Melt Fat AND Get Strong? A Simple Solution to a Complex Problem.

Melt Fat AND Get Strong? A Simple Solution to a Complex Problem.

You Can’t Have Your Cake And Eat It Too… Or Can You?

A lot of people want to get lean and toned, but when it comes right down to it, the methods of how to accomplish this often escape them… What they’re really after is melting some extra fat and building a little muscle, it’s kind of an important aspect of “getting toned” most people don’t want to talk about… These might seem like two separate goals, but they actually work quite well together.

Contrary to what you might read in a magazine, there is a training solution that offers you a better option than the standard solution of “more cardio”.

Cardio is great, if you are strength training, which almost nobody recommends for fear of looking like they’re recommending everyone look like the next Mr. Olympia(bodybuilding). This is quite the opposite, and in most cases, measurements go down in the right areas and the “muscle” you built gives you an athletic, toned look, not bulky and bloated. On top of that, if you are involved in a cardio based sport, your performance will increase as a result of having a little extra strength to tap into when you need it, adding to your endurance. (this is also referred to as “underspeed training”)

Remembering the body is one piece and should be trained as such(thanks Dan John) you won’t magically bulk up and look like Arnold from touching a weight, unless that’s your goal, then this isn’t for you. But if you’re looking to melt some extra fat, then training all of your energy systems(not just cardio or just strength) should be included in the “body is one piece” concept. After all, we want everything to work in harmony.

Energy Systems?

Ah, sorry, for those of you not “up” on the cool kid lingo, let me explain(simply) what I’m talking about.

There is 3 ways your body gets it’s energy to “do work”. You know, lifting stuff, moving yourself strange ways, walking/running, etc… first off, the most popular, as per the 1970’s revolution of fitness, is the Aerobic System(aka Cardio) which uses oxygen for activities longer than a few minutes.

Now, the step child never talked about, the Anaerobic Systems, of which there are 2 and they(somehow) operate without oxygen. We won’t get into much besides to say that this is pretty much the energy already stored up in your body and doesn’t need to be manufactured on the spot. Here’s how they basically work(for simplicity sake) one is for short work (less than 10 sec) and one is for slightly longer work (10 sec – 2 min). These are all approximate of course as everyone is a little different, but for guidelines, they work just fine.

Back on point.

One of the great things, that I think most people miss, about Kettlebell training is the fact that we hit a few of these energy systems with every training session, more to the point, with one amazing little move – the swing.

The swing works some of the best “metabolism stimulating” muscles in your body(aka, your butt & hamstrings) while making you stronger all at the same time. The swing is a snappy hip movement similar to a box jump(without the impact) but with all the benefits of sprinting, jumping, and deadlifting rolled into one. It’s basically the closest stimulation you can get to being in a fight without being hit! Throw swings between some strength movements and you’ve hit all 3 energy systems in no time(or not a whole lot of time). In fact, 3 sessions of 75 swings/training a week is enough to melt loads of fat off in just a few minutes of training according to Tim Ferriss’s study in the 4 Hour Body.

My friend Pat Flynn is quite famous for these minimalist workouts that shred body fat, build muscle(that muscle tone thing) and improve your overall general conditioning as a human being. So in case you needed to run from a bear whilst out hiking, or chase down that bike thief you watched take away your prized possession, you most certainly will not be the bear’s lunch and the thief will stand no chance of escape.

Here’s a real simple way to put this all together, and probably one of the best strength/fat burning combinations out there:

Swings x30 sec
Push-Ups x30 sec

Repeat this several times, about 5-10 minutes, either as a finisher(if you’re more “advanced”) or as your only workout for the day(if you’re a “beginner”).

I know, it doesn’t seem like much, but it will kick you in the teeth and leave you wondering who sucked all the air out of the room when you’re finished. Oh, don’t drop to the floor after you’re done, keep moving for a bit(even if it’s just walking around moving your arms about like a Jazzercise warm up), your heart will thank you.

Looking for something more complex? Here’s a few more killer combos for you:

The Eagle
Double KB Front Squat x8
Farmer’s Carry 20 meters
The trick to this, don’t set down the bells until you’ve completed 8 rounds
Ladies, use 12kg(26#), Gents, go for 24kg(53#) bells.

The Coyote
Swings x15
Goblet Squats x5
Push-Ups x3
Do 20 rounds for a total of 300 swings. Good luck.

Pavel’s Simple & Sinister Challenge
5 Minutes On The Minute, 10 swings per side(total 100)
Rest 1 Minute
10 Minutes On The Minute, 1 Turkish Get-Up(total 10)
Ladies, “Simple” Swings 24kg, Get-Ups 16kg/”Sinister” Swings 32kg, Get-Ups 24kg
Gents, “Simple” Swings 32kg, Get-UPs 32kg/”Sinister” Swings 48kg, Get-Ups 48kg
Again, the best of luck to you(comrade)

Armor Building
Double KB Clean x2
Double KB Press x1
Double KB Front Squat x3
Repeat as many as possible in 15 minutes.
Ladies, use 12-16kg. Gents, use 20-24kg.
For a bonus “ass kicking” factor, add sets of 10-20 swings between sets of armor building until you reach 300 swings. Plan on taking the rest of the day off… and being hungry.

Hill Sprints & Swings
(This is for you endurance athletes)
-Find a hill. (One you can maintain a decent pace up without face planting…)
-At the bottom of the hill, perform the desired amount of swings(I’d say 25-50) then sprint up the hill.
-Rest 3-5 minutes and repeat 2 more times for a total of 3 sets.
If this seems easy, increase the weight of the bell/grade of the hill or increase up to 75 swings.
(Honestly, a 24kg bell and a decent sledding hill will keep you busy for a while, if not, you’re a pro or you’re doing something wrong)
Feel Free to substitute other fun things like Front Squats & Sprints, Front Squats/Overhead Squats/Kettlebell Swings & Sled Pulls, or any other fun variation that involves some type of strength movement followed by a quick(very quick) transition to something “explosive”, like a sprint… (I’d leave the bike alone for this as the transition would take too long to gain the benefit of the protocol)

These are just a few awesome ideas of what we call Complex’s(a “workout” where you don’t stop or put down the weight unless you are losing form, never lose form…). Complex’s draw from multiple energy systems and typically involve some type of explosive movement, putting the weight overhead(at least once), and ideally incorporate all of the movements you can do as a human being.

Add these in 2-3 days a week to a strength training regimen, or 1-2 days a week for endurance athletes, and you will see loads of fat come off in no time at all. As a side note, you will probably hate life(and me for suggesting these) by the time you’re part way through the session.

We have more complexes than listed above in the “Secret Stash” area of our website, which gives you access to all of the workouts we’ve done as well as a few programs I’ve written over the years for clients/friends/challenges, and they’re all FREE. I’m hoping to be adding a video section soon, so keep checking back for more updates!

Stay Strong My Friends!

~Justin

How To Kickstart Your Day(And Metabolism)

How To Kickstart Your Day(And Metabolism)

Breakfast. The Cornerstone Of a Healthy Metabolism.

I know, you don’t have time… there’s a million and one things to do before you leave for your busy day. That doesn’t mean you should have to sacrifice your health & well being because of one meal.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~Sun Tzu

No matter what your goals are, if you don’t fuel up properly you won’t make it to the end.

“I know I should eat healthy, but I don’t have time” or the more famous “I grab a banana/bagel/apple/(insert food) on the way out the door and eat it on my way to the office” type of thinking is the noise before the defeat. Getting a nutrient balanced breakfast(sorry, coffee doesn’t count) is not easy… trust me, I understand, I’m up and out the door before 4:45 every morning!

Like I said before, breakfast is the cornerstone of a healthy metabolism. There’s a rule I like to stick with, 30 Grams of Protein within 30 Minutes of waking. This is a surefire way to get your metabolism going for the day and prevent a number of metabolic disorders, it also keeps your energy topped off for the day, so you don’t have to reach for that 4th cup of coffee at 10am!

So, now that you have a basic understanding of the importance of properly fueling up for your day, here’s a simple way to make sure you get your protein, fat, and carbohydrate intake quick and easy( did someone say minimal effort and time?) during your busy morning routine. Although, making a less busy morning routine would be ideal, let’s start small and we’ll work up to the harder stuff… After all, if it was easy, everyone would do it.

Now, this doesn’t seem difficult on the surface, but the discipline to keep at it every day long enough to create a habit is what will really make all the difference.

Now, on to the simplest breakfast you’ll ever have to (not) cook.

Overnight Oats

There’s some key building blocks to this that shouldn’t be changed. If dairy is a problem for you, it will be difficult to meet the same amount of calories, although most people are okay with the Greek Yogurt, make sure you know your body and what it can handle before you do more damage to your digestive system!

While almond milk or full fat coconut milk are substitutes, they don’t offer the same amount of protein or probiotics found in Greek Yogurt. So if you can, make sure to include it in the ingredient list. Sticking with a high quality brand helps, so no Great Value or knock offs here, after all, your health is worth more than the few extra pennies you save by going with a “store brand”. Also, avoid using soy milk on a regular basis, every once in a while is okay, but you’d be shocked how much soy is in foods you eat daily and like anything else, it can have adverse health effects if too much is consumed. Plus, soy is right up there with corn in terms of being GMO and laden with pesticides…

Foundational Ingredients:

Steel Cut Oatmeal.

Why Steel Cut? According to men’s health: “Steel-cut oats, like those found in McCann’s Irish Oatmeal’s metal tins, are almost fully intact, including the bran. As such, they’re high in fiber, burn off slowly, and will keep you feeling full for hours. “The more whole the grain, the longer it takes for the body to break it down,” explains Kleinert. But few people will spend the 30 minutes to make a pot of hot cereal in the morning. Skip the time suck by cooking a pot, freezing it in individual portions, then simply thawing and heating it.”

Now, letting these sit and soak will take care of the cook time, so the whole spending 30 minutes to cook it thing is kind of out the window, plus, the longer soak will make the oats easier to digest. It’s a good idea to soak/sprout all of your grains before cooking them.

Plain Greek Yogurt

Why plain? Mainly, there’s no added sugar(which we’ll be adding in form of fruit, honey or maple syrup). You really don’t want to be spiking your blood insulin first thing and having that crash later on in the morning anyway… kinda defeats the purpose of doing this whole breakfast thing.

Organic Whole Milk(Or Almond Milk/Full Fat Coconut Milk)

I try and stick with the milk if possible. Make sure you can handle it though, last thing you want is to be huddled up in a corner(or on the toilet) just to get a few extra grams of protein and fat… Almond milk or preferably Full Fat Coconut Milk are other options if dairy is out. I know most people hate the flavor of coconut, however, I’ve found once your a few bites in it really isn’t that bad.(I’m not a coconut fan myself…) The issue with almond milk is kind of twofold 1.) the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) cautions that people absorb the nutrients in milk and milk products better than they do those in plant-based milks(from Livestrong.com and 2.) without getting into too much sciencey stuff, there are ingredients in almond, soy, and rice milks used to thicken them(texture is an issue with some people) that is thought to cause health issues related to digestion(i.e. inflammation of the “gut”). So, if you can stomach it, go with the Organic Whole Milk or just skip the milk and stick with the yogurt, using water instead.

Chea Seeds

Yup, you got it right, just like the commercial we all remember – Chia Pets! These little seeds are loaded with fiber and Omega 3 fatty acids in addition to them being a great digestive aid. A big bang for your buck here.

Honey/Maple Syrup

I personally like to stick with the maple syrup here. It seems that a bit more honey is required to get the taste right, and that means more simple sugars. Now, honey has several health benefits and shouldn’t be avoided at all costs, but you should play around with the ratios here and maybe even do a hybrid. I typically get honey in other times throughout the day, like my favorite post workout desert – peanut butter & honey toast. Either way, your better off than throwing a lump of sugar in the mix!

The Portions

  1. ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt.
  2. ½ cup (heaping) rolled oats.
  3. ⅔ cup unsweetened milk of choice.
  4. 1 tablespoon chia seeds or ground flax meal.
  5. ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.
  6. Pinch of salt.
  7. 0-2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup.
  8. Slivered Almonds(optional)
My Own PB&J Concoction 🙂

These are just the basic ingredients, and you can go crazy from here, anything from a PB&J to chocolate Peanut Butter Banana, or whatever other concoction you choose to cook up.

Personally, I like doing the above ingredient list with some raisins and a 1/2 serving of Muscle Gain protein powder and my girlfriend prefers to mix it up and put no protein in hers, but it takes no extra time to mix em all up at once.

Once you have the ingredients combined in a mason jar, mix them up with a spoon or by shaking then put the whole thing in the fridge to enjoy in the morning. I find that if you want a nice toasty warm breakfast microwaving for 1 minute, stirring, then about 30 or so seconds gets it to a nice “just right” temperature, but you’ll have to experiment with your microwave’s cook times.

Remember, this is something you want to do within a 30 minute window of waking up, it’s an easy way to get breakfast nailed down and takes barely any time to either cook or consume in the morning. We typically like to do at least 3 or 4 days worth of these little guys to keep us on track, otherwise someone forgets breakfast(it’s not me…).

A little hint that will help you make this a habit is to do this consistently for at least a month, after that, 90 days, once you’ve done something for 3 months basically it is a habit and will be extremely hard to break. So, come hell or high water stick with it and make it happen and watch the difference it will make in your energy level, strength(if you’re into that sorta thing), and body composition(if it’s a goal of yours).

Some More Recipes 🙂

  • ½ c old-fashioned oats
  • ¾ c unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tbsp. chia seed
  • 1 tbsp. all-natural creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. peanut butter powder
  • ½ banana, diced
  • ¼ c non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ scoop protein powder**
  • 2 packets of Truvia (or sweetener of choice) Dash of cinnamon Honey
    Source: www.bornfitness.com

(Sample Recipes from Wholefully.com 8 classic overnight oats recipes below)

Chocolate Peanut Butter

  • ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup (heaping) rolled oats
  • ⅔ cup unsweetened milk of choice
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds or ground flaxmeal
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 0-2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup

Banana Chocolate Chip

  • ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup (heaping) rolled oats
  • ⅔ cup unsweetened milk of choice
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds or ground flax meal
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 0-2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • ½ ripe banana, chopped or mashed
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate chips

Tropical Fruit

  • ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup (heaping) rolled oats
  • ⅔ cup full-fat coconut milk (in the can)
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds or ground flax meal
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 0-2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh or canned pineapple
  • ⅓ cup chopped ripe mango
  • ½ ripe banana, chopped or mashed
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened flaked coconut
TSC or Bust

TSC or Bust

I was surprised with my results to say the least, and I think a few others were with theirs as well. After all, my last week of training(and a few before that) had not been very “productive” ones, and I’ve missed more than a few sessions, and I’m not alone.

Many of my students could say the same, we had injuries, sickness, and other business/family matters that kept us out of the gym and “off our game” so to speak. But when April 8th rolled around, the adrenaline started pumping and the weights got loaded on the bars, none of that seemed to matter.

It’s hard to put faith in a process for most human beings, because the longview is hard to maintain. We go for the “quick fix” over anything else, and try to “hack” our way to results.

The truth is, the reason we all did so well is the work we’ve put in, not just in the last 9 weeks, but over a lifetime of training. For some it hasn’t been that long at all, others have been here for a while. But regardless of all that, it’s the quality of the time and work we’ve put in that makes the biggest difference.

After all, excuses(or reasons) are easy to come by. Even as I write this I’m getting shooting pain through my knee from the arthritis I was supposed to have had surgery for before I turned 30(I’m 32 now) but it will probably go away by the end of the week. I was sick last week and my cardio took a huge hit, probably making my form sloppy and limiting me to, oh yeah, a PR or 116 snatches. It wasn’t the best there, but it’s 16 more than 6 months ago, and I can’t lose sight of that.

Paul, Brian, Melony, Steve, and Adrienne also had setbacks. Carpel tunnel surgeries that took longer than expected to heal(too many 5 page reports), injuries (some that happened outside the gym, some from pushing too hard in training), and finding our limits to early on were just a few of the physical aspects that plagued “the training” over the past 2(ish) months, yet somehow new personal bests were attained. Obviously, none of these injuries were serious, some strained muscles here and there(well, only 2 of us, myself included) and a falling incident outside of the gym put a few of us “off” for a bit, but didn’t knock us out of the game.

Travels for business and pleasure were timed almost perfectly in the middle of training, not leaving a whole lot of time to “catch up” at the end, but somehow this didn’t really matter when it came down to it.

There were only a few of us that made it all the way through the training process without missing even a day of training. This doesn’t make them better or worse than anyone else as that has it’s own struggles(being sore while training and finding time are the most frequent yet least of these, not to mention keeping yourself fueled)

I can gladly say everyone exceeded their expectations in spite of the “setbacks” that happened over the last few weeks. If there’s one thing that shined though all of this, it’s the “slow and steady over the long haul” training mentality that is not very common in most gyms. Especially competitive gyms it seems have this idea that every session needs to be a PR session and that if it doesn’t make you throw up, pass out, or puke you’re not working hard enough. That’s fine if you’re 22 and don’t mind not being able to move at 50, but for the rest of us, it’s simply not an option.

We have jobs, kids, grandkids(eventually for some of us) and lives we have to live outside a few hours out of the week where we congregate in our quaint little old post office we call our gym.

To paraphrase Pavel, your training shouldn’t take more out of you than you get from it. That means being able to go and play after you work, being able to tie your own shoes and use the toilet unassisted at 90, and (accidents and illnesses notwithstanding) live to 100, well, that’s my plan at least!

Until Next Time,

Stay Strong My Friends!

~Justin

I’ve Been Slacking, And You Should Be Too

It’s been a bit since I’ve written a blog post…(Feb. 21st according to the “recently published” section to the left of where I’m writing this)

And I have several planned for the near future, and I’m not posting the first one I have drafted up(somewhere on my phone) because I thought you, kind reader, should know why it is I’ve been so, well, absent(minded) as to not post something for your (slight) entertainment and possibly(I hope) education on fitness/martial arts related things.

I can’t multitask.

In fact, none of us can.

I can’t seem to focus on more than 2 or 3 things at a time, and this(unfortunately) is my downfall as a human being that seems to be shared by so many others… even more unfortunately, I seem to be somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to things that are important to me, so I like to focus more than most do on a task which sometimes means other stuff(blog posts) fall by the wayside.

I’m not saying I completely stop focusing on them, when an idea hits me, I pull out my phone, tell the Google device thing to take some notes, and save it for a later post. Some ideas make it, some don’t, but that’s not what I wanted to tell you about this fine day.

See, I have been busy with some other goals that have taken up much focus and time, some personal, some professional, but goals are goals nonetheless…

So when I start in on something I work on it, almost to a fault sometimes, with everything I have. This is something I need to work on as well as sometimes I don’t leave any in the reserve tank as my girlfriend constantly points out to me.

However, I’ve figured out in my short time as an adult that if I’m going to do something I need to do it all the way and not let anything derail me, if I get sidetracked I know the project won’t get finished.

I have not been doing much competing these days since I broke my face(literally) at the last TaeKwonDo tournament I attended before my knee gave out and had to stop the match(I literally couldn’t stand up… stupid arthritis). But one thing has been in my sights – the Tactical Strength Challenge put on by none other than StrongFirst(the finest group of professional kettlebell peeps I know) and I’m determined to get over 100 snatches this time in addition to not pulling any abdominal muscles on my deadlift. I could care less about the pull-ups, I just want to break 100 snatches.

Why?

I know if I focus on my deadlift for a while, I can do over 400 no problem(maybe October) and too many pull-ups hurt my poor achy elbows, and I way exceeded what I thought I could do last time around anyway… but the snatches are the bane of my existence.

I want to get to the point where I can do 100 snatches with a 24kg bell any day of the week without having to train for months on end to do so.

As you might remember, I didn’t pass my snatch test at my Level 1 certification, and had to re-test(I chose the TSC to do this) not too long after, and this too barely happened. I literally did my last snatch with 1 second left, probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life.

If I can make that seem easy, I KNOW I’ve gotten stronger as a whole person.

This takes lots of recovery, time to train, and, oh yeah… more time to recover.

In addition to this, part of my training has had to be skipped because about 2(ish) weeks ago whilst squatting, I got into the bottom position and couldn’t get up, my knee was starting to give out. So, I’ve had to modify my squat day to an accessory deadlift day, meaning, more time for recovery…. yay…

Anyway, this in addition to some other personal things that I don’t want to mention here, and the fact that my girlfriend and I have been working like fiends to get a house down the street from us, I’ve not had a lot of time.

The point to all of this is that sometimes life gets crazy, some of it is self-inflicted(TSC training/house/etc…) and sometimes “stuff” just happens that makes the day seem overwhelming.

Priorities come into play here, and I’ve decided to choose just a few things that I really need to focus on and get them done right so I have my ducks in a row for other things that are coming down the pipeline.

When trying to find balance in your life, this is no easy task, you really have to take a step back and look at what you really need to get done, put your time into that, and let the other “important” stuff wait for another day, after all, if it was really that important you would have made it your top 3 anyway.

A little quick piece of advice before I finish this very rambley post, check out Dan John’s ideas on this idea of qualifying your situation by using the traffic light as a gauge for where you are in life. He uses the areas of Work, Rest Play, Pray and I think it seems like a good structure for gauging where you are in life… I decided to do more rest recently since I don’t like teaching classes feeling like a zombie, and my students don’t enjoy this either(yay for naps!).

At minimum, try not to feel like you need to get everything done yesterday… if you feel like you’re running a marathon at a full out sprint pace… well… you might just be overdoing it.

Stay Strong My Friends.

~Justin

Getting The Most Out Of Your Drills

There’s a lot of martial arts out there, and a lot of good stuff along with a lot of not so good stuff.

Regardless of technique, because that’s a whole other topic, HOW you train is much more important than WHAT you train. (This will also help weed out some of the junk by the way.)

Something I’ve always embraced is training to hit the target you’re aiming at. This doesn’t seem like a radical concept, in fact, it’s almost common sense, however, what you will notice if you look at how most martial arts schools perform drills they actually miss quite a bit.

Missing is okay, with the right mindset, and whichever way you train you should make sure you stick with a particular system until you get the hang of it. Let’s cover a few.

Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail.

Mindset is key with any sport that you are involved with. Martial arts and self-defense training is no different. It involves physically demanding tasks that, at minimum, feel like an all out sprint in winter clothes(think Antartica wardrobe) whilst breathing through a straw in the middle of a hot July day in the middle of the desert, or something like that…

Somewhere in the middle of that you have to be able to hit a moving target with precision and force, maybe manipulate some joints, and, oh yes, have some sort of awareness as to what is going on. Did I mention that’s just a controlled sparring/competition environment with rules and referees, oh yeah, and paramedics standing by… what about if we notch it up a bit and remove the little “safety catches”? Changes things a bit, doesn’t it…

How much time do you really have to “think” your way through the situation?

The answer is, you don’t.

A punch coming at your face is the worst time to dig into your “bag of tricks” to see what one you should pull out… You have to train your reactions to be spot on and be able to improvise a bit if need be. This is similar, in some capacity, to playing high impact sports(think hockey/football/rugby) with much higher stakes than just winning or losing. In fact, the stakes could very well be your life. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is the truth.

To successfully “compete” at this game, your training ahead of time is of the utmost importance.

Don’t go with the Hollywood movies on this one friend. You can’t have a 1980’s style montage of training for 5 minutes then suddenly become a master… life doesn’t work that way.

It’s not as much about the physical as you think, it’s the mental game that gets you to where you need to be, and I can tell you right now, if someone attacks me, and my life(or my kids/girlfriend/family members) is at stake, that person is going to immediately regret their decision.. I have mentally prepared myself to know what I am, and am not, cool with doing to get safely out of a life threatening situation(let me tell you, there isn’t a whole lot left off the list). This is the level you need to play the game at to be able to show up again next week for practice.(sorry for all the sports analogies… but not really)

Jonathan Shellnut & I drilling several variations on leg kick defense. This particular drill had about 5 variations off of just 1 kick!

Without rambling too much, here’s a few strategies on how to get “the most” out of your training.

  1. Aim to HIT!
    This, I cannot stress enough. When you are practicing any type of striking, make sure you hit the target(the very small target) that you pick out for yourself – i.e. nose, temple, sternum, bladder, groin, you get the point. Make sure you practice this on a live human being, at least some of the time. Remember, Aim Small, Miss Small.
  2. Miss, but with Power
    Missing isn’t the worst thing in the world, if you add about 85% effort to the technique you just thew out there. The idea behind this strategy is to be able to go “all out” as it were without damaging your training partner. But there is a trick to this method that most people miss(see below) and it is a game changer when you know what the “secret” behind the drill is.
  3. The Power Of 3’s
    Our body picks up on things when we are a little odd in our practice. Not odd like doing goofy stuff, but odd like numbers, 3, 5, 7, like that. 3 seems to be a good number for a few reasons. I picked this up from Iain Abernathy a few years ago, here it is – Practice 3 strikes to the exact same spot. This does a few things, first of all, in a real situation, your first strike probably isn’t going to land, the second might(but won’t be that strong), and the third… that’s the money shot. Worst case, you nail the target with full force for all 3 repetitions, bonus. It also aids in the 1st strategy mentioned above, hitting your target and should be practiced solely with that other strategy in mind(sorry, missing does not work for this one)
  4. SLOW IT DOWN!
    We do this fantastic sparing drill where literally everything goes, but at 25%. That’s 25% power, 25% speed, 25% intensity. This allows you to be more “expressive” in your defense and gives you a key insight into how you would actually react in a situation. The best part is, it’s smooth, smooth is fast from what I remember, and fast is strong, so really smooth + fast = strong. If there is any hiccup anywhere, your body will have time to sort through this and “fix it” for the next time, if done with too much speed, well, then… I just wouldn’t want to be in your shoes when you get attacked if all you practice is speed… (speed is a great way to hide bad technique)

I’ve showed you the door, now here’s the KEY…

Bang for your buck, these are the best ways to practice drills for whatever your train.

For every drill, the following should be your thought process:

I would have ______. Fill in the blank for whatever component you left out, I would have followed through on that or I would have hit ____ (target), etc…

Without this last component, the training is rendered utterly useless and you won’t be able to 1. Hit hard enough 2. Hit what you intended 3. Follow through with the technique or any other “thing” that can go awry in the heat of the moment. Remember this – you will only do 50% of what you practice. That means it will be twice as sloppy, 1/2 the power, 1/2 as accurate and so on, train for perfection, always.

This is why mastery is so important in whatever you do. If you are not constantly working to improve/hone your technique & skills, you are training for failure. (This applies to anything you do, not just martial arts/self-defense.)

In summary, your biggest takeaway should be the mindset of the training trumps all else. Understand the components of the drill and, most importantly, understand that the drill is just that – a drill. The drill will not save your life unless you know how to apply it effectively.

This is what separates the “McDojos” who are guaranteeing black belts in 2 years(just out for money) from the “old school” places who want their students to survive an attack or, preferably, avoid one all together.(see, mindset).

Get your head right, and you’ll go far, no matter where the road takes you…

Stay Strong My Friends!

~Justin

More Is Not What You Should Be After

More Is Not What You Should Be After

I don’t want to have the most…

I thought of this whilst on LinkedIn the other day… “some of these people have THOUSANDS of connections! I wish I…” and I cut my thought off…

I don’t wish I had thousands of connections.

I don’t wish I had thousands of students.

I don’t wish I even had thousands of dollars in my pocket.

After all, we all know that person who has “the most” of everything like they’re trying to win at the game of life (or whatever) by collecting as many friends/dollars/cars/business connections, you name it. And they remind me of the pigeon from the movie Storks. Trying to be everything to everyone. I’m sorry, but that’s not what life is about, at least in my opinion.

I am more concerned about the QUALITY of the people I interact with.

So, I went through and cleaned out my people I’m connected with down to the people who seem to fit with my ideals and standards of someone I’d want to ethically, and mutually, do business with.

I don’t have any business connecting with someone professionally that doesn’t fit, morally, what I believe is right as a business owner or trainer.

I don’t have any business working with someone who’s focus is all about caloric expenditure and immediate gratification(here’s a cookie Billy, nice job!), that’s not how the world works, and it’s just not how I roll…

Have you taken a look at your standards lately?

If so, do the people you interact with hold you to those, or higher versions of, those standards? If not, it’s probably time you looked for a “new group” to associate with.

If you hang around bodybuilders at the gym, guess what you’ll end up looking like… yeah, an overinflated human being who has trouble bushing their teeth, washing their own back, or combing their hair… all of which can be problematic.

I think you get the point.

Chose where you invest your time wisely and realize, like I have, that you can’t be everything to everyone. I’m not the guy to train someone to be Mr Olympia or the next Crossfit Games champ, but I can help you move better and build some strength(along with looking sexier as a byproduct).

Quality Trumps Quantity, Every Time.(There is no exception to this rule)

This was just a long winded way of letting you know that what I invest my time in most is improving how people do things so they can do more, if they want, and without getting hurt *gasp*. Which is more than I can say for some other fly by night organizations who love high repetition everything and make it a habit to injure the people they set out to “help”(somehow).

I’m not out to change the whole world, just a few people in it. And yes, I would like to help as many people as possible, but they have to be willing to show up and do the work so they can get the results they want. It won’t be easy, quick, or cheap, but let’s be honest, do you really want to embody those qualities? Think upon that as you continue to enjoy this fine day…

Stay Strong My Friends

~Justin

Assumption Might Be The Death Of You

Assumption Might Be The Death Of You

I’m not being figurative here.

We all know the old saying, when you “Assume” you make an a$$ out of you and me.

But I’m afraid this is a best case scenario at times…

See, when you start getting into “The Arts” as I have (oh, I’m not talking about paintings and pottery, I’m talking about the “Martial Arts”), you start to notice things… like “Assumptions” that people make while training or even developing a system.

A lot of times if you only work with one or two people this is fine, that is if your goal is to only ever have to defend yourself against that particular human being.

But when you get out into the real world and flexing those “gym muscles” doesn’t do the trick anymore, you’re going to be faced with some hard realities.

A real fight is disorganized, chaotic, has no rules, and no time limit, oh yeah… no referee to stop the action. You shouldn’t try to “predict” anything, and you should assume nothing. We are constantly coming up with new scenarios for “things” and always seem to find new ways someone might attack you in a real fight.

You never actually know what someone else is going to do

Training a technique and assuming that person is going to react a certain way could literally be a death sentence.

I’ve been brushing up lately on my escrima training, and what I’ve noticed with some of the good ol tried & true taining systems is they’ve gotten used to people basically doing what they’re coached to and have taken all of their natural reactions away so they can “attack the right way”.

Honestly, when are you going to get the opportunity to say “Mr. Attacker, could you please punch/grab/grope me this way, oh no, you were supposed to bend forward when I hit you in the stomach…” and so on with such nonsensical thinking.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place to train specifics but it has to be part of a larger picture. I think of it like this…

We teach (basically) 4 major joint locks at my school(yes, there’s variations…), and off of those 4 locks, there are hundreds of possible techniques that we learn, and those are just the ones that we train… I’m not saying there isn’t more, because I can guarantee there is.

So, when we train and someone says “you’re attacking me wrong” that’s simply not true, there is no “wrong way” to attack someone.

You can see where assuming can get dangerous.

If you’re more focused on the fact that the pre-packaged “one size fits all” defense you had set up for that particular attack, you won’t be able to defend yourself when “something” is off (their hand is turned the wrong way or their feet are backwards or they punched you in the wrong spot, you know “that” type of thinking). YOU WILL FREEZE and whatever “thing” you had planned simply won’t happen.

It’s easy to get caught in traditions and the “this is how we’ve always done it” type of thinking that seems to be in most martial arts schools where their instructor is a master of only their ‘dojo’ but nothing else.

This is why I train outside my comfort zone on a regular basis, get my ass handed to me by some people and learn a thing or three(if I’m lucky). Because I know I won’t be able to learn/teach everything, and I pick up more from my beginner students(especially the kids who have absolutely zero inhibitions) because they haven’t been caught in the stigma of “do it my way” type of training.

Let me finish with this, there isn’t a whole lot of bad techniques out there, if executed properly you can make almost anything work, depending on body type of you and the other person. If your defense is kicking them in the groin, well, you probably didn’t need those 6 years of Brazilian JiuJitsu training and the purple belt that came with it, stay off the floor and run the hell away!

A few things to bear in mind…

1. If it wouldn’t work on someone a) Bigger, b) Stronger, c) Faster, d) Meaner, e) Smellier than you, don’t use it. If you’re not sure, have a 6 year old try it on you, if they can’t pull it off, don’t use it.
2. Never Assume The Person’s Reaction to a situation. I’ve seen people do all kind of crazy things, almost none of them react the same, have a backup plan. To quote Bobby Maximus – “If Plan A doesn’t work, there are 25 more letters in the alphabet”. Use them!
3. Train to hit. Too many people don’t want to risk hittin their partner, but both people are working on the drill, you’re training to hit them, they’re training to defend a legitimate threat… not a punch that misses them by 6”.
4. Anything you do with partners should be thought of an “If Then” type of training. If they grab _____ then I do _______ and try to find different ways to fill in the blanks.

I could probably go on, but you wouldn’t read more of my rants, in fact, my students get sick of hearing this stuff I’m sure, but I’m kinda preachy about things that are, well, important.

If you want some more “good advice” outside of my meager little writings, I suggest you find an instructor, like myself, who adopts these and other sensible training philosophies. Also, if one is not available in your area, I’d look to guys like Rory Miller, Iian Abernathy, and Tony Blauer for some half-sane advice…

And don’t forget to use your common sense! If something seems fishy, it probably is… (because I told you to is not a good reason for performing a technique, just sayin)

Have a Strong Day!

~Justin

For Some Reason I Still Enjoy This…

For Some Reason I Still Enjoy This…

I woke up this morning feeling like I was hit by a locomotive
(or a bus, maybe even a dump truck, not sure what exactly)

I know, not the best way to start off a post about “fitness” stuff… In fact, I sometimes wonder to myself “why the deuce am I even training anymore if I feel like this”(from time to time). And I think the answer always comes to me as quick as does my kids urge to have to go to the bathroom as soon as we get in the car for a nice long trip.

I keep doing “this”(this being training of course) because even though it takes me a minute to get moving and do some mobility stuff in the morning, I know things could be far worse.

For example, I could feel like I did when I trained martial arts only with no strength & conditioning back in good ol Hartland before my friend Master Ian Jensen discovered Pavel. Sometimes I think I’d like to curse him for introducing me to those nasty little buggers (like during my training yesterday or this morning) but I know I used to hurt much worse after training sessions before the Kettlebells rolled around.

I used to have trouble lifting my shoulders above my head without pain… seriously, taking those puppies through just about any range of motion(even unloaded) was something I cringed to think about, now, it’s only every so often.

I also remember how much my knee(it’s arthritic) used to bug me and cause me to not be able to walk up the stairs in my house without some type of choreography.

I remember a lot of things that used to be worse.

So the question is…

Are you avoiding training because of a few times of being “a little sore”. I’m not talking about the way some trainers beat people up so they can’t sit on the John for a few weeks at a crack after every session… I’m talking about that slight achy feeling that prevents you from doing some stuff, but allows you to otherwise function normally.

If so, consider the following.

How long will this last?(really) My achy shoulder and sore… well, everything, is already starting to dissipate and will likely be gone by the time I’ve had my breakfast. However, the pain I used to live with was for days at a time, and that my friends, is just not acceptable to me.

How long will eventual chronic issues last if you aren’t proactive/treating them. We all see the older folks walking around with severe joint and muscularskeltal issues(posture like a ?, in a wheel chair, using a cane), and you always have to wonder… could that have been prevented. A lot of times using reasonable fitness training could have kept joints and therefore muscle health in tact, even at a more “distinguished” age.

Just to give you a quick idea of what this training has done for me over the past 8 or so years, when I was 22 I was told that I would need to have surgery on my left knee before I was 30… that was 10 years ago. Will I have to eventually, probably, as I feel it limits me in some ways to where I won’t push myself when I normally could because of that slight fear hanging over my head “what if…”

But in the end, having done nothing vs the barrage of crap I put myself through at least 5-6 days a week would have been much, much worse for my overall health and wellbeing, and that’s not a lie.

So make the right considerations when you’re looking at wether or not to stick with something because a little bit of “perceived pain” in the short term because the long term goal will be worth far more than you can ever imagine.

I’m going to leave you with a quote from Eric Thomas that I absolutely love:

“Pain is temporary, it may last for a minute, or a day, or even a year… but eventually, it will subside. But If you quit however, it will last forever”

Stay Strong My Friends.

~Justin

Do It Anyway, Feel Like It or Not

Do It Anyway, Feel Like It or Not

This goes against what most of us naturally do…

Showing up and doing work even if we are; Tired, Emotional, Have a Headache, Sick(a sneeze or cough kind of sick, not death stuck on the couch sick…)

Let me be clear about this, I am not talking about going into an “all out” battle against you and the clock or one upping your old Personal Best, don’t even push yourself, just do the work you had planned and go home. I’m also not talking about training with a serious injury… still train smart, the idea is get the work done.

Punch The Clock.

The benefits of this are (at least) twofold.

1. You Improve Your Discipline & Resilience
2. You Don’t Fall Behind On Your Goals

THere’s probably more reasons, but hey, I think these two are good enough for 99.999% of us out there.

I’m not asking you to do something I’m not willing to do myself, I’ve had plenty of days in the past few years and even recently where I can barely drag myself out of bed, but somehow I mustered up the strength to get through the session.

From experience I can say this made me a stronger person, and I’m not talking about just physically…

So next time you find an “excuse” not to go in to the gym remember, there are people out there who:

Have less time
Have less money
Have less health
Have less limbs (no joke…)
Have less _________(fill in the blank)

That show up, put in the work(in spite of their circumstances) and they Just. Keep. Moving.

Stay Strong My Friends.

~Justin

It Ain’t About That…

It Ain’t About That…

I remember hearing this thing on a motivational type video a while ago…

I can’t remember who said it, or even if it’s exactly what he said, but I loved the idea behind the one bit that stuck with me.

It was something like this:

Folks, it ain’t about that…

Deep, right?

Here’s the thing, as with most anything, getting “in shape” or belonging to a gym, etc… really isn’t about what you think it is. I mean after all, if we all knew exactly how to do what the pros do, we’d all be pros, right?

So change your mindset. Here’s how we are told to think, and this also turns TONS of people away from what does work(and what matters) toward things that DON’T WORK (and don’t matter)

There’s no treadmills or cardio equipment…
Good

The equipment is rusty and I think that’s tape not vinyl on the bench press thing over there…
So?

It looks like they raided a scrap yard to get their gear.
And your point is?

The main stream wants you to think things are a certain way. With all of these “overnight” or “2 week” transformations, it’s hard to tell what actually works. I recently heard something by Dan John(you should check his stuff out by the way) that really hit home for me…

After your (insert length of time) challenge, then what?

I believe Dan used 90 days and asked about day 91, but the important thing is does it keep working? The answer is usually, if I’m honest, no.

Remembering that Everything Works (for about 6 weeks…) you should keep in mind that the things most people tell you that matter probably don’t.

Here’s the thing I challenge you to do the next time you’re considering someone’s advice.

-Are they trying to sell you something(equipment, supplements, programs, etc.) and if so, what are the (real) results.
-Did they follow their own advice to get to where they are?(or would they be willing to)
-Did the people who (said they) used the program/equipment/miracle pill actually use it and what do they look like now(after they’re done with said protocol). Think “where are they now”, you know, that child celeb/one hit wonder thing…

Remember, it’s not about the shiny new weights…

The gym may not be clean, it could be cold and dimly lit, the weights might be worn/rusty, or the instructor may be homely or unkempt(okay, that could be a deal breaker) but in the end, it’s all about the results your going to get for your well invested time.

I know people who train out of their freaking garage and are stronger, leaner, and generally “more fit” than 90% of the gym going population who show up to use the treadmill & stepper. In fact, some of the “godlike” figures we’ve come to compare to from ye old times were carved out using nothing more than heavy, awkward, objects and typically strength(not weight loss) was the goal.

Okay, I can’t not put this here, because 1. I love Jim Gaffigan 2. It’s hilarious 3. It’s true 4. It immediately popped in my head when I typed stepper…

Honestly, the focus should be somewhere else than what we are told you “should do” to get in shape. Seriously, unless you have a full time photoshop, a team of people prepping your meals, or dedicate every waking hour to your training, you won’t be on the cover of a magazine with your shirt off or in a swimsuit… Also keep a few things in mind

It’s not about being the best…
…being the skinniest…
…being the strongest…
…being the most muscular…

It’s just not about what you are told to think it is.

What it’s really about is being better.

Be better than you were the last time you stepped in the gym, do a little extra than what’s expected and you’ll get the extra results. It’s really that simple.

I saved this for the end, in case anyone read this far…

Programs that take the longest to get the results tend to have the longest lasting results.

Stop with the fly by night infomercial workouts and products and do something that works – Move Better. Get Stronger.

Live by that and I can guarantee that your results will stick around far longer than that veggie smoothie cleanse you did (for 2 of the 14 days) and couldn’t stick with.

Stay Strong My Friends.

~Justin