February 10, 2011

Breaking Down a Bad Getup

For a beautiful break-down of exactly what is so wrong with Bob Harper's getup demonstration... please visit the brilliant blog of RKC Josh Hillis.


February 3, 2011

Hardstyle Military Press, some thoughts

What it isn't:
Just pushing some weight overhead. Easily, repetitively. While chatting about American Idol.
It also isn't the military press machine at the gym. Select your weight, sit down, and push the handles up however many times. The only thing you're thinking about is where to put the pin.

What it IS:
Learning how to firmly wedge yourself between the earth and the object (kettlebell). (Notice the word "learning" there: Hardstyle ALSO means you never stop learning how to do it better.)

The other important concepts there: firmly, earth, and object.
Firmly: This is strength. Linkage. Compression. Alignment.
Earth: A large immovable sphere, that you want to actually be in contact with (not buffered by cushy shoes, or big, blowup yoga balls).
Object: Hardstyle kettlebell training isn't about the kettlebell... Hardstyle concepts are principles of strength and resilience, not principles of the preferred tool used to practice them.

The concept of pushing yourself away from the kettlebell/object, of pushing into the ground, is difficult for many newer gireviks - they often say, well you can't actually push the ground away, so, WTH?

As a response, consider:
You have to press something somewhat heavy overhead, while sitting. Or even perform a bicep curl. I don't care. You have the option of sitting either: on the ground, or on an inflatable chair in a swimming pool. Something instinctively tells you that you'll have more success pushing "against" the harder surface rather than the squishy one, right?

Or consider:
A very short ceiling.
So short, in fact, that you've had to cut a hole out of it for the top of your head to stick through. But, you decide you really don't like having your head stuck through this very short ceiling. So, let's try making some room. Push up the ceiling. Will you want squishy shoes on? Or shoes with an elevated heel (both of which are common in most athletic shoes)? No, you'll probably ditch the shoes and opt to push right through your feet, through your arches and heels, into the floor - and that intuition would be correct.

Then what? If you are REALLY determined to push that ceiling up, you'll get your hips right over your feet, and your shoulders right over your hips, and push straight up (and down!) through them. Then you've got to "get tight." Use your muscles to strengthen that position against pressure. If you don't, then as soon as you start pushing, you'll push some body part around, instead - like, your hips will tilt and you'll put some wicked nice pressure right into your spine. That is energy leakage - that is injury - and that is a ceiling that is still too dang short. I mean sure, you can just start pushing... but your body will break before the ceiling will. Alignment and proper core strength (and the requisite shoulder/thoracic mobility) will let you feel yourself push right into your feet - not into your neck or back - whether or NOT the ceiling gives way.

What we have is two sources of pressure, from above and below - the earth and the ceiling - putting opposing force on your body. Obviously, the earth will win against your brute strength every time. How can we put up a fight against the ceiling? Alignment. Let our bones act like the perfect supportive structures they are, and wedge ourselves under it.

Imagine a baseball bat in a vice, pressure perfectly applied at opposing ends. If that bat has been cracked in the middle, you might actually be able to snap the thing. That crack can be knees that aren't locked, hips that aren't extended, or loose muscles holding that position in place. A hardstyle military press teaches you how to be the baseball bat without a crack in the middle. It teaches you how to exert force on the other object(s), without letting your body absorb (suffer) any of that energy or pressure. Your body has to transmit that energy right into the earth and back again (since we're not going to be moving the earth).

So, when this wedge has been achieved, the kettlebell (ceiling) goes up. It is just not in any way a matter of how strong your arms are, or how big your muscles are. It's how well you've practiced hardstyle principles. It's a whole-body thing. It's mobility, alignment, compression and tension. It's a healthy, happy back. It's a neck that doesn't try to do too much. All these things together make a strong body, and when we say you've got a strong military press, that's exactly what we mean.

January 19, 2011

Easy Strength and Myelin

I recently read The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.
I highly recommend this book!

This morning I was reflecting a bit on my Easy Strength 40-day gains...specifically, the mental component of the program. After reading The Talent Code, I can't help but wonder how much the mental part contributed to those gains.

By "mental part" I mean the conscious, calculating attention paid to every movement. The "deep practice." Awareness of position, linkage and leakage, sequence, compression... I NEVER completed a set without thinking about it, what I felt went right and what didn't... was I staying tight pulling into the hole? How did the grip feel? Breath pattern, how did that feel? Timing, speed, head and eye position, hip drive, feed-forward tension, gripping of toees, tightness/connection of lats... and that's just a set of deadlifts.

The same level of attention was given to every pull up (since I usually did weighted singles). Also every pushup or set of 5. (I would often shorten my middle, scoot up my toes between reps if I felt there was still some room to.)

The reason there was such a big mental component to this program, I believe - is because it's SHORT enough to allow it. You're only doing two sets of five.

2 sets of 5 deadlifts
2 sets of 5 lever pushups, each side
4-6 pullup singles
1 or 2 sets of swings
5 hanging leg raises

That's it. It's a lot harder to pay such close attention when you're doing a ton of reps, a ton of sets... it's a lot harder to enter that "deep practice" zone, that place where we actively search for mistakes and try to correct them, analyze, adjust - that place where myelin is built.

Anyway, I really don't know, but I just wonder, if there's really something to that. The Easy Strength program, I'm sure, would have yielded awesome results anyway. But I wonder how much my results were augmented as a result of the mindfulness. Obviously mindfulness is already a huge part of the RKC system, but not all training programs in the RKC system allow quite that much room for intra-practice analysis... not all of them are limited to just a couple sets of five. I guess we'll have to see what the book says about it. :)

It's Facebook's Fault

So Facebook made it easy to keep up on what everyone's doing, thinking about, learning... blogging fell away completely! I think it's time to come back, though. Facebook is more conducive to little blurbs, as opposed to my usual lengthy ramblings. The blog's the better place for that.

And, having now completed my first Easy Strength 40-day program, there is a lot to talk about!

Updates will be trickling in. It's overwhelming to think about putting it all in one post.

December 1, 2009

Tough love: High-gear, end of year VWC

I received a loving roundhouse kick to the ass today from my friends Rif and Jordan.

The topic:

Meeting my second MVO2 goal by the end of 2009 (80 sets of 7 with the 16kg).

So, I've got a month. Perfect! I have been uber-shamefully-lax with my own training, with travel, study, work, class, and teaching schedules taking over my waking hours. While it's not like I can cut that down any, I just have to suck it up and beat the fatigue right out of myself, and do more training. More volume. The kind of volume I should be doing - and used to do. Not just deadlifts and pullups and a few swings, snatches and getups here and there... I've got a big goal to meet, and virtually no room for distractability.

I actually did (just) 24 sets last night, before my 100 16kg presses, and it felt good to get some volume in again. Hands are still fairly well conditioned. I'm stoked to hit this hard, and to have such a short time period to accomplish it in.

Progress will be posted on the blog.

(Thanks, guys.)


The other 2009 goals that have NOT yet been met include:

2x BW deadlift (new deadline: March 2010)
20kg BU TGU (so close, so many times - I'll get this this month, also, I'm deciding. Maybe tonight.)
28kg press (this will have to wait for late in 2010 or even 2011)
28kg pistol (mid-year 2010)
40kg TGU (still not able to even floor-press it. This may be a year or two away, which is perfectly fine. The idea is that I continue to train TGUs, and I do love the heavy ones. Now that I'm the proud owner of a 32kg, I should have lots more time to practice.)

(met goals: 6 rep 16kg MVO2 80 sets, 16kg BU getup, 20kg BUP)

So, the focus for this last month of 2009 is:

7 rep 16kg MVO2 3 times a week
Deadlifts twice a week
Pullups, HLR twice a week
100 16kg presses, 2 or 3 times a week

[variety days: 24kg snatches, overhead squats with sots press, bent press, sets of 100 swings (loving this), 32kg TGU, and some bottoms-up work.]

UPDATE: I made it to 60 sets and shifted gears - too much snatching practice and too little swing practice. This turned out to be a good decision................

October 31, 2009

Face-the-wall squats a piece of cake?

Now that you can do these without much difficulty, with your toes touching the wall, of course - try them with your arms overhead, sort of a naked overhead face-the-wall squat. :)


October 6, 2009

The Psychology of Posture

From today's Reuters news:

"Sitting up straight isn't only good for your back -- a new study has found it also boosts self-confidence and reinforces positive thoughts." Article linked below.

What does this have to do with kettlebell training? Well, seeing as how hardstyle kettlebell training is everything to do with posture and movement - quite a lot! I can tell you first-hand that the body mechanics you practice and develop with hardstyle training become habitual. And that's a good thing. That means better posture when standing, sitting, walking - because it feels "right." It happened to me.

Yes, bad posture looks bad, we've all seen it. But it's worse than that. Over time, slumped posture will increase the incidence of back and neck pain, and the imbalanced musculature can lead to injury. Shortened anterior muscles will hold you there in that slumped-over posture, and it truly feels like it is your "straight." It soooo isn't. Well, to clarify - it doesn't have to be. You need to work on stretching and re-lengthening those muscles again, and strengthening your posterior muscles, so you can once again have "straight" FEEL like "straight," rather than feeling like you're working really hard to stand tall and pull your shoulders back and down. This is how it can become natural again, and not uncomfortable. This is especially true for anyone who spends a lot of time at a computer. Or someone who does a whole lot of bench presses and other anterior-dominated strength training. It does not take a long time for a consistently forward head, rounded upper back posture to become your "normal," present in everything you do. Seriously, how often do we think about our posture when we're reading, eating, brushing our teeth? Wouldn't it be great to not HAVE to?

Sure, you CAN simply work on having better posture just by thinking about it all the time. And, maybe that will actually work to some degree for some very motivated people. :) Maybe! But when you train with kettlebells according to the RKC system, you FEEL it, and DO it, without having to think about sitting tall or walking straight "just" for its own sake. It is more obvious. You FEEL the difference, you have no choice. How brilliant is that? That is part of what we're talking about when we say the kettlebell is just a tool. It helps us see and feel what's going on with our bodies much more effectively, and that's the important thing. Improved posture becomes a really great side-benefit.

Now this additional side benefit of reinforcing confidence and positive thoughts is interesting, and not surprising! I think we have all felt it, after performing a kick-ass set of hardstyle swings, or getups, or squats, or presses. And when I say hardstyle, I mean "proper," and that means with full attention on a long spine and neutral head position. You feel like a badass. You have control over your body, and that is a powerful thing. It has nothing to do with the number of reps - but HOW you've done them.

Look around the field at any RKC event. Notice the posture of every one of the instructors present. It is not a coincidence! :)

Link: http://in.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idINTRE5951JO20091006

August 25, 2009

Mystery right arm weakness

*shrug* No idea.

Floor press - lost about 15# of strength, with no explanation.
Military press - most tries miss the 24kg press. (yet I still have a BU 20kg press.) The frustration after each miss is exquisite.
24kg continuous TGU - can only achieve 3, rather than 5.

What is going on???

My left arm (non-dominant) is all of a sudden stronger than my right. More precisely - it hasn't gotten stronger, my right side has gotten strangely weak. No injuries, nothing weird that I can think of....


August 5, 2009

Floor Press

I tried something new last night... after my deadlifts at Gold's Gym, I walked over to the "free weights," grabbed a 75lb dumbbell, and did a few sets of floor presses.


It seems like the floor press (pressing to firing range position) is the weakest part of my TGU. The other day, I tried a 36kg (79lb) TGU again, and couldn't even floor press the thing. After getting ten SOLID getups with the 32kg just a few days prior. Frustrated, I decided that's what I should start training, somehow.

So, the dumbell was a fine solution, I guess. I DON'T like the wrist extension, however. Uber uncomfortable. Not painful by any means, but just yucky. I realized how nice it is to be able to support such an enormous weight while holding your wrist neutral or in flexion, as with a kettlebell.

So, I'll train this several more times, maybe work up to 85lbs, and then give the 36kg another go. :) I've been lucky to have one of my student's 32kg bells for a couple days during the week lately to train TGUs with... and swings. I love heavy getups! (Thanks again, Spence!)

July 23, 2009

Wish List

CK-FMS Cert in May (biggest wish)
OC Workshop in September
Ventura Workshop (and it's sold out now.) in October
Sacramento Workshop in December
RKC II Cert in February

Funds to pay for it all.



June 22, 2009


I like it.

24kg TGU descending ladder, continuous reps each side.

June 21, 2009


What to do when you're working on swings or snatches, and your hands are slippery or greasy?
I put on some sunscreen earlier, and even after washing my hands with lots of hot soapy lather, TWICE!, there was STILL some slippery residue left when I started snatching. So if washing it off doesn't work, what does?

Rubbing your palms in the grass. Like magic!

Today and Friday, practiced 24kg snatches. Focused on loading onto and punching from heels. I've noticed a tendency recently with heavy snatches to roll off them a bit, putting some weight onto the balls of my feet. I've even had to curl up my toes to help, and it DOES help - properly rooted heels made every rep better. Also focusing on a later hinge, and a perfectly vertical punch-through with a tall c-spine.

Other variety work: 16kg sots press, BW and 16kg pistols, 20kg + 16kg single leg deadlift (3 reps each side for a few sets - LOVE these.) 16kg inline (tightroped) kneeling presses (love these too). 16kg bottoms-up press. 24kg TGU 2 reps per side, continuous. Got a couple nice pullups at the gym during my deadlift session Friday, to collarbone. Should get back to practicing these more.

June 11, 2009

April '09 RKC Certification Video

I don't believe I posted this before.... so here it is.