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  • 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.

     

    page2image26752

     

     
    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.

     
     
     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:43 pm on September 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    The Swing Sandwich 

     

    For years, kettlebell instructor Missy Beaver has been placing a set of swings between sets of everything else.  She has had great success with her students who range from professional athletes and fighters to celebrities.  All have seen impressive improvements in performance and body composition.

     

    Missy Beaver

     

    Or consider Master SFG Dan John’s hit workout that calls for alternating very low rep sets of “grinds” and high, up to 50, rep sets of light swings.  Among its many benefits is training one’s ability to quickly recover from many brief alactacid efforts aerobically—a very valuable asset for fighters and team sports athletes.

     

    This “Swing Sandwich” has also built a reputation for rapidly improving one’s body composition.  It builds the muscles targeted by the exercises done between swings and burns fat at the same time.  The hypertrophy seems to be the result of a hormone spike promoted by the swings.  Some Russian sports scientists such as Prof. Victor Selouyanov advocate sandwiching sets of full body exercises like squats between sets of upper body muscle building exercises to benefit from this spike.  Kettlebell swings appear to have the same effect.

     

    If strength is important to you, do not train this way exclusively.  There is no way of avoiding multiple heavy low rep sets with plenty of rest between them.  Keep up this type of pure strength work once or twice a week and add “swing sandwiches” on two or three more days.

     

    On your heavy days press a 75-85% 1RM bell for many sets of 1-5 reps and a plenty of rest.  Total 25-75 reps per arm.  Ladders are strongly recommended.  In other words, it is the heavy day from the Rite of Passage from Enter the Kettlebell!

     

    On your swing sandwich days press a lighter, 60-70% 1RM, kettlebell for sets of 4-6 reps, totaling 25-50 reps per arm.  Keep the rest periods down to a minimum.   It is up to you to select the swing loading parameters: one- versus two-arm, weight, reps, rest periods.

     

    Some options for your weekly military press and swing schedule:

     

     

     

    1

    2

    3

    Monday

    Sw. Sand.

    Heavy MP

    Heavy MP

    Tuesday

    Sw. Sand.

    Sw. Sand.

    Wednesday

    Heavy MP, Sw.

    Thursday

    Sw. Sand.

    Medium MP

    Friday

    Sw. Sand.

    Sw. Sand.

    Saturday

    Sw. Sand.

    Sunday

     

    Option #1 is the least effective—but most efficient.  Note that on Wednesday you have a swing session following the presses.  As an option, feel free to add an additional swing workout on Saturday.

     

    Option #2 adds an extra swing sandwich day for those prioritizing muscle building.  You may swing after your presses on Monday.

     

    Option #3 is the preferred one for most experienced gireviks.  On the medium press day do what you did on the heavy day but reduce the volume by not climbing your ladders as high—the ROP medium day.  Feel free to add an additional swing workout on Saturday and perhaps another one on Wednesday.

     

    Enjoy your sandwich!

     

    Hinano Cafe, Venice Beach

     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:18 pm on September 11, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    How to Build up to 100 Consecutive Pistols 

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

    The one-legged squat or “pistol” demands coordination, strength, and flexibility and has many positive effects. Every one of the muscles and joints of the legs is involved, and so are the lower back and muscles stabilizers throughout the body.

    Later in the article I will show real pistol fanatics who already can do 20 consecutive reps per leg how to build up to 100. But first, a beginner progression for those who cannot do a pistol yet.
    Your prerequisites before you start:

    1. Totally healthy hip, knee, foot, and ankle joints and lower back.
    2. The ability to do 100 consecutive deep bodyweight squats.

    Pistol technique

    It is the easiest to practice pistols on hard surface wearing weightlifting shoes; harder barefoot, especially in the sand.

    Start standing on one straight leg, the other leg above the ground in front of you, straight or slightly bent. Your foot should be about an inch off the floor. Your body is straight and your arms are down.

    Smoothly lower yourself into a full one-legged squat until your hamstring touches your calf. The foot of the working leg should be solidly planted. The torso is leaning forward. Stretch your arms forward to maintain balance. Keep your airborne leg straight and make sure it does not touch the ground.

    Stand up using the power of the loaded leg keeping the free leg straight and off the floor. It is absolutely counter-indicated to drop into the squat and rebound using the elastic properties of your muscles and connective tissues rather than your strength! This could lead to serious knee injuries. So control the descent keeping the loaded leg under tension. You may relax it briefly only when you are standing up between reps.

    There are several ways to build up to a pistol:

    Box Pistol

    Start with a box or platform that puts your knee at ninety degrees of flexion when you are sitting on it:

    Progressively reduce the box height:

    Finally do the rocking pistol off the floor:

    Gymnastic Rings or TRX Assisted Pistol

    The longer are the straps, the less you can help yourself with your arms.

    Rubber Band Assisted Pistol

    I consider this the safest method, as the amount of assistance you receive from the band(s) increases as you descend into the squat and reaches its peak on the very bottom. This maximally reduces the risk of injuries.

    The amount of assistance is regulated by the band’s or bands’ strength, length, height of attachment. Holding on with one arm is harder than with two.

    Pulley Assisted Pistol

    The more weight you place on the stack, the more help you get. As with bands, you may use two pulleys (easier) or one (harder).

    Stationary Support Assisted Pistol

    Progress from holding on to a stationary object or objects with both hands to holding with one hand, and then to holding on to a wall.

    The next step is the standard pistol.

    Pistol Training for Limited Flexibility

    Oftentimes a lack of flexibility, especially in the ankle, is the limiting factor in achieving a pistol. An effective corrective exercise is relaxing in the bottom position of a one-legged calf raise, with or without extra weight.

    Until you have built up sufficient ankle flexibility you may practice your pistols with your heel elevated on a board or small barbell plate.

    Inadequate flexibility of the lower back and hamstrings prevents one from holding the free leg straight in front. Various forward bends, with and without weight can be recommended as correctives.

    If you have plenty of strength but are lacking in flexibility, do your one-legged squats standing on a box. Start with a box tall enough to allow your free leg to go straight down without touching the floor. Progressively reduce the box height.

    Weighted Pistol

    The next step is a pistol with added weight. Do not attempt it until you are able to do 20+20 reps in a minute.

    The simplest, and the easiest when it comes to balance, way to load the pistol is by holding a light weight in front of you: two light dumbbells or a kettlebell.

    As the weight gets heavier, bend your arms and hold it closer to your body and lower.

    A kettlebell or a pair of kettlebells may be racked.

    A weighted pistol may be done by itself or in complex with some other exercise(s), e.g. the deck pistol with a front raise:

    A heavier weight is better to hold on your back (a barbell) or on your trapezius (a kettlebell). The down side of this method is it makes it difficult to keep the free leg straight and to prevent it from touching the ground.

    The most challenging, when it comes to flexibility and coordination, type of a pistol is the overhead pistol.

    From 20+20 to 100+100 Pistols

    I went through this program together with three of my students. We started in January
    2013 and finished in May. Note that the pistol was not our main event but just an addition to our kettlebell training.

    We included pistols into our training sessions three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Mondays were “control sessions” made up of one long set that was gradually approaching our goal.

     

    Monday #

    Training Session

    1.     

    (5+5)х10=100

    2.     

    30+30=60

    3.     

    (7+7)х10=140

    4.     

    35+35=70

    5.     

    (10+10)х10=200

    6.     

    40+40=80

    7.     

    (13+13)х8=208

    8.     

    45+45=90

    9.     

    (17+17)х6=204

    10.  

    50+50=100

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rs4h_mrr88I

    11.  

    (20+20)х5=200

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-Di1Rvd_-c

    12.  

    55+55=110

    13.  

    (25+25)х4=200

    14.  

    65+65=130

    15.  

    (34+34)х3=204

    16.  

    75+75=150

    17.  

    100+100

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urVu8AM8fJY

    One of us completed the 17-week plan in 19 weeks, the rest in 20. The delays were explained by injuries, work, family… I must stress that none of us got injured performing pistols.

    Although all of us made the planned Monday sessions on the first attempt, it might happen that you do not. In that case just take a step back and continue. E.g., if you did not make the numbers on session #10, next Monday go back to session #9 and keep going.

    Wednesday and Friday sessions were secondary. Usually we included pistols into a circuit:

    https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=693286794054609&set=vb.100001198838353&type=2&theater

    Note that the technique of a high rep pistol differs from that of a classic pistol. The free leg may be bent and it may move somewhat to the side rather than strictly forward. Breathing deserve special attention. When you are doing 100+100 pistols, you are no longer performing a strength exercise but an endurance one. For instance, my set lasted 13min 50sec. Any cyclical aerobic work creates a demand for a lot of oxygen. Hence breathing must be uninterrupted, smooth, and rhythmical. I recommend the following:

    • Inhale-exhale on descent;
    • Inhale-exhale on ascent;
    • If needed, one or more extra breathing cycles standing between reps.

    I will be glad my “From 20+20 to 100+100” plan helps some people. If you give it a shot, I wish you luck!

     

     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 4:45 pm on September 9, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Strength Has a Greater Purpose 

    By Eric Frohardt, SFG, CEO

     

    From Pavel: 

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored to introduce you to StrongFirst’s new CEO.

    Eric Frohardt is a former US Navy SEAL, a decorated combat veteran with multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I met him years ago at a kettlebell cert I was teaching to his unit.  He has been a strong advocate of our training system ever since, using it to prepare himself physically for combat deployments and outdoor sports.  He has kept his teaching skills sharp as well and last year was an assistant instructor at an SFG cert.

    After retiring from the Navy four years ago Eric built several successful businesses in security consulting and the firearms industry.  With his businesses running smoothly, Eric was ready for another challenge and applied for the StrongFirst CEO position.

    A number of remarkable candidates applied for the job—and I chose Eric.  His character exemplifies “Strength Has a Greater Purpose”.  He has exceptional leadership and mission planning skills, rare intelligence and drive. 

    Power to us!

     

    It was a busy day.  I was out of the house by 0600 and working by 0630.  Things had been crazy lately, and I needed to catch up.  Working through lunch allowed me to clear the deck of old emails and voicemails and move on to more productive work.  At 4:00pm I left Denver for Vail.  My wife was up there with the kids still and would need a ride home the next day.

    On my way up, I realized I hadn’t yet ‘worked out’ that day.  Being opportunistic, I had the idea to find a high altitude rest stop on I-70 and grab a quick ‘PT’ session. Thankfully, I kept a 24kg kettlebell in the vehicle.  Approaching Vail pass, I realized this was my best option.  Vail pass sits at just above 10,600’.  A great place for some kettlebell practice!

    I exited I-70 and drove to the rest stop. With a kettlebell at the ready, the WORLD is my gym!
     

    The view of my ‘gym’ for that particular training session

    As I prepared to ‘practice’, it occurred to me just how cool this was.  I was getting ready to do some kettlebell cleans and presses along with one arm swings at altitude!  I also started to reflect.  What draws me to StrongFirst over other training methods?  What evidence do I have to back up these methods?

    This rest stop was an inspiring place to grab a quick workout.  It’s especially inspiring this time of year as I get prepared for high altitude, back-country bow hunting!  I swing kettlebells to be better at other things…not to be good at swinging kettlebells. “Strength has a greater purpose!”

     

    Here is a view of ‘my gym’ taken from one of last year’s adventures.  High altitude, back-country bow hunting. Kettlebell practice, along with hiking, got me more than well enough prepared.

    What is it that draws me to StrongFirst?  First and foremost, it’s both hard-core and safe.  I’ve never seen anything that is both this intense and this safe at the same time.  There are MANY other ‘hard-core’ training options out there.  I’ve tried most of them…and have the injuries to prove it.  Now, I treat a ‘workout’ like a practice session and leave that practice session feeling stronger and moving better than when I started…usually.

    What evidence do I have that it works?  Well, I used StrongFirst methods to prepare me for multiple deployments, rock and mountain climbing trips and various other ‘adventures.’  Now, I use StrongFirst methods just to get ready for hunting season, ski season, other hobbies and just living life!  Regardless of what you do…or where you are, you gotta be StrongFirst!
     

    Just one of many adventures…in 2008 I used the kettlebell to prepare me for climbing Mt. McKinley / Denali. I was SHOCKED at how well it prepared me.

    Back to the workout…I mean thepractice session.’  I did a few deadlifts, goblet squats and halos just to warm up.  I noticed the ‘warmup’ had me breathing pretty heavily.  Breathing behind the shield, under load, at this altitude was already interesting.  After the warmup I did a few sets of kettlebell clean and presses, my favorite upper body exercise.  Obvious benefits are shoulder and upper body strength.  Hidden benefit is overall core strength.  Try picking something heavy up, putting it overhead and tell me it doesn’t engage your ‘core’ more than half-crunches on a bosu-ball.  It was interesting to be this winded doing clean and presses…until I remembered I was above 10,000 ft.  My watch wasn’t correctly calibrated…but it was close.  No wonder I was slightly winded by clean and presses. Would have done some turkish get-ups, but they are typically not much fun on asphalt parking lots…
     

     

    After my presses were done, I switched to 1 arm swings.  Ever since Simple and Sinister this has become a favorite ballistic exercise of mine.  I planned on doing 10 right / 10 left on the minute, every minute for 8 minutes (using the 24 kg bell).  Last week, I had worked up to 7 minutes before noticing my form was ‘slipping.’  That’s 140 reps.  Hoped to get 160 this week.  I want to hit 200 reps in 10 minutes before switching to the 32.  But, this practice session occurred at 10,000 feet, after a busy work day and while fasting close to 24 hours.  Needless to say, my form started to suffer at the 7th minute.  I decided to call it.  I’d only hit 140 reps.  Oh well, quality over quantity.  Practice…not a workout.

    I’m by no means a physical specimen.  I spent nearly 12 years in the Navy surrounded by people that were, so I know one when I see one.  Many StrongFirst instructors and practitioners can easily surpass these numbers.  The numbers are not the point.

    Later that night, I walked from dinner to my in-laws’ house on the slopes.  Dinner was at a place in Vail above 8,100 feet.  The house I’d be staying at is about a half mile away and a few hundred feet in elevation above.  I noticed that I moved better up the mountain, even after training / practice.  I was glad I didn’t go to failure.  I really did feel better after the practice session than before it.  Just more evidence!

    Fast forward 1 week… I had a very different experience.  I had spent the day cleaning up the yard and garage as well as catching up on other chores at home.  At roughly 3:00 pm I realized I needed to put together another quick ‘practice session’ before dinner or whatever else my wife had planned that evening.  It also just happened to be Pavel’s birthday.  I felt Pavel’s birthday warranted a slightly more difficult workout.  Ignoring Pavel’s advice and what I’d learned on the top of Vail pass (and many other times before), I put together a slightly more difficult ‘practice session.’  After finishing up 100 snatches, 100 1 arm swings and 100 2 arm swings I realized I’d probably gone a little too far.  Later that night, I could barely carry my 2 year old.  My arms were SMOKED and my legs and back just ached.  There are times you can ‘go deep into the well.’  I do enjoy a difficult session as most of you do as well.  But, it’s important to build up to that session and make it the exception…not the norm.  Needless to say, I didn’t leave that particular session feeling stronger than when I started.
     

    Kettlebells standing by to quickly turn ‘my office’ into ‘my gym!’

    There are, of course, many different aspects that draw me to StrongFirst.  I also have plenty more stories of how StrongFirst and the kettlebell prepared me for my numerous adventures…all without gaining weight and without becoming a gym rat.  In the coming months, I’ll be sharing a few of those experiences as well as sharing my vision for StrongFirst here on the blog. Needless to say, the organization is off to a great start.  I’m humbled and honored to be a part of it.

    To Strength for a greater purpose!

     

     

    Eric Frohardt, CEO
    StrongFirst

     

    Eric is a former Navy SEAL.  After being medically retired at the beginning of 2010, he relocated to Denver.  He has been involved in numerous start-ups since then.  With these businesses under control, he decided he wanted another challenge and recently accepted the role as CEO of StrongFirst.

     

     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:20 pm on September 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Tempo Runs + Kettlebell Work = Your Next “Recovery” Day 

    By Jeremy Frisch SFG

     

     

    Each summer as the weather gets hot and the training gets brutal, I find it important for myself and my athletes to get outside the “four walls” of the gym, away from the high-intensity pounding of sprinting, jumping, throwing and heavy lifting. We all know the importance of training hard and heavy, but if my short 10 years of coaching experience have taught me anything:

    If you want to stay healthy and continue to make progress, for every hard day in the gym an easy day outside the gym should follow.

    Now that does not mean that the easy day should consist of sitting poolside drinking margaritas, but the training session should have a different set of goals than strength and power development.

    Typically, those goals for hard-training ladies and gents are low-intensity conditioning, mobility, movement skill practice, and overall recovery.

    Now first let’s make everyone aware that the word “easy” is a relative term here.  I am simply referring to the training session being markedly different from exercises with a higher intensity with the potential to cause significant CNS fatigue.  Things like plyometrics, sprinting, and of course heavy strength training. But I wouldn’t classify these recovery sessions as easy — just a different focus, particularly more a cardiovascular and “movement”-based focus.
     

    Enter the kettlebell

    I love when certain training elements fit together nicely. The kettlebell, because of its versatility, works with just about everything.  You can use heavy kettlebell swings for power development, goblet squats for technique, and kettlebell front squats for hypertrophy. In the case of a recovery/low intensity conditioning training session: a combination of kettlebell work and tempo running.

    Tempo running is basically sprinting at about 75%. It’s not a jog, and not an all-out sprint.  You know, it’s somewhere in-between.  Like a stride where the athlete can coast, stay relaxed, and focus on correct running mechanics.

    Far too many human beings have fallen into the “cardio” trap thinking the long slow distance as the path to physical excellence only to find years later an injured body capable of only moving at one speed.

    One day I decided to experiment with a kettlebell prior to my field running session. By luck, I stumbled upon a simple training session that made a huge difference in how my athletes and I moved. It involved the Turkish Getup, 1 Arm Kettlebell Snatch and tempo runs.

    The simple but effective combination was used twice per week and looked like this:

      • 1 TGU: at the top position perform 5 Kettlebell Snatches then return to the ground.
      • Repeat on the other side.
      • A short rest of fast and loose.
      • Tempo run of 200 yards (down and back the length of a football field). During the Tempo run, the focus should be on tall running posture, relaxed hands and face, and long deliberate strides — focus on sprinting technique.
      • Rest a few minutes
      • Repeat 4-6 rounds

    Following the get-ups and snatches, our athletes reported an immediate smoothness and rhythm to their running strides. Such seemingly-unrelated results are what Pavel and Dan John refer to in Easy Strength as the “what the hell effect”.  Hips felt loose and arms moved effortlessly. I felt that I was running faster and with much less effort, like I was bounding down the field.

    Perhaps most importantly, the training session did not deplete the energy reserves required for the following day’s heavy lifting.  If anything, the circulatory effect of the movements seemed to allow for a faster recovery time.

    My theory is that the TGU makes everything more efficient. It is a highly-coordinated movement consisting of dynamic balance, movement adequacy, synchronization of movement and spacial awareness.  It drives total body mobility using the arms and legs in a coordinated sequence and stability through the trunk and shoulders to hold it all together. In my mind, it’s the ultimate activity to turn everything on and prepare the body to move. Running, therefore — which should be a completely natural movement — gets enhanced dramatically in the process.  For those with less than optimal running form, practicing and perfecting the get-up prior to running and sprinting may provide great benefit.

    The kettlebell snatch is just the icing on the top. The explosive hip snap on each rep more than likely potentiates the musculature of the lower body during the hip extension action of each running stride. The hips are primed and activated.  I believe it may be very similar to Verkhoshansky’s experiment with heavy squats followed by light explosive squat jumps. Also consider the nature of the snatch — which consists of pushing the feet forcefully through the ground, alternating flexion and extension of the legs and hips, as well as the punch-through with the arm overhead: It is a total body movement similar to sprinting.  My experiment next summer will be to do heavy low rep swings and snatches prior to training acceleration and top end speed work on the track. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see positive results.

    Training athletes for sports requires more than “just” strength. Often times the best player on the field is the one who can move the most efficiently. This movement efficiency is a unique blend of strength, mobility and coordination. My job is to find that unique blend and constantly search for new ways to improve it.  And here again, the kettlebell with its incredible versatility proves itself king.
     
     
    1. John, Dan, and Pavel Tsatsouline. Easy Strength: How to Get a Lot Stronger than Your Competition – and Dominate in Your Sport. New York, NY: Dragon Door Publications, 2011. Print.

    2. Francis, Charlie, and Paul Patterson. The Charlie Francis Training System. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: TBLI Publications, 1992. Print.

    3. Kurz, Thomas. Science of Sports Training: How to Plan and Control Training for Peak Performance. Island Pond, VT: Stadion, 2001. Print.

    4. Verkhoshansky, Yuri Vitalievitch., and Mel Cunningham. Siff.Supertraining. Rome, Italy: Verkhoshansky, 2009. Print.
     
     

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

    Five Weeks to a Bigger Deadlift 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Power to your pulls!

     

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

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

    ­

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

    Strong Mind/Strong Body 

    By Mark Reifkind, Master SFG

     

     

    Strength is a choice.

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

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

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

     

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

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

     

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

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

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

    We are always training.

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

     

    Through the body to the mind.

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

     

     

     

     

     

    Mark Reifkind,
    Master SFG Instructor GiryaStrength.com

     

     
     
     
     
     

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

    Flexibility for Kettlebell Training and Kettlebell Sport 

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

     

     

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

     

    Exercise #1: Kettlebell(s) rack carry

     

     

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

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

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

     

    Exercise #2: Kettlebell(s) overhead carry

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

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

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

     

    Exercise #3: Elbow circles

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

     

     

    Exercise #4: Elbow extension

    20-40sec per arm.

     

    Exercise #5: Elbow extension

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

     

     

    Exercise #6: Shoulder circles

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

     

     

    Exercises #7, 8: Reach back

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

     

    Exercise #9: A regression of exercise #8

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

     

     

    Exercise #10: Pushdown

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

     

      

    Exercise #11: Extension with a partner

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

     

     

    Exercise #12: Extension with a partner

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

     

      

    Exercise #13: External shoulder rotation

    20-40sec per arm.

     

     

    Exercise #14: External shoulder rotation

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

     

     

    Exercise #15: Hip extension from seiza

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

     

     

    Exercise #16: Hip flexor and knee extensor stretch

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

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

     

      

    Exercise #17: Lay back     

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

     

     

    Exercise #18: Hip and quad stretch

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

     

     

    Exercise #19: Hip and quad stretch

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

     

     

     

    Exercise #20: Spine extension

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

     

     

    Exercise #21: Thoracic flexion

    Do for 1-5min.

     

     

    Exercise #22: Rhomboid and lower trap stretch

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

     

    Exercise #23: Bridge

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

     

      

    Exercise #24: Hanging bridge

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

     

     

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

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


     

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

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

     

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

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

    by Jason Martin and Jason Marshall, Senior SFG

     

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    (Sections in italics by Jason Marshall)  

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

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

     

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

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

     

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

    Jason Martin – Before

    Jason Martin – After


     

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

     

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

     
     

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

    Forward to the Past 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman

     

     

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

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

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

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

     

     

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

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

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

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

    Onto powerlifting.

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

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


     

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

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

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

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

     

     

     
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