If You Wished You Were Strong…

Let’s face it, fitness can be intimidating.
A bunch of sweaty people pretending to be tough…  grunting loudly and throwing around slogans like “No Pain, No Gain!” or “Feel the Burn!” gets to be a little too much for the average person. Then you watch some of the outrageous training videos or fitness competitions and you get more than just a little freaked out by the insanity and machismo or inappropriate sexuality.

If you’re like me, then you believe fitness shouldn’t be a competition or a fashion show. Training should make you better at something other than …  just being better at training.  Training should improve your posture, your strength, your confidence and your quality of movement. Training shouldn’t be your life, it should improve your ability to to enjoy life.

If you’ve ever wished you were strong enough to train with barbells, dumbbells or kettlebells, but didn’t think you were…  or just wished you knew how to get started then I have just the resource for you:

“Foundations of Strength”  by StrongFirst is an excellent video with clear instruction that goes over the basics of how to safely and efficiently perform some powerful and effective techniques that will help the average person accomplish any level of fitness they choose. You’ll learn fundamental barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, bodyweight and sandbag movements to help mold the body you were meant to have.

Watch the video, takes notes and hit the gym or just train at home, then watch it again and repeat.
Eventually you’ll want to know more, but this is a great place to start.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet and chat with
Mark Toomey and I can tell you without reservation that he is a gentlemen, a scholar and an excellent instructor who walks the talk.  At Omaha Elite Kettlebell we use the exact methods and principles shared in this video so I feel confident you’ll you like what you see and hear.

If you need further assistance or a more specific training plan, check out some of the recommended links above on the right such as “Power to the People” and “Simple & Sinister”. Check out the more expansive online store above or give me a shout, I’ll be glad to help or point you in the right direction.

Remember, strength is a choice.

"If you never thought you were strong enough to lift weights but wish you were, this is a great class for you.   I always walk into class a little nervous that I might not be up to the challenge, and then leave saying, "I did it!" and feel good about it the rest of the day. Scott really knows his stuff. He will customize to your individual needs...this is not a "one size fits all" class. Scott has taught me how to get more out of 5 reps than I used to get out of 25. My whole core is stronger as a result. Now when I go back to other classes, everything seems easier. Less really is more."  - Karen Bexten

 

 

 

 

Squeeze More out of Your Only Kettlebell

Squeeze More Out of Your Only Kettlebell: Omaha Elite Kettlebell - John Scott Stevens, SFGII

Keeping a kettlebell at the home or office is a great way to recharge during a 15-minute break from the computer.
Not everyone has a wide variety of bells to choose from and some people have only one bell, often a relatively light beginner bell and they quickly outgrow it… or so they think.

With a little creativity you will find plenty of ways to make a light bell seem heavier than it should and keep your strength gains coming.

Here are just a few examples of how to squeeze more out of a given size bell. Each list is arranged from easiest to hardest. Aside from doing more reps or taking less rest… when a particular version of a technique begins to feel easy,  start working on one of the versions further down the list.  Safety is always a priority and so is your dignity, for that reason you will never attempt any kettlebell exercise while standing on a bosu ball or standing on a kettlebell. [Note: If your idea of kettlebell training involves doing a single leg squat atop a kettlebell… you’re doing it wrong.]

This list is by no means exhaustive and with a little imagination I could easily double the variations shown below.
With variations like these I can keep a 16kg kettlebell challenging although I can readily swing, bent press, squat and do getups with a bell three times that size.  I’m not trying to brag, there are many stronger people in the world… but, my point is this:

Strength is a choice: If you have a kettlebell you think you’ve outgrown, you’re probably wrong.

Enjoy & Don’t forget to share this post if you do!

 

KETTLEBELL DEADLIFT

  1. Easiest: Sumo Kettlebell Deadlift
  2. Harder: Sumo Kettlebell Deadlift from an elevation
  3. Harder: Single arm suitcase deadlift
  4. Harder: Single Leg Kettlebell Deadlift

KETTLEBELL HIP HINGE

  1. Easiest: Two Hand Swing
  2. Harder: Hand to Hand Swing
  3. Harder: One Hand Swing
  4. Harder: High Pulls
  5. Harder: Snatches

KETTLEBELL PRESS

  1. Easiest: Push Press
  2. Harder: Military Press
  3. Harder: Bent Press
  4. Harder: Military Press Blind Folded, Standing on one leg… or both.
  5. Harder: Tall Kneeling Military Press (Blind folded too)
  6. Harder: Press Up, 1/4 the way down & back up, 1/2 the way down & back up, 3/4 down then up.
  7. Harder: Seated On The Floor Press
  8. Harder: Press from the bottom of the squat
  9. Harder: Press while seated in the splits

KETTLEBELL GETUP

  1. Easiest: Partial Getups
  2. Harder: Full Getups
  3. Harder: Full Getups with several presses on the way to standing.
  4. Harder: Slow Motion Getups: 1 minute + per repetition.
  5. Harder: Continuous getups for up to 5 reps without setting the bell down before switching hands.

KETTLEBELL SQUAT

  1. Easiest: Goblet Squat
  2. Harder: Reactive Goblet Squats  (Engum)
  3. Harder: Goblet squat with the bell held upside down (bottom up)
  4. Harder: Goblet Squat with a 10 second pause in the bottom while shaking the bell vigorously. (Dan John)
  5. Harder: Front Squat
  6. Harder: Cossack Squat
  7. Harder: Bottom Up Front Squat
  8. Harder: Goblet Squat with the bell held overhead
  9. Harder: Single Arm Overhead Squat (hold the bell overhead with one arm locked out and squat)
  10. Harder: Pistol (a.k.a. Single Leg Squat)
  11. Harder: Racked Pistol
  12. Harder: Botom Up Racked Pistol
  13. Harder: Overhead Pistol

KETTLEBELL CLEAN

  1. Easiest: Cheat Clean with both hands
  2. Harder: Clean (standard)
  3. Harder: Dead Clean with no backward hike pass between reps.
  4. Harder: Bottom Up Clean
  5. Harder: Add a 15 seconds hold/pause in the rack position between reps.

Kettlebell Juggling: Omaha Elite Kettlebell - John Scott Stevens SFGII

KETTLEBELL JUGGLING
Kettlebell juggling sounds scary, but it’s not nearly as hard as it sounds.  You will need to perform these outside of course where the bells won’t bounce.

  1. Easiest: Two Hand Release & Catch at the top of the swing
  2. Harder: Hand to Hand Release & Catch
  3. Harder: One Hand Release & Catch
  4. Harder: Hand to  Hand Release into a flip & catch
  5. Harder: One Hand Release into a flip & catch
  6. Harder: One Hand release into a helicopter spin & catch
    (For a greater list of kettlebell juggling techniques and progressions I recommend the works of Jeff Martone and Gus Peterson)

WANT MORE?
For even more kettlebell lifting variations check out “More Russian Kettlebell Challenges” from Pavel Tsatsouline.
More Russian Kettlebell Challenges

10-Week Kettlebell Challenge – “Go Ballistic”

If the thought of all the good holiday food that’s coming around the corner has you stressed out, you may want to consider having your cake and eating it too. In other words, don’t deny yourself from enjoying the Holidays, just make sure you earn your just desserts.

Here’s a nice 10-week challenge to help you stoke your metabolic fire and keep your fitness progress moving forward.
When performed properly, with sufficient weight and power the techniques included here have the potential to burn over 20-calories per minute for the average individual.  In order to get the most of these techniques I highly recommend… no I INSIST on doing everything within your power to learn the technical subtleties that will allow you to safely squeeze every ounce of transformational power out these movement from a qualified StrongFirst certified kettlebell instructor in your area.

If you follow the plan and find a way to achieve at least 100 reps a day, three days per week for 10-weeks you will have accomplished 3,000 to 6,000 Kettlebell swings, high pulls or snatches and burned over 6,000 calories. You’ll improve your endurance and ability to generate power, ramp-up your metabolism and build muscle in all the right places.  After all that, go ahead and have a slice or four
 of pumpkin pie… you will have earned it.

Enjoy.

10-WEEK PLAN Select a technique from the list below that you can perform safely using a kettlebell size which allows you to perform 10 to 20 powerful repetitions per set. Start with 100 reps in 5 minutes and build up over 10 weeks to 200 reps in 10-minutes. Perform the following training session for up to 10-minutes anywhere from 1 to 3 time per week. Keep a steady predetermined pace such as 10 reps per minute for as long as possible. When you can no longer keep the pace, either switch to an easier technique on the list that allows you to keep pace or end the workout for the day. Each week attempt to increase the total number of sets performed until you can complete all ten-minutes at your goal pace. Eventually build up to completing 20 reps per minute for all 10-minutes. When you can complete 200 reps of a single technique in 100 minutes, it's time to

 

 

Ketlebell Snatch to Lunge: An Uncommon Killer Kettlebell Combo

Kettlebell Snatch/Jumping Lunge: Omaha Elite Kettlebell

Allow me to introduce you to one of my all-time favorite killer kettlebell combinations: The Kettlebell Snatch + Lunge.

The kettlebell snatch by itself is an awesome technique that works everything from head to toe, but by combining lunges with snatches I get to keep things interesting while drilling the basics. Additionally,  it’s a whole lotta fun.
Other benefits include:
  • The addition of the overhead lunge is great way to slow someone down who tends to cut their snatches short of a true vertical lockout.
  • The snatch and lunge are a great way of pairing one explosive movement and one grind.
  • The lunge adds an increased balance challenge.
  • Because the overhead lunge is a component of the getup, this combo is a great way to drill part of the getup or use as a seamless transition into the getup.
  • This combination can be progressed in various ways by changing the timing, adding a jumping lunge or even using two bells at once.

VARIATIONS

Here are several variations of the Snatch to Lunge combination that I like to use in my own training that range from simple to advanced.

LEVEL I: Snatch then lunge

Snatch the kettlebell overhead, pause motionless in the lockout, then perform either a forward or reverse lunge. Return to standing and repeat.  This is the obvious starting point for individuals who have demonstrated competence in both the snatch and the lunge separately.Q: “Which knee goes in front?” 
A: It doesn’t matter, just get good at both. When performing multiple reps per arm I sometime alternate legs with each lunge. The only exception to this rule is when you use the lunge to transition into a getup you must have the same leg in front as the overhead arm.
Snatch then Overhead Lunge

LEVEL II: Snatch as you drop into a lunge

As you perform the snatch, step forward and time it so that you catch the bell in the overhead lockout either just before or at the exact moment you reach the bottom of the lunge. Obviously, this is a more advanced variation that allows you to move at a faster pace and requires a slightly higher degree of timing and coordination.   The knee should touch the floor softly and quietly. Crashing the knee into the floor is forbidden and a definite sign that you’re not ready for this exercise.
Kettlebell Snatch as You Lunge

LEVEL III: Snatch as you jump into a lunge

Kettlebell Snatch into a jumping lunge

That’s right, jump! Ok… more of a hop really.
Start the snatch and as the kettlebell floats immediately jump into a lunge and catch the bell as you reach the bottom of the lunge.  Once again… no knee crashing allowed! The trick here is to not use as much power as you would to snatch while standing or the bell can go out of control. Since you are dropping under the bell, you only need to snatch with as much power as would be required to perform a  “clean” or make it float to shoulder height. From the kneeling position, I like to jump back up as  the bell drops into the hike phase of the next snatch.

LEVEL “M”: Double Kettlebell Jumping Snatch into a Lunge

Double Kettlebell Snatch to Jumping Lunge: Omaha Elite Kettlebell

Yes, I went there.
This is the same as Level III with one additional bell.
Since both snatches and lunges lend themselves to double kettlebells… I figured “Why not?” and I immediately fell in love with these.  I have never had a client perform these, but they are something I feel safe to use in my own training.
Safety is always first and foremost so I recommend only using bells that you can safely drop from the overhead lockout into the next snatch. For this reason I personally prefer to use 16kg or 20kg bells.  If I felt the need to go heavier (and I don’t) I would recommend lowering the bells to the shoulders between snatches.

There are quite a few levels of difficulty between this move and the last.. so hopefully, naming it “Level M” (the Roman numeral for 1000) gets the point across.  Again, obviously not for everyone… but if you have the necessary skills it’s about as ninja-like as a kettlebell move gets.

SAMPLES ROUTINES

Some examples of how to integrate the Snatch/Lunge combo into your workouts.
  • 5-10 Snatches + 5-10 Lunges, switch arms, repeat x 3 to 5 rounds.
  • (1 snatch + 1 lunge) per arm,  (snatch + lunge)x2 per arm, (1 snatch + 1 lunge) x 3 per arm… climb as high as you want, then start over at 1 & repeat for 5, 10 or 15 minutes.
  • 1 snatch, 1 lunge, 2 snatches, 2 lunges, 3 snatches, 3 lunges…etc, switch arms & repeat. Climb as high as you want, then start over at 1 & repeat for 5, 10 or 15 minutes.
  • (1 snatch + 1 lunge) x 6, switch arms & repeat. ( goal = 50 to 100 total reps)
  • 1 snatch + 1 lunge repeat for 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds, repeat with the other arm. x 3 to 5 rounds per arm.
  • 1 snatch + 1 forward lunge. Step forward as you stand up & repeat across the floor. Switch arms & come back. Repeat for rounds, reps or time.
  • 5 snatches + 5 lunges into a reverse getup. Switch hands when you return to standing and repeat for reps or time.

CONSIDERATIONS

SNATCH + OVERHEAD LUNGE PRE-REQUISITES
Before you consider adding this movement to your routine understand that this movement is uncommon for a reason.
It’s only recommended for for individuals who meet the following criteria:
  • No pain, and symmetrical 2s or 3s on the following components of the Functional Movement Screen
    • FMS Active Straight Leg Raise
    • FMS Shoulder Mobility
    • FMS Trunk Stability Pushup
    • FMS Rotary Stability test
    • FMS In Line Lunge
  • No Pain on the following clearance tests”
    • Spinal Extension Clearance Test
    • Shoulder Clearance Test
    • Spinal Flexion Clearance Test
  • Technical Competence in the following movements
    • the kettlebell deadlift
    • the kettlebell swing
    • the kettlebell getup
    • the one hand kettlebell swing
    • the kettlebell snatch
Before you jump into any advanced kettlebell technique… consider this: 
If the answer to any of the following is either “No” or “I’m not sure”, then this combination is not for you.
Does this exercise support your goals?  
Have you mastered the fundamentals first?

Don’t even think about combining snatches and lunges until you rock at lunges and snatches. This should seem obvious.

With the help of a competent instructor you can regress one or both movements to get the same benefits in a safe and appropriately challenge manner.

Is the risk to reward ratio acceptable?
Can you accomplish the same thing in a simpler or safer way?
Tight rope walking between two skyscrapers will teach you balance, and juggling live chainsaws on fire will build great hand eye coordination, but there are simpler and safer ways to get the same benefits without the risk.
Heavenly and Hellish Technique Pairings - Omaha Elite Kettlebell

Matches made in Heaven or Hell Kettlebell Exercise Pairings for Efficiency & Health

One of the strengths AND drawbacks of high volume kettlebell training is that it places a tremendous emphasis on grip strength. There are two sides to every coin. Strength requires muscular tension, but too much tension is not healthy.  Overworking the grip can lead to elbow pain if not balanced with open handed exercises to train your finger extensors so… the answer should be pretty obvious: balance grip work with open hand exercises or extensor work.  Once I was training pull-ups, bottoms up kettlebell work, C.O.C. grippers and heavy deadlifts simulateously which lead to some serious elbow pain.  I was able to remedy it quickly by readjusting my programming and inserting a healthy dose of open hand exercises to balance out the grip work.  This kind of overuse can occur with any muscle group and it’s very unpleasant. Since then, I try to pair a kettlebell exercise with a technique that moves me in the “opposite” way. For example front squats usually result in spending a great deal of time in the bottom position (almost a fetal position with the fists clenched), so any exercise that looks like full body extension with open hands such as a cartwheel or hand stand is a great complimentary exercise.

Intelligently pairing kettlebell techniques with bodyweight techniques is a force multiplier than can
increase the health benefits, challenge, efficiency and benefits of any workout.

 

Heavenly and Hellish Technique Pairings - Omaha Elite Kettlebell
Matches Made in Heaven and Hell
Some of the following pairings are “heavenly” providing a welcomed change of pace in the form of active rest
while others are Continue reading