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  • Nikki Shlosser 2:26 pm on March 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    The Stress-Free Strength Routine 

    By Geoff Neupert, Master SFG, CSCS

    We just had our second child – a daughter. She’s amazing as is the pure lack of sleep we are experiencing. It is not uncommon for me to get around four hours a sleep a night. This makes training very challenging. It makes making progress in my training even more so. The purely sane and rational thing to do during this period of time would be to go on a “maintenance” program.

    I am neither sane nor rational and I expect my body to make the progress I demand from it, or close to it, regardless of what my daughter or the rest of my life is doing.

    In order to keep from hurting myself (again like I did routinely in my 30s), I am now working with my old weightlifting coach. I tell him what’s going on in my life, what I think I can handle, and he writes my programs, with some guidelines of course.

    If you have a lot going on in your life and lack the ability to fully recover from your workouts like you once did, you have zero business training the way you used to – or the way others do.

    What I want to share with you is what is routinely working for me to push my strength levels back to where they were 15+ years ago, without having to work as hard as I did back then.

    It’s very simple, it’s called –

    The Top Set Method

    This has been used for time in memorium by some of the strongest guys in the world. Very simply, you work up to one top set in your training and call it a day.

    Traditionally, you would go “all out” on that set. But for guys (and girls) who’s recovery ability is challenged, that would be a mistake.

    Instead, you should grade your exertion on an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) scale of 1 to 10 and keep your RPEs between 7 and 8. Sometimes, 6’s are good too – usually when you think a weight is going to be a 7 and it feels really light. Save the 9’s for the end of your strength cycle – one, two workouts at the most.

    Here’s how I suggest you set up your training:

    1. Use either 5×5 or 5×3 for your workouts. Or for better results, alternate between workouts of the two.
    2. Start your cycle light – around 60-65% to give yourself some momentum and train the skill of strength.
    3. Train 3 times a week using an “A-B Split” – that is, where you alternate between an “A” training session and a “B” training session.

    Also, turn your warm ups into –

    Group Sets

    Group sets, are a little trick I learned from my weightlifting coach. You simply perform your warm up sets back-to-back, adding load each set, with as little rest as possible between them.

    This excites your nervous system and allows you to put more force into each rep of that top set. And they work like a charm. (You might feel a little winded after doing them, but don’t worry about that – the metabolic effects don’t have a negative neurological transfer.)

    Here’s how I recommend you perform this:

    Sets 1-3: As little rest as possible between them and then rest 2-3 minutes after set 3.

    Set 4: First work set. Rest 3-5 minutes after.

    Set 5: Top set.

    However, if you’re really hurting in the sleep department or using some highly technical lifts, you may want to do it the following way (which is what I do):

    Set 1: Rest long enough to add load or around 30 to 60s, depending on the exercise or how I’m feeling on that exercise

    Set 2: Rest long enough to add load OR about 60-120s, depending…

    Set 3: Rest 2-3 minutes

    Set 4: Rest 3-5 minutes, usually more toward 5 minutes the heavier the load

    Set 5: Top set.

    When I was younger, I used to love the high volume, multiple “70 Percent for five by five” type routines. Now, I just don’t have the time, energy, or desire to perform them. I’ve found I can make great, steady, measurable progress using the “Top Set Method.”

    If you’ve stalled or burnt out, you should give it a shot – It’s the most “stress-free” strength training method I’ve found.


    Geoff Neupert: StrongFirst Bio

    Geoff Neupert, Master SFG, CSCS, has been training both himself and others with kettlebells since 2002. He’s been in the fitness/strength & conditioning industries since 1993 and has worked as a personal trainer, Division 1 strength and conditioning coach (Rutgers University), and a personal training business owner. He has over 22,000 hours of one-on-one personal training since he started counting in 2002.

    He currently writes a daily strength and conditioning report called “Kettlebell Secrets,” in which he dishes out no-nonsense advice to get as strong, lean, and well conditioned as possible using kettlebells; he also consults with clients online. Geoff has authored multiple books and training programs, including, Kettlebell Muscle, Kettlebell Burn 2.0, Kettlebell Burn EXTREME!, Kettlebell Express!, Kettlebell Express! ULTRA, and Kettlebell STRONG!, The Olympic Rapid Fat Loss Program, Six Pack Abs 365, and The Permanent Weight Loss Solution. He has also co-author the ground-breaking training books: Original Strength and Original Strength: Performance.

    Geoff is a former state champion and nationally qualified Olympic lifter. He is married to a wonderful woman and has two young kids, who keep him on his toes, which coincidentally, is pretty good for hamstring development.

    Geoff is also the CEO of Original Strength Systems, a movement restoration system who’s mission is to set people free through movement.

  • Nikki Shlosser 5:03 pm on February 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    How to Conquer the Dreaded Deep 6 

    Class Programming

    By Jon Engum, Master SFG

    Several years ago I designed a practice based on an idea I got from Maxwell’s omelet workout—the difference being, where the omelet served up a bit of everything, my Deep 6 focused on only the 6 core lifts in the SFG level I curriculum.  My purpose was threefold— first, I wanted to get conditioning benefits without messing with high reps or light weights; second, I wanted a deep skill practice on all 6 Basics; third, I wanted to really stress-proof my Getups.  The Deep 6 delivers all of this and more…but as I worked with students, I quickly realized the ones who where strong enough to finish the Deep 6 really did not need the Deep 6, and the ones who really could benefit from it…failed to complete.  The short answer to this problem was, be strong first!  Easily said, a little more complex in reality.

    So what follows is a practice/plan to take your group class on a guided tour of the Deep 6 , ensuring that they have and keep stellar technique as well as stay together as a unit.  Before I reveal the guided session plan let us have a look at the original plan in case you are not familiar with it. Remember this is for someone who has a firm grip, pun intended, on the Basic 6. Be warned, the Deep 6 looks easy on paper but it is a whole other beast in reality.

    The plan goes like this:

    All lifts are done right-handed without setting the bell down between moves.
    -       5 Swings
    -       5 Snatches
    -       5 Clean and Presses
    -       5 Front Squats
    -       1 Get up * from the top down ala Shawn Cairnes “the Get down”
    -       After the last Squat, Press the bell to lockout and do the down phase of the Getup until you are at the firing range position and then get back up.
    -       Now switch hands and repeat the sequence on the left.  Try for 5 rounds.

    Beginners:  Rest 30 seconds after every hand switch, rest 1 minute between rounds.
    Intermediate Level: Rest after you have competed both right and left. 30 seconds to 1 minute
    Advanced Level:  No rest, go through all 5 cycles.
    Suggested weight: 24k for men and 12K for women. For people with masochistic tendencies use a 32k or 16k respectively.

    Now that you have seen the original Deep 6 let’s look at the plan to progressively implement it into a group setting.

    Weight Selection

    Let’s start with weight selection. Have your students grab a kettlebell that they can strictly press for about 8 reps, we want this to be heavy but they need to get 5 presses with that weight. I use the press to determine the kettlebell selection because if they can press it five times they should be able to do the other lifts no problem…if not they are not ready for this practice.  One more word about weight selection, choose your “sport weight” not your “game weight.”  What does that mean?  One humorist said if you can do an activity while chewing tobacco, it is a game not a sport. Choose a sport weight!


    Have the students form a big circle. You are standing in the center of the circle. Make certain the students have plenty of room between each other; they will need to be able to have enough room to do a Getup safely.

    Round One:

    Do 5 one arm Swings with your right arm. Put the bell down and do fast and loose until everyone finishes.

    Do 5 Snatches with your right arm. Put the bell down and do fast and loose until everyone finishes.

    Do 5 Clean and Presses with your right arm. Put the bell down and do fast and loose until everyone finishes.

    Clean the bell with your right arm, keep the bell in the rack and do 5 Front Squats.  Put the bell down and do fast and loose until everyone finishes.

    Press or Pushpress the bell to the overhead lockout position and perform one Reverse Getup. Put the bell down and do fast and loose until everyone finishes.

    Have the class walk around the outside of the circle twice for recovery.

    Repeat the above sequence on the left side.

    Have the class walk another 2 laps around the circle for recovery.

    Round 1 is very easy; it has plenty of recovery built in. It gives you a chance to make adjustments in techniques or weight of the bell. It also gives the students a chance to learn the sequence of moves…it is a great start of the Deep 6 Tour.

    Round 2

    Do 5 one arm Swings on the right and without setting the bell down immediately do 5 Snatches on the right. Set the bell down and perform fast and loose shakeouts until everyone is done.

    Do 5 Clean and Presses on the right, leave the bell in the rack when finished and immediately do 5 Front Squats. Put the bell down and perform fast and loose shakeouts until everyone is finished.

    Get the bell overhead in any safe manner and do one Reverse Getup. Set the bell down and do fast and loose until everyone is finished.

    Jog 2 laps slowly around the outside of the circle doing shakeouts as you go for recovery.

    Repeat the above sequence on your left side.

    Round 2 takes up the intensity a bit by pairing the exercises and cutting down the rest period. It is a good intermediate step. 

    Round 3

    Do the whole Deep 6 on the right side without putting the bell down. After you finish the Reverse Getup, set the bell down and do fast and loose until everyone is done. Jog one lap around the outside of the circle for recovery.

    Repeat on the left.

    Round 3 is a good stopping point for most students. It is hard and they may need to spend some quality time at this level which is fine.

    Round 4

    Do the full Deep 6 on your right side, swing switch and do the full Deep 6 on your left side, set the bell down and do shakeouts until the group finishes.  Jog around the outside of the circle for 3 laps, progressively getting slower with each lap until they are finally just walking and things have simmered down to normal.

    It will take about 45 minutes or so to get a large group through the whole lesson plan. It progressively gets more challenging with each round and of course, you can always stop at whatever round you deem appropriate.   This is tried and true and I hope your classes will enjoy it. Drop me a line at info@extremetraining.net or ping me on the StrongFirst forum and let me know how it goes.


    Jon Engum is a 7th Dan Kukkiwon Certified Taekwondo Grandmaster and in addition holds Master rank in Hapkido and Kumdo.  He is the author of Flexible Steel, owner of Jon Engum’s Extreme Training and a StrongFirst Master Instructor who teaches Workshops, Courses and Certifications worldwide.

    info@extremtraining.net         http://extremetraining.net

    (218) 828-7063

  • Nikki Shlosser 3:43 pm on February 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Moving Target Kettlebell Complex 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman 

    Kettlebell complexes rock.  A few months ago StrongFirst published the “Total Tension” Kettlebell Complex in this blog.  Those of you who followed the plan as written saw excellent results.  Senior SFG Tommy Blom, for instance, gained 3,8kg or 8.4 pounds of lean body mass in six weeks. 

    Following is another StrongFirst complex.  We put SFG I students through it at the last two certs, in South Africa and Australia.

    You need a pair of kettlebells you can strictly press 6-8 times.


    1 clean + 2 presses + 1 squat
    1 clean + 3 presses + 1 squat
    1 clean + 5 presses + 1 squat

    Then repeat the process with squats, using the same bells:

    1 clean + 1 press + 2 squats
    1 clean + 1 press + 3 squats
    1 clean + 1 press + 5 squats

    And finally with cleans:

    2 cleans + 1 press + 1 squats
    3 cleans + 1 press + 1 squats
    5 cleans + 1 press + 1 squats

    The pattern is clear: a single rep of two of the component drills and a (2, 3, 5) ladder of the third.  Systemically, you are getting tired, but the muscular stress target keeps shifting and you can keep going without compromising your technique.

    If you do the math, you will see that the above totals 16 reps of each exercise.  That is not a lot, but the 1:1 work to rest ratio (“I go, you go”) will make sure this brief session will get your attention.  If it has not, repeat the whole series once more after 10min of rest.  Rest actively: walk around, do a couple of brettzels, hip flexor stretches, etc.

    There are many ways to build a four to six week training plan around this workout.  If you are experienced in program design, give it a shot and post your solution in the comments section.  I will select the best ones and include them in a future blog.

    Enjoy the pain!

    # # #

    Accept the challenge:

    Sign up for StrongFirst Girya kettlebell instructor certification course

  • Nikki Shlosser 4:29 pm on February 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    The Fighter Pullup Program Revisited 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman

    Last week we posted an outstanding article on training for the TSC by Jason Marshall, Senior SFG.  Jason referenced the “Fighter Pullup Program”, an plan by an unknown Russian author I wrote about a decade ago.  The FPP is remarkable; you may have read how Amanda Perry, SFG progressed from 6 to 13 strict pullups in one month.  We are reprinting the program by popular demand.

    One look at Mike Tyson’s back when he punched should make it obvious how important the lats are to a fighter.  The lat provides a connection between your arm and the rest of your body at the moment of the punch’s impact.   If the “armpit muscle” is not activated you cannot put your mass behind the punch and your shoulder is asking for trouble.

    The pullup is the logical choice of an exercise to strengthen your lats.  If you ask an experienced bodybuilder how to work the latissimus most thoroughly he will tell you to look up, force your chest open, and draw your shoulder blades together on the top of the pullup.  This may be okay for bodybuilders, but what does this have to do with fighting?  You move in the ring in what gymnasts call “the hollow position”—the scapulae flared and the chest caved in.  This is the way you should finish your pullups.  Look straight ahead and hunch over the bar.  Touch your neck or upper chest to the bar to make sure there is no question that you have completed the rep.  Lower yourself under complete control and pause momentarily with your arms fully straight before going for another rep.

    Here is a powerful Russian pullup program adaptable to any level of ability.

    The 5RM Fighter Pullup Program

    Day 1     5, 4, 3, 2, 1
    Day 2     5, 4, 3, 2, 2
    Day 3     5, 4, 3, 3, 2
    Day 4     5, 4, 4, 3, 2
    Day 5     5, 5, 4, 3, 2
    Day 6     off
    Day 7     6, 5, 4, 3, 2
    Day 8     6, 5, 4, 3, 3
    Day 9     6, 5, 4, 4, 3
    Day 10    6, 5, 5, 4, 3
    Day 11    6, 6, 5, 4, 3
    Day 12    off
    Day 13    7, 6, 5, 4, 3
    Day 14    7, 6, 5, 4, 4
    Day 15    7, 6, 5, 5, 4
    Day 16    7, 6, 6, 5, 4
    Day 17     7, 7, 6, 5, 4
    Day 18    off
    Day 19    8, 7, 6, 5, 4
    Day 20    8, 7, 6, 5, 5
    Day 21    8, 7, 6, 6, 5
    Day 22    8, 7, 7, 6, 5
    Day 23    8, 8, 7, 6, 5
    Day 24    off
    Day 25    9, 8, 7, 6, 5
    Day 26    9, 8, 7, 6, 6
    Day 27    9, 8, 7, 7, 6
    Day 28    9, 8, 8, 7, 6
    Day 29    9, 9, 8, 7, 6
    Day 30    off

    You start with an all-out set and then cut a rep in each consecutive set for a total of five sets.  The next day add a rep to the last set.  Then a rep to the set before that, etc.  The system is intended to be used for four weeks.  In the end of the month take two or three days off and then test yourself.  It is not unusual to up the reps 2.5-3 times.  In other words, you are likely to end up cranking out 12-15 reps if you started with 5.  If you can already do between 6 and 12 reps start the program with the first day your PR shows up.  For instance, if your max is 6 pullups start with Day 7; if your max is 8 start with Day 19.

    If you run into a snag with this routine, back off a week and build up again.  If you hit the wall again switch to another routine.

    Here is how the program applies to those who currently max at three pullups.  The below is also excellent for anyone whose goal is pure strength rather than reps; just hang a kettlebell or a barbell plate on your waist to bring the reps down to three.

    The 3RM Fighter Pullup Program

    Day 1     3, 2, 1, 1
    Day 2     3, 2, 1, 1
    Day 3     3, 2, 2, 1
    Day 4     3, 3, 2, 1
    Day 5     4, 3, 2, 1
    Day 6     off
    Day 7     4, 3, 2, 1, 1
    Day 8     4, 3, 2, 2, 1
    Day 9     4, 3, 3, 2, 1
    Day 10    4, 4, 3, 2, 1
    Day 11    5, 4, 3, 2, 1
    Day 12    off

    Now you are ready to move up to the 5RM program.

    For a fighter capable of 15 pullups the routine would look like this:

    The15RM Fighter Pullup Program

    Day 1     15RMx12, 10, 8, 6, 4
    Day 2     15RMx12, 10, 8, 6, 6
    Day 3     15RMx12, 10, 8, 8, 6
    Day 4     15RMx12, 10, 10, 8, 6
    Day 5     15RMx12, 12, 10, 8, 6
    Day 6     off
    Day 7     15RMx14, etc.

    A stud with a 25-pullup max would do it slightly differently:

    The 25RM Fighter Pullup Program

    Day 1     25RMx20, 16, 12, 8, 4
    Day 2     25RMx20, 16, 12, 8, 8
    Day 3     25RMx20, 16, 12, 12, 8
    Day 4     25RMx20, 16, 16, 12, 8
    Day 5     25RMx20, 20, 16, 12, 8
    Day 6     off
    Day 7     25RMx22, etc.

    You can see that the higher the RM, the quicker the reps drop off.   The reason is simple.  You should have no problem doing four reps a few minutes after 5RMx5.  But x24 is not going to happen after an all-out set of 25.  The higher the reps, the greater the fatigue.  Therefore you need to start more reps down from your rep-max and cut the reps more between sets.  Experiment.   An extra day of rest here and there is also in order; the recovery from sets of fifteen or twenty is not nearly as quick as from fives and triples.

    Yakov Zobnin from Siberia, the Heavyweight World Champion in Kyokushinkai, “the world’s strongest karate”, stands over 6’6” and tops the scale at 220 pounds.  In spite of his basketball height and exhausting full contact training, the karateka maxes out at twenty-five strict pullups.  What is your excuse?

    Bodyweight power to you!

    # # #



    FALLS CHURCH, VA – MAY 9-10 2014

    VANCOUVER, CANADA – MAY 10-11, 2014

    CHICAGO, IL – JUNE 14-15, 2014

    HARLOW, UK – AUGUST 16-17, 2014

  • Nikki Shlosser 4:13 am on January 14, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Everything IS a Nail 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman

    At a recent SFG kettlebell cert Dan John and I were waxing poetic about the sheer perfection of a program of swings, goblet squats, and get-ups for anyone, from the proverbial “Edna” on Social Security to “GI Joe,” an Army Ranger barely old enough to buy a beer and brimming with testosterone.  One of the students respectfully asked: “Could it be that if the only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail?”

    Our answer was: every trainee IS a “nail.”  Some are sturdier than others, but all undoubtedly are in the “nail” family.  All members of our species share the same anatomy and physiology.  What works for one, will work for another.  The difference is in the degree: how hard you pound the “nail” and how heavy of a “hammer” you are going to select.

    Edna and Joe may have different “sport-specific” goals.  She wants to be able to pick up her grandkid and to get up from the floor with no help and no groaning, should she decide to get down there to play with that grandkid.  She aspires to stand up from a chair spritely, to walk strongly, without fearing of falling and breaking her hip.

    Joe’s goal is to be able to sprint with his 100-pound kit, quickly move in and out of different shooting positions, negotiate obstacles without blowing out an ankle or a hamstring, carry a wounded brother-in-arms.

    Different as they appear, Edna’s and Joe’s goals rely on the same elements: mobile hips and knees, powerful legs, a stable trunk, a well “knit” body that moves as a unit, rather than a “collection of body parts.”  Once these general demands are met, specific skill practice may be needed—the Ranger needs to be taught how to correctly pick up a wounded comrade—but that becomes a piece of cake once the fundamental movement patterns are there, along with mobility and general strength.

    There are many ways to develop these fundamental qualities.  For instance, one could take up yoga to get flexible (in spite of a decided lack of squat type poses), get strong with the powerlifts, and go to a physical therapist to attempt (in vain, unless his name is Gray Cook) to make everything fire the right way.  Edna might get her arm twisted into yoga, but Joe would just as likely take up interior decorating.  In turn, Edna would rather join a gun range than a powerlifting gym.  Joe would not mind.  Fortunately, many US military bases in most unfriendly places are equipped with barbells.  Unfortunately, the stress of nightly missions in Afghan mountains does not leave much adrenaline for heavy squats.  And when he tried it, Joe almost let his team down as he was hobbling at half speed with sore quads on a night raid.  It would not occur to either Edna or Joe to seek out the services of a physical therapist or some “movement coach.”

    There are other ways, but most of them are just as cumbersome and unrealistic.  Enter the kettlebell.  Edna can easily afford one or two and Joe has them in his deployment kit.

    The Swing, the Get-Up, and the Goblet Squat are the three most beneficial exercises anyone could do—period.  Some might need to add other moves, but they must be planted on the foundation of these three whales.

    The Swing fills the hips with power and the back with vigor.  The Get-Up makes the shoulders resilient and the abs bulletproof.  The Goblet Squat unlocks the hips and puts a spring into one’s step.  Muscles appear in all the right places while the fat beats retreat.

    When done correctly, these exercises are exceptionally safe.  They are beyond safe—they are “anti fragile,” to borrow a word from Nassim Taleb.  The Program Minimum plus goblet squats is true health training.  I can run out of fingers on both hands listing the various health benefits of swings alone.

    “Customization” is just a euphemism for “differentiation” in the business world.  The only “customization” you need is the size of the bell.

    You are the nail; I rend you the hammer.

    The “hammer”: Pavel’s new book Kettlebell Simple & Sinister

  • Nikki Shlosser 3:48 am on December 3, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    An excerpt from: Kettlebell Simple & Sinister 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman


    Ladies and gentlemen, I present you my new book, Kettlebell Simple & Sinister.

    If you are new to kettlebells, S&S is your entry point.  If you have been around the kettlebell block, S&S will deepen your understanding of the hard style system and introduce you to important subtleties of technique and programming.

    Kettlebell Simple & Sinister starts with an accelerated sequence of learning the swing and the get-up, refined over the years of teaching.  The goblet squat and several other key stretches are introduced to unlock your hips.

    The programming is best described by the ad for the latest generation of the battle tested F-16 fighter jet: “Proven.  Powerful.  Perfected.”

    I do not care how smart you are and how hard you try, you are not going to one-up the Program Minimum by Steve Baccari.  No other kettlebell routine will deliver such extraordinary returns for such a minimal investment of time and energy.  Period.  Without touching this classic program’s DNA, I remastered it with research and experience of the last decade.

    Our strength bias has gotten stronger than ever.  You are not going to rush your rest periods—you are going to dominate the biggest, baddest kettlebell.

    I am not going into the scientific nitty-gritty in the book—but the set duration, volume, and rest periods experimentally arrived at by StrongFirst’s most experienced instructors like Mark Reifkind, Michael Castrogiovanni, and others are eerily in line with cutting edge Russian research.  Instead of killing yourself in the lactic acid zone, you will be training to exert your maximal power over and over—and rapidly recover aerobically.  The mindset of the remastered PM is that of a predator, not prey.

    The PM progression has become nearly foolproof.  A special option with lighter overspeed eccentric swings and static-dynamic method get-ups has been introduced.  It will enable you to train and keep making progress on the days when you are not at your best.

    The training loads were carefully laid out to give you more energy for sports and other pursuits rather than to drain you.  Because you have a life beyond kettlebells.

    Following is a short excerpt from Kettlebell Simple & Sinister.


    A Little Every Day Goes a Long Way

    More is not better, it’s just more.

    —Steve Baccari

    Would a higher volume be more effective?  Would shorter rest periods?

    Perhaps—but at what cost?

    First, consider that StrongFirst puts a premium on strength and power.

    It is tempting to write off the kettlebell as only an endurance tool, given its relative lightness.  But do not forget the “virtual force” that multiplies the bell’s “heaviness” by as much as ten times in the hands of a skilled hard style girevik.

    If you are told to do a higher volume or to compress the rest periods, you will unavoidably start holding back power, pacing yourself.  Your goal would change from getting the desired training effect to just surviving.  Remember Dr. Hatfield’s “cardio” training instructions to a power athlete: “an all-out effort… maximum contracture against submaximal resistance.”

    Another issue is efficiency.  Once you reach a certain volume, you hit the point of diminishing returns.  The human body is a non-linear system.  This means doubling your swings from 100 to 200 will not double the results—far from it.  A decade ago Michael Castrogiovanni, today an SFG Team Leader, identified the swing workout that gives the most for the least: 100 swings total, three times a week.

    Tim Ferriss, always dedicated to finding the minimum effective dose, discovered that as few as 150-300 weekly swings was the dose for him.  A total of ten to twenty minutes of weekly swings got him a ripped six-pack and added over 100 pounds to his deadlift.

    Finally, there is the big issue of leaving enough energy for other things—practicing sport skills, being ready to fulfill your duty on the battlefield, or just enjoying your day and not dragging your tail through it.

    Bulgarian elite gymnastics coach Ivan Ivanov believes that the purpose of a training session is to store energy in the body rather than exhaust it.  That is a powerful mindset.  In Ivanov’s experience, 100 repetitions per movement hit the spot—and these must be done daily.  I concur.

    It may seem strange to recommend training without days off when the goal is storing energy, but moderate daily training will keep the muscles’ fuel tanks topped off, while making tissues resistant to microtrauma and almost soreness-proof.  It is the ticket to being always ready.

    Prof. Arkady Vorobyev explains that incomplete restoration training stimulates the recovery ability; your body literally has to learn how to recoup faster…or else.  Those who have served in the military can relate.  You got sore after your first day in basic training, but you persisted—as if you had a choice—and kept up with the daily grind of pushups and runs, and finally you could handle it.  If you were given the unlikely choice of PT-ing only when you had totally recovered, you still would have been stiff, sore, and a sissy.  This is why the S&S program, while tolerating a minimum of two workouts a week if you are in a pickle, prescribes near-daily training.

    Think of the S&S regimen not as a workout but as a recharge.

    One of the meanings of the verb “to work out” is “to exhaust by extraction.”  Ponder that for a moment and ask yourself if that is your goal.  In contrast, “recharge” is the name Russians gave to an invigorating morning exercise session.  Out with a workout, in with a recharge!

    A U.S. military special operator (you know him from Easy Strength as “Victor”) will tell you what Kettlebell Simple & Sinister has done for him and can do for you:

    I have been training consistently for the past 20 years: cross-country, swimming, and lacrosse in high school; running, rock climbing, weight training throughout college.  I have spent the past thirteen years serving on active duty in U.S. Special Operations.  I have completed more than a few arduous military training courses that required a blend of strength, endurance, and durability.  I do not have the luxury of being able to focus on only one or two aspects of physical fitness.  I have to be well balanced across the entire spectrum of fitness.  My workouts have to be efficient, and I do not want to risk getting injured in training, because I need to be totally healthy and injury-free in order to be effective in my job.  Pavel’s training principles have been a huge influence in my training, and kettlebell training has not only increased my fitness and durability, but it has allowed my train anywhere, anytime.  I have developed a personal training program that has been heavily influenced by the Program Minimum and Pavel and Dan John’s principles of “Easy Strength”.  This program has allowed me to develop a blend of strength and endurance in the most efficient way possible.  I have avoided major injuries, and I have made steady and consistent progress since high school. 

    In my opinion, Pavel’s Kettlebell Simple & Sinister is an ideal program for a military professional.  The Swing and the Turkish Get-up are two exercises that produce maximal results in the most efficient way possible.  S&S will allow for safe and progressive increases in strength and conditioning and it can be done anywhere, with minimal equipment.  I have been training almost exclusively with the S&S principles for the past five years, and I can honestly say that it has been the foundation upon which I have built my operational and recreational fitness.  The S&S principles, combined with consistent and progressive training, have given me the strength to accomplish a broad range of athletic feats in addition to maintaining my operational fitness requirements.  I have been able to complete a 100-mile endurance run (with 23,000 feet of elevation gain/loss) in less than 25:00 hours and I have closed the Captains of Crush #3 gripper with my right hand (parallel set).  Pavel’s lessons in relaxation, tension, and safe biomechanical movement have been critical to my athletic success.

    The clarity and simplicity of S&S make this one of Pavel’s finest programs.  I would recommend this program without hesitation to ANYONE in the military, or in jobs that require physical strength and durability. 

    Repeat until strong.

    Order your copy of Kettlebell Simple & Sinister

    Paperback, Kindle, or

  • Nikki Shlosser 6:29 am on November 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Peaking and Assessment as Preparation for the SFG 

    By Dan John, Master SFG, and Mike Warren Brown, SFG I

    Mike’s voice is in italics. Mike has been in the strength and conditioning for over a decade splitting time between coaching on the field and in the weightroom. Mike feels he was lucky to have an internship with Dan as he had to pass the rigorous test of actually “showing up.”

    One of the things I like to tell the SFG participants on Day Three is simply this: “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.” The hard travel to the facility, the rough nights in a strange hotel, 12-hour days and ruined hands are just part of the past now. Now, it is time to finish this.

    My approach to prepping participants is straight forward and simple: Follow the Rite of Passage. But, as we reviewed our last successful SFG, my group here that meets with me up to five to seven times a week began noting the small, but important additions that really put them over the top. Mike Brown’s extensive notes provided the “black and white” of our journey and it was my job to flesh out the thinking behind this approach. Many roads might get you there, but this is our road.

    Principles of Training for the SFG Kettlebell Certification 

    1. This is a peaking program. There is an expectation at the end to pass the SFG.
    2. The broader the base, the higher the peak. Both in terms of time and density of training, a lot of work needs to be done.
    3. Don’t try to add more; let it flow (“Start with the end in mind.” Steve Covey)  It’s not where you start; it is where you finish.
    4. This road has been walked before….use the Rite of Passage as the primary tool.
    5.The SFG is a three-day intensive, technical practice. During the months of preparation focus on preparing the body, mind, and spirit not just the nuances of every technical movement.

    I arrived at the first day of the cert with an abundance of energy. I had put in seven weeks of focused training and knew that I had built up enough physical and emotional momentum to drive me through the weekend. My mind was at ease because I trusted my training, my thoughts were clear because I had a checklist of what I needed to do to overcome each test. I didn’t feel a sense of nervous apprehension but rather a joyful urge to strain and learn.

    I have had the great honor for the past few years to welcome a number of Interns into my gym, training halls and home. I do ask one thing: I want you to become SFG certified. As we don’t always have a perfect schedule in terms of sports schedules and certification weekends, we have had to really trust the process of accumulating the qualities needed to pass the SFG, the “quick” process of intensifying the training for the weekend and the ability to transform that base of training into a ready athlete and student.

    As I review the plan, I am reminded of the dozen or so trainees that have marched through this strategy and I have learned from each one. A couple of issues stand out:

    • The snatch test is the bugaboo. It sits out there in the minds of every applicant. For men who weigh between 132 and around 180 or so, the bell’s weight is an issue. For bigger men, the pull-up becomes an issue. The same issue arises on the women’s side, too.
    • There are six kettlebell movements learned during the weekend. I feel that if the candidate passes the strength tests and has any kind of good attitude, then it is MY fault if they fail on the technical aspects of the six moves.
    • There is going to be a lot of swings. There is going to be some hard workouts. You must be in good enough shape to complete the workouts and stay mentally focused during the teaching sessions.
    • The written test can’t be crammed. You must take a few months to know the basics of the six moves, the standards and the reasons behind everything.

    So, let’s start with “the end in mind.” Let’s start with the “Peak Week.” I suggest that for any event you have on your horizon, count back the weeks and plan well. If you are getting married in June, use those popular monthly and weekly checklists to plan all those details. Taking care of something early almost always trumps tardiness.

    Week 7: Peak Week
    All the work has been done, the arrow has been released so let it fly.

    Saturday-Light Program Minimum
    Original Strength rolling and correctives to warmup.
    100 swings (2 hands)  5 x 20
    10 getups (1/1×5) 

    Sunday-Program Minimum
    1/1×5 Get ups. Vary the load up from water glass to snatch bell.
    100 Swings (any set and rep scheme)

    Monday and Tuesday- Rest/ Recovery
    Go to the gym. Correctives and foam rolling just to keep mentally prepared.

    Wednesday- Program Minimum
    100 Swings – 10×10 wave the load but complete a few heavy (48kg) sets.
    1/1×5 Get ups- keep the loads light and focus on smooth transitions

    Thursday- Rest

    Friday- SFG day 1.
    A quick point: If you have read my work, you will note that I generally don’t believe in peaking. Actually, I believe that most people throw away success in the week or two leading up to an event by NOT trusting the program. We add a little here, we do something stupid there and, before you know it, there goes the chance to excel.

    Points of Emphasis this week:

    1. Hand care: this is the week we can NOT have tears and rips. The swing load is light, so do whatever things you need to do on a daily basis to address hand issues.
    2. Begin using Sugar Free Orange Flavored Metamucil every evening.  Under the stress of the weekend, digestion and elimination issues become increasingly important. Chuckle away at this advice but you won’t be if you ignore it.
    3. Don’t get cute on your diet. Don’t experiment with new foods or eat at the vendor with a discounted price on “Day Old Sushi.” More than one candidate has failed over poor food choices.
    4. If you are flying in, drink a lot of water and spend some time moving around when you land. Be sure to have two alarms to wake up and bring eyeshades and ear plugs if you get lucky enough to room on the same floor as a high school basketball team.
    5. It’s time to let the arrow fly. Don’t add anything. Don’t get a deep tissue massage or spend twelve hours in a sauna, if you don’t usually do it. Trust the process. You can NOT get better in 48 hours.
    6. Stick with your plan. If you have decided to do the snatch test with the 20-20-15-15-10-10-5-5 and hear that your partner is doing 10-10, rest, repeat…well, good for your partner. Stick with your plan. That plan, the one you have been doing for a few months is pretty good. Even if it isn’t.

    Now, let’s talk about little details that will make the weekend easier:

    • Wake up earlier during this last week. Mike would wake up and do just one pull-up upon rising to practice getting set to go.
    • Build a checklist: chalk, tape, band aids, first aid stuff, cash, TOWEL, protein shaker and protein, several pens, food, snacks, water bottle, extra shirt (trust us on this one), coffee drinks in a can. Anything that will make you a little more comfortable. This list and checking it will make your mind a bit more at ease. Set this up on Wednesday or Thursday.
    • Some recovery stuff as you approach the weekend. Hot tubbing might be fine if you usually do it, but remind yourself as you tub to be looking forward to the training.
    • Have this posted on the front of your brain: “Trust the process.” Trust your training, trust your approach, trust all the work you have done. When something challenges you…and it will…trust the process.

    You have to let go of the bowstring to let the arrow fly.

    The lead up week in detail:

    Saturday-Light Program Minimum
    Original Strength rolling and correctives to warmup.
    100 swings (2 hands)  5 x 20
    10 getups (1/1×5)

    Sunday-Program Minimum
    1/1×5 Get ups. Vary the load up from water glass to snatch bell.
    100 Swings (any set and rep scheme)

    We approached the last weekend before the SFG as a time to let all the work of the past six weeks “settle” for our group. Saturday and Sunday were opportunities to come into the gym, do two of the most important movements and get a sense of easing off. It was a time to focus on easing up. That’s an easy thing to talk about, but most people try to gear up more and more. You must ease off and let the performance happen.

    Monday and Tuesday-Rest/ Recovery
    Go to the gym. Correctives and foam rolling just to keep mentally prepared.
    These were basically two “off” days. These two days insured complete recovery from the training of the past months. We are looking ahead to the three-day weekend, certainly, but we are also attempting to begin to ramp up, too.

    Wednesday-Program Minimum
    100 Swings – 10×10 wave the load but complete a few heavy (48kg) sets.
    1/1×5 Get ups- keep the loads light and focus on smooth transitions

    This is the last “heavy” day. The “hay is in the barn” and now we are ramping up the students for the weekend.

    The SFG is three days, so we added an additional rest day. This is from Coach Ralph Maughan’s “Two Day Lag Rule” and we decided to toss in an additional “off” day to allow the load of work from Friday and Saturday not to be encumbered by any exhaustion for Thursday. It also gives the traveling person a free day, so you can apply this idea no matter what your situation is for the cert.

    Show up. Don’t Quit. Ask Questions.

    Back to the Future

    So, this was the last week. I agree with the great Tommy Kono that it is best to be a touch undertrained than overtrained at all. If you just look at the last week, you might get the impression that we don’t train very hard. That is not true.

    The key to thriving, not just surviving, the SFG is to train for a few years and have all your qualities at a high level. I strive to teach a lot of things from the O lifts and Powerlifts to the KB moves and planks throughout the year. Our general approach to training is “Easy Strength” where we pick movements we wish to improve and do them.

    The simplicity and logic of that statement frightens me as it is the truest thing I can write. So, I expect all my students to be in solid general shape throughout the year.  If you can remember this little axiom, it might save you:

    “Always try to be three to six weeks from top condition.” Again, this is the Tommy Kono approach. The key is to always be within striking distance of peak condition. Now, this is vague and obviously students of Marty Gallagher use 12 week cycles and some sports need more time to peak, but the concept is to maintain and retain good solid condition most of the time. When it is time to “go for it,” like prepping for the SFG, we are not that far off.

    So, lift. Train. Practice. Learn new things. When you get the email that the SFG is coming around, realize that now is the time to raise the bar.

    Six Week Training/One Peak Week Program Overview
    5 days per week. Monday through Friday, rest and recover on weekend.
    6 full training weeks with 1 peaking (transformation week)

    Weeks 1-6
    Monday RoP Light
    Tuesday Variety 1
    Wednesday RoP Medium
    Thursday Variety 2
    Friday RoP Heavy

    Week 7
    Saturday Program Minimum
    Sunday Program Minimum
    Monday/Tuesday Rest or correctives
    Wednesday Heavy Program Minimum
    Thursday off (create checklist for the weekend)
    Friday SFG day 1

    Weeks 1-3
    Monday-Test Day Week 1.
    Easy press/pull-up and snatch other two weeks. 5x (2 rungs lower than heavy day)
    (Today, before doing the ROP, we tested the Pull-up, Snatch Test and Press Bell Size Test)

    Max Strict Pull-Up
    Snatch Test As many as possible in 5 minutes with the 24kg.
    Dan recommends 20L/20R 15/15 10/10 5/5 trying not to put the bell down.
    Clean and Press test. Find a bell you can clean and press (clean between each press) for about 8. This will be your training weight for presses.
    3x (1,2,3) Clean and Press + Pull-ups

    Tuesday- Grad Workout Day
    Double Bells. 2 clean/1 Press/3 Front Squat. Shake out tension repeat
    Week 1-20 minutes
    Week 2-25
    Week 3-30
    If you have enough equipment alternate between 16kgs, 20kgs, 24kgs, and 28kgs.
    Actual grad workout will be double 24s

    Wednesday- Medium Press/pullup and Swings
    5x (1 rung lower than heavy day)

    Week 1: 2 sets of 100 snatches using any bell (really light 12kg, for example)
    Week 2: 1 set of 100. Try to use a heavier bell (20 or 24kg)
    Week 3. 3 sets of 100
    8 Double Front Squats + Farmers Walk repeated eight times without putting the bells down. (Here is the goal: 8×8 with 24kgs)

    Friday- Heavy Presses/ Pullups and Swings
    Goal is 5x (1-5)

    Reassess after first three-week block

    Weeks 4-6
    Monday – Easy Snatches (snatch bell) Easy presses and pulls
    Week 4: Roll dice for snatches. Press and Pull (1,2,3) x5
    Week 5:
    -5 minutes snatches at 50-60% effort. (This is an assessment. I had the goal of 60 and easily made 80. I knew after this that I would pass the snatch test.)
    -Get ups and pull-ups. 1/1×5 varying the load on GU. (1,2,3)x5 on pullups. (We felt we needed a refresh day so getups were subbed for presses.)
    Week 6: 5 minute snatch 50-60%. Presses and pull-ups

    Week 4: 500 Swings and Pull-ups
    10 Swings 1 Pull-up
    15 Swings 2 Pull-ups
    25 Swings 3 Pull-ups
    50 Swings
    Five Rounds

    Week 5: Swings and Grad workout.
    Three rounds
    6 Rounds Grad Workout

    Week 6: 500 Swings. Go heavy on 10, 15, and 25

    Wednesday-Medium Press/ Pull-up and Swings
    5 ladders one rung lower than heavy day.

    Thursday-Snatch only
    Week 4:
    2×100 (20/20 15/15 10/10 5/5 as fast as possible)
    Light! x 100
    Light! x 100 (10-16kg, I mostly used the 12kg)
    Time these two sets. Then:
    20/20 20/20 15/15 15/15 10/10 10/10 5/5 5/5. Use 20 Kg through the tens, then switch to 28kg or 32kg for fives. This portion is not timed. Take breaks and practice fast and loose.

    Week 5:
    Repeat week 4.

    Week 6:
    Light! x 100 (10 kg)
    Lightish x 100 (20 kg)
    Light! x 100 (12 kg)
    Record time on sets then:
    20/20 20/20 5/5 5/5. Use the 16kg on the 20s and the 28kg on the 5s. This must be completed under five minutes. (Shoot for close to four minutes)

    Friday- Heavy Press and Pullups/ Swings to limit
    Goal is Five ladders of Five rungs.
    Week 4:
    Wave the load each ladder. Example 20kg, 24kg, 28kg, 20kg, 28kg
    Light, medium, heavy, medium, judgment call on last set.

    Week 5:
    Heavy weight on all ladders.

    Week 6: Wave the load on each ladder

    Week 7: Peak Week! See above.

    This is the exact program we followed. There is nothing new or revolutionary; just five days a week of hard focused training. The magic is in assessing and course corrections. Treat each training session as an opportunity to assess.

    You may ask why we used such light weights on the Thursday snatch day? Well the snatch test requires only 100 reps. By practicing those reps with a light bell, we are able to come up with the answer to the question: What is the issue? Is it a technique issue? Lungs? Pacing? For example, during the final weeks if you are able to make 100 reps with the 20 kg in just under 4 minutes you know that you have a full minute buffer for that extra 4 kilos. This builds confidence and momentum without taxing the system.

    The Rite of Passage calls for snatches at 50% effort on Monday. During the first week test, I managed 80 hard reps in five minutes. By week five my goal was 60 reps in five minutes at 50% effort. To my surprise I did 80 reps and it was laughably easy. The assessment we made that day was that I was more than ready for the snatch test without ever going to the limit in training.

    The key here is to build momentum both physically and mentally. We take an easy strength approach to building up snatch performance. A problem I see often is people try to train to their limit each and every snatch practice. You would not do this with your deadlift so don’t do it with your snatches. Build confidence and smash your rep barrier on test day.

    Two issues arise whenever I see or hear about preparation for the snatch test. First, this (the snatch test) isn’t a problem for a lot of people and I need to make that clear: for the men and women who show up with a “big engine” and years in the weightroom, they tend to blow the test apart. They shrug, look over at me and seem to say: “What’s the big deal?” For many of them, the pull-up test might be the issue or something else. There is always something else.

    The snatch test can make a person have a “speed barrier.” In throwing, there comes a time where you believe you gave it your all and the implement goes a certain distance. How do improve when you already gave it your all?

    We use a drill called the Soviet Drill to attack the speed barrier. It is this built in problem that John Powell said best: “I can’t keep pushing my 100% up. So, I just prod my 80% a bit higher.” In throwing, we ask: “how easy can you throw 80% of your best?” I often put a garbage can out in the sector and let the athlete try to “sink one” at 80% of their best. Oddly, soon they are tossing beyond their best. The “speed barrier” has been shot down!

    In the snatch test, it breaks my heart to hear people come up to me on Day One of the cert and say: “My best is 81 reps in five minutes. I hope your coaching can get me to 100.” Yes, I’m a miracle worker, but give me something to work with here! In our method, I am asking you to discover whether or not your issue is lungs or guns. Do you see the Thin Veil into the Next Life doing 100 reps with a half-weight bell? We need to work your system. If the set is easy as can be, we have a “guns” issue and that means more presses and more swings. The answer is always easy; the application is not.

    Another example of using assessment and using course corrections came during my press training. I was building up volume with the 28kg. I did 65 reps the first hard day and 70 the next week so naturally I decided to move up to the 32kg for week three. I managed between 10 and 15 reps during the next three press days (light, medium, and heavy). I would have been just fine with this If I had been taking a longer term approach to building my press volume. The problem was that the SFG weekend demands the ability to handle a ton of volume. We decided that it would be wise to drop back down the lighter and bell and focus on the volume and density. This course correction was made with the goal of passing the certification in the forefront.

    So, there is not good or bad decision here, but Mike was focused on passing the SFG, so he humbled himself and took care of the goal. Focus on what you want. Trust me, I want you to pass the SFG so choose wisely throughout the whole process.

    This reminds me of something Dick Notmeyer used to tell me how he dealt with people who would go to camps or listen to other coaches: “That is fine what they taught you. That is great. But, in my gym, we do it this way.”

    So, this is how we do things in MY gym. We change things when our assessment tells us it is not working. We openly adapt and adopt anything that comes along. When Mike or Parker or Marc or Alice or Geoff or Adrian trail away from the goal, I can step up and repoint to where I think the goal should be here. And, in full candor, they often point me back in the right direction.

    So, in your gym, in your situation, you might not be able to follow this program as outlined. Others have done very well at the SFG doing all kinds of other things. Here is the key: assess it. Test it. Test yourself. Then, at the end, let the arrow fly.


  • Nikki Shlosser 1:08 pm on October 29, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    The Tension Day 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman, StrongFirst


    Have you done the Total Tension Complex we posted six weeks ago?
    Please post your results if you did.

    There are two types of training a strength seeker must do.

    First, perform a number of sets with moderate weights and reps, e.g. 5×5.  This builds muscle and “greases the groove.”

    Second, develop one’s tension skills—the ability to tense individual muscles and to link them into an unbreakable chain.

    The first component, volume, is not greedy for variety.  Many athletes have built world-class strength and muscle mass by sticking to the same battery of basics like the three powerlifts.  (Some variety does not hurt, but not on the day-to-day basis.  Switch your bench press grip or move to an incline bench and you are good for another six weeks.)

    The second component, tension, thrives on frequent exercise changes.  Consider the Westside Barbell Club practice of changing to a different variation of the bench press on their “max effort day.”  Consider the wealth of gymnastic tightness exercises, each teaching another subtlety of turning your body into a piece of steel.

    Enter the Tension Day, a simple model for implementing tension practice in almost any strength regimen, regardless of one’s goals and preferred training implement.

    During the week build what Russian coaches call a “foundation” with multiple sets of five, give or take a rep.  Depending on the exercise and individual circumstances (time available, recovery, other physical demands), the frequency will typically vary between once a week to three times a week.

    Saturday is your Tension Day.  Take a close look at the exercises listed below.  What do they have in common?

    • Double kettlebell front squat
    • Double kettlebell static stomp deadlift
    • Heavy kettlebell clean
    • Heavy kettlebell ¼ get-up
    • Bottom-up kettlebell drills
    • Kettlebell renegade row
    • One-legged kettlebell press
    • Tight rope kettlebell press
    • Around-the-body kettlebell pass or “slingshot”
    • One-legged single or double kettlebell deadlift
    • Power breathing
    • Hard style sit-up
    • Hollow rock and other hollow position drills
    • Muscle control exercises
    • Yang plank
    • One-arm pushup progressions
    • One-arm lock-off
    • One-arm hang (extra weight in free hand, the working shoulder packed)
    • One-arm handstand (wall-supported)
    • Walking on hands
    • Zercher squat
    • Suitcase deadlift
    • Back squat, bench press, and deadlift overloads: lockouts, walkouts, supports.

    All these exercises, regardless of the implement, develop tension skills in one way or another.  Some do it the brute force way—through more weight.  Examples are a deadlift rack pull, a clean performed with a kettlebell one cannot yet press, the one-arm lock-off (holding the top position of the one-arm pull-up)…

    Others do it through a stabilization challenge: bottom-up kettlebell drills, the one-arm/one-leg pushup, the one-legged kettlebell press…

    There are pure feed-forward drills demanding that you generate tension out of nothing, such as gymnastic hollow rocks and the Yang plank…

    There are combined feed-forward and feed-back moves like the double kettlebell front squat and the renegade row…

    Regardless of the implement or the underlying mechanism, all these drills teach you one thing: to get tight.

    1,000-pound deadlifter Andy Bolton has spoken: “The strong guys all have one thing in common—they know how to GET TIGHT.  Without tightness, you cannot have strength.  All the best lifters get tighter than the average lifters.  Simple as that.”

    So on Saturday select several exercises from the list—say three—and practice your tension skills.

    Pick some drills specific to the lifts you aim to improve, e.g., one-arm lock-offs for weighted pull-ups.

    Pick others that are more general in nature, e.g. hard style sit-ups for a powerlifter.  (For a gymnast it would be a drill highly specific to the hollow position extensively found in the sport.  For a lifter it is just a way to get tighter overall.)

    Some should get your attention through heavy weights, others through stabilization, etc.

    Make sure that at least one exercise is unilateral.

    Stay around 110% 1RM for barbell overloads.  Heavier weights are dangerous and less effective.

    Do not even think about one-arm handstands until you are strong enough to do several handstand pushups between boxes.  Ditto for one-arm lock-offs and hangs until you can do a strict pull-up with an additional 50% of your bodyweight.

    Avoid redundancies.  For instance, there is no point in these pairs: hard style sit-up + hollow rock; Zercher squat + double kettlebell front squat; one-arm handstand + bench press support, etc.

    But do not overthink your selections either, because every three weeks you get to change them.

    Some examples:

    Double kettlebell front squat
    Walking on hands sideways along the wall
    One-arm hang, the shoulder packed
    Barbell back squat walkout
    Heavy kettlebell clean
    Hard style sit-up
    Heavy kettlebell ¼ get-up
    Deadlift lockout
    Power breathing

    Start your Tension Day with whatever warm-up or lack of thereof that you know to be safe and effective for you.  Then perform three moderately hard sets per exercise.  Keep your reps low, 1-3.  Keep isometric contractions in the 5-10sec range.  Rest for several minutes between sets, walking around and doing fast and loose drills.

    Finish stronger than when you started.  It is extremely important that you understand that what you do on Saturdays is a practice—not a test!  If you have to psych for whatever you are about to do, you are going too far.

    You are aiming to feel strong and tight—not crushed.  An optimally heavy weight maximizes muscle tension.  An ego-driven poundage makes muscles quiver and shut down.  Even your mother does not care what your heaviest deadlift lockout is; so do not go there.

    Back-off sets, “finishers,” and “smokers” do not belong on your Tension Day.  Wrap up with an extensive, 30-45min, stretching and relaxation practice that includes hanging on a pull-up bar.  Dr. Franco Columbu has warned: “Compression is the worst enemy of a strength athlete.”  Enjoy working both extremes of your muscles’ ability—tension and relaxation—and you shall find strength and health.

    # # #


    Do not forget:  October 31 is the last day to save $400 on the February, 2014 Level I SFG Kettlebell Instructor Certification in sunny La Jolla, California!

    Register HERE.




  • Nikki Shlosser 4:45 pm on October 1, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    A Total Package Weekly Template 

    By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman

    If strength and conditioning are equally important to you, the following weekly kettlebell training template will serve you well.

    Focus on strength twice a week and on conditioning twice a week. Train your endurance the day after strength:


    On Mondays and Thursdays do presses, front squats, weighted pullups, weighted pistols, and other low rep grinds. Heavy low rep quick lifts, e.g. double kettlebell swings, snatches, or jerks belong here as well. In this context “heavy” means heavier than 10RM.

    On Mondays and Thursdays wait until your heart rate returns to normal before hitting your next set. Because power loves rest. For very heavy or hard sets use Marty Gallagher’s guideline and take another minute after your pulse has normalized.

    Heavy ab work belongs on the strength days as well: ¼ get-ups with a big kettlebell, hanging leg raises, hard style sit-ups, etc.

    Tuesdays and Fridays are all about high rep ballistics: swings, snatches, cleans, jerks. “High rep” in the context of the StrongFirst training system means 10-20. The conditioning effect will come from keeping your rest intervals brief. Drive your heart rate up and keep it there.

    A sample week might look like this:


    • Kettlebell clean and press, weighted tactical pullup and pistol—3 x (1, 2, 3).

    Do all exercises in a slow circuit.


    • One-arm swing—5×10 per arm.
    • One-arm jerk—5×10 per arm.

    Finish all swings before starting jerks.


    • Double kettlebell military press, weighted parallel grip pullup, double kettlebell front squat—3×5.

    Do all exercises in a slow circuit.


    • USSS 10min snatch test.

    And another sample week, with a different slant, not to be followed literally, but to drive the point home:


    • Dead stop double snatch—3 x (1, 2).
    • Double C&J—3 x (2, 3).
    • Double jerk—2 x (5, 10).
    • Double front squat to push press (“long” push press)—3×5.


    • Double snatch—5, 20, 10, 15.
    • Double C&J—3 x (10, 15).


    • Dead stop double swing—3 x (2, 5).
    • Double C&P—3 x (2, 5).
    • Alternate sets of double front squats and double military presses—4×5 each.


    • Double jerk—2 x (10, 15, 20).
    • Double clean—2 x (10, 15, 20).

    Finally, a week featuring all three key modalities: kettlebells, bodyweight, and barbell:


    • Zercher squat, kettlebell military press, weighted tactical pullup and pistol—2 x (2, 3, 5).

    Do all exercises in a slow circuit.


    • 20min of free style practice with one light kettlebell without setting it down. E.g. 2 goblet squats to 10 two-handed swings to 5 jerks per arm to 1 arm bar per arm to 5 windmills per arm to 10 snatches per arm to 3 overhead squats per side to 5 Sots presses per side to 10 two-handed swings to 5 bent press singles per arm… Keep moving, stay crisp, spread the fatigue all over.


    • Bench press—3×3.
    • Deadlift—5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
    • Close grip bench press—2×5.


    • Same as Tuesday, but 10min with a slightly heavier kettlebell.

    You get the idea.

    I have used the 2+2 template many times over the years myself and prescribed it to others—athletes, operators, and regular folks. It always worked very well and allowed plenty of flexibility to suit individual circumstances.

    Power and conditioning to you!

    # # #

  • Jim Wendler 10:00 am on September 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Public Relations with Parents and Training Note: The following exchange happened on the Jim Wendler Training Forum. There are some good insights by some members and it is probably good to know that when dealing with parents, no one is alone. – Jim Wendler Luke: I received a text message from a father of one [...]
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