Updates from July, 2014 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Jim Wendler 1:00 pm on July 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Weighted Chins I like them. I’m not voting for them in the next “Five Awesome Exercises” election but they certainly have their place. I’ve championed chin-ups for years, mostly    because they’re great for the upper back, lats, and arms. And because you can do them anywhere – chin-up bar, top of the  Smith machine, scaffolding, top of the [...]
     
  • Jim Wendler 3:45 pm on July 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    New Music (Unless You Take Numerous Selfies) 

    New Music for Untuckers Dear Guy Who Doesn’t Tuck, Thanks for not feeling the need to make endless small talk. Or staring endlessly on your phone. Thanks for being ok with silence. Thanks for not airing your dirty laundry. Or fishing for sympathy or seeking martyrdom. It is nice to know that you realize how [...]
     
  • Jim Wendler 12:17 pm on July 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Boring But Strong Challenge 

    Boring But Strong – 13 Cycle Challenge  [NOTE: This is from the Jim Wendler Forum.] How this all came about is a long, long story so I’ll edit it down to the bare minimum: I am currently at the tail end of this challenge and I love it.  This, like the majority of training ideas [...]
     
  • Nikki Shlosser 3:18 pm on July 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    StrongFirst Team Pulls Strong Again 

    By Jason Marshall, Senior SFG and Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman

     

     
    Ladies and gentlemen, this is Jason Marshall.  We had two lifters for the East Coast meet in Philly, Ellen Stein and Lisa Burke.  Both won their divisions.   Ellen pulled 400 at 132 and won the best overall lifter award.   Lisa deadlifted 345 at 148, a meet PR.
     

     
    We had five lifters for the West Coast meet in Tucson.

    Jeremy Travis competed in Full Power.  He pulled 535 at 194 bodyweight.
     

     

     
    Jeremy Layport competed in his first Full Power comp.  He pulled 573 at 212 bodyweight.  He also won best overall heavyweight male with a 690kg total (551-397-573).   9 for 9 in his first meet!

    Rhonda Jones competed in the Push Pull.  She pulled 298 in the 132lb. weight class.

    Jackie Luciano, SFG II, SFL had a great meet in Full Power.  She pulled a PR 330 at 140 bodyweight.

    I completed in Full Power.  Had a great meet.  Came in second by one hundredth of point by Schwartz formula for best overall lightweight male.  I totaled 627.5kg (463-314-606) at 178 bodyweight, 8 for 9 and all meet PR’s.  My second deadlift attempt was 606 and my right foot slipped causing me to wobble right before lockout and I had to set the bar down.  I wanted to attempt 622 for my third, but stayed conservative and hit 606 solid on the third… a very fast pull.  I also won best lightweight male deadlift.
     

     

     
    Our deadlift team won the 1st place as each of the five had the best deadlift of each weight class.  The meet hosted by SFG Team Leader Danny Sawaya’s Tucson Barbell Club had between 140 and 150 lifters.  A number of other SFGs successfully competed: Erlinda Gomez, Jerry Trubman, Marie Musucara.

    I would like to thank you for the opportunity to lead the StrongFirst Deadlift team the last couple of years.
     

     

     
    Thank you, Jason!  Ladies and gentlemen, this is Pavel.

    A week later Senior SFG Steve Freides set another New Jersey record 100% raw 357-pound pull at 148 pounds of bodyweight and 59 years old.
     

     

     
    I got to celebrate the Father’s Day with my dad pulling another American record—413 in the 198-pound weight class, 75-79 age group, USPA.  Video linked here.

     

     
    I want to thank Jason Marshall, Senior SFG for two years of exceptional leadership as the Captain of the StrongFirst Deadlift Team!

    Jason just passed the captain baton to two new captains: Ellen Stein on the East Coast and Ricardo Garcia, SFG II, SFL on the West Coast.  Welcome!

    The captains have already selected our next two meets.  Mark your calendars: an AAU meet in San Diego, CA, November 7-8 and an RPS meet on Long Island, NY, November 15.

    To qualify for the team ladies must pull 2 times their bodyweight and gentlemen 2.5 times in a powerlifting meet sanctioned by any federation or the October 4 Tactical Strength Challenge.  There is no deadline but applications are taken on the first come, first served basis.  Results posted earlier this year or in 2013 are also accepted.  Send your results and application for review to:

    Ellen Stein, SFL, East Coast Captain, W8lifter222@aol.com

    Ricardo Garcia, SFG II, SFL, West Coast Captain, fullforcepersonaltraining@gmail.com

    We will wrap up with a few words from one of our competitors, Jeremy Layport, Senior SFG:

    “This being my fist powerlifting meet, the one thing that really surprised me was the lack of technical set up by the majority of participants.  There was a definite difference between a SFL cert attendees or SF DL Team members and every other lifter at the meet.  I personally watched a beautiful bench set up from Jackie Luciano and then saw another lifter’s alarmingly poor set up and bench.  Watching SF Deadlift Team Captain Jason Marshall set up for and pull his 603lb. deadlift was like watching a skilled surgeon make an incision.  It was slow, precise, and exacting which he made look easy.  The bend over, grip, and rip strategy didn’t win me over to say the least—and it sure didn’t seem to win the meet either.  If I could give any one person a training tip it would be learn how to “Root,” “Wedge,” and apply skilled tension.  Then just practice more…”

    LIFT THE HEAVY THINGS.
     
    STRONGFIRST BARBELL CERTIFICATION: SFL
     
  • Nikki Shlosser 3:18 pm on July 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    StrongFirst Team Pulls Strong Again 

    By Jason Marshall, Senior SFG and Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman

     

     
    Ladies and gentlemen, this is Jason Marshall.  We had two lifters for the East Coast meet in Philly, Ellen Stein and Lisa Burke.  Both won their divisions.   Ellen pulled 400 at 132 and won the best overall lifter award.   Lisa deadlifted 345 at 148, a meet PR.
     

     
    We had five lifters for the West Coast meet in Tucson.

    Jeremy Travis competed in Full Power.  He pulled 535 at 194 bodyweight.
     

     

     
    Jeremy Layport competed in his first Full Power comp.  He pulled 573 at 212 bodyweight.  He also won best overall heavyweight male with a 690kg total (551-397-573).   9 for 9 in his first meet!

    Rhonda Jones competed in the Push Pull.  She pulled 298 in the 132lb. weight class.

    Jackie Luciano, SFG II, SFL had a great meet in Full Power.  She pulled a PR 330 at 140 bodyweight.

    I completed in Full Power.  Had a great meet.  Came in second by one hundredth of point by Schwartz formula for best overall lightweight male.  I totaled 627.5kg (463-314-606) at 178 bodyweight, 8 for 9 and all meet PR’s.  My second deadlift attempt was 606 and my right foot slipped causing me to wobble right before lockout and I had to set the bar down.  I wanted to attempt 622 for my third, but stayed conservative and hit 606 solid on the third… a very fast pull.  I also won best lightweight male deadlift.
     

     

     
    Our deadlift team won the 1st place as each of the five had the best deadlift of each weight class.  The meet hosted by SFG Team Leader Danny Sawaya’s Tucson Barbell Club had between 140 and 150 lifters.  A number of other SFGs successfully competed: Erlinda Gomez, Jerry Trubman, Marie Musucara.

    I would like to thank you for the opportunity to lead the StrongFirst Deadlift team the last couple of years.
     

     

     
    Thank you, Jason!  Ladies and gentlemen, this is Pavel.

    A week later Senior SFG Steve Freides set another New Jersey record 100% raw 357-pound pull at 148 pounds of bodyweight and 59 years old.
     

     

     
    I got to celebrate the Father’s Day with my dad pulling another American record—413 in the 198-pound weight class, 75-79 age group, USPA.  Video linked here.

     

     
    I want to thank Jason Marshall, Senior SFG for two years of exceptional leadership as the Captain of the StrongFirst Deadlift Team!

    Jason just passed the captain baton to two new captains: Ellen Stein on the East Coast and Ricardo Garcia, SFG II, SFL on the West Coast.  Welcome!

    The captains have already selected our next two meets.  Mark your calendars: an AAU meet in San Diego, CA, November 7-8 and an RPS meet on Long Island, NY, November 15.

    To qualify for the team ladies must pull 2 times their bodyweight and gentlemen 2.5 times in a powerlifting meet sanctioned by any federation or the October 4 Tactical Strength Challenge.  There is no deadline but applications are taken on the first come, first served basis.  Results posted earlier this year or in 2013 are also accepted.  Send your results and application for review to:

    Ellen Stein, SFL, East Coast Captain, W8lifter222@aol.com

    Ricardo Garcia, SFG II, SFL, West Coast Captain, fullforcepersonaltraining@gmail.com

    We will wrap up with a few words from one of our competitors, Jeremy Layport, Senior SFG:

    “This being my fist powerlifting meet, the one thing that really surprised me was the lack of technical set up by the majority of participants.  There was a definite difference between a SFL cert attendees or SF DL Team members and every other lifter at the meet.  I personally watched a beautiful bench set up from Jackie Luciano and then saw another lifter’s alarmingly poor set up and bench.  Watching SF Deadlift Team Captain Jason Marshall set up for and pull his 603lb. deadlift was like watching a skilled surgeon make an incision.  It was slow, precise, and exacting which he made look easy.  The bend over, grip, and rip strategy didn’t win me over to say the least—and it sure didn’t seem to win the meet either.  If I could give any one person a training tip it would be learn how to “Root,” “Wedge,” and apply skilled tension.  Then just practice more…”

    LIFT THE HEAVY THINGS.
     
    STRONGFIRST BARBELL CERTIFICATION: SFL
     
  • Nikki Shlosser 4:45 pm on July 8, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Get Stronger: The Chronicles of a Lightweight Beast Tamer, Part II: The Pistol 

    by Kenton Boutwell, SFG II

    Part 2

     
    All I did was try not to think. Instead, I was focused on my breathing. Inhale… Exhale… Repeat.
    I knew my body had the movement memorized, as I had done it countless times before the challenge.

    I wanted to blast that kettlebell through the dome and I knew I had to explode once I reached the bottom position of the pistol. I approached the bell, cleaned it, descended to the bottom, and BOOM… I blasted off. Pistol complete.

    Here are the Strongfirst rules for the pistol (Make sure you know the requirements): The candidate must be barefoot.

    • The candidate may pick up the kettlebell in any manner and hold it in front with two hands by the horns or with one or two hands in the rack on either side.

    • The candidate shall raise one leg in front of him. From that moment on, the foot of the working leg must stay planted.

    • The airborne leg has to stay in front for the duration of the attempt. It does not have to be straight. It may not touch the ground or the working leg.

    • The candidate shall pause motionless long enough to demonstrate balance, then lower himself at least to parallel: “the top surface of the leg at the hip joint lower than the top of the knee.”

    • Neither the kettlebell nor the arms may touch the working leg at any time.

    • A pause in the bottom position is not required. The candidate shall stand up until the knee of the working leg is locked and the hip is extended.

    • The pelvis may not rise faster than the kettlebell.

    • The candidate shall stand on one foot exhibiting control until the head referee’s “Down!” command.

    I want to point out one very important training principle that you must adhere to if you have a goal that you intend to reach. The training principle is referred to as the Principle of Specificity. Put simply, it means that if you want to become better at a skill or exercise then you must perform that skill or exercise. So if you want to be a beast tamer then your training should primarily consist of the pistol, military press and pull-up. All you need is one repetition for each exercise, so your training should consist primarily of single repetitions. Your program should also involve periodization of load, intensity, and volume in order to force an adaptation (i.e. getting stronger).

    The moral of the story is not to get too crazy with your training, keep it basic and simple. These are two of the most important training tips I can give you for any training that you will ever do.

    As you can tell the pistol requires mobility of the ankles, knees, and hips. Other than mobility and strength, balance is probably the most important physical skill required to complete a pistol. I referenced mental imagery in part one. You will want to use your mental imagery before beginning any major lift. Just do a replay of you performing the exercise in your mind.

    I recommend holding the kettlebell with both hands in the goblet position as I think it allows for the most balance since it’s centered and you also have both hands instead of one to hold the bell with. Once you’ve got the the kettlebell in the goblet position, you will want to do a static stomp with the working leg in order to generate tension and balance you out.

    Breathing is critical as I mentioned in part one. You really need to focus on your inhalation and exhalation timing, as well as the tempo. I would always static stomp, lift the non-working leg, and do a short inhalation and exhalation to ensure my balance.

    Next I would do a tempo-based deep inhalation in my descent to the bottom, while simultaneously generating as much hamstring and glute tension as possible all the way down. This generation of tension will keep the movement balanced and controlled. Your inhalation should end once you reach bottom position and everything should be extremely tight because you have generated as much tension as possible similar to a “coiled spring,” as MSFG David WhitIey likes to put it.

    During your descent it is also important to keep the kettlebell tight to you in the goblet position. If the kettlebell gets away from you then it could compromise your pistol by off balancing you, which could also get you disqualified if it touches your leg. What should you be doing with the non-working leg? I recommend keeping the leg straight and toes flexed. You don’t want this leg moving as it could also jeopardize your balance.

    The last part is the ascent, which should be initiated with a tempo-based exhalation, simultaneous heel drive, and firing of the quadriceps. You will want to explode or uncoil the spring by releasing all the tension you have generated in one forceful motion.

    One of the hardest parts of this movement is the transition from the eccentric to the concentric motion. Just make sure that you are tight at the bottom, and that you concentrate, putting all your focus and attention into the change of direction. Oh and be sure to lock out the hips at the top.

    To be continued.

     


     Kenton Boutwell is a 
    StrongFirst Girya Level 2 Kettlebell Instructor, American College of Sports Medicine certified Personal Trainer, USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer,  Precision Nutrition Level 1 and Functional Movement Screen certified professional. Boutwell has worked with men, women, and youth of all ages, experience, and fitness levels, from novices to skilled athletes. He earned his bachelors from the University of Southern Mississippi and is currently pursuing a M.S. in Exercise Science at Middle Tennessee State University. A native of Mississippi, he currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.  For more information please visit www.kbfitness.com
     
     
     
     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 3:00 pm on July 1, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    The Toughness of a Strength Athlete 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman

     


     

    In the public mind the word “toughness” is associated with endurance. A marathoner gutting it out for hours. A professional boxer surviving a dozen rounds. Yet the never-give-up mindset is just as present in expressions of maximal strength. It is the ability to grind a crushing weight to the top. And to do it without compromising one’s technique.

    A strength professional does not have a plan B. Only an amateur does. The latter suddenly has doubts about having enough strength to complete the lift as planned. He seeks the path of least resistance. To use the kettlebell military press as an example, he shrugs his shoulder and leans way back… This gives him a better leverage—at least for the moment. As with all panicked decisions, this one is very short sighted. It may be easier to move the kettlebell another inch or two with a shrug, but afterwards there is nowhere to go but shoulder impingement.

    An experienced lifter, on the other hand, will keep grinding it out straight and narrow, no matter how hard it feels, without taking what seems like an easier detour. He has faith in his strength and stays in the groove, no matter how hard it is. This is the hallmark of a strength professional. And if the weight happens to be beyond his limit on that day, he will, as Marty Gallagher has put it, “fail with integrity”.

    Several weeks ago StrongFirst posted a video of John Spezzano, SFG II military pressing a 97-pound kettlebell. A record it is not but it is a strong lift for a wiry 175-pound martial artist in his mid-forties. But it was the manner in which John performed that was especially impressive. No leg kicking, no hip checking, no belly bouncing. And an excruciating—yet quite safe—grind. The kettlebell stopped dead in its tracks when the girevik’s upper arm was not even parallel to the ground. At that point a lesser man would have quit, but not Spezzano.

     

     

    Shrugging one’s shoulders involuntarily is a sign of fear. John showed the kettlebell no fear and no mercy: his shoulder stayed down. His torso tilted to the side, but no more than necessary not to topple when pressing heavy relative to one’s bodyweight. His back did not hyperextend. He fought the piece of metal for eternity and he won.

    It goes without saying that one should not attempt such efforts every training session—or even every month. Even if you are able to stay injury free, you will fry your nervous system. There is an abyss between training and testing. In preparation for his PR John was following one of my experimental programs and never came close to failure. Most of his pressing was done with a 32kg kettlebell for sets of 2-4 reps and a 28kg kettlebell for sets of 3-6. That is 1/3-2/3 RM or even less.

    (A lyrical detour. Next time you see “AMRAP” anywhere, leave that place and never come back. The proper term is “RM”, or “repetition maximum”. It was coined back in 1945 by respected strength researcher Captain Thomas DeLorme and it does not need to be reinvented or lengthened.)

    To make sense of the above numbers, 32kg is 80% of John’s 40kg x 1RM at the start of the eight-week plan and 28kg is 70%. Considering that an athlete who is slightly on the fast twitch side typically can do 70% x 10RM and 80% x 6RM, John was doing only 1/3-2/3 of the maximal reps possible. And if his muscles were more slow twitch, then that percentage was even lower—much lower. For eight weeks John was not testing; he was practicing, “greasing the groove” in an organized manner. This is exactly how you should train.

    As for maxing, for most athletes working up to what Russians call the “training max” and Master SFG Dan John calls the “sort of max” is more than enough. If you thought the purpose of this blog was to encourage you to test your 1RM in a no-holds-barred manner, it is not. Not at all. Such efforts are the domain of competitive lifters—and of rare athletes from other sports like John Spezzano with iron will and iron discipline.

    No, my goal was to instill respect in a truly all-out strength effort as an act of mental toughness every bit in the league with an exhausting race. And to remind you the meaning of respect, period. When we posted the video of John’s press, people who knew the score were duly impressed. Of course, typical for our age when even the clueless get a voice, others wailed about what they perceived as a dangerous lift failing to appreciate the beautiful effort of which they are not capable.

    Respect.
     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 2:59 pm on June 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Kettlebell Lessons with a Firearms Instructor 

    By Eric Frohardt, SFG

     

    I’ve been training with kettlebells since 2005.  I’ve been training with firearms even longer. My experience with both led me to the conclusion that there are a LOT of similarities between the two.  During one of the breaks at a recent SFG cert where I was assisting, I mentioned this to Pavel.  He asked me if I would write a guest blog on that topic.

    In both firearms training and kettlebell training “The Best Do the Basics Better”.  Training needs to be kept simple!  Is what I’m doing repeatable in a stressful situation?  Am I spending too much time figuring out what I’m supposed to do for today’s practice/training?

     


     
    Firearms skills have their own “fundamentals”: stance, grip, presentation, sight alignment, trigger control, recoil management, follow thru, economy of motion and self critique.

    In stressful situations, our fine motor skills deteriorate.  So, we hope to have engrained them through hours and hours of “perfect machine-like practice”.  We do what we can to maximize gross motor skills and engrain the fine motor skills.  Trigger control being the fundamental most of us struggle with.

    It always happens at our facility in Denver.  A new shooter is starting to get pretty good and is getting bored with basic drills.  He moves on to more advanced drills without laying a deep foundation.  He regresses.  The shooters who spend more time on the basics are able to build a taller pyramid.

    Enter the technique called “dry fire”squeezing the trigger of your firearm without a round in the chamber.  To illustrate the importance of dry fire, consider the story of Dave Westerhout.  Mr. Westerhout is known as one of the founders of the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) and a trainer for the Rhodesia Defense Force.  In the late 70’s, ammunition was particularly scarce in the African nation of Rhodesia.  This ammunition shortage was due in large part to how unpopular Rhodesia was politically. The native African population was disenfranchised and Rhodesia was breaking away from the British Empire.  Other nations weren’t recognizing them as a nation and multiple trade sanctions were imposed.  One side effect of these sanctions was an extreme ammunition shortage.

    Westerhout adapted to the severe ammunition shortage the only way he knew how: dry fire practice.  He conducted experiments with two groups of soldiers.  One would use live fire, the other dry fire.  The results were impressive.  The dry fire group was outscoring the live fire group!  This convinced the leadership to adopt the dry fire practice for the entire force.

    Then, in 1977 at the first World Practical Pistol Championship, the Rhodesian team produced some astounding results.  Dave Westerhout took the first place and another Rhodesian took the second, the Rhodesian team won the overall team event!

     

     

    An American took the third place.  All of this happened when the US was considered the dominant force in competitive shooting.  All of this happened while Rhodesia faced an ammo shortage.  How is this possible?—Lots of dry fire!

    The advantages of dry fire are obvious.  You can do it in your home very quickly and easily.  You are not driving somewhere and spending money on range time or ammo.  You are getting a LOT of repetition and working on the most difficult of all fundamentals—the trigger control.  Anyone can squeeze a trigger.  Anyone can align the sights.  Can you maintain sight alignment through a smooth yet quick trigger squeeze?  If not, DRY FIRE!  Start with what takes the least time and costs the least money.  Add complexity later!

    Now, it should be noted: Dry fire practice does NOT fully replace live fire training.  It is just a great supplemental training tool.  There are certain fundamentals you just can’t practice without sending rounds down range.  For starters, you can’t practice Recoil Management. This stands to reason, as it’s hard to practice managing a gun’s recoil w/out feeling it recoil in your hands.  Secondly, you can’t practice the Follow Through. In this instance, that simply means you can’t get a feel for how quickly you can get the gun back on target and send additional rounds down range (should it be necessary).  All of that aside, you can practice the most difficult fundamental with dry fire training: the Trigger Control.

     

    A few words from Pavel

    Strength equivalents of dry fire are easy: greasing the groove with a light weight and practicing full body tension with no weight.  Lifting a heavy weight is the equivalent of firing live ammo.  The combined effect is deadly.

     

    Another similarity I noticed is that Frequency Trumps Durationclick to tweet

    Are you training only once in awhile for a long dragged out session that leaves you wiped out?  Or are you training more frequently for shorter periods leaving you “stronger or better” than when you started?

    Your kettlebell instructor will teach you to look at your kettlebell training as practice.  Practice the moves and learn how to generate tension.  Engrain the fundamentals so that they become muscle memory.

    The best ability is “availability”.  Are you “available” to train again in a day or two or did you go too hard today?  If you are constantly pushing the envelope, you will miss practice sessions.  In the long term, you’ll be stronger and more fit if you don’t train to failure and when you leave stronger than when you started.  You will trick yourself into doing lots of volume by doing these short sessions with strength moves that are not to failure.  Obviously, it’s necessary to push yourself once in awhile.  After doing so, take it easy.  Manage your recovery.  Follow with lower volume and build back up.

    The same holds true in firearms training.  It is very easy to burn out!  Remember, practice doesn’t make perfect.  Perfect, machine-like practice makes perfect!  It’s better to shoot weekly for 30 minutes than twice a year for multiple hours.  Shooting skills can be extremely perishable.  Of course, if we have the time and money, we can get REALLY good by attending weekend or even week-long clinics.  But not all of us do.  Even if we do, it’s best to keep sharp by frequent and perfect practice.  Even just shooting a little bit twice a month is better than once or twice a year for extended periods of time.  Find a range with membership options and take full advantage of it!

     

     

    In almost all branches of the military and law enforcement communities there is a simple expression: “You Train How You Fight.”  This simply means that what you do in training you will do in combat or in a real life situation.  Don’t expect to do anything other than what you have already engrained.  If you are not yet able to do it under stress without thinking, than it hasn’t yet been engrained.

    How does this apply to kettlebell training?  Simple: the technique has to be so engrained that you can flawlessly execute it even when tired.  Otherwise, you are increasing your chance of injury.  Specifically, you need to be concentrating during your training even on the small details.  An example would be always parking the bell safely after a set, regardless of how tired you are.  Make the mental effort to do so EVERY time.  That is just one example.  There are others.  Make sure every point of performance is perfect.  Master the movement, weight and repetition will come.  It’s a lot like the previously mentioned “the best do the basics better”.  If you are always making sure that you are PRACTICING proper technique, it will become engrained.  Then, when you are doing your hard workouts (again, once in awhile) or as some would say “doing battle with your kettlebell”, the technique will be engrained.  You’ll be tired, but you’ll park the bell safely. You will be much less likely to hurt yourself.  Did I mention how important it is to be “available” for the next workout?

    There is an obvious correlation for this saying in firearms training.  If you practice it enough, it will become engrained.  If you reload your magazine while manipulating your firearm in your “work-space” every time… you’ll do it under stress.  If you are always preparing the trigger and using verbal cues to remind yourself to do so, it will become engrained.  You’ll do it when it counts.  If you are always obtaining a second sight picture and preparing to fire again, you’ll be more prepared for real life situations that may require more than one shot.  These are just a few of the myriad of examples of this.  “We don’t rise to the occasion… we fall to our level of training.” 

    The final point I will make has been alluded to throughout the article.  I have seen it a lot in both kettlebell and firearms training.  Someone reads a few articles, watches some YouTube videos or maybe even buys a book and thinks he knows it all.  They don’t think they need an instructor.  What they fail to realize is just how valuable an instructor can be.  You can’t very easily watch your own technique.  Even if you could (mirrors/videos), it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to correct it through mental cues and other techniques.

    I fell into this category for awhile with my own kettlebell training.  Then one day, I attended one of Pavel’s kettlebell certifications.  My technique was fixed.  I got stronger and more athletic and all while spending less time “working out”.  (Hint: I stopped “working out” and started “practicing!”)

    Take the time up front.  Invest the money early.  Get solid instruction from a reputable kettlebell instructor who teaches the skills you are looking for, be it general preparation, competition, or something else.

    The same holds true in firearms training.  You must begin with the end in mind!  If you want to simply be a good target shooter, find someone who is or has trained target marksmen.  If you want to compete in USPSA, IDPA, or similar shooting competitions, find people who have done so or who have a track record of teaching such competitors.  If you are only interested in being more prepared for realistic, concealed carry, self-defense situations—seek out instructors who have been there and done that.  In most cases, the best instructors for this type of shooting are those with military and/or law enforcement experience who have been in these situations and used certain tactics, techniques and procedures and have come out ALIVE!  There is a big difference between competition and tactical or self-defense training.  You want instructors whose methods are proven in combat… not in theory!

    In kettlebell training and firearms training, your goals should drive your choice of instructor and method of training.  Your instructor should use proven techniques that help you obtain your goal or reach your objective.  As Dan John has said, “The path already exists.  Copy the path!” 

    In summary:

    1. Train with an objective in mind.  What is your goal?
    2. The best do the basics better.  Have you mastered the basics yet?
    3. Frequency trumps duration.  How often do you train?
    4. You train how you fight.  Are you engraining good technique?
    5. Get an instructor!  Are you qualified to teach yourself?

     
     

    Eric Frohardt is an SFG Level I instructor.  He was medically retired from the Navy after over 11 years of service and now lives in Denver, CO.  Together with former teammate Sean Haberberger he owns and operates the BluCore Shooting Center and online gun, gear and ammo store BluCore Online Store.

    The BluCore Shooting Center has a full service shooting center offering a gun store, gun range and firearms training program.  Their instructors are a mix of former Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, Army Rangers, Delta operators, law enforcement SWAT officers and competitive shooters.  They recently opened a gun store in the Austin Texas area as well.

     

     
  • Nikki Shlosser 3:23 pm on June 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Strength and Conditioning for BJJ Fighters 

    By Danny Clark, SFG

     
    This past November marked my greatest athletic accomplishment of my life:

    Representing Team USA at the FILA World Grappling Championships in Krakow, Poland and taking home the bronze medal.

    Afterwards, Pavel asked me to write an article on my approach to strength and conditioning for the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  “Simple enough,” I thought to myself initially.

     

    After some more thinking, I realized the scale of the task at hand and the complexity behind dissecting and analyzing the years of cross training schemes.  I started to wonder if there really was a way to sum up my approach.  It also brought up a critical question: “Should I attribute my success to the combination of the interdisciplinary skills I learned by spending time wrestling and studying judo, sombo, jiu jitsu and other related grappling arts over the course of 20 something years or was it my lifelong dedication to physical conditioning; specifically strength training?

    Of course, both played a huge role in the accomplishment.  But, personally, what really distinguished my abilities as an athlete has been my willingness to develop my physical abilities, namely my strength, hand in hand with my technical abilities.  This combination has proven to be quite difficult or my adversaries to deal with even at the highest levels of competition.

     

    As I began to analyze my tactics over the years for developing strength, I realized that the majority of my progress resulted from plenty of time mastering a few basic movements and principals.  Every time I found a weakness over the years, either in terms of strength or range of motion, I worked on using intelligent and purposeful protocols to balance that weak link into proportion with the rest of my body.  Likewise, every time I got an injury, I used the proper (simple) protocols and sufficient recovery time to allow myself to fully heal.  Using these protocols increased my sustainable athletic ability, which then prolonged my career enough to make some significant achievements.

    I think many athletes, and sometimes even coaches, wrongly believe there is a trade-off between strength and technical ability.  I believe this fallacy stems from the “bodybuilders” who enter a random grappling or wrestling tournament and gas out after 30 seconds (it’s more common that you think).  Or maybe it’s the grapplers who only show up to practice once or twice a week but spend 5 days a week in the weight room either pumping up their pecs and biceps or “building core strength.”

    Another obstacle that keeps many athletes away from strength training is the false concept that building strength is too time consuming since 3-5 hours a week is supposedly needed to hit all the major muscle groups (ie chest and tri’s day, back and bi’s day etc).  The reality is that a regularly practicing jiu jitsu fighter only needs 1-2 hours of additional strength work to see big improvements in their game.

    The final common excuse I hear is the infamous fear of “getting too bulky.”  If only people realized how much work (both in terms of very heavy weights and equally heavy food) is required to get “bulky” muscles, I think their anxieties would be put to rest.

    True strength movements hit the entire body as a unit instead of focusing on “muscle groups” and drastically increase the strength of the hips, which power virtually every movement in BJJ.

     

    The program below is a practical approach to strength training for someone who is interested in supplementing their BJJ game based on a formula that I have applied time and time again over the years to prepare myself and others for the toughest of martial arts competitions.

    The program is designed around movements I consider “essential” and are listed below:

    Hinge – Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlifts, Olympic Lifts (advanced only)

    Squat – Barbell/Kettlebell Front Squat, Pistol

    Press –Overhead Press, Handstand Pushup, Bench Press, Pushup

    Pull – (Weighted) Pullup, Barbell/Kettlebell/Dumbell Row

    Others (superset into strength work) – Turkish Get-Up, Grip-Specific Work, Abdominal-Specific Work, External Rotations, Jump Training

    Finishers – KB Swings, KB Snatches, KB Goblet Squats

     

    Improvement Season Program (No tournaments within 8 weeks):

    Strength Work

    Day 1 – Hinge, Pull, Finisher

    Day 2 – Squat, Push, Finisher

    A Great Warm Up:  Joint Mobility, 15 Hip Hinges, 10 Halos per side, 10 Goblet Squats, 10 Pushups, 10 Explosive Sit-ups (mimicking a guard attack sit up), 15 Swings, 1 light TGU per side

    Sets, Reps, Load:  Complete 3-5 sets per movement, depending on time availability.  You will be cycling your reps over the course of 4 weeks and adding progressively heavier loads.  For squats/hinges start with 6 reps per set for week 1 and drop 1 rep each week until you are down to 3-5 sets of 3 on week 4.  At week 5, start over at 6 reps.

    For pushes/pulls, start with 3-5 sets of 10 reps per movement during week 1 and drop 2 reps each week until you are down to 3-5 sets of 4 during week 4.

    Make sure the load is appropriate relative to the number of reps performed and, of course, never compromise technique.  Never “max out” or reach failure.

    Include variety with exercise choices, but stick with the same movement every week for at least 1-2 full cycles if you are a novice lifter or learning a new variation of one of the movements.  Be smart and use proper progressions for the more challenging exercises such as pistols and handstand pushups.

    Avoid overtraining.  Personally, I take a week off every 12 weeks, but there are various other strategies to avoid overtraining and long plateaus.

    Superset in some of my favorite “other” movements, listed below:

    • Turkish Get-Ups – Great for shoulder health and active recovery.
    • Abdominal-Specific Work – Hanging Leg Raises and Bar Rotations.  That’s it.

    Bar Rotations are performed by sticking the end of a barbell (usually wrapped in a cloth) into a corner.  Hold the other end of the bar with a baseball bat grip.  Your top hand should be at the top edge of the end of the barbell and your hips should be as square as possible to the corner.  “Wind up” your hips away from the bar and aggressively bump the bar with your hips to set it in motion.  Ride out the kinetic energy of the bar with almost straight arms until the bar is all the way on the other side of your hips.  Centrifugal force will keep the bar far away from your body.  You will rotate slightly on your feet as you perform this motion.  When executed properly, the bar should move with speed and your mid-section should be exhausted at the end of each set; not your shoulders or arms.  Never do more than 10 reps per side.  Work up to adding a 25 pound plate to the bar.

    • Grip-Specific Work – Bodyweight bar hangs, Front loaded barbell hangs, Farmers Walks, Pipe Rollers, etc.
    • External Rotations – Scarecrows, Resistance band and cable external rotations.  I always include these on push days.
    • Jumps (advanced)– Vertical jump, broad jumps, lateral jumps, never more than 4 reps per set.

     

    Rest:  3-5 minutes of active recovery between sets and supersets

    Finishers: 10 minutes of classic kettlebell workouts with respectable bell sizes (swing/snatch/goblet squat ladders, pyramids, or intervals)

    More Notes:  The time commitment here is minimal while the benefits are tremendous.  Start very light and have knowledgeable coaches provide constructive criticism to refine your technique to ensure you are actually building strength and not just getting better at cheating the movement.  Focus on the bodyweight varieties if you do not have access to a gym.  Re-access your progress every 2-3 months based on your training journal (and make sure you are thinking “wow, xxx lbs. used to feel kinda heavy”).

    Conditioning Work

    BJJ practice and the finishers following each strength workout should be sufficient to maintain baseline conditioning.  Run at a slow pace for at least ½ hour no more than 1 x per week to maintain aerobic conditioning if not getting enough conditioning during your BJJ practice.

    Bonus: Flexibility Work

    BJJ rewards a degree of flexibility beyond the average grappling art.  Take away the guesswork behind adding substantial flexibility and hop into a yoga class at least once a week.  My favorite styles are Ashtanga (a structured series of postures) and Vinyasa (a more varied, free flowing style).  You will be amazed with your progress within a few short weeks given you don’t crank yourself into an injured state by rushing and forcing.  If you don’t have time for a class, pop in a beginner DVD and practice for at least ½ hour at home.  An added bonus of taking yoga is the additional breath control you gain by practicing the “ujjayi” breathing.  I find this method helps me remember to breathe deep enough during competitions.

     

    Competition Season Program (within 8 weeks of a tournament or series of tournaments):

    Strength Work

    Day 1 – Hinge, Pull, Finisher

    Day 2 – Squat, Push, Finisher

    Sets, Reps, Load:  After warming up, I recommend doing 2 sets of 6-8 reps for each squat/hinge movement with a relatively light to moderate load.  For pushes/pulls, I recommend 2 sets of 8-10 with a light/moderate load.  Include ample variety in exercise choices, but do not try anything brand new within 4 weeks of a big competition.

    Rest:  1 minute between sets/supersets

    More Notes:  Yes, the training split is still exactly the same.  There is no need to complicate things.  Since the focus of the last 8 weeks during this phase will be more on conditioning, strength workouts should be much briefer (as indicated by only 2 sets per movement).  I would recommend including plenty of grip oriented varieties of common strength movements such as towel or Gi grip pullups, thick bar deadlifts, and superset in plenty of static holds such as bar hangs and farmers walks.  Additionally, superset in some “squeezing strength” drills during your strength workouts or BJJ practices.

    Squeezing Strength Drills:

    30 seconds squeezing a foam roller as hard as you can:

    1)     Rear Naked Choke Squeeze (left and right side)
    2)     Triangle Squeeze (2 foam rollers, left and right side)
    3)     Guillotine/Ankle Lock Squeeze (left and right side)
    4)     Guard Squeeze (2 foam rollers)

    Finisher:  Same, occasionally including some higher intensity protocols such as tabatas and breathing ladders

    Conditioning Work

    On top of more “live” sparring during BJJ practice and some additional road work, be sure to include at least 2 short sessions per week that are designed to push your mental toughness and anaerobic conditioning.  This can be accomplished in a multitude of settings and designs but make sure someone else is there to push you beyond your “comfort zone.”  Don’t injure yourself by being reckless.

     

    So, there you have it:  A nice formula for approaching strength and conditioning with the purpose of enhancing your BJJ game.  The biggest question is… “Will you let your ego get in the way of your training?”  99% of athletes do.  Be the 1% that is willing to do what’s needed to succeed and continue to push the evolution of the sport.

    Cheers!

    Danny Clark, SFG

     

    Do you still need to learn any of those lifts?
     
    A STRONGFIRST COURSE WILL TEACH YOU.
     
  • Nikki Shlosser 3:05 pm on June 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    A Secret Kettlebell Weapon for a Big Bench Press 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman


     
    It is an axiom: if you want to bench big, you must arch big.  An arch shortens the range of motion, puts you into a much stronger decline press angle, pre-stretches the pecs, and puts the shoulders in a much safer position.

    The problem is, an excessive arch, such as the one demonstrated by the young lady in the photo above, is very hard on the lower back.  Elite competitors understand the risks and accept them as a part of the sport.  If you do not compete in powerlifting and bench to get stronger for some other application, you have no business arching your lower back like them.  Force your chest out, pinch your shoulder blades together, and this will arch your back just enough.

    But you can and should use one professional technique called the “lateral arch”.  If you look at the crown of a lifter’s head, the lateral arch goes from shoulder to shoulder.  It brings the scapulae together while spreading the chest out from shoulder to shoulder, as opposed to from the neck down, as the back arch does.
     

     
    At the StrongFirst Lifter certification we teach a number of exercises to develop the lateral arch.   The first has an additional benefit of improving the extension of the thoracic spine—your upper back.  It is a passive stretch with a yoga block.

    Set the block on what would be the book spine if it were a book.  Lie on it lengthwise, the top end at mid T-spine.  Place a folded towel under your head to limit the neck extension and enable you stay in the stretch longer.  Push your shoulders towards your feet and relax your arms on the floor, the palms up.  Stay in the stretch for minutes, “oozing” over the block, developing T-spine extension and the lateral arch.  Come out of the stretch by slowly rolling to your side rather than sitting up.

    Vary the placement of the top of the block under different sections of your T-spine.  Higher is more advanced.
     

     
    The kettlebell arm-bar is a real game changer for your lateral arch.  This exercise with many unexpected “what the hell effects”—such as improved roundhouse kicking power—is too subtle to teach in text or video.  I strongly urge you to get a lesson from an SFG certified kettlebell instructor.
     

     
    Arthur B. Jones who benched 562 pounds raw and drug free at 242 pounds of bodyweight famously quipped, “There is a difference between lifting more and actually getting stronger”.

    The traditional lower back arch just lets you lift more.  The lateral arch does both.

    Power and health to your benches!

     
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