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

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

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

Why HOW You Move Is More Important (Part 1)

Why HOW You Move Is More Important (Part 1)

“More isn’t better, it’s just more”

Movement is one of those things that, I feel, is one of the biggest reasons for people giving up on an exercise program. Not the fact that they’re moving, but that they’re moving poorly leading to frustration and eventually abandonment of the noble endeavor they set out on…

Let Me Set The Scene.

I’m at a friends house for a gathering, talking to someone at a function or whatever… and the conversation of fitness comes up. Naturally, someone decides to speak their clearly well thought out opinion of what “working out” should be… clearly they’ve done all the research that Facebook meme’s and YouTube “experts” make available to us…

Here’s what usually goes down.

“What do you have against Zumba”(or pick an arbitrary thing…)

“Honestly, I don’t want to be here all night debating the why’s and why nots of doing certain exercise programs, let’s just say I have my reasons”

“Well, as long as people are moving and doing something that should be enough.”

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s like saying something like “I know my car needs work, so I’m just going to drive it more and the problem will just take care of itself”

The reason I hate having these conversations, and typically avoid them at all costs, is people haven’t done their homework. I’m far from an expert, but I know who the experts are, and for some strange reason I care about the well being of people I don’t even know or barely know beyond just a few days a week for 45 min of interaction.

When people won’t listen to reason and refuse to look at the results of both sides of thinking criticize you for not seeing things from their point of view, you see the hypocrisy, they clearly don’t know that the research has been done, time was put into a decision of what direction to go, and more research is constantly taking place(in my case to the tune of about 10-20 hours a week at least)

Movement is one of those things that we do as human beings

Some of us do it much better than the rest(athletes), some who can’t move well at all, and then there’s some of us who are…. let’s say in between. And how you move determines the quality of what you do and your ability to continue to do said activities for (hopefully) years to come.

Before we go on…

A part of what inspired me to post this little rant (which will be a 2 parter, this is part 1, part 2 will show specific movements and the why’s and why nots of the how to’s and so on…) is that I recently saw a video posted by a few trainers at a local 24 hour establishment doing some demos of “exercises” to do so you can get in a “good workout” before the holiday gorge fest that is Christmas coming up.

This is a fantastic idea…. except for the fact that they showed, what I think, was bad  technique.(and I’m sure several people would cringe at the sight of this with me if they’d seen it)

Before you consider me “That Guy”

I UNDERSTAND that not every coach can do what some of their clients do, hell, I have a guy who can out-lift me any day of the week, but what he needs isn’t heavier weights, it’s better movement(we literally spent 30 min on stretching & mobility the other day).

Here’s the caviot… these are not “out of shape” or otherwise restricted individuals, in fact, looking at them you’d think they’re quite fit… and you’d be right. The definition of fitness after all is the ability to perform a task. That being said, the more efficiently you perform it, the better your body will adapt, the better (and longer lived) the results.

As someone who has some restricted movement patterns myself, I’m well aware of the fact that nobody is perfect, however, you will never see me put up a video saying “do this” with bad form on the movement.

Here’s why

We’re visual creatures.

Part of how we learn is by watching what others “do”. Personally, I picture how those people look in my head as I’m performing said activity to try and give my brain something to focus on(besides the fatigue 😉 ).

So if you see someone doing something that is a “qualified professional” you would assume that how they’re doing it is the correct way.

Alas, this is not always the case.

In fact, I know there’s things I personally cannot do (yet) but I have students(clients) who can. and I can coach them to do the movement the proper way because of the hands on training I’ve had in the past. But you won’t see me putting up any pictures or videos of me doing a sub-par performance on said movement.

I think I’ve made my point.

We’ll wrap up Part 1 with this little tidbit from Gray Cook on movement:

“…think about it… getting into a good position is probably more important than increasing your strength 10 more precent. Most elite level golfers work on their precision and execution of their posture and movement patterns knowing if they will just get the right biomechanical lines of attack as they swing they will be more efficient. That’s why they spend more time with a golf club working on their mechanics and technical precision than doing bicep curls or kettlebell presses. They appreciate that strengthening their body will help, but no amount of strength in the world is going to make you efficient if part of your strength is used to overcome your own stiffness or work against your own malalignment. The object of efficiency is to be able to reproduce an activity with some degree of technical precision so as not to wast e energy.

If your complete training paradigm is just complete caloric expenditure, with no regard for accomplishment, then, it doesn’t really matter what you do. You can take someone who’s morbidly obese and moving poorly and just make them move in any number of ways and they will have caloric expenditure. But if you do that often enough, guess what? Their lack of integrity and precision in movement is going ot bring them up against early fatigue, where they won’t really achieve most of their metabolic efficiency and therefore thye really won’t lose weight and they won’t get in shape quick, they’ll just hit fatigue, create lactic acid, go into a poor breathing state, get tired, and go eat. Or, they’ll have an orthopedic issue.

So either way your quest for caloric expenditure should be sidelined and what you should do is create a situation where, even if weight loss is your goal, go for technical precision, movement correction, movement efficiency whenever possible. Make your people as efficient as possible and believe it or not, work levels will become more pleasurable and they’ll be able to do more and at the same time reduce musculakeletal risk of a setback injury as they’re getting in shape.” -excerpt from The Gray Cook Lecture Compendium

Don’t take my word for it, Gray is the head athletic trainer for Reebok as well as the “go to” guy when someone is broken beyond what most people can fix.

In part 2 I will cover a few things on the movement side of it in more “visual” detail. (my favorite, picture story!!)

Until next time… Stay Strong My Friends!

~Justin

How To Survive The Holidays(Without Gaining 1,000 Pounds)

How To Survive The Holidays(Without Gaining 1,000 Pounds)

In-laws and crazy family members aside, the next worst thing for you this holiday season has to be the amount of food that we end up consuming as a result of “emotional eating”.

Some of us have it better than others, while in a lot of cases(at least from what I hear) some people’s families actually drive them to drink copious amounts of “adult beverages”. I’m talking the amount normally reserved for college students on spring break…

Apart from the obvious advice of not bringing as much of the substances in question along to aid in the ritualistic overconsumption we call holidays, I have a really simple piece of advice you can use for these and other such occasions, to alleviate some of the guilt and stress associated with the consumption meant to, ironically, cope with stress…

Go To The Gym and Work A Little Harder The Next Day.

I’m not talking about the treadmill here… those extra 500 steps on your FitBit aren’t going to cut it…

You have to really work hard.

Here’s some of my prescribed “routines” to burn a few of those extra holiday calories your family helped you jam down your throat so you could avoid saying what you really wanted to in reaction to their inappropriate comments:

Metabolic Training: This is a bit harder to describe, but for simplicity, Kettlebell complexes seem to work amazing for this. One of my favorite(and I’m sure is your’s too) is Armor Building (2 double cleans, 1 double press, 3 double front squats) plus 300 swings. Just this little guy will burn upwards of 1,000 calories, if you pick the right weight that is…(don’t go light!)

Heavy A$$ Lifts: Back Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Overhead Press, anything that requires every single fiber in your being to move the weight would be appropriate for this one.

Olympic Lifts (barbell): Not an area of my “expertise” but I’m told this is a very good way to work up a sweat. Do some On The Minute training or a complex (similar to a kettlebell complex). Push yourself a little harder than normal.

Sprinting: Sprints are a great “no equipment required” workout, pick a distance that will take you about 20 or so seconds to run, or grab a timer and sprint for 20 seconds. Sprint 5-7 times resting only 10 seconds between sprints then rest a few minutes(at least 3…) between series. I’d recommend only doing this about 3 times. Want a challenge? Take the sprints “vertical” and go up a hill with them. Need more you say? Add a set of 8 kettlebell or barbell front squats beforehand, rest about 3-5 minutes between sprints, repeat 3 times. (don’t forget the rest…) Kettlebell swings and a hill work well too I’ve been told(about 30-50 swings before you sprint)

I could go on, but my girlfriend might get mad at me for working too much on a Sunday morning when I’m supposed to be drinking coffee and playing this new game I’ve introduced her to called “grab ass”, apparently she likes it, and I’m a fan myself.

So to sum it up, take the moral highroad and don’t eat the junk(especially the booze, sorry). When that’s too much mental and emotional stress, don’t stress, work a little harder tomorrow. Probably not the best nutritional advice in the world, but I’m told it works wonders for you soul.

Have a great holiday season, and Stay Strong My friends.

~Justin

 

Embrace The Tension

Some of you may have seen the Instagram post from last week of just water bottles with the question of “what the heck do these have to do with kettlebells?”img_20161013_124720

And if I had to guess at your guess you probably thought the water bottles were a representation of the amount of hydration you need throughout the day if you’re training hard(I mean there was a lot of them…).

However, if you guessed that, I’m afraid you’d be wrong.(Nice try though)

The water bottle is a handy little tool we use to create some more tension while doing a military press. The Spark in the background doesn’t hurt either, but for the purpose of this little post, we’ll focus on our ol friend the water bottle!

When you do the one arm press it’s a lot of stress on just one side of your body, this causes a slight “imbalance” in muscular tension on the non pressing side, so we fix that. How? By grabbing the water bottle and squeezing it, you know, like Mindy from the Animaniacs when she found a new “pet” to torture(remember that show? Thought not, oh well…4608217553_7d54179ba2_b)

906545-9f12e492-3db3-11e4-a57a-52576a558724This builds massive amounts of tension on the opposite side of the pressing arm and gives a nice audible “crunch” sound so you know the timing of said tension, and your breath, is spot on with the start of your press. Honestly, you could probably use this principle for almost any one arm exercise…

By creating more tension throughout your body you actually get a little more “power” than if you would just try to “lift” the weight without bracing the rest of your body for the load.(you know, squeeze the thighs, brace the abs, cramp the glutes) On top of the extra horsepower you’ll gain, you reduce the risk of injury due to lack of stability in the shoulder.

I picked up the water bottle trick from my friend Ryan Toshner some time back and have used it with great success. It has helped not only in my own training, but many of my students push past what they could do previously. Hardstyle Planking is another way to work this same type of tension principle, a little trick I picked up that from my team leader Ric Garcia at my StrongFirst cert, and has also worked wonders for the press as well as the squat, swing, pull-up, heck, everything!

These are just a few of the several tricks I have in my arsenal, and I have so many in fact, I may actually chose to hand out tricks instead of treats this year for halloween… we’ll see how generous I am.

Since we’re on a “strength” cycle currently(trying to improve our personal bests) I figured this was appropriate…

Like I said, there are so many tricks to creating tension I couldn’t possibly fit them all in one post.

john_gill_-_one_arm_lever
1 handed front lever, probably the best demonstration of how to hold tension out there(most extreme version of a plank!)

So I won’t even try.

I’m going to sprinkle them throughout several posts over the next few months, so keep an eye out if you want some more tips on how to push past a barrier and crush your old “best performance.” Until the next one, keep working that press and see if you can’t push beyond your current limits and smash your old record!(I’m going for 5 reps with the 32kg myself)

Have a Strong Day!

~Justin

The Strength Principle

The Strength Principle

Over the past weekend of training with my Hapkido Instructor (Master Dan Piller) we had a chance to explore what makes us, well, us….
(at 9,000 ft above sea level!)

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In other words, we explored what makes us stand apart from the crowd of martial artists all claiming there’s is the best…

This, of course, was meant to apply to Hapkido and particularly how Master Piller(and I agree with his stance on this) likes to see things done. In short, the idea behind the art(and the main principle) is that anything you do should be able to work on a non-cooperative(typically stronger/meaner) opponent – i.e. train for reality.

I found an inextricable link between what I do as a martial artist and what I do as a fitness professional.

The idea behind the training.

I’m a firm believer in one thing, no matter what you train or do, have some damn principles – and you need to stick to them.

In martial arts, I mentioned it above, in fitness, it’s almost identical. Train For Reality.

Here’s my “Principles” behind what I do:

Hapkido: The Way Of Coordinated Energy(the literal meaning of the art) is based on the principles of Yu(The Theory Of Flowing Water), Won(The Theory Of The Circle), Wha(The Theory Of Harmony).

The reason these aspects are so important to our art is simple – anyone can do a “technique”, however, the technique done without all 3 of these principles applied to it is much more likely to fail than if they were applied(especially against a larger/stronger opponent or attacker, remember, reality).

“It is better to practice a single technique 1,000 times than practice 1.000 techniques only once” is a great quote from my Hapkido instructors manual. And if you read between the lines, you should find a simple fact that is not so obvious to most people…. each repetition should be better than the last in some way, striving for perfection one step at a time.

I like to think of this as “Mindful Repetition”, keeping in mind the idea that “Practice Makes Permanent”(or “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect”).

I could honestly go on quite a bit more than most of you would care to read…. so let’s move on to the next set of principles…

Fitness: **Important Reminder** Fitness(as defined by Dan John) is the ability to perform a task. It is NOT an indicator of health or any such nonsense, in fact, some of the most “Fit” individuals are the least healthy(look at NFL players after they retire if you’re still missing the point).

From this point we should determine some simple things – throwers are fit for the task of throwing(not swimming), just as swimmers are fit for the task of swimming(not throwing), well, you get the point. Keep this in mind no matter what you’re “training” for. Oh, and if you think you’re going to be able to “Train For Anything”, I refer back to Dan John who reminds us that if you’re going to prepare for anything, you might want to prepare for building a spaceship out of dental floss, or fighting off a great white shark with a plastic knife.(I’ve paraphrased this of course, if you want the actual quote, check out Dan’s book “Intervention” or check out any of his blog posts on various, well known & respected, fitness web sites)

With that out of the way, the first, and in my opinion, most important, thing you need to establish is what do you want to be “fit” for…

In other words, you need to find something that fits with your overall vision/goal.(this applies to martial arts too…)

Once you have that established, create a plan and stick with it… please, no “prepare for anything” nonsense… I think we covered the reasons why already…

If you don’t know what to do – Here’s what I suggest: TRAIN TO GET STRONGER.

This involves much more than you think… First, you learn HOW to move, THEN move with heavier weights, progressively, and eventually work up to more complicated versions of the movement(or more difficult bodyweight movements).

Also, sometimes you need to be resourceful… I hear things like this all the time from friends/aquaintences who like to opt out of improving themselves physically when they really need it(even though in reality they don’t want to put in the work…. you know who you are)

“But I don’t have access to weights…”

To which my response is:

You can apply this ‘principle’ to training without weights as well with bodyweight training. It’s a great way to get stronger, it’s easier on your joints, and it teaches you how to create tension once you start progressing to the difficult versions of the movements.

In fact, I hear this type of thing from people all the time when it comes to conversations about fitness and mind bogglingly(at least to me) self-defense. They’re called excuses, and they won’t lose those 5 pound, tone your muscles, or protect you in any way, in fact they accomplish nothing – they especially prevent you from having a set of principles to live/train by, so let’s dispense with them already, okay?

Sometimes, you just need to start where you are to get where you’re going(so please, don’t tell me you need to lose weight before you start working out…)

Back to the idea of Mindful Repetition

Keeping in mind “Practice Makes Permanent”.

If you want to continue to train, become stronger, faster, whatever – you need to focus on technique…. there is no exception to this rule, and it’s why professional athletes are professional and amateurs are, well, amateurs.

The person who spends their time on how they do things is always going to be a better(i.e. more fit for the task) than someone who is JUST DOING THINGS. Talent without skill is useless, yet skill without talent is invaluable to your goals. Talent will always take a backseat to skill(again, mindful repetitions).

Before I go off on another tangent, I’ll wrap up with this….

No matter WHAT you do, the principles you apply need to focus on pursuing perfection.(AGAIN – mindful repetitions. If you aren’t progressing, you’re moving backward.)

This “principle” thing is also a great way to figure out if something is actually worth doing.(or at least if the people helping you are aligned with your overall vision/goal)

-Starting a Martial Art? What’s the instructor/organization’s mindset for the long haul?(do they stop training you at black belt? It’s sad, but it happens all the time)
-Switching career? Is there room to advance within the company?
-Looking for a “personal trainer”? What’s their ability to help you progress after you’ve met your initial goals? Can they make suggestions? Can they help you plan/execute?(you’d be surprised how many can’t even accomplish their own goals, or have none…)

These are the type of questions to ask yourself before starting in on something significant, which, in my mind, is anything you do with your time. We only have so much to dedicate to doing things outside of just making a living, it’s hard to find balance(a constant struggle of mine).

After all, why would you want to take up your precious time doing something that doesn’t directly improve you? Remember, anything worth doing, is worth doing well. And if you keep that mindset, the sky’s the limit my friend.

Stay Strong!

~Justin

Get In Shape In Time For….

Get In Shape In Time For….

“Do This” To Get Fit In Time For Summer!

You’re in luck!  It’s not too late…

Now is the absolute best(worst) time to get in shape for that thing coming up in (insert fast approaching deadline here).

Don’t fall for all of this nonsense.

Expect any lasting transformation to take at minimum 1 year. Let’s face it, it took you how many years to get your body to the point it’s at now? It’s more than a little silly to think that you can look better than it ever has within a few weeks/months(and get it to stick).

You’re Probably Used To This Shtick:
Want bigger muscles in 12 weeks? (Steroids or inject oil into your muscles anyone?)
Want to lose a sh*t ton of weight fast? (You know Liposuction or starvation and laxatives)
Want any other benefit of working hard for something and want it now? There’s bound to be a quick fix out there.

There’s always a quick fix… usually followed up by a rapid relapse to the state you were previously in(or most times worse). This isn’t anything radical, it’s common sense, and (in all honesty) you’ve known this, but choose to ignore it…

The truth is, if you want your results to actually stick around, you’re going to have to work for them. I know, it’s terrible, right! But here’s the good news – once you have it, it’s easy to keep it – and even easier to go beyond it.(Lose more weight, gain more muscle, move even better, get even stronger)

Now that we have all that canned nonsense out of the way…

The cold hard truth about trying to get your body into the state you would like it to be in is this…
If you truly want something and you want to know how to work for it, you’re going to have to do a few things.
FIRST: Find a program that is scalable(built in progressions)
SECOND: Have a list of principles to train by.

Here’s a little list of things I’ve (kind of) recently put together, to make sure you get to your destination. There really shouldn’t be any modifications here, this will leave you no wiggle room for excuses. Here you go:

 

This should be enough to get you on your way to spectacular results(and a sexy new you). If you’re looking for a good training program to follow, check out Strong First’s Blog – they have a TON of materials on there, including some written by close friends(who happen to be masters of everything fitness).

Along these lines – get some mentors. THere’s always people willing to help you out somewhere(whether they know they’re helping or you’re just “stalking” them, like I enjoy doing 😉 ). But seriously, you’d be amazed how much free advice you can get in Facebook Groups(Strong First has Training/Practice Groups for kettlebells, bodyweight, and anything else in between). And the cool thing is, you get advice from people who normally charge, at minimum, $90 for training in person!

I do have to admit, real quick, that I did borrow the above 10 commandments from some friends and mentors (actually, from the people who got these friends started). Gym Jones and TNT (Ryan & Derek Toshner). These guys are at the top of the game, and I could think of no better places to draw inspiration for my list of commandments. I’ve trusted Ryan & Derek with furthering my own training(Ryan has been a great mentor over the course of my kettlebell and business journeys and I even have referred family members to him for training).

Lastly, no matter what you do, make sure they person/people you find are competent and have actually produced results – not just for themselves, but other people in what they do(don’t pick the out of shape instructor with no idea how it feels to lift something over 2x their own bodyweight off the floor while claiming to be a lifting coach…. he has no true insight on every aspect of the training). People that have “done”, even in some capacity, are always better teachers because of their passion for what they do. If they lack that, they really can’t help you(no matter how “motivational” they are). It helps too if you see they’ve been able to transfer that knowledge to other people too!

Anything above and beyond this, you know how to get in touch with me, justin @ post35.net. Or stop by our awesome historic building downtown Hartford, WI. We’ll be glad to help in any way we can.

Stay Strong My Friends!

~Justin

P.S. A little update here… as of Mid April 2017 we will be running a little challenge for ADVANCED trainees to help push through plateaus they’ve hit in their training. You needn’t be familiar with kettlebell exercises, although some proficciency in the deadlift is a huge bonus.

This challenge will be a 4-5 week program and involves a minimum of 4 training days per week. There is no charge for the program, just a commitment to the process. Contact at the email above for details. Serious inquiries only please, I’m limiting this to 5 people.

Home Workout DVDs…. Are They Doing More Harm Than Good?

Home Workout DVDs…. Are They Doing More Harm Than Good?

Is Your Home Workout DVD Delivering The Results You Want?

Chances are, no.

My parents are huge fans of these DVDs and literally have stacks of them in their basement, no lie. Which is great, because it keeps them active – 5 or 6 days a week! But here’s the catch, last week, my mom blamed me for hurting her back… To be fair I told her to use a heavier kettlebell for her workouts(5# doesn’t really do anything for anyone). But essentially my mom hurting her back boils down to the fact that she had no one helping her make sure her movements were correct at home. No one was there to watch her, to answer any questions or concerns she might have. Basically her injury, small as it may seem, happened because DVD’s do not effectively demonstrate how to become more fit.
(Check out this video of the correct technique for the Kettlebell Snatch – supervised by Pavel Tsatsouline)

Don’t take this to mean all of them are bad. There are some who actually have benefits worth your while, but chances are your favorite infomercial celeb trainers are not all they’re cracked up to be.

One popular program (which shall remain nameless) claims to add muscle, burn fat, make you fly… well, maybe not the last one, but they make some pretty bold claims. The only problem with those claims is that they are based off a handful of carefully selected results. One study of this particular 90 day transformation program tested out on several people of various ages and body types ended with a surprising result…. they all increased their body fat %.

Now I know what your thinking… and just bare with me here. Everyone knows or thinks they know that if you workout you should essentially, with enough determination, get rid of fat. Or at least that’s all we’re led to believe. Right?

Doesn’t working out get rid of fat??

And herein lies the truth… High Intensity, Low Weight, High Repetition Exercises INCREASE the amount of fat you will retain. And that’s not always a bad thing, but if it’s not your goal, I wouldn’t recommend it.

We won’t delve into the technical details here, but the main reason is that you are putting your body into a physiological state that retains body fat. Your body does this for use in future activities, such as working out preforming the same workout. It’s similar to running in this sense (but slightly better for you). This is especially a problem if you’re part of the average crowd of “Lean” people trying to get leaner and add some sexy “toned” muscle to your physique.

Which brings us to the next issue…

Time to start that diet
Time to start that diet…

Doctors(yes, damn near all of them – I call them the “smart ones”) recommend not starting these high impact, extremely cardiovascular based programs if you are more than 30# overweight. Yup, just 30#… which really isn’t a lot of extra poundage if you think of it. But the amount of extra stress those “few extra #” adds to your heart and joints is more likely to cause damage instead of do good. The chances of injury skyrocket with this simple type of typical exercise done at home, and this is the demographic that so many of us fall into. (more on this in the future)

Who The F*** is watching you do this stuff?

I said this before and I’ll say it again… Billy, Shawn T, Jillian, Tony, none of these people are actually watching you do the work! They’re relying on your keen sense of self-awareness as to how your body moves, which, if you’re anything like me(or most human beings out there), it’s sometimes off kilter, even if it’s just a bit. My personal observation from the near 1,000 or so people I’ve trained over the years is that (most of us) don’t typically move as well as we should or think we do and yes – I’m definitely included in this.

Jillian-MichaelsSo how can you correct these movements? Is there a “protocol” for even correcting movement? Do the trainers even know how to do this stuff themselves? Well, check out the pic over to the left here… and if you think you could swing a 100# Kettlebell like that and walk away with your back in one piece, congratulations – you have the world’s strongest back. Unfortunately, the rest of the population does not share in your natural gifts…
(Check out the correct swing technique demonstrated by this barbarian fellow on the right)

Correct Swing Technique
Correct Swing Technique

Be Careful What You Fall For

Back to my point of – who’s watching you. Remember when I mentioned how my mom hurt herself swinging a kettlebell wrong?

Sorry Mom, but your workout DVD showed you how to do it the wrong way. What they showed her as a “Snatch” looked closer to some jumpy squatty thing with a pressy-ish thingy than the actual movement.

Obviously, my Mother is welcome to come work out by me any time she desires, but just hasn’t because of unknown reasons. 😉 Although she may change her mind now that she’ll know DVD’s aren’t all they’re hyped up to be.

Now, this isn’t the first casualty, and there will be more. It seems (like almost) everyone owns some or a similar at home workout DVD and they all claim in the DVD to show you their own “Proven System” to do the impossible task of _____ in just _____ minutes a day!!!

Don’t fall for this! Yes hard work = results, NOT some work=results.

Where To Go From Here…

First thing’s first – Find a Professional
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It doesn’t have to be me(but I can be a good guy to work with… just sayin) or even Dawn(nutrition extraordinaire), but it does have to be someone who knows what they’re talking about. It should be someone who has the experience in the field and is educated about how you should be working out.

For starters, if they promise you the workouts alone will take care of the fat loss/results, they’re lying… DIET is king. I’ve seen(and met) people with six packs that have never “worked out” a day in their life, because diet is that important! If you remember the old saying Garbage In = Garbage Out(You are what you eat). It has NO exceptions.

Look for someone who has some formal training in nutrition. Not someone who has just had a weekend seminar or 20 minute online course. Do your homework.

Same goes for trainers – make sure they have True Functional Training Experience and Knowledge!  Check out Gray Cook if you need help. It’s an excellent resource with great tools to help you in your search for fitness. f they don’t put an emphasis on the Quality of Movement over Quantity, then you’re at the wrong gym…

There are good resources, one of my favorite “at home” tools is actually a book by Tim Ferriss. It’s called the 4 Hour Body. (Check out Tim’s Blog fourhourworkweek.com )

Pavel Tsatsouline also offers some great material at www.strongfirst.com, my favorite new “minimalist” workout is Simple and Sinister – The book is only $17.

Do weekend workshops like my friend Ryan Toshner offers at his gym (www.tntperformancetraining.com)

Or just youtube some of Elliot Hulse’s videos, this guy knows his stuff and owes no loyalties to any brand or style of working out. He’s all about becoming the strongest version of YOU, not doing some blanket workout designed to essentially only make money off of you.

You can always contact me too, I do a free consult and 2 week trial for everyone. If it doesn’t work out for you, no problem – take what you’ve learned and move on. If you do stay, then I can help you from there… Otherwise, we have a “secret stash” of workout programs on this site if you know how to find it…(Our Facebook page would be a good place to start).

In short, do homework and don’t believe all the hype that these companies have out there. They’ve stuck millions of dollars into advertising this stuff so it’s “top of mind”, but that does not always ensure “top notch material” Remember Quality over Quantity. And think critically when making decisions regarding your health.

Most of all, enjoy the process of whatever you do, and don’t push yourself too hard. Just do what you can, and focus on small improvements instead of 12 week transformations. Not everyone can do this Biggest Loser type program and sustain it. Just stay the course and enjoy the ride!

Have a Strong Day!

~Justin Green
Owner/Fitness & Martial Arts Coach
PostFit Fitness & Wellness Center
[email protected]
262-951-6317
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