Category Archives: kettlebell

StrongFirst.com Training program template

Craig Marker over at StrongFirst recently wrote a great article about training for their certifications, SFG1 and SFG2.  This group is very well researched and has had lots of success training individuals.  I listen to them and experiment.  As you may know, I enjoy Paval Tsatsouline’s work and StrongFirst has been his most recent project.  Anyway, the article describes cardio training methods for passing the snatch test for their certifications (100 snatches in 5 minutes with a certain bell) and a kettlebell pressing program which will allow you to press bigger bells.  It is based off of Russian training protocols that allowed strength to be gained and maintained for a long, long time.

This article is written with an eye towards kettlebell training but it can be used for any modality.  I have recently pursued strength training through the barbell after achieving 1/2 bodyweight kettlebell press on each side.  In January I am moving to a mixed training modality of kettlebells, barbell, running, and cycling.  I love simplicity and minimalism.  I prefer to minimize equipment use.Ie…I like the idea of a weight, you, the gound and effort. If you want to press something overhead, get it from the ground and put it overhead. Therefore I am going to be training the kb getup, overhead press with the kettlebell, the floor press with a barbell, the zercher squat (barbell), and of course the barbell deadlift.

Now to the point.  I have been using training cycles for beginners as described by Marty Gallagher, Pavel Tsatsouline, and Mark Rippetoe.  After running into this Craig Marker program I have decided to use it over the next year to improve my lifts further while not burning myself out.  In order to simplify the training I decided to create an excel spreadsheet so that I could simply add in my current max and the program would quickly calculate the percentages throughout the program.

Excel – Strongfirst Strength Template 45lb bar- Wave.xlsx

Excel – Strongfirst cardio.xlsx

Note that the cardio is suggested upwards of 30 minutes in the article, I kept it at six weeks so that the two programs would be of similar length.

I am thinking about adding two weeks prior to this cycle. They would be for speed work. I would increase from 40 percent to 60 percent over the two weeks period. This would also allow you to run this program 6 times a year with 4 weeks off for recovery, vacation or life in general. 

What are your thoughts on this?

These templates are based upon a 45 pound standard bar.  My wife and I are going to be training together.  Due to this I will be creating spreadsheets for barbells of other weights.  

I hope you all find StrongFirst, check them out, and enjoy these templates.

Muscle Confusion

The theory that an individual requires large amounts of different exercises in order to continue to gain strength and skill is a fallacy.  In truth the body only requires a few core exercises along with a skillyfully planned manipulation of three variables.  weight, density, volume.

Weight is varied through different means, but typically through a cycling of the weights from light to heavy and back again.  Each time reaching a peak or personal best, then lowering the weight and working your way back up again past the  initial PR.  

Density is varied through how quickly you work through a workout.  Density is varied through the amount of time you rest between workouts.

Volume is how many times you list a particular weight.  

Muscle confusion does not require a constant changing of exercises.  All this does is ensure that you become semi-good at lots of things.  If your goal is greater strength you should focus on a few exercises and vary them as above.  

Example:

I love kettlebells.  It is difficult to vary the weight of a kettlebell when there are such large jumps between.  Therefore I vary density and volume.  On a typical three day a week workout plan you may have a heavy, light and medium day.  All days use the same weight kettlebell, however the volume of the exercise changes.  Therefore if I am doing kettlebell clean and presses, my heavy day will be 75 presses/side total, my light day will be 30, and my medium day will be 50.  These are one through russian ladders as pavel tsatsouline discusses in his book Enter The Kettlebell.  Once i work up to the overall numbers I then attempt to condense those movements into a shorter period of time.  Therefore, constantly changing density and volume.

If I am doing a free weight exercise you may follow the above principles, however you also have the ability to change the weight regularly.  This is done through cycling your workout.  Starting out light and working to a PR, then dropping the weight and working back up to a new PR.  Pavel also discusses this in Power to the People.  

So, in truth, you don’t need a thousand exercises fixing each tiny little thing that is wrong with your body.  You need a few great exercises that work your entire body.  You also don’t need to worry about “muscle confusion” as the trainers attempt to sell you their product.

Just pick a few good exercises and work hard on them.  Progress will show up.

My exercises that I have chosen are the deadlift, kettlebell clean and press, swings, snatches and Turkish Getups.  

Check out the links at the top of this page for more information on these exercises and cycling of your workout.  There is also a lot of info about food and wellness.

32kg (70lb) kettlebell

Welcome to the family.
Time to get back to work.

2015/01/img_1050.jpg

Big Push and a Big Pull: Fitness made simple

Fitness programs should be simple and goal oriented.  Even if the goal is general fitness.  My goal is heavy presses, heavy deadlift, heavy getup and a high level of cardio.  I will achieve this goal through a big push and a big pull day.

A big push and a big pull works the entire body.  Heavy presses, coupled with a heavy deadlift will work your body quickly and efficiently.  Add in some turkish getups as well as some swings and snatches and you can have an entire workout in short order.  Modern day fitness programs rely on constantly changing the workout.  Some modern day fitness instructors rely on the ignorance of their client in order to fleece their gold from their clients.  Our “modern” age would have us believe that we require an expert for everything.  Fitness is not this way.  

If you want to get stronger, lift heavier things more often.

If you want to lose fat, eat healthy and real food, less of it, once a day if possible, lift heavy and perform high intensity cardio…and prioritize sleep.

The human body moves in two major ways.  Through a big push and a big pull.  As individuals we either pick things up from the ground or put things overhead.  Two movements cover the basis of movement for human strength.  The deadlift works the entire posterior chain as well as the core in particular.  The press covers the rest of the body.  In addition to these two movements I suggest adding in swings/snatches for high rep high intensity cardio as well as the turkish getup as a great movement to teach the interconnectedness of the human body.

Due to the fact that individuals can only do a few things well at any given time, my workout program has been broken down into two routines covering only 4 days a week.  A big push and a big pull day.

Big Push Day

Kettlebell Turkish Getups x 3 minutes with a focus on irradiation, tension, and form.  More for tension practice and time under the bell.  Only three minutes in order to allow me the full use of my faculties while pressing.

After the getup my focus turns to ladders of kettlebell clean and presses.  Heavy ladders of kettlebell clean and presses in a heavy, light, medium format as described by Pavel Tsatsouline in ‘Enter the Kettlebell’.  Increasing the weight as you become comfortable with the full heavy day of presses.

It sounds simple but remaining focussed during the presses can be tough.  It is important to focus on the correct movement throughout.  

Odd as it may seem, the final presses that I do often feel like my strongest.  This is because the fatigue that begins to set in forces me to use my entire body to press the bell.  By using the entire body I mean that I tense my entire body more thoroughly.  Not kipping or cheating the bell up.

Big Pull Day

Big pull day starts with the deadlift.  There’s a multitude of ways to focus on the deadlift.  I perform sets of 5 in the standard prescribed by Pavel Tsatsouline in ‘Power to the People’.  I will have increase the weight with each workout while cycling the weight overall.  This will allow continuous progress.  Furthermore, I will have a heavy day and a lighter day.  The heavy deadlift day will start with the workout weight for 5.  drop 10% for another 5, then drop another 10% for the duration of sets of 5 until form breaks or most likely to a total of 5 sets.  The light day will consist of the same, but with the last sets not going over 4 sets.  The amount of reps/sets will decrease as the weight increases, peaking with a new PR of 1-3 reps.  At this time I will cycle the workout weights down and then increase once again to progressively heavier lifts.

After this is completed I perform swings or snatches to finish out the day.

The Goal

The goal of my program is to be able to deadlift 400 pounds, press the 106 pound kettlebell with each arm, do a getup with the 106 pound kettlebell, and snatch the 53 pound kettlebell 200 times in 10 minutes. I currently weigh 165 pounds at 5’10.

The Plan

For the next few months It is my intention to bring my deadlift up to a 300 pound range for sets of 5 as well as to become comfortable with the 70 pound kettlebell.  At that point I will increase the press to the 88 pound kettlebell and work on the 106 pound kettlebell until next December while bringing the deadlift to the 400 pound range.  

While I work on the 70 pound press and until I get the deadlift up to the 300 pound range I am going to have a 5 day workout program.  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday will be dedicated to pushes.  Tuesday and Thursday’s are dedicated to the pull.

My 4 day program is as follows.

Monday – getup and “heavy” presses (upward of 5 sets of russian ladders to 5, 75 total presses/side)

Tuesday – “light” deadlift and swings

Wednesday – off day

Thursday – getup and “medium or light” presses (5 sets of russian ladders to 3 or 4, 30 or 50 presses/side depending on how I feel)  Will lean towards medium presses.

Friday – “heavy” deadlift and snatches

It is my belief that this program will allow me to reach a high level of strength and general fitness over the next year by applying everything that I have learned in terms of fitness and nutrition.  

Check out the top of the page in order to find quick links to previous articles.  There is lots of information about cycling of your workout and nutrition.

The Press

Overhead unsupported pressing movements are extremely functional.  All persons much reach up at some time or another.  Maybe you are reaching for something above your head in a cabinet or maybe you must place an item high above.  Either way practicing a pressing movement is critical to maintaining this ability for the long haul.  There are several pressing movements that may be used.  The bent press, the military press, the side press and the bench press are all common examples.  I focus primarily on the bent press, military press and the side press.  I find the bench press essentially useless in terms of the mechanics of daily living.

One of the best exercises historically is the bent press.  It is a fantastic full body press that allows the individual the ability to lift more weight above the head with one hand than with any other press.  In the famed “Textbook on Weightlifting” Arthur Saxon describes his admiration of the Bent Press through these words:

“Strength, stamina, and science all enter into it in equal proportions, and the man who would make a success of the lift, a striking success that is, must necessarily be a firstclass all-round lifter.”
Saxon, Arthur (2011-07-03). Textbook of Weightlifting (Kindle Locations 263-265).  . Kindle Edition. 

Therefore I have dedicated myself to the bent press.  I have previously used the “Power to the People” approach to lifting with the bent press instead of the side press and I am currently performing the bent press with a kettlebell in my current exercises.  This exercise requires intense focus and should be performed safely at all times.  One should start with a lighter weight and practice regularly while learning the proper form.

For many individuals the military press or the side press are excellent starter exercises which will help to strengthen the body while working up to the bent press.  The side press is simple to learn and does not require any individuals to spot the lifter.  

I do not train the bench press in any form at this time.  While it is a common lift which many believes demonstrates an individuals strength it has near to 0 practical use.  How often are you found lying on the ground with a need to press something upwards.  Furthermore the bench press requires a spotter and external equipment.  All of these things make it a negative in my book, however if you have an olympic weight set at home you could easily train the floor press at home without the use of a spotter. 

Adding a full body pressing movement to your routine will allow the individual the ability to increase ones pressing strength while focussing on the full body tension that assists in the safe lifting of an item as well as the ability to lift that item through a phenomenon called “Hyperirradiation.”  Hyperirradiation is the tensing of your entire body in order to form a solid foundation in which to perform your lifts.  

“This full tension of the thighs and buttocks is of utmost importance because it provides a solid base for pressing” – Englishman George Kirkley

“Keep every body part tight during the entire movement” – Ernie Frantz 

A full body pressing movement that is performed from a standing position allows the lifter to develop full body tension while developing real world strength and synergy throughout the lifters body.

“Power to the People” by Pavel Tsatsouline suggests performing sets of 5 for as little as 2 sets per side.  “Enter the Kettlebell” by the same author suggests performing the kettlebell clean and press by performing sets of russian ladders.  From 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 reps.  Upwards of 5 sets.  Any of these options are adequate.  In fact instead of changing up your exercise and performing several different exercises in an attempt to create the famed “muscle confusion” all you need to do is perform the same or similar exercise with different weights and rep ranges.  All exercise routines reach a plateau at one time or another.  However most individuals change their routines far to early and too often in order to be fully effective.

While performing a pressing movement one must remember these items.

1. Increase tension throughout the body prior to performing the lift.

2. Maintain proper form throughout the exercise in order to protect the shoulder.

3. Lock the press out fully overhead.

4. Be mindful that the lift is not complete until the weight has safely reached the ground.

Bent Press

Kettlebell Clean and Press

My Current Workout in Brief

After completing the 10,000 swing challenge I have settled into a great workout routine.  I am able to exercise my entire body with heavy weights and intense cardio in as little at 45 minutes per workout performed 3 times a week.  It is incredible in terms of amount of work per minute.  Instead of spending an inordinate amount of time working out individual muscles in order to increase the size of the muscle, I choose to work out my entire body in order to develop strength throughout my body.  I will go into more detail in upcoming posts.

I am currently performing the Kettlebell Getup, Bent Press with a kettlebell, Deadlift and kettlebell swings/snatches.

The getup is performed for 1 set as a warmup.  I stop before I lose form.

The Bent Press and Deadlift are performed for two sets of 5.  Increasing the weight regularly until I reach a max.  At that time I drop the weight down and increase it once again surpassing that previous max.  There is more information on this in previous posts as well as in Power to the People

After I perform these movements I do my swings or snatches.  On Monday I do 20 minutes of swings with a medium weight (53lb) kettlebell.  On Wednesday I do snatches with a light weight (44lb) kettlebell for 10 min and on Friday I perform swings with a heavy (62lb) kettlebell for 15 minutes.

Here are a few quick videos of each of the movements and then I’ll talk more about them in future posts.  

 

The Beauty of Barefoot

Remember growing up barefoot.  The brilliance of running, jumping and playing sans shoes.  Hardly a care in the world was envisioned as a barefooted child. There was always something grounding to it.  You felt more alive.  Truth is there is something to that.  There is good evidence that going barefoot allows you to be grounded to the Earth which then allows free electron transmission from the Earth to your body.  These electrons act as a very powerful antioxidant which could reduce inflammation in the body.  As we know, inflammation is the base cause of many chronic disease.  There is actually a documentary called Grounded that you can watch for a short time on YouTube covering a lot of this information. On the flipside a well respected Doctor that I work with recently stated that skin is not a very good conductor and he thinks that it is highly unlikely.  Of course as a Paramedic it is clear that the skin is capable of conducting electricity as shown through the example of defibrillation of a patient.  Beyond this I tend to side with nature and the simple fact that our long lost ancestors did not wear shoes and we are not born with shoes.

Beyond these aspects it has been shown that running barefoot or with barefoot/minimalist shoes is a great way to prevent injury.  Injuries are prevented by the natural changes in your running style that allow your body to use your lower extremities as the shock absorbers that they are.  With the current running shoe fad the heel of the foot strikers first while running.  This is caused by the shock absorber in the shoe eliminating the pain that you would otherwise have with this type of rhythmic event.  However, running this way causes the body to have a shock from the heel to the hip joint.  After years of this people begin to notice pain the the knees and hip joint from the constant rhythmic pounding.  On the other hand, when you run barefoot your toes touch the ground first and your heel touches down much lighter.  This creates a spring like motion that reduces the impact of the running.  Therefore your joints remain safer.  You also run with a smoother quicker motion that is more under your body instead of in front of your body when you run barefoot.  This quick video demonstrates many of these points.

Beyond all of this there is also information that is available that shows that barefoot or minimalist lifting is good for the body as well.  Two of these reasons are given in “Power to the People” by Pavel Tsatsouline.  Loads of other fitness resources and equipment such as kettlebells can be found at dragondoor.com.  Dragon Door is a fantastic resource.

1. Padded shoes can displace the center of gravity of the lifter leading to unnatural body mechanics.

2. There are reflexes that the body has based upon pressure the body senses.

Because of these issues I have chosen to lift barefoot outside these days.  I also perform all of my kettlebell exercises barefoot as well.  If it is too cold I will wear wear Chuck Taylors which many regard as the best all around shoes for weight training due to their minimalist design and thin soles.  Say nay to the naysayers and refuse those that would force your feet into a struggled tight existence.  Free your feet as nature intended and enjoy the world as we were meant to.  It just makes sense if you were to think about it.

As with every change you want to start out lighter and with less intensity for your body to be able to compensate for the changes.  These techniques should allow the body to compensate for any aspects of poor mechanics.  Your body will become stronger in the areas that you are weak which will then allow you to perform heavier more intense exercise without injury due to that misbalance.  Always remember to lift intelligently and within your limits.  It is important to remain healthy while you are becoming stronger.  That should certainly not scare you off of attempting heavier weights though.  Form is the key to remaining healthy. Challenge yourself within the limits of proper form.  

On a side note I just ran across StrongFirst: The School of Strength and I have become quite intrigued.  It looks as though Pavel Tsatsouline is the Chairman of StrongFirst.  I must look into it more.

Enjoy training one and all.  Lets get stronger.