BREAKING THROUGH THE WALL

 

Our bodies are designed to adapt and conserve energy.
The more skilled we become at something, the more efficient our technique becomes and the less mental and physical energy we need to expend to get the same amount of work done.

This explains why when we start a new activity, diet or sport we see dramatic results, but the same activity that helped us get in “shape” performed in the same way over time will cease to deliver the desired results that it once did. For example: I don’t care how much you love jogging, at some point you simply can’t spend more hours per week jogging and you’re body will stop adapting in the manner you desire. What then????

The answer to manipulate one or more of the following variables.

- Nutrition ( better fuel yields better performance, recovery and results)
– Technique (better movement improves safety, longevity elicits positive results)
– Physical Intensity (perceived difficulty or effort required per repetition)
– Volume ( the amount of work our repetitions performed)
– Density ( how fast you work per unit of time and how much rest your take. This includes managing sleep, relaxation and stress levels outside of training)
– Mental Intensity ( how focused you are and the INTENT you bring to your training. You can punch the clock or show up to kick ass and take names. )

If you’re mind and body are sufficiently primed to make progress then you can tweak one of the above variables and force your body to adapt in the desired direction.

If you are overtrained, you will need to cut back and makes things easier for a while by either reducing the volume, density or intensity before gradually increasing difficulty and building up to a new peak or personal best.

BIG 25 WORKOUT

By John Scott Stevens, SFGII

Once again, I’m not a fan of W.O.D.s or Workouts of the Day. Instead I prefer to stick with a few movements and hit them hard for several weeks using a program  then use a “WOD” as an occasional test to measure progress.
What follows is a nice challenging & heavy change of pace workout inspired by Dan John’s “Big 55” featured on T-Nation. My personal twist is to use slightly heavier weights and either use this as an occasional test or as a 6-12 week program.  Give it a shot and let me know what you think.

  • This workout uses heavier weights and has a 45 minute time limit.
  • Pick three lifts and choose a 5RM – 8RM weight for each and complete 25 total reps of each movement using sets of 2,3 or 5 reps. Example: 5,2,3,5,2,3,5
    • Two lifts should be grinds
    • One lift should be an explosive or ballistic lift
    • One of the three lifts should intentionally be a lift that is not your favorite. In other words, it is particularly challenging for you and addresses a weakness.
    • Pick lifts that compliment each other in such a way that each lift is a form of active rest from the other two. Sample technique selections:
      • Barbell Military Press + Double Kettlebell Clean & Front Squats
      • Bent Press Left + Bent Press Right + Double Kettlebell Snatch
      • Barbell Deadlift + Kettlebell Clean & Press Left + Kettlebell Clean & press Right
      • Double Kettlebell Push Press + Renegade Rows
      • Bench Press + Zercher Squats + Double Kettlebell Swings ( feel free to use a 10RM weight on swings and double the reps for the swings)
  • Rest enough between sets to feel strong and complete the next set with excellent form but no so much as to cool down.
  • Don’t be a slave to the numbers. Stop each set short of failure and leave at least one perfect rep in the bank.
  • When you can complete the workout progress to one of the following:
    • repeat the workout and compress your rest periods
    • When you can’t compress the rest periods any more…
      replace one or more sets of 2,3 with one set of 5 until you can complete 5 sets of 5.
  • When you can do 5×5 compress the rest periods again.
  • When you can’t compress the rest periods, move up in weight and start anew.
GETUP SIL BLACK copy-01

Progressing the Getup

The Getup is a fundamental kettlebell technique that I teach to all of my students and require them to perform competently before progressing to overhead movements like pressing, snatches, windmills, bent presses, clean & jerks etc…

The getup is wonderful for several reasons

  • It consists of many steps which can be added or removed to suit the abilities or limitations of the individual.
  • It places you under tension for a relatively long duration of time to complete a single rep, this builds serious strength.
  • It requires a high degree of focus for a long amount of time to perform correctly. For this reason learning a body weight or water bottle getup is a great tool for teaching athletes body awareness and concentration.
  • The Getup addresses, reveals and improves a great many movement patterns while forcing symmetry.

Using the program template from Simple & Sinister by Pavel Tsatsouline men and women are expected to transition from performing getups with a 32kg to a 48kg and from a 16kg to a 24kg kettlebell. In either case that’s a dramatic increase of 50% in load. Conquering a bell that’s 50% heavier can take some time, and it should. What follows are four goals to help you divide and conquer this task.

Notes:
Take as much time as needed to master each step before moving on the next.
I recommend applying the StrongFirst principles of “Waving the Load” and “Specialized Variety” to your getup training so that every day is not exactly the same as the last. – If you are unfamiliar with the application of these principles see a StrongFirst instructor.

“STRONGER ISN’T ONLY ABOUT MUSCLE, IT’S ABOUT TECHNIQUE & SAFETY AS WELL”

Aside from getting stronger, improving your technique and understanding of the getup is one of the best ways to progress safely. Invest in learning the subtleties of this technique from a certified instructor and you’ll be amazed at the benefits the getup can deliver.

Goal 1: Partial Getups
Every minute perform 30-seconds of continuous partial getups without setting the bell down.
Switch arms every minute.

From the supine firing range position, proceed to the elbow-sit or the tall-seated position, then reverse the movement. Without setting the bell down continue to perform as many slow & continuous reps as you can perform safely  until the the full 30-seconds are up. The number of reps you perform does not matter, the goal is to gradually build up to keeping the bell aloft for a full 30-seconds at a time.

Goal 2: Get Downs
Perform one “Get-Down” each minute, switching arms every minute.

Push-press the bell overhead and perform a Reverse Getup or “Get-Down” without standing back up.

Starting from the standing overhead lockout position you will descend into a lunge, progressing to the 1/2 kneeling windmill, and finally the supine firing range position. From the supine firing range position, lower the bell with both hands to your midsection then roll to your side and set the bell down. Perform fast & loose exercises for the remainder of the minute. Build up to moving slowly and smoothly taking up to a full 30-seconds to perform one get-down.

Goal 3: Get-Downs + Partial Getups
Perform one Get-Down + a Partial Getup every minute, switching arms each minute.

Push-press the bell overhead and perform a Reverse Getup a.k.a. “Get-Down” to the supine position, then perform a partial getup to either the elbow-sit or tall-seated position then  back down. Feel free to perform as many partial repetition from supine to the tall-sit as time allows.

Goal 4: Full Getups
One full getup per minute, switching arms every minute.

Perform a full getup from the floor, to standing and back to the floor again.

 


 

Common Mistakes to Avoid in the Getup

  • Don’t treat the getup like a weighted sit-up. Instead treat the movement like a moving plank and learn to wedge under the weight.
  • Avoid curling up and curling down, putting the spine into flexion.  Instead, learn to brace your midsection and maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.
  • Don’t even think about “Tomahawking” the neck and kettlebell arm forward to build momentum on the ascent. Aside from looking sloppy it is very dangerous and is poor strategy that cannot be safely applied to a heavy bell.  Instead take the time to develop sufficient strength to move smoothly and safely under control.
  • Don’t allow yourself to bend the airborne elbow and/or wrist. Instead,  take the time to develop the mobility and proprioception to achieve a safely locked out wrist and elbow throughout the movement.  This will develop healthy and stable joints, while promoting a healthy degree of flexibility.
  • Don’t bend laterally or sideways from the spine during the transition from half kneeling to the tall-sit.  Instead learn to hinge safely and strongly at the hips while keeping your spine in a neutral position.
  • Don’t shrug the shoulders or allow the chin to jut forward. This will reinforce horrible posture and lead to neck and shoulder stiffness, pain and injury
  • Avoid quick jerky transitions. These often occur when you attempt to rush through difficult portions of the movement without first developing the flexibility and skill to move smoothly into position. Always strive to perform techniques that are smooth and aesthetically pleasing to watch; this likely means the movements are biomechanically correct for your body.
  • Don’t rush and jump right into getups with weight added without first becoming proficient at the movement using bodyweight only. The full getup is a complex series of movements that requires memorization and must be performed gracefully under the stress of an additional load. The last thing you want to happen is to get into an awkward position with a heavy  weight overhead and panic because you don’t know how to complete the movement or bail out safely.
  • Don’t automatically think that full getups or heavy getups are for everyone.
    Not everyone is ready for the full Get-up or a heavy weight, however it has been my experience that EVERYONE can perform a partial getup with at least their bodyweight. Be patient. Build better movement and strength safely by working WITHIN your limitations and gradually expanding them outward.
  • Not Seeking Feedback
    I have yet to witness an untrained individual perform a safe and controlled getup without first learning how to do so from an a certified instructor. Yes, this applies to people who have learned kettlebell techniques from a DVD or book as well. Sign-up for a one-hour lesson with an expertly trained SFG instructor for the purpose of correcting errors you can’t see yourself making as well as to learn technical subtleties that will make a dramatic difference in performance, safety and the ability to more efficiently obtain the results you desire.
  • Ignoring Pain
    It is your responsibility to become the world’s foremost expert on your body. Just like seeking out feedback from a trained expert you need to learn to listen to and interpret the feedback your body provides. Some muscular soreness is fine but bruising and pain is a sign of injury. If your training is not making you feel better and move better, then something is wrong. Consult with the appropriate medical and fitness professionals to learn what is right for you and how to perform strength training techniques correctly.

SIMPLE SAMPLE KETTLEBELL WORKOUTS

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I usually avoid workouts of the day and I’m typically not one for posting them.  I believe that stringing together a random series of single workouts simply can’t deliver the kind of results that a well thought out program can.  Additionally, if someone tackles a “WOD” before they are ready for it, then the chance of injury is high.

Let me point out a few differences between workouts and programs:

  • Workouts are about being entertained and challenged right now, while programs are about long term results and preparing your for a challenge.
  • Workouts have a one size fits all mentality, while programs take the individual’s goals and limitations into consideration.
  • Workouts are there to kick your ass, while programs are designed to make you better.
  • A workout is simply something you do once then repeat rarely or never again, while a program often consists of the same workout repeated daily, for weeks on end with a few variables changing over time.

The Right Time and Place
While I’m clearly in favor of following a good program over working out… I do believe that there is a right time and place for a good workout every now and then.

The Right Time
The right time is when you need variety, need to test yourself after completing a program, or need to blow off some steam AND you don’t have any conflicting goals that the workout can interfere with such as needing to perform at a high level within the next day or three.

The Right Place
Your are in the right place in your training for these workouts when you have all of the featured techniques  dialed-in at such a high level that there is practically zero chance of you doing it incorrectly even under a high level of fatigue.

Here are a two sample kettlebell only workouts for your amusement. Be sure to use them only at the time and place.

WORKOUT #1: “GOING BALLISTIC”
The idea behind this workout is to start out with a relatively difficult movement then move on to progressively easier and easier ones as fatigue sets in. Every movement is ballistic and done with maximum hip drive.

Grab three different sized bells  small medium and large.
Men: 16kg, 24kg, 32kg, Women 8kg, 12kg, 16kg

Whatever technique you are using, perform an all out set per arm with the heaviest bell, then do the same with the medium bell and finally then smallest bell. When you are done, start over with the largest bell using a slightly less demanding lift.
Keep moving on to less and less demanding lifts until you are thoroughly “worked out”.

Example:
Using three single bells

  1. Snatches: Heavy x all out left & all out right, Medium x all out left & all out right, Light x all out left & all out right,
  2. High Pulls: Heavy x all out left & all out right, Medium x all out left & all out right, Light x all out left & all out right,
  3. Cleans: Heavy x all out left & all out right, Medium x all out left & all out right, Light x all out left & all out right,
  4. Swings: Heavy x all out left & all out right, Medium x all out left & all out right, Light x all out left & all out right,

Of course if  you’re advanced and have the means you can always Double the Pleasure by using three pairs of bells instead.
Example

  1. Double Snatches: heavy all out,  medium all out, light  all out
  2. Double High Pulls: heavy all out,  medium all out, light  all out
  3. Double Cleans: heavy all out,  medium all out, light  all out
  4. Double Swings: heavy all out,  medium all out, light  all out

Note: Using this double format I was able to perform a 15-minute workout that burned 26 calories per minute.  I never repeated it.

Workout #2: “MR. CLEAN’S LADDER”
This workout features the clean and reminds me of the telephone game we played in grade school.
Using one or two bells perform 1 rep of a clean, then one rep of a technique of your choice.
Remember this sequence and repeat it adding another clean and another technique, then repeat this new sequence adding again and again and again.

  1. 1 Double Clean + 1 Front Squat
  2. 1 Double Clean + 1 Front Squat + 1 Clean + 1 Military Press
  3. 1 Double Clean + 1 Front Squat + 1 Clean + 1 Military Press + 1 Clean + 1 Snatch
  4. 1 Double Clean + 1 Front Squat + 1 Clean + 1 Military Press + 1 Clean + 1 Snatch + 1 clean + 1 Push Press

Climb as high as you can then rest as little as necessary.
Repeat the same ladder with the chosen techniques stacked in reverse order

  1. 1 Double Clean + 1 Push Press
  2. 1 Double Clean + 1 Push Press + 1 clean + 1 Snatch
  3. 1 Double Clean + 1 Push Press + 1 clean + 1 Snatch + 1 clean + 1 Military Press
  4. 1 Double Clean + 1 Push Press + 1 clean + 1 Snatch + 1 clean + 1 Military Press + 1 clean + 1 Front Squat

The same workout can be performed with higher reps per ladder or a single bell so you’ll need to repeat each ladder twice (once with each side of your body).

 

 

 

IMPROVE YOUR PULL-UPS BY LEARNING TO RIDE WAVE

RIDING THE PULL-UP WAVE

The pull-up is possibly the king of bodyweight exercises. It encourages a healthy strength to bodyweight ratio, builds strong abs, lats and a mean grip. Most people think of the pull-up as an exercise in upper body strength, but when it comes to conquering a pull-up or adding more reps strong abs and timing of the breath are essential.

THE PULL-UP DEFINED

First, let’s be clear on what a pull-up is:
A pull-up begins with you hanging motionless from the bar in an overhand grip, with arms extended and your feet off of the ground.
From this motionless dead-hang, you will pull yourself up without swinging or kicking until your throat or chest touches the bar.
Consecutive pull-ups require you to lower yourself under control and start each rep anew from a motionless dead hang.
No kicking, swinging or kipping is allowed. Ever.

THE STICKING POINTS OF THE PULL-UP
During any lift there comes a point in the movement where you experience poor leverage or a transition between muscle groups that can cause your lift to slow down or grind to a halt.

Here are the three most common sticking points I’ve found in the pull-up.

  • The start: Overcoming the inertia of the dead-hang.
  • The Mid-Point: the point where your elbows approach shoulder level
  • 3/4 The Way Up: The point where the bar approaches eye level.

As with any lift there are a lot of little tricks of the trade to develop the strength to pull or push your way out of your sticking point such as partial reps, isometric holds and so on. But another way is to learn to shift gear and accelerate before you get stuck. I’ve found that hardstyle abdominal training and power breathing as taught in the StrongFirst School of Strength are two great ways to cruise through these sticking points.

HARDSTYLE ABS
To improve your pull-ups you’ll need stronger abs. You don’t need a visible six pack, but you will need a strong midsection. This can be accomplished through a variety of methods, but before your start cranking out worthless traditional crunches putting your spine into flexion I strongly recommend the methods found in Hardstyle Abs and the StrongFirst Bodyweight Instructor Course. The methods are vastly superior to traditional sit-ups and safer. With a qualified instructor these methods can produce dramatic results in a single session and life-changing results after 8-12 weeks. After learning these methods you’ll find ways to strengthen your abs anywhere with little to no equipment in a manner that will actually strengthen and protect your back instead of injuring it through commonly practiced methods.

During a pull-up strong abs can be used to knit the entire body into a solid and more manageable piece to be controlled in space.
This becomes evident with the following mental experiment: Imagine pulling a friend up over a wall who is holding still then another friend who is flailing about. The one who is holding still makes your job easier by allowing you to direct all of your effort into pulling, while a friend who flails about causes you to expend extra energy toward steadying or steering him as you pull.

The ability to both strongly and quickly contract and relax your abs means you relax at the proper time during a pull-up and quickly tighten in time to cruise through a sticking point.

Note: “Hardstyle Abs” is the title of a fantastic book on abdominal training by Pavel Tsatsouline. ALL of the abs drills I use and teach are derived from his methods contained in the “Hardstyle Abs” as well as what I’ve learned from attending his courses and bodyweight strength instructor certifications.  I recommend them because they are 1) Safe, 2) Simple and 3) Devestatingly Effective. One of the principles behind hardstyle ab training is learn to generate MORE tension with your abs and to do so faster. This ability to quickly contract your abs AND contract them harder is the equivalent of putting in a powerful engine so your car.

BREATHING
Athletes such a powerlifters, martial artists, boxers and volley ball players understand that breath control is the key to producing power, or relaxation. A long sigh can relax, while a short intense grunt produces maximal strength. Listen to a pro tennis player hit a ball with power and you’ll notice a sharp and loud exhalation similar to a grunt to produce power followed by longer drawn out sigh to promote quick relaxation. To learn power breathing, I recommend visiting a StrongFirst certified Instructor, preferably one who is certified as bodyweight instructor as well.

RIDING THE WAVE
One way to get better at pull-ups is to coordinate your abdominal contraction around your breathing.
Initiate the pull-up with a grunt, pushing the diaphragm down and zipping up the abs with the intention of shortening the distance between your sternum and belly button. If done properly, you will feel like you are braced for a punch to the midsection. By strongly and quickly contracting your abs in this manner while hanging from a pull-up bar your feet will pull up quickly and start a shockwave that travels upward within the body. When you can do this strongly it’s like getting a small push from below to start your pull-up.

Practice this combination by hanging, then tightening/grunting as you give an initial pull, do this repeatedly for several reps.
Notice sensation it creates as well how far it gets you into the pull-up. Also, take note of how quickly the tension from the initial explosive grunt dissipates. This is the initial “wave”. It will only get you so far, to your first sticking point to be exact, but it’s a great start.

Now that you have practiced this explosive take-off it’s time to learn to quickly change gears and keep accelerating.
Just before you hit your first sticking point where the upper arms are approaching parallel to the floor tighten up your abs and glutes again with a sharp powerful hiss and pull. This second contraction of the midsection momentarily increases the tension in your midsection and surrounding muscles to facilitate a stronger pull. The key is to time it perfectly so that you get tight-ER just before you hit the sticking point and you continue accelerating. When done properly you’ll practically glide right through your first sticking point. The next sticking point occurs just before you are about to clear the bar. By adding another strong contraction / sharp hiss just before this sticking point you improve your chances of cruising past it as well.

So the pull-up is initiated with a grunt, then quickly followed by a short hiss and increased tension when necessary before a sticking point.

NOTE: It’s important to point out that in both types of breathing an audible grunt and hiss are not the goal of the power breathing but the result of an incredibly forceful abdominal contraction. Simply making noise misses the point and will not give you the desired result. The grunt is the result of the initial contraction and the hiss is the result of breathing out while tightening the midsection further.

Like anything that requires timing, this skill will require practice.
To practice and get this down you will need a partner to help you through the sticking points at first. Your partner will place their hand on the center of your back. When you get stuck, your partner’s job is to give you just enough assistance to keep moving and finish the rep.The speed of the assisted rep should be as close as possible to the speed you intend to do an unassisted rep. As you practice your partner should give you feedback and communicate to you when he or she feels you are improving and requiring less assistance. Eventually your partner will need to push less and less or not at all.

Give this a shot and let me know how it helps your pull-up training.

THE SNATCH TEST, CONFIDENCE AND THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY

If you don’t already know, the 5-minute kettlebell snatch test involves men using a 24kg(53lb) kettlebell and snatching it overhead 100 times in 5-minutes.  Women use a 12kg or 16kg bell. Individuals over 50 years of age or under a certain weight class are allowed to use a lighter bell.  If you’ve never experienced it before it’s a real eye opener.
 I remember the first time I attempted it back in 2007. I had read somewhere that to be considered a man among men you should be able to pass the 10-minute snatch test and achieve 200 or more reps in with a 24kg bell. Challenge accepted. I bought a kettlebell, practiced for a few weeks and took the test. A few minutes into the test, my lungs and forearms were on fire, I felt dizzy, light-headed and noticed my heart rate monitor was beeping at me. I decided to set the bell down and check my heart rate… it was 214 bpm.

I casually walked over to the EAD and performed some fast & loose relaxation exercises while waited for my heart rate to come down.  Needless to say I  didn’t finish my snatch test on that particular day.

If I would have stopped there, I would probably be terrified of the snatch test to this day. Instead I simply found a proven plan, followed it for a few months and rocked the snatch test.  Since then I’ve passed it many times and have achieved 220+ reps in the 10-minutes snatch and 94 reps in 5 minutes with a 32kg.There are a lot of things that go into successfully passing the 5-minute snatch test and lots of great articles and books already exist on the subject. However, what I don’t see or hear enough of is advice on the mental approach to passing the snatch test. The reason I say this is that so many people especially kettlebell instructor candidates seem to place a disproportionate emphasis on the snatch and waste a lot of energy worrying about it.

“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.” – Albert Einstein

IT’S ALL RELATIVE
Confidence can only be earned through experience.
In other words, to confidently pass the snatch test you must intelligently and systematically make your training harder than the test.

THE ELEMENTS OF THE SNATCH TEST
I’m absolutely not implying that you head off and start doing something crazy like a 15-minute snatch test once a week. Instead, break the snatch test down into its most difficult elements and strategically tackle the elements that challenge you the most.
Start off tackling one element of the snatch test with a relatively easy effort and gradually build  up to a point that slightly exceeds what the snatch test requires. For example, build up to 200 snatches in a single workout, or learning to snatch a heavier bell for 5 to 10 reps. Once you know that what you’ve experienced and conquered before is equal to or greater in difficulty than what you are about to do, then you’re going to walk in with confidence and overcome.

“Cry in the dojo. Laugh on the battlefield.” — Samurai Maxim

4-Points to Consider When Preparing to Pass the 5-Minute Snatch Test

  1. Getting comfortable with heavier weight overhead
    This goes back to getting stronger, and surprisingly it is often overlooked. Nothing will make you feel relaxed with your snatch test bell overhead like knowing you can snatch a bell 1/3rd heavier or better for several reps or control a bell twice the size overhead with a movement like a getup. The whole idea is to put heavier weight overhead and hold it there, so that holding your snatch test bell overhead feels relatively easy by comparison.

  2. Getting comfortable with higher reps
    The standard approach to passing the snatch test is to perform 10 reps, switch hands and repeat for a total of 100 reps.

    If this is your strategy for passing the test, then your training should involve doing more than 10 reps per hand for a grand total of more than 100 reps, I recommend 150… so that by comparison 10 reps per hand switch for 100 reps feels relatively easy.

  3. Get comfortable with snatching for more than 5-minutes at a time
    This theme shows up in the Rite of Passage by Pavel Tsatsouline as well as Brett Jone’s snatch density training in his SFG Prep article. In the Rite of Passage a pair of dice is rolled to determine how many minutes of snatches you perform on snatch day, so an unfortunate roll of the dice may result in you doing 12-minutes of snatches. In Brett Jone’s Snatch Density Training a candidate will be performing anywhere from 7 to 14 minutes of snatches.

    If the five-minute snatch test is your goal, then your training should consist of snatch for more than 5-minutes so that the snatch test feels relatively easy by comparison.

  4. It’s a minimum standard
    The 5-minute snatch test was never intended as the end all be all of kettlebell prowess. It is an entry-level minimum standard for instructor candidates. The stronger you get and the more experience you get under your belt, the easier it should become.  While many say that the 5-minute snatch test never feels easy and I believe this is true to some extent… I argue that it’s all relative. If you’ve completed something much harder in training, like the 10-minute Snatch Test or SSST, then the snatch test will feel easy by comparison.
TAKING ACTION
One day a week perform each of the following:
  • swing variations and even snatches with a bell heavier than you intend to use for your snatch test.
  • Getups with a bell heavier than you intend to snatch.
  • Take several weeks to build up to snatching your snatch test size bell for up to 150% of the reps required in the snatch test and using up to 150% or more of the reps per hand you intend to us during the snatch test.
  • I’ve personally found that when it comes to conditioning, going all out one day per week is enough to elicit and adaptation. The other days of the week I recommend  focusing on high quality strong/powerful reps with plenty of rest in between, sort of an aggressive playfulness. To the outside observer you should look calm and never tired.
CONFIDENCE BOOSTING SNATCH TEST ROUTINES
Routine A: The Relatively Heavy Warm-Up
Perform either one getup per arm with a bell 1/3 or heavier than your snatch test bell – OR – Perform 3 to 5 snatches per arm with a heavier bell rest a few minutes Destroy your snatch test.

Routine B: Chunking the Snatch Test If you’re the type of person that struggles at 60-80 reps or the 3-minute mark then this method is for you. Warm-up as stated above in routine A then perform your snatch test like so 2 minutes  all out, 1 minute rest, 2 minutes all out. Done. Most people can get 50 to 60 reps done in the first two-minute sprint and nearly recover entirely in the 3rd minute. Once you realized how little remains, the last two minutes feel like a breeze and typically end in a Personal best.

StrongFirst Instructors and Candidates

StrongFirst Instructors and Candidates from the April 2014 SFG I & SFG II Certification in Chicago where I had the honor of serving as an assistant instructor . I’m the only guy in the front row looking the wrong way. ;]

How to Achieve More from Your Training with Less

When it comes to achieving your fitness goals most of us have been taught that more is better,  it’s the make more money by working more hours mindset.  We do things like join more fitness classes, spend more time doing cardio, purchase more nutritional supplements… more, more, more.  Sometimes it works for a short while, but then our bodies adapt and we become so efficient at our routines that the results we seek stop coming.  

When things stop working, don’t get fed up because you don’t have the time to do more, instead start finding ways to achieve more by doing less. 
 

“Prior to taking Mr. Steven’s kettlebell class, I was maintaining my weight with running and weightlifting 1.5 hours 5 days/week. I was bored and in need of something new. I then began doing kettlebell 1 hour 3 times a week. Not only did I maintain my weight with less than half the time spent at the gym, but I saw added muscle definition as well. When I decided I wanted to lose some weight, Scott encouraged me to keep a food journal and we upped the intensity of some of my workouts. I quickly lost 12 lbs and am on my way to losing more. Thanks to Scott’s fun and challenging class I enjoy working out and am in the best shape of my life. For the first time ever I feel like an athlete. It is a very professional class- he is very knowledgeable and always makes sure we are doing the movements safely and explains why this is important. There are people of all ages and walks of life in our class and we are all very addicted to kettlebell.”-Janae Henry

 
INSTEAD OF DOING MORE, BECOME MORE SKILLED AT WHAT YOU DO
While there is a limit to how busy you can be, there is no limit to how skilled you can become. The art of achieving more by doing less comes down to skill. The more skilled you are with the tools you have the more you can accomplish in less time. 
 
When it comes to fitness, the more skilled you are with your body, the less techniques, the less equipment and the less total training time you will need to achieve results that are superior compared to someone who is less skilled.  As you become stronger, you will develop the skill of contracting your muscles harder.  Contracting your muscles harder not only takes more energy to do, but it takes more energy to recover from as well.  The more skills you can internalize, the more advanced skills you can learn, allowing you to squeeze more and more transformational potential out of every repetition. 
 
As an example, when I first learned to the perform the kettlebell swing there were no instructors in Nebraska at the time, so I was forced to teach myself from a book. I trained hard and got to the point where I could swing a 62lb kettlebell at 40 reps minutes for 12 minutes non-stop and I thought that I was pretty awesome…., as it turned out I was making some novice mistakes such as trying to conserve energy instead of maximizing force production. When I finally had my first real instruction from Master StrongFirst Instructor Jon Engum it took me only ten reps with a 35lb kettlebell and I was feeling muscles I never felt before.  You see, when I improved my technique I was able to achieve superior results and be more challenged with 1/48th the reps and 57% of the weight. Ever since that day I’ve been fascinated with the less is more approach to strength training. 
 
In the book “The 4-Hour Body” author Timothy Ferris, SFGII describes how Tracy Reifkind, SFG was able to lose 100lbs of body-fat and keep it off by only doing 20-minutes of kettlebell swings 3 days per week for a total of 4-hours a month.  Tracy’s husband happens to be Master StrongFirst Kettlebell Instructor Mark Reifkind, so you can be assured that her technique is dialed in. 
 
In a 2009 study* performed by Chad Schnettler, M.S., John Porcari, Ph.D., and Carl Foster, Ph.D., the exact kettlebell snatch technique we teach in our group classes was proven to burn at least 20.2 calories per minute for the average participant and that does not include calories burned afterward during recovery.   In fact, in 2010 using this very protocol I conducted my own personal experiment and found that I was able to burn 26+ calories per minute and I was able to lower my resting heart from the mid 70’s to the 44bpm in just 5 workouts and less than 2 cumulative hours in 5 weeks. 
 
One of the most brilliant coaches I’ve had the honor to meet and learn from is Master StrongFirst Instructor Dan John. On more than one occasion he would talk about how some of his workouts consisted of a little as 6-reps. On his first rep he’d snatch 225 lbs or more overhead, then add weight to the bar and repeat this process 5 more times building up to a near all out effort.  
 
If you value your time and believe in treating strength as a skill then you’ll feel at home with our Omaha Elite Kettlebell classes. We will find ways to keep you challenged by making you more skilled at becoming stronger not busier.
 
References: http://www.acefitness.org/getfit/studies/kettlebells012010.pdf
Pull Your Weight Pt. 2

Are You Pulling Your Weight: Part 2

As a kettlebell instructor one of my favorite
non-kettlebell exercises is the pull-up. The pull-up is an
efficient way to simultaneously improve abdominal strength, upper
body strength and flexibility, shoulder health, grip strength,
overall body composition, and all around athleticism. The good news
is that the pull-up is nothing to be intimidated by, it’s simply
one point on a long continuum from planks to pull-ups and beyond.
If you have healthy and mobile shoulders, want a challenge and an
honest assessment of your overall fitness, the pull-up may be just
what the doctor ordered.

5 Exercises to Help
You Conquer Your First Chin-Up

The biggest problem with
achieving your first pull-up is that in order to get better at
pull-ups you need to do a lot of pull-ups. One way to do this to
find several ways to train cheated or assisted pull-ups all the
while stripping the pull-up down and training it’s individual
 components. Pullup<br />
Regressions” src=”<a href=http://omahaelitekettlebell.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/pyow2b-02.jpg&#8221; width=”224″ height=”772″ />

    1. Hollow Position Drills and Power Breathing
      The gymnast’s hollow position is essentially a
      high-intensity upside down plank. One way to begin to learn this
      technique is to learn how to turbo-charge your plank position by
      maximizing the strength of your muscular contractions with
      hardstyle techniques like power-breathing then progress to learning
      to hold the hollow position on the floor.  There are various
      way to practice the hollow position. Pictured to the right is
      the hollow position with the added challenged of holding a
      stretched elastic band under the small of my back. If the band
      slips out, I lost my abs.  An advanced variation would be to
      hold the arms out overhead as if hanging from a pull-up
      bar.Recommendation: Build up to 20-30 second reps. Start
      with three sets of three reps and progress to five sets of five
      reps.
      For more
      information on power breathing and maximizing abdominal strength I
      recommend the Book & DVD  “Hardstyle Abs by Pavel
      Tsatsouline.
    2. Hanging
      for Time
      If you can hold the hollow position well on
      the floor, then progress to holding the hollow while hanging from
      the pull-up bar. It’s essentially a regressed hanging leg
      raise. Performed properly, this can be an incredibly intense
      exercise even for individuals who can perform 10 pull-ups or more.
      For example: one advanced variation is to where ankle weights or
      hold a kettebell on your foot.Practice holding at the bottom, top
       and even the middle of the pull-up position. It’s ok to
      use box to step on or have a training partner assist you into
      position. Start with the dead hang with arms straight. When you can
      do that, progress to hanging from the top position with your elbows
      flexed (Do not rest your chin or jaw on the bar). When you come
      down you can lower yourself slowly which is training the pull-up in
      reverse. Recommendation: Build up to
      15 and 30 seconds holds.
      Start with three
      sets of three reps and progress to five sets of five
      reps.
       
    3. Batwings Batwings are an
      exercise I first read about from Master StrongFirst Instructor Dan
      John.  The batwing is essentially a plank where you pull a
      weight with one or both hands up to your side and hold for time.
        The goal for men is to hold  16kg/35lbs. and women hold
      8kg/18lbs in each hand,  get the thumbs to armpit height and
      hold for 10 seconds or longer. Tight chests and shoulders are
      epidemic in today’s society, so many people find this
       movement  especially challenging. I recommend using
      stretches like armbars and
      brettzels.Recommendation: Build up
      to 10 second holds. 
      Start with three
      sets of three reps and progress to five sets of five
      reps.
       
    4. Suspended Rows Use your
      favorite brand of suspension trainer or gymnasts rings and simply
      perform rows as shown. Lean back to about 45 degrees or better and
      row yourself to standing. You should maintain a plank or slight
      hollow position throughout.  Always lower yourself carefully
      and keep your shoulders tightly packed so that they don’t get
      yanked forward and out of the socket.  Inhale as you pull.
       Similar to the Batwing , strive to get your elbows behind
      your ribs.  Pause motionless for a moment at the top and
      bottom of each rep.Recommendation:
      Start with three sets of five reps and progress to five
      sets of ten reps.
      Occasionally test yourself
      and move on when you can achieve 20 reps with control and good
      form.
       
    5. Elevated Rows These are the
      same as the suspended row with the additional challenge of worse
      leverage.  Place your feet on something sturdy  and start
      so that you are parallel to the floor when suspended. Perform in
      the same manner as the suspended
      row.Recommendation: Start with three
      sets of three reps and progress to five sets of five
      reps.
      Occasionally test yourself and shoot for
      10 repetitions.

To Chin-Ups & Beyond…. While
the exercises above are a great start, this list is far from
exhaustive. The number of ways to work toward the pull-up and
chin-up do not stop here. The possibilities are limited only by
your imagination, but a good trainer will find the fewest exercises
with the biggest bang for the buck.  Personally, I’ve been
able to get clients from zero to hero with only three variations,
one of which is not shown above.

MARCH 8th
& 9th 2014
Subscribe to our email list to
get more information on our March 8th Ladies’ Strength Workshop
with Master StrongFirst Instructor Karen Smith Hosted by Omaha
Elite Kettlebell
 
——NOTES———

ARE PULL-UPS RIGHT FOR
YOU?

Before getting
started here’s a quick list of pre-requisites for safely training
on the pull-up bar. 
Trunk Stability: Do you
have sufficient core strength in your lats, abs and glutes to keep
the body knitted together and stable as you raise and lower your
body through space?
Shoulder
Mobility:
Do you have healthy mobile shoulders that
are  capable of safely attaining the overhead lockout or start
position?
Shoulder
Stability:
Are all the muscles surrounding the
shoulders including the lats strong enough and coordinated enough
to keep the shoulders held tightly and safely in their sockets
while supporting your weight?
Grip Strength: Do you have
the grip strength and endurance to hang on to the bar long enough
to get the job done?
As a Functional Movement Screen Specialist and
StrongFirst Bodyweight Instructor I will use a quick series of
object assessments to determine the appropriate starting point for
you.
OEKB<br />
Enroll Button-08″ src=”<a href=http://omahaelitekettlebell.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/oekb-enroll-button-08.jpg&#8221; width=”118″ height=”101″ />
The Author:
John Scott Stevens is a Level II StrongFirst Certified
Kettlebell Instructor, StrongFirst Certified Bodyweight Strength
Instructor and CK-FMS Functional Movement Specialist.
He can be reached at
Scott.Stevens@OmahaEliteTraining.com
(402) 403-3975
OEKBScottEMAILFoot-04

Are You Pulling Your Weight? – Part 1

As a kettlebell instructor one of my favorite non-kettlebell exercises is the pull-up. The pull-up is an efficient way to simultaneously improve abdominal strength, upper body strength and flexibility, shoulder health, grip strength, overall body composition, and all around athleticism. The good news is that the pull-up is nothing to be intimidated by, it’s simply one point on a long continuum from planks to pull-ups and beyond.

If you have healthy and mobile shoulders, want a challenge and an honest assessment of your overall fitness, the pull-up may be just what the doctor ordered.

5 Ways Pull-Ups Can Help You Achieve Your Fitness Goals

1. Pull-Ups are an excellent predictor of athletic performance.
Individuals who can perform a high number of pull-ups also tend to  perform well in push-ups, sit-ups and even running, but the opposite is not true. It’s quite common to see someone who can do dozens of pushups or hundreds sit-ups perform poorly on the pull-up bar.
As a martial art instructor I used to test individuals on pushups, now I simply test pull-ups for the simple reason that if someone can perform well on pull-ups, then pushups are always a breeze.
Image
Watch a video of Master SFG Instructor Karen Smith performing a weighted pull-up with a 53lb. kettlebell and more.
Subscribe to our email list to get more information on our March 8th Ladies’ Strength Workshop with Master StrongFirst Instructor Karen Smith Hosted by Omaha Elite Kettlebell
2. Pull-Ups Encourage a healthy body composition and strength to bodyweight ratio
If fat-loss is your goal, then the pull-up is a perfect way to assess progress.
As you get stronger at pull-ups you tend to improve lean muscle mass, and as you lose non-functional body-fat your pull-ups will just keep getting easier.
Kelly loves chin-ups!

Kelly Rushlow pictured here has lost over 100 lbs and kept it off with the help of regular kettlebell training.

“When I started kettlebell training I had very little upper body strength. I think a lot of women like me see people hoisting these heavy weights overhead and probably say to themselves “I could never do that” or “I don’t want to get bulky”.  What they don’t realize is that it’s a journey and you don’t have to do it all at once.  Since training with Scott I’ve steadily progressed to strict push-ups, 5 chin-ups, 2 pull-ups a weighted pull-up and even pressing a 53lb kettlebell overhead. Bulking just doesn’t happen and now women actually compliment me on my arms.  As an added bonus the special abdominal techniques we learn in class have helped me really tighten up my midsection when other people that have lost as much weight as I have might need to resort to surgery to tighten loose skin.”-Kelly

Scott & Jean demonstrating pullups & chinups

Pictured: A thumbless weighted pull-up (palms out) with 53lb kettlebell and a Chin-up (palms facing).

3. Pull-Ups Build an athletic and youthful physique

Chiseled arms, strong shoulders, the athletic v-shape created by a strong back and a tight mid-section are all by-products of training the pull-up. A woman that can do 5 or more pull-ups or a man who can do 20 or more generally possesses a very athletic physique.
One of the most athletic men I’ve ever known is a Vietnam Vet named Jan. Jan is a former kettlebell client of mine who told me he had completed over 30 marathons. He runs like a gazelle, lifts heavy weights and possesses a lean, mean physique with approximately 5% body fat and washboard abs. When I met him I had just witnessed him perform 64 consecutive chin-ups without rest.  He was 64 years young at the time. When I asked him how he was able to maintain such an amazing level of strength at 64 he simply said that ever since he was 13 years old he insisted on doing one pull-up for every year he was alive.

4. Pull-Ups Can Improve Posture

Excelling at strict dead-hang pull-ups touching your chest to the bar stretches out tight chest muscles while strengthening the abs and muscles of the back. When performed the way we teach them they even strengthen the glutes.  Coincidentally a strong back, strong abs and strong glutes are essential for good posture.

5. Pull-ups Make you feel like a champ

Pull-ups improve athleticism, upper body strength, posture, ab strength, encourage a lean physique. This means you get to feel like a champ  PLUS  flying over the top of the pull-up bar is just plain fun and empowering. It’s like starring in your own “Rocky” training montage.
I once heard a wise man say the job of a good trainer is to find the thing you’re not good at and make you better at that. In other words if you’re like the majority of the current population, then pull-ups may be exactly what the doctor ordered.
The pull-up is nothing to be intimidated by, it is one point on a continuum from the plank to hanging from the bar for time to more advanced pull-up variations like weighted pull-ups, hanging leg raises, muscle-ups, front-levers and even the one arm chin-up. Whatever your current strength or skill level at pull-ups we can  find a safe and appropriately challenging progression for you then teach you the skills to conquer the pull-up and achieve your goals.
Raise the bar and give our Omaha Elite Kettlebell classes a try.
Enroll in Kettlebell classes before November 1st and receive a complimentary 30-minute Private Lesson, A Functional Movement Screen to keep you safe and a personalized corrective exercise progression.

OEKB Enroll Button-08

ARE PULL-UPS RIGHT FOR YOU?

Before getting started here’s a quick list of pre-requisites for safely training on the pull-up bar. 
Trunk Stability: Do you have sufficient core strength in your lats, abs and glutes to keep the body knitted together and stable as you raise and lower your body through space?
Shoulder Mobility: Do you have healthy mobile shoulders that are  capable of safely attaining the overhead lockout or start position?
Shoulder Stability: Are all the muscles surrounding the shoulders including the lats strong enough and coordinated enough to keep the shoulders held tightly and safely in their sockets while supporting your weight?
Grip Strength: Do you have the grip strength and endurance to hang on to the bar long enough to get the job done?
As a Functional Movement Screen Specialist and StrongFirst Bodyweight Instructor I will use a quick series of object assessments to determine the appropriate starting point for you.
The Author:
John Scott Stevens is a Level II StrongFirst Certified Kettlebell Instructor, StrongFirst Certified Bodyweight Strength Instructor and CK-FMS Functional Movement Specialist.
He can be reached at
Scott.Stevens@OmahaEliteTraining.com
(402) 403-3975
OEKBScottEMAILFoot-04
Video

Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun with the Double Kettlebell Deep Six

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 5.04.49 PM

One of my favorite kettlebell drills of all time is the “Deep Six” by Master SFG Instructor Jon Engum. The Deep Six gets it’s name because it features the six fundamental kettlebell techniques taught by Pavel Tsatsouline performed in the form of a complex, as originally written it uses a single kettlebell (12-16kg for women, 20-24kg for men) and asks you to build up to completing 15 minutes of work without setting the bell down.

The beauty of the Deep Six is that it creates a simple and challenging way to drill all of the fundamental kettlebell skills taught to and by SFG certified instructors with a single bell while building strength and endurance.

Jon Engum has written an excellent article on how to program and progress the Deep Six which can be found here: http://flexiblesteel.net/trainingarticles.html

Here’s a video of 13-year old performing the deep six for a single round.

A few years back I entertained the idea of completing the Deep Six with two kettlebells and gave it a shot and was pleased to find the kind of heart pounding challenging it provided. Performing all six techniques with two kettlebells really changes things and drills strength and endurance on a different level. During the single bell version of the Deep Six one arm is always resting… but during the double bell version you get double the load, neither side of your body has anywhere to hide. It’s double the pleasure and double the fun.

Even an accomplished & strong kettlebell practitioner will find completing just one round of the Deep Six with two kettlebells challenging, not to mention completing three or more rounds. Here’s the sequence.

The Double Kettlebell Deep Six
Using two snatch test size bells complete the following techniques without setting the bells down.

  1. 5 swings,
  2. 5 cleans
  3. 5 presses (sometimes I just combine 2&3 into a clean & press combo)
  4. 5 squats
  5. 5 snatches
  6. 1 get down/up.

Rinse & Repeat until strong(er).

TIP: You may want to start with lighter bells than you snatch test weight and take time to build up.

If you’re familiar with these techniques you’ll likely feel comfortable performing double swings, cleans, presses and squats so I will not go over them here, but for the average person the double snatch and getup needs some addressing:

The Double Kettlebell Snatch

The double kettlebell snatch is performed the same way as the single kettlebell snatch with the exception of lowering the bells to the shoulders between reps.
The reason I do NOT recommend dropping the kettlebells directly into a hike pass from the overhead lockout position is that this complex will put you in a state of fatigue and I have found that hiking directly from the overhead lockout leaves too little room for error plus you run the risk of the bells colliding with each other and/or your knees on the way down. Hiking the bells from the racked position is much simpler and safer.

Tips:
Inhale and brace strongly during the hike-pass phase.
Push your hips back far enough to generate maximum power during hip extension.
Take a moment or two to rest in either the overhead or rack position.
If absolutely necessary, set the bells and collect your strength before performing the snatches and realize that completing several or even one round of the double deep six does not need to be rushed and conquered the first time out, but should be built up to wisely by working within your limits instead of trying to exceed them.

The Double Getup

Version A)
Double Kettlebell Getup (both bells overhead)
In this version both bells are held overhead throughout the lift.

Because it impossible to wedge yourself off the ground while holding two bells overhead the double getup only bares a resemblance to the single kettlebell version in that you are holding a weight overhead. It requires a combination of creativity and flexibility to complete. It looks like a sequence of an overhead weighted situp to a hurdler stretch to a tall kneeling overhead lockout to standing and back down again. HOWEVER, when performed as the finale of the double deep six it is performed in the reverse order from standing to supine back to standing, so once your on your back and gravity is no longer your friend, the hardest part of the maneuver remains.

The problem with this version of the lift is that it is difficult to maintain a neutral spine through the “sit-up” portions of the lift. Keeping a braced midsection and neutral spine is CRUCIAL to performing the lift safely. So, the only way to really do the lift is by bracing your midsection, stabilizing your spine then throwing your legs to gain enough momentum to rock into a seated position.

Version B)
Getup into a Two Hands Anyhow

In this version of the lift you will set one bell down for a portion of the getup then pick it up again. This allows you to avoid using momentum to rock into a seated position, BUT it requires even more thoracic mobility PLUS the ability to curl one kettlebell into position. Because you are only maintaining one bell overhead for the entire lift you then face the dilemma of making things symmetrical. Instead of adding an extra rep to balance out I suggest using the other arm then next time you perform the sequence or keep track and save it for another day.

Conquering the Deep Six
There are many ways to skin a cat an no single approach is THE answer, but one approach to conquering the Double Deep Six is to approach it in parts.

Take several weeks to train the most challenging parts, maintain the easier ones then put it all together in the end.

A DAY (A program minimum of sorts)

Warmup/Rehearsal: Practice the full Double Deep Six with lighter bells and reduced reps if necessary. Avoid fatigue.

Snatches & Getups
Practice 5 minutes of Double Getups
Practice 10 minute of double snatches

Do not go all out.
Go at a 50-80% all out pace and just drill perfect reps.

B DAYS (Everything Else)

Warmup/Rehearsal: Joint Mobility and Practice the full Double Deep Six with lighter bells and reduced reps if necessary. Avoid fatigue

Perform the following sequence with double snatch test size bells

Swings, Cleans, Presses, Squats, Loaded Carries, rest & Repeat
1 to 5 reps of each lift + one to two minute of carries. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

Sometimes use a combination of heavier bells and lower reps breaking the sequence into to smaller chunks:

For example a man who snatches a 24kg would use two 28s or 32s a woman who snatches the 16kg would use 18s or 20s and do

Several sets of Cleans, Presses & Squats, Rest, Repeat
I recommend keeping the reps low on the presses, and hitting the cleans and squats the hardest. A sequence Master SFG Dan John uses sounds and feels about right: 2 cleans, 1 press, 3 squats.

Then

Several sets of Swings & Loaded Carries, Rest, Repeat
keep the swings in the 5 to 10 rep range. Do two sets of swings, rack the bells and go a nice walk. Repeat this sequence several times and keep increasing the number of sets and increasing the amount of time you can walk without setting the bells down.

Every few weeks test yourself by trying to complete the entire sequence and see how far you’ve come.
I’d break the challenge down like so.

Goal #1:

1 swing, 1 clean, 1 press, 1 squat, 3 snatches, 1 getdown/up.
repeat 2-3x.

Goal #2
Gradually increase the first four lifts in the sequence to 3 reps each.
3 swings, 3 cleans, 3 presses, 3 squats, 3 snatches, 1 getdown/up.

Goal #3
3 swings, 3 cleans, 3 presses, 3 squats, 5 snatches, 1 getdown/up.
repeat 2-3x.

Goal #4
Gradually increase the first four lifts in the sequence to 5 reps each.

5 swings, 5 cleans, 5 presses, 5 squats, 5 snatches, 1 getdown/up.
repeat 1 to 2x.

Goal #5
Gradually increase the first four lifts in the sequence to 5 reps each.

5 swings, 5 cleans, 5 presses, 5 squats, 5 snatches, 1 getdown/up.
repeat 3x.

Here’s a video from a few years back where I nearly conquered the Double Six for a single round with two 24kgs, but I was unable to complete the second half of the double getup as that’s always the most difficult part.
(There’s a video somewhere of me completing it, but I can’t find. I’ll need to film it on another day)