2/24 ToU

There was a season for hard training and a season for harder training. ~Dave Draper

Kettlebell Swings to high-pulls, cradle the bell to your chest & roll back onto your back, spring forward & stand up in one fluid movement. After some around-the-worlds, figure 8s & halos, this makes for a pretty good warm up.

Next, I prove once again that I’m a pretty big fan of Brett Jones’ SFG Prep Day 1 workout. There are other ways to get this kind of work done, but all the basic movements are packaged together pretty nicely, so I use it as a step beyond a warm-up for a single set.

1 Circuit @ 24kg:

  • Swing x 15 two arm
  • Clean and press x 5+5
  • Swing x 5+5 one arm
  • Clean and front squat x 5+5
  • Swing x 20 alternating or 10+10 one arm
  • Get-up x 1+1 (adjust weight or reduce steps of the get-up as needed)
  • Swing x 15 two arm
  • Snatch x 5+5
  • Swing x 5+5 one arm

Then to the Press. The day before was Snatch practice, but my goals include getting better at pressing. If you don’t press a 24kg or 32kg well, the 48kg Beast is gonna rock your world in a bad way, and I know this very well.

I set out to do a 10 minute EMOM of Presses, every odd minute with the 24kg, and every even minute with the 32kg, but yesterday wasn’t my day. I ended up doing 6 total sets @ 24kg, and the remaining 4 @ 32kg. The first two sets at 32kg were the full 5/5, but the last two were 4/4 and 3/3, for a total of 94 reps for the whole work set.

Still, that was 2,628kg of iron moved in 10 minutes, which I’m happy with . . . for yesterday. The difference between iron moved at 24kg and 32kg was 352kg, which equates to 11 more reps at 32kg for the next time I work this drill.

It gets a little nerdy with al those numbers, but I think that nerdiness helps with assessment, and I think ongoing & relentless assessment in training is 100% essential for working smartly towards our goals.

The Beast Marches On!

2/22 Tropic of Unicorn

Today’s training happened in 81 degree weather. Oh, and sunny, very sunny. It’s February, which should be a kicker, but who am I to argue? I’m just a guy with lots of lofty Kettlebell goals, and a relentless work ethic.

My own training usually involves piecing together a few ideas from various places, but with a common theme towards a particular goal. Today’s training focused more on the TSC, but I think the carry-over to the Beast Tamer will evolve & make itself felt & known over time.

My current bodyweight is 254.6, and I’m none too pleased about it, but I need to have the motivation to get it where I want, which is 225. I can run more often, or Snatch more frequently. One jives with my goals, the other is potentially distracting. Some days I’ll run, but not today. Today I went straight for the Snatch.

Focusing on the TSC, I went for a well-known template that has produced many encouraging results: 12-Week TNT TSC Training Program. The guy who wrote it has won the Elite Division more than anyone else, and has produced some impressive results with other athletes. Again, I really shouldn’t argue.

But, as a warm-up, I went back to one of my favorites I used to train for my RKC: StrongFirst SFG Kettlebell Certification Prep Guide. Some people might claim it blasphemous to use a SFG template to train for the RKC, but 1) they all started as the same organization, 2) it WORKS, 3) I don’t listen to anyone who points out problems but doesn’t offer usable & meaningful solutions.

1 Circuit of:

  • Swing x 15 two arm
  • Clean and press x 5+5
  • Swing x 5+5 one arm
  • Clean and front squat x 5+5
  • Swing x 20 alternating or 10+10 one arm
  • Get-up x 1+1 (adjust weight or reduce steps of the get-up as needed)
  • Swing x 15 two arm
  • Snatch x 5+5
  • Swing x 5+5 one arm

Oh, and the TNT Snatch work looked like:

  • 10 minute EMOM- 5R/5L = 100 Snatches
  • 12 minute EMOM- 5R/5L = 120 Snatches

I didn’t go with a competition weight, as suggested, choosing instead my 16kg. Maybe I wanted to get comfortable with the volume, maybe I wasn’t feeling froggy enough to belt out my 24kg today. Maybe it was something else. Regardless, the work got done, and 220 Snatches is nothing to sneeze at . . . even if pollen is rampant in Georgia unusually early this year. 2018 itself offers to be remarkably unusual, so ride the wave & ride it high.

Honing Your Chops

I first heard the phrase honing your chops when I first got into playing music. It means to practice your technique, or work on the fundamentals. In music, it might refer to scales or moving form one chord shape to another, but in fitness, what does it mean to you?

Most anyone who spends a lot of time lifting weights is probably guilty of always going for the bigger weights. If you can strict press “the Beast” (106lb KB), why bother with 12kg or 16kg presses?

In Martial Arts they say that a Black Belt is just someone who has mastered the basics, and is finally ready to really start learning. The same goes for professionals in any endeavor . . . the pros practice the basics; endlessly, tirelessly & ruthlessly.

As for the athletic specimens who walk in and snatch 48kg on their first try . . . they are fewer & farther in between than anyone of us might imagine. Even if they do exist, they likely honed their chops elsewhere, in some pursuit that has phenomenal carry-over.

Since we’ve mentioned the Strict Press, let’s roll with that one. Why would you work with a 12, 16, or even 24kg Kettlebell if you can press the Beast for reps? Are Strict Presses the only thing you can do to improve your, um, Strict Presses? 

Let’s back off the Beast for a minute . . . maybe you’re trying to make the jump from the 16 to the 20 or 24kg, or from the 12kg upwards . . . a high volume of strict presses will likely pay off, but there’s more going on than just the exercise under scrutiny.

A strong Press is a good indicator of healthy shoulders, but there’s a lot of work that goes into keeping your shoulders healthy. We might as well fast forward & acknowledge that a strong Press needs good stability, and good stability begins with your feet on the ground & works up through all the muscles, joints & ligaments in your body.

Your body is a chain, a band, if you liked the musician metaphor at the beginning of this post. No matter how good the singer is, she can’t do her job without a solid band behind & alongside her. Imagine if the bass player can’t do his runs, or the guitarist forgets his chords, or the drummer loses her rhythm . . . no one would think this was a very good band.

But we do think it is a very good band because you practice your speedwork, you practice Bottoms Up Presses, Overhead Squats, our handstands & pull-ups . . . you do whatever work it takes so that when the time comes, when you really want to Press & Press heavy, every necessary & contributing part of your body is ready & knows what to do.

Always practice the skills you want to improve. If you want to improve your Strict Press, practice it. Also practice the supplemental moves that lead to a stronger press. You’ll never meet someone who can press heavy, but has weak legs, a weak core, and a weak grip. If their Strict Press is strong, all of them is strong.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does develop habits, and Strength is a habit . . . practice it to keep it sharp.

CrossFit Training with Kettlebells

It isn’t really a question of if Kettlebells will be used in the Open, Regionals, or Games, it’s an issue of when & how. If you geek out about this stuff like I do, you might have noticed that a few high level CrossFit athletes have been posting pics on Instagram moving the mighty Kettlebells.

Which opens up an honest question: If the elite athletes are preparing with Kettlebells, should we too? Of course, no one ever knows the events until Dave Castro releases them, but there is no reason to think that our beloved bells won’t make a showing somewhere along the way.

See also: The Case for Kettlebells in Crossfit

Besides bodyweight, Kettlebells are the most accessible, portable & versatile pieces of equipment we have or can use. That being said, our answer is obvious: Of course we should.

Kettlebell Swings are far & away the most popular movement in CrossFit events, or even in day-to-day programming. The CrossFit method is to go overhead, also known as the American Swing, but there is a lot of benefit from learning the Russian Swing. In either case, the movement begins & ends the same way, the only thing that changes is the range of motion: the Russian Swing is a full range of motion movement, and the American Swing is an extended range of motion movement. If you’re going to participate in CrossFit, there’s no sense in arguing about which is better . . . learn both and own the movement in any situation.

It definitely benefits us all to learn the Swing (both kinds), and even more technical lifts with the Kettlebell. I always recommend working with a certified instructor or coach to fully learn the intricacies of the movement, preferably an HKC or RKC in your area . . . <politely clears throat>.

If you have any questions, or just want to chat about Kettlebells or finding someone in your area to get you started, you can e-mail me at lee@6strengthconditioning.com or check out the 6 Strength FB Page, or the Uptown Kettlebell Club which is definitely the BEST way to get started or improve your Kettlebell training.

Oh, and maybe not nearly as important, but pretty cool, Bane is training with Kettlebells, too . . . so, Batman beware!

Self Education and Fresh New Starts

Reading put perspective to any challenge I was facing and made me see that extraordinary people usually had extraordinary pain, difficulties or injustices. That’s part of why they have the drive and hunger to do good in the world, to make something happen. ~Tony Robbins

The ability to read is a pretty neat trick. Someone puts words down on paper, your eyes scan the words, and suddenly (or sometimes, eventually) you are exposed to a new perspective, and maybe even change the way you think. Definitely some cool magic happening here! 

My job requires me to drive a lot, which is great, because I love traveling, and driving allows me to bring with me whatever I want/need . . . as opposed to airports, which tend to frown on me bringing my Kettlebells. The downside to all that driving is that it limits my ability to read.

Audio Books are one option, and a great option for many people. Generally speaking, I tend to struggle with finding an audio book that holds my attention. It’s definitely a matter of how I process information, and how that information is presented, but maybe you’ve had similar experiences with audio books.

Podcasts, on the other hand, work very well for me. Maybe it’s because I tend to gravitate towards the conversation or interview style podcasts, or maybe because they are short, or maybe because of any number of other reasons.

The point is, if you’re curious about something, you’ll find a way to get the information you need. In today’s technological environment, there’s no shortage of information avenues. Seek & find, you know.

One of my favorite things about podcasts is that you can find episodes of authors talking about, or being interviewed about their books. The emphasis might be on the book, but you inevitably learn about the author, and maybe even learn that your motivations for wanting to read the book are strikingly similar to why the book was written.

My wife & I are starting the Whole 30 to kick off 2018. As soon as we ordered the book, I went in search of podcasts about Whole 30. Lewis Howes is one of my favorite podcast hosts, so when I found his interview with Whole 30 co-founder, Melissa Hartwig, I knew it would be worth recommending to anyone curious about the backstory of Whole 30.

If you’re new to the idea of podcasts, or a well-traveled & seasoned pro, give Melissa’s story a listen . . . you’ll definitely learn a lot about how Whole 30 came to be, and maybe even be motivated, inspired & encouraged by her own story of the process.

Practice Makes Habits

Practice makes habits. Your habits define you. If you want a different life, change your habits.

Consider this quote from Jurassic Park:

“And that’s how things are. A day is like a whole life. You start out doing one thing, but end up doing something else, plan to run an errand, but never get there… And at the end of your life, your whole existence has the same haphazard quality, too. Your whole life has the same shape as a single day.” —Michael Crichton

This sounds like most of us.

What do you want your life to life to look like? Think about that and act on it … TODAY. Make today look like what you want your life to look like.

Practice doesn’t guarantee perfection, but it does produce habits, and we are the sum of what we habitually do.

Is your entire life worth a single day of effort & action? It’s worth a try.

Be Your Own Hero

Do you ever feel like your past makes your future impossible? Are those mistakes, habits & poor decisions of youth too much to overcome?

Feelings like this are more common than they are uncommon, but you probably already knew that, and you probably already know that it doesn’t help to just know that.

Something better to know would be what to do about it.

The coolest magic trick I know is called Reverse Engineering. I’m not a real engineer, but the concept makes so much sense. Take an example that you know works and try to figure out what smaller parts led to its success.

It sounds so simple . . . because it is.

There’s a reason we had heroes when we were kids. There is a reason superhero movies are so popular. Memoirs, YouTube videos, Blog posts, Tweets . . . if we are looking to reverse engineer people, or even our ideas about people, there is definitely an abundance of resources.

Let’s take an example near & dear to my heart: I want to get stronger and be more athletic. There is no shortage of strong & athletic people out there. Many of them are even friends of mine, so I really don’t have to look very far for awesome examples.

What are some things they all have in common? That one is easy: They all lift weights, they all spend a lot of time in a gym or their garage gym . . . and there is the kicker, at least for me– they all spend a lot of time . . . 

If someone you know spends a lot of time posting pictures of their super-human body in the gym doing super-human things, there’s a good chance that person spends a LOT of time in the gym. They have the body to confirm it, and their never-ending stream of gym posts certainly affirms it.

Great, what do we do with this information?

Sometimes it’s as easy as reaching out to the person. People love talking about themselves. (I sincerely mean this in a good way, definitely understand it that way.)

Whether we do or not, can or cannot, the next step in reverse engineering is to realize that this person had to start somewhere. Maybe it’s right there in their posts? Maybe you can make a pretty educated guess?

My suggestion is to not spend too much time worrying about their story. Use whatever information you have to begin YOUR story. Your story is the one you should be most curious about.

Like Superman, you came to this earth from who knows where, and it didn’t take others long to convince you that you’re somehow ordinary, not uncommon. Now is a good time to stop listening to them . . . and it doesn’t matter who they are, because they are the ones who are wrong about you.

You can be & have anything you want, you just have to figure out how your story plays into your goals, your desires and write yourself to that end.

Let’s look more closely at my example: Strength & Athleticism. What do all these people in the gym have, materially? Weights. What do all these amazingly athletic people do most frequently? Move.

Okay, now we are approaching base levels. We definitely have two tangibles to work with: weights & movement. Getting a weight is easy, starting to move is easier. Put the two together, add in some creativity & consistency, and we are well on our way to creating our own magic.

If you are lost or stuck, e-mail me (crasefit@gmail.com) and we can get something working. If you’re not ready to reach out and are just looking for a way out of where you are, here’s a quick & easy workout you can do without any weights, and as often as you want throughout the day:

  • 10 Air Squats . . . if you’re worried about your level of strength, or knees, stand on the floor next to a solid chair, bench, or even your bed so that if you fall, you fall comfortably and don’t injure yourself before you have a chance to get stronger
  • 5 Push-ups . . . if you can’t do push-ups on the floor, do them on a stair, a counter, or even against a wall, and build a level of consistency & confidence
  • Lay down on the floor and get up . . . yep, that is the whole exercise. You can make it as challenging as you want by only using one hand, no hands, or whatever you need. Getting up off the floor is a skill many of us mastered as children, but lose as adults. You’ll never meet a truly & physically strong or athletic person who can’t get up off the floor. Think about that.

If these movements don’t look suitable for you, or if you have a weight and want something more challenging, seriously, e-mail me (crasefit@gmail.com) and I’ll e-mail you back with some different & encouraging suggestions.

Wherever you are is much closer to where you want to be than you might imagine. Find your direction on a map and start moving that way. There are obstacles, re-routes, detours, and sometimes all-out road closures, but honestly, there isn’t anywhere in the world you can’t get as long as you’re willing to start & follow through.

Start here, start now.

Get Strong & Move well.