Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Progressive Pulls Workout

This was a good workout. Not the heaviest lifting I've done but I feel pretty good about my form. I originally edited this video to look at my pulling technique and how it changed with different exercises and as the weight got heavier. Once I put it all together I just had to put a title and some music to it.

I haven't lifted like this in over a year. Just didn't have any desire. I had other things I was focusing on. Now, I've got a goal to deadlift 600 on December 31, 2010 and I am totally fired up about doing heavy barbell work again.

Whether or not you are into posting your workouts on the internet, I highly encourage you to video yourself so you can analyze your form, especially on the more technical exercises. You can also ask others who know more than you do to have a look as well. Master RKC Geoff Neupert was kind enough to point out that I was leaking power in my snatches. Notice how my back rounds as the bar leaves the floor. That's something I missed; I was just happy that I was getting full extension and not bending my arms early (something I've had problems with in the past).

As always, I've got some things to work on. I've been practicing the quick lifts on and off for nearly 10 years now and I still have haven't mastered them. Maybe I never will? That's OK, I enjoy working on it and I get stronger in the process.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The 100 Rep Test

"100 REP Challenge is the Simple Strength practice of performing 100 Reps everyday. It's up to you what exercises you use and how you divide the reps. The only thing that matters is you get your 100 reps, no matter how, no matter what, everyday!"
Taken from Rannoch Donald's "The 100 Rep Challenge" Facebook page

I don't know about everyday, but I do know about the 100 rep challenge, or the "100 rep test" as I like to call them.

What's so special about 100 reps? Nothing, other than it's a three-digit number. It's not much different than 10 or 1000. Who cares? Do whatever you want. Just be sure you time it and seek to improve - that's what makes it a 100 rep test.

There are all kinds of 100 rep tests. The Marines do 100 sit ups in 2 minutes, the RKC does 100 snatches in 5 minutes, random guys in their basement are doing 100 push ups as fast as they can.

Sometimes the goal isn't even in reps but in weight. 100lbs can be a milestone lift of any exercise for any person who follows the United States customary system (English units). There were oldtime strongmen who used to make their students do 100lb turkish getups before they were allowed to do any other exercise!

100lbs in the turkish get up is not that big a deal to an intermediate lifter of average build (which I suppose is why the oldtime strongmen required them). I've been doing 100lb TGU's for years now. Also, for years, I've been hearing about people doing 100 REPS in the TGU. Certainly not as popular is the 100 rep TGU. Everytime I heard anything about that kind of volume I rolled my eyes. I had absolutely NO interest in doing that and could only imagine how boring that would be.

I could only imagine. I had no first hand knowledge because I lacked the experience. Yes, I was ignorant.

Nothing wrong with being ignorant so long as you eventually move out of it. Without getting too philosophical, the more you learn and the more you do the better, right?

Well today I learned what it was like to do 100 reps in the turkish get up. I did 100 reps with the 16kg in 44 minutes. Which doesn't matter at all because nobody cares. There's no military agency or fitness organization testing peoples ability to do 100 turkish get ups. Except me. I'm the random guy in the basement and I'm the only one who knows what it was like to do that workout.

I'm willing to bet you don't know what it's like to do 100 reps in the TGU. You're probably like I was, ignorant. You're either thinking, 1) "What's a turkish get up?" 2) "Not worth my time" or 3) "No way, it's too hard!"

Here's a tip: it is worth your time and it is hard!

If you have done it, congratulations! You basically did 100 sit ups, 100 bridges, 100 lunges and 100 presses - a good workout by anyone's standard! Lots of individual exercises make up the TGU and stringing them together into one balanced and fluid movement is what makes them special.

I've honestly never been a much of a fan of TGU's. It's one of those exercises that I know is good for me and even though it offers a lot of benefits, I've never been excited about doing them. I can't say this workout has changed that. If anything, I probably dislike them even more. I do however have a new appreciation for them. I have new insight. I have learned something, if you will. I have learned that this is a VERY difficult workout and once again reinforced that the "100 rep test" can be a great workout, warm up or finisher. It all depends on the difficulty of the exercise that determines if you should do 10, 100 or 1000.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Overhead, off the ground and carried

Hi everybody,

I just wanted to do a quick post about this last training week.

Saturday I did a strongman show at York Barbell for the Kettlebells for Warriors event (a great event put on by Mike Krivka ) and came home with bunch of cool new training tools!

150lb pressing stone, two 50lb chains and two 25lb chains. I got a few more things that I'll save for another time. Lets talk about rocks and chains!

After the show, and before we went out for my birthday dinner at Fogo de Chao, I had to hit a quick workout. NO WAY am I going to miss the opportunity to precede a red meat buffet with a good workout!

It took me three attempts to press the rock but in about 10 minutes I did 3 sets of 3 and went in for a single set of deadlifts at 245 x 20. Cleaned up and had a huge feast with good friends!

On Tuesday I was dying to do something with the chains. Once again, I was a little pressed for time so I simply slung the 50lb chains (100lbs) over my shoulders and went for a walk. I walked to the closest hill I knew of and walked up, down and around a graveyard. I'd estimate about a mile in 15 minutes. I felt pretty good the rest of the day.

Today I had a little more time and did a workout I've done many times before.

Overhead press
Pull up
Farmers Walk finisher

I used a ladder format for the presses & pulls.

2, 3, 5 reps each set and matching every press with a pull up.

2 reps press, 2 pull ups, 3 reps press, 3 pull ups, 5 reps press, 5 pull ups. Repeat 5 times.
Beast farmers walk (106 per hand) for 1/4 mile in 7:45.

Great workout! Picked some berries out of the garden and made a protein shake.

It just goes to show you that you don't need a lot of time or anything too complicated to get some good training in. I pressed and pulled twice this week, and I did two carries.

I hope your training is going well and that you are enjoying the summer!


Thursday, May 27, 2010

How Grip Training Could Save Your Life

Every exercise program should contain some element of grip training. With a few simple exercises and 5 minutes of your total workout time, you could strengthen your hands exponentially. You can be far stronger than you probably think is possible in such a short amount of time. Motor learning, neural processes and muscle recruitment play a much larger role in hand strength than training time, muscle size, age or gender. I will discuss those things in a future article. The most compelling argument there is to train your grip is the simple fact that your life could depend on it.

In the countless ways there are for people to check out, I can think of at least a few that could be prevented with stronger hands.

Being attacked by another human being. This is actually why I started exercising in the first place. My dad is a martial artist and holds advanced degree blackbelts in several disciplines. You can bet I was taught how to fight and defend myself. As long as I can remember we’ve had free weights, punching bags and grippers laying around the house. Hitting back was encouraged, as was protecting your little brother and your lunch money.

The unfortunate reality is that there are people out there that may try to harm you and/or your loved ones. Having strong hands will help you to protect yourself, your belongings and those around you.

Think of the role of the hands in self defensive situation. Someone grabs you, tries to steal your purse, jack your car, threatens your child, attacks your friend, whatever; your reaction will probably involve a hand-to-attacker maneuver hopefully thwarting any negative outcome to you and yours. There has been at least two occasions in my adult life where by simply squeezing someones neck I defused an attack (there are also other places that are vulnerable to squeezing, however specifics escape me at the moment). Once was when my soon-to-be wife’s jealous ex-boyfriend charged me, and another was when a drunk started a fight with my friend outside of a pizza shop. On both accounts, I was forced to react to a situation that I did nothing to provoke and in no way could have prevented. I am proud that I “won the fight” but sorry that the situation occurred in the first place. It’s not likely that either encounter was a life or death situation, but you never know. The point is, it was the strength of my hand that stopped the attack.

Being attacked by an animal. Long gone are the days we had to wrestle saber tooth tigers, but everyone knows someone that was bitten by a dog. Strong hands are of little match for a set of sharp teeth, but you could wield a bigger weapon with a pair of mightier mitts. The difference between shaking a stick and swinging a bat could be the difference between life or limb against a rabid dog off his leash.

Natural disaster. Tsunami in Indonesia, hurricane in New Orleans, earthquake in Haiti, flooding in Nashville; did anyone who survived do so simply by “hanging on”? Probably. I don’t know of any specific stories but I know better climbing, holding, digging or swimming could only be a good thing in such a situation. My thoughts and prayers go out to those families who lost loved ones in those tragic events.

Military/Police/Fire/Rescue. You know what your job entails better than I do. No need to say any more.

In my opinion, there really is no other better reason to be strong than someones life may depend on it, which is why this article is first in this series. In the few minutes it takes to squeeze a gripper and do a set or two of wrist curls, it’s in your best interest to train your grip.

In the next article, How Stronger Hands Means a Stronger Body.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kettlebell Classes start this week!!!

I will be running 3 classes per week this year:

M&W @ 6:30pm (Honeygo Run Park)
Sat @ 1pm (Belmont Park).

Classes begin this Saturday (May 1) for a two week trial.

10 weeks
once weekly - $150
twice weekly - $280
unlimited - $390

20 weeks
once weekly - $280
twice weekly - $520
unlimited - $720

Drop in class - $20

Muscle Control

I recently took a 16 week hiatus from lifting weights. Due to a number of lifestyle changes and re-prioritizing of training goals, it became necessary for me to stop lifting. For approximately 4 months, I did little more than grip work and muscle control practice. When I returned to heavy lifting, I came back stronger. The following is my thoughts and experiences with Muscle Control.

What is Muscle Control?

Muscle Control (MC) is the targeted action of specific muscles that are under your voluntary control. It is a series of isolated contractions usually performed as an isometric. In other words, it is the ability to flex individual muscles while keeping others relaxed.

My first introduction to Muscle Control (MC) was when I stumbled across a picture of someone performing “the rope” an abdominal control where a stomach vacuum is held while the rectus abs (6 pack) is contracted. I was amazed that someone could differentiate between abdominal muscles and control them independently from one another. I had never seen any such thing and thought the guy performing it to be some “freak of nature.”

That picture led me to a book entitled Muscle Control by a guy named Maxick. The quick and dirty on Maxick is that he was born in 1882 as a sickly child who was so weak he was unable to walk until the age of 5. Under the advice of the doctor and the enforcement of his parents, he spent most of his youth avoiding anything strenuous. In his desire to become stronger he crafted himself a dumbbell, which when his father found, he destroyed, not wanting his son to overexert himself. It was then when Maxick began developing his system of MC. For more information on Maxick or MC visit www.superstrengthbooks.com

MC is simply communication with muscles. You have two commands you can give them, contract or relax, and these commands are equally as important. Every author of MC has stressed themes of relaxation.


“Relaxation is just as important as contraction, for unless a muscle be supple enough to lie soft when relaxed, real control is out of the question. This applies not only to the particular muscle, but to those surrounding, or those muscles which come into direct contact with, and are governed to a certain extent by, the said muscle. The control of the surround muscle will in turn be hindered by the proximity of a muscle group that will not absolutely relax.” -Maxick

“Directly related to muscle control is the ability to completely relax a muscle or groups of muscles. This is also an acquired skill. Learning to relax certain muscle groups can improve performance in sports where speed is essential.” -Jubinville

Most people who are reading this are familiar with the Hardstyle philosophy, irradiation and other similar concepts of tension. Terms like “dormant flexion” and “passive relaxation” might seem to be in direct opposition to the idea that “tension equals strength” but lets take a deeper look into tension before we overlook the importance of relaxation in the development of strength.

Dr. Mel Siff talks about “non-functional muscle tension,” “spurious tension” and “coordination tension.“ Granted, he was speaking mainly on the topic of flexibility, but in Supertraining he says, “The level of proficiency of the athlete has a marked influence on the reflex ability to of the muscles to contract and relax. Rapidity of both contraction and relaxation increases with level of mastery, with a decrease in relaxation time becoming especially evident.” He then goes on to cite some data from Matveyev, if you’re interested it’s on page 186.

Pavel talked about the bilateral deficit in Return of the Kettlebell stating, “You have only so much neural drive or “nerve force” and when you have to spread it out over two limbs it does not go as far.” The same thing goes for two muscles as it does for two limbs. When you focus your neural drive on a single muscle it allows you to contract that muscle harder than if your attention was spread out over a group of muscles.

Here is a simple test. Most people can contract their biceps to the point of cramping. Can you still that with braced abs, tightly squeezed glutes and a white knuckle fist?

Without relaxing the muscles nearby the one you are contracting, you are hindering the contraction of the working muscle. And by contracting one muscle at a time, you are establishing greater ability to control that muscle.

I have found that by gaining control over individual muscles in isolation, I in turn have better control over those muscles when contracting them with a group of muscles, be it in a lift or whatever.

The saying, “press with your lats” means to contract an antagonist muscle while you are pressing. It does not take a scientist to figure that it would be easier to contract your lats if you did not have to worry about pressing a weight overhead. Learning to better control the lats, could only lead to an increased ability to “press with your lats” assuming that technique was helpful to you to begin with. Either way, it’s best to either learn to chew gum or walk first, but not both at the same time.

Of course, the practice of isolating the muscles during MC does little good for your real world strength unless you are devoting equal attention to all of your muscles.

Here is another test. Can you contract the biceps of your leg as tightly as the one of your arm? If not, you do not exhibit the control over your leg to the degree you do over your arm. Therefore you cannot expect to contract the leg biceps as strongly when you do finally integrate it into a compound movement.

It is mentally and physically easier to contract one muscle at a time than it is to contract them in groups. It just takes a little thought practice before you can differentiate them.

Movements or muscles or mind?

I am no longer sure about the now cliche saying, “Your body knows movements not muscles.” I see no reason that you cannot know both. I understand why people say that, to encourage new trainees to think in terms of movements instead of bodypart muscle building, but if movements are a skill, that makes both muscular contractions and the neural counterpart that drives it a skill as well.

I have always been impressed by Pat “Human Vise” Povilaitis ability to close two #3 grippers simultaneously (actually, I am impressed by pretty much anything that Pat does but that is just one example). Pat is one of the strongest men alive and arguably the best steel bender in history. If you have ever seen him bend the look of concentration he has is scary! There is no question that his laser-like focus is at least part of the reason Pat is able to do the things he does.

Take note that “focus” and “concentration” are products of thought or mental effort. Another theme frequently written about in MC is “thinking into the muscle.” Unlike resistance training where a trainee could “go through the motions” while paying little attention to what he is actually doing, the practice of MC is impossible without constant uninterrupted thought, or concentration.

This is a trait that can and will be developed with MC.

With heightened levels of concentration, better body awareness and finer control over individual muscles, you are destined to become stronger.


I am stronger for practicing muscle control. After my 16 weeks off from weight training, I closed a gripper I had never shut before, I PR’d on a 5 minute snatch test and I deadlifted heavier than I did at the end of my previous cycle.

These are not results that I expected. Needless to say I am pleasantly surprised at what I have found and have begun further experiments into MC.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

Muscle Control with Hinbern

I just received these books/courses on Muscle Control in the mail from Bill Hinbern...

If you look around the site a bit, you will see that Bill is a publisher of old, out-of-print books.

There is a wealth of information written in Iron Game history! We are lucky to live in a time where classic publications such as these are as available as the latest research in exercise science.

Personally, even though my degree is in exercise science, I have found much more practical information in books that were written before any science of exercise took place.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Muscle Control with Strongerman

If you got a chance to listen in to Bud Jeffries interview with Pavel on strongerman.com this week you heard some interesting conversation based on a question I posed to Pavel about muscle control. If you are unfamiliar with muscle control, here's a clip of some very advanced abdominal control...

This is something I've been working on lately. In part out of interest, and in part out of necessity. In the last few weeks, I've been short on both time and energy to put into training. Muscle control and isometric exercise has been a convenient way for me to stay active. Shoveling snow (which we have about 36" of right now) keeps me active too, but I wouldn't say that it's convenient.

Anyway, I am being featured on the Strongerman teleseminar next week and I'd like to talk more about muscle control. Logan Christopher, the man behind the scenes at strongerman.com, has some experience with muscle control too and I'm looking forward to continuing the discussion. For details on the tele-seminar (it will be Tuesday Feb 16 @ 8pm EST) go to http://www.strongerman.com/dancenidoza/ and to check out Logan and some of his feats go to http://www.legendarystrength.com/