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?
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.
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.
We are a creature that is made to move. I am not the first to say this nor am I the first to lament the sedentary nature of most of the country’s population but have you ever noticed how great it feels to just go take a walk? This is not simply your body reacting. Moving is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body AND your mind. Naturally it is best to move with good posture and within our current physical parameters, but move me must and we must do it for all of our time on this planet.
My parents took this idea to a rather extreme point by undertaking the Camino de Santiago de Campostela. If you’re unaware this is a 500 mile walk from southern France across northern Spain to the cathedral of Santiago de Campostela in the town of Galicia where the remains of St. James are kept. It has been a religious undertaking since the 9th Century and these days still attracts thousands of people every year. These days not everyone does the Camino for the original purposes of religious pilgrimage. Some want an adventure. Others want some time for introspection (the full route takes over a month to complete). But whatever your reason, there’s only one way to do it: on foot.
This was a big undertaking for my parents and they had to train a lot in preparation. For almost a year in advance, they walked 8-12 miles per DAY and some days longer…at 79 years of age! Their preparation proved wise as they did very well on the Camino, but the year of prep was also great in and of itself. The benefits they feel from the daily movement has built a habit. Although it’s been months since they completed the Camino they still walk miles every day!
The long and short of this post is humans need to move. Please find something you enjoy whether it’s walking, hiking, rock climbing, whatever…just get out there and do it. You will be amazed at how great you feel!
I am the kind of person who enjoys a lot of interests. I train and teach martial arts. I train and teach strength and conditioning. I love to cook. I am into traditional archery and hit the woods during hunting season with a longbow. (As if hunting with a compound bow isn’t difficult enough…but that’s another story.) And that’s not counting the pastimes I’ve retired: guitar and pottery to name just two. My point is I enjoy a lot of different things and while this is healthy for the mind and a key to happiness, doing many things is detrimental to training. Physical training requires a focus. Without it, results will suffer. As Pavel says so succinctly, “Random training will produce random results.”
But coming up with a specific goal can be a challenge too! Personally, I would love to PR my kettlebell press and barbell deadlift and front squat every month as well as max out on my high volume kettlebell snatches. But I think we can all agree that just ain’t gonna happen. Something has to give in order to get. Right now for me I’m giving up my dead lift, front squat and KB press so I can focus on the bench press. I will admit, I hate to bench, but it is a requirement for me to finish the StrongFirst Lifter certification so I am on it 3x/week. To say I can’t wait to send in my test video is a massive understatement! But my point should not be lost in the humor. Simply put, I am focusing on what I need to accomplish. There’s really no other way.
Doing a bit of everything might be fun but it’s not training. Find what you want to accomplish and then hold yourself accountable.
Here’s to a stronger 2019!
January is as full of New Year’s resolutions as February is with folks who’ve already broken them, but please don’t let that stop you from making one! The new year is the perfect time to assess what you accomplished last year and plan your goals for this year. So what are your goals? Well if you’re not sure, here are some suggestions:
- Eat better. What exactly does that mean? For most of us it means eat better quality, less processed food, and eat less of it. Barring some medical aberration, most of us benefit greatly from lowering our sugar and grain intake. You don’t have to go full on Paleo, but cutting back on these two things will go a long way toward making you feel and LOOK better!
- Do something physical. ANYTHING! My parents are 80 years old and they just completed the Camino de Santiago de Campostela. If you’re unfamiliar, this is a 500 mile walk across northern Spain. Check out the film, “The Way” by Emilio Estevez (or my folks’ blog frankandettieonthecamino.com) to get a sense of this beautiful landscape. My folks are retired so they have plenty of time on their hands to travel for a number of weeks and do an epic adventure like this but my point is that even at 80 they are very active. The physical and mental benefits of consistent activity are countless. So find something you like doing, and DO IT a few times per week!
- Keep in touch with loved ones. Time flies when you’re in your working years and before you know it, our loved ones are diminishing in number. Do yourself a favor and link up with some aunts or cousins you enjoy but haven’t been in touch with for a while. You will both enjoy it!
I think you’ll agree all of these suggestions are ones anyone can take up at a moment’s notice. There’s this lovely thing called the internet that allows you to research anything… Use it and get going!
If you’re curious, one of my resolutions is to write this blog regularly…
Happy New Year! Here’s to a spectacular 2019!!
The pen is mighty indeed. Speaking for myself, writing notes by hand when I am studying for various certifications is much more helpful than typing on a keyboard. The convenience of the computer is hard to beat, but when it comes to recall, I definitely have had better experiences with hand written notes than electronic. I don’t think evidence of this is necessary, you probably already agree with me, but in case you’re the kind of person who likes additional proof, here you go:
Handwritten notes vs. typed notes: is there a difference?
In case you’re still not on board, here’s one more:
Okay, now that we’re on the same page, aside from retention, why do I (a strength coach and martial arts instructor) implore you to take notes by hand? Retention, as mentioned above, is a big part of it. But even bigger is: accountability. Accountability is a large and frequently missing link in training. Students often (mistakenly) think they just need to show up to class and the instructor will work his magic and voila! Instant mastery! NOT… The learning process requires the student to be as engaged in learning as the instructor is in teaching and writing notes by hand will facilitate that process. I realize describing martial arts movements can be complex so do your best with that, but jotting down key points on how to dead lift a bar or swing a kettlebell is pretty straight forward. Even if you’re not a natural writer.
But more important than what you write down from your handful of hours of instruction in the gym per week is WHAT DO YOU DO OUTSIDE OF THE GYM??? Even if you train 2 hours a day, 5 days a week, that’s a mere 10 hours a week. Adjusting for 8 hours of sleep per night, this still leaves you 112 hours or so to mess up all the good work you did in the gym. How? By eating and drinking poorly. Diet is without a doubt the easiest thing for us to control and the hardest thing for me to get students to commit to doing properly and consistently. Diet is a comfort zone for people, and falling off the wagon is easy to do and hard to recover from. One way to help combat this is to keep a hand written food log. Write down everything you eat AND drink during the course of the day. Everything. Did I say everything? Yes, everything. And at the end of every day look at your log to see if you’re actually following your coach’s guidance or if you’re falling off the wagon.
Keeping and reviewing a hand written food log will go a long way to helping you stay on track with the most powerful part of your training: diet. A good diet will facilitate everything you are trying to accomplish in the gym or on the mats.
Eat right. Write it down. Read it. Repeat.
Click HERE for my most recent article for Breaking Muscle. It’s on the proper wrist alignment for pressing the kettlebell. Please check it out and enjoy!
Sifu Francis has been a pivotal part of my martial arts life for almost 20 years. His approach to Wing Chun is “traditional but not old fashioned.” It is not what you expect. Yes, he has fast hands. But he understands boxing, kicking, locking and weaponry. The breadth of his knowledge is seemingly endless and it means he can adapt to any environment. He is not in a box. Or if he is, it’s really big!
I was thrilled to host him for a seminar on March 10. Here’s a little taste of what he gave us that day. More clips to come!
Please join us for our official grand opening!
The date is Saturday, Jan 27 from 10AM – 4PM…or later! We will have a hydrostatic body fat test truck on hand! Book your appointment through bodyfattest.com. In addition to free hourly seminars on kettlebells, martial arts and powerlifting, we will have a Rock Tape clinic with Dr. Ira Schneider, awesome music from DJ Johnny Hawkes and delicious Paleo food catered by chef Lynne Tolentino of Partido.
And naturally we will have grand opening specials going on all day so come see us!