Tag Archives: training

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.

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One Month In: RKC program minimum completed

1 month of warmups, swings and getups. That is the program minimum.

After several years of tossing kettlebells around without a real vision I’ve decided to get back to the roots of them. So, I purchased Enter the Kettlebell (Pavel) once again and I found this program guide

(http://thief.mars.ucla.edu/piefiles/AOS%20-%20Enter%20The%20Kettlebell%20Workbook.pdf)

by Anthony DiLuglio, RKC http://www.artofstrength.com and I’ve followed it. Refocusing my energies on the basics, proper body mechanics and form. My body has been rewarded.

The program consists of three parts. A 10 minute warmup at the beginning of each workout, and four days working out. Two days doing swings and two days doing getups. Since I had a significant amount of previous experience I jumped right in with a heavy 24 kg (53lb) kettlebell for 1 month. It is suggested that the average male start with a 16kg (35lb) kettlebell. Several years ago this is what I started with and have since moved to the 20kg (44lb) kettlebell then to my present 24kg (53lb) one.

The goal of the warmup is to prepare the body for the workout, as well as to increase your mobility. It has three exercises. Each performed 10 times in a circuit until 10 minutes has passed.

1. Face-the-Wall squat
2. Halo
3. Pump

The face-the-wall squat is a fantastic exercise for teaching proper squatting technique as well as proper swing movement. This exercise is a must do.

“Modified for our needs, it is an outstanding drill for developing the back and hip flexibility needed for pulling and squatting.”
This quote is from Enter The Kettlebell by Pavel on page 9.

The second exercise is the halo. It is performed 5 times each direction for a total of ten repetitions per set. This is a really good exercises for shoulder mobility.

The third exercise of the warmup is the pump. This exercise is used to stretch your hip flexors and shoulders.

These exercises should not be rushed through. You have ten minutes to perform the sets and to warmup. I would complete three rounds of these exercises. It is important to remember that this is the warmup to the workout. Not the workout itself.

After the warmup you do either swings or getups. 4 workouts per week, 2 swing days and 2 getup days.

On the swing days you perform twelve minutes of swings. Starting with sets of 20 and increasing to sets of 50. After you complete each set you then do a 1 minute active recovery such as jogging, jumping jacks, pushups to squat or mountain climbers. It is very important to do active recovery instead of just stopping.

Physiologically it is easier on your heart to continue moving and perform active recovery or a cool down because the venous system is a passive system and when your muscle contracts it pushes the blood back to your heart. This in turn fills the heart more fully and assists in the next heart beat. By helping the blood return to the heart it actually means that the heart does not have to work as hard.

Twice a week you do swings. They are hard, quick and very intense. They will toughen your mind as well as your body. They will increase your conditioning dramatically and they build your entire posterior chain (back) from head to heel with power, strength and speed. By the time I got near the end of the month I was doing as many as I could, then setting the bell down for a few seconds before finishing out the set. It is always important to remember that while you are working out, during the program minimum you are practicing these exercises and the focus should be on proper form instead of trying to smoke yourself to death.

“I dare you to find a single exercise, kettlebell or not, that delivers more benefits than the kettlebell swing! Senior RKC instructor Steve Maxwell, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champion, had flat-out stated that doing the perfect kettlebell swing alone is superior to 99 percent of the sophisticated strength and conditioning programs out there.”

An excerpt from “Enter the Kettlebell” by Pavel on page 43.

I love the swing. Plain and simple.

Another exercise that I love is the getup. This is performed twice a week for 5 minutes non stop switching arms on each rep. It requires constant focus and every muscle in your body. 5 minutes might not seem like a longtime, but I can certainly feel it after pressing a 24kg (53 lb) bell five or six times per side.

“The one-arm get-up is a general test of strength which had considerable appeal to most strongmen of yesteryear. Siegmund Klein” (“Enter the Kettlbell” by Pavel on page 61)

The purpose of this exercise is to develop shoulder strength and mobility as well as teaching full body tension. Everything must work together to press a heavy kettlebell from the ground up. It is known to be great for the rehabilitation of shoulders through increased shoulder mobility and stability as well as increased shoulder strength.

Next on my list is the Rite of Passage. I’ll be chronicling this as well when I finish it in a couple of months. The program minimum has been a great refocusing of my kettlebell energies. It has been well worth the effort to take a step back and really focus on performing the exercises correctly and allowing for proper recovery. Historically I always hit the gym as hard as I could and I usually over trained. This led to illness and set backs. It’s time to train smarter.

If you’re interested in this type of training then you should purchase Enter the Kettlebell and/or consult with a RKC instructor.

When I first began this program I was only able to do 1.5 Getups/side. By the end I was doing 6/side. I also started out doing 140 swings in the twelve minutes and my last swing day I did 225. Doing sets of 50 was brutal on my forearms. Sets of 40 was much more manageable, but my grip strength will continue to increase. I also finished with a resting heart rate of 52bpm (resting heart rate is best taken while still in bed in the morning before getting up for the day).

Keep in mind that this is only one month into the program. Also it is only the preparation to the actual program. This intro phase consisted of 40min a week of warm ups and 34 minutes of actual workout time for a total of only 1 hour and 14 mins per week.

While I made improvements in my fitness, and i do feel stronger, this program is more of an opportunity to learn the ropes and practice proper technique rather than the workout itself. I would expect to be comfortable with the kettlebell and prepared for the next phase.

There is room for interpretation in this book. I enjoyed this program as it was laid out in the above PDF. If you’re interested grab yourself a kettlebell and take the challenge with me. We’ll both be better people because of it.

I do not have any affiliation with dragondoor or Pavel.