. Ignore them to your own detriment. The amount you’ll be doing won’t impress any gymnast (but then again, not much will) but it will set you on the right track, and a little dab will do ya.
    • One-arm one-leg push-up: See my blog on this topic so I don’t have to repeat myself here.
    • Bridge: We all spend too much time in forward flexion, and most bodyweight feats will only add to that. These will reverse that trend.

    So there you have it. A demystified approach to combining iron and bodyweight training to get brutishly strong, defy gravity, and overturn all of your old records, replacing them with newer, more impressive ones. You already have all the tools you need: your iron of choice, your bodyweight, gravity, and time.

    Now all you need to add is work. Give it two to three months and let me know how it worked for you. Get after it!

    Aleks Salkin StrongFirstAleks Salkin is an SFG Level II and an Original Strength Instructor. He grew up scrawny, un-athletic, weak, and goofy until he was exposed in his early twenties to kettlebells and the teachings and methodology of Pavel. Aleks is currently based out of Jerusalem, Israel and spends his time teaching clients both in-person and online, as well as spreading the word of StrongFirst and calisthenics. He regularly writes about strength and health both on his website and as a guest author on other websites. Find him online at Aleks Salkin and on his Facebook.

    The post Calisthenics for Iron Domination: From Bodyweight to Heavy Weight appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • Greg Woods 9:00 am on April 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    If You Want to Get Better, You Must Think Better 

    By Greg Woods, SFG I

    You are worrying too much. Especially about what I think of you as a person. I can tell because you keep starting the movement we’re working on and then immediately looking over at me before even finishing the lift. And when you mess up, you shake your head before I can even comment.

    I don’t care about how you’re dressed, so long as it doesn’t impede your movement. I don’t care how much money you make or what your politics are. It doesn’t matter whether you’re entirely new to exercise or if you’re “elite” (self-declared or for serious). You came here for coaching, so I will coach you to the best of my ability. I will put in lots of time and effort to support you. In exchange for this, I ask one thing:

    Stop shaking your head.

    There is nothing that bothers me as a coach quite as much as an athlete who so enthusiastically embraces defeat that they shake their head “no” in the middle of a lift or workout.

    To get better, you must think better

    Training Is Not About Impressing Others

    I was chubby and not particularly athletic as a kid. But like most kids, I did dabble in various sports. Most of the coaches I had were pretty similar in general attitude, and many of them have blurred into this all-encompassing singular “Coach” character in my mind. Whistle, ill-fitting hat, polo tucked into too-short shorts over pasty legs.

    With few exceptions, Coach made me feel rather unwelcome. I felt like a failure most of the time, like I was perpetually letting down the team. And most importantly, letting down Coach. It always felt like I should be apologizing, even when I was on the sidelines. “Sorry I’m not good enough to be first string where I could be of some use.”

    When I started lifting, I shook my head a lot. Because I still felt beholden to the people around me. I wasn’t doing any of this for me—I was doing it for them. This is also known as: doing something for the wrong reasons. I was trying to impress my coach and my teammates. And like marrying for money, exercising merely to impress others is one of the surefire ways to not get what you want.

    Even the Best Coach Can’t Think for You

    A good coach will never make an athlete feel like they need to apologize for sincerely trying and not succeeding. A good coach will dig deep to find any possible angle to reach his or her athlete. That doesn’t mean lavishing the athlete with false praise. It doesn’t mean being insincere. It doesn’t mean being a cheerleader for the sake of it.

    It does mean being patient. A good coach will be near-relentless at educating you. A good coach can spot obstacles to your progress far in advance of them occurring. A good coach will influence you do things that help you be better despite yourself.

    To get better, you must think betterOften, the biggest obstacle is yourself. It’s that head shake you do when a lift went poorly. It’s when you step up to the bar to attempt a personal record and mutter, “Well, this isn’t going to happen.” It’s when you look at the day’s workout and say, “This is going to suck.”

    The best coaches in the world still can’t steer your attitude for you. They can’t value you, for you. Just like any movement or lift you’ll encounter in the gym, getting yourself into a proper head space more strongly and consistently starts with practice.

    Every day. Every workout. Every rep.

    And you know what the first step toward a better mental practice is? Stop shaking your head.

    If You Want to Get Better, You Must Think Better

    When you miss a personal record, when your get-up is flawed, or whatever it is—learn from it. Don’t smirk at it. You’re not letting me down so long as you’re learning. The only person you can possibly let down is yourself, and only then by beating yourself up about the learning process. If you’re trying, you’re succeeding.

    My athletes know they aren’t supposed to indulge in negative self-talk in my classes. Because it’s a big deal. It affects your neurology. Your brain doesn’t just control your body. Your thoughts affect your output and potential. (For more on the StrongFirst approach to positive thinking, check out the book Psych.)

    I’ve never understood why it is most people roll their eyes at the positive thinkers we encounter, but are generally supportive of everyone talking down to themselves. Rather twisted, isn’t it? When we see someone reciting self-affirmations, we almost immediately label them as naive or at least kind of silly.

    But the Stuart Smalleys of the world are onto something. Eliminating negative self-talk reduces stress. Your self-directed words and actions quite literally lead your brain and body to behave according to those boundaries you are setting for yourself.

    So, if you walk up to a heavy barbell and say, “This isn’t going to go so well”—guess what? It’s not going to go so well.

    To get better, you must think betterBottom line: what we think and say about ourselves is who we are. It’s happening every moment of your day. It doesn’t even have to be a complete thought to have a negative impact—just a frown can do it. At StrongFirst, you hear a lot of talk about greasing the groove with good movement, but when you indulge in constant negative thinking you’re also greasing the groove, in entirely the wrong way.

    It goes back to the most important reminder I constantly throw out to my clients: what are you practicing? If you’re practicing feeling and lifting like a piece of garbage, then sure—shake your head all you want. But if you’re trying to get better, then you need to think better.

    Until Your Head Is Straight, Nothing Else Will Be

    Even without the research, this is logic. Brain controls body, and if your brain is full of self-hating nonsense, your body will respond accordingly.

    I’m not asking you to be a bubbly cheerleader for yourself. I’m not even asking you to stop being negative on the whole, in every area of your life. Not yet. For now, I’m simplifying things even further. Because we all have to start somewhere. Clean up your head first. Until that’s on straight, nothing else will be.

    Greg Woods SFGGreg Woods is a strength and movement-focused personal trainer and endurance coach. He believes all humans should be knowledgeable about and train in as many modalities as they can, as evidenced by his many and varied certifications including: SFG, MovNat, Z-Health, CrossFit (with specialty courses in endurance and gymnastics), USAW, and NASM. His special interests include mobilization for heavy lifters, corrective exercise, neurological training, run form, and convincing people they can do more than they thought possible.

    After 2000+ hours coaching CrossFit, Greg has been broadening his horizons with ever more kettlebell training, gymnastics, and natural movement – specifically focusing on these principles in his own personal training company started in 2015: Structure Strength and Conditioning. In his spare time, Greg Woods writes fiction and loves to travel. He is based in Durham, NC.

    The post If You Want to Get Better, You Must Think Better appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
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