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  • Karen Smith 9:00 am on June 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    One Good Rep: How to Perform the Perfect Pull-up 

    By Karen Smith, Chief SFB, Master SFG

    Pull-ups were a skill that always seemed impossible to me. I honestly felt I would never be able to achieve this “coveted” movement. Like many women, I once believed pull-ups were something only men could do.

    But we at StrongFirst are breaking this myth down and proving to women all over the world that not only can they do pull-ups, but they can get really strong at them. This fact is evident to anyone who has been following the StrongFirst website and our events—this has been the year of the Iron Maiden. We have had more women claim the title this year than in any previous—and we are only six months in.

    Kristina Forest

    Kristina Forest performing a successful weighted tactical pull-up.

    But before we can achieve a heavy weighted rep like that required for the Iron Maiden or Beast Tamer, we need to be able to do one good rep—and that’s what I’m going to teach you today. If you have one perfect pull-up, then you have the ability to train a high volume of quality pull-ups, but more on that toward the end of this article.

    You’ve probably seen many types of pull-ups at your gym or via the social webs, but at StrongFirst, we teach the tactical pull-up. We believe this pull-up is not only the safest for your joints, but also has the best carryover to other strength skills.

    How to Perform the Perfect Pull-up

    Note: The pull-up is performed slowly in this video so you can see a demonstration of proper technique in detail, but you should train your pull-ups at regular speed.

    Instructions:

    • Your bar should be at a height where you can hang from it without your feet touching the floor.
    • Without looking at the bar, grip the bar at about shoulder width with a thumbless overhand grip.
    • Contract your lats and pull your shoulders into your sockets.
    • Pause momentarily in a hollow hang position.
    • Squeeze your legs and feet together.
    • Point your belly button toward your face so you are in a posterior pelvic tilt position.
    • Squeeze your glutes tight.
    • Inhale as you pull yourself above the bar.
    • Keep your gaze forward for the duration of the rep.
    • As the bar is passing your face, drive your elbows down and back to reach chest to bar height.
    • Pause at the top momentarily.
    • Slowly lower in an active negative back down to the hollow hang position.

    Common Mistakes in the Pull-up

    Some of the most common mistakes I see with pull-ups involve eye position, hand position, and loss of tension. Each of these issues will make it more difficult to master the StrongFirst technique. Watch the video for a detailed explanation of these mistakes and how to correct them:

    Training the Pull-up

    To progress in the pull-up, you must spend time on the bar, and for the majority of us that means lots of time on the bar. And we must practice quality over quantity—always.

    As discussed in the previous articles in this series (how to do the perfect push-up and how to do the perfect pistol), the grease the groove (GTG) approach is one of the best ways to train higher volume and make massive strides in your strength gains. We do not believe in training to failure, but rather treating our training as a practice—a practice of frequent high-quality singles.

    The GTG approach allows you to get in a higher volume of quality reps without the fatigue factor by doing “sets” of one good rep throughout your day. Be sure to allow at least fifteen minutes of rest between each rep, and for best results, do your GTG work a minimum of three days per week.

    Once you can maintain form and you gain the strength to get a chest-to-bar tactical thumbless-grip pull-up, then do not feel the need to maintain the purity of bodyweight-only singles. You can advance to quality weighted singles, and by working weighted single reps in a grease-the-groove practice, you will automatically increase the number of pull-ups you can do at just bodyweight. But do not jump too heavy too quickly or you will lose the technique you worked so hard to master.

    Pull-ups Are for Everyone

    For far too long there has been a huge gap in the record board numbers between the Beast Tamers and Iron Maidens, but the women of StrongFirst are making great strides and beginning to close this gap. Ladies and gentlemen, we are determined to break down the pull-up myth once and for all.

    And for you gentlemen out there who may not have a pull-up yet, we are rooting for you, too. If for some reason you think you “can’t do a pull-up,” consider there is another possibility if you set your mind to it.

    Pull-ups—quality tactical pull-ups—are for anyone! You must set your mind on your goal, put blinders on, and stay steadfast in your grease-the-groove training and you might just surprise yourself.

    Lay a foundation for impeccable technique by attending an SFB Course or SFB Certification.

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

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

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

    I Failed the SFG Level II Strength Test 

    By Greg Woods, SFG II

    I failed the SFG Level II strength test. That’s how my Level II Certification weekend started, so I might as well start this article that way, too. For those who are unfamiliar, the Level II strength test is a one-arm press with a half-bodyweight kettlebell. For me, that was the 48kg bell.

    On my first attempt, I barely made it up halfway. The Master Instructor who was running the Level II, told me, “Go get your head right.” I stalked around for a bit, tried again—and failed again.

    SFG Level II Strength Test

    Close only counts in horseshoes.

    I’d come to Level II to pick up the Beast and put it over my head. I came to demonstrate what I’d learned and practiced and get that coveted Level II Certificate. I came to show that I was technically sound and deserving of the title I sought.

    These were the wrong reasons.

    I had succeeded at the press previously, and my training had been on point all the way up until the Certification in Chicago. What was going on? What was I missing?

    It wasn’t my training. It wasn’t even my mindset. I was strong, capable, determined, and confident. Some nerves, maybe, but no more than caused by the excitement of any StrongFirst event.

    What I was missing was a sincere and deeply personal reason—a worthy why. Technical know-how and strength are not enough. Nor is mindset, even. What I was to learn was that I needed to give my training a little space to breathe, and more than likely so do you.

    Experiencing the SFG Level II as a Student

    Over the course of the weekend, I made seven total press attempts. Each one got further than the last. Number seven was as close to lockout as a person can get without actually getting it. I held the bell there for close to thirty seconds, and then failed again. I knew I would succeed on number eight. But then we did a deliciously awful ten-minute clean and jerk workout, and after that there was no gas left in the tank. All other skills and tests went fine, but the press was not to be.

    All weekend, I had been listening intently, trying to find the trick—that “magic bullet”—that would help me get this press. It never came. I was listening too closely. I was caught up in the details of technicality and couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

    At Level I, I was made dizzy by the detail of so many movements. In contrast, at Level II, I kept hearing, “It depends.” Especially in regards to the bent press. Which, although it has become one of my favorite movements to perform, can be a rascal to coach. Obviously I’m not saying that Level II is without technical merit. Instead, I would say it is plenty technical, but with smoother edges.

    I couldn’t reconcile what that meant while I was actually immersed in the Level II Certification weekend. There was something more nuanced about the coaching. Something creative. Our Master Instructor would go on to tell us, “I am so not a science person. If I assert anything scientific, it’s only as a way to express an art form.”

    Indeed, SFG II was all about taking coaching to the next level—rendering it into an art form. And this is a way harder thing than the technical stuff.

    Experiencing the SFG Level I as an Assistant Coach

    A few weeks after my Level II experience, I got my first opportunity to assist at an SFG Level I Certification. This was as amazing, if not more so, than actually attending as a student. There’s simply nothing like being surrounded by so many strong, intelligent, and talented people. It raises you higher just sharing the same space. Not to mention that your fellow coaches and the students are of course looking to you to be better, stronger, sharper than you were the last time.

    SFG Level I

    Guiding candidates through the get-up at the SFG Level I Certification.

    Of my StrongFirst experiences thus far, assisting was by far the most cerebral. Lots of good questions came from the candidates, and all my hard work up to that point paid off in my confidence that I belonged there to answer them. But one thing in particular really stood out: the obsessive level of detail in many of those questions from the candidates.

    Generally speaking, I’m a big fan of detail. But my Level II experience was still nagging me—that there’s something more to all this than technical detail or strength. And it wasn’t until the end of my weekend of assisting that I figured out what it was.

    The students who performed the best on the Level I tests were not necessarily the strongest. Nor were they the most technical. Sure, they had some of both of those things. But the main thing was that they were automatic. They had practiced relentlessly. Mindset didn’t even seem to matter anymore, because it was already a done deal in their heads. There was no question. No chance to worry.

    The most successful students knew why they had come, and it was not to pass the Level I snatch test. It was something more. Something that made the snatch test and skill tests cake for them. This was an added nuance to the positive attitude I’m always preaching. Even if you have a clear endpoint and a positive attitude during your journey, you still need to know where you are starting from and what your core motivation really is. Success begins with a purpose. And a question. “Why am I here?”

    So, Why Are You Here?

    I entered my Level I with no particular expectations. StrongFirst was entirely new to me, and though I practiced hard, I did not know the organization well enough to be deeply invested in it. I knew I wanted to be there, and I knew I wanted to learn. I was prepared and open minded, and so it went well.

    At my Level II, I was mostly prepared. But I was anxious. I was overthinking everything. Checking my phone on breaks and fussing over the weird rubber turf of the venue. Wondering if I was going to look tough in any of the photos they took (not so much). And my unstated but definite goal was to pass that press test.

    It was a poorly chosen goal. I should have come in with something loftier. Specifically, to learn to coach like the masters who were all over the place at this event. I should have slowed down enough to ask why I was there, and made sure the answer I gave myself was the right reason.

    At Level I, they told us we would be practicing and refining the basics for the rest of our career, but the truth of it is that I and many others had approached it looking for the step-by-step instructions that made us worthy of the title “Coach.” We came for our checklists and expected to leave with a certificate. But it doesn’t work like that. Because no amount of technical know-how can substitute for a seasoned coach’s eye. That’s what I was missing at my Level II: I was aiming too low.

    The details of it all—the technicality and the positioning and everything—this stuff is all in your manual. It’s a treasure trove like no other document or book out there. The StrongFirst manuals are as straightforward, clean, and concise as it gets. If you want details, they’re there.

    But you do not attend StrongFirst events primarily to pass the tests. You’re there to build yourself into a better athlete and better coach. Ask all the questions you want, but the answers that will help you in the long term, as both a coach and athlete, are not the testing standards.

    SFG Level II Certification

    That’s me in the bottom left, enjoying the company of strong, intelligent, and talented people.

    Finally…

    In case you missed the byline on this article, I did end up getting the press only three days after I returned from assisting. I hadn’t really pressed much in the weeks since attending my Level II. I hadn’t become significantly stronger. Standing around in a black shirt and long pants in the San Diego sun while assisting at the Level I had not imbued me with super powers.

    All that changed was that I got out of my own way. I felt more confident from coaching at the Level I. And something I had heard at every single StrongFirst event finally clicked. You’re not picking up the kettlebell and running through a checklist. “Shoulders even, eyes fixed, glutes tight…” Even if your attitude is on point, you’re not going to analyze a 48kg bell over your head.

    In my case, that press was not going up if I was inspecting every aspect of my position before starting. It was not going up if I was thinking of passing my SFG Level II or what that certificate would look like on my wall. And it most definitely wasn’t going up if I was trying to look good while doing it.

    It only went up because I stepped up and said, “Time to press this here weight.” The weight never mattered. What mattered was what was on the other side.

    Check our schedule for an SFG Level I or SFG Level II in your area.

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

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

    The post I Failed the SFG Level II Strength Test appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • Lore McSpadden 9:00 am on June 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The Difference a Body Positive Approach Can Make 

    By Lore McSpadden, SFL

    If you are particularly fortunate, you know that being as healthy and strong as possible is extremely important and are ready to do something with this knowledge. On the other hand, you have likely seen some trends on your run-of-the-mill fitness blogs: demolishing excuses, blasting weakness and burning fat, gittin’ ’er done, and being tough—which, all too often, is described as “being a man.”

    These topics are all assumed to be good things, aren’t they?

    It’s true there are people who flourish within such a context. But what if it’s not for you?

    What if you’re fat and don’t want to focus on changing your weight or shape? (“Fat,” incidentally, isn’t a bad word—it’s just a descriptor, and it’s okay to reclaim it.) What if you want to move well, but have no interest in working at ultimate intensity or performing maximal feats of strength? Does this mean you should be denied access to top-notch training? Or that you must resign yourself to working with a coach who makes assumptions about what you can and cannot do based on your size?

    My answer to that is a resounding “no.” And, increasingly, coaches are learning about body positive approaches that make high-quality training available and accessible to more people.

    Taking a body positive approach

    My Own Path to Strength

    It was several years ago when I became ready and willing to change my unhealthy, sedentary ways. I had been a moderately successful high school athlete, but in the years since had fallen away from regular activity. Thankfully, my father had begun training with Dr. Mike Hartle, so when I told him I was thinking about exercising again he advised me to get an FMS screen before I did anything too intense. I am grateful I followed this advice because once I was given the go-ahead, intense is exactly what I went for.

    I joined a CrossFit box, where I pushed myself to the edge in every workout—and was still barely a blip on the whiteboard. I also wasn’t given the same level of detail-oriented attention as the star athletes at that gym, but I figured the solution was to train harder—often to the point of vomiting, almost always to the point of form breakdown. After all, this is what I was told was the “right” way if I was serious about fitness and strength.

    Until Dr. Mike reentered the picture.

    I wound up spending a whole summer back in the state of my birth, Indiana. This gave me the opportunity to have regular sessions with Dr. Mike. I learned more about the StrongFirst methods of training, and began to question my assumptions about exercise. That was the summer I took the SFG User Course and, soon after, the SFL Barbell Instructor Certification. Nothing has been the same since.

    The Lessons That Followed

    I learned that intensity at the bar and kindness to myself are not mutually exclusive.

    I learned the freedom of setting aside aesthetic goals, loving my body, and improving my performance rather than my image.

    I learned that improving performance has as much to do (scratch that—even more to do) with polishing my form as it does with picking up more weight or doing more reps.

    I learned the gentler side of strength.

    Having learned these lessons, I set out to share them. I earned my personal training certification and studied the coaching styles of others to learn what I did and did not want to incorporate into my own style. I am grateful to say I have since built a base of strong clients of different ages, sizes, and interests. They each have their own goals and motivations, but they all take joy in movement. They are all students of strength, not prosecutors of their bodies’ worth. They laugh, sweat, and learn—in a way that is safe and empowering.

    And this is available to all of you.

    Taking a body positive approach

    On Finding a Good Fit (or Making One if You Have To)

    More coaches than ever are recognizing the importance of allowing steady, sustainable progress; prioritizing performance-related goals over aesthetic changes; and recognizing that all people can benefit from getting stronger. This is especially true for those who have received StrongFirst Certifications. StrongFirst coaches provide top-quality instruction to all of our clients in a way that meets them where they’re at while helping them toward their unique goals.

    However, not all coaches are there yet. As a trainee, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to advocate for yourself. It may be that your coach or trainer has never been called to task on some of their assumptions—or it may be this person is not a good fit for you.

    If you’re still searching for a coach or trainer who is a good fit, here are some questions to consider:

    1. To what degree does the coach emphasize weight and aesthetic changes?

    This is something many coaches do in their advertising. Still, it’s one thing if a coach mentions they have experience in helping clients with weight loss, and quite another if that is the thing they emphasize. If their website has an overabundance of before-and-after pictures, weight-loss challenges, and pictures of well-shaved bodies of the same general size, shape, and aesthetic, consider that a red flag.

    Reach out to the coach directly via email or phone. Ask them whether they’re familiar with body positivity, and if so, ask what it means to them. And—this one’s important, because their answer will tell you a lot—ask what they do to make their facility inclusive to more people.

    2. What is their intake paperwork like?

    Once you find a coach you’d like to work with, they’re going to have you fill out paperwork. Chances are that paperwork is going to ask for your weight. If you feel comfortable sharing it, do so—and if you’re not, don’t.

    Instead of asking for their weight, I ask my clients “Have you experienced significant weight gain or loss within the last six months?” and “Are either you or your medical doctor concerned about your current weight?” These questions are more likely to reveal relevant health and wellness concerns than a static weight measurement while also avoiding triggering anyone with body shame and/or an eating disorder.

    So, if a trainer’s intake form requests your weight, it’s okay to decline to offer it and to let them know why. You will be able to tell a lot about the coach by how they respond.

    Taking a body positive approach

    3. Do you suspect they are equating your size or weight with either your health or capabilities?

    These are all separate things. When trainers make assumptions about someone’s capabilities and health based on their size, they are likely to preemptively get in the way of larger-bodied, healthy athletes’ opportunities to discover their potential.

    If you feel your trainer is holding you back for a reason you don’t understand, ask them about their programming decisions. It may be they’re seeing something you’re unaware of, and having this conversation will help you develop a greater understanding of their process. Alternatively, your feedback may be an important step in getting programming that is better suited to you. Advocate for yourself! After all, what is strength without empowerment?

    4. Are they stuck in the “faster-heavier-more” mindset?

    If you have any reason—whether medical or preferential—that you are hesitant to take on high-intensity training or to be lifting heavier and heavier weights, communicate that directly to your trainer (either current or prospective). Ask what their experience is in training people with circumstances similar to yours. Tell them why you’re interested in the tools they use, and ask how they adapt workouts to fit the unique needs and goals of their clients.

    This isn’t to say your trainer shouldn’t push you or that you’ll always be comfortable—but it does mean they should listen to and respect your goals. If your goals are about rediscovering joy in movement or giving yourself some healthy “me time” and they’re training you in a way that is consistently unpleasant, let them know. If they’re responsive to your feedback, that’s wonderful. If they’re not, then they’re not a good fit for you and it’s time to move on.

    5. And finally, a question for you: what are the goals hiding beneath your goals?

    During our first session, one of my clients listed weight loss as her primary goal. This is not unusual; what was perhaps more unusual was my response. I asked her, “What do you hope will be different for you after weight loss?”

    She said she’d like to be able to move better, have more energy, and feel comfortable with herself. A-ha! Now there were some goals entirely independent of the scale. When I asked her how she felt about focusing on those goals instead of on her weight, she got excited and curious—no one had ever presented that option to her. Several months later, she is indeed moving better, feeling more energetic, and experiencing greater comfort with herself—and we have a blast working together, too!

    If your current motivation for training is to change the way you look, see if you can dig deeper. What is it you’d like to do or accomplish? How would you like to feel? What would it be like to rediscover the natural joy we can experience from moving well? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

    Taking a body positive approach

    The Difference a Different Approach Can Make

    I see every day what can happen from a more body positive approach to strength training. I see what happens when people discover the ways that movement is a celebration of life and uncover interests and capabilities they never would have imagined. Enthusiasm for activity returns to those who lost it. And inevitably, intensity increases naturally as health, strength, and comfort with training are developed.

    And it all happens in a way that honors the person for who they are, in that moment. This was the gift that Dr. Mike gave to me when he taught me how to simplify my training to focus on what would move me toward my goals. At no point was he skeptical when I told him what my goals were, and at no point did he judge my potential based on my body shape or sedentary past.

    Before working with him, I hadn’t known it was possible for a coach to be so respectful. After working with him, I knew I had to share the gifts I learned from him with others.

    If you are interested in learning more about becoming a student of strength and discovering the joy that comes from moving well, seek out a StrongFirst coach with whom you feel an affinity. You might be amazed at how kind this process can be.

    Lore McSpaddenLore McSpadden is a certified personal trainer through the NSCA and a StrongFirst Certified Barbell Instructor (SFL) who has been honored to assist at StrongFirst Barbell Instructor Certifications. While she does hold state, national, and world powerlifting records in the WNPF and continues to enjoy competing in powerlifting meets, nothing is more exciting to her than watching others meet and exceed their goals.

    Lore works at the Charles River YMCA in Needham, MA. In addition to personal training, she also leads small-group sessions for people on the autism spectrum and is a coach in the Y’s Livestrong program, which is designed to help cancer survivors improve their strength and quality of life. She strongly believes that strength and fitness are for everyone and that focusing on performance-related goals is healthier and more sustainable than a primarily aesthetic focus. She empowers clients to manifest their full potential while moving safely and having fun.

    Lore is also a published poet, freelance editor, and experienced baker. You can learn more about Lore at her blog, Positive Force Strength Training, and contact her at positiveforcestrength@gmail.com.

    The post The Difference a Body Positive Approach Can Make appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • Fabio Zonin 9:00 am on June 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The 1TRM EV PS Program: Escalating Volume in the Plan Strong Style 

    By Fabio Zonin, Master SFG, SFB, and SFL

    Note: In my last article, How to Intelligently Define, Determine, and Test Your 1RM, I promised to follow up with a more advanced variation of The 5TRM Back Squat Program, based on the 1TRM and with a volume progression that recalls that of the Plan Strong methodology. Well, here it is.

    Considerations Before You Begin The 1TRM EV PS Program

    Although it has been designed for the back squat, the following program is suitable to most of the squat and press variations (front squat, Zercher squat, barbell military press, bench press). You can also use it for pull-ups, as long as your 75%1TRM is equal to or more than your bodyweight.

    StrongFirst Back Squat

    With regards to the kettlebell military press, this program is suitable if you have at your disposal kettlebells of sizes that match 75%1TRM±5%, 85%1TRM± 5%, and, of course, your 1TRM. For instance, let’s say your 1TRM in the military press is 36kg. You will need a 28kg, 32kg, and 36kg. 28kg equates to 79%1TRM and 32kg to 89%1TRM. When the program calls for a set with 75%1TRM, you will use the 28kg bell, and when it calls for sets with 85%1TRM and 90%1TRM, you will use the 32kg bell. Finally, when the program calls for a set with 95%1TRM, you will use a 36kg bell.

    Deadlifts are usually trained with lower volume and a lower number of sessions per week compared to those prescribed by this program. I will therefore suggest you apply this plan to your deadlift only if you are used to training it three times a week and with a monthly volume of at least 180-220NL. (“NL” means “number of lifts.”)

    In order to begin the plan, you need to know your 1TRM on the lift you are targeting and calculate its 75%, 85%, 90%, and 95%. Once you’ve done that, you are ready to go.

    The 1TRM EV PS Program: Overview and Analysis

    Now that all the guidelines have been laid out, it’s time to take a look at the program.

    1TRM EV PS Program

    First of all, let’s analyze the parameter volume (NL or “number of lifts.”) and its progression.

    Weekly Volume Trend

    If you take a look at the weekly NL column in Table #1, you will see the volume gradually increases for the first three weeks, and drops on week 4. It increases again on weeks 5 and 6, and then gradually decreases in weeks 7 and 8. So the volume peaks on week 6 and tapers on the following weeks, as you approach the new 1RM test on week 9.

    Note that on week 9 you will test you 1RM, not your 1TRM (please refer to my classification of PR, 1RM, and 1TRM in my article How to Intelligently Define, Determine, and Test Your 1RM).

    Monthly Volume Trend

    The total monthly volume is 200NL (30+56+70+44) in month one (weeks 1-4) and 240NL (67+84+53+36) in month two (weeks 5-8). So the volume increases by 20% from month one to month two.

    The Relationship Between Weekly and Monthly Volumes

    Month 1:

    • On week 1, the NL is 15% of the total volume (15% of 200 = 30)
    • On week 2, the NL is 28% of the total volume (28% of 200 = 56)
    • On week 3, the NL is 35% of the total volume (35% of 200 = 70)
    • On week 4, the NL is 22% of the total volume (22% of 200 = 44)

    Month 2:

    • On week 5, the NL is roughly 28% of the total volume (28% of 240 ≅ 67)
    • On week 6, the NL is 35% of the total volume (35% of 240 = 84)
    • On week 7, the NL is roughly 22% of the total volume (22% of 240 ≅ 53)
    • On week 8, the NL is 15% of the total volume (15% of 240 = 36)

    In looking at the above, a couple of things should stick out to you:

    • The volume, whether it is increasing or decreasing, changes by at least 20% from week to week.
    • The weekly percentages of total volume are recurrent in both months, although they occur in a different order: 15%, 22%, 28%, 35%.

    The 4 “Magic Numbers” and the Volume Variants

    15, 22, 28, and 35 are “magic numbers” that are used in several different combinations and are a staple of many winning Soviet strength programs. They are used to ensure one of the main components in the effectiveness of these Soviet programs: variability.

    No matter in which order these four numbers are aligned, there’s always a difference of at least 20% between adjacent numbers. Therefore, when used to calculate the weekly share of the monthly volume, they guarantee a volume variability of at least 20% from week to week.

    The different combinations of these numbers are called variants. There are 24 possible variants, even if only sixteen are generally used for waving volume. If you want to learn more about the four magic numbers, volume variants, and how both are used in Soviet strength programming, the best way to do so is to attend a Plan Strong Seminar with Pavel.

    Waving Volume: A Cornerstone of Soviet Strength Programs

    Most Western strength programs are characterized by a linear progression of volume and intensity, and these parameters are usually tied together by an inverse relationship. This means, Western programs typically start with a fairly high volume and low intensity, and progress through a decrease of volume accompanied by an increase of intensity. For example, an athlete one week does a total of 25NL with 75%1RM and the following week does 10NL with 80%1RM.

    One of the key differences between Western and Soviet programs is that the inverse relationship between volume and intensity doesn’t happen in the Soviet programs. In fact, in Soviet programs, the average intensity generally fluctuates around 70%1RM±3% of 1RM throughout the entire cycle. This doesn’t mean heavy lifts are never prescribed, but simply that most of the lifts are performed in the 65-85%1RM range. When heavy lifts (>90%1RM) are planned, they don’t necessarily have an obvious relationship to the change in volume. Sometimes the volume drops down when intensity goes up, and sometimes it does the opposite.

    Another key difference between the two methodologies is that in Soviet programs the change in volume is not linear, but waves from week to week. This is because Soviet scientists discovered that waving both volume and intensity leads to better recovery and greater strength gains. In Soviet cycles, the difference in the NL between two adjacent weeks is usually ≥20%, and here is where the previously mentioned four magic numbers come into play.

    To discover more about this topic, I suggest that you read this excellent article by Craig Marker, SFG II, SFL, SFB, and COO of StrongFirst.

    StrongFirst Bench Press

    Change in Volume Within a Week

    The weekly volume is divided among three training sessions:

    • Day #1 is the medium volume day, and accounts for roughly 33% of the weekly NL (e.g. on day #1 of week 1 NL=10, which is ≈33% of NL=30)
    • Day #2 is the low volume day, and accounts for roughly 25% of the weekly NL (e.g. on day #2 of week 1 NL=7, which is ≈25% of NL=30)
    • Day #3 is the high volume day, and accounts for roughly 42% of the weekly NL (e.g. on day #1 of week 1 NL=13, which is ≈42% of NL=30)

    As it was with the four magic numbers and the volume variability from week to week, the above percentages ensure there is enough variability of volume among the sessions within a week. Remember: volume variability is one of the keys to the success of the Soviet strength programming methodology.

    Breakdown of Session Volume Into Sets and Reps

    In the tables below you’ll find the breakdown of the program into weeks, sessions, sets, and reps. Once you know your training weights, you can use the tables as your training journal. To do so, just perform the number of reps prescribed in the cells related to the week and session at which you are, and then mark them as done. Easy!

    As it was in the 5TRM Back Squat Program, the daily NL is broken down into rep ladders of 2, 3, and 5 reps. For instance, if the daily NL is 10, it is broken down into the following three sets: 2, 3, 5. If the daily NL cannot be reached with the 2, 3, 5 rep ladder scheme, the number of reps of the last set(s) will vary from 2 to 5 in order to total the planned NL. For example, on week 2-day 1 of the chart below, the NL is 18, so it is broken up into the following six sets: 2, 3, 5, 2, 3, 3.

    All sets are to be executed with 75%1TRM, except on low volume days, where some singles with a heavier weight (85%-95%1TRM) are inserted between sets of the rep ladder. This means that on day #2 of any week, whenever you encounter the instructions 1@85%, 1@90%, or 1@95%, you will perform, respectively, a single with 85%, 90%, or 95% of 1TRM.

    1TRM EV PS Program Day 11TRM EV PS Program Day 21TRM EV PS Program Day 3

    What to Do on Week 9

    Practice only twice, let’s say Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday.

    • Day #1: Perform 3 sets of 3 reps with 75%1TRM. Rest at least three minutes between sets.
    • Day #2: Perform 3 reps with 75%1TRM. Then a single with 85%1TRM. Then a single with 95%1TRM. Rest at least three minutes between each set. After the single with 95%1TRM rest for at least five minutes, and then test your 1RM.

    The Results from Athletes Who Have Completed This Program

    • Arianna Zaccagnini, SFG II, Iron Maiden, added 11kg to her back squat, taking it from 94 to 105kg, for an increase of over 12%.
    • Matteo Brunetti, SFG II, added 12.5kg to his back squat, taking it from 160 to 172.5kg (+8%) and added 10kg to his bench press, going from 100 to 110kg (+10%).
    • Serena Fabi, SFG I, was able to perform two reps of kettlebell military press with a 24kg bell, which was her previous PR.

    I look forward to reading about your results!

    Fabio Zonin StrongFirstFabio Zonin is a Master SFG, SFB, and SFL. He is a former powerlifter, natural bodybuilder, and owner of fitness centers. He was the first Italian to accomplish the Beast Tamer Challenge and has been a Master Teacher for FIF (Italian Federation of Fitness) for almost two decades (1994-2012). He is also the Ground Force Method National Director for Italy.

    He is the Former vice president of the AINBB (Italian Association of Natural Bodybuilding), and has trained many athletes at national and international level in natural bodybuilding, powerlifting and other sports.

    He has authored numerous articles for Italian popular magazines and websites dedicated to fitness, bodybuilding, and strength training, and has worked with to leading Italian companies in the field of sports equipment, body composition evaluation software, and nutritional supplements.

    The post The 1TRM EV PS Program: Escalating Volume in the Plan Strong Style appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • Brett Jones 9:00 am on June 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    A Critical Get-up Transition: From the Elbow to the Hand 

    By Brett Jones, Chief SFG

    A student of mine once described the get-up as being comprised of “frames of a comic strip”—meaning there are definitive positions to hit before you move on to the next “frame.” In fact, if I walk into your training space and see you “frozen” in one of these positions, I shouldn’t be able to tell whether you are on the way up in your get-up or on the way down. And, as I like to joke, there is never an excuse for being out of position during the get-up because you can always correct yourself at the next frame.

    But what about the transitions between the frames?

    Your movement from frame A to frame B should be smooth and set you up for not only a great position at that frame but a great transition to frame C and so on. One of the critical transitions to a kalos sthenos (ancient Greek for “beautiful strength”) get-up is the move from the elbow to the hand (or the elbow-to-post transition from Kettlebells from the Ground Up-Kalos Sthenos). A great transition from the elbow to the hand sets up a safe and solid shoulder position (on the down arm) for the low sweep or the high bridge.

    The Arm Angle in the Roll to the Elbow

    Setting up the transition from the elbow to the hand begins by having a great arm position for the roll to the elbow portion of the get-up. Begin with a 45-degree angle of the arm away from the body and adjust as needed to your arm and torso lengths, so when you roll to the elbow you create a straight line down from the shoulder to the elbow on the ground.

    A Critical Get-up Transition: From the Elbow to the Hand

    If the elbow is angled in toward the body, then the arm was too close at the start. If the elbow angles away from the body, then the arm was too far away from the body at the start. Find the ideal angle by practicing with an un-weighted get-up.

    The Transition from the Elbow to the Hand

    Once you have found the ideal position for the arm at the roll to the elbow, you are ready to consider the transition from the elbow to the hand. Begin this transition by rotating the arm and forearm away from the body and even beginning to point the fingers behind you. Once you are rotated as far as you can while keeping the forearm on the ground, then press down through the heel of the hand, continuing to point your fingers behind you and rotating the arm so the triceps squeeze against the lat and the arm/hand is pushing down into the ground bringing the body to the tall sit position. This externally rotated position of squeezing the triceps against the lat and pressing down into the ground will produce a shoulder position that is ready to lift the body for either the low sweep or high bridge.

    Performing the transition in this manner also assists in finding the best position for the tall sit without picking up and moving the arm. Under the load of a heavy kettlebell (and that is one of the reasons we are performing a get-up—to put a heavy weight overhead) having to lift the arm off the ground to make adjustments can introduce unwanted instability into the movement. Some adjustment is certainly allowed depending on the arm and torso lengths of the individual, but sitting up to unload the arm and then replacing it should be avoided. A little bit of sliding the hand closer to the body is all that should be needed.

    As you can see in the video the angles, positions, and smooth transitions allow me to move from back to elbow to hand to elbow to back in a smooth sequence. During an unweighted get-up, try to find your own angles and smooth transitions and you may find your own kalos sthenos get-up.

    As always, the best way to learn proper technique is to find your local SFG instructor to receive individualized instruction and assistance. You may also consider attending an SFG Course or Certification.

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

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

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

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

    The post A Critical Get-up Transition: From the Elbow to the Hand appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • Eyal Yanilov 9:00 am on June 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Understanding Combat Mindset and Mental Conditioning 

    By Eyal Yanilov and Ole Boe

    It’s easy to be happy when you are healthy and successful, but what about when you are in trouble? How would you behave? How would you deal with disappointment, failure, and defeat?

    Every confrontation has mental components and we all experience these small and stressful non-physical conflicts every day and probably multiple times throughout the day—like the mother-in-law who invites the family to dinner, the neighbor blocking in our car, or the boss who sticks us with last-minute assignments. This, plus the hundreds of small tasks that inundate us, like emails, text messages, Facebook, and phone calls.

    Combat Mindset of Krav Maga Global

    To withstand any kind of conflict, you need mental resources, and handling those hundreds of small missions requires constant decision making, focus, and division of attention. We all know that to win a street fight, overcome a criminal invader in our home, be victorious on the battlefield, or just finish a strenuous training session, we need to recruit specific mental capabilities such as perseverance, controlled-aggression, determination, courage, and focus. Those capabilities are in addition to, or even the foundation of, the physical and technical components that should be used to prevail in each of these ordeals.

    So, in the daily life of a modern homo sapiens, it is important for you to train your mind so you’ll be able to function at your best during a meeting with your employees, a family gathering with critical relatives, or an appointment with your doctor when he is trying to instruct you on how to overcome injury or illness.

    Have you ever asked yourself: “Am I controlling my mind or does it control me?” This question probably arises when your palms are sweating and your heart is pumping before a competition or at an important business meeting. Like most of us, you feel your mind is like a wild bull in a Texas rodeo, jumping around and dragging you all over. What can you do about this wild mind/bull?

    Simply, and analogous to physical training, you need to acquire the tools and knowledge to not only tame this wild one, but harness it. Then, through a specific mental training regimen, you’ll be able to perform much better during all missions, jobs, and duties you have in life, as well as is in confrontation. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you will be able to apply the needed mental resources effortlessly, with the best possible self-control and maximum attention with minimal stress and exertion.

    Combat Mindset of Krav Maga Global

    Train in All Directions

    In KMG (Krav Maga Global) we talk about the four pillars we continually work on improving in ourselves and our trainees:

    1. Technical
    2. Tactical
    3. Mental
    4. Physical

    If one of these pillars is not sufficiently developed, then the whole platform they support will crash down. In each of the four pillars there is vast amount of knowledge and material. For comparison, think about the many techniques, principles, and training methods you have in a fighting sport or martial art. How many drills, exercises, and programs do you have in a fitness method like StrongFirst?

    When we are talking about mental training, it is no different. There is a lot for us to learn in order to reach higher levels in our lives. This blog post will give some answers and direct you toward resources for learning more.

    The Components

    When we talk about developing mental skills, we usually address six training strategies:

    1. Visualization
    2. Goal setting
    3. Positive self-talk (and changing of internal monologue)
    4. Combat mindset (courage, determination, perseverance, controlled aggression)
    5. Focusing
    6. Relaxation

    By integrating and utilizing these six main strategies, we aim to develop confidence, control of physical arousal, attention control (focusing and spreading attention), arousal control, imagery use or visualization, commitment, self-talk use, and the commitment to stay in good physical condition.

    Combat Mindset of Krav Maga Global

    Working on determination and decision-making skills, along with training Krav Maga or competitive sports definitely helps to develop your combat mindset. However, there is so much more to mental training—especially if we wish to be successful in life, business, and personal relations.

    At Krav Maga Global, we designated a framework to teach both our instructors and students the “tools of the (mental) trade.” About twenty years ago, we also started to train managers in the corporate and governmental sectors using Krav Maga as a vehicle to understand and deal with stress. We took another big step several years ago when we developed an Instructor Course for KMG instructors and a Specialist Course for high-level individuals who have no Krav Maga experience, but are in relevant fields. People who teach fitness or martial arts, are corporate coaches, or are commanders and instructors of military and law enforcement units can benefit immensely from mental preparation and training.

    We call the courses we created the Combat Mindset and Mental Conditioning Instructor and Specialist Courses (since we love abbreviations, it’s the MCIC for short). Some of our fellow KMG instructors refer to the CMIC as “slaying giants,” while others call it the “staring into the wall” course, like in the movie The Men Who Stare at Goats.

    Okay, so we do stare into a wall, but only for a short period of time. It’s one of the focusing drills in our curriculum, and the purpose of such a technique is to quiet the self-talk, the internal monologue going on inside your head, and to help you take control of yourself with a better ability to focus.

    Men Who Stare at Goats

    Training Combat Mindset

    Working on your concentration skills is extremely valuable. You will understand what stress is and get an overview of different stress reactions. It is useful to get to know how your body and mind react to different problems and situations. Having a clear overview of the common mental and physical reactions a person experiences in a self-defense/fighting situation and the normal sequence (process) that people go through as a response to a threatening situation will help you a lot.

    Then, of course, you need to learn practical methods and drills for igniting and controlling high levels of aggression, determination and persistence, concentration, focusing, neutralization of destructive emotions, minimizing stress and self-talk, and channeling attention.

    It boils down to this: if you are not able to be here and now, and keep your focus on the events at hand, then you will probably experience problems in your later mental training, as well as in your decisions and performances. Once you master being here and now, you can continue with other types of mental training.

    Focus and Concentration

    Each of us has certain mental resources and capacities. To perform a mission, you need to recruit as much of these resources as possible. When you have to perform serial or parallel missions, the demands are even higher. When you don’t have enough resources, when life’s loads are more than you can easily handle, then stress rises.

    Combat Mindset of Krav Maga Global

    Training the mind is no different than training the body. The body changes due to fitness training—muscles grow, bones strengthen, coordination improves, and so on. Focus and concentration exercises for the mind are like Turkish get-ups and chin-ups for the body. Recent studies show that certain parts of the brain can actually grow and thicken with the practice of mental training, and more importantly, your capacities and capabilities become stronger.

    Why do we do physical training, like what StrongFirst so professionally offers? Is the purpose of the techniques in which we move or swing the kettlebells or the barbell just so we can move more weights in our training sessions? Definitely not.

    We train to be stronger in our daily missions. We don’t want to fail in our “mission” of moving the sofa to another corner in the living room or collapse when we try to take the box of groceries from the car to the refrigerator. Each of us has our own goals and priorities in physical training.

    Mental training is no different. You practice different drills in order to better yourself for the missions in life, such as:

    • Dealing with conflicts, confrontations, and fights
    • Overcoming common daily stress
    • To better fulfill your missions and work whether you are a manager in a company, a member of a SWAT team, or a stay-at-home mom (most moms deal with more daily missions than us all!)

    Relaxation and Defusing of Destructive Emotions

    Fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, resentment, and rage are just some of emotions we commonly experience. When dealing with other people, we expect certain kinds of behavior toward us. When our ego is hurt, when someone insults us, or when someone damages or even touches our belongings, our emotions burst out from within. At that point, we turn from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.

    Where the Magic Happens

    Many times we can’t control ourselves. We behave outrageously to others, especially to our loved ones, and when we cool down, we regret our actions. In reflecting on our behavior at those moments, we may recognize a kind of animal and not human behavior. Yes, sometimes we need to be aggressive, fight, and maybe even destroy our enemies. We know if we discharge a bullet from our gun, hitting an enemy during war times or while fighting a terrorist, we’ll get a medal. If we discharge the same gun in a local club or school, we’ll find ourselves in front of a bullet or a judge and jury.

    You must make the correct decision under stressful conditions. How do you reach this level? The only magic components are: gain the knowledge from the best teacher in your area and practice the drills by yourself or with the best partner you can find.

    One of the drills we do with managers in the corporate world, sport competitors, and military commandos is changing their internal monologues—their self-talk. Usually people are inclined to destructive sentences and descriptions of future failures like, “I will die,” “I will get hurt,” “I can’t do it,” “The boss is going to fire me,” and so on. That self-talk is distressing you and commonly leads to defeat and setbacks. Our simple drill is first to change this internal monologue and then minimize it entirely. Initially, you need to substitute the negative self-talk by speaking to yourself with encouraging sentences, compliments, and inspirational phrases. Then, using the focusing and breathing drills, you are able to totally minimize the self-talk.

    Here is a drill for calming the mind integrated with relaxation of the body. You should focus on each part of the body, usually starting from the feet and working toward the head. Contract and then relax each area—an area can be the foot, the face, palm and forearm, the whole leg, or even the whole upper body and neck. Inhale, stop breathing, contract the muscles of that area for couple of seconds and the relax that area and exhale. Progress from the feet toward the head, initially by small parts, then by larger parts as you gain experience. Eventually, with training, you will be able to quickly contract and relax only your fists and palms to reach a fully relaxed state of mind.

    KMG Training Session

    Do You Want to Learn and Experience More?

    You have an option to join us in the upcoming MCIC Course for Instructors of StrongFirst and KMG.

    As a participant in the MCIC, you will gain deep knowledge and understanding, originating from both ancient and recent times, from modern psychology and training methods of Special Forces, police, military, and undercover agents, as well as from the corporate sector, in Israel and around the world.

    You will acquire the knowledge, tools, and know-how to:

    • Develop an appropriate mental state such as courage and determination, combat mindset and fighting spirit, controlling aggression, andchanneled anger.
    • Use techniques and training methods to control destructive emotionsand defuse stress.
    • Focus, relax, and overcome fear and anxiety, frustration, and anger.
    • Create mental conditioning to better the intuitive fighting response.
    • Improve self-control and decision-making processes under stressful conditions.
    • Conduct relevant mental preparation sessions with hard physical training alongside still sessions to focus the mind, body, and internal monologue (self-talk).
    • Progress yourself or improve others, including your fitness clients, martial art trainees, active governmental officers, or corporate employeeswith the utmost advantageous abilities.

    The Upcoming MCIC

    The next course we have in the USA will be held in cooperation with StrongFirst. We are sure that both sides, the StrongFirst and KMG communities will benefit from this event.

    In the course, you should expect still and dynamic drills, as well as lectures and active components, all suitable for the level of the participants and their background.

    Click to Register for the
    Combat Mindset and Mental Conditioning Instructor and Specialist Course

    Combat Mindset and Mental Conditioning Course

    Eyal Yanilov has been teaching and training Krav Maga for over forty years, Eyal served as the closest assistant and right hand for Krav Maga founder Imi Sde-Or (Lichtenfeld) for about twenty years. He is the only person in the world who holds both the highest grade given by Imi and the “Founder Diploma of Excellence.” Since 1984, Eyal has developed and turned Krav Maga into an integrated technical and tactical system, and prepared the modern curriculum of Krav Maga. Eyal has been the driving force behind the dissemination of Krav Maga in the world and the Head Instructor and President of KMG (Krav Maga Global), the leading KM organization, active in over sixty countries. Eyal has been teaching civilians since 1975 and preparing instructors since 1980. Since 1985, he has been educating military, law enforcement, anti-terror, undercover and Special Forces officers, fighters, and instructors in Israel and around the world. Eyal has a degree in Electrical Engineering.

    Ole Boe, Ph.D., is responsible for the Norwegian Military Academy concept of stress management, preparing officers both physically and mentally. Ole holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology. He became a Krav Maga instructor under Eyal Yanilov in 1998. Currently an Expert Level 3 and a member of KMG´s International Team, Ole has served as an operational officer for many years in a military special unit conducting VIP protection, hostage rescue, and close combat training. Ole served as an instructor in close combat for police and military special units in several countries and has served on several international operations all over the world ranging from Congo to Cambodia. Since 2003, he has been working at the Norwegian Military Academy where he teaches leadership and leadership development to army officers. His military rank is major.

    The post Understanding Combat Mindset and Mental Conditioning appeared first on StrongFirst.

     
  • Michael Perry 9:00 am on May 31, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    A Solid Game Plan for Acing the Snatch Test 

    By Michael Perry, SFG Team Leader, SFL

    If you’ve heard of Pavel and follow his teachings, it’s likely you’ve heard of the 100-rep snatch test. The snatch test is a core element in the SFG curriculum and passing it takes preparation. If your goal is to become become a certified SFG Level I Instructor, then you must be able to perform 100 kettlebell snatches in five minutes or less.

    When people ask me about the SFG Level I Certification weekend, they almost always bring up the snatch test. And I’m not going to lie—it’s a bit intimidating the first time around. Often, even mentioning the words “snatch test” around an SFG candidate brings on anxiety and nervousness.

    But don’t stress! The test is very passable if you have a solid game plan. If you are signed up for your SFG Level I Cert and are worried about the snatch test, I’ve got you covered. I’m sharing a program I designed that has helped people pass the 100-rep snatch test with confidence.

    The Snatch Test Standards

    Below are the requirements taken directly from the StrongFirst website. As you can see, the only exception to the standards for the 100-rep snatch test is if you’re in the Seniors class where the requirement is 50 reps in 3 minutes. Click here for a full description of the testing, standards.

    100 Rep Snatch Test StandardsFor inspiration and an example of excellent form, here is SFG II instructor Hector Gutierrez performing the snatch test:

    100-Rep Snatch Test Training Protocol

    Prerequisite: Before starting this program, the girevik must be able to perform 100 reps in 8-10 minutes with the prescribed snatch test-sized kettlebell.

    Phase 1:

    • :20 work/:40 rest for 5 minutes
    • The goal is eight snatches per 20-second interval.
    • The girevik should complete 5 minutes of these intervals to total 40 snatches in 5 minutes. I suggest performing each set with one arm. Alternate arms each set.

    Once you successfully complete the phase 1 workout twice, proceed to phase 2.

    Phase 2:

    • :30 work/:30 work for 5 minutes
    • The goal is 11 snatches per 30-second interval.
    • The girevik should complete 5 minutes of these intervals to total 55 snatches in 5 minutes. I suggest performing each set on one arm. Start on your non-dominant hand.

    Once you successfully compete the phase 2 workout three times, proceed to phase 3.

    Phase 3:

    • :40 work/:20 rest for 5 minutes
    • The goal is 16 snatches per 40-second interval.
    • The girevik should complete 5 minutes of these intervals to total 80 snatches in 5 minutes. If you need to switch hands during the work period, that’s okay—just make it quick!

    Once you successfully complete the phase 3 workout three times, proceed to phase 4.

    Phase 4:

    • :50 work/:10 rest for 5 minutes
    • The goal is 20 snatches per 50-second interval.
    • The girevik should complete 5 minutes of these intervals to total 100 snatches in 5 minutes.

    Once you successfully complete the phase 4 workout three times, try to perform the 100 rep snatch test as quickly as possible.

    This protocol normally takes anywhere from eight to twelve weeks to complete. The length of time will vary depending on the person and their overall preparation, conditioning, and technique. If you feel like you need more work, give yourself twelve weeks to work through this protocol. It never hurts to be over-prepared.

    Most candidates feel comfortable completing phase 1 and 2, but phase 3 starts to get tough. If you have done a fair amount of heavy one-arm swings, you should be able to train this protocol one time a week leading up to the Certification weekend. If you are concerned that you haven’t prepared enough for the snatch test, I would suggest training with this protocol this two times a week leading up to the Cert.

    Note: This plan will integrate nicely with the plan outlined in the SFG Level I Certification Prep Guide by Chief SFG Brett Jones. You could plug this protocol into the Snatch Prep Day 2–Volume Work.

    How to Ace the Snatch Test

    Tips for Passing Your Snatch Test on Test Day

    The snatch test is only five minutes, but it’s a tough five minutes. Here are some helpful tips on how to pass the test safely and efficiently:

    1. Stay Relaxed: Remember that kettlebell training is a delicate balance of tension and relaxation. When attempting the test, try to conserve your energy at first and keep your pace. Find the sweet spot and stay in your groove. Leave some gas in the tank for the last minute in case you need to increase speed to accumulate reps. Don’t come out of the gate too quickly!
    2. Take Care of Your Hands: Leading up to the Certification weekend, it’s important to take care of your hands. This means flattening calluses, healing up any blisters or wounds, and training smart. It’s not fun dealing with blisters and ripped calluses for a full three days, so come into the weekend healthy.
    3. Get Plenty of Rest: You will need to be at your best to pass your Certification, so it’s important you get plenty of rest. This means fueling up with healthy meals and getting plenty of sleep at night. Remember: no drinking and read your manuals!

    As always, we suggest you work with a StrongFirst kettlebell instructor to make sure your technique is dialed prior to Certification weekend. Click here for a list of instructors. Best of luck and we look forward to seeing you at one of our Certifications! Power to you!

    Michael Perry StrongFirstMike is the founder and owner of Skill of Strength, a performance-based training facility located in Chelmsford, MA. In his twelve-plus years as a personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach, he has trained clients of all ages and abilities including several collegiate and professional athletes in the MLS, NFL, MLB, UFC, Bellator MMA, and various mixed martial arts organizations in New England.

    Mike began his career at a medically based training facility where he worked closely with physical therapists, Certified Athletic Trainers (ATCs), acupuncturists, and chiropractors. Mike holds the following certifications: Certified Personal Trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, StrongFirst Team Leader, Strongfirst Barbell Instructor, USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach, USA Track and Field Level 1 Coach, Functional Movement Screen Certified, and Certified Kettlebell Functional Movement Screen Specialist. In addition, Mike works as an assistant staff instructor for Functional Movement Systems.

    The post A Solid Game Plan for Acing the Snatch Test appeared first on StrongFirst.

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

    Unlocking the One-arm Push-up 

    By Phil Scarito, Master SFG

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

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

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

    If Strength Is a Skill, Then So Is Coaching

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

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

    Unlocking the One-arm Push-up

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

    My Aha Moment Coaching the One-arm Push-up

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

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

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

    The single-leg deadlift.

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

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

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

    Single Leg Deadlift

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

    The Solution Is in the Basics

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

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

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

    One-Arm One-Leg Push-Up

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

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

    As always, make it a strong day.

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

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

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

    Unlocking the One-arm Push-up 

    By Phil Scarito, Master SFG

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

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

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

    If Strength Is a Skill, Then So Is Coaching

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

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

    Unlocking the One-arm Push-up

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

    My Aha Moment Coaching the One-arm Push-up

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

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

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

    The single-leg deadlift.

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

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

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

    Single Leg Deadlift

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

    The Solution Is in the Basics

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

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

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

    One-Arm One-Leg Push-Up

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

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

    As always, make it a strong day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Free Hand in One-Arm Swing

    Moving From the Two- to One-Arm Swing

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

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

    Acceptable:

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

    Unacceptable:

    • Excessive swing
    • Hand on the thigh

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

     

    1. Tap the Handle

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

    2. Mimic

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

    3. Guard

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

    4. Behind the Back

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

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

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

    5. To the Side

    The free hand is simply held out to the side.

    Unacceptable Options

    1. Excessive Swing

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

    2. Hand on the Thigh

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

    Deciding Which Option Is for You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
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