Want to Train like a Badass?

My thoughts about what being a Badass in the gym means and looks like.

Everyone likes lists – yes? Here’s a list of 20 Rules and Tips for training like a Badass.

First off, what is a Badass in the gym? It’s not (in my honest opinion) the tough looking gym goer with the scowling attitude or the dude with the big Beats headphones or the girl with (whatever is in right now) or the loudest, strongest meathead. It doesn’t even have an appropriate hashtag (#tbc)!

The badass is the one who trains and moves every day to be better than last week. The true badass is more capable, physically competent and isn’t concerned with who sees them ‘workout’. They are the useful person you call when you need a hand moving furniture, pulling out that tree or helping out with all the stuff that’s challenging in life. The badass is a great all-rounder. The badass knows how their body works. The badass just gets the job done. 

  1. Get strong, but move strong too
    • Fundamentally, if you train, you should ideally be working on moving better and getting stronger. Moving includes walking, climbing, getting to the ground… and up. Being flexible and free to move your body as you need when you need. Strength – see below.
  2. Lift, push, pull, squat and carry – a simple recipe
    • The fundamental movement categories humans are designed to be strong and able at include these. Progressively develop your scope and range of strength in each of these.
  3. Learn liftings common features
    • When learning the strength movements above and mobility drills, you will observe common features, instructions or rules and such.
  4. Move as nature intended
    • The human body is built to move and manipulate. Before recent times we had grown superior to other mammals because we adapted so well to our chosen environments. Physically we developed aptitudes and skills like getting up and down from the ground, walking, running, jumping, throwing, balancing. carrying, climbing, lifting, resting in a deep squat, catching, pushing and pulling. It behooves us to maintain that which made us the species we are today. You can clearly see the evidence of the lack of these aptitudes in the sedentary.
  5. Build capacity
    • We ‘are’ built to do more than just leg day, arm day and chest day. Practice all our abilities and every now and then work them together. Lift something, carry it, push it, throw it. Practice good form of course, but challenge yourself a little, maybe getting a little out of breath. Do try to maintain nasal only breathing though.
  6. Turn up
    • Turn up, show up, just start – all refer to the same notion. Do not hesitate and grab opportunities. Many stories of success start with someone meeting and talking to someone they wouldn’t normally talk to. Many successes start with going to an event not normally attended. In 2008 I begrudgingly attended a weekend certification for this stupid looking thing called a kettlebell. At the end of the weekend my curiosity grew. Two years later I certified again under the worlds most intense Kettlebell certification (RKC), I met some of the worlds best coaches and many new doors of opportunities opened for me. Cliche time. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always had. Just start, even if it’s a small gesture.
  7. Lock away the ego
    • That extra rep, that extra grunt, going hard or going home; really has no place in a sensible, healthy strength, fitness or wellness plan. Yes, hard work is fine when part of a planned program, but if you treat every session like a competition against yourself – it’s a losers game. Injury is high risk. Being able to move well the following day is hindered. Repeating a training session with the same effort will become more and more difficult. Follow a good plan, lock away the ego and smile for gods sake when you’re in the gym. There are way too many serious looking grumps with attitude in gyms these days.
  8. Meet your body where it is
    • There are those old words of advice, ‘listen to your body’. To listen you have to let your body speak. This happens best with routine movement. The more often you move the more familiar you get with the feelings, sensations and limits of your own body. Some days you’ll feel like a super hero and on other days! Well, on some days you’ll wonder why you even got out of bed. However, remember point #6, Turn Up. Meet your body where it is on any given day. Adjust your program. Don’t compare yourself to your training peers or social media performers. You be you. You are your own special snowflake 🙂
  9. Do not punish yourself with exercise
    • I seriously do not know how this sentiment exists. The concept of subjecting your body to abuse because you chose to eat something you regretted is a matter best referred to some serious time alone to consider your life choices. You really need to know your why. Why you eat what you eat. Why you feel the ways you feel after eating. Why you exercise. Why you value yourself and life. Rant over. Each and every time you exercise, it’s an opportunity to better yourself, not beat yourself. Enjoy food, but know and practice knowing when to stop. Again, enjoy food, It’s a gift. Learn to adorn yourself with exercise methods you enjoy, look forward to, reap benefits both physically and emotionally.
  10. Be safe, effective and efficient 
    • In the hardstyle kettlebell method, we say that anyone can swing a kettlebell between their legs but still not perform a kettlebell swing. The same can be said about just about any other strength and movement aptitude. To do is not enough. To do well with skill should be the goal. Keep in mind too, that this applies not just to physically demanding movements, but to everyday, seemingly simple tasks. Standing, walking and twisting are everyday moves but done with poor conditions leads to gradual breakdowns. “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” —Lou Holtz
  11. Stop looking at the socials for inspiration – just stick to the dam plan
    • Referencing this to both training and nutrition coaching, most failures occur as a result of not following the plan. ‘Jamie, I just didn’t get much out of this program’, says the individual who came to train fours times out of six scheduled appointments! ‘That diet didn’t work, even though I only cheated on a few occasions!’ Stick to the dam plan. This then shifts to looking for inspirations from make believe role models in social media. A brief glimpse into someones workout of the day, meal prep is just that – brief. You may not see how the rest of their day rolls. Their life is theirs, yours is yours. Be you. You deserve it – now get back to the plan.
  12. Use various equipment and objects and ‘see point 3’ 
    • I had one of those epiphany moments a couple of years ago when a gym strong woman struggled to move a large plant pot (empty) from her arms to the floor! Here’s a woman who can lift heavy kettlebells, but can’t lower a common ‘thing’ to the ground. The problem? She couldn’t contextualise her training to the real world. Our gym is now populated with a bigger variety of objects to train with. Not expensive equipment, but things you can find around the house and garden. That paired with building scenarios in the gym can really help to relate the movements we practice in the gym with real world physicality’s.
  13. Don’t rush – work on just getting better
    • Progress is not always a numbers game. Adding reps, KGs, volume, time, speed are all great parameters to adjust and grow. But what about competency? I actually overheard a cashier talking to a co-worker yesterday (I wasn’t eavesdropping, honestly) about how she put the bar thingy behind her head and went down when her knee popped! She is referring to squatting of course but her words and tone told a story of incompetence and unfamiliarity. Move strong to lift strong. Spending time learning how to move really well in the big archetypal movements before adding loads should make sense. ‘Should’, but doesn’t often happen these days of instant gratification. Better is better. You can’t rush better. Just spend time enjoying learning about yourself, and progress.
  14. Never work to failure but embrace the suck sometimes
    • Getting better (see above) at anything takes skill. Skill is practice. Practicing in a stressful environment rarely results in developing good skills. Imagine shouting at a student to learn quicker, stressing them out, getting them all sweaty, hot and bothered and mouth breathing! Learning requires attention in the absence of stressful distractions including working a movement or muscle to the point of failure. Detailed research and anecdotal observations both support training in the effort range of 60-75% of maximum to attain training adaptations. Naturally, to discover those percentages you have to (every now and again when the time is right) get a bit uncomfortable and work up to relative technical maximums or near to. This is not max max, where the trainee collapses in a heap of, well, physical failure. Guided testing is fine when appropriate but should not be a frequent training objective. Practice makes progress. Failure makes for a day in the operating theatre at some point.
  15. Plan your recovery, self care and maintenance
    • All the gym time in the world is useless if you are not recovering adequately. Recovery first of all isn’t plopping down on the sofa and chilling out with a protein shake and a season of Stranger Things. Recovery entails nutrition and hydration for sure, including planning out meals, shopping accordingly and eating it of course. Great things happen when we eat more proteins and vegetables and cut back on cardboard carbs. Sleep is the highest priority when it comes to recovery. A crappy nights sleep can derail your day and turn you into a Gruffalo and ruin your training session to follow. Aiming for 8 to 9 hours should be a goal and as I’ve learned recently, the hours before midnight matter more than those after. Yup, off to bed early. Other areas to work on include joint and muscle recovery with a solid mobility practice like Original Strength and booking in for a monthly massage. If that’s not an option, a foam roller or Therapy Gun are great additions to your self care tool box. Ideally, self care every day. Move well, move often.
  16. Play, explore
    • ‘Why so serious’? Great line from a great character in a great movie. Whilst we shouldn’t be planning the downfall of Batman or the city, we all need to play more. Adulting is serious for sure, but having fun feels good, and you guessed it, feeling good feels good. Taking time to explore other ways of moving apart from pressing, pulling, squatting etc should be part of your weekly routine. You just might surprise yourself with some latent skills. You might just be one of those people who can hand stand, pistol squat and jump over tall buildings without knowing it. Go explore.
  17. Eat like an adult
    • Sorry, I’m gona hurt your feelings perhaps! A diet consisting of biscuits, cereals, chocolate spread on toast, fish fingers or chicken nuggets and chips isn’t going to take you to your health and fitness goals. Okay okay, a very infrequent, every now and then indulgence isn’t going to cause havoc but, making processed foods a daily occurrence is a failure to eat like an adult. Eat a variety of vegetables, preferably from local(ish) farmers. Eat naturally occurring proteins, meats or otherwise. Cook with naturally occurring fats rather than factory processed oils. And choose naturally growing carbohydrates when fuelling up is needed. Spices, herbs and some condiments are great to make most kitchen concoctions flavoursome galore.
  18. Embrace the process towards your goal(s)
    • Over many years of training I have discovered, seen and read how focussing on the goals are fatiguing; fraught with distracting stresses. Impatience can ruin many a goal by failing to focus and work on the skills of the processes that ultimately leads to the goal. I’m not one of those people who was blessed with the natural ability to perform a pistol squat. I could barbell squat 200kg at one time but couldn’t do a pistol squat. However, once I started following a progressive skill and strength plan, the pistol squat organically grew out of the honing of all the other skills. Like many others, I loved the steps of the journey towards the pistol squat aka the process, and the final outcome, the pistol squat was a nice end to the journey. But, without following the process, I would probably have given up after many failed attempts at just trying to ‘pistol’. Enjoy the process and let the outcome happen.
  19. Love your strengths but develop your weaknesses
    • Specialisation is a very (modern) human trait. Specialists are admired for their prowess in their specific field or expertise. Odd really considering how limiting of our potential the restraint of speciality is. In the gym, the specialist is the bench guy, or the squat queen, or the person in lycra obsessed with spin bikes. Sporting individuals too, meet the category. But, what other physical qualities are left untouched on the proverbial table when we become a connoisseur? Well, the physios treatment table is often where we’ll find the evidence of a singular focus. Imbalances in posture, muscle tone, strength and such are side affects of speciality. There’s nothing wrong with having a passion, but we are simply not designed to specialise. Humans thrive on being generalists, great generalists. But, we can still love our strengths so long as we still look after other areas. Love your bench press? Well, identify your weaknesses and develop them. Love your cardio? Trust me, get a little stronger and your cardio will reap the benefits. The same goes for the iron lovers – get your cardio in and look back at number 16, find fun ways to get your cardiovascular training.
  20. Be an example
    • You never really know when you’ll be required or challenged to use your strength and fitness. Training can be a great past time, but ultimately if it’s not adding to your health and longevity plan, what is it doing? Like number 19 above talked about loving your strengths and developing your weakness, also identify your usefulness. Demonstrate that often. Use your physical abilities to help others, to be useful. In turn set an example of this practice to your peers, your partner and your children if you’ve been blessed with them yet. Don’t let ego dictate your actions, let the love of helping lead your actions.

‘The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind’

William James

Learn More About:

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If you’ve got this far…

…Great. You’ve got a framework to start evolving your movement and training mindset. But, I’m not ending this here.

Next, I want to share the ‘then what’ or the ‘what if’, for any of you who have a curiosity about your health, fitness and optimal potential.

All of those 20 rules or tips are fine, great even. I aspire to each and every one and encourage my clients to do the same. If you live by these as standards, you will go far.

However, without being lofty, by achieving these you could maybe consider yourself passing level 1 in a multi-level computer game as it were. The ‘then what’ or ‘what if’ quest I am now proposing is to challenge the rules, the status quo. 

To understand why the rules exist, the how and why they are important you could explore the yin to the yang. What is the boundary, the opposite, the polar or even the compliment to a movement, your comfort level, the foods you eat? Stretch, compress the guidelines. Would you commit your usual 1 hour of practice to an extended 5, 8 or 10 hour period.? Would you take just one movement and dedicate an hour, 1 week, 45 seconds even or a month to practicing it? What would happen? What could happen?

Could you not sit in a chair or such furniture for a day? The floor is a very welcoming environment if you give it the chance.

What would happen if you went to your gym and spent the whole time exploring your ability with crawling? Yeah, they might scold you for ‘being different’ or it might open a dialogue for a very forward thinking conversation.

What if you confront your fear? What can go wrong if you try that cartwheel you’ve always wondered about?

If you scan back to point # 10 – Be safe, effective and efficient – it makes sense. Being safe is clearly an obvious factor to sustain but don’t mistake safe for being comfortable. Uncomfortable is not painful.

Effective is a confronting subject matter for many stuck in their dogma. While there are set in stone methods to achieving effectiveness, there are other ways you might discover. Tim Anderson, co-founder of Original Strength has recently completed the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) certification without using kettlebells. He crawled, climbed, sprinted, carried ‘stuff’ and trained with everything except the kettlebell. Imagine that. A very specific outcome with a very unconventional method.

Efficiency is skill and aptitude based and dependant on many factors. The commonality in these factors is frequent exposure to exact, very similar or similarish demands. You can see the common features in many fitness, strength and movement elements. You just have to spend time in and exploring them.

I am not saying to push your boundaries in everything you do. But do play the pendulum swing in everything to understand your own ability. I can guarantee there will be naysayers but that’s typically what happens when paradigms are nudged and wrestled.

You might just figure out that your dogma is faltered, validated or just not important. There is no wrong in what you may find.

‘No person is truly free, who is not Master of themselves

Epictetus

Got something to add? Get in touch below.

Every Day Is Training Day

Exercising to achieve some kind of benefit, whether strength, ‘fitness’, metabolic changes, recovery, rehabilitation, sport training and so on; rely on some set principles. Specificity, overload, recovery, safety and specialised variety are some key considerations. Failure to apply those principles equates to poor or negligible outcomes.

However, ‘opportunity’ is my favourite principle not mentioned above and probably not in the standard list of requirements for training adaptations.

Opportunity appears consistently. That’s the wonderful thing about health, strength, fitness and skill – you don’t actually need to the contrived 45 to 60 minutes of gym time to achieve goals. It sure helps with some goals, but overall, it’s just a convenience.

If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.

Tom Peters, Businessman and Author

Life can be busy, disruptive, random. Always expect the unexpected.

For the unassuming, disruptions to the ideal daily schedule can result in sacrificing that 45 minute training session. However, keep in mind that the standard 45 to 60 minute gym session is only a convenience and contrived. The reality is that the body hasn’t and doesn’t need an organised block of time to adapt to specific, overloaded movements / exercises to progress.

Labourers of the past with chiseled physics haven’t frequented a gym after work to build their physiques. They accumulated the specific and reasonably overloaded physical movements to carve out strong, useful and fit bodies.

I will never forget my neighbour when I lived in Carryduff, a quiet little (former farming) town in Northern Ireland. Neil was a professional painter, heavy smoker and a mighty fine fisherman at the weekend. Neil never went to the gym and found it odd that I made a living making people ‘do stuff’ in a gym haha. Neil however had calf muscles that the most seasoned bodybuilder would have been proud of. He had round, athletic shoulders and vascular forearms.

Note again that he never exercised at a gym, but his life provided all the opportunities his body needed to adapt to the specific demands of his occupation. Climbing ladders, painting, holding heavy tins of Baltic Mist and Beige Chiffon gave Neil his calves, shoulders and arms. I can guarantee he never counted reps or maxed out his brush strokes. He did a bit, rested a bit… repeat for the day and most days of the year.

The human body thrives on frequent, reasonable physical stress.

FitStrong Strength & Wellness

In the StrongFirst methodology of training we talk about strength being a skill. Skill takes practice, frequent practice. The same applies to health and fitness. Sports research demonstrates time and time again that frequent exposure to movements increases the skill and adaptation to the stresses involved. Mix this with good quality sleep, and ‘wham’, you’ve got results.

So, you find yourself without 45 minutes to train. Not a problem. You can still progress by practicing whenever the opportunity arises.

Everyday Is Training Day… or at least an opportunity to add to your bank of training practice.

‘But how do I train every day Jamie, won’t I overtrain’?

Training is practice… ok? Training is not; let’s be clear, NOT training hard every day. Not maxing out or even working beyond 70 or 80% of your maximum. Training is the practice of the requisites of progressing. Punching the clock. Turning up and putting in reasonable and thoughtful efforts.

Many programs exist that work on this premise. The 40 Day program aka Easy Strength by Dan John / Pavel Tsatsouline is one such program. This program is a 5 day a week strength program where you turn up, do the work, in this case 10 reps for each of 5 different strength lifts.

There are great movement skill programs too, that ask for daily practice to develop the required skills.

Many schedules can be drawn up to work with the ‘Every Day is Training Day’ principle.

One such schedule could look like this:

  • Monday – mobility routine
  • Tuesday – strength routine
  • Wednesday – mobility routine and walk
  • Thursday – strength routine
  • Friday – mobility routine
  • Weekend – hike, walk, play, have fun.

Yes, it could take other looks but this demonstrates a simple yet reasonable approach to practicing being healthy, strong and mobile every day.

If you are wondering how to build your daily training practice, why not get in touch to arrange an online, virtual solution.

Jamie

The Side Bent Sit Get Up

What a mouthful, but it will do until someone comes up with a better name. It does however describe this get up nicely.

Part 4 of the Get Up series looks at the quirky Side Bent Sit Get Up. Whereas the last part looked at the very bilateral / straight up and down Prone Get Up, the Side Bent Sit Get Up builds in rotation, balance and coordination yet, still with a wonderful component of flow and relaxation. I guess that comes with practice though.

This roll differs from the Strength and Prone get up in that it commences with a roll into position to undertake the actual getting up. This adds some momentum and can therefor add this get up into the category of movements that prepare us for fall recovery. If you’re going to lose balance and fall backwards onto your butt, at least know how to get up with flare and style.

Here’s the video.

The best way to learn this style of get up is to practice. In the video I have built in steps to practice to best prepare for the full get up.

Got any feedback? Maybe you’d like me to appraise your Get Up? I’d love to help any way I can.

How to Get Up!

Recently I wrote about how important it is to practice the skills of getting to the ground and up again and shared a video with demonstrations of some variations. Here’s a link to that post. 

As much as I would like to provide a tutorial for the Turkish Get Up right now, that would be hasty. Assuming you drive a car, you didn’t have your first experience driving hard and fast around country roads in a race car. You spent time getting familiar with the controls and skills, maybe manoeuvring and navigating an empty car park.

The Get Up like other strength movements requires the same. Get familiar with what’s what.

In this part, let me just introduce the positions and transitions of the strength get up, minus any added weights. I like to teach the get up these days with a scenario, like you’ve got a broken arm and need to get carefully off the floor.

Check out this quick ‘follow-along’ video.

 

Let me just list the steps of the get up, from the ground up.

  1. Lie on floor with left leg bent, roughly at 90 degrees. Keep this leg out to the side a little.
  2. Place the left arm across the chest.
  3. The straight leg and arm are roughly 45 degrees to the side (from your midline)
  4. Brace your torso.
  5. Push the left foot and the right elbow into the ground to lift the left butt cheek from the floor and continue to roll onto the right forearm.
  6. Brace the torso and push onto the right hand – keep your shoulder packed (pulled into the socket)
  7. Pressing the right hand and left foot into the floor, you can now pull the right leg under you. The right knee replaces the right butt cheek. In this position you should have the right foot, right knee and right hand in alignment.
  8. Pull up into a tall torso position.
  9. At this point rotate the right leg (through the hip) so both feet are facing the same direction. You can alternatively rotate yourself clockwise to position your left leg / foot in the same direction as the right.
  10. Press both feet into the ground to lunge up and stand.
  11. Return to the floor in the reverse and same manner.

That’s 11 points with lots of words! The video does a fine job at demonstrating too.

If and only IF this movement sequence comes naturally to you, maybe try holding a medicine ball or sandbag as in the video below.

 

Next time I’ll run through a different style of get up that offers heaps of benefits to the legs.

In the mean time, keep strong and move every day.

Got any feedback or questions? Drop me a message below.

Get Up!

As a coach, I’ve met plenty of people over the years who either had resistance to getting down to the floor, had previously had a fall and was reluctant to revisit the floor in any capacity or who quite frankly didn’t see any purpose to get to the floor for exercise or other.

There are many reasons to practice and train getting to the floor and back up again. Let’s make a short list.

  1. Improve your every day life and for its eventualities
  2. Prepare you with skills needed for when you have to get to the ground or a fall to the ground
  3. Improve your bodies mobility
  4. Improve your body awareness and coordination
  5. Improve your bodies resilience through increased strength and conditioning
  6. Decrease any fear of the floor
  7. Open opportunities to explore other movements and purposes of getting up and down

 

I’m not going to teach get ups in this post, but I will soon – I promise.

Here’s a glimpse of just 8 styles of ‘get ups’.

 

Got any questions or feedback? Get in touch below.

Why StrongFirst?

I get questions often from clients and friends related to why I spend so much time and money attending certifications and why always the expensive ones!

I am not wealthy. Comfortable, yes. My wife and I do ‘invest’ from time to time in the lotto haha but with no success. So, I don’t choose to invest because I can but because I want to.

What I want in particular from my investment in my own education is value (not cheap), quality, no nonsense education and skills.  Just as important, I want to invest and learn subject matters that I consider important to share with my students and clients. Matters that match my personal and business ethos.

***NOT A RANT***  In the fitness industry it is really quite easy to attend any number of certifications and in most cases, in areas that require no depth of experience and even demonstration of time-spent skills, practice, patience and immersion. In other words, you bulk up continued education credits so you can keep your insurance by attending courses you’re not that invested in and walk away with a certification to teach others. You don’t have to be that good at the ‘new thing’ to teach it! I don’t believe our students and clients deserve this level of standards from a professional. Don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderful people in the fitness industry that I look up to, but most attendees to courses rarely shine. It’s no wonder that most personal trainers last only up two years before packing it in.

I was drawn to the Hardstyle methods of kettlebell training by Pavel Tsatsouline back in 2009. The methods he wrote, demonstrated and talked about were so detailed, precise and based on both scientific research and personal experiences teaching many, many people to become stronger, more mobile and able individuals. His Russian accent sure made his allure all the more compelling.

Unfortunately I didn’t have an option at that time to travel to the USA to attend a certification and instead (sigh!) opted for one of those fitness industry courses that both left me intrigued and wanting more. ‘More’ happened two years later when we moved to Australia from the UK and I got the opportunity to attend Pavels RKC (pre StrongFirst). The preparation for attending was vast. It was made very clear that 60-65% of attendees fail to pass certification due to poor preparation. You didn’t just turn up and leave three days later with a certification paper. You earned to title of SFG through proficient demonstration, teaching, professionalism over the long weekend and the extensive preparation leading up to the event. It was expected that you had spent time with the kettlebell in action, became skilled and strong enough to get through the certification weekend without the distraction of pain and suffering. The certification weekend was an exercise in testing, learning the hows, whys, principles and sharpening our skills further.

This is why I love StrongFirst or more clearly, Pavels ethos and principles. Training with kettlebells is not about just getting sweaty and forging strength with pure grit and effort. There is the execution of great technique, skill and programming methods to develop lasting strength and conditioning as well as the ability to drawn upon many tools in a teaching toolkit to help the masses. Indeed, the many cues, tips and tricks learned over that three day weekend stays with me every day when teaching.

The level of expertise within StrongFirst with its master trainers, team leaders and collective of instructors makes StrongFirst one strong business and school of strength.

Below, Joe Rogan had the immense privilege of interviewing Pavel. Getting time with Pavel outside of workshops and seminars is rare, so this video is well worth the time to watch. Keep a note pad and pen handy though. There are many learning points to grab hold of.

 

Other than StrongFirst

Apart from StrongFirst, I invest in my education with other great training organisations that similarly teach principle based methods.

If you have read this far, I would encourage you to look into Original Strength and their wonderful movement restoration system.

If you move well and have retained your youthful skills and agility, I would encourage you to look into MovNat and their real world natural movement system. If you want to move with the autonomy, physical competence or become a strongly functioning human in real world of contextual settings and programs, MovNat has a lot to offer. It may just be the way forward in general population health and strength.

Got any experience with StrongFirst, Original Strength or MovNat you’d like to share? Want to learn more about how to incorporate these wonderful systems into your training? Get in touch below.

Jamie

12 Week Challenge

Are you one of those people who just plod along regardless in your training? I’m often a fan of just turning up to the gym, doing what’s on the plan and moving onto my next to-do item. Other time however, I love to charge forward with a challenge.

If you are this way inclined and love the occasional challenge, our 12 Week Kettlebell Challenge will tickle your fancy.

This 12 Week program addresses essential components over 4 week blocks with plenty of opportunities to hone and fine tune your kettlebell skills as the intensity gradually increases. Best suited to the trainee with experience with kettlebells but, tutorials are provided throughout.

The online program is easy to follow … why not check out more information here.

click here

 

What’s included:

  • Detailed program with video demonstrations and teachings
  • Ongoing support for any of your questions at the click of a button
  • Downloadable content for easy access a the gym
  • Access to other valuable online content

Got any questions? Ask below.

Kettlebells in Brisbane

Brisbane is an extraordinary place. People living in this part of Australia venture out in search of great days out, great food and new experiences, often finding the bizarre, the intrepid, unusual and down right clever. I’d like to propose the Kettlebell as one of those in the intrepidly clever category.

Since first sight to westerners, the cast iron ball with a handle has raised both fear and intrigue. Many gym goers, bootcampers and new year new body resolutionaries have all ventured into the perceived territory of the hardcore to use the kettlebell (often referred to as the cattle-ball or kettle-ball… sigh). Most without instruction have ended the day with an ache or an injury or a reassured impression that the Russian weapon is indeed dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

Sadly, the same can be said for those who have received ‘instruction’!!! Instruction is probably not the best word to use because these poor victims were subjected to hardship and torture rather than intelligent teaching and instruction.

Most ‘trainers’ who use kettlebells in their classes and activities have in most cases, not been taken through a vigorous program of learning how to teach the common kettlebell movements. Instead, trainers have chosen to use this wonderful device as a tool to beat people up with to show-off how cool a trainer they are for making them work so hard.

(I probably should not have written that last paragraph but it is the honest truth so I’ll leave it there.) 

In order to sell courses for the CEC chasers, course designers have packed multiple movements into their courses to keep them exciting with various movements and exercises. It’s an unfortunate trade off. Cut back on the opportunity to truly learn the essential moves for brushing over way too much to learn.

The real joy and down right cleverness of kettlebell training is not just in its simple shape but in that the tool with a single handle lends itself to performing an essential package of exercises without hassle. The way in which you learn to hold and move with the kettlebell provides feedback between your limbs and the kettlebell. It is in affect, a self teaching tool and yes, this does mean you can hurt yourself if you don’t know how to perform the moves and read the feedback.

IMG_5824

Correct Grip

I’ve had consultations with prospective clients who have seen the line of 36 kettlebells against the edge of the gym and declared their feeling – usually of hate filled past experiences with poorly educated trainers. What a shame.

Look, don’t get me wrong. I am NOT putting down other trainers. We all have to start somewhere in our careers but it is so important to know our scope of practice and to truly take our time to learn how to use our tools before starting to teach others the same.

My process is to teach clients how to move better first-off before loading up with weights. By the time we are ready to use weights, there is a level of trust between us and getting onto using the kettlebells is just the next logical step.

I mentioned course writers eagerness to entertain earlier, with way too many options. Options are fine and perfectly acceptable where required but any good training program should include these essentials:

  • Carries – carrying one or two kettlebells in various positions to develop breathing under tension and torso control / bracing.
  • Squats.
  • Hip hinges, like deadlifts, swings and such.
  • Pushes and presses.
  • Pulling actions.
  • Explosive actions, like the swing, clean and snatch.

The average population training 2 to 3 times a week does not need much more than the above. Add some daily walking and some aerobic activities, good sleep and nutrition and ‘whammy’, there’s a great recipe for health and fitness.

There’s a greater chance of a trainer getting bored than a client getting bored using this short list of moves so professionally, there is not reason to keep swapping exercises every week. Repetitions, sets and loads vary over time as do how the list of moves are ‘packaged’ together in the session. But keeping it simple wins e.v.e.r.y. time.

If you only work with a short list of roughly 6 movements, how well do you think you will progress, get to know the movements, get stronger and more confident? Very well most likely. At the other end, if you work with 20 to 30 variations, how well will you progress and learn how to perform each and every one of them over your 2 to 3 sessions a week? Probably not so well I’m guessing. Keep it simple is the rule.

Confession Time!

I can actually speak from experience. My first kettlebell certification in 2009 was a two day course with roughly 30 different movements that we spent roughly 15 minutes on each with lots of other fluff thrown in too. Would you trust an instructor who had 15 minutes of ‘professional’ instruction on an exercise??? I know I wouldn’t be too confident.

I did spend time over the following 2 years playing frustratingly with some of the moves and all but gave up until in 2011 I saw a Russian Kettlebell Challenge instructor certification was coming to town, well, Melbourne, but that was close enough.

The RKC was the Black Belt of Kettlebell Certifications (and the precursor to StrongFirst), renowned for its strict conduct and roughly 35-40% of candidates failing to pass the testing at the end of the 3 day certification.

The reason the certification is so strict is for some very professional reasons.

  • The association wants to ensure its instructors will conduct themselves professionally and represent strongly.
  • They want to ensure their instructors are able to demonstrate proficiently and safely.
  • They want to make sure their certified instructors are committed to teaching the kettlebell movements and system and not just wanting another CEC.

The experience candidates will encounter will be like no other fitness instruction certification that exists. It will be deep, intense, involve lots of demonstration and practice, skills and tests throughout the 3 days culminating in a tough instructor testing procedure… and that’s prior to teaching a volunteer to demonstrate teaching competence!

If successful, an RKC or a StrongFirst certified instructor will offer their clients a professional experience when they attend training above and beyond the average PT session in a high-street gym. If you want cheap, you can find it everywhere, but if you want a quality experience, look up your local RKC or StrongFirst instructor.

Gearing up for re-certification

As thorough as the certification process is, it is advisable that instructors re-certify to stay on top of their teaching skills and abilities with the kettlebell.  I am in that stage this year, polishing my skills. Perhaps part of my writing this today is an act of accountability. “I am telling you all that I will undertake re-certification this year”. Mmmmm, hopefully that will work.

I am confident my weekend as a student not just a trainer will be fun as usual and that I will walk away excited to share my experience with my clients.

What about you?

I do run ongoing private workshops for people who want to experience a little bit of the Hardstyle Kettlebell world. My own Kettlebell Fundamentals program was launched in 2013 for budding enthusiasts who wanted to learn how to properly use their shiny new black kettlebells. Many attendees came for the workshops and have stayed on as clients, so bitten by the kettlebell bug were they.

If you are interested in experiencing the feel or real Kettlebell training, please do consider a visit to FitStrong.

FitStrong Kettlebell Fundamentals

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Want to chat? Get in touch below.

Carry On to Get Real World STRONG

Training must always have a purpose. It’s that simple.

You turn up and you conduct movements with an overarching purpose. That may be to elicit a calorie burn, to add muscle or to get stronger, faster or to develop a skill. Whatever the purpose or purposes, you should ideally choose purposeful movements. Think I’ve made that clear… next point.

The word functional gets a fair amount of use and misuse in the training world. Maybe it’s me, but when I consider function, I immediately visualise movements that relate to our daily lives and occupations. Movements like lifting things up and putting them back down again, pushing, pulling, pressing and of course bracing ourselves to handle those activities.

Just for a moment, reflect on your day-to-day physical activities outside of the gym and then consider how they fit into the above range.

Go on… I’ll wait for you.

These movements above are what I think of when talking about functional training. One more activity that we can’t ignore is carrying ‘stuff’.

How often do you carry armfuls of shopping, maybe gardening activities, carrying those 25s to the bench to press them and a myriad of other carrying? You might find these chores challenging too, exposing your weaknesses. The carry has a much great purpose than just incidental transportation of things, it transforms your weakness to a strength.

The action of successfully carrying heavy implements has a multitude of physical benefits that’ll be sure to toughen you up and give you some real-world ‘strong’.

So what do carries do?

If carries had a sales pitch:

Putting carries into your life will tighten up your posture as good as granny making you walk around with books on your head. Your upper back will get strong like ox whilst your shoulders will boast some impressive wolverine shadows (the hair is a different story though!). Expect your grip to take on a vice like quality… everyone likes a firm handshake. Talking of firm, your backside will develop mighty fine hardware to go along with a torso only the Gods of Mount Olympus could forge. “Holly abs of Zeus”!

How to do carries?

The rules of the carry are simple. Pick up your weight and carry it for a set time or distance. Vague I know, but committing to the carry is vital. Yeah, it might suck a little as every muscle on your frame gives you feedback that time is up. Rule two then is this… don’t let go, don’t give up. Rule three, maintain your postural integrity. We don’t want to see any hunch-backing, bending over sideways or other ugly positions. Stay tight, stay upright, stick with it.

What kind of weights or implements depends on what you have. I like kettlebells because they’re compact and often heavy. Specialised bars can be used as well as dumbbells, barbells, heavy bags, a wheelbarrow full of rocks, rocks by themselves. An adventurous mind will be helpful.

Carrying isn’t just limited to carrying by your side. Here’s a list of options:

  • Farmers walk with two weights by your sides
  • One arm carry by your side 
  • Racked on your shoulder, one or two arms 
  • Overhead carry, one or two arms (depending on shoulder mobility this might or might not work) 
  • Sled pull and carry anything, anyhow, any way
  • Sled pull with a harness, a weighted vest whilst pushing a wheelbarrow – I have never done this one, but wowsers, it sounds pretty cool.

Here are a few videos:

Coach Dan John calls carries the Game Changer. Read what he has to say – just in case you don’t believe me!

An adventurous mind will be helpful but stick to the rules and really do try to include some kind of carries into your training week.

I challenge you to experiment over the next month with carries. You’ll not be disappointed.

Stay strong and mobile,

Jamie

Swing Tip

The Kettlebell Swing is the cornerstone of Kettlebell training. The more swift, smooth, yet ballistic and powerful the swing, the better all other exercises become. There are of course a few styles of swinging a kettlebell but I focus on the (labelled) hardstyle swing.

Pavel swings on cover of Simple and Sinister

It stands out from other styles of swinging a kettlebell by being explosive with the aim of expending energy over short-duration ballistic sets rather than conserving energy for endurance sets. For reference, the standards of the swing are as follows.

The Brief: Swing a kettlebell in one hand / each hand back between your legs and then in front of you up to chest level.

The Standard:

  1. The back is neutral. the neck is slightly extended or neutral on the bottom of the swing.
  2. The heels, toes and the balls of the feet are planted and the knees track the toes.
  3. The shoulders are packed.
  4. The kettlebell handle passes above the knees during the backswing.
  5. The working arm / arms is straight in the bottom position.
  6. There is no forward knee movement on the upswing.
  7. The body forms a straight line on the top of the swing: the hips and knees extend fully, the spine is neutral.
  8. The kettlebell forms an extension of the straight arm(s) at the top of the swing.
  9. The biomechanical breathing match. (power breaths, if familiar)
  10. The abs and glutes visibly contract at the top of the swing.
  11. The kettlebell floats momentarily on the top of the swing.

(This is NOT an instruction guide or a how to. To learn how to swing, get taught. Dont tempt fate, learn and practice and repeat.)

Too many words? Here is a great video demonstrating the swing and other key StrongFirst exercises.

StrongFirst Video of Standards

Progressions

A beginner learns how to hinge their hips first with either a deadlift or a wall drill to teach the correct movement before moving onto the swing. How quickly depends on mobility and other factors but when first learning the swing a beginner focuses on swinging a single kettlebell with two hands.

For many this proves fine for a very long time but for others who may want to progress to single arm swings with its many core strengthening benefits (cue Dr Stuart McGills Studies on the kettlebell swing and back health found here) there are a few adjustments to pay attention to.

  1. A single arm swing places great rotational stress on the torso.
  2. A single arm swing requires greater shoulder packing on the loaded arm.
  3. Grip strength is stressed more.
  4. Simply getting used to swinging single armed is unusual for a time being and a distraction to good form.

In my time teaching the swing there have been people who transition to swinging with a single arm without a hitch whilst others have struggled to maintain form even over a small number of swings. Whilst programming the single arm swing appropriately, mixing it between sets of 2 handed swings can help, for some the focus of holding the kettlebell with a single arm is a distraction.

So, without further babbling, here’s the Quick Hand Release kettlebell swing. I couldn’t figure out what to call it and I am sure others use it, but I have not seen other instructors broadcast its use.

The premise is simple. For a very quick moment release a hand from the handle at the top of a two handed swing, while it floats whilst maintaining a packed shoulder. Just as the float ends before descent, get the released hand back onto the handle and continue the swing two handed.

It’s quick, brief and a minimal stress, but I’ve found it help swingers get confidence holding the bell with a single hand.

Additionally, I’ve discovered it’s great way to get that hang-time, the float at the top of the swing that some rush. It’s also a simple way to get used to holding onto a heavier kettlebell for even experienced kettlebell swingers. My quick video shows me swing the 40kg with the QHR kettlebell swing which I would struggle with solely using a single arm swing.

Yeah, I’m sure others have discovered this drill. I found it by accident one session swatting a fly off my face but it has helped me help others swing better… so, smiley faces all round

Smiley Awesome

 

Peace and smiles,

Jamie