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  • Nikki Shlosser 4:00 pm on October 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    How Heavy Should I Go in a Turkish Get-up? 

    By Delaine Ross, Senior SFG

     

     

    Should Your Get-Ups Be Light or Heavy?

    Here’s the thing.  We TEACH get-ups very light.  That’s because students are moving around for the very first time with a weight overhead.  And so of course, there is a danger of dropping a very-heavy weight onto your very-vulnerable face.  But once a student owns the movement and learns to use his body as one unit — the way it is meant to work — a much heavier bell can (and should) be used.  The get-up is not just a light warmup mobility exercise (although there are definite benefits there) — it should also be a serious strength exercise, once the student owns the movement with confidence.
     

    Where Did We Get Confused?

    “Naked” get-ups, shoe get-ups, very light get-ups are all great teaching tools as well as good practice and mobility work.  I think that when the awesome book and DVD set, Kalos Thenos came out people lost interest in heavy get-ups almost completely, replacing them with the light get-ups with neck/shoulder rotations and the high hip bridge — much like when people gave up heavy snatching altogether when Viking Warrior Conditioning came out.
     

     

    I am not saying the Kalos Thenos get-up is bad — on the contrary, I think it is a great drill for both newbies and advanced lifters as well as an instructor tool to screen movement problems, asymmetries, spot tight hip flexors, and the list goes on… But when a whole type of get-up is abandoned, a crucial part of the picture is missing.
     

    The Expectation

    Kalos Thenos get-up yang is the heavy get-up.  The SFG is first and foremost a “School of Strength” and we should get moving with some heavy weights overhead.  As Master SFG Brett Jones said one weekend as we were getting ready for the Level II cert, you should have the ability to own different kinds of get-ups.  You should be able to high hip bridge AND low sweep — as well as many other kinds of get-ups.  It’s all about body control and strength.

     

     

    Note on Differences

    The heavy get-up will look a little different.  You will probably have to sit more into your hip to under the weight for more leverage when coming up into the kneeling position.  Your breathing will be more of a power breathing style.  The high hip bridge is probably out of the question if you are maxing out.  A max-weight get-up looks very different from the Kalos Thenos get-up — and that’s ok…
     

    Get To Heavy

    So how do you work on getting up with a heavier weight?  You do some drills to make sure you know how to use your body as a single unit.

    Kneeling and half-kneeling press drills take out some “cheating” and force you to lock into place.  You may feel your abs working extra hard on the opposite side (the body is set up like an “X” but that is a whole different story… let Tim Andersen tell it here.)  After you do these drills, try something heavy.  In the 4 classes I observed today at my gym, we set 11 PRs after doing various half kneeling press drills… some of those PRs were newbies (who are expected to move up relatively quickly) but some of those students had been with us for YEARS!  One student who has been coming for 3 years did her first TGU with a 16kg — and made it look easy!
     

    Bottom Line

    The Kalos Thenos get-up is a fantastic way to perform the exercise, but it’s not the only way to train get-ups.  Just like you can use Master SFG Dan John’s Easy Strength program to pattern movements with lighter weights in order to train for a personal record, you can increase your mobility and stability with the Kalos Thenos get-up in order to get-up with some substantial weight above head, and it will help increase your other lifts as well.
     

    Homework

    If you are trying to press a certain weight, get-up with that weight or even one bell heavier.  Getting used to moving around with that weight overhead and using your whole body to connect to support it will get you your gains faster.

     

    Delaine Ross got her Russian Kettlebell Certification (RKC) in September 2006, where she won the form and technique challenge. Soon after, she moved back to Atlanta and opened Condition Kettlebell Gym in the Fall of 2007.

    Delaine got her RKC Level 2 certification in June of 2008 and in March 2010 was promoted to RKC Team Leader by Chief Instructor Pavel Tsatsouline.  When Pavel created StrongFirst, she accepted a Senior Instructor position in the new organization.  She is excited to continue to use her experience and expertise to spread kettlebell training and its benefits teaching both newbies and instructor level courses.

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 3:59 pm on October 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Strength Aerobics 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman

     

    Alexey Senart, SFG Team Leader

    “Conditioning” is a very vague term—and it is for the better, given the scientists’ lack of understanding of endurance, its different facets, and the variables affecting it.

    Fighters and other hard living types love killing themselves in the glycolytic pathway.  Because burn is painful and plain sucks.  But this is far from the only way to “condition”.  Enter the alactacid pathway plus aerobic recovery.  (Learn the basic science in the StrongFirst Roadwork blog.)

    “Enjoy” the “strength aerobics” circuit by Alexey Senart, SFG Team Leader.  Take a kettlebell you can comfortably press ten times or so and do:

      • 1 left hand clean
      • 1 left hand military press
      • 1 left hand front squat (change stance if needed before squatting)
      • Park the bell
      • Shake off the tension with “fast and loose” drills
      • Repeat on the right.

    Easy so far, right?

    Shake off the tension with “fast and loose” drills, and keep going.  Select a pace you can sustain for a long time (a metronome might be helpful), and carry on.  For 10, 20, even 30min…

    Alexey has found this to be a perfect “field” workout for those who frequently have to travel, be on military deployment or on vacation with one bell in the trunk.  You will maintain most of your strength while greatly enhancing your work capacity.  I suggest alternating the above with S&S day to day.

    And if you are not traveling, have access to heavy kettlebells, and prioritize strength in your training, use the above workout as the light day for your presses and squats.

     

     

    If you prefer “conditioning” with bodyweight, try the following workout Steve Maxwell and I designed for our students at a bodyweight course we were teaching almost a decade ago:

      • One-arm pushup, left x 1 rep
      • One-arm pushup, right x 1 rep
      • Pullup with the palms facing and the fists touching each other, emphasizing the left x 1 rep
      • Pullup with the palms facing and the fists touching each other, emphasizing the right x 1 rep
      • Pistol, left x 1 rep
      • Pistol, right x 1 rep

    I go, you go—the 1:1 work rest ratio.  Shake off the tension while your training partner is working.  Ladder the works for 2 and then 3 reps—and start over.  Three rounds of (1, 2, 3) will get your attention.

    We selected the strongest students in attendance—Yoana Teran (today SFG Team Leader) and Sarah Cheatham (formerly a Senior instructor in my old organization)—and put them through the paces.  Although stronger than most men and exceptionally conditioned with kettlebells, the ladies had to sweat to get through the circuit.  Even without the “burn” that traditionally accompanies “conditioning” circuits.

    Android work capacity to you!

     

    You can’t alternate with S&S unless you own S&S.
    GET IT HERE

     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:45 pm on October 9, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    How to Make Your Snatch Test Easier 

    By Aleks Salkin, SFG II, SFB

     

     

    Wailing.  Gnashing of teeth.  Rending of clothing and sitting in sack cloth and ashes.

    Nothing about the SFG certification weekend, it seems, causes as much internal drama, strife, worry, fear, and nervousness (not to mention all 5 stages of grief) as the oft-maligned and inexplicably feared snatch test.

    Well, knock it off.  And for goodness sake, pull yourself together.  It’s only 5 minutes, and your cert weekend is nearly 24 hours in total.  You can do this — and make it easier on yourself.  I’ll show you how.
     

    Betsy Collie, Senior SFG, snatching with ease

    Master SFG David Whitley said something to me at the SFG II in Italy recently that probably serves as the ultimate summary of what this article strives to be: “I’m all about making hard stuff easier.”  And why not?  When hard stuff is easier, are you not stronger?  Is that not the point of this cert — indeed, this whole system?

    Tempting as it may seem to simply snatch a whole lot, there are a lot better and less-exhausting options to go from chump to champ in your snatching.  You will have to snatch, yes, but it doesn’t have to become a part-time job.  In fact, it shouldn’t.  If you are preparing for the SFG weekend you have a lot more important stuff to focus on.

    This program is one that can fit into your current training without interrupting or bogging it down unnecessarily.
     

    Before we get into the program itself, let’s first go over the preliminaries.

    1) You must be able to lock your hand out overhead safely.  This means elbow locked and bicep near the ear while standing at attention.   “Chicken-necking” is forbidden, as it’s dangerous and will do nothing to help your performance.  Also, because chicken makes you weak.

    Proper lockout — bicep by the ear, shoulder packed, and everything stacked one on top of the other.

    Chicken-necking, plus unpacked shoulder and bent elbow. Not. Even. Once.

    2) You should be familiar with the SFG Big Six as a whole — swings, get ups, clean, military press, and front squat in addition to the snatch.  All of these moves build one upon the other, so the better and more familiar you are with them as a whole, the better off you’ll be in preparing for your snatch test.  They all bring something helpful to the table, from building monster hip drive with the swing, learning to tame the arc with the clean, building powerful, never-say-die legs with the front squat, and getting familiar and confident with overhead strength and stability in the Turkish Get Up and military press, all of the Big Six play a big role.  Don’t neglect them.

     
    Once you’ve got these in place, you’re ready to go into the specifics.  It’s mercifully simple, just not especially easy.
     

    1. Get stronger

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this one first.  It really is that simple — the stronger you are in your snatches, the easier it all becomes.  Think about it: Ladies, what is 16kg if you can snatch 20kg or 24kg per arm for several reps?  And gentlemen, what is 24kg if you can snatch 32 or even 40kg on either arm?  24kg is child’s play.  Even very fatigued you’ll have little issue putting it up over your head repeatedly.  All too often I meet or talk with an SFG candidate who rhapsodizes about how often he or she snatches with his or her snatch test weight or less and how “killer” it is or some such silliness, but when I bring up the suggestion “Why not try snatching with a weight a size or two above your snatch weight?” Well, you know the routine.  Wailing, gnashing of teeth, frenzied crying to the heavens, and other assorted histrionics.  Be not afraid of snatching heavier for fewer reps.  Remember:  It’s ALWAYS easier to do less if you can already do more.
     

    2. Make sure your technique is dialed-in 

    The quickest way I know of to do this (if you’re already snatching) is pretty basic.

    a) Keep your eyes forward. NOT down.  A lot of people like to look down for some reason.  Stop it.  Stop it right now.

    b) Make sure the kettlebell travels down the midline of your body, not off to the side.  When you’re snatching lighter it doesn’t matter as much, but the moment it gets heavy, this will become much harder — and not productively so.  When you’re in the hinge-to-hip-pop segment of your snatch, imagine there’s a line between your groin and your chest.  Make the kettlebell travel through that line.  By the time it’s in its final stage (the “float”) it’ll go to its proper place above your head, and far, far easier, too.

    Left: standard one-arm swing. Right: swing aimed a bit closer to midline.
    An almost imperceptible difference visually, but physically noticeable. Try this next time you snatch and you’ll find the kettlebell floats significantly easier.

    c) Keep your face relaxed and impassive.  Too many people get these grimaces and stressed-out looks on themselves from the outset, and it sets the mood (a bad one) for the rest of the set.  This is just a personal observation and not critical for your snatching per se, but from my experience, it’s made my snatching easier and smoother.

     

    3. Double breathing

    THIS is the cue that, in my correct opinion, will do more for your snatch work capacity than anything else, and I owe David Whitley big-time for it.  Back in 2012 I was assisting Master SFG Jon Engum for the flexibility portion of the first-ever Flexible Steel workshop, and David Whitley taught on day one about how to make various kettlebell lifts easier and stronger, much of it by mastering and improving on the basics (imagine that).  When it came to snatches, he introduced double breathing and my mind essentially blew right out of every side of my head right then and there.
     
     

     
    “The snatch takes twice as much time as the swing, right?  So why not breathe twice as much?”

    I’m paraphrasing, but the sentiment was the same, and the impact was deep and immediate.  This might be the only thing that rivals simply snatching heavier in making your snatch test a piece of cake.  It’s that important.

    How do you do it?  Simple: on the backswing you sniff in.  On the hip pop, you breathe out.  Old hat.  Now, as the kettlebell is making its final ascent into the lockout, you simply sniff in and breathe out again, but faster.  The beauty behind the effectiveness of this technique is that it allows you to catch your breath a little bit and maintain the hardstyle nature of the snatch so it doesn’t degenerate into sloppy breathing or unintentional anatomical breathing as you get fatigued.  As Master Whitley has said “The suck levels are the same, but you can manage it better.”

    Just how effective is this technique?  With this technique alone I went from being able to do 20 snatches in a row per arm with a 24kg bell — with a several-minute break between arms — to being able to do 30 per arm before setting it down.  3 times the work capacity because of one technique.  Yes, it’s that good.  This video will show you the rhythm and cadence needed to make it work properly.  Take some time to get the technique on this down, but be warned: once you breathe twice in the snatch, you’ll never go back. click to tweet


     

    4. Programming

    In the spirit of StrongFirst, the program is mercifully simple and relatively open-ended.  Looking back at Pavel’s landmark work Enter The Kettlebell, you’ll notice that he has you snatching only one day of the week — your light day.  The other days you’re expected to swing.

    If you’re training for your SFG cert (or re-cert) and not just general strength training, you may want to train 4 or even 5 days a week.  Whichever you choose, you’ll still only have to snatch once a week. Here is how you will program your snatches.

    Find the heaviest kettlebell that will allow for what Master SFG Fabio Zonin calls the “technical rep max”, i.e. the rep max you can achieve while maintaining picture-perfect technique.  A weight that will net you 5-7 reps is what you should be shooting for.  This will be your working weight for the next few weeks.  You will be using a template that I picked up off of my coach, mentor, and friend Scott Stevens, SFG II.

    2 minutes: snatch on the minute
    1 minute: rest
    2 minutes: snatch on the minute

    It’s very easy to fill in that extra minute when the time comes, and it takes the mental pressure off a bit throughout the program.

    With your 5-7 technical rep max bell, you will do your on-the-minute snatches thusly on your snatch day.  You will snatch on both hands before setting it down according to the 2 on, 1 off, 2 on template.  Be sure to do fast and loose each time you set the bell down.

    Week 1: 3/3
    Week 2: 4/4
    Week 3: 5/5
    Week 4: 4/4
    Week 5: 5/5
    Week 6: 6/6
    Week 7: 5/5
    Week 8: 6/6
    Week 9: 7/7
    Week 10: 6/6
    Week 11: 7/7
    Week 12: 8/8
    Week 13: REST

    For me personally, I found that once I could do 7/7 using the above format, I was far beyond ready.  Doing 56 snatches with 32 kg in 5 minutes was more than enough to prep me to bang out the easiest snatch test of my life.  No stress, and no sweat (literally).  Within minutes the only place that was still feeling it was my pumped-up forearms.

    For your other days, swing.  Heavy and often.  Again, I would not use any kettlebell under your snatch test weight.  Between 10-20 reps is good for single bell work, and 5-10 is good for doubles.  These swing days may look like this:

    Monday: Double swing (snatch test weight or one size above): 5 on the minute for 10 minutes
    Tuesday: One-arm swing (a size or two above snatch test weight): 10 on the minute for 20 minutes
    Wednesday: off
    Thursday: Double swing (snatch test weight or one size above): 5 on the minute for 15 minutes
    Friday: Snatch day
    Saturday/Sunday: off

    As the weeks go by, you’ll strive to put a few more reps on in each session until you’re doing 20 per minute with 1 bell and 10 per minute with two.  Then go up a bell size and start over.

    Naturally, you’ll still be practicing your pullups/flexed arm hangs, cleans, presses, squats, and Get Ups according to whatever program you’re following as well as any necessary correctives/restorative exercise, which means the above program should fit into anything else that you’re doing.

    There you have it.  A simple and — dare I say it — borderline EASY way of taking your snatching from chump to champ.  Give it a shot, let me know what you think, and once you’ve done it, drop me a line.  I’d love to hear about it.

     

    Aleks Salkin is a Level 2 StrongFirst-certified kettlebell instructor (SFG II), StrongFirst-certified bodyweight Instructor (SFB), and an Original Strength Certified Coach. He grew up scrawny, unathletic, weak, and goofy until he was exposed to kettlebells and the teachings and methodology of Pavel in his early 20s. He 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 http://www.alekssalkin.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/alekssalkintraining
     
     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:45 pm on October 9, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    How to Make Your Snatch Test Easier 

    By Aleks Salkin, SFG II, SFB

     

     

    Wailing.  Gnashing of teeth.  Rending of clothing and sitting in sack cloth and ashes.

    Nothing about the SFG certification weekend, it seems, causes as much internal drama, strife, worry, fear, and nervousness (not to mention all 5 stages of grief) as the oft-maligned and inexplicably feared snatch test.

    Well, knock it off.  And for goodness sake, pull yourself together.  It’s only 5 minutes, and your cert weekend is nearly 24 hours in total.  You can do this — and make it easier on yourself.  I’ll show you how.
     

    Betsy Collie, Senior SFG, snatching with ease

    Master SFG David Whitley said something to me at the SFG II in Italy recently that probably serves as the ultimate summary of what this article strives to be: “I’m all about making hard stuff easier.”  And why not?  When hard stuff is easier, are you not stronger?  Is that not the point of this cert — indeed, this whole system?

    Tempting as it may seem to simply snatch a whole lot, there are a lot better and less-exhausting options to go from chump to champ in your snatching.  You will have to snatch, yes, but it doesn’t have to become a part-time job.  In fact, it shouldn’t.  If you are preparing for the SFG weekend you have a lot more important stuff to focus on.

    This program is one that can fit into your current training without interrupting or bogging it down unnecessarily.
     

    Before we get into the program itself, let’s first go over the preliminaries.

    1) You must be able to lock your hand out overhead safely.  This means elbow locked and bicep near the ear while standing at attention.   “Chicken-necking” is forbidden, as it’s dangerous and will do nothing to help your performance.  Also, because chicken makes you weak.

    Proper lockout — bicep by the ear, shoulder packed, and everything stacked one on top of the other.

    Chicken-necking, plus unpacked shoulder and bent elbow. Not. Even. Once.

    2) You should be familiar with the SFG Big Six as a whole — swings, get ups, clean, military press, and front squat in addition to the snatch.  All of these moves build one upon the other, so the better and more familiar you are with them as a whole, the better off you’ll be in preparing for your snatch test.  They all bring something helpful to the table, from building monster hip drive with the swing, learning to tame the arc with the clean, building powerful, never-say-die legs with the front squat, and getting familiar and confident with overhead strength and stability in the Turkish Get Up and military press, all of the Big Six play a big role.  Don’t neglect them.

     
    Once you’ve got these in place, you’re ready to go into the specifics.  It’s mercifully simple, just not especially easy.
     

    1. Get stronger

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this one first.  It really is that simple — the stronger you are in your snatches, the easier it all becomes.  Think about it: Ladies, what is 16kg if you can snatch 20kg or 24kg per arm for several reps?  And gentlemen, what is 24kg if you can snatch 32 or even 40kg on either arm?  24kg is child’s play.  Even very fatigued you’ll have little issue putting it up over your head repeatedly.  All too often I meet or talk with an SFG candidate who rhapsodizes about how often he or she snatches with his or her snatch test weight or less and how “killer” it is or some such silliness, but when I bring up the suggestion “Why not try snatching with a weight a size or two above your snatch weight?” Well, you know the routine.  Wailing, gnashing of teeth, frenzied crying to the heavens, and other assorted histrionics.  Be not afraid of snatching heavier for fewer reps.  Remember:  It’s ALWAYS easier to do less if you can already do more.
     

    2. Make sure your technique is dialed-in 

    The quickest way I know of to do this (if you’re already snatching) is pretty basic.

    a) Keep your eyes forward. NOT down.  A lot of people like to look down for some reason.  Stop it.  Stop it right now.

    b) Make sure the kettlebell travels down the midline of your body, not off to the side.  When you’re snatching lighter it doesn’t matter as much, but the moment it gets heavy, this will become much harder — and not productively so.  When you’re in the hinge-to-hip-pop segment of your snatch, imagine there’s a line between your groin and your chest.  Make the kettlebell travel through that line.  By the time it’s in its final stage (the “float”) it’ll go to its proper place above your head, and far, far easier, too.

    Left: standard one-arm swing. Right: swing aimed a bit closer to midline.
    An almost imperceptible difference visually, but physically noticeable. Try this next time you snatch and you’ll find the kettlebell floats significantly easier.

    c) Keep your face relaxed and impassive.  Too many people get these grimaces and stressed-out looks on themselves from the outset, and it sets the mood (a bad one) for the rest of the set.  This is just a personal observation and not critical for your snatching per se, but from my experience, it’s made my snatching easier and smoother.

     

    3. Double breathing

    THIS is the cue that, in my correct opinion, will do more for your snatch work capacity than anything else, and I owe David Whitley big-time for it.  Back in 2012 I was assisting Master SFG Jon Engum for the flexibility portion of the first-ever Flexible Steel workshop, and David Whitley taught on day one about how to make various kettlebell lifts easier and stronger, much of it by mastering and improving on the basics (imagine that).  When it came to snatches, he introduced double breathing and my mind essentially blew right out of every side of my head right then and there.
     
     

     
    “The snatch takes twice as much time as the swing, right?  So why not breathe twice as much?”

    I’m paraphrasing, but the sentiment was the same, and the impact was deep and immediate.  This might be the only thing that rivals simply snatching heavier in making your snatch test a piece of cake.  It’s that important.

    How do you do it?  Simple: on the backswing you sniff in.  On the hip pop, you breathe out.  Old hat.  Now, as the kettlebell is making its final ascent into the lockout, you simply sniff in and breathe out again, but faster.  The beauty behind the effectiveness of this technique is that it allows you to catch your breath a little bit and maintain the hardstyle nature of the snatch so it doesn’t degenerate into sloppy breathing or unintentional anatomical breathing as you get fatigued.  As Master Whitley has said “The suck levels are the same, but you can manage it better.”

    Just how effective is this technique?  With this technique alone I went from being able to do 20 snatches in a row per arm with a 24kg bell — with a several-minute break between arms — to being able to do 30 per arm before setting it down.  3 times the work capacity because of one technique.  Yes, it’s that good.  This video will show you the rhythm and cadence needed to make it work properly.  Take some time to get the technique on this down, but be warned: once you breathe twice in the snatch, you’ll never go back. click to tweet


     

    4. Programming

    In the spirit of StrongFirst, the program is mercifully simple and relatively open-ended.  Looking back at Pavel’s landmark work Enter The Kettlebell, you’ll notice that he has you snatching only one day of the week — your light day.  The other days you’re expected to swing.

    If you’re training for your SFG cert (or re-cert) and not just general strength training, you may want to train 4 or even 5 days a week.  Whichever you choose, you’ll still only have to snatch once a week. Here is how you will program your snatches.

    Find the heaviest kettlebell that will allow for what Master SFG Fabio Zonin calls the “technical rep max”, i.e. the rep max you can achieve while maintaining picture-perfect technique.  A weight that will net you 5-7 reps is what you should be shooting for.  This will be your working weight for the next few weeks.  You will be using a template that I picked up off of my coach, mentor, and friend Scott Stevens, SFG II.

    2 minutes: snatch on the minute
    1 minute: rest
    2 minutes: snatch on the minute

    It’s very easy to fill in that extra minute when the time comes, and it takes the mental pressure off a bit throughout the program.

    With your 5-7 technical rep max bell, you will do your on-the-minute snatches thusly on your snatch day.  You will snatch on both hands before setting it down according to the 2 on, 1 off, 2 on template.  Be sure to do fast and loose each time you set the bell down.

    Week 1: 3/3
    Week 2: 4/4
    Week 3: 5/5
    Week 4: 4/4
    Week 5: 5/5
    Week 6: 6/6
    Week 7: 5/5
    Week 8: 6/6
    Week 9: 7/7
    Week 10: 6/6
    Week 11: 7/7
    Week 12: 8/8
    Week 13: REST

    For me personally, I found that once I could do 7/7 using the above format, I was far beyond ready.  Doing 56 snatches with 32 kg in 5 minutes was more than enough to prep me to bang out the easiest snatch test of my life.  No stress, and no sweat (literally).  Within minutes the only place that was still feeling it was my pumped-up forearms.

    For your other days, swing.  Heavy and often.  Again, I would not use any kettlebell under your snatch test weight.  Between 10-20 reps is good for single bell work, and 5-10 is good for doubles.  These swing days may look like this:

    Monday: Double swing (snatch test weight or one size above): 5 on the minute for 10 minutes
    Tuesday: One-arm swing (a size or two above snatch test weight): 10 on the minute for 20 minutes
    Wednesday: off
    Thursday: Double swing (snatch test weight or one size above): 5 on the minute for 15 minutes
    Friday: Snatch day
    Saturday/Sunday: off

    As the weeks go by, you’ll strive to put a few more reps on in each session until you’re doing 20 per minute with 1 bell and 10 per minute with two.  Then go up a bell size and start over.

    Naturally, you’ll still be practicing your pullups/flexed arm hangs, cleans, presses, squats, and Get Ups according to whatever program you’re following as well as any necessary correctives/restorative exercise, which means the above program should fit into anything else that you’re doing.

    There you have it.  A simple and — dare I say it — borderline EASY way of taking your snatching from chump to champ.  Give it a shot, let me know what you think, and once you’ve done it, drop me a line.  I’d love to hear about it.

     

    Aleks Salkin is a Level 2 StrongFirst-certified kettlebell instructor (SFG II), StrongFirst-certified bodyweight Instructor (SFB), and an Original Strength Certified Coach. He grew up scrawny, unathletic, weak, and goofy until he was exposed to kettlebells and the teachings and methodology of Pavel in his early 20s. He 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 http://www.alekssalkin.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/alekssalkintraining
     
     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:20 pm on October 7, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Bodyweight Strength for Ultra-Endurance Sports 

    By Nathan M., SFB

     

     

    I was introduced to StrongFirst through my employer 5.11 Tactical.  I will admit I was a bit stoked the night I was seated next to Pavel for dinner at the first meeting, as it offered the chance at casual conversation.  I remembered Pavel from all the magazine coverage over the years advertising his strength programs for the military and athletes, and with having had personal paths in both realms, I relished the opportunity to chat.

    The first things that struck me was how genuine, considerate and down to earth Pavel is, which is incredibly important for teachers/instructors of any discipline (shooting, running, etc.).  He inquired about my current training goals and showed a real interest in helping me by dinner’s end, although that was not why he was there.  We also discussed some political issues around at the time and I immediately realized how staunchly patriotic this “Crazy Russian” is about America (bonus points to a potential long-lasting friendship).  Pavel and I parted ways that night with the invitation to reconnect in the near future at one of StrongFirst’s upcoming courses.

    In regards to “my training,” I have had a mixed bag of experiences at different levels from being an Olympic hopeful for Tae Kwon Do in 1992 (the year it was temporarily cancelled from the program, unfortunately) to Marine Corps PT, heavy lifting programs, combative programs, and most recently as of May 2012, ultra-marathon running… in a weighted military-style plate carrier.   Yes, I just said that.  I have now completed two ultras (one 62 miles and the other 100 miles) running with an additional 23lbs. of weight.  I have also done a 108lb. ruck march in 20 hours covering 32.5 miles within the past year as well.  I do these to support veteran charities through the Never Quit Mission www.neverquitmission.org

    In the world of ultra-marathon training, you can ask 10 people how to train for one and you will get 10 different answers; and when you throw in the running with weight variable, there are no answers, but only questions, like “why?”  I know this because I have been very fortunate through one of my colleagues to connect with some of the world’s most experienced ultra-runners who have run in the Badwater 135, one of the toughest events around.

    In talking with the veteran Badwater runners early on, not one of them really ever mentioned “strength training,” which I found ironic for a race that required you to keep on your legs for 135 miles…with hills!  I am sure some form of resistance training has played a role in each of their running careers, but it didn’t come through in discussion.  I knew that I would have to explore this area more, but was afraid of the strength training I knew, because I didn’t want to increase muscle size and impact my running negatively. (I am one of those guys who gains lean muscle mass pretty easily.  I know, woe is me, right? Now that half of you hate me already we can continue on…)

    The rock solid date to attend a StrongFirst cert came about 6 weeks before I was to participate in an event called “Carry the Load” (where I did the 108lb. ruck).  It was StrongFirst’s SFB Bodyweight Instructor Certification.  I really didn’t know what to expect of the certification, but having shifted a lot of my training over the years to more bodyweight exercises due to a lack of accessibility to traditional gym equipment, I was glad for the opportunity to learn, and also to get some real training time with Pavel.

    The morning I arrived at the host gym in Tucson, Pavel was all smiles, as I noticed he was throughout the day with everyone… and patient, and was very accommodating in introducing me to some of his instructors and students, which made me feel very welcomed.

    Over the course of the next two days I saw feats of “real strength” from male and female, both young and, well… older.  I’m 39, so I tread lightly here.  From one-handed pushups, strict pull-ups, flags, one-legged squats, handstand pushups, and sometimes combinations of the aforementioned, it was just astounding!  The truly amazing thing however was from the people who were not able to do these things the morning of Day 1, but doing them by Day 2.  The secret?  Years of dedication, research, and “taking it to the lab” on StrongFirst’s behalf, to be able to articulate and translate proven principles of strength techniques within two days!

    StrongFirst’s approach to teaching strength principles breaks it down Barney-style to even rocks like myself, and links technique to technique upon a building block system interspersed with practical examples and exercises along the way. You literally “FEEL YOURSELF GETTING STRONGER DURING THE COURSE.”  Mind blowing.

    Two areas of particular interest to me were “Hollowing out,” and “the Dominanta.”  Hollowing out is the engagement of your core muscles and muscles of your glutes and is taught as a foundational part of all techniques.  This really grabbed my attention as it was one of the first times I ever really felt my hips pull underneath me properly, something I had been working on since attending a running form clinic, but just kept missing it. The Dominanta is less tangible however, but can be learned, and is more of a mental exercise in the recruitment of all of your muscles into one primary focus of strength, but once you have it, you have it; but equally if you lose it during a feat of strength, well… good luck.

     

     

    I would say though that one of the most profound lessons I took away from the cert was not necessarily a core part of the curriculum, however it could fall under the “programing” section taught, and reflected true, straight to penetrate, no BS “wisdom” when Pavel said to me in a one-on-one conversation, “Nate, stop making every workout like you are training for selection.” (Military special operations selection.)  Boom!  The hammer had been dropped.  Like most, I was under the impression of 100% maximal effort every workout, and not approaching my workouts in a more pragmatic manner of “percentages of intensity,” allowing for enough mental and physical recovery time while building up to a defined event of maximal exertion. (This is also a good approach in helping to prevent injury.)

    Upon departing the StrongFirst Bodyweight Cert I could not wait to sit down and program out my workouts, incorporating the principles learned (which also extend to weighted strength feats) for the next weeks building up to the Carry the Load event.  During those weeks of training with StrongFirst principles, and in my training today preparing to establish a world record, I have become a believer, because I have seen and felt the effects personally.  Although not everything fits just perfectly into my training regime due to the need for high mileage and just time on my feet for the conditioning aspect to acclimate my body to run 20+ hours, I am constantly reminded of Professor Leonid Matveev’s words, “Strength is the foundation for the development of the rest of physical qualities,” as shared in StrongFirst’s teachings, and their ethos of “Be what you choose to be, but be strong first!”

     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:15 pm on October 2, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Who Doesn’t Need a Better Press? 

    By Dr. B Ramana, SFG

     

     

    If you are around on online forums, social media and fitness blogs, you may have heard this: “Yeah, who doesn’t need a heavier press, huh?”

    Many of you are worried about not being able to press your snatch bell with confidence. How then will you sustain sessions with double bells?

    Listen, there are many, many things one can say and do to help fix your weakness. I will attempt to cover as many as I can before I fall asleep.
     

    Fix Your Restrictions

    In many, if not most, cases the press weakness is secondary to a poor shoulder position/stability that itself may be secondary to:

    a) Tight neck

    b) Tight T-spine

    c) Poor shoulder complex mechanics for any reason, including tight lats and pecs.

    So, you need a good diagnostic assessment*, therapy to fix pain or tightness, and continued strength training. In short, you need a good coach.
     

    Fix Your Press Pattern

    You should be pressing the bell the correct way: forearms vertical, elbows down, wrists neutral and a solid upright plank in place. Most newbies tend to press the bell in a forward plane. This is simply not happening! The bell is pressed up and back, and at the top, you lockout while moving the chest forward. Doing bottoms-up presses and get ups will help you get this. You can also play around with Waiter’s (open palm on bell belly) presses.*
     

     

    Fix Your Weakness

    When you do a full press session, amounting to say 100 reps in 45 minutes with a snatch bell, you will realize where your press is likely weak. Typically, it is:

    *Motor control (you must be able to continue maintaining your press form even as you are getting tired— fatigue management)

    *Weak trunk musculature (? obliques)— you are typically unable to plank strongly as the bell locks out. Pull your kneecaps up harder, son!

    *Weak glutes

    *Weak triceps

    *Poor conditioning

    All these weak areas may be addressed by doing more swings and getups. Simple and Sinister, anybody?

    Ha.
     

    What Else?

    If all the above don’t really apply to you much, and you still need to get stronger at the press, then specific press programs will help you greatly.

    Basic: “to press a lot, you have to press a lot!”

    My basic methodology for someone who doesn’t need much help in pressing mechanics is two-fold:

    • Get them to press more, at least 3 times a week. And cycle the volume, density or intensity.
    • Get them used to a heavier bell, so that the press bell feels easier. This kind of neural overloading for short bursts of time can help you break a weight barrier, of course within limits! For many people, neural drive recruitment will do good things to their lifts.

    Here are some specific techniques using the bell you cannot press OR your regular bell (play around):

    1. Take the bell you cannot press, put it up overhead anyway you can (snatch, push press, jerk press with assistance). Lockout hard. With full tension, bring the bell down an inch. Press it back. Bring it down 2 inches. Lock it out again. 3 inches, 4 inches, and done.

    Change sides. Do this a few times. Don’t attempt to press that same bell now. Let it be for now. Another day, another week or month. Be patient.

    2. Take an insanely heavy bell, clean and squat. That’s just it. Just cleaning and squatting that bell will make you stronger at the base, where it counts.

    3. Take your regular press bell and press while standing on the opposite leg. It teaches your body to get more juice out of the legs.

    4. Put up the heavy bell and teach your body to stabilize with it. There are many ways you can do this:

    *Hold for time

    *Quarter squat and walk 2 steps sideways, back and forward.

    *Practice T-spine extension — drive your chest forward so that the arm is behind the ear. Feel strong.

    *Do a lunge or two.

    *Rotate your body on either side, a few times, breathing all the time.

    *Windmill, but be careful. Better to start with lighter weights if you haven’t already done so. Maybe just touch your bent elbow to the knee, rather than try to get all the way down with a heavy bell.

    5. Do overhead walks for time with a lighter bell and build on it. This builds shoulder endurance (especially for the rotator cuff muscles). Typically, go to a park and walk for 50 to 100 meters. At your cert, I will see you do it at the grad workout, heheh. Get to work!

     

     

    6. Press in half kneeling stance, on the side of your front leg.

    7. Variety: press bottoms-up, two bells in two hands, two bells in one hand, one bell bottoms-up stacked on the other (go very, very light, and don’t get a fractured toe!). However, remember, these are only for your play day, when you don’t have serious training.

    8. Unconventional PL approach: get very strong by doing a powerlifting cycle on the bench, DL, squat and military press. There are hundreds of templates.

    Master SFG Reifkind wrote a highly-regarded article on using the Westside template to get a heavier press.

    9. Bodyweight/isometric approach: Read Aleks Salkin’s post on pressing heavier with handstand work.

    10. Build mass: for some people, simply putting more mass may be the need of the hour. Men, who are in the wrong autumns of their lives, don’t blink if you need to be doing some high volume complex that hits your arms, shoulder and upper back. There are many templates available, including several by Geoff Neupert, SFG II.
     

    What to do when you have a shoulder injury and still want to retain pressing strength?

    1. Get medically cleared. This means you are not looking at surgery, and you just need to wait it out and rehab.
    2. Do specific shoulder rehab, as appropriate.
    3. Use bottoms-up presses. One of my students who had bicipital tendinosis and shoulder pain and stiffness and was unable to get even a single 16 kg press did bottoms-up presses with the 12 kg on an Easy Strength template, and banged out easy 16 kg presses in a month!
    4. Stick to get ups.
    5. Use the landmine press. Use a barbell and stick one end in the corner of the walls, and press in half-kneel and other positions. Great fun for people who are otherwise written off overhead loading.
    6. Use bands for presses.
    7. Get your lower body and trunk get really strong in the meanwhile with the usual stuff (squats, DL, etcetera).
    8. Backward crawl. It really is a great triceps builder.

     

    There’s a lot in there for you to assimilate and implement.

    This was, by no means, the be-all-and-end-all press article. It just encapsulates my thoughts and strategies for the most part, much of it learned from the SFG Masters and Pavel.

    As always, focus on technique, and stay tight!

     

    *Some people are not best suited to an overhead press. 

    **Note that the press groove in a barbell military press and a bench press are different from a kettlebell military press. 

     

     

    Dr. B. Ramana, variously known as Ram or Rambodoc, is a senior laparoscopic and bariatric surgeon. He is India’s first SFG instructor (soon to be SFL as well) and teaches at India’s only Hardstyle strength gym ‘Soul Of Strength’ in Kolkata. He works with a wide range of students including bent, 80 year old people and young studettes who can Get Up with bells ordinary men cannot even lift. He strongly believes in the power of strength training as a rehab tool.

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:20 pm on September 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    “Dry, Fighting Weight” 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman and Geoff Neupert, SFG II

     

    A student of Geoff’s, Stacy Clemson, SFG II

    At StrongFirst we never focused on fat loss — and got it anyway as a side effect of our strength and power focused training.  We used to call it “the what the hell effect” until Geoff Neupert, SFG II and the author of excellent book Kettlebell Strong, came across a study by Izumiya et al. (2008).  From the study’s title: “Fast… fiber growth reduces fat mass and improves metabolic parameters…” 

    Neupert, an accomplished Olympic lifter himself, pointed out how lean weightlifters are—all without the dishonor of aerobics.  Indeed, the Soviet national team had a standard of 6-7% body fat for everyone but heavyweights—and David Rigert, one of the greatest weightlifters of all time, had 4% body fat at a bodyweight of 200-220.  He called it “dry, fighting weight”.

     

    “Dry, fighting weight” of David Rigert

     

    What is extraordinary about the Japanese study is ”… a reduction in accumulated white adipose tissue and improvements in metabolic parameters independent of physical activity or changes in the level of food intake.” (the emphasis is mine—P.T.)

    Neupert, who would become our resident fat loss expert, has commented, “So you don’t have to rely on things like EPOC, otherwise known as “the Afterburn Effect”, and you don’t have to rely on getting your heart rate up to burn off calories.  And without changing your diet—or going on a diet!  How cool is this?!”

    (Of course, eating clean will get you ripped faster.  Here is Rigert’s typical breakfast: two raw eggs, two steaks with no side dishes, 200g (almost half a pound) of sour cream, a cup of coffee, and mineral water.)

    More great news: you do not have to wait until you have built as much muscle as a Russian weightlifter.  The researchers concluded that, ”The results from the current study indicate that modest increases in type 2B skeletal muscle mass can have a profound systemic effect on whole-body metabolism and adipose tissue.” (the emphasis is mine—P.T.)

    So how do we hammer our fast fibers?—There are only three ways.  Heavy, explosive, or a combination of both.

    All of the training plans by StrongFirst’s most experienced instructors fall into the above categories.  Geoff has kindly agreed to publish one of his.

     

    A Simple Strength Program

    By Geoff Neupert, CSCS, SFG II

     

    One of the best ways to increase overall body strength is to spend some time with the Clean + Press and the Front Squat.  You can either use a single kettlebell or a pair of kettlebells.  My preference is always a pair of kettlebells for the intermediate kettlebell user because of the greater systemic strength effect.  That means there is more demand placed on the body to get stronger, so it does.

    Here’s how the program is laid out:

    A1. Clean + Press

    A2. Front Squat

    • Use your 5RM on the Press.
    • Set a timer for 30 minutes.
    • You will alternate between sets of A1 and A2: Perform a set of C+P’s, then rest.  Then perform a set of FSQ’s, then rest.  Then repeat until time expires.
    • Perform as many sets as possible while remaining as fresh as possible.
    • Refuse to “grind”—keep your rep speed the same.  If it slows down, rest more between sets.

    Week 1:

    Day 1: Ladders. 1, 2, 3

    Day 2: Sets of 1

    Day 3: Sets of 2

    Week 2:

    Day 1: Ladders. 1, 2, 3

    Day 2: Sets of 1

    Day 3: Sets of 3

    Week 3:

    Day 1: Ladders. 1, 2, 3, 4

    Day 2: Sets of 2

    Day 3: Sets of 3

    Week 4:

    Day 1: Ladders. 1, 2, 3, 4, (5)

    Day 2: Sets of 2

    Day 3: Alternate between sets of 3 and 4 if possible.

    Week 5:

    Day 1: Perform 3×3.

    Day 2: Perform a new RM with the same kettlebell(s) you used for the previous 4 weeks. Or you may go up to a heavier kettlebell(s) and perform a new RM.

    Some Notes:

    • You may be tempted to rush between reps and turn this into some kind of MetCon.  Don’t. Remember to stay fresh.
    • A simple method to “stay fresh” is to use “Fast & Loose” drills between sets.
    • Week 4, Day 3, you’ll see “Alternate between sets of 3 and 4 if possible.”  Use wisdom here.  If you can’t alternate, don’t force it.  Drop back down to 3 reps.
    • Week 5, Day 1, you’ll see “Ladders. 1, 2, 3, 4, (5).”  That means if you feel like you can do a set, or sets of 5, then do so.  If you don’t think you can, then don’t.
    • You may be wondering how many sets you should do per workout.  I don’t know.  I prefer to use “autoregulation,” meaning, we all have different training backgrounds and work capacities. What is easy for one may be hard for another, so all I do is specify the reps for you.
    • What should you do on your “off” days?  Not much.  Restoration work primarily.  Easy stretching, mobility work, yoga, or my favorite, Original Strength.  Just keep it light and easy. And certainly no MetCon.

    Enjoy!

     

    May you reach your “dry, fighting weight” without the dishonor of dieting and aerobics!

     

    # # #

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 4:27 pm on September 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Find Your Balance, Then Pull Heavy 

    By Derek Miller, SFG II

     

     

    So, I want to deadlift. I want a strong deadlift. I want a really strong deadlift.

    Oh, you too? I don’t need to inform you of the benefits of adding barbell work into your programming. Whether it’s the front squat, deadlift, bench press, military press or other great staples in a barbell diet, you’re probably aware of their effect on your overall strength development. I would explain, but that’s not what this article is about. I want to give some suggestions on how to stay healthy while gaining strength in your barbell lifts. I’ll start by reminding you of the inherent “corrective” aspect of the single kettlebell lifts. From here forward, I will simply refer to this “corrective” aspect as balance or balancing.

    Single kettlebell exercises will make you strong. They will also make you durable. They do this by balancing the left and right sides of the body in strength, mobility and coordination, to say the least. If you believe what Gray Cook tells us with his Functional Movement Screen (I do), then you understand that balanced strength and mobility makes us more resilient to injuries. It is easy to forget this awesome benefit of the kettlebell when we get eager to set a PR in one of the barbell lifts.

    As barbells start to take up more and more of your strength practice, you may realize that they don’t always promote balance left to right. Let us hope this realization doesn’t come from actualization of an injury. A barbell lends itself to heavier poundage and thus more strength gains. It may not, though, give your core everything it needs to stay healthy. I’ve suggested a few exercises that can act as accessories to your powerlifts. Accessory exercises help build muscle, stop strength leaks and add training volume without undesired stress to the nervous system.

    The particular exercises I’ve suggested promote balance among the left and right sides of the body. Cook also tells us that the core should be trained in a symmetrical, split and single-leg stance. Think deadlift, lunge, and single-leg deadlift.

    A few days after learning this, I decided to test myself. My findings were alarming! I could barely perform a single-leg deadlift(hip hinge) on my right leg. This was with ZERO weight. A wooden dowel told me the truth about my deadlift. At the time, I was pulling 2.5xBW. I was asking for an injury.

    After a few weeks and a lot of tedious work, I balanced my hip hinge right to left in both strength and movement quality. I dodged that bullet. Subsequently, my competition deadlift became easier. My MAX went up in the following weeks; thus, breaking a plateau.

    The more balanced you are, the more resilient you become. The more resilient you become, the more you can train. The more you can train, the stronger you grow.

    After re-reading some of Pavel’s literature and studying the FMS more deeply, I experimented with several different exercises. Here is what I have found to help myself and my students stay healthier and grow stronger:

    Suitcase DL
    Single-Leg DL (1&2 KBs)
    Barbell and KB racked lunges
    TGU
    Farmer’s and Bottoms-Up carries (both 1KB)
    Single KB bench press

    These exercises give you a chance to assess your tension techniques one side at a time. They allow you to find strength leaks more easily. They promote balance of your strength, mobility, stability, and coordination. They make you stronger.

    Now, don’t get carried away and try to set a record for the heaviest Suitcase DL or replace all your squats with lunges. After all, these exercises and other variety exercises are simply grease for the bigger machine. Treat them as dessert or appetizer, but NOT as your main meal. How you program them is up to you, and I would be creative. I make it a point to always warm up for a heavy deadlift session with a couple sets of Single-Leg deadlift. Perhaps, use the KB bench as one of your bench training days. What I have recently done is to group a few of the exercises together and call it a session.

    Yet another option, you may choose to finish your practice with one of these lifts. If you’re a sumo lifter, try finishing your session with barbell lunges for a few sets. Your glutes will thank you after they stop hating you. If you’re a more intuitive student, you can practice them freely until you feel balanced and maintain from there. I’ve included sample program ideas from times past. I’ve included the weights for my balancing exercises simply to give an example of how easy these exercises can be.

    A week from my book:

    #1)

    2KB S.L.D.L – 3x3reps each leg – 20kg to 32kg – Under 20% of DL MAX
    Sumo DL – 5X5
    Weighted Chins – 3×5
    Barbell Lunge – 3×8 each leg – 95 to 135lbs – Under 25% of Squat MAX
    Single KB swings or snatches – 80-120 reps total
    Farmer’s Carry – 100yards each arm – 40kg

    #2)

    Bench – 3,3,3,5,5,5
    Bent Row – 3 to 5 x 5reps
    TGU – Weight ladder – 1 rep each to top weight
    B.U. Carry – 50 yards total each hand – 24 to 32kg depending on feel

    #3)

    Back Squat – 5,3,2 – 5,5,5
    Suitcase DL – 5×2 each – 135 to 205lbs – Under 30% of DL MAX

    #4)

    Barbell Push Press – 3 to 5 x 3reps
    KB bench press – 5 x 8-10
    Weighted Pull-ups – 3 x 5
    Plank Variations

     

    A week from a student’s book:

    #1)

    S.L.D.L – 3×5 – Light to medium weights
    Deadlift – work up to top set of 3-5
    Weighted Pull-ups – 5×5

    #2)

    Top of the minute for 5-8 rounds:
    Bench – 5@50-75%
    Barbell Front Squat – 3@ 40-75%
    Snatch – 6 each arm
    TGU Situp – 2 each – 20-36kg
    BU Carry – 20yds each hand

    #3)

    Deadlift – work up to 75% of top set from #1 session
    Suitcase DL – 3×3 – Light to medium weights
    Plank Variations

    #4)

    Top of minute for 5-8 rounds:
    KB bench – 5 each
    2KB Racked Lunge – 5 each leg
    2H Swing – 10
    Farmer’s Carry – 20yds each hand
    Toe Thrust – 30sec

    I think where balancing exercises get a bad name is when they are used as a lift and not an exercise. In other words, when you major in minors you don’t get very strong. The approach I use is to concentrate on these exercises when needed. Then, when you have achieved balance, maintain them as warm-ups, back-offs or on a variety day. If you are unfamiliar with these exercises, Gray Cook, Brett Jones, Pavel and Dan John have all written about them. Read some literature, dial in your technique, and be STRONG!

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:03 pm on September 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Maximizing Your StrongFirst Kettlebell Certification in Year 1 

    By Russ Moon, SFG

     

     

    Congratulations!  You have separated yourself from the pack and joined the Alpha-Predator of the Strength and Development field.  Your preparation, hard work, fighting spirit and willingness to set aside your ego and accept coaching brought you across the finish line.  I would like to share 5 suggestions on how to retain the massive momentum you have built for yourself.  These suggestions are based on trying, failing, learning and overcoming.
     

     

    1. Your Practice — Take what you have learned, revisit the fundamentals with a narrow focus and attention to detail to dig deeper until you can take apart and assemble the Swing and TGU with your eyes closed.  Grip, stance, posture, tension, breathing — go back and learn something in each area that you did not know and implement it into your practice.   You will be safer as you move towards developing more strength. Do not make the mistake of thinking “this is boring”, “I already know this”, “I am not comfortable doing this over and over”.  It is not about your comfort, it is about getting stronger. When the strength gains start rolling in I promise you it will become much more interesting.  A mere 5% technique gain in 4 fundamental components on one movement is going to add up to a huge gain downstream, guaranteed.

    Every time I revisit these 2 movements (Swing/TGU) and go deeper I become stronger and a better teacher.

    — Which swing? All of them, they are listed in the SFG Manual. Each one has a unique lesson to teach.
     


     

    2. SFG Instructor Manual – A goldmine of bulletproof information that will make you stronger, carry it with you, teach from it.  You will be forced to learn the fundamentals more deeply while delivering results to your students that will keep them coming back.  The programming and specialized workouts for each exercise alone are priceless. Try each of those specialized workouts and see how they affect you.  I will purposely glance at it once or twice when I am teaching.  If the students even see the Manual or see me glance at it for even 5 seconds their intensity level automatically goes up.  It will make your students more willing to submit to your coaching. They pick up on the fact that you are teaching material which is an amalgamation of the world elite brought right to them by you, their trusted StrongFirst teacher. You have your own Hammer of Thor, use it.
     

     

    3. Ask Questions and Act upon the Response — No one expects you to know it all and be perfect, you are expected to continuously move forward in your practice.  You don’t have to understand the coaching for it to work for you.  After you put the time in your understanding will grow.  Make sure you circle back to your mentor and let them know 1. You followed their instructions. 2. What your improvement was.  It is good manners to say thank you.

    Stay in contact with your team, your Assistant Instructors and Team Leader.  The lone wolf does not survive; you belong to the strongest pack in the world.  Leverage that to your advantage.

     

     
     

    4. Read the StrongFirst Blog — the content is fantastic; you will be fed fundamentally sound advice that will turbocharge your progress. You will stay narrowly focused on the techniques, topics and knowledge that really matter.

     

    5. Patience — skill practice takes time and repetition, while it may feel “slow” you will actually improve quickly. Why? You are focusing your attention on the 20% that delivers the 80% of the results.

     

     

    If you actually implement 1 of these 5 points you are going to develop faster.  If you choose to work as smart as you work hard and implement all 5… “Power to You!”
     
     

    How has the SFG impacted you and your life?
     
    Tell us. Tell everyone. #STRONGFIRST
     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:21 pm on September 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Chinese Food For Rapid Pressing Gains 

    By Daniel Hanscom, SFG

     

    Granville Mayers, SFG II

    As the saying goes…

    “To press a lot you must press a lot”.
     

    The Problem

    It takes a lot of reps to build up to a respectable press. The challenge is that pressing is strong medicine and it can be pretty easy to fatigue your system. When that happens, instead of making daily gains, you can actually move in the opposite direction — and that simply will not do.

    The question is, therefore:
     
    How can I put in the high reps required to develop strength (aka: skill) in the press without overloading the nervous system?
     
    The answer… American-style Chinese food.

     
    Just hear me out.

    Have you ever noticed how hard it is to feel full when eating American-style Chinese food? You can keep eating, seemingly forever, and still have room for more. Eventually, though, it catches up to you, and you’re done. …For the moment.

    But just wait 20 minutes and you’re ready to eat again.
     

    The Solution

    What if we could use the same principle to increase our press volume? Taking forever to get “full” and then, after a little break, being ready to start up again. Using Rung-A-Day programming, you can.
     
    This approach helped me to raise my double military press using 70% of my bodyweight from a 2 rep max (RM) to a 5 RM in 10 days. Without breaking a sweat or burning out, I had 198 reps in a 10 day period shattering a long-standing plateau in record time. We accomplish this by combining two tools from Pavel’s arsenal… Grease The Groove (GTG) and ladders.

    Unless you are new to Pavel’s work, you will be familiar with GTG (and if this is indeed new to you then do yourself a favor and read The Naked Warrior). GTG is an amazing approach for getting a lot of work in while avoiding fatigue. I won’t go into the subtleties in this article, but let’s just review the key points:
     

    Grease the Groove

    1) Lift heavy. I have found that my 1-3 RM was a great fit. Just remember… perfect form only!
    2) Lift often. Pepper your lifting throughout the day, every day. No days off here, comrade…
    3) Stay fresh. Manage fatigue. Keep reps fast so that you can keep yourself from wearing down.
    4) Never, EVER, EVER fail the lift or set. Failure is the enemy. Don’t flirt with the enemy.

    All of these elements will be in place during Rung-A-Day. Now let’s whip up the secret sauce by combining the principles of GTG with ladders.
     

    Ladders

    Ladders are a rep strategy used to get a lot of reps in. As Pavel discussed in Enter The Kettlebell, they are very effective for getting all of that work done while controlling fatigue. When performing ladders, you work your way from a single rep to your largest set adding a rep with each set. After that ladder is complete, you start again at 1. For example: for a 4 rung ladder I will do a set of 1, rest, set of 2, rest, set of 3, rest, set of 4. This gives me 1,2,3,4 = 10 reps in a pretty easy fashion. Ladders can have any number of reps, or rungs, depending on the goal.
     

    Rung-A-Day

    Rung-A-Day takes a different twist on ladders, though. Rather than working your way up the rungs in the course of a lifting session, you actually designate a number of reps for a particular day. In this way you work your way up from very small sets (singles) to large sets over the course of days. You stay fresh, your body has time to adapt to the increasing load, waviness is built in, and you get plenty of reps in to practice your press (as well as your clean and rack).

    Your body has to get strong… It simply has no choice.

    The plan gives rapid gains for pressing, so I’ve only ever used it as a short-term program for a two-week block or sometimes even less, depending on the goal. I’ve found it to be great to drive aggressive pressing goals, for a deload period or for a break, for both body and mind, from a current training approach.

    Choose bells that are your 1-3 RM but be sure you can press them with perfect technique. Never fail a rep and never fail to complete a set either. Junk reps will count as failure.
     

    How to do it

    Start with a 1-rung ladder. Practice often throughout the day doing one or more single reps anytime you are well-recovered. Keep all of the GTG principles in place.

    Once you can do 10 sets of your current “top rung” (or largest set) in a given day, you can add a rung to your ladder and start again with sets of 1 the next day. If you are not able to complete the 10 sets with your top rung on the assigned day, you repeat the current sized ladder moving up through the rungs one day at a time until you get another shot at getting your 10 and moving up.
     

    For example

    Mon: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1 = 12 (More than 10 reps on top rung so add a rung for a total of 2) Tues: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1 = 18
    Wed: 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2 = 16 (8 sets. Fewer than 10 sets means stay on the 2 rung ladder)
    Thurs: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1 = 21
    Fri: 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2 = 26 (More than 10 sets so add a rung for a total of 3)
    Sat: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1 = 16
    Sun: 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2 = 34
    Mon: 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3 = 30 (10 sets so add a rung for a total of 4)
     

    Keep repeating ladders and adding rungs until you build to 10 sets of 5. At this point, you are well prepared to bump up to the next kettlebell size and the wheels keep on turning. Keep in mind we are staying fresh through GTG principles. You are not trying to max out every day. Listen to your body, and if you need to back off for a while DO IT. Maximize reps while minimizing fatigue.

    I have found this plan very useful for rapidly putting in a lot of reps, dialing-in technique and improving skill with the press. Initial testing is also showing good response with squats and with chin-ups as well, but that is a discussion for another time. In the meantime, if you are looking for rapid gains in the pressing department, just remember… American-style Chinese food.

     

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    Daniel Hanscom (SFG) lives with his wife, Tara, in Grand Falls, New Brunswick, Canada. He holds a Doctorate in Natural Medicine specializing in acupuncture. Daniel performs acupuncture by day in their clinic and also teaches kettlebell technique with Tara in their training facility, HBI Kettlebell Club. He is a self-professed nerd, number cruncher and research addict who is happiest when analyzing and calculating data trends for the improvement of strength and health. Daniel can be reached at daniel@hbikettlebellclub.com.

     
     
     

     
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