Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And another old Article...

From the Spring 2007 Hard-Style:

The Other Side of the Coin…Tension and Relaxation

Brett Jones

A coin has two sides. Yes, I am very observant. So why display my powers of observation for you now? To bring to light one

of the most important dualities in physical performance— balancing tension and relaxation.

Tension is the ability to produce force within and with the muscles. This is a combination of neurological patterns and mechanical contractile forces working to generate force. This is the side of the coin that most of us focus upon. And it is an important side. Without tension we cannot produce strength and powerful movement and athletics would be pretty boring to watch.

Relaxation is the ability to—well…relax; but not in the “couch potato” method of relaxation. Relaxation as a balance to tension is the ability to “turn off” tension appropriately within the muscles. Where tension is strength and the ability to generate force it is also your quickest path to fatigue. Relaxation is the path to fluid, efficient movement and quick movement. A tense muscle is a slow muscle but a relaxed muscle is a weak muscle and so begins the conundrum of how to balance tension and relaxation.

For learning how to generate tension in the safest and most effective manner I would refer you to Pavel’s book/DVD, The Naked Warrior. A true gold mine of information on strength that guides you through the high-tension techniques that leads to mastering tension. By learning proper breathing and body mechanics for the Single Leg Squat (pistols), and the One Arm Push-up you will begin to understand the journey towards mastering the development of tension within your body.

For learning how to relax in the athletic sense I again refer you to one of Pavel’s DVDs, Fast and Loose. I performed a couple of different Google searches looking for comparative sources of information on the techniques in Fast and Loose. And I couldn’t find any. It all focuses on metal relaxation techniques with maybe brief mentions of different tensing strategies to help induce relaxation. But not one source is looking at relaxation from a performance standpoint. The drills in Fast and Loose may appear odd or ineffective. You may not think the partner drills are something that will help.

And you may just think that you know how to relax athletically.

Well, check the ego and realize that elite athletes achieve relaxation 800% faster than recreational athletes. Imagine closing that gap by as little as

200% or even 100%—you would blow by your competition. Literally.

Relaxation and vibration drills are your gateway to speed and power.

How you ask can relaxing athletically help you produce power and speed?

Because once you have had the burst of tension necessary to accomplish the goal activity you must then relax enough to let that burst of strength travel efficiently and quickly to your “target”. If you maintain tension you will be slow and weak as you move through your goal activity.

To put it another way—watch an elite athlete or martial artist go through their activity. The most common comment made by people watching is:

“That looks easy.” Or “He/She doesn’t look like they are trying.” This is the result of an athletic balance of tension and relaxation.

Fluid athletic movement that leaves us wondering how—and the competition wondering what just happened—is the correct balance of switching between tension and relaxation.

I will not belabor the point and try to explain the techniques involved because the two resources I mentioned do that perfectly. What I would challenge you to think about is whether you understand how to produce tension within the body and do you know how to relax athletically to allow fluid, powerful movement?

If you can’t answer the question, you need the resources to show you how.

Some additional points to hit upon:

What is the result of high levels of residual tension within the body? What happens when a person who is very good at producing tension cannot “release” that tension? Postural “deformities”, joint “misalignment”, improper firing sequences and other movement and postural problems can result. Sounds great doesn’t it? The drills in Fast and Loose will show you how to “shake off” the tension (literally) and return to normal levels of tension in the body so that you do not suffer the consequences of excessive residual tension. Also from a performance standpoint the ability to perform relaxation drills between tension drills will aid in recovery and allow for better training.

Finding and working on the “other side of the coin” is an essential skill set to develop and Fast and Loose (Pavel’s most underrated product) can be your key to achieving a more “relaxed” state of athletic performance.

Brett Jones CSCS, Sr. RKC, is a Personal Trainer and Strength Specialist in the Pittsburgh, Pa area. Please see his website www.appliedstrength.com for contact information.

A tense muscle is a slow muscle but a relaxed muscle is a weak muscle and so begins the conundrum of how to balance tension and relaxation.

And a little Christmas Cheer:

Pittsburgh Style

Another old Article:

From the Spring 2006 Hard-Style:

Guerilla Tactics For Attacking And Defeating A “Heavy”Weight


I f the heaviest weight you lift is the heaviest weight you lift then it will always feel heavy! The weight feels heavy because of your experience and perception.

Have you ever walked over to a box or a suitcase that someone had asked you to move and rip it off the ground and nearly throw it across the room because you had expected it to be heavy? Or just the opposite, you nonchalantly walk over to a small bag or box thinking it is feather light and nearly tear your arm out of the socket. Your perception of the weights was different from reality.

So how do we attack the issue?

We approach it with a combination of head-on and sneaky tactics.

The head-on way to attack it is to use a heavier weight but in a different exercise. Try using a heavier kettlebell for something like one-arm rows, deadlifts, high pulls, or cleans, because you can handle a heavier bell in these drills than in snatches or presses. Perform a set or two of the heavier exercise and immediately go back to your target exercise. The weight that used to always feel heavy should feel much lighter now.

Another head-on tactic is to work the chain…

Set up a row of three kettlebells. The first KB should be your regular working weight, the second kettlebell should be a heavier KB, and the third KB will be even a bit heavier. A row of 12kg, 16kg, and 20kg would be an example of a progressive chain. “But I don’t have a gym full of kettlebells!” you say. Well if you have a 4kg KB your 12kg can become a 16kg or your 16 kg can become a 20kg. Become creative!

Perform sets of two arm swings—10 reps with 12kg, 6 reps with 16kg, and 4 reps with 20kg. The heavier swings do not need to be as high as the lighter ones. Just use perfect form and generate power from the ground up and snap the hips. The

KB will travel as high as it will. But when you get back to the 12kg from the 20kg it will feel like an 8kg KB. And you have taken your first step toward making the 16kg your working weight for swings.

But head-on tactics will not always work. Therefore we must find ways around the issue.

Using Belief and Perception to Fool the Body

Since most people are unfamiliar with kilograms and think that the numbers on the kettlebells are in pounds it is an opportunity to not let their perception short circuit their strength. Note that this technique to be used only by qualified instructors who know their clients and can pick the appropriate weight. Do not think that this is permission to overload and hurt the client.

Have the victim perform a deadlift with a 12kg kettlebell and then, after completion, inform the victim that the weight lifted was 26 pounds and not 12 pounds. The clients’ confidence will soar and they will be impressed with the difference between what they thought they could lift and what they were actually lifting. Their perception is forever changed.

Another sneaky tactic for RKC professionals comes into play during two kettlebell drills. Doubles can provide a boost in the load and the client usually will not take into account the fact that he is lifting twice as much weight. For example, if the 8kg KB feels heavy to the client then doing cleans with two 6kg kettle bells will give her a 12kg load thus making the 8kg feel much lighter.

Since the client is only thinking about the fact that it is a lighter kettlebell than usual and it only has a ‘6’ stamped on it, she will perform the set with confidence. Then inform her that she was moving twice that weight and a good deal more than the old “heavy” weight. When the client goes back to the 8kg it will feel lighter and she is on the path to progressing to the 12kg kettlebell.

Let your perceptions control you—and be weak. Control your perceptions—and be strong.

The choice is yours.

Brett Jones, CSCS is a senior instructor in the RKC program and co-author of the

Kettlebell Basics for Strength Coaches and Personal TrainersDVD set

Another Old Article:

From the May 2005 Hard-Style:



One of the most common questions asked by people pursuing strength and conditioning is: “How do I combine the approach A and the approach B?” In reference to the Hard Style of training this usually means combining the Power to the People! style of strength training with the RKC style of kettlebell conditioning.

While there are many ways to accomplish this, most trainees either seek to separate the two or do both and end up with too much on their training plate.

The hard truth of combining methodologies is that you have to be willing to walk the line between doing too little and just enough.

Deadlifting places a great strain on the lower back musculature as maximum strength is built.

Kettlebell ballistics can place an additional strain on the lower back as strength-endurance is developed.

The answer to combining the two is to perform enough to force adaptation and treat the training as a way to produce results rather than a workout. This is an expansion on the idea of approaching training as ‘practice’ rather than a“workout’. Doing just enough and not being fatigued and ‘worked out’ is a bitter pill to swallow for most trainees. Trusting that enough work has been done to produce results is a must.

So a sample routine combining PTP and RKC style training might look something like this:

1. Windmill - 1 set of 4 reps each side (light to moderate weight)

2. Barbell Side press - 2 sets of 5 reps

3. Weighted Pull-ups - 2 sets of 3 reps

4. Deadlifts - 7 singles @ 75% 1 RM

5. Pistol squats - 1 set of 5 reps each side

6. Kettlebell Snatch - 5 sets of 5 reps each side (moderate to heavy weight). Substitute swings for snatches if wanted.

7. Stretching

The above routine is a general training routine focused a bit more on strength than endurance.

If endurance were the goal then you would cut the sets to one and increase the kettlebell work at the end. Performing a 5-minute Secret Service Snatch test at the end instead of the 5 sets of swing would do the trick. While the above routine could be implemented for a three day a week type of training, you could easily make it a daily routine either by dropping a set or decreasing the reps; another option is to reduce and cycle the resistance. Do the same thing all the time without doing the same thing all the time. Simply make the routine look different each time you perform it. ‘Same but different.’

So there you have it, a simplified method of combining two training approaches that respects the fact that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In the world of training only the weights add up in a linear fashion.

When you start blending methodologies 1+1 will equal 3 or more. So the art becomes adding enough of a specific approach to the mix so that it enhances the brew and doesn’t turn it sour.

Brett Jones, RKC Sr., CSCS is the eleventh person in the world to bend Iron Mind’s Red Nail

Looking into the Past....

I decided to dig around in some old Hard-Style Magalogs and repost some old articles.

For example here is one from the June 2004 Hard-Style:



Brett Jones, CSCS, RKC Sr.

An athlete must continuously produce, reduce, and redirect force. Traditional athletic conditioning protocols emphasize force production. This is an essential aspect of explosive performance but not the only one. The athlete is still unprepared to reduce/control the forces he has produced and the forces acting upon him during competition.

“A sport does not treat one to a slow negative; the word is IMPACT!”

The Olympic lifts are excellent for training force production.

However, once the barbell is overhead or at the shoulders, the weight is dropped back to the platform. This results in the ability to explosively move a great amount of weight but does not train the athlete to control the same amount of weight during the impact of force reduction.

The powerlifts are great for training force production as well but they do incorporate a controlled eccentric movement.

There is a hint of training to reduce force but it happens at a speed that will never be experienced in athletic competition. A sport does not treat one to a slow negative; the word is IMPACT!

Incorporating a variety of jumps can begin to teach the athlete to reduce and redirect force. However, these programs are often not applied correctly and do not teach the athlete to handle additional forces imposed upon them during competition. The jumping and bounding of plyometrics lacks the outside load of a competitor and the unpredictable nature of the athletic field.

So how do we train athletes to handle force reduction and redirection? -The ballistic movements of kettlebell training bridge the gaps between force production, force reduction, and force redirection.

“Kettlebell training teaches the athlete to explode, catch and redirect force. It is functional training for athletes.”

Due to the design and size of the kettlebell it can be swung back between the legs. Try swinging a barbell back between your legs! While you could do it with a dumbbell, its dimensions threaten the knees and do not allow safe performance of swings and such, except with really light, useless weights. So once the kettlebell is in motion and has been swung either out in front of or above the athlete, it is allowed to swing or fall and then be "caught" by the athlete. By allowing the weight to be swung back and having the athlete "catch" the kettlebell in the loaded position similar to a vertical leap, the athlete is not only trained to reduce force, but then is automatically loaded to redirect that force into another explosive hip snap.

Swings are only the beginning of the kettlebell experience.

There are snatches, cleans, jerks. Then you start to enter the truly unique aspect of KB training – the KB’s design allows for it to be passed from hand to hand. You can literally flip, spin, and “juggle” the kettlebell. Force reduction and redirection is trained in every plane. There is a freedom inherent to kettlebell training that loads the body from every conceivable angle and truly unlocks one’s potential.

“There is a freedom inherent to kettlebell training that loads the body from every conceivable angle and truly unlocks one’s potential.”

Brett Jones, CSCS, RKC Sr. is the pioneer of ‘The All-Russian Kettlebell for the All-American Sports’. Brett’s specialty is seamlessly implementing kettlebells with other effective strength training modalities for your athletic team or program. Contact him through his website: inmotionathletics.com. (no longer active)

I will be pulling a few articles for reposting here and providing links for other Hard-Style magalogs that feature articles by myself and others over the next few days.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Fighting Jet Lag and some training...

One of the difficult things about international travel is the jet lag from time zone changes and traveling to Hungary means that when I wake up at 6 am in Hungary it is Midnight at home in PA. So in an effort to combat this I tried some advice from Peter Lakatos to fast for at least 16 hours for the trip home. Meaning you calculate your arrival time/first meal on arrival and go back 16 hours in "real time" to begin your fasting. I ended up fasting for a full 24 hours + a bit.
And I will have to say that I am impressed.
Combined with the fasting and a good 12 hours of sleep Monday night my recovery from the trip has been quite good.

Eat - Stop - Eat a book by Brad Pilon goes into the details of Intermittent Fasting:

Since I have had my first IF day Sunday night till Monday dinner I think I will simply add a second day this week and get started - we shall see...

2 Upcoming workshops

HKC Alexandria Va

CICS Workshop

I am extremely excited to teach this years CICS workshop passing on the method of Club Swinging taught by Dr. Thomas.

A very good training session - 12/8
Prep - Foam Roller, ASLR, Brettzel, Brettzel 2.0
Indian Club Swinging 1# clubs
Open 1/2 kneeling Movements #1 and #2 with one club
Tall kneeling Movements #1 and #2 with 2 clubs
Standing movement #3
Open 1/2 kneeling Movements #1 and #2 with 2 clubs
Standing movement #3
and a variety of other Movements

24 kg SLDL x 5+5, 5+5
24 kg Get-up x 2 singles L+R
press at each step on the way up with Windmill at the top
24 kg Alternating Swings x 20, 20, 20

Indian Clubs felt great - powerful tools and powerful system
The KB work was essentially performed to Pavel's famous "comfortable stop"
Feeling great

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

It has been an interesting few weeks...

I had the honor of presenting at the Iowa Physical Education conference in Davenport, Iowa a couple of weeks ago with Dr. Ed Thomas and Gray Cook.
Kettlebell Training was the theme of my presentations and it was great to expose some of the Physical Education community to my preferred tool and RKC principles.

The Sports Medicine program at High Point University (where I received my Bachelor of Science) was/is housed within the Physical Education program. So I took all the Physical Education classes except the Education classes for teaching - I could have been your Gym Teacher!
It was interesting therefore to step back into the world of Physical Education.

Physical Education is one of the key components of an "Education" but it is being cut by School Districts all over the country. And PE can be so much more than "sport" time.
So in the decades that Physical Education has been disappearing from our schools it should not surprisingly only 3 out of 10 American Youth can pass the Military Entrance Standards. And this number has been steadily dropping since WWI and WWII.

The Greeks had it right - Sound mind in a Sound body.
For as long as we are attached to this mortal coil we must care for it and exercise is the way to do that.
Look at the rates of Obesity, Heart Disease and Diabetes and the fact that what used to known as Type II Adult On-set Diabetes is now just Type II Diabetes because rates of Childhood cases and Adult cases have become equal - meaning our children are burning through their Pancreas at an alarmingly fast rate.
This is Dietary and Exercise preventable and treatable in most cases.
We are at a crisis point physically.

I also had the honor while at the Iowa Physical Education conference to meet the Army Accessions Command Sergeant Major for the Army and his team. (see pic above for the post workout shot) The Command Sergeant Major Troxell and his team are intent upon improving military fitness and trying to improve the physical capacity of American youth so they can be better prepared for entering the Armed Services if they choose to do so.

There was a special segment of the Iowa Conference where some of the attendees got to experience a little bit of Army Training with the Command Sergeant Major and his team.
And I have to tell you it was not only a very good training session but a great glimpse at what this team is trying to accomplish in revamping Army Training. And I am impressed.
(BTW - KBs are part of the new Army Training Manual)

Training has been pretty good - still breaking in to the KB Muscle program and looks like I will stay with reps of 4 for a few weeks but run the workouts otherwise as designed.

Yesterday for something different:
Prep: Foam Roller, Brettzel, Brettzel 2.0, Stretch
24 kg Get-ups x 5 singles Right and Left - with a press at each step on the way up and a Windmill at the top
24 kg Swings
10 right + 10 Left
20 alternating
20 side stepping
20 alternating
20 side stepping

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