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

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

You Can Take My Advice. (Or You Can Bang Your Head Against The Wall)

You Can Take My Advice. (Or You Can Bang Your Head Against The Wall)

Stop Listening to What The Main Stream Is Telling You.

I know this sounds counterintuitive, since I’m about drop some “knowledge” on you, but hear me out.

Most people will have you believe you have to work yourself to death to get any results from fitness training. In fact, I just saw a commercial for one of the fitness trackers out there(you know, the one who’s companies phones melt through airplanes and such) who made it look like all you need to do is MORE and you will look like the mannequin in the display(who quite obviously was standing next to a barbell, not a treadmill).

While their advertisement may be true on some level, it sends the wrong message…

See, unless you are a professional athlete or maybe special forces(you know, Army Rangers, Navy Seals, Marines…) you don’t need this level of what I call insanity in your training. More isn’t better, it’s just more.

Since most of us don’t live in this area of “fitness” most pro athletes do (and have to get up the next day to go to work tomorrow) and probably want to keep ourselves from having unnecessary injuries, this is an area we probably want to be a little more reasonable…

Take The Simple Route.

Yes, I said Simple, but as I found out when I did Dan John’s “Mass Made Simple” program, the word easy was not included in the title, and for a good reason…

This type of training is not sexy. It’s not something you’re going to see selling millions of copies of DVDs, plastered all over YouTube, or endorsed by the so-called “fitness gurus” who you see on all those infomercials or TV shows.

But when it comes down to it, the people that get the best results(the results that stick) adhere to simple, repeatable, reasonable training… quite simply, reasonable amounts of work and only pushing yourself every so often.

Again, notice the word easy isn’t in the description at all. Just because something is reasonable doesn’t make it easy. If I told you to eat a reasonable diet and yours consists of McDonalds and microwave dinners at the moment, it’s going to be difficult to switch to a reasonable whole food based diet that involves cooking, planning, and preparing meals ahead of time. Reasonable and Simple are not equal to easy…

Don’t Tell Me What You Can’t Do – Tell Me What You Can

I get it, you think you don’t have time to get in shape because fitting a 2-3 hour workout 5-6 days a week seems impossible… The good news is unless you’re trying to become Mr. Olympia or the World’s Strongest Man(or whatever) this type of training isn’t for you anyway.

Start with the absolute least amount you can do.
(And stop killing yourself, and your results)

Make 10 minutes for yourself maybe 2x a week, but DON’T MISS A SESSION! It doesn’t need to be insane… Results come from consistency and progress, but mostly consistency. You can’t expect progress(or results) from a training protocol that takes 3, 4, or 7 days to recover from. It’s too intense, and you won’t catch any (smart) athlete doing trainings like this.

I’m not saying you won’t get some muscle soreness when you first start…

However, your training shouldn’t stop you from performing certain functions – like sitting on a toilet. This is no joke, I know a lady who took 2 weeks to recover from her first ever session she did (not by me), she could barely sit(or walk) for that entire 2 week period… for some reason she went back, probably because she was trying to get the trainer to go home with her…

That level of intensity is reserved for those of us who are in special military operations, in professional sports, or maybe are 20 years old.

The main thing I want you to take away is this.

Find something you can do consistently.

Consistency is the key to success, with anything. Make sure it’s something that you can progress with. I mean really progress with, “I learned this new routine” type thing like they do in Zumba or Jazzercise or something doesn’t count.

I’m talking about things like; adding more weight to a movement, doing a harder version of a bodyweight movement, doing more repetitions, anything that pushes you a little bit past where you were the last training session. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy…

And if you want to do the cool stuff? Well, this is where you have to start, and the people(the smart ones) you see actually doing the stuff started here too. And if you don’t? Let’s just say I’m not going to be the one to say I told you so when you wind up in the ER…

We’re not built to go from zero to 100. Think about it, would you honestly be willing to get up off your couch and go play a game of even college level football or enter an amateur boxing/MMA match much less a professional one? The answer, I hope, is no, because my good reader, you are smarter than that I’m sure of it.

But this is how most people expect to train.

Military personnel doing “Murph” Crossfit WOD, one of the most intense bodyweight trainings dedicated to Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy. 200 push-ups, 300 squats, 1 mile run.

If you wouldn’t play the game at their level, then you shouldn’t train at it. I know, for a fact, that those athletes work harder in training than they play. This makes the play easier so they have a little extra left in the tank in case they need it in competition.

Don’t kid yourself, just because you have the “plan” (the sets/reps & movements) they use and think “it looks easy” that it is. In fact, I’ll give you one of the absolute worst trainings you could ever do, and if you can make it through it without puking or fainting, then you must be either (a) a pro, or (b) not doing it right. Her it is:

Barbell Front Squats x8
Sprint 400m

Do this 3 times resting 3-5 minutes between sets.

Doesn’t seem like much, but one of my high school football athletes could barely walk back to the weight after the 2nd set. Oh yeah, he didn’t feel that way after the first one, it kicked in after his metabolism caught up to what he just did…

So, you can keep going after the “High Intensity” cool looking trainings you see people do on the interwebs OR like Dan John says – “Be reasonable, do it my way”

~Justin

P.S. There’s people a lot smarter than me that have written books on this topic, and I’d recommend you check out anything by Pavel Tsatsuouline, Dan John, or Pat Flynn for starters.

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.

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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

You Don’t (Really) Know What Intensity Is….

You Don’t (Really) Know What Intensity Is….

If you’re like most people.

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How you should NOT look after a session.

You probably have this concept of “intense” training as a 45 minute to hour torturous burnout session with things like 1,000 burpees, 500 pull-ups, more burpees, holding planks for 3 minutes instead of resting, thousands of other random “things”… all the while, you’re getting further away from your goals.

The thing most people don’t realize about intensity is it’s something you can do in a very short amount of time while getting much better results(than the aforementioned “HIIT” style classes)

Enter Metabolic Training

Let’s set the scene…

I have a friend who wants to come and “just work out” with me one time(key is usually the “one time”, sometimes it’s twice…) and I tell them we’re going to do a little warm up and then train for 20 minutes… to which they respond “that’s it?” Yes, “that’s it”…

But what they don’t realize is it’s not the amount of time, it’s how you do it. So maybe they shouldn’t have ordered an “ass kicking workout” off the bat and stuck with the more reasonable things I normally have people do.

Anyway, I typically put them through a quick metabolic training session and… oh, what? Metabolic training? Well, I guess I should clarify!

Metabolic training is done using complexes which are a series of movements done in succession that make you feel like yesterday’s lunch is going to come back up on the floor in front of you, they also have this nasty little habit of leaving you feeling like someone sucked the air out the room… and that’s just the first set!

The strange thing is the complexes don’t “look that bad” at first glance(some of them can be literally only 2 movements back to back).

Basically, you put together a series of movements that, on their own, really wouldn’t be that bad to do, but once you put them together(in the correct order with the correct movements) they have this fantastic ability to make you feel like death within seconds of starting the second movement of the sequence.

Don’t worry, that feeling is not for nothing, it’s just your body creating growth hormone, the thing required to help tone/build muscle, in addition they melt body fat like butter in a hot frying pan… the other plus side is they’re typically quite short sessions, less than 20 minutes(20 is the max I would recommend for a majority of human beings).

Here’s an Example of What I’m Talking About:

Dan John(a fantastic strength & conditioning coach) came up with this little combo.

2 Double Kettlebell Cleans
1 Double Kettlebell Press
3 Double Kettlebell Front Squats

See, doesn’t look too bad, right?

Wrong.

This is probably one of the most grueling training sessions you’ll ever do… notice I didn’t say “workouts you’ll ever do”, and there’s good reason.

Part of understanding intensity is understanding how to use it effectively.

Here’s what I mean.

If, for example, the above “Armor Building” complex is just impossible the second time through, you went to heavy. Congratulations, you’re eyes were bigger than your strength, go lighter. If you breeze through it like 15 or 20 times in 20 minutes, you went WAY too light, go heavier. The ideal is 5-8 times in 15 minutes.

Want more of a metabolic hit(for more fat burning) add in some swings and hope for the best.

This training is not for the faint of heart.

We typically do this once a week with my group classes and private training clients, the only exception is my athletes I train – even then it’s a max of 3 days a week(for very short cycles).

Here’s the mistake most “Trainers” make with their clients – They Think More Is Better.

This could not be further from the truth… More is only MORE, and nothing else. It is also the leading cause of disfunction of movements, injuries, increase in body fat percentage, loss of strength, as well as the cause of certain metabolic and health disorders that were not commonplace in the general population(usually just professional athletes) until things like “Interval Training”, Crossfit(the bad coaches), and other similar training methods came about stating in the last few decades.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat…

You don’t always have to create intensity through things that will injure you or otherwise. Here’s a few examples of other ways of varying “intensity”:

On The Minute (or Every Minute on The Minute)

Pick a lift or movement to do, let’s say push-ups, and set a timer to go off once every minute. Perform a set of let’s say for this discussion 8 push-ups, rest for the remaining part of the minute and repeat for between 10-15 minutes. There’s your “upper body” training for the day(trust me, it’s harder than it sounds…)

As the weeks progress, again for this example, add repetitions on making sure there’s still time for rest after their complete.(this too can be done with too much intensity and often becomes a struggle, it shouldn’t be) As the movement gets easier pick a more advanced version to do instead, drop the reps down, and continue on.

Interval Rounds(done properly)

Set a timer for one of the following time schemes: Low Intensity(45 sec work:15 sec rest, 4-5 rounds should do it), Moderate Intensity (30 sec work:10-15 sec rest, depending on your level… about 5 or 6 rounds should do it), High Intensity(20 sec work:10 sec rest, do 5-7 rounds of the same movement)

The rest in between “sets” of rounds should be at least a minute, 2-3 minutes, at least 3 minutes, respectively.

Don’t rest using planks or other silly intense exercises between…. rest means rest. That doesn’t mean stop moving, however, keep moving my pumping your arms back and forth, walking around, easy bodyweight movements or stretching, just don’t stop moving – your heart will thank you later.

Speed of Repetitions

One totally overlooked way to increase intensity by the general population is to use an old bodybuilding trick that not only builds strength, if done with the correct reps/weight/sets it also builds muscle too. Tim Ferriss even dedicated a section of his book “The Four Hour Body” to this very method under “Occam’s Protocol”.

Basically, pick a lift (we’ll say barbell curl) and instead of trying to crank out as many as you can in a certain time – Slow. It. Down!

By controlling the “tempo” of the movement you increase the Time Under Tension effectively creating a bigger “load” on the muscles without increasing the weight. This also helps to clean up technique(I’ve found) because you’re more focused on moving smoothly through the motion. This can also, if done properly, prevent injuries in the future.

U.S. Army Staff Sergeants Brian Weaver, left, from Philadelphia, and Matt Leahart, from O'Fallon, Mo., use exercise equipment in a room that has been converted into the gym on Combat Outpost Munoz, Paktika province, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, 2009. The Soldiers are deployed with Baker company, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne).

Here’s what it would look like:

Grab the bar into the starting position. Start the lift and either have a clock in front of you or count your Mississippi’s for anywhere from 2-5 seconds(longer is crazy intense, but you’re welcome to try it…) until you reach the top of the movement. Once there, pause for one second, and lower slowly.

There’s honestly so many variations on this your best bet is to play with different timing on each lift between training sessions. Oh, one more thing, PICK THE APPROPRIATE LIFT & WEIGHT FOR THIS!! Do not do this with deadlifts(unless you hate your back), also, don’t use close to your max – start light an work your way heavier slowly, it’s harder than it seems.

The optimal range for strength using this is anywhere from 3-6 reps, muscle size is typically 8-12 reps, but these are generalizations and most people respond different to the variations. Side note, these “tempos” are often written out such as (2:1:2) or (5:0:5) or (2:1:4) and so on. The first number is the start, the second is the top/bottom of the move, and the third is returning to the start position.

The big thing you should take away.

Intensity is what you make it. It’s individualized. My level of intensity might be a higher or lower threshold than yours, but that’s honestly okay.

It’s all about pushing yourself to the next level without pushing yourself over the edge. There’s a fine line that needs to be walked, so be reasonable and don’t push yourself to the brink every time you train, reserve it for every so often and work to improve slowly, the results will come faster than you think.

Have A Strong Day!

~Justin

If you’re interested in more ways to bump up the “intensity” of your training, feel free to reach out [email protected] or keep an eye on our Facebook Page for workshops and events.

Can Your Trainer Do, And Why Does It Matter.

Can Your Trainer Do, And Why Does It Matter.

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It’s time for another rant.

I’ve Always Thought This Should Be Obvious….

As a student (of martial arts and strength) I have always surrounded myself with people who, at some level, push me to do a little more than I can myself – by way of them doing “the thing” I’m going to them for of course.

So, when I first got into the “fitness industry” I was, well, appalled at the fact that so many trainers out there not only can’t do what they ask of their clients, sometimes they literally won’t even try.

I’ve always been a “skinny guy”, however, skinny doesn’t mean healthy. I wasn’t as strong as I should have been, and definitely had room for improvement in other areas(flexibility and whatnot). In fact one of my favorite quotes is:

Skinny Girls Look Good In Jeans, Fit Girls Look Good Naked.

I know, kinda riske, but it gets the point across.

I think to better illustrate the point I should really start at the start…

How I Got My Start10446221_643048292464958_1802765198409734958_o.

My first martial arts instructor was a national level competitor. Like, top 5, not an “I showed up and got a participation award” type competitor. He walked away with several awards within the top 3 back at a time when the TaeKwonDo circuit wasn’t turned into a “sport”. In fact, they barely count a punch as a point anymore(ironic considering TaeKwonDo literally means foot, fist, way…)

So, when I say that I’ve learned from some of the best, I’m not kidding. Unfortunately, being a good competitor didn’t make him a great instructor… But I still picked up more than a few things from him by way of just being around him and “learning by example” of how he did what he did.

And It Didn’t Stop There.

In recent years I’ve still surrounded myself with some amazing people.

Currently, my Hapkido instructor, Master Dan Piller, is not only a high ranking (6th Degree Black Belt) Hapkido Practitioner and Secretary General for the World Hapkido Association. He has also competed(and done well in) Judo and TaeKwonDo. In fact, he still does compete in Judo and, surprise surprise, still does well. Mainly because of the attitude he has toward constantly learning and evolving in his training. He passes that on and requires it of all of his students(myself included) so we can constantly be leaning and improving ourselves, and the people under us. He also runs a great little company (Strategic Defense Options or SDO) and has helped empower more people than I could ever count through self-defense trainings all over the world.

My kettlebell instructor Ryan Toshner, is (and he will probably argue this) one of the best in there is. Ryan is very humble, but also very strong and equally as knowledgable. He’s achieved 3 certifications through the Strong First Group as well as other kettlebell certifications over the years. He’s currently a Team Leader, Level 2 Kettlebell Instructor, and has Barbell and Bodyweight certifications through Strong First.

I’ve trained with other great instructors at one time or another over 14 years, as well as some other instructors who were… well, I think they shouldn’t have been teaching people, but I guess I’m just a bit picky. But I’ve gained some valuable insight from every single one of them. (Even though the time may have been short…)

On top of the people who train me, there’s the people I train with.13717359_10154366286566171_6201643383675078156_o

My good friend in Michigan Jonathan Shellnut is an accomplished wrestler, catch wrestler, kickboxing coach(under Eric Paulsen), talented hapkido practitioner, and world renown joke teller… well, as my girlfriend would say, he’s got a lot of “dad jokes”. But they make training fun.

The other students under my Hapkido instructor are just as surprisingly talented as the next. We have ex-military members, current military members(Master Sargent in fact), moms(who you shouldn’t mess with), and people from all walks of life. The crazy thing is this – they all train in AT LEAST one other martial art(and they’re no slouches if I do say so myself)

Closer to me yet, my long time friends and former co-workers Ian Jensen and Shannon Meade. Honestly, without them I don’t know if I would’ve stuck with martial arts training. They sucked me back in to it and are the reason I even know any of the people I’ve mentioned so far.

This, on top of the fact that Ian is a world class stick fighter(along with Shannon), he also holds a 4th degree black belt in TaeKwonDo, a 1st degree black belt in Hapkido, a blue belt in Brazilian JiuJitsu under Eric “Red” Schaefer, and is way under-ranked in escrima(sticks). He’s also a helluva cook!

So – Why All This Rambling About My Training?

Because ALL OF THIS MATTERS.

Talk to the people who “train” individuals on a daily basis. When you do talk to them, find out who they surround themselves with. What’s their experiences in training/competing. The more you talk to most of them you will find a good majority have a few traits that you don’t want in a trainer:

1. To them, this is just a “job”. In fact, it’s often advertised by personal training certifications that being a personal trainer is one of the top careers right now, because of how much money you can make… do you really want someone doing a “run out the clock” type job when they’re supposed to be helping you?
2. They’ve never done/attempted/thought of doing/would ever consider doing anything listed above, much less most of the things they ask you to do. Every single person I’ve worked with has competed in some type of physically and mentally grueling event of some sort. In fact, I personally won’t train under someone who hasn’t done a higher level of experience than I do myself. And most of them have accomplished things I probably never will, but I’ll sure try!

So What? You Say. Why Is This Important?

Because if they haven’t had these experiences or suffered through the blood, sweat, and tears – they are literally at a disadvantage when it comes to helping you.

I’ve been involved in tournaments where I’ve literally fought with a broken face(I didn’t know it at the time…) and I would go back and do it again. Not because I’m crazy, but because I’m passionate about it, and I learned something from the experience. Okay, well, maybe a bit crazy…

Even on the fitness side, as I’m typing this my hands hurt like a mother…. because I’m working toward my Level 1 Strong First Kettlebell Instructor Certification. Doesn’t sound like much, but it’s 3 days of what I’m told is grueling work that tests you physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

I’ve done this sort of thing before for virtually every black belt test I’ve done (there’s been 7 of them so far, number 8 will be in October, and 9 sometime next summer), so I know what I’m in for, and I know it won’t be easy. So why do I do it? Because the experience I will gain is going to help everyone I currently work with achieve new levels of success. IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. If it were up to me, I’d do more of the things I like and not spend 5 days a week(mostly my weekends) training for what is basically a piece of paper and some letters to put behind my name. Because when it comes down to it, most people won’t know, or care, what it took to get that paper and letters…

Yes, I do have a certification I got online, but that was after 10 years of training to master ONE martial art and getting started on integrating it into the next art that I spend my time on.

If you ever stop improving, you’re going backward. And I can’t in good conscience ask anyone I work with to do something I haven’t at least attempted on my own, I just won’t. And the thought of someone going out and training others without the same mindset does make me a bit sick if I’m honest. After all, it’s the only way I’ve ever known, and it’s the only way that gets lasting results for most people.

On another note, for your own success – if you surround yourself with top level people long enough, some things start to rub off. Like how to transfer knowledge and application of your craft to others. This isn’t a secret by any means, in fact I’m sure we’ve all heard it in a business sense before(you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time around.)

Once you start surrounding yourself with highly successful people in their fields, you become immune to the B.S. everyone else is trying to shove down your throat all day and you start to get results – and keep them.

So, is who your trainer works with important? It depends…. do you want to be taught by someone who’s learned from books and hasn’t “done” before? Or, do you want to learn from someone with hands on experience who has other real people to reach out to for training and furthering their own development?

You Chose.

~Justin