Monday, December 29, 2008

Daddy's Little Girl

This is what I found my daughter doing this evening...

15 months old and lifting 16oz cans of beans from the top (aka hub lifting)! She's practically doing an upright row with them! And check out the left hand - not even using the index finger!

I think at this age kids do few things that stand out amongst other children their age. But this little girl lifts, and eats, (have you ever heard of a 1 year old that likes peppers and onions?) things that I doubt others her age are playing with. Last week I caught her walking around with a 2.5kg Ivanko collar, carrying it out in front of her with two hands on the tighten down bar.

I must confess, I started giving her a little pink 1lb dumbbell at 4 months old :) It was rubber coated and she seemed to like using it as a teething ring, and I admit to encouraging it :) Plus, I've got some theories about intellectual development being linked to hand strength & dexterity by way of neurological efficiency... but that is another post for another time.

Good day!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Coaching the Coach

This morning I met with Jeff Friday of ProShape Sports Training to put him through a kettlebell workout. Jeff is the former head strength & conditioning coach of the Baltimore Raven's who I worked under during the teams 2007 preseason training camp. Coach Friday has been in the business of making people stronger far longer than I so I was honored when he contacted me for kettlebell training. It was nice to be on the other side of the clipboard putting him through a workout as he and his staff had done so many times with me at the Raven's training facility in Owings Mills.

Part of my "job" when I worked under Coach Friday was to go through the same workouts as the rest of the team. I needed to be familiar with the routines so that I could lead players through them. Of course, the head and assistant coach(es) did most of the training, I only filled in as needed but I did take a few guys through workouts. Most of my responsibilities included set up and break down... somebody had to load 100lb plates on leg day!!!

Regardless, everyday that I came in I had somebody put me through a workout. And then I was usually sent off to the breakfast buffet before the players arrived. Training was GOOD during this time!

Anyway, back to todays workout...

This was only the second time Jeff had used a kettlebell before and I put him through the same workout I put any newbie kettlebeller through. That workout is:

5 min joint mobility warm up
1 hand deadlifts
long cycle c&j

In my opinion, the swing, clean, jerk & snatch are the "meat and potatoes" of kettlebell training, and with the exception of the swing, these are also the most difficult exercises for the majority of people to learn. So I like to get people working on those lifts ASAP. Sets and reps are highly dependent on the individual and there are a few other drills mixed in to assist in the learning process but for the most part, this is what my introductory kettlebell routine looks like.

I typically like to include some sort of "finisher" as well. For a first time kettlebeller this is a must because the intro workout is not very demanding (simply because the trainee is still learning and I purposely hold them back to help with skill development). And the swing is a low skill movement that most people pick up within a couple sets. So that makes the swing a perfect finisher exercise even for the rank newbie.

Coach Friday rocked through a 100 rep swing test with a 24kg and showed me that even though he is new to the kettlebell, he is no stranger to hard work and is obviously in good condition. 100 reps in 2:24 with no put downs the first time out - not bad at all!

Hey Coach if you're reading this, the next step is doing those swings 1-handed, and eventually with a single hand switch... and once you got 24kg x 50/50, see what you can do in 5 or 10 minutes. Keep me posted!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Workout

Knowing I had a huge feast ahead of me, I wanted to turn in a really good workout. So what better than to deadlift?

For 60 minutes I did nothing but pull. 350lbs for 100 singles. That's about 1 rep every 40 seconds.

It wasn't until almost halfway through when I thought to wear a HR monitor. The final 37 minutes of the workout I averaged 166bpm and maxed at 190. That's 100% of my age predicted maximum heart rate.

Great workout! My hands are blistered and I'm crazy sore right now but if you're going to eat like I did last night (and today) then you better be training hard!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Strongman Wedding

strong·man (strôngmn) noun- 1. a person who performs remarkable feats of strength.

Luke Whippo and Tina Wilderson got married yesterday and I had the honor to be the best man at their wedding. Luke and I have been training strongman together for the past 5 or 6 years. Luke is of the quiet type and his family and friends outside of strength training don't know much about what he does. It's not like him to talk about his own abilities, so I figured the best man speech was the perfect opportunity to talk about his abilities for him!

Giving a "best man speech" is a new experience for me. I paid careful attention to keep the focus on the groom. I named a few of his PR's using the most lay terms so even the oldest of grandmothers could understand what I was talking about. But talking about feats of strength does not communicate nearly as well as demonstrating them...

This is part of what I said:

"Perhaps one of his most impressive feats of strength though, is bending steel. I could tell you what Luke can do with a piece of 1/2" rebar, but you would have to see it to believe it. That's why I brought some 1/2" rebar with me.

*reveals rebar from behind the curtain*

Who wants to see what Luke can do with 1/2" rebar?!

Luke, would you please show your guests what you can do with 1/2" rebar?"

I then helped him out of his jacket and led him out to the middle of the dance floor!

I did not tell Luke I was going to do that. :)

I did however ask the bride beforehand to make sure she was alright that her soon to-be husband bent steel over the bridge of his nose at their wedding reception.

But Luke and I had no talk about this. :)

I found out later that Tina did say something to him, like a caring wife would, I suppose. Luke knew something was coming but he didn't know what kind of steel I was bringing or what I was going to ask him to do. The audience of course had no idea they had walked strait into a Strongman Wedding!

Luke proceeded to bend the bar over the bridge of his nose and scroll it into a pretzel! It was awesome! I doubt there was ever a man in a tuxedo who bent rebar over his nose at his own wedding!

The whole thing lasted under a minute... a few seconds for us to make our way to the dance floor, a few seconds for Luke to kill some steel, and a few seconds for us to get back to the head table so I could finish my speech.

We toasted some champaign and celebrated what was a great wedding!

I wish Luke and Tina all the best!

Speech and feat video...

High resolution feat-only video...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Chris Rider Red Nail Certification

Ironmind contacted me a couple weeks ago to ask me if I would serve as the witness for Chris Rider's red nail certification. For those unfamiliar with nail bending, the red nail is a 7" piece of cold rolled steel that is 5/16" diameter. If you can "U" this piece of metal you are among the elite in short steel bending.

Chris bent the nail and "cheesed" for the picture within 10 seconds. It was impressive, I can't even kink the damn thing!

After business was taken care of, Chris was kind enough to bring me a few horseshoes and show me how to bend. Thanks to his coaching, I was able to bend my first shoe today! I'm pretty excited about that and totally cool with the bruise on my leg!

Chris then proceeded to put on a mini strongman show for us; tearing decks of cards, license plates, driving nails... everything done with the ease in which he bent the red nail in. Don't get me wrong, none of these things are actually easy, he just made them look that way. This guy is seriously strong!

Check out his website at -

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hormonal Effects of Heavy Deadlifting

If you search around, you will find both scientific studies and anecdotal evidence that suggests certain hormones are released during heavy lifting. Testosterone and human growth hormone in particular have been linked to squatting and deadlifting by powerlifters and muscle physiologists alike. I have always just taken their word for it. I suppose testing for free testosterone in the blood is relatively simple procedure but since I personally have never participated in such tests, I've never really put much stock into the science behind this phenomenon.

Ok, deadlifts increase my testosterone. Now what?

You see, there's little I can do to prove this theory and even if I could, how could I measure it? I don't have access to such lab equipment. If I cannot measure it, how is any additional information useful to me?

It's not. I'll just take their word for it - heavy lifitng increases testosterone production.

Personally, I have always been attracted to common sense reasoning. It seems to me, that if I can lift more weight in an exercise (like a deadlift), then I am using more muscle compared to an exercise I can lift less weight in (like a curl). More weight = more muscle. So I get more "bang for my buck" with an exercise that I can lift the most weight.

Common sense analogies have always worked good for me too... Arthur Jones, creator of Nautilus, related compound movements and heavy lifting to throwing a stone in a pond. If you throw a small pebble into a pond you'll get no splash and only slight ripples. If you throw a large rock into the pond you'll get a big splash with larger ripples that radiate further. The same goes for a light exercise versus a heavy one; the heavy exercise radiates further throughout the body. This is known as the "indirect effect".

More importantly, the deadlift is a basic human movement that you use every single day. You pick things up off the floor in real life, so you might as well train yourself to pick up really, really heavy things! I deadlift because having a strong back is a necessity.

Do your deadlifts regardless of hormone production.

An interesting thing happened to me today while I was deadlifting, which is what got me thinking about hormones. After working up to a max single and hitting it for a couple sets, I attempted another rep and failed. I barely got it to knee height and couldn't get it any higher, I had to sit it down. When I stood up, I got a feeling of euphoria. (If you have not experienced exercise induced euphoria, you are missing out!) It felt like I was walking on a cloud. It felt good. I felt good. Even though I had failed the lift, I put out a maximum effort just the same as if I had locked it out.

Similar to the theory of testosterone and HGH being released during exercise, it is widely recognized that endorphins are released through exercise as well. These endorphins are known as the "feel good chemicals" that are prevalent in the brain during exercise, excitement and orgasm. I believe the euphoric feeling I got while deadlifting was a very concentrated endorphin rush. Now we have a hormonal response we can "prove"... kinda.

Okay, so we're not measuring dopamine levels in the brain but nevertheless these "feel good chemicals" is something that you will undoubtedly experience with strenuous exercise. Ever hear of "runners high"? Well, I got high from deadlifting this afternoon and it was more intense than any runners high I've ever experienced!

The point is, there is a certain sensation that comes with heavy lifting. It's undeniable - clinical testing equipment need not apply. Whether the actual cause is testosterone, adrenaline or endorphin; it doesn't matter, you know you're doing something good for your body.

There's a lot theories out there about the benefits of exercise that are either difficult or impossible to prove. Don't waste your time mulling over the "what if's" of these theories because proving the answers will yield nothing to the end result. Just know that it feels good to deadlift, and that deadlifting is good for you! So keep on deadlifting!

Sunday, November 2, 2008


This is why you should train your grip...

Read more about the homunculi here...

I've been telling people for years that stronger hands will make for a stronger body but I think these guys serve as a great visual aid. I'd like to get one of these to display in my gym as a constant reminder of the importance of grip training.

Under the weather

I got a flu shot last week and I've been feeling sick ever since. Staying out late doing the Halloween party thing didn't help either. If I didn't have any clients, a to-do list as long as my arm, a daughter and a life, I would have stayed in bed all weekend.

On a brighter note, I did manage to put in a few good workouts just before my immune system was compromised. Early last week I ran a mile in 7:45, which broke a long standing PR of 7:52. I feel like I could get it down to under 7 minutes with a little bit of specific training.

My bodyweight has been pretty consistent at about 223-225, although loafing around all weekend eating large quantities off chicken noodle soup will have probably bumped me up when I weigh in tomorrow.

I also started deadlifting again after a few weeks off and although I'm not at peak numbers, progress is coming along nicely. I've changed my technique drastically and am now pulling with a narrow stance and arched back, very different from what I am used to. The goal here is to ingrain the new style and build on the motor pattern, I think this may be a more efficient pulling technique that will eventually lead to me lifting more weight.

The other thing that has been on my mind again lately is grip training. I don't believe I mentioned this before but I strained my left wrist a few months back bending nails at a hotel bar with a few RKC's at the CK-FMS certification in St. Paul. Nothing serious, but enough to make me stop training grip for a few weeks. Anyway, the wrist is fine now and regular grip training has commenced once again.

Monday, October 13, 2008

How I Lost 20lbs in Ten Weeks

I've lost 20lbs in the last 10 weeks by combing intense cardiovascular work with Ori Hofmekler's Warrior Diet. The diet calls for undereating (and exercise) during the day, and overeating at night. In other words, you eat one big meal a night. I know it is against everything we think we know about energy and metabolism, but there are more things at work here than just burning calories... you'll have to read the book and try it for yourself. I don't feel like explaining it anymore. Here's the bottom line all you people who think I'm crazy for eating the way I do - I have lost bodyfat and gained athletic performance in terms of strength and endurance!

As for my lifting, it has been primarily kettlebells for the last couple of months and I have been using the GS/kettlebell sport ranking charts as my barometer. What that means is I'm focused on long duration high rep sets. I jerked a 24kg bell 80/90 times today. My previous best was 75/75 (and that was done 20lbs ago, before starting the Warrior Diet... this latest set was done on an empty stomach and after running 3 miles on my lunch break). I've been keeping up with a few basic calisthenic exercises like push ups and pull ups (I actually PR'd the last three attempts at pull ups, - (11, 12 and I'm up to 13 reps now), but I average about 5 miles and 500 kettlebells swings a week; in addition to a steady diet of jerks, snatches and long cycle c&j.

The only heavy lifting I've done in the last month or so has been a 500lb farmers walk for a few runs. I have lost some limit strength with the drop in bodyweight but it pales in comparison to the gains I've experienced in other areas.

As for my activity levels, no one can tell me I've slowed my metabolism down by not eating during the day! I have more energy when I am not bogged down by a heavy breakfast and lunch. I've been extremely productive with mid day workouts, teaching classes, home projects, household chores and creative tasks at work and on the web.

Here's a sneak peak at a new web page I'm working on...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Vintage Dumbbells

I was lucky enough to come across a set of York Barbell Globe Dumbbells this week. These dumbbells have been out of production since the 1970's, so it is quite rare to find a complete set in such good condition. I have a fairly large collection of training equipment but I have never been one to collect things because of historical value (although I do appreciate that sense of nostalgia and the throwback to the "Old School"). I collect things that I have a use for and I just don't see the purpose in having something like stuffed animals, refrigerator magnets or any other kind of knickknacks sitting around taking up space!

Dumbbells and other pieces of training equipment can be put to good use. But I didn't buy these dumbbells to add to my collection.

I've been kicking around the idea of adding a "Collectors" page to my website... a buy/sell/trade sorta thing. I'm thinking this would be a great way to release the page.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Err on the side of caution

As a fitness professional and experienced trainee, I knew the idea of entering the Baltimore Marathon and trying to run 26.2 miles was a foolish one. A half marathon would have been doable and I was actually still planning on doing that until other things took priority.

Sometimes life gets in the way of training. Work, kids, social events and other responsibilities are all valid reasons to miss workouts. I've got a fairly large home improvement project I am working on right now and it is one that requires immediate attention. Remodeling a 60sqft bathroom is not a huge task but it is a job that would take one man at least a week. And being that this is the upstairs bathroom and the one I use while I am half asleep in the middle of the night, I need to get this done ASAP! Commode downtime has to be kept at a minimum!

Anyway, back to the marathon bit, I'm not going to do it. Not even the half marathon. I may go out and hit the neighborhood route that day but we'll see how everything is feeling first. Pulling up the old floor this week had me on my knees and anyone who has done any floor work knows how tough that can be, even with knee pads.

This was definitely an unforeseen circumstance... but so was my run and the idea to run a marathon.

I just finished writing the article "Big Man Running" where I warned my fellow largemen not to increase their mileage too quickly. I actually found myself writing "do not go out and try to run a marathon". I figured it would be a good idea to take my own advice.

I am in no hurry to be anywhere or do anything when it comes to running. I think I'll err on the side of caution and get the idea of long, long distance running out of my head for now.

Just a few weeks ago I posted a blog asking the question "What is long distance?"... a week later I ran 10 miles. I think I found the answer to my question. Although I am new to the "blogosphere" I am finding some interesting things happen when you put your thoughts out there on the inter-net.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Single Greatest Personal Record of My Life

Though I'm feeling it this morning, yesterdays run was the single most incredible thing I have ever done in terms of exercise.

I ran 10 miles in 2 hours and 4 minutes!

My heart rate averaged 178 bpm and maxed at 190, but my cardio was good, it was my legs that died around the 9th mile.

My previous best was 3 miles in 30 minutes. In terms of distance, that's a 233% increase in mileage! And I more than tripled my duration!

In highschool my best mile run was 12:52, so for me to be able to run 10x as long, at a faster pace, it just blows my mind how far I've come.

My perspective on training, fitness and even nutrition has changed drastically over the last week, and the 10 mile run was the actualization of my new thought process.

A lot of things went into me being able to do what I did. Mindset, technique, new shoes and all the kettlebell training I've done leading up until now took part in yesterdays run. I mentioned before that I accredited my new found running prowess to my kettlebell training and I still stand by that sentiment, to some degree. High rep kettlebell training definitely provided me with the conditioning needed for a long duration physical exertion. There's something to be said about about trying to relax with 70, 106 or 140lbs on your chest before you explode that weight overhead again and again for as many times as possible. But cross training can only take you so far. If you want to get good, I mean really good at something, you have to "just do it". It's called the SAID principle - Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands - and it holds true with any kind of sport or activity.

I have found my groove in running. I have found the most efficient way to move my body as fast as possible while spending the least amount of energy. It is such a beautiful thing! I never thought I would feel this way about something I used to hate so much.

The biggest thing I have come to learn is the importance of proper breathing - diaphragmatic breathing. When you "belly breathe" the air that you take in acts as a cushion or a shock absorber for the rest of your body. This is HUGE for a 235lb man with broad shoulders and a large upper body. If you breathe shallow, like so many people do, if you only take that breath into your chest, you are putting unnecessary strain on your traps and many other smaller muscles in your neck and shoulder area that are now being assigned respiratory tasks, which is not their job. Once you learn to relax these muscles and take air deep into your belly, your entire upper body relaxes and you run smoother and more efficiently. The diaphragm is the muscle that is responsible for respiration - so use it!

Another thing I have become acutely aware of is foot placement - heel to toe. The weight shifts from the heel along the outside of the foot and is then displaced through the toes. If you get this right there is virtually no pounding or jarring of the body; again, you run smoother and more efficiently. I've also found that it helps if you prolong your stride a bit. If you extend your hip fully and allow your foot to push a little bit further behind you, this also seems to help the smoothness in which you run. I wouldn't say that I can run like the wind, but I think this is what people mean when they say that.

One more thing about stride is you need to be aware of is how high you kick your feet up. I recall when my brother and I would go jogging back in the day; any time we would run past girls he would get this noticeable bounce in his step and kick his feet almost high enough to touch his butt. If you're running for distance, you need to conserve as much energy as possible and butt-kicking your way through the neighborhood or around the track is no way to conserve your energy! No wasted movement, no wasted energy!

And perhaps the most obvious thing about running, to me anyway, is head and body positioning. Don't look down and don't bend forward. Stay as upright as possible and keep the head centered and balanced with the neck relaxed. Even though this seems like common sense, I tend to forget it sometimes and it doesn't take long for undue fatigue to set in. Fatigue in the head and neck area translates to fatigue in the mind, literally and figuratively.

The last thing I want to comment on about running is footwear. I picked up a pair of Nike Free 7.0 and ran 10 miles the first time I ever put them on. The right shoes makes a world of difference. These shoes are the closest thing to being bare foot besides those hideous Vibram 5 Fingers foot-glove thingys, and I am a firm believer that the foot was designed to perfection as is (under normal circumstances of course). I recently read a quote that said, "Smart shoes = dumb feet"... I couldn't put it any better than that.

So anyway, words cannot express how excited I am about what I now know I am capable of. I'm seriously considering running in the Baltimore Marathon next month. Imagine that... Maryland's Strongest Man in 2007 to Maryland Marathon Man in 2008. What's another 16 miles after you've already gone 10? I think I could do it in under 6 hours. If there are any distance runners out there reading this, I would love for you to weigh in your opinion. Is 4 weeks enough to train? And if it is, how would you train for it?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Vacation Week

7 days at the beach and I took full advantage of the amount of time I had to train. Here is what my week looked like...

Long Cycle C&J -
24's x 30 reps (5:30)
24's x 31 reps (6:30)
3 mile run (30:09)

Long Cycle C&J -
24's x 20
24's x 10 sets of 10
Swings -
24's x 10 sets of 10

Pull ups -
5 sets of 5
Rows -
3 sets to failure (alternated with)
Push ups -
3 sets to failure
100 bodyweight squats
Nautilus chest combo
Nautilus pull over
All exercises were done with limited rest in between sets. This was more of a circuit than anything. The squats killed me and left more sore for days.

Snatch -
24 x 100 reps (switch every 25)
Long Cycle C&J -
24's x 32 reps (6min)
15 minute interval jog on beach

One Arm Long Cycle C&J -
24 x 100 reps (1 hand switch)
Approx. 15 minutes of just screwing around doing whatever exercise I felt like
Approx. 20 minutes of jogging on the beach with a 20lb baby in one arm



10 mile run (2hrs 4min) Avg HR - 178, Max HR- 190.

Physically, I think this is the most amazing thing I have ever done. This is the single greatest PR of my life and deserves its own blog post, article, news story and special appearance on Oprah. I think a parade should be held in my honor! :)

In all seriousness, today's run was just shy of life altering. My entire perspective of what is possible changed in that 2 hours. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, September 1, 2008

What is "long" distance?

In my last post I mentioned that a 1.5 mile jog was considered long distance for me. I say that because I have only on a couple of occasions went farther than that and I have only on a couple occasions been physically able to go farther than that.

After thinking about it, and after saying to the world (or really to just the few people that read this blog:) that a 1.5 mile jog is what I consider long distance, I felt kinda pathetic. 1.5 miles isn't long! I work with an 82 year old man who runs marathons and here I am all happy and proud that I can run a mere 1.5 miles without stopping to suck wind! That's BS.

So even though I had a few too many drinks and far too much to eat at a wedding the night before, I got up Sunday morning, did a quick JM warm up, took a sip of Gatorade and went out for a jog. I ran my route twice, only stopping for a couple seconds to retie my shoe (which I think hurt my rhythm) and still sprinted the final straitaway!

3 miles in 30 minutes... and to be honest, I could have kept going were it not for the chaffing on my thighs :(

I have only once before attempted a 3 mile run, and though that was 6 or 7 years ago, I don't think I performed as well as I did yesterday. I'm very pleased with my running ability right now, especially considering that I haven't been running.

I'm planning to see just how far I can take this. My next run will be a personal record that will shatter my previous best. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Training Updates

Training of late has been very much strength-endurance focused. With the exception of grip work, I've cut out almost all heavy low-rep lifting for the time being. I'm even deadlifting in the double digit rep range and cutting rest periods drastically.

The majority of my lifts have been with kettlebells though. I've set several PR's over the last couple weeks which included swinging the 24kg for 200 reps with one hand switch, snatching the same for 150 reps and I also hit 75 reps in the LCCJ with a pair of 16's. Though I believe I'm just scratching the surface of my kettlebell potental, my endurance has never been better.

Case in point...

It's been at least year since I've done any jogging. I've got a neighborhood route that I used to run semi-regularly that is about 1.5 miles with a pretty good hill about midway through. I decided last Saturday that I would head out and pound the pavement again for a change of pace in my workouts. Though I didn't time it, I was pleasantly surprised that I ran my route stronger than EVER!

Usually after a long hiatus in any kind of training you don't expect to set personal records your first time back but I can say with all certainty that I've never tackled that mid-point hill with such authority. I even had enough steam to sprint the final straitaway, which I usually try to do anyway but I distinctly remember feeling heavy and slow during my last attempt at that sprint.

Being a couple pounds lighter may have contributed some (I'm down 10lbs in about 4 weeks) but still, it's been over a year since I've done any running! I have to contribute my new found endurance to all the GS (kettlebell sport) training I've been doing lately. Relaxed, time focused sets has profound carry over to long distance running (and yes, 1.5 miles IS long distance to me!).

In any case, I'm enjoying my new training focus, I'm making great improvements, I feel good and I'm leaner than I've been in a long, long time.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Diesel Bending eBook

Jedd released his Bending eBook right when I was getting into serious grip training again, so ofcourse, I had to check it out. I don't think anyone has ever written about short steel bending in such depth. He covers not only the different styles & grips used but also different types of steel, nails, bolts, etc. He really gives you everything you need to know to get you started bending steel.

I'm not completely wet behind the ear when it comes to bending. Short bar bending was contested at 3 grip contests I've competed in. Not one of my stronger events but I have worked my way up to bending a respectable 6" grade 5 bolt (rated at 345lbs) and I have spent plenty of time on the Gripboard reading about bending. So even though I already knew some of the stuff presented in Jedd's book, it was nice to have it all in one simple, easy to read package without having to sort through pages of bending vs folding arguments.

Of course, Jedd is a far more accomplished grip athlete than myself. He's miles ahead of me when it comes to hand strength but what I didn't realize is how much more advanced his understanding of grip, bending in particular, is than mine. I definitely picked up some useful tips from the Diesel Bending book. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, beginning or advanced, who has an interest in bending short steel.

Combat Core

Smitty from the Diesel Crew has put together the most comprehensive innovative book on core training I've ever seen. We all know the Diesel Crew for their creativity in training. They were releasing videos on functional training before the term "functional training" was cool.

Call it what you will, there are certain aspects of not only sport but daily movement that are not duplicated in conventional training programs. Some of these movements perhaps should not be duplicated as it could either interfere with motor learning patterns related to your sport or because of the simple fact that it is too dangerous. There is no exercise that I would recommend to train for the awkward movement of putting a toddler into a car seat, but what I would suggest is strengthening your core (which includes your back) so you lessen the injury potential of such a movement that you might do 10-12 times a day.

That is what Combat Core is about. It has nothing to do with fighting or warfare, or any of the feelings you might associate with the word "combat" (although combat athletes; fighters, football players, etc. could benefit greatly from it). It has everything to do with strengthening the core to withstand the daily rigors of sport and everyday life. As you well know, you cannot predict the demands that may be imposed on your body, so it is the creativity and diversity of the exercises presented in Combat Core that make this book worth your time. I guarantee you have never seen these exercises before.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Functional Movement Screening

I’m writing this from Chicago’s O’Hare international airport. I just left Minnesota from the first ever Certified Kettlebell Functional Movement Screening (CK-FMS) workshop. FMS is the brainchild of Gray Cook – physical therapist, strength & conditioning specialist and kettlebell instructor.

Gray has been in the trenches working his system into the highest levels of sport for the last 10 years and has now teamed up with Brett Jones (Master RKC, ATC and CSCS) of Dragon Door to integrate kettlebells into the corrective movement strategies of the screening.

The Functional Movement Screen can be summarized like this: a series of 7 exercises that tests for dysfunctional movement patterns that may be a result of muscular imbalances (mobility, stability or asymmetry) within the body. If you cannot do any of the 7 movements without pain, it is recommended that you see a doctor, chiro, physical therapist or other health care professional as medical attention may be required. Otherwise, individuals are graded on a scale of 1-3 and depending on their scores, corrective movement exercises are prescribed to help restore proper mechanics within the body. The test was created to assist in communication between coaches, personal trainers, athletic trainers and physical therapists

Hold that thought, my plane is boarding…

I’m back at home now. Before I finish about the CK-FMS cert let me tell you about the Russian cab driver that picked me up from the airport. Guess what we talked about? That’s right, kettlebells. I always ask people if they know about kettlebells but especially Russians. This guy was great! He barely spoke English. He was a former wrestler who migrated from Russia 20 years ago (he’s 62 now) and hadn’t seen a kettlebell since then. So naturally, I invited in my house and showed him my gym at 1 o’clock in the morning. :)

I offered to trade him a small kettlebell for some of the cab fare but he wanted two 12kg bells. I gave him a Hard Style catalog and explained that the price for the two kettlebells was about $150 plus shipping. He chuckled and said “F-ing Americans” in the thickest Russian accent I’ve ever heard and told me he used to be able to buy “girya” (which I learned I had been pronouncing way wrong) for 2 rubles when he was younger.

I bet 20 minute cab rides didn’t cost $65 back then either.

Anyway, Ivan was a cool way to top off my weekend. Back to FMS...

At the strength clinic last month, no fewer than four of the presenters mentioned the work Gray has been doing involving human movement. At least 2 people described him as a “genius” and I can only echo their sentiment. The guy picked up on a shoulder mobility issue I’ve been trying to stretch out for the last couple months and fixed it in about 2 minutes. It was just a matter of activating my trapezius muscle which I was doing on the left but not on the right (hello asymmetrical shoulders). He “fixed” people all weekend with simple little exercises like this. As much as I know about human movement and exercise, it pales in comparison to Mr. Cook. His understanding of anatomy is truly profound.

I’m excited about everything I learned this weekend and I’m anxious to start administering the Functional Movement Screen to my clients. I’m still practicing but I’m already looking at body mechanics and movement patterns differently. This weekend was quite the educational experience for me and I’d recommend FMS training to any trainer, therapist or doctor that deals with musculoskeletal issues.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Central PA Strongman Contest

Promoted by Joe Snavely and Todd Marcoullier. When these guys told me they were putting on a strongman show I said I would be there, either to compete or to help out, one way or another.

This was the first time for me being involved in a strongman contest and not competing. (It was a little weird.) Joe and Todd did a hell of a job organizing this show, and this was a first time for them too! Everything went smooth and there was plenty of help. Little for me to do really, so I took pictures... lots and lots of pictures.

Here's 248 of them. Enjoy.

Central PA Strongman

Although I'm not planning to compete in strongman anymore, I still plan to be involved in the local scene. I've made some good friends and met some amazing people; that's what you can expect in strongman and I'd like to help keep that tradition going in anyway possible.

If anyone is looking for a training crew, drop me an email and I'll see if I can put you in touch with someone.

Equipment? I've got some of that too.

Let me know.

-Dan Cenidoza

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Eagle Scout Health Fair

The local Boy Scout troop invited me to set up a booth at their health fair this past weekend. It was held at a nearby church, not an overly big venue but I was happy to do it anyway. There were probably another 17-18 exhibitors ranging from massage therapy to martial arts. I decided to hold a kettlebell lifting contest and give away t-shirts, stickers and wristbands as prizes.

Besides one older gentlemen, the Scouts were the only ones to participate in the contest... and let me tell you, those kids cleaned me out! The rules were simple: press the kettlebell overhead as many times as possible and 50 reps won you a t-shirt. Everybody who tried got a sticker. They were allowed one hand switch and could push press or jerk the bell (no way I was going to try and explain the jerk to them though). I think most of the troop left with a Be-More Training shirt on. It was nice to see them excited about kettlebell lifting.

I put on a couple demonstrations as well. First I did a 150 rep jerk set with the 24kg... 75 reps per hand. After I had a while to catch my breath I showed them my "card trick" where I turn 1 deck of cards into 2. They were all pretty impressed with that. I also bent a couple nails and turned them on to the Captains of Crush grippers as well as a few other grip toys. The grip feats had the entire room surrounding my booth, exhibitors and attendees alike.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I would be shifting my training focus to something other than strongman competitions, well that's what I was referring to, is the performing side of strongman.

Showcasing my talents for those kids reminded me just how fun it is putting on strength shows. It's a different environment than when you are competing. When doing a strongman show, you are an entertainer, a performer. The opportunity to inspire people is much greater in this arena. You are not competing against anyone, not even really competing against yourself, you are just showing someone this cool thing you can do. Like a magic trick, only harder to do. :)

So that's what my training has been looking like lately. I'm back into grip training with a purpose (other than the obvious, stronger hands)!

Anyway, I hit a quick grip workout this morning and this is what it looked like...

Inch Dumbbell attempts - this consists of many failed attempts, some 2 hand pick ups released and held with one hand, and several holds with 1 finger on the bell to stop the rotation

Pony thumb trainer - 2 sets of as many reps as possible with each hand (note to self: left hand is considerably stronger on this exercise)

Grippers - 2 sets of 5 with a filed #2

Grade 5 bolt attempt - I've bent one of these before, a long time ago, but it was not to be today. I gave it all I had, off and on for a good 10 minutes. All I can say is that I got some good wrist isometrics from it.

One more set of Pony thumb trainer immediately followed by Inch DB rows with straps. The rows are as much for back strength as they are for breaking the mental barrier of lifting the Inch with one hand. I believe actually seeing myself lift it, with straps or otherwise, will eventually help me lift it. (Incidentally, I had a dream that I lifted it just last night. Go figure.)

Formulator wrist curls, 15lbs x 11.5 reps (the .5 means a failed attempt)

Portable wrist roller - 60 seconds

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Finger Extension

I've been tinkering with ways to train finger extension for about 8 years now. I've come up with several methods and even a few product ideas that I thought showed some potential.

Pictured to the right is a design I came up with in 2001. It's an idea I had in an effort to try to train finger extension. Try to look at the concept instead of my artistic capabilities. :)

Finger extension is all but forgotten about when it comes to training the hands. Think about everything we do in daily life that involves gripping, squeezing, holding, carrying, etc. - all finger flexion movements. Never do we have to open our hand against resistance.

Muscular balance is important in all parts of the body and the hands are no different. Finger extension is often the missing link even in serious grip training. Your grip can only be so strong if your extension is weak. Opposing muscle groups are often the limiting factor in any lift. Few people realize this or take it seriously.

There is the old method of opening and closing your hand inside a bucket of sand, or opening your hand on the inside of a jar. Company's like Iron Mind have developed products like the Outer Loops™ and Expand-Your-Hand Bands™ to assist in your finger extension efforts. Then of course, there is good old manual resistance - finger tip to finger tip.

I just recently learned of this device (or "grip toy" as I call them) where you can train finger extension and finger flexion with the same piece of equipment without any kind of adjustment whatsoever. It's called the Handmaster Plus™

This is a great invention! I thought that this was the best thing since sliced bread and hand grippers. I thought so highly of this product that it basically put my idea of producing something similar out of my head. Somebody had thought of a better design and put it on the market already!

But let me back up and say that I haven't actually used this product yet. I've been meaning to order one but I just haven't gotten around to it. The funny thing is, I probably won't now that I've stumbled onto something better.

Like almost everything else in the fitness industry, there is usually a very simple exercise that beats out all of the gimmicks and fancy equipment. There is usually one basic exercise, performed with one basic piece of equipment, that will develop a muscle or a movement better than anything else. I found that exercise and that piece of equipment...

Thera-Band® Exercise Bands

Like I said - simple equipment for a basic exercise. You can get a piece of Thera-Band from any physical therapist's office. All you need is about 24". Just wrap it around your fist and extend your fingers against it. For more resistance, pull the band tighter. You can also change the angle in which you hold the band to focus on a specific position of the hand/fingers. Use it for wrist extension (an equally important and perhaps just as neglected movement of the lower arm), dynamic thumb exercises and even finger abduction (spreading of the fingers). The possibilities are as vast as your imagination!

I like to train these movements with the Thera-Band with high reps - 20 or more. That's entirely personal perference though. You can pull the band so tight that you can barely eek out a 1RM if you want. Though I have found that the hands respond better to high repetitions. Call it targeting the slow twitch fibers, muscle pump or whatever you like, it just seems you get a better workout.

I'm not staking claim to be the first one who ever thought of using a Thera-Band to do these exercises, it just kinda dawned on me one day and I figured I would write about it. If you know of any other unique exercises performed with a Thera-Band, please post them up. I'd also be interested in hearing how you train finger extension and other rare hand/finger movements.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Kettlebell Training & Technique

I just got back from Juniata and what a great clinic this year was! I can't say enough about coach Smith or the event he puts on. We had some awesome presentations and some very exciting hands-on sessions. Job well done to all of the speakers!

My presentation was everything I had hoped it would be. I was scheduled for Friday morning at 10am in the large lecture hall. The large hall has about 6 times the seating capacity as the upstairs hall, which I was assigned to last year. I was hoping to get the large hall this time because I wanted as many people in attendance as possible. I got my wish. I would estimate that there were nearly 100 people in the audience - the largest group I've ever spoken to for an hour or more, and by far the most pleasurable speaking engagement I've had as well. I've never felt more comfortable in front of such a large group.

As I mentioned before, my presentation was titled "Kettlebell Training & Technique". I am in a rather unique position being that I am certified as both an American Kettlebell Club coach and a Russian Kettlebell instructor. These two organizations have conflicting philosophies when it comes to kettlebell training. Unfortunately, this has created a division in a very small community of people who are passionate about kettlebell training. This division is not without it's trash talk either. You have people on both sides of the fence who poo-poo the other organization/style. This is stupid. Not only is it short sighted to say there is only one way to lift a kettlebell but badmouthing of any kind does nothing good for your image or the organization you represent. I would suggest these overzealous few (and it is only a few) spend more time on the lifting platform and less time on the internet. What's interesting is that I've never heard a derogatory statement come out of either of Pavel or Valery. Take another lesson from your coach, fellas.

I stay out of it. And I tried to make my presentation as unbiased as possible, offering only the facts of each style of training. I gave credit where credit was due and the only opinions I presented were how to best implement kettlebells into a comprehensive training program. We must not forget, the kettlebell is only one tool in our proverbial toolbox. You use different tools for different jobs. But I digress...

My presentation was very well received and I think I struck the right balance with the whole style debate. I spoke to both RKC and AKC instructors that were in attendance and they were all very supportive of my lecture. In fact, I got a lot of compliments from everyone I spoke with afterwards.

The hands-on session went well too. A rain storm rolled through just long enough to inconvenience us and put us under a tent but that didn't stop everyone from practicing their clean & jerks or hitting the 100 rep swing test. It was a good time and I got some good training in between my demonstrations, the Diesel Crew's strongman session and Mike Rankin (of Drexel University) session on clubbell training.

Of course, when you put a bunch of strength coaches, trainers and athletes together it is never a dull night. It wasn't 2 hours later before we were back at the dorm rooms drinking beer, tearing decks of cards and swinging kettlebells. Partying with such people is worth the 3.5 hour trip to Huntingdon, PA itself. It's nice to sit in the lecture hall with a pen & pad taking notes but it's another thing to sit at the bar and pick the brain of the coach next to you.

Unfortunately I couldn't stick around for Saturday's presentations and I headed home early. Whenever I pass through York, PA I try to make it a point to stop by York Barbell and the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame. The museum is worth a look if you have never been. You might just stumble into the IPA World Powerlifting Championships like I did. I stopped in to watch a few of the lifters but the real treat was getting to talk with some of the guys working the event. I learned a couple grip exercises, got a lesson in Meridian Stretching, played with some more clubbells and talked some Iron Game history. The visit to York was the perfect way to top off the weekend!

Actually, I take that back... coming home and having my daughter smile at me was the perfect way to top off the weekend.

If anyone would like a copy of the presentation, I have decided to offer it for $9.99. It is a fair price considering the people in attendance had to pay for the clinic. I have put some work in this presentation and it is worth it. Email me at if interested.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pennsylvania State Strength & Conditioning Clinic

I'm giving a presentation at Juniata college this weekend for the PA State strength & conditioning clinic. I haven't had much time to blog because I work best under pressure, which is another way of saying I waited until the last minute to put together my slide show. Needless to say, that's kept me occupied for the last couple weeks. :)

The title of my presentation is "Kettlebell Training & Technique". I'm also doing a hands-on session under the same title later that afternoon. Obviously, training & technique are going to be a large portion of the lecture but being that most in attendance will probably be collegiate level strength coaches, there will be a need to discuss program design & implementation.

Coach Doug Smith puts on one of the best clinics I've ever been to. Two full days of well organized, quality presentations, and both presenters and those in attendance are treated very well. Cost of admission includes 5 meals, 2 nights room & board and 2.0 CEU's. There's usually a care package that includes vitamin supplements, annual clinic t-shirts and a sweet notebook. You can't beat that!

In other news: I got a glimpse of the new website and it's looking better than I could have ever imagined! I'm excited. The release date is scheduled for July 9th... stay tuned!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Maryland Strongest Man 2008

This year was a hot one! 97 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. By noon there were few places to hide from the sun... but hey, it's a strongman contest, what do you expect?!

I just happened to reread a contest write up I did a few years ago. I'm going to spare the specific event drama and just say it was another insanely heavy contest put on by Graham Bartholomew. 820lb yoke walk, 330 an arm farmers walk and 750+lb tire flip to name a few. Yeah. Heavy. A typical Maryland show.

However, this year was special as I was to present an award to Graham and his wife Lorraine for all the hard work they do putting on these shows. It's not just the contests but the after-parties, the training sessions, the coaching (Graham is the closest thing I've ever seen to a "strongman coach"), the friendship and for never being allowed to leave without a gatorade and something to eat. We wanted to recognize Graham and Lorraine for the good peoples that they are. A single email generated over $200 of immediate response and the donation request was only for $10 or $20 to a handful of people. People either caught wind of it or those that received the email felt compelled to forward to others. We got so much more than we asked for, we upgraded the awards (shown below) and bought $100 worth of gift card.

We embarrassed him good and plenty :)~ If anyone has pictures of the actual "awards ceremony" please forward them to me.

As for the actual contest, I felt good going into it. I hadn't been training for it (more on that later) but I was where I needed to be mentally and physically. I weighed in lighter than normal at 245lb and put up a consistent performance with the last two contests I did (the Mid Atlantic in March and last years Maryland) so I was happy with the results. I placed 4th to three guys that were/are legitimately stronger than me. Simple as that.

As for my training, I think I have to come to terms with that I'm not as interested in competitive strongman as I once was. Don't get me wrong, it's still a lot of fun and I'll probably still do contests here and there but its hard to make time to train events. Event days involve going to someones house (often times Graham's or Camp Hill, PA - both an hour or more away) and spending several hours with a crew training events... it's great, but when it comes down to playing with the boys or playing with a baby girl who calls me "daddy", the little one is going to get more of my attention. (she hasn't actually said "daddy" yet, it's more like "bob-bob").

The other thing is, I've kinda got my eyes set on a different prize when it comes to my training. But that's another story for another day.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

No Go on the Pros

I spoke with coach Rogucki on Monday, he has all the help he needs for now. It's time to make more moves as far as the immediate future of Be-More Training is concerned.

On the agenda next week is house hunting. I'm thinking a small studio store front or a slightly larger warehouse with plenty of room for lifting. It doesn't have to be pretty, just convenient and open.

It also looks as if I have found my new web designer.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Go Studio or Go Pro?

I was this close to signing a 3 year lease on a place for my gym when the Baltimore Raven's released Brian Billick. Fortunately, some unfortunate circumstances took place before I put my name to the dotted line which caused me to rethink the direction of my business. At this point in my life, I think a studio, with appointment only clientèle is the best thing for me right now.

Back to the Raven's...

I sent my resume to coach Bob Rogucki when he took over the strength & conditioning program for the team couple months ago. A couple weeks went by and I didn't hear back from him and it wasn't until I saw this Baltimore Raven's using kettlebells that I decided to make a follow up call.

Coach Rogucki, who has been a coach in the NFL for almost as long as I have been alive, said that he received my resume he only wished he had gotten it sooner, he already had 2 guys working under him. He told me he'd like to sit down and talk with me but there really wasn't any point at this time as he had no positions available. He told me to call him back in June though because he might have something then.

So, that's what I'm waiting for. If the pro ranks call, I have to take the opportunity. If not, then I'll proceed with my plans for a studio.

Group Kettlebell Classes

We have group kettlebell classes meeting at Honeygo Run park on Monday & Wednesday evenings at 6:30pm and a morning class that meets on Wednesday at 9am. 60 minutes of kick your butt kettlebell.

The cost of the class is $15 and kettlebells will be provided. Bring your own kettlebell and the cost is only $12. Class size is limited so you must register in advance.

For details on how to create a class of your own, or to check the availability of a class, please email me. Thanks.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Website Revamp

The new website will be rolled out shortly - it's been a long time in the making and there are some exciting changes that are taking place. I do apologize for how long has gone unattended. There has been personal and professional circumstances that prevented me from devoting the time necessary to being a good site administrator but I've never been one to lend too much credit to the "I'm too busy" excuse so take that for what it's worth. The truth is, I had just grown tired of the old design and decided that a total overhaul was in order. So instead of updating pages that I was inherently unhappy with, I put all my thoughts and energies into revamping the site entirely. The soon-to-be-released changes are a result of over a years worth of creative thought.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Direction

This marks the start of a new website, and a new business.

My name is Dan Cenidoza, I am a kettlebell instructor and strength and conditioning specialist.

For the last 10 years of my life I have worked as a CAD operator. I have a degree in computer drafting & design and until recently I have earned my living at a desk job doing mechanical design work. Exercise and fitness has always been more of a hobby or passion, a part-time gig, but now it is my only business, and I am perhaps more passionate about it now than ever.

That's why I had to quit my day job. It's time to take all of the training I've done (in school and in work) and put my services in the fitness business as a priority. I've had this planned for years now. I've proven to myself as well as to others that I have ability as a strength athlete, a strength coach and a strength expert... so I chose a new trade: Health & Strength.

This blog is about happenings of Be-More Training and my job as a strength and conditioning specialist.