Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011 Health and Training Goals

... and a look back at 2010.  I made some resolutions on my facebook page a year ago.  Some accomplished, some postponed by injury, some just silly in the first place.  I have no use for 1000 16kg swings, and pistols and one-armed pushups really taper off if you don't train them regularly.  My body doesn't tolerate pushing hard like it used to. This has eaten my whole life, thinking about training and recovering from training.

The announcement of the Chicago RKC in September made me dizzy. I would love to do that, and everyone says it's a landmark experience in one's life that ranks up there with parenthood.  Even with early discounts, I'm looking around $1500.  I need to pursue this either as a side career or as a hobby, and the hobby direction is beginning to make more sense.  I'm tired of arguing on the forums and writing about working out all the time and nursing the shoulder and the wrist and the blisters.  This isn't my livelihood.  I can't look anyone in the eye and tell them KB training will save them time.
  • I am committed to completing PTP! 4-month plan in February or at least a variation of month #4. Probably finish 5x5 ladders @20kg and 5/5 @24kg, then focus on something else for a while. Leaning toward calisthenics and GS basics. I lost a lot of ground with simple pushups and pullups this year, though I can press all day.
  • Snatch 20kg in volume and 24kg on occasion. Strip handles if necessary, but get this worked out.  I want to retire single 16kg work in 2011.
  • 3200kg work is my new ballistics baseline: 200x16kg, 160x20kg, 133x24kg, 100xDBL16kg. Expect to do this every session by swing, snatch, or clean.
  • RKC? Chicago, September 28.  Get serious before January 10.
  • Compete in June AKC meet, preferably for rank III.  Maybe.
I just deleted a page of sample workout routines for AKC events and RKC prep.  Waste of my time.  If I want to prep for RKC, I'll talk to Delaine and James.  If I want to prep for the AKC meet, I'll talk to Scott.  If I want to be healthy, I'll look seriously into even-easier strength and CC progressions.  If I did my 3200 plus two other moves, 4 days a week, I'd be a monster.
  • Get-ups + pullup progressions
  • double long cycle + leg raises
  • pushup progressions + squat progressions
  • single clean and press + bridges
  • 3200kg of mixed ballistics each session, preferably heavy
That looks killer.  Even if I rotated out two pairs each month on a MTh/TuF thing, it would still be killer. ROP and PTP! and CC is too much already, and now I'm trying to shoehorn it all into competitions and certification workshops.  I need to train a couple things at a time each season and "practice" more.  This is not my life.  Go to bed already, it's midnight.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fatigue Month and an HKC workshop

I ended a 4wk block in the Perfecting the Press! program this week, and there's an HKC workshop this weekend at Condition Gym.  It all made a perfect occasion to schedule a recovery break.  That's a lot of links; I hope I get some sort of ad money.

My last workout was supposed to be a Heavy Session with a personal record test.  Now, this was the Fatigue block of the PTP! program, but I tried the 24kg anyway.  The very first left-armed rep was a fail.  I had to regroup, mix in squat presses and warm up the machinery to complete 10 reps each side.  I had prepped with 16kg and 20kg before carrying Frank off to the gym, plus halos and stretching.  It was just so... heavy.  I am still getting over that and may be sidelined a few more days while this shoulder quiets down.  I should know better.  I felt fatigued Sunday, and I should have known better.  It's called freaking "Fatigue block".

I added a pullup variation from Convict Conditioning to the Sunday Volume Session, and the overall high-tension work may have been more than I needed.  I need to make time for pullups, but they always compromise my lats or my grip or something I need for another exercise.  My cleans and swings were compromised by the end of the session, and I am still aching in my lats today.  I need to do more hanging from bars, lots more.  Just daily lat support and grip training with no other agenda.

There's a small reshuffling of gym priorities coming.  PTP! Density block is next, if I continue unabated.  I'm considering doing it with double kettlebells, similar to competition style.  I've discovered such an interest lately in bodyweight training and in Girevoy Sport that I ponder during this respite, what training would I do if I walked away from my current community with just a single bag of gear?  That remains for another edition.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I think I fixed my snatch today

... and applied things people have taught me to correct a dysfunction.

It's been a never-ending story of me straining my wrist and making my fingers go numb, clearly neural in nature.  I snatched hundreds of reps in the Spring, dozens of reps in the Summer, then almost none at all through the Autumn because I was pinching nerves in my wrist and could not fix it.  I tried catching with an "OK" grip and a flat-fingered grip, only marginally better with the latter.  Heavier swings, shorter snatch sets, snatching once a week, kinesio tape, all sorts of things.  It was after my last post on Thanksgiving Day that I noticed something in my video.  In tipping the bell over the top, I was flexing my wrist. It's right there, plain as day in even a motion-blurred frame.  If anything, this may be one of the lesser examples I could have chosen.

Also, I recently read a "trouble with my snatch" thread on the forum at  The advice was that the poster was not breaking the elbow first.  Clearly my elbow is bent in this frame, but I haven't been "doing it".  I started high-volume snatches in the Spring with a light bell, and I was probably flicking it over the top by default because the light weight didn't force me to do it right.  That practice became a pattern, and the heavier bell was no longer within my physical tolerances.  So here's what I've done in the last few days.

1-handed swings with a heavier bell, completely releasing the bell at the top and grabbing it out of the air on the way down.  I cleared the bell by a good couple inches.  I adapted two new things.  I learned to release and grab, even imperfectly, a heavier bell and not drop it.  Not a textbook hook grip, but no sliding friction on my palms at all.  Also, I learned to capture an uneven, wobbly descent.  That required some adaptation in my back and shoulders, like the difference between identical GS reps and KB juggling.

I also consciously broke at the elbow first, turning it in ever so slightly, like I was elbowing a wrestler's head at the corner of my rib cage.  This new visualization of aiming the elbow at my ribs, however slight, did the trick.  My elbow only really moved medially an inch or two, but the motion externally rotated the heel of my pinky finger into the curve of the handle.  My wrist was straight, my fingers hooked, before the bell was shoulder-high.  Out of 5 sets of 5 on each hand, I only pinched my palm a couple times and never felt numbness.

This is esoteric work for a lot of people, but it's applied knowledge for me.  Today I snatched my heavy-press bell for the first time ever, 4 reps each hand.  That was at the end of an hour of heavy presses, cleans, suspended rows, and 5 min of 1-handed swings.  I still had the grip for 9 reps with a bell I'd never snatched before, and I never went numb.  Doing that FRESH would have been remarkable.  Doing it tired was an act of discovery.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving 2010! What'd you lift today?

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!  Welcome to the 2nd annual Thanksgiving Day Kettlepalooza.

I.  It's a wonderful time of the year.  The air is crisp and clear.  There's pie on the counter, bird in the oven, and Saints on TV at 4:30.  You should all be done reading me by then.  I am a blessed man, grateful in my heart for my God who watches over me and the place I've been so fortunate to live, excepting maybe the TSA.

II.  A bunch of my friends have posted pre-Thanksgiving Kettlebell fat burn workouts and sweet potato pie workouts.  I don't pretend to have their expertise or creativity, but I posted a clip last year and do so again this year.  My current Thursday lineup is get-ups and snatches; this is the last get-up and the first set of snatches from an hour of activity.

III. It's been a while since I've put myself on video.  These were pretty good reps, but I saw a couple things as soon as I started editing.  I'd love to see what you caught!  I did 5 warmup reps, then one snatch + one breath in the lockout for a minute with each hand.  I haven't done many snatches this Fall season, and I'm training longer sets between hand switches.

IV.  I have done short sessions of hard muscle activity 4 times this week.  My appetite's ferocious, my weight's stable, and the missus says I look huge.  ("Huge" is a literary term; just go with it.)  That means my metabolism is high.  There will be a lot of people hitting treadmills and to burn off holiday meals.  Research clearly shows they would be better off lifting something heavy for about 15min, but that's not "cardio" and it's not popular.  I was the only person in my gym this morning.  No treadmills, no machines, nobody warming up the engine.  Gonna be a fat weekend around the apartment complex.

P.S. Below is a little snip of the Thanksgiving 2009 workout, when I was a wee kettle newbie.  I do believe there's improvement.  The weight's bigger, at least, and I'm not coming apart at the shoulder anymore.  There is just SO much to learn from watching your own video!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hardstyle Ventura 2010 (My Little Pony)

I'll occasionally go to some master-level workshop to beef up my skills and have my technique evaluated. This weekend was Hardstyle Ventura 2010 (, a workshop devoted to bodyweight exercise and kettlebell training. The list of topics is outlined at the site, and I won't belabor the table of contents here. It was outstanding. It was overcast and windy and chilly, but it was outstanding.  There was far too much to cover here, but I took home a handful of very personal observations.

When an experience brings you back to step #1, you find yourself reconsidering what you've called "progress". My HKC workshop in January, a bad nerve pinch in June, now HSV 2010. While Dr. Mark Cheng led us through a Horse Stance drill, I struggled just to stand up straight. Cheng writes here on how this ancient Chinese martial arts drill has improved hip mobility and relieved back pain in his students. There are some challenging statements in the article, challenging even for the very athletic. I found them reflected in a few quotes from the workshop, some paraphrased from Gray Cook and others with our gratitude.

"The greatest athletes are not those with the best movement patterns.  They are the ones with the strongest compensations."

"If you argue on behalf of your weaknesses, you will own them."

"Adding weight to a movement reinforces that movement pattern."

(from another trainer in the crowd, to our impatient clientele) "You move like ####. You shouldn't even be lifting weights. If you're not willing to put in the work, you're just wasting my Chi."
(My personal favorite. You sort of had to be there.)

So why was this event such a game changer? That Horse Stance indicated not only the last remaining weakness in my injured knee, but a stiff, clunky ankle that I sprained in high school. That sprain was 25 years ago, but it affects my arch and my gait to this day. Now I have drills to treat these two deficiencies and a screen to evaluate their progress. The progress will be obvious as it happens.

I've been proud of my squat for three months now, but I was splaying my feet unnecessarily. I've been proud of my new overhead shoulder range, but I was arching my back. I have been compensating because of injuries that won't get better and adding more weight and work every week, everything "wrong" from this workshop.  My injuries have not healed. Research shows that while learning a new activity, one really bad repetition may require as many as 10 good repetitions to re-pattern the behavior in memory. I hope I can integrate my corrections instead of starting over from scratch.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Practice really does make permanent

I've been experimenting with two new things lately, high-volume overhead presses from Kenneth Jay's "Perfecting the Press!" and bodyweight exercises from Paul Wade's "Convict Conditioning".  Working near my personal "long session" limits has taught me a few things first-hand that I've only previously seen in books.  Everyone else already knows this, but it has been interesting to me.

Practice what you want to do - I'm doing long sets of CC squat progressions as part of my workout instead of weighted squats to recondition my pistol.  A month ago, these were stretches for me, and weighted front squats were workouts.  The change has improved my endurance and mobility some, but it cut my weight-bearing squat strength almost immediately.  I struggled today to squat 5 times with a weight that I routinely press overhead.  I have squatted twice this amount in the past. I need to practice both volume squats and heavy squats going forward, like I do with swings and presses and get-ups. (brilliant, huh?)

Practice success, not failure - I've pressed 5x5 ladders and sat there on the plateau like most of us. When I have tried additional ladders or variations with longer rungs, I have fought fatigue and even injury. I clearly have endurance limits at this level of strength.  As part of this new program, I have pressed as much as 20x3 ladders without injury.  That's 50% more volume than 5x5 ladders, but programmed to avoid exhaustion.  The program does have a high-density module with 4 ladders and 5 ladders, but that will follow weeks of training 120-150 reps instead of the ROP standard 75.  The important point is that I'm now practicing high volume instead of fatigue and failure.

Practice progress - Lastly, I've been pressing a heavier weight in 4-5 sets of 1+2 reps on my Heavy Press Days.  That has become almost "easy" because I was already doing this a few weeks ago. It's much cleaner now, more confident. Since the heavy day workload hasn't changed in maybe 5wks, I tested 5 straight reps this morning. All good. Start lifting 5 reps more often, and start training 1+2+3+4 ladders right away.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Perfecting the Press, wk 2

10/17 16kg Volume
warmup, incl upper body
** knee popping a LOT, be careful of squats
- try 3-4 circuits
Jackknife SQ: 10
High-Pulls/SW: 5/5/5
SC C&P: 3r (1-2-3, 2-4, 3-3, 4-2, 6)
HP, 1-2-3, HP, 2-4, HP, 3-3, HP, 4-2, 2HSW, 6 Half-Kneeling
- did 4 circuits in 63min

Totals = 40 SQ, 300 SW, 120 CP @16kg

10/19 20kg Heavy
warmup, incl upper body, 1/1 TGU (easy)
- goal = 5 sets
Inv Row: 10 (sternum height, mostly OH)
SW: 15x2 (mostly 1H)
LC C&P: 1+2
- 5 circuits in about 40min
SW: 20 2H, 15 1H, 15 1H to finish

Totals = 200 Swings, 50 Inverted Rows, 5x3 ladders (15) long cycle clean & press @20kg

I had serious blisters coming out of last week. Did high pulls Sunday because I can actually tight-grip them to reduce sliding friction. Worked well. "Athletic tape" didn't last two sets. Grip itself is improving with the extended 20kg 1H work, though I did hit fatigue today.

Pressing well.  Whitley advised bringing a "heavy, near PR" bell to HSV, so I'm putting off the 24kg for now.  Maybe a few swings and get-ups, but that's it.  Back is a little stiff, right lats tight enough to give me some minor ulnar nerve irritation even now, but no tingling or grip loss.  Monitor super-closely.  3 days rest between VS and HS would be an improvement, even if not mandated medically.  Now then... Saturday morning, followed by pizza and video games, or Sun-Wed-Fri?  Saturday would get in the way of motorcycling, but Elwood's would make a great recovery meal.

I have questions about this lump-sum design, but I performed better this week than last. Do not yet "own" 5x3 ladders @20kg, do them again.  Start with 3x1, set the bell down between reps if needed.  These same numbers with greater confidence before moving on.  I might try 150x12kg for a weekend with pauses on the ones and half-kneeling sixes.  More volume, less soreness.  I like this escalating ladder design, very "Tracy" in style.  The ease of record keeping was a happy accident: reach "6" and mark a circuit done, instead of tracking 30 identical sets.

4 x (1,2,3 + 2,4 + 3,3 + 4,2 + 6) = 120 @16kg
3 x (2,3,5 + 3,7 + 5,5 + 7,3 + 10) = 150 @12kg
fatigue module, same sets, less rest
density module (1,2,3,4,5 + 3,5,7 + 5,5,5 + 5+10) = 60

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kenneth Jay's "Perfecting the Press!"

I got Kenneth Jay's "Perfecting the Press!" recently, a deep study on kettlebell press mechanics and corrective drills. The program design chapter caught my attention: one day at 120-150 reps 65% 1RM, one day at 10-20 reps with near-1RM. That's it. Corrective drills specific to high- and low-volume days are provided, and each month a small adjustment in work/rest is made and a 1RM test attempted. There's an impression of "Back and Shoulder Day" in the design's single huge workout that runs counter to the frequent "practice" training espoused by so many in our discpline. It still holds the idea of training high volume to develop neural patterning and good form, but that volume is organized for hypertrophy and probable soreness. (Even 20 reps/session at 85%-100% 1RM could be considered "high volume" in another program.) Not saying it does or doesn't work, but it's the first program I've tried that crosses the three-digit mark on a grind.

My first session was today. I just had a back-off week, with swing and get-up sessions using a heavy bell Thursday and Saturday that felt GREAT. As usual, today was out in the sun. Sweat, chalk, last week's calluses... I screwed my hands up. I should have known better.

10/10 16kg Volume presses
warmup, incl upper body
- goal = 90 reps + swings
- Short Cycle Clean & Press, 2 x "6 reps", alternated with 2 x 20 swings

1-2-3CP, 2-4CP
3-3CP, 4-2CP

3 circuits/45min, 30cp + 90sw ea
Total = 90 presses, 250 swings

The presses felt good, and I did not let my form slide. I like the way this incorporated ladders. Doing 1-2-3 15 times would have gotten boring and would have ingrained that short-term volume into me. I did the middle 1-2-3, 2-4 sets in a half-kneel position, which firmed up my torso and hips for the remaining ladders. 20kg short session Tuesday or Wednesday, based on my recovery. I have already done 5x1-2-3 at 20kg, so this will be 100-120 reps next weekend.


At the time KJ's book was released, a Dan John program (credited to Pavel for the design) called the 40-Day Workout was making the rounds. "High volume" strength training laid out as 10 reps x 5 exercises x 5 days a week. The 5-10 rep practice principle is broadly applicable to strength training and can be seen in other program designs. Personally, I'm intrigued by the regularly spaced schedule, as this would probably have a much lower DOMS and recovery burden. By contrast, KJ's 100-rep/low-rep protocol has been in the RKC manual as a heavy-bell program for years. Interesting.

Here's what's in motion. Delaine Ross started the 40-day workout after her return from the recent Dan and Pavel workshop, and I started the Perfecting the Press program this week. I've arranged 3 training days so each movement (press, swing, pullup, get-up, squat) gets 2 sessions, 1 heavy and 1 long, and a single day for snatch practice. She's a couple weeks ahead of me and has a more refined sense of her own training and development. She will probably thrive. I've already got 3R/2L in my biggest bell, so my goal will be either to finish 5/5 @24kg or to finish 1/1 @28kg stacked. That gives me both a benchmark with a single bell and a reason to work on combinations stacked or hung from one another. This should be fun.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Is "follow-through" the term we're looking for?

There have been 4 or 5 threads on Dragondoor lately on the Hardstyle Lock, bearing phrases like "focus on my lats" and "cramp my glutes as hard as I can" in each thread. It concerns me a little that there's so much cognitive focus on what I really believe are figurative terms and corrective drills. I may risk my hardstyle card, but I believe there's a point to be made. The point isn't consciously flexing some muscle, and I don't believe that's presented as "the point" in the literature. The point is moving well bearing load.

There's a phase in the learning process when you consciously focus on cramping or packing until it becomes part of your movement. You become aware of it, then you move on. You do that again the next session, then you no longer focus on it consciously. There's the pre-flight checklist and the in-flight checklist. Most of my checklist these days is pre-flight. Crease the hips and tuck the pants legs up in one motion, hook the handle, shoulders back 'til the arms are taut, eyes up. Once that posture is set in motion, I do not consciously cycle through checklists while I'm doing swings.

I believe most of the Hardstyle Lock, as applied to swings, is simply good follow-through. If I drive the bell forward, my hips fully extend as part of the follow-through. If they don't, then I lifted the bell instead of driving it forward. The limiting factors are tight hips and poor follow-through, and I did drills to correct those, but I don't think about the drills every rep. I drive the bell forward.

The bell comes up "high enough", and I press down to stop its ascent, like holding a giant helium balloon at arm's length. That stiffens my grip and torso and leverages my arms downward. Restraining the bell's rise flows naturally into pushing the bell down and back. It's never been about engaging my lats, per se, though tensing the armpits is a conscious drill to learn this motion. It's been about controlling the bell.

What's neat about this is that once I could lift and hike and drive, the bell went "high enough". The first time I double-swung a pair of the heaviest bells I owned, both bells went chest-high on the second rep. I did NOT want two bells rising overhead and free-falling at the end of my arms, so I restrained them down and back. I loaded, drove, and actively hiked every rep. One led to the next naturally.

I can exhaust myself doing "naked" swings without a bell, cramping and sweating and hissing like we do. If you're exhausted and cramped and confused at 5 swings -- I read that in an actual thread -- you may be forcibly waving the bell instead of swinging it. It's not a butter churn; it's a pendulum. There's a drill to stabilize the back during swings, the shoulder during presses, the hips during get-ups, then there's the actual exercise. It's important to keep the point the point.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Finally, up a bell

At the end of June, I was feeling the effects of a nerve impingement in one arm.  I had been pushing really, really hard, and I just got it strained and inflamed.  Some therapy, a much lighter bell and different work for a few weeks, and it got better.  I still deal with some issues in my wrist, but I'm treating those as they come up.

During rehab, I was pressing 12kg for reps.  The last few weeks, I've been pressing 16kg for reps and progressing through the Rite of Passage.  I hit 5 sets of 1,2,3,4,5 a few weekends in a row, so it was time to move up.  I changed my focus from 100s of swings and dozens of presses to handfuls of presses and dozens of swings with a heavier bell until it was comfortable.  Did get-ups and 1+2 presses with it in Thursday's workout.  Today, I took the leap.

  • Swings: 5/5/5 x2
  • Maxercist Rows: 5/5
  • Clean & Press: 1+2+3
  • 5 sets, plus 50 added swings at the end to total 200 reps

The last two sets of presses were slow and deliberate and not quite perfect, but they were safe.  I'll be at this point at least the next two weekends, but this is huge for me.  I'm doing get-ups, swings, presses, and rows with a heavier weight.  Finally.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer Shoulder and Snatch Sessions

Got the new 20kg and 8kg bells in last week.  Ironically, I've hardly handled the 20kg yet. The 8kg has been great for my arm bars and concentric isometric presses. Every non-workout day last week, I would start at my 8kg with 5 regular presses and 2 with isometric pauses on the way up.  Then repeat with the 12kg, then singles with the 16kg until I felt any tiny change in my form.  Usually my right arm and hip start to drift out into a sort of bent press, and the left side of my neck tenses up.  I've done this nearly every day, plus rehab movements. I finally pressed my way up to 20kg singles with each arm, and my press motion is more vertical and contained on both sides. This is such great news, it's hard to really express clearly.  I've been fighting with this motion for over 6 months.

I'm escalating two new priorities for the month of August: hi vol 12kg presses and hi vol 16kg conditioning.

  • 12kg ROP presses, maybe short sets 16kg on heavy day. Heavier singles once or twice a week.  I am really struggling to keep myself on the 12kg...
  • Repeat 500 16kg SW/20min. Work up to 1000/45min by month's end on a fresh day.
  • Repeat 12kg SN 200/10 and work toward doing it with 16kg. Work toward 20 or 30 min @12kg, VWC style.
My programming the last 6mos has been roughly the Rite of Passage from "Enter the Kettlebell". That's changed since this nerve pinch.  I'm pressing lighter, doing more get-ups and arm bars, and doing various rows instead of pullups to work on shoulder extension.  More light shoulder movement, fewer heavy presses and pullups.  Also, I put up around 1100 swings and 275 snatches each of the last few months.  I'm on pace this month for 3 times that.  I realize that's what Tracy Rif did by 9am this morning, but it's a significant increase for me.

I think it's accurate to say that I'm working from the bottom up now.  Swinging a bell heavier than I'm pressing and snatching.  Really heavy swing volume, heavy snatch volume, more get-ups, moderate press volume.  I've been focused on my upper body, but my lower body has always responded better.  We'll see where this goes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

253, 142.4, 7.0%, 200

Six years ago, a routine physical and blood workup showed I was 20lb overweight and had a cholesterol of 230.  I changed my diet and exercise and dropped 20lb, 100 triglycerides and 50 cholesterol over the next year.  Six months ago, I was exercising with Russian kettlebells regularly and another 5lb lighter.  A cholesterol screen in a bloodmobile reported 253, and I was just beside myself.  I should have gone right to Quest or somewhere and gotten retested, but I was just outdone.  I wanted to come back for one more blood screen with a point to make and an axe to grind, to leave no doubt that I had done my due diligence.

Today, I'm another 5lb lighter (lighter than high school graduation).  I'm flinging kettlebell 3 or 4 times a week.  A local gym brought a machine by the office today to do BMI and body fat measurements.

Age = 40
Height = 5'8"
Weight = 142.4lb
BMI = 21.7
Body fat = 7.0%
BMR = 1551kcal

This deserved a celebration.  A few get-ups, a few presses, a few pullups, and a snatch test.  The Secret Service Snatch Test (SSST) is 200 reps in 10min with 24kg.  I'm not up to 24kg yet, but I snatched 12kg for 200 reps in 10min today for the first time.

I'll get my blood lipids retested again by the end of the month.  If my cholesterol's still high, then it's genetic and I'll deal with a doctor who knows more about exercise and nutrition than prescribing statins to perfectly healthy people.  I've known two people on statins.  They both suffered liver damage and chronic muscle pain.  I'd almost rather take my chances with cholesterol and 7.0% body fat.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Snatching as therapy

In my last post, I was doing rehab on a nerve pinch in my right arm.  I've been doing upward isometric presses with 10lb and get-ups with 12kg and 16kg, plus lots of arm bars and windmills.  I've also found that I can snatch well, and my weekly snatch volume is 2x or 3x what it was a season ago.  I can press 12kg for sets and 16kg for singles and pairs now, which is improvement... and I need to pause on that for a moment.

In May, I had finished a 16kg Rite of Passage.  In June, I was doing double presses with 16kg and 12kg bells for 5 sets of 5 on the weekend and pressing 24kg for singles during the week.  I did that for two weeks before I felt a little trap pain at Whitley's grand opening on June 26.  I did another 5x5 double MP session the next day.  By the end of that week, I was in constant nerve pain and seeing a Z Health therapist.  I'm in no pain now, and I can finally press 16kg again.  I need to buy the 20kg and re-purpose the 24kg.  It was just too big a jump for my frame.

I lost easily 6 months progress on presses, pushups, pullups, everything upper body.  I am pretty sure that I can trace it back to a 24kg floor press and get-up on June 15 or June 22.  I was just barely over my head doing double presses, but they only taxed my left arm.  It was the floor press on the right arm that did me in.  I am re-learning the motion with lighter weights and isometric pauses, which is greasing the sticking points in my motion.  My left arm press is cleaner than it's ever been, if not yet as heavy.
Wknd 16+12 outdoors
Done as a circuit, 4-5 times depending on presses

+ 16kg Swings: 20 2H, 5/5/5/5, 20 transfers
+ Clean + Front Squat: set of 5 with both bells
+ 12kg Military Press: 3 presses + 2 upward isometrics (pause at 6, 4, 2, and 12 o'clock positions)
+ Double rack walks: 60 steps with both bells
Groups of swings as above until at least 240 total
Snatches: sets of :15/:15 seconds or 10/10 reps

2 Wkdy sessions
Circuits as above of swings, TGUs, and Pistols
Windmills and arm bars
Snatches: mostly sets of 10/10 each minute
This is working well so far.  What's odd is that the snatches are allowing me some terminal elbow extension without requiring a long push.  There is a small tolerance for a poor lockout at the top of a strong snatch, so I am able to practice locking out and stabilizing overhead without having to press the weight up there.  I would not even consider this if I did not already know how to snatch and have a strong swing.  I started with 12kg for safety before trying this at 16kg.

My swing volume is up.  My swing height is up.  My grip endurance is good.  My back feels great.  Last but nowhere near least, my snatch grip can finally do snatches 3 or 4 times a week without peeling my hands.  If I cannot press 75 reps each arm for the present time, at least I can learn to press properly and double my swing and snatch volume in the meantime.  Swings, get-ups, pistols, and snatches, and I can almost do pullups.  I'm actually excited about this.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I lift like a kitten

I've spent the last week-plus working on mobility drills and resting from right arm pressing motions.  I'm not in pain anymore, which is good, but I lift like a kitten.
Regular RKC arm bars and lightweight (12kg or less) Turkish Get-Ups
Z-Health R Phase drills from the floor up
camshaft shoulder drills at varied angles
radial and ulnar nerve glides
isometric military press drills at 10lb and 12kg
I can press 16kg cleanly with the left arm, but not at all with the right.  I've just managed a 16kg get-up on the right with an unassisted floor press.  I also cannot do a strict pushup without the right arm flaring out and getting weak on me. There's still so much work to be done with the nervous control and  movement patterning on that arm.  I cannot believe I did this to myself after being able to press 24kg for singles on demand.

Obviously I need to get back into exercising in general, but this changes the plan.  I won't be pressing double bells or pressing 5-rung ladders anytime soon.  Keep up the therapy above at least daily.

Sun 16+12 outdoors
16kg swings in volume 2-3 sets per interval of lifts
16kg or 28kg cleans and front squats sets of 3-5
12kg presses 5+iso, work on chest and shoulder stabilization, quit when the right hip shifts out
Test 12kg snatches

Tue and Thu 16 indoors
16kg swings, 2-3 sets per interval
16kg get-ups with rachets and alternate middle sections, 2/2
pullups, sets of 5 per interval
pistols, 2/2 per interval

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Insight from a Kenneth Jay Workshop

Saturday was spent with Master RKC instructor Kenneth Jay and about 15 comrades in iron.  The title "Presses, Pistols and Pullups" became a bit of a back-story in favor of a discussion of movement therapy and nervous system behavior.  The techniques applied toward PP&P were deconstructed with the idea of training the brain to accept these movements as "safe" instead of "threatening".  Little hitches in my normal motion are actually unfamiliar movements where the brain briefly blinks or hesitates, and those hitches must be re-learned until they can be completed without stuttering.  It's time for me to scale back to a lighter weight and do my reps slower, fewer, different, "right".  I have read this on two or three other trainer's blogs in the last few months, Rif, Jordan, and others.  Now it's my time.

I've been fighting an inflamed radial nerve for about two weeks now.  It just happened, almost overnight.  My armpit and tricep ache all day, and I occasionally lose some sensation in my hand.  I've seen two different trainer-therapists, and the exercises and drills prescribed have given some relief.  There was no attempt to explain how this happened, and rightfully so.  Something KJ said yesterday, at least 3 or 4 times, finally clicked with me this morning in hindsight.  Asked about putting on muscle mass, he answered, "sure, there are guys who put on huge muscle and got really strong, but they're walking around in pain".  It's about muscles getting thicker, either by inflammation from a workout or growth over time, and pinching the nerve bundles that run through them.

That statement of KJ's didn't click with me until this morning.  Check my last couple posts.  I started a program about a month ago that's designed to put on muscle mass.  Lots of two-handed overhead lifts and lifts from hang to shoulder, heavy lifts, with really short rests.  I've definitely put on bulk, such as it is on my puny frame.  I have to wonder if I caused my own neuritis?  I've scheduled a few days of rest and a return to more movement-drill training to perfect my form. Some of the bulk should go away because of the change.  It'll be very interesting to see if this nerve condition tracks my size.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I have a new way to unwind

I came home completely fried today.  I used to sit in front of the TV for about 30min to unwind, but the last couple weeks I've actually been more comfortable standing in my bare feet than sitting in a chair.  That's in large part to work I've done on posture, hip mobility, and barefoot training, all material for another fitness article.

Stretched out, got my spine straight and my hips folding over properly.  Did some mobility work on my spine and shoulders.  Felt frisky, so I set up some kettlebell swings.  These just clicked, and I ran with it.  Understand that I struggle with a neural issue in my wrists, so my grip goes numb before I get winded.  Not today.  I did a long, uninterrupted set.  I did sets with a heavy bell, 1-handed.  I did snatches and get-ups.  I worked until the iron had enough, and it felt great.  Took me no more than 30min.

It feels good to not be dependent on a TV to clear my head.  I can play some music or get some exercise or share time with my wife.  Those are all good, proactive activities.  I spend way too much time on passive things, like sitting in front of glowing rectangles (ironically like this one).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

06/17 In the New Routine

Back from vacation and premiering the new schedule.  High volume press/swing day, heavy work day, bodyweight and snatch day.

Sunday: 16kg for 5x5 presses, carries, and 264 swings
Tuesday: 24kg for get-ups, a few cleans and presses, some swings, and weighted pullups
Today: 16kg for get-ups, some NW prelim work (pistols to horizontal, low incline OAPs), 6x3 pullups, and a snatch maxVO2 cadence of 24

First, I should probably do maxVO2 snatches at 12kg.  I can snatch 16kg, but it's heavy for extended cardio work.  96/6min during my cadence test was a labor.  I should either start Team Rif's Freestyle Max counts or some ladders or something more "practice" oriented to build up the 16 first.

Second, I am LOVING 24kg get-ups.  I cannot MP that for more than a couple singles yet, but I am doing get-ups visibly better each week.  I may modify that day to include front squats instead of presses until I'm stronger.  Fewer different exercises, all heavy.  And I am so pleasantly surprised that I can do pairs of +25lb pullups.

Third, I had the good sense to start OAPs and Pistols again with intermediate steps.  Split squats are helping my knee.  Goblet squats are strong, straight, and deep.  Working back down the incline on OAPs and adding sets of divebombers and 3-pt pushups on the 24 day.  Preparation, preparation, preparation.

Last thing, I am so seriously thinking about packing my 16 and my 12 to do a double-press day.  Maybe do double-press 5x5 on Sunday and split 12kg snatches and 16kg swings.  I think my shoulders will handle 25 presses and 100 snatches as well as the ROP H 150 presses.  Skip get-ups (on the tile gym roof), shorten time on presses, 100 snatches and 200 swings.  Not bad.

Teaching a swing basics class tomorrow to a group of people from work.  Psyched.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Circuits and Complexes

My last post outlined a change to circuit training that I made a couple weeks ago.  Over the past 5 months, I've made big gains and reached some limits.  I've acclimated to a heavier weight, but that upper weight limit has not moved in about a month.  Any clinical research or anecdotal experience will tell you that strength gains occur rapidly at first and then plateau, and mine has.  I've been looking for a way to break that plateau.

I've been studying questions about my volume over those last 2 months, and I'm intrigued that I stumbled onto "complexes" currently being published by Master RKC Geoff Neupert.  Most of the books will say that I'm not advanced enough to do double kettlebell lifts or max VO2 snatches or this or that because I haven't completed the SSST or pressed half my bodyweight, then say that the way to massive gains in presses and snatches is to follow their book.  I just need to change "something".  I'm having good success and improved recovery with short, dense complexes.

Geoff's article in the summer 2010 Hardstyle Magazine from Dragondoor describes complexes as groups of exercises performed in an uninterrupted sequence with the same weight.    Geoff's example complex looks like this, all done without setting down the weight.

  • Begin complex -
    + Double Swings x5
    + Double High Pulls x5
    + Double Military Presses x5
    + Front Squats x5
    + Rest 120 seconds, perform five complexes

The rest necessary between traditional strength sets is provided by the time between sets of an individual exercise.  A mantra quoted to victims at the Hardstyle Kettlebell Challenge workshop was "doing something different is rest", so your shoulders get roughly 3 minutes rest between sets of military presses.

I made a transition to (what I called) circuit training some months ago, as I just got tired of wasting the time between consecutive press ladders.  I've already posted my reasons for intermingling swings, and the design keeps me performing well throughout the session.  There wasn't much sophistication in the decision, but it did evolve into something deliberate and useful.  Copied from my last post.

  • Begin circuit -
    + Swings: 24/min 2H, then 20/min 1H (2min)

    + 5-rung MP ladder
    + 5 Goblet Squats
    + 60step overhead walk on each arm (roughly the perimeter of my gym's rooftop)

    + 1-2min active recovery (shorter than usual), perform 5-6 circuits
    + finish with 6-8min of swings as outlined above

I finished 6 circuits as shown above on my last "long" day, which shows I'm performing well once I warm up.  A separate heavy-bell complex day each week has me acclimating to get-ups and cleans at 8kg up from my regular pressing bell, over 1/3 my bodyweight.  This is paying serious dividends in  strength and saving me hours of time each week.  I'm also a little intrigued by the ROP use of 5x5-rung ladders vs so many strength trainers' use of 5x5 sets.  I've done high volume, but I eventually could not recover fully between 3 sessions a week at any serious weight or accelerated pace.  I'm migrating my way into short, intense complexes with full recovery between workouts, and it's bearing good fruit so far.  I may not be lifting double 24s or otherwise qualified to do this kind of work, but it's still yielding good results.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Managing fatigue with a change to a circuit routine

I am fast approaching a rest week in my usual training cycle, and I slept lousy Friday night.  I had scheduled a 16kg Rite Of Passage Heavy day on Saturday but expected to complete around 2 5-rung press ladders, a set of 5 chinups, and maybe 250 swings.  That's the state I was in.  I was sore, I was tired, and I had carried a crick in my neck for nearly a week.  Instead, I broke personal records in total number of swings, Military Presses, and weighted pullups (my first ever 5 reps +15lb).  These were significant increases in total volume on the worst practical day I could have tried it.

I had been reading mc's fine columns on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness lately, trying to approach both the pinch in my neck and the soreness that was scheduling my rest week.  The research strongly endorses cardio acceleration before exertion both to quicken recovery and to minimize strength loss, moreso than massage or stretching or cool-down, even more than contrast water therapy afterward.

I remember discovering, quite by surprise back in January, that I could do more pullups in circuit training than in longer sets of pullups, nearly twice as many total in a workout.  I didn't have an explanation at the time, but the familiar way my lats simply freeze up on me when they've had enough has led me to believe it was an issue of recovery and not capacity or strength.  What follows was an application of circuit routine design to manage fatigue and recovery.

My usual cycle in an ROP press day works as follows.

Turkish Get-Up: 1-3 on each side during warmup
Begin circuit -
+ 5-rung MP ladder
+ 5 Goblet Squats
+ Pullups if they are on the day's schedule
+ 2-3min active recovery, including overhead walks with each arm

Repeat circuit until 5 total
Swings: 24/min 2H alternating with 20/min 1H for 8-12min total

I made a change this weekend after reading the research on cardio acceleration before heavy lifting.  I was really concerned about pushing long when I could feel the onset of a rest week.  All I originally intended with this design was to raise circulation before lifting so I could complete 2 or 3 ladders without wearing out.  Keep in mind that, at each single step in this schedule, I expected to complete about half the total volume that I eventually logged.

Turkish Get-Ups: 3/3 during warmup
5 weighted pullups +15lb
Begin circuit -
+ Swings: 24/min 2H, then 20/min 1H (2min)

+ 5-rung MP ladder
+ 5 Goblet Squats
+ 60step overhead walk on each arm (roughly the perimeter of my gym's rooftop)

+ 1-2min active recovery (shorter than usual)
Repeat circuit to 6 total
Swings: 24/min 2H, then 20/min 1H for additional 4 sets each

When all was said and done, this was the first time I had completed 6 ladders of 5 rungs apiece.  I had also completed a total of 440 swings @16kg in 20 discontinuous minutes; my previous best was 400 @12kg in 20 straight minutes almost 5mos ago.  There was a rotation built into this routine of lower pull with cardio, upper body dynamic press, lower body press, upper body static press, and walking for recovery.  After adding 8min of traditional swings at the end, this was accidentally a pretty well-balanced workout.

Completing consecutive sets builds conditioning and stamina, where a full recovery between sets trains strength; this is common knowledge.  I cannot say I felt "rested" between 2 sets of swings and a press ladder, but each ladder did stagger less from fatigue than usual.  I actually found a second wind and a smoother form after the third complete ladder.  The grip failure I usually struggle with in long sets of swings did not come up until the last minute or two of the entire day.  The intermittent swings kept my heart rate up, kept my muscles perfused with blood, and managed the single limiting factor in most every movement in my routine.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wrapping a 16kg RoP for a Heavier Routine

I've been working a steady ETK Rite of Passage routine for 15 weeks now, following 6wks of the Shoulder Shock protocol.  I finished the 5x5 press ladders several weeks ago and finished the RKC  pace of 100 snatches in 5min at my 16kg training weight.  I'm nowhere near ready for the SSST's 200/10min.  Just not even enough to call myself "working on it" with a straight face.  That's 5mos of press ladders and swings at roughly the same weight.  Need to move on, lift heavy to lift heavier and swing longer to swing longer.

Did something new today, a full circuit workout with 24kg.  Loved it.  I've been thinking about a few different, very useful goals and routines people focus on.  KJ's Beast Pressing program, the Titan Challenge and Jordan's hour of get-ups, and some different cardio training.  A high volume swing day, a heavy weight swing day, and a max VO2 snatch day.  They're really disparate, but they have common threads in volume vs weight.  I'll be feeling this out until mid-June, at least.  I've also read some studies on DOMS and interspersed swings with heavy lifting for cardioacceleration, with encouraging results so far.  For my schedule, Sunday was my ROP "Heavy" day and is the day I have time for the longest session.  Love working out on the gym roof in the afternoon, but there's nowhere up there to do pullups... yet.

Sunday: 16kg ROP Heavy circuit
Clean & Press, 5-rung ladder
+ Pullups, 3-5 per ladder
+ Goblet Squats, 3-5 per ladder
+ the above done as a circuit 5+ times
Pistols or Tactical Lunges, depending on my knee
Swings, 300 or so (which is long for me)

Tuesday: 24kg circuit
Swings, 15-20 x3
+ TGU, 1-2 each side
+ 2H Clean + Goblet Squat, 3-5
+ Clean & Press, 1-2 each side
+ the above done as a circuit until presses wear out
Swings, 15-20 x6-9 at the end

Thursday: 12kg or 16kg get-ups and snatches
TGU, 5 each side
+ Pushups, 10
+ Pullups, 6-10
+ the above done as a circuit 3-5 times
Snatches, :15/:15 sets, done 10+ minutes for endurance

Considered doing the long press day with 12kg for 200+ reps, true Beast Press Protocol style, but 16kg is just right on that edge between conditioning and strength.  May do 12kg snatches and BU-TGUs for endurance instead of load, at least for the first few weeks.  I'm hoping this new focus on swings will enhance my snatches with 16kg.

Monday, May 17, 2010

When you least expect it.... 'poof' up in the air

I've had a goal of completing a strict Military Press on each arm with my 24kg kettlebell.  I own a pair of 12kg and 16kg that I nicknamed Frik and Frak some time ago.  When my new 24kg arrived, I was briefly out of four-letter "F" words for training equipment.  I had one other suggestion that didn't "fit", so it's been "Frank the 24" ever since.  That title phrase has been on my lips for some three months now.

When you least expect it, Frank... 'poof' up in the air.

I managed to snatch Frank a couple reps on each arm about 10 days ago.  That was barely unsafe, but it was fun beyond measure.  I pressed Frank with my dominant right arm on March 25.  The last two months have been swings, snatches, and left arm therapy.

  • Waiter Presses: could barely do one with 12kg the first time.  Can do sets of 5 @16kg now, and have even done some ladders.  Military Presses got cleaner and quicker, but not all that much stronger.  Arm is more mobile and healthy for the experience.
  • Bottom-Up Presses: still can't BUP 16kg left-handed, but that may be neurological instead of muscular.  Long-term goal.
  • Overloads:  I started adding incremental weight last weekend, which is doing me a world of good.
Tonight, just screwing around, I completed the following.

2 @18kg (41lb) on each arm
2 @20kg (46lb) on each arm
2 @24kg (53lb) on each arm
2 @24kg later with less warm-up

I lowered each rep slowly, like there was a cup of water on top.  The last time I tried that on the left, the bell didn't come off my shoulder.  Literally.

I've been watching Rif's technique of progressively loading his swings and presses for some time now.  I'm liking what this does for me.  I'll try some sets of 5 and 3-rung ladders at 20kg for the next 2 weeks, pressing 24kg in singles as the mood strikes me.  The goal is to condition up to a set of 5 straight @24kg by May 31.

What a relief!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"Programs" and Record Keeping

Yes, I have a spreadsheet.  An honest-to-goodness spreadsheet of all my training the last six months.  Here's the problem.  I've been in "programs" all this time, scheduled days or weeks in advance.  One sick day, one poor night of sleep that cuts my volume in half, and I'm off schedule.  Mark Reifkind does sets of swings of different lengths, with different weights, and fits it all in a square inch of blog.  There's something very liberating about that.

I need to let go of the giant table of the same 3 exercises every day, get myself a moleskin journal and a waterproof pen, and get comfortable with my training.  The table meant something to me when I was charting progress and following Fighter Pullup and Shoulder Shock.  Not so much anymore.  It's less important to me right now whether I can do 9,8,7,7,6 pullups than if I can do 15 straight or do them with hand changes across a set of grips.  Can I press 24kg?  Can I do the SSST?  I can't do enough pistols to lose count, so "can I do good pistols?"  I also want to do more bodyweight exercise, but I don't have space for five more exercises.  Here's what I have in mind.

  • Plan A = 16kg TGUs (5/5), One Armed Pushups (2/2), Pistols (2/2), 16kg Swings/Snatches in alternate sessions of THIS routine.
  • Plan B = Pullups (Fighter Pullup or Ninja Warrior style), 24kg Cleans to Goblet Squats, 24kg Swings
  • Tu - Plan A, Th - Plan B, Su - Plan A heavy
  • Tu - Plan B, Th - Plan A, Su - Plan B heavy

    Train probably three days a week.  Make every Sunday "heavy volume day", so whatever plan I'm on that day gets extra volume.  I can't just do an extra 10 pistols, so the extra volume would look more like 1 extra pistol and 40 extra snatches.

    Get-up, press, pull, two different squats, two different ballistics (three if you count 16kg and 24kg swings as different).  I like this.  Frankly, I'd almost just do this to a comfortable stop or a managed fatigue and not keep numbers every single day.  At least for a while, that seems like it would be nice.  I need to go to the little moleskin journal store in the mall, find something that matches my Vibrams.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Lessons learned during an ROP

    I've just reached some ROP milestones with a 16kg bell at 65kg bodyweight, and I learned a few things along the way. First, do not try to train when you're sick. I pushed through a stomach ailment and found my soreness and fatigue never went away. I was sore for three days because my body didn't actually FEED on anything I put in it. Big mistake.

    Second, not every move works for everyone. I have a minor elbow alignment issue and some ulnar nerve binding. My Military Press is a little funny on the left side. I learned Waiter Presses, which helped some, but I cannot do BUPs on the left to save my life. I just discovered the Single Leg MP from the ETK bonus releases. My left SLMP got halfway up and paused, then crept up the rest of the way. No hip shifting, no side pressing, no ballistic launching from the rack. It was hard and scary and tiring, but it was the cleanest left arm MP set I've ever done. I just had to find the right alternate press to train with. 

    Third, I've been trying to raise my swing density to improve my conditioning. The long-term goal was a snatch test. I'd have been happy with either the RKC numbers (100/5min) or the SSST (200/10min), but I wasn't ready. The last few weeks, I've tried :35/:25 and :40/:20 swings with surprising results. My fingers went numb at 6 or 8 minutes because of my nerve impingement. The new muscle mass during the ROP only made it worse. I had to regroup. I found that one-handed swings at :30/:30 suit me best. This isn't hardstyle and I may catch flak for it, but I can release briefly at the top of a 1H swing to keep the hand fresh. Each arm gets 20 quick releases and :30 off every minute, and I can do 1H swings at a reasonable weight all day again. I did almost 300 this week before acknowledging that I was sick. Similarly, I've managed my snatch rhythm to my hand fatigue, with great results. 

    To wrap things up, I hit 5-rungs x 5 presses a couple weeks ago and have repeated it for good measure. I finally snatched 100/5min this week . I may continue on for 200/10min, or I may prep to move up a bell. Not sure yet, but I learned a lot on the way here. I think that I'll set what my company calls "stretch goals" for the month of May. See if I can make 200/10min snatches at 16kg. Use SLMP ladders on the left to train to press 24kg for 5 singles. If not by the end of May, then I order a 20kg and make baby steps. Nothing wrong with that.

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    01/2010 Upgrade

    For the first quarter of 2010, I've stacked a few goals in sequence. They all naturally follow an introductory, therapeutic season with a 12kg bell completed at New Year's.
    • HKC (completed 01/10/2010 at Condition Gym)
    • PM with new 16kg kettlebell
    • Begin RoP with new 16kg kettlebell 
    I have a basic need to handle a heavier weight. I'm going to swing the 16kg regularly and swing 24kg periodically. I have another basic need to improve pullups. I will do them in sets of varying length and density. Last, I have an elbow/wrist issue in my left arm that hinders every overhead motion. I've done 4 5-rung ladders of MPs with 12kg, so the arm can lift and can find a groove. It's just not right yet. To weave all this together, I've adapted the Program Minimum as follows, and I'm really excited about it. 

    All @16kg unless noted 
    Wk 1
    - M: 5-10min alt TGU, ladder CP, ladder pullups at :00, 1x5/5 snatches
    - Tu: pullup sets at :00, 12min medium swings
    - Th: 10-15min alt TGU, short CP sets, ladder pullups/:30
    - F: pullup sets/:20, 15min medium swings

    Wk 2
    - M: 5-10min TGU 2 per side, short CP sets, ladder pullups/:30, 2x5/5 snatches
    - Tu: pullup sets/:20, 12min fast swings
    - Th: 10-15min TGU 2 per side, short CP sets, pullup sets/:30
    - F: 12min medium swings with 24kg, 1-2 pullups between swing sets

    Wk 3
    - M: TGU 3 per side, no presses, pullup long set test, 4x5/5 snatches (a press, a pull up, a pull down)
    - Tu: no pullups, 12-15min fast swings
    - Th: TGU 3 per side, ladder CP, pullup sets/:30
    - F: 12min fast swings with 24kg (or 15min slow), 1-2 pullups between swing sets 

    Pullups are done either at the top of the minute or at every 20sec or every 30sec to train density. The total volume is not the focus. I can do 5+4+4 as easily as 3+3+3+3 with rests between sets, but I cannot do 10 straight or 4x5. I have adapted to an arbitrary number. The /:20 and /:30 sessions should eventually train my body to do 10 or 12 straight, and I'll test for a single long set once a month.

    Swings... I've done 20x20min swings before, so volume conditioning is not really the point. The point for me is training for heavier weight. 200 reps is a good benchmark for me, and this rotation tops 180 almost every session after Wk 2. After an introductory week at 16kg, swing days will alternate 16kg and 24kg. 24kg swing days will use 1-2 pullups during recovery to try to train the body to do 20-plus pullups in a long session while fatigued. Wish me luck.

    I can already snatch 16kg. Each Monday's snatch session will add a set of 5/5. I would be thrilled to find myself doing 5x5/5 in :30/:30 at the end of a PM. This is not a snatch centered program, but there would be nothing wrong with replacing a :30/:30x12min swing day with 60/60 snatches on that same cadence.

    If this modified routine accomplishes the goals for which it's designed, I may not be in any hurry to start an RoP. I would love to help more newbies wrap their heads around these two things. First, the basic routines are there to train you to handle weight with clean form. Second, you don't have to do "everything" to be fit. You can add a focus exercise if you understand waviness of load and cycling. I have no need to test my swing limits, but I would love to test :30/:30 snatches around week 6 as a by-product of swinging new weight and practicing snatches weekly. I'm really stoked about this. I actually laid awake Saturday night thinking about swinging my new 24kg next Friday!

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    Basic Welcome Message

    First, thank you for following along.  This will be an ongoing conversation about health and physical training that began for me in the Summer of 2008 at age 38.  There was a catastrophic injury and a long rehab.  That rehab was the first commitment I had made toward my own fitness in some 15 years.

    I am a kettlebell enthusiast and certified instructor of kettlebell skills.  My training on shiny white machines stagnated until I found a new motivation in moving myself and simple pieces of iron in the Summer of 2009.  What followed has been an exciting and interesting discovery in strength and well-being that continues to this day.

    Every few months some men's magazine or website will present "15 physical skills every man should have".  15 pullups, 25 pushups, run 5 miles, carry someone your weight up two flights of stairs, that sort of thing.  Useful stuff for getting out from under a motorcycle or into an open window overhead or carrying an injured comrade to safety.  There are strong, rippling monsters of manhood that cannot do a pullup or touch their toes.  There are people who can run a marathon but cannot carry a heavy load up stairs, and vice versa. The day I handed my walker to my nurse and clambered up two flights of stairs because the elevator was broken, I committed to be more physically fit.  Here we go.