What are you training for???

By Admin Admin,

I know you like to lift. So do I. But what exactly are you training for? Are you trying to hit a specific load with your dead lift? Are you trying to get in shape for an endurance event? Or maybe a martial arts competition. Maybe, like me, you want to tame the “Beast” (that’s a strict press, strict pull up and pistol squat with the 48k kettlebell). That goal will take me some time but while I work toward it I am also able to stay strong and mobile and adequately conditioned for the upcoming bow hunting season, some of the time likely spent at altitude. Whatever it is, you should know what it is.

Assuming you know what you’re training for the next question is are you on the right path and the question after that is are you sticking to the plan? Once you have a program in hand you need to follow it. Now I don’t mean hitting heavy singles at 95% of your 1RM the day after you had a crappy night of sleep and feel like death warmed over. If that’s your instinct, I’d refer you to my previous post “Always be smarter than the kettlebell.” But assuming you have your head screwed on straight, make sure to follow the plan. Just as desired outcomes in life are not guaranteed, so too is the case for desired outcomes in the gym, but staying the course is your best (and only) chance to find out how close you can get.

So I will ask you again, what are you training for? And are you following the plan you’ve chosen? If not you need to either rethink your goal so it’s more in line what you really want to accomplish or you need to kick yourself in the pants and get back on the program…and stick with it!

Stay strong, my friends!

Always be smarter than the kettlebell.

By Admin Admin,

I wrote “The Martial Arts / Kettlebell Connection” back in 2010 for Black Belt Magazine. When I signed copies for people I always wrote something I had been telling my students for a while, “Always be smarter than the kettlebell!” I found this a funny way for me to get across to people the importance of staying present and rational during training.

Training is a good and necessary thing. But all good things can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. Water is the single most important element to our daily survival. We can last without food for weeks but two days without water in the right (wrong) conditions and you’re dead. Water is truly essential, but you can drink too much. It’s called hyponatremia and is no joke. The condition is rare, but my point is clear: There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

In training, the desire is often to beat ourselves to a pulp in order to rebuild stronger. There’s nothing wrong with a good work ethic. In fact, I think it’s one of the few things we can’t really teach someone. It’s either there or it’s not. But like all things it can be taken too far. I had a student who used a lacrosse ball to such an extreme he actually bruised himself. Clearly this is not the goal of a recovery tool. I had another student, actually more than one, who if the session for the day called for running through traffic, they would do it with no hesitation. This is a problem. This is when someone becomes their own worst enemy.

So, yes, please work hard. Training shouldn’t be easy, but it also shouldn’t be stupid. If you find yourself frequently injured or sick, take a step back and make sure you’re being smarter than the kettlebell. Our minds separate us from animals that behave on instinct alone. I strongly suggest you use it.

Stay strong, my friends!

To Paleo or not to Paleo?

By Admin Admin,

In my opinion, diet is the single most powerful element of training to affect body composition. You won’t get “fit” from eating a specific diet and yes you need to move and lift in order to build strength and cardiovascular conditioning but diet is the key to reach your body composition goals.

Most of my students train 3x/week. Some less. Some more. But think about it, that’s only 2 to 6 hours a WEEK that I am directly impacting their lives. There are 168 hours in a week. Subtract 8 hours a night for sleep and you’re down to 112. Minus another 40 hours for work and you’re down to 72. This means that you have 66 to 70 hours a week to really make a mess of things. And the easiest way to make a mess is to eat crap. Compound that with the fact that food is often a thing people go to when depressed or tired. And I don’t know about you but when I’m in either of those states, I don’t make good choices.

There are a lot of diets out there. Vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, carnivore, primal, macrobiotic, Adkins, pescatarian, Mediterranean, and I’m sure many more. Some are plant based, others blend plant and animal sources, others are pure animal. This post has “Paleo” in the title but really a good diet is one that helps you reach your goals and is sustainable. Period. I’m not here really to convince you to eat Paleo, but I will admit that in over 10 years as a strength coach, Paleo has proven to be the easiest to explain to students and the easiest for them to sustain.

Simple to understand and simple to follow are two additional keys to success.

Anyway, I’m really not here to convince you to eat Paleo. What I am trying to do is convince you of how important a good diet is to your performance goals and overall health. Body composition is the thing that gets people to do things. If it will make them look better on the beach, chances are they’ll do it. A good diet will definitely do that. One of the reasons I’m (mostly) Paleo is because in addition to making staying lean easy, I just feel better. I sleep better and I very very very very very rarely get sick. Those are reason enough for me.

At its core, Paleo is a great diet for those reducing inflammation and that leads to the things I just listed. Plus it’s easy!

Anyway, enough about my thoughts on diet. Here’s a terrific debate from Rogan’s podcast between a vegan cardiologist named Joel Kahn and one of the best researchers out there, Chris Kresser. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULtqCBimr6U. They both argue their points well and thankfully it never degrades into a yelling match, which is common when “discussing” diet. Check it out and see what you think.

A final suggestion: once you decide on a diet to try, do yourself a favor and stick to it for 90 days to see what happens. Use your gut and your head and your goals to help you decide which one you want to try. But once you decide. Do it. In the words of Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Stay strong, my friends.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Is it possible?

By Admin Admin,

There is probably a finite amount of wisdom accessible to humans. I mean it’s a large amount but it’s more than likely finite. I’m guessing this is why there are so many different ways of saying something. For example, my Wing Chun instructor Sifu Francis Fong has a great saying regarding fighting, “There is no right or wrong, just consequence.” He is usually smiling and smacking you upside your face while saying this, just in case you missed his point. I humbly modified his saying to, “Anything will work if you can pull it off.” Basically what you did might be technically incorrect, but if it worked, it worked!

Vince Lombardi said, “Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”

John Wooden is one of my favorite sources of inspiration. He has so many amazing one-liners you can buy a book of them. Really. Check it out here. “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts,” is my reigning favorite right now.

But there’s another powerful saying that I like. I’m not sure who said it first, but it’s still great. “Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.” We are a creature of habit AND comfort. We like a soft bed, hot water and temperate climate. Who can blame you? They all feel GREAT! But comfort is where we stagnate. Not just psychologically but also physically. I attended StrongFirst’s “PlanStrong” workshop last weekend with StrongFirst CEO and Master SFG, Fabio Zonin. (Fabio is a spectacular instructor. And English isn’t even his first language!) Anyway, he reminded us that discomfort is essential for optimal training results. For example, if you are writing a program and you would be comfortable breaking 12 reps up into 4 sets of 3, you should instead do 5, 4, 3 or something less comfortable than the sets of 3 your instinct told you to do.

How do we do this? By forcing ourselves, of course. Going with what we “feeeeeeeeeeel” (emphasis added) is almost always a bad idea. It will lead us to doing things that benefit us and pretty much no one else. Go with what you KNOW to be better. Use your mind and overcome your instinct. Acting on instinct is for mere animals. We can and should do better.

You can get comfortable with being uncomfortable simply by making a decision to do so. We are not judged by our thoughts but by our actions. Make your actions the best you can. Getting out of your comfort zone is one of the surefire ways to do so.

Stay strong, my friends!

Is having Purell everywhere really that good an idea?

By Admin Admin,

No matter where you go these days there seems to be some kind of Purell (or similar product) dispenser because God forbid I get my cappuccino without eradicating every germ on my hands. My students are familiar with my “caveman filter.” No, this does not mean I’m a caveman, though that wouldn’t really bother me. It relates to how would our ancient ancestors have handled X or Y? For example, would they have needed to frequently shampoo and condition their hair? Chances are no. And I’ve proved this, at least in my non-scientific study of one (me). I had pretty annoying dandruff since I was a kid. I tried every dandruff shampoo out there. “Big Pharma” types like Head and Shouders or Selsun Blue as well as the overpriced organic offerings from Whole Foods. Nothing worked. I mean that literally. Nothing was what worked. Yes, I mean I do not shampoo my hair. And since the day I stopped I haven’t seen a flake of dandruff. I rinse in hot water, use conditioner and some jojoba oil and that’s it. Death to dandruff. Ok, maybe the caveman from whose loins I sprang thousands and thousands and thousands of years later didn’t use conditioner and jojoba oil, but you get my point. They did not clean everything in sight. And guess what, they survived and thrived in a time where survival was the biggest challenge of the day.

The same, I would surmise holds true for the ubiquitous appearance of Purell over the last 10 years or so. For those of you who can’t see gray area, I’m not suggesting you wash your hands in the toilet prior to flushing. I’m suggesting that killing all germs is probably not a great idea. It stands to reason that we are weakened when we don’t need to fight anything off because it’s already been killed for us. I’m about to start NassimTaleb’s book “Antifragile” which deals with this idea of disorder helping us improve and when everything is neat and tidy we are not as well off. It seems to me that a society which uses Purell by the metric ton would be better off getting a little dirty.

Thoughts?

Attitude is everything

By Admin Admin,

I’ve been lucky enough in my time training and coaching to have been around some spectacularly talented athletes and martial artists. Some were professional fighters but not all by any means. One quality that I found in each of these people was the right attitude toward training. They were willing to work hard at learning (aka take their lumps) but also really loved and enjoyed the process. If you don’t love and enjoy the process, you will be miserable. And your misery won’t just be yours. Misery has a way of touching everyone around you. And chances are they neither like it nor deserve it.

There’s a saying that I’ll dilute a bit to maintain my PG rating: “If you hang around 9 jerks, you’re bound to be the 10th.” Basically, everyone we surround ourselves with will affect us. If you hang around bad people with bad attitudes you’re gonna make bad choices and be a pain to be around. If you hang around good people with good attitudes…you get the point.

This is exactly one of the things I love about the students and staff at Source 1 – they are all incredibly positive. I don’t know if this I had anything to do with this but either way it is a welcome quality in people I interact with on a daily basis and I assure you that I don’t take it for granted. I do my best to set a positive, hard working example, but in the end everyone makes the choice to follow that lead or not. And I am grateful that the Source 1 students and staff do.

I recommend you regularly take a moment of introspection and evaluate your attitude. Is it good? Could it be better? In the end we will all fail and succeed any number of times at any number of undertakings, often as the result of circumstances beyond our control. But the attitude we have during these times is COMPLETELY under our control. Take control of your attitude. Make it a positive one. Find the silver lining. And watch the amazing ripple effect it has, not just on you and your life, but everyone around you.

Stay strong, my friends.

Some things are timeless

By Admin Admin,

Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) said, “Teaching is the highest form of understanding.” The act of teaching requires us to gain a depth of understanding prior to teaching and also implies that we must maintain our thirst for knowledge even after we have begun teaching.

John Wooden (1910 – 2010) has too many amazing quotes to list but one of my favorites is, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Aside from being a pithy, backhanded compliment, the point is clear: don’t stop learning. If we lose that we lose the drive that made us an inspired teacher in the first place.

I find it quite interesting that a guy who died 2,300 years ago and a guy who died 9 years ago had a similar outlook. What can you call this kind of timeless connection that transcends millennia, language and culture? Given the consistency of human nature, I would call it “wisdom.” What made sense in Aristotle’s time also makes sense now.

If we understand this we know that while we need to constantly learn and explore and investigate, we don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel all the time. There will still be plenty that needs figuring out but there’s no need to do a trial and error approach with every aspect to what we want to accomplish. Follow the example set by those who have done what you want to in years prior and mimic them.

Our job is likely not to create a new way but rather to continually polish that which has been established. Let’s make the future better!

Stay strong, my friends.

My current goal: tame the beast

By Admin Admin,

Having recently completed the StrongFirst Lifter (SFL) certification and achieved “StrongFirst Elite” status I have set my sights on a new goal: Beast Tamer. I would say that it’s a goal for 2019 but it might take me til 2020 to actually achieve it! For those unfamiliar, the Beast Tamer Challenge is one…beast…of a task. It consists of 3 events, strict military press (no push press or jerk), strict pull up (no kip) and pistol (one-legged squat) with the 48k (106#) kettlebell.

Beast Tamers and StrongFirst’s resident Iron Maiden in action!

Everyone has their strength, so to speak. By that I mean people will excel at one or maybe two of these events but rarely does someone waltz through all three. For me the press is the most comfortable. At a body weight of 180 (right now…) I can comfortably press the 36k for reps on both sides and the 40k for a single with no prep. That’s not to say that adding 8k to my press won’t be a challenge, but at least it’s within sight. The pull up is a bit further off. I could probably grunt out one ugly rep with the 32k if my wife’s life depended on it, but that is not very close to the 48. The pistol, however, is literally miles away. Maybe light years…

Basically I have a lot of work to do. But it’s incredibly exciting to have a specific goal and one that can be attained with good programming and diligent practice.

What’s your current goal?

Beards without calluses…

By Admin Admin,

I admit to being a dinosaur. I was born in 1968, have never cared about pop culture or the “cool” thing to do, and drove used diesel cars that ran on vegetable oil for over a decade. Let me tell you, nothing screams “hip” as much as a used diesel car that smells like tempura shrimp when it drives by. If that isn’t proof enough, I shoot and hunt with a longbow. If you’re still not convinced, I smoke a pipe. If you’re STILL not convinced, well that’s all I’ve got. Anyway, this intro has been a long winded way of saying that while I’m out of touch with what’s “in” and popular, I am an observant person and I coach for a living so I have to be tuned in to people – at least to a certain degree!

In any event, something has been mildly percolating in my dome for a while that I recently put my finger on. I hope it’s as interesting a question to you as it is to me: When did it become OK for men to grow massive beards while accomplishing their daily tasks with hands as soft as those of an infant?

I actually think there is a cognitive dissonance of sorts to this beard vs. callus situation. I liken it to a certain generation simultaneously producing MMA fighters and “snowflakes.” The former can withstand massive amounts of punishment while the latter melt at the slightest discomfort. Likewise, there was a time when sporting some Paul Bunyan style growth required the swinging of axes and the felling of trees. And although clean shaven Popeye always downed his spinach in time to settle his bully nemesis Brutus’s hash, at least Brutus was scrappy enough to make having the beard make sense!

Paul Bunyan swinging axes and felling trees

 

Popeye cleaning Brutus’s clock.

 

Soft baby hands…

**Now seems like the appropriate time for a quick, but necessary, disclaimer! To my friends, family and students who sport some Paul Bunyan facial growth. None of you have the hands of an infant so it’s all good!

My point in all of this is I have no problem with guys growing massive beards. But please don’t have that be where the growth stops. Get some calluses by spending time in training of some kind. I don’t care if you rock climb, swing kettlebells, powerlift, train Jiu Jitsu or Muay Thai, but DO SOMETHING! While the signs of wear and tear from these undertakings are obviously seen on the outside, there is far more growth on the inside.

Avoid too much focus on how things look. The surface is just that. Go deeper.

Stay strong, my friends.

Don’t train heavy too often

By Admin Admin,

There is a fascination with going heavy in the weight room. It seems logical. If I lift heavy weight I will get stronger in less time than if I lift lighter weight, right? Wrong. While you will likely make some initial progress lifting heavy and often, you will eventually burn out or hurt yourself, either one requiring the necessary layoff you could avoid by just going lighter. In short, going too heavy too often is counter productive.

The bulk of your monthly volume should actually take place around 80% of your 1RM. This sounds way too light to get strong but I promise you that is not the case. This doesn’t mean you don’t at times go heavier, nor does it mean you don’t go lighter. But that is the sweet spot where the majority of your monthly work should be done. Assuming you want to get a LOT stronger and remain uninjured, that is.

I’ve been at this game for a while yet sometimes even I get surprised by the fast and measurable progress I make when I follow a program at the appropriate intensity – aka not too heavy. For example, finishing up my SFL (StrongFirst Lifter) requirements this week I was able to easily add 15 pounds to my bench within 6 weeks of consistent training on a PlanStrong style model!

For more on this, I “strongly” recommend you attend the PlanStrong event offered by StrongFirst. There is one coming up in San Diego in March. The foundation of this approach is based on simple concepts that you can apply IMMEDIATELY for you and your students, assuming you’re a coach. If not, SEND YOUR COACH TO THIS COURSE!

Stay strong, my friends.